Anzac biscuits and manic Monday

anzac

This morning I was to take Léo to school, Java to the vet to have her stitches removed, and my husband to the osteopath in an attempt to convince him that his ribs are fractured and that he should temporarily cut out all activities involving long ladders and roofs. We arrived at school to be told that their roof had collapsed in the night and that there would be no lessons for the foreseeable. This suited me quite well as it happens, because it meant that Léo could stay in the back seat to prevent Java from strangling herself with her lead; emergency stops on the hard shoulder to unravel dogs are always a bit of a nuisance.

While the journey was event-free, it took no fewer than four of us to hold Java down while the vet tried to take out her stitches. Fifteen kilos of hyperactive, adrenaline-fuelled, unadulterated puppy terror produce a force to be reckoned with, believe me. Obviously Luc couldn’t help, what with his dodgy ribs, but it was very useful to have him there barking orders at us all (including the vet) to ‘just hold her down for God’s sake’. The visit to the osteopath was less traumatic (Luc didn’t wriggle on the table), but she did call me in to insist upon the importance of his staying still and on terra firma for the next six weeks. I guess someone else will have to fix the school roof, although presumably he’ll be available for ‘advice’!

These biscuits are divine and really rather healthy. Oats have a low GI, are extremely high in fibre and contain a multitude of vitamins and minerals. They are also rich in beta glucans which increase the immune system’s ability to fight off bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites. Although beta glucans enhance the immune system, they don’t make it overactive and are therefore suitable for people with autoimmune diseases.

This recipe is adapted from Amber Rose’s wonderful book ‘Love. Bake. Nourish’.

Ingredients (makes 16-20)

125g spelt flour

100g desiccated coconut

40g raisins

100g rolled oats

Tablespoon chia seeds (optional)

Pinch of sea salt

75g coconut oil

50g butter

80g honey

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Prepare and grease two baking trays. Combine the flour, coconut, raisins, oats, chia seeds and salt in a large mixing bowl. Gently melt the coconut oil, butter and honey in a small saucepan and stir until smooth. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in two tablespoons of boiling water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine well.

Roll walnut-sized pieces of dough into balls and place on the baking trays, leaving space between each ball. Flatten them slightly and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool before serving.

There are always flowers for those who want to see them (Henri Matisse)

flours

Over the past 50 years, wheat has been cross-bred to make it more resistant, shorter and faster growing. Today’s wheat is extremely inflammatory and contains substances that are difficult to digest. It is believed that the gluten found in this modern-day wheat is responsible for the rising occurrence of celiac disease, as well as benign gluten and wheat intolerance.

In addition to this, wheat’s glycemic index is very high as it contains amylopectin A, which is more easily converted to blood sugar than any other carbohydrate, including table sugar. The protein in wheat is transformed into exorphins which bind themselves to the opioid receptors in the brain, creating cravings and serious addiction. And to add insult to injury, recent research suggests that the consumption of modern wheat might trigger autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

So if you make only one change towards improving your diet this year, how about replacing wheat flour with some of the many alternatives?  Not only will you be adding flavour and goodness to your plate, you’ll be improving your overall health as well.

  • Spelt flour. This is a big favourite of mine. Although it contains gluten it is in a form  far more easily digested than the gluten in wheat. It contains more protein (in the form of amino acids) than wheat and is a rich source of B vitamins, fibre and minerals. Makes a wonderful, slightly nutty-tasting substitute for wheat flour in baking.
  • Rye flour. Rye flour also contains gluten, but again in a more digestible format. It is an excellent source of fibre, so much so that it is actually said to aid weight loss. It also contains plenty of vitamin E, calcium, iron and other trace minerals. Also well-adapted to baking, although I usually combine it with another flour as it can be a bit dry.
  • Buckwheat flour (gf). Despite its name, it’s not a type of wheat at all, but a plant closely related to rhubarb. Buckwheat is rich in protein, B vitamins and minerals (including iron). It makes wonderful pancakes and crepes and may be combined with spelt or rye flour for baking.
  • Chestnut flour (gf). Chestnut flour provides protein in the form of amino acids, fibre as well as vitamin E, B complex vitamins, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.
  • Chickpea flour (gf). Grain-free, chickpea flour is high in protein (again in the form of amino acids), folate and B vitamins, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Makes superb fritters, savoury pancakes and flatbreads.
  • Millet flour (gf). Purportedly one of the least allergenic of all flours, millet flour is gluten free and very easily digestible due to its high alkalinity. An excellent source of iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc and B vitamins.
  • Quinoa flour (gf). Quinoa flour contains about 17% protein, which makes it a richer source than any other grain flour. It also contains iron, calcium, zinc, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and copper.
  • Kamut flour. A highly nutritious flour, containing a form of gluten easier to digest than wheat. Again high in protein, it also contains potassium, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and iron.
  • Teff flour (gf). Teff has by far the highest proportion of calcium compared with other flours. It also contains amino acids, B vitamins, vitamin K and minerals. In its native Ethiopia, it is primarily used to make traditional flatbread.
  • Coconut flour (gf). Like chickpea flour, coconut flour is grain-free. It has the highest percentage of fibre (58%) of any flour. It also contains vitamin C, iron and calcium. It is delicious used in baking and may also be used for pancakes or bread.

Look here and here for more nutritional information.

Cream of mushroom and spinach soup and Hugo’s take on sterilisation

soup2

HugojournoandJava

Java spent all day yesterday at the vet. Although I had a nice peaceful day, I did miss her, which is a bit like missing a sore paw really. I heard Bossy tell someone that she was being sterilised. I know that she’s inclined to be dirty (Java, not Bossy), because she’s often covered in mud (and sometimes worse), but I didn’t realise that it was that bad. And anyway, once she’s been sterilised, surely she’ll just jump into the river and roll in the mud and be dirty all over again. When she came back last night she was in a very sorry state; I think that the sterilising machine must have slipped or something because she had a big bandage on her tummy. Also, she cried all evening and couldn’t walk properly and had to be carried to bed. I’m not allowed to practise my judo on her or chew her ears for two whole weeks, which makes me wonder what the point of her is. I hope they don’t take me to the vet to be dry-cleaned because I don’t want to end up like that. She seems to be better today, but I’m not: I’m quite exhausted because I had to comfort her all night while everyone else was asleep *exploited doggy sigh*.

Thank you Hugo. I’m sorry that you’re feeling exploited, but it was very kind of you to take care of Java. This soup is packed full of nourishment. The mushrooms provide vitamins D and B complex, as well as minerals such as selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and copper. The spinach contains high levels of iron, folic acid and calcium as well as vitamins A, C and K. The butter and cream aid absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).

Ingredients (serves 6)

10g butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, finely sliced

1 clove garlic, crushed

125g mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used button mushrooms but you could use any sort)

225g baby spinach leaves

1 litre organic vegetable or chicken stock

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

100ml pouring cream

Gently heat the oil and butter in a large pan, add the onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add the mushrooms and cook for five minutes before adding the spinach, stock and seasoning. Simmer for about 15 minutes and purée until smooth. Add the cream, stirring well and serve.

Best wishes for the new year, duxelles quiche and soggy ears

duxelquiche

A very Happy 2015 to everybody!

Our New Year has started true to form: one dog is wearing a filthy tennis sock, fetchingly held in place by a rubber band and the other dog has soggy, disheveled ears full of impossibly matted knots. Hugo had a bit of a paw mishap, which explains his incongruous footwear. Presumably to take his mind off the pain, he has taken to chewing Java’s ears, which explains her unladylike appearance. He chews them in a ‘try and stop me if you dare’ kind of way that brings to mind old westerns where the cowboys chewed ‘baccy’ and then spit it out on the ground. I’m half expecting him to thump down a shot glass and growl for another whisky to wash down his ribs and beans. I never imagined for a second that I might one day need advice on how to untangle an English Setter’s soggy ears and yet, here I am asking. If anyone can impart some wisdom it would be most welcome because I’ve tried combing, brushing, coaxing and blackmail to no avail. She’s very fidgety and slippery and it’s a bit like trying to coif a hyperactive eel which, all things considered, I could probably do without…

These mushroom quiches are really tasty and quite rich. The crushed oats make the pastry particularly crisp, nicely complimenting the filling.

Ingredients (serves 6 – 8)

Pastry:

100g spelt flour

50g buckwheat flour

50g crushed oats

1 tablespoon olive oil

50g butter

20g virgin coconut oil

Roughly 6 tablespoons of cold water

Filling:

4 large mushrooms, finely chopped

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 rashers of bacon, finely chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 egg

150 ml double cream

To make the pastry, begin by cutting the butter and coconut oil into small cubes. Add to the flours and oats in a mixing bowl and add a pinch of sea salt. Blend by hand until the mixture becomes crumbly. Add the cold water, mixing rapidly with a spoon. Remove the mixture from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until you obtain a ball of pastry (if the mixture isn’t ‘sticky’ enough to form a ball, you may need a drop more water). Wrap in a clean cotton tea towel and leave to ‘rest’ in the fridge for about two hours. This relaxes the dough and makes it easier to use.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Roll out the pastry on a clean, lightly floured surface and fill the tart tin or tins. As this pastry contains buckwheat flour and oats it will be quite fragile. You’ll find that you have to treat it delicately and possibly fill in the cracks with remaining bits of pastry by pressing gently. I use individual tart tins. Precook the pastry for 12 minutes.

To make the filling, combine the finely chopped mushrooms, shallots and bacon and line the quiche cases with the mixture. Break the egg into a small bowl and add the cream and seasoning (salt, pepper, paprika). Beat well to form a homogenous mixture. Pour the egg/cream mixture over the top and cook for 18 minutes.

The health benefits of wine

redwine

When I talk about the health benefits of wine drinking, I’m referring to very moderate consumption (five to seven glasses a week), accompanied by food. I’m afraid that necking the whole bottle on a empty stomach, while it might be fun at the time, does not count as healthy consumption!

There have been numerous studies conducted on the health benefits of wine, especially red wine. Without exception, the findings all suggest that it promotes a longer life, aids digestion, improves mental health, acts as an anti-inflammatory, protects the heart and even protects against certain cancers. Finally, the benefits gained from the pleasure of drinking a glass of good wine gives should not be underrated.

Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, was a big wine advocate, claiming it was something of a panacea. He used it for disinfecting wounds, diluting medication to increase palatability, alleviating pain during childbirth, symptoms of diarrhoea and even lethargy.

The anti-aging properties of wine have been apparent for over a thousand years. Monasteries were convinced that their monks’ long lifespans was due at least partly to their moderate, regular consumption of wine. Their conviction was later confirmed by The Copenhagen Heart Study carried out in 1994/95.

Wine provides valuable vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, but probably its main health benefits are due to its high resveratrol content. Red wine contains more resveratrol than white because it is fermented with the skins (white wine is not). Certain plants produce resveratrol to fight off bacteria and fungi and shield from ultraviolet irradiation.

A recent Spanish study found that wine, particularly red wine, reduces the risk of depression. It showed that people drinking between two and seven glasses of wine per week were less likely to be diagnosed with depression, even after factoring in lifestyle. Another study carried out at the University of Leicester reported that regular, moderate red wine consumption could reduce the rate of bowel tumours by about 50%.

It is accepted that alcohol consumption generally increases the risk of breast cancer. However, a study conducted at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles found that wine intake has the opposite effect. The chemicals in the skins and seeds of red grapes reduce oestrogen levels while raising testosterone  which results in a lower risk of developing breast cancer.

Another study found that moderate red wine intake can reduce the risk of developing dementia. The study which was conducted in 19 countries showed a significantly lower dementia risk amongst regular wine drinkers. It would appear that resveratrol reduces the stickiness of blood platelets, which helps keep the blood vessels open and flexible, which in turn helps maintain a good blood supply to the brain. The study concluded that moderate red wine drinkers had a 23% lower risk of developing dementia.

Red wine shields against severe sunburn, by virtue of its flavonoid content. It also protects the eyesight by controlling the overgrowth of blood vessels in the eye, a problem in both diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration. Drinking wine also boosts levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the body and it would appear that resveratrol improves sensitivity to insulin. Insulin resistance is the most important critical factor contributing to type 2 diabetes risk.

Perhaps most surprisingly, modest wine consumption is good for liver disease. A study showed that it reduced the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by half compared to people who never drank wine.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this ‘superdrink’, there is a very complete and interesting book, written by Frenchman, Michel Montignac called The Miracle of Wine.

Santé!

Baked banana and coconut custard and big fat liars

bananacustard

I’ve always had a certain empathy where animals are concerned. I’m sometimes even convinced that I know exactly what they’re thinking, or what they’d be trying to say if they could talk. This past week though I’ve been well and truly had: It turns out that our animals are a bunch of thieving, pathological liars who are on the way to becoming morbidly obese. Be it horses, dogs or hens, they all put on a really dejected, gaunt and hungry look as soon as they catch sight of me. I curse my husband for not having fed them and dispense generous helpings of sympathy and food until I’m satisfied that they’re not going to fade away from neglect. This means that instead of being fed twice a day, they end up being fed four times (at least!). And all because I fancy myself as some kind of present day Dr Dolittle.

I had to concoct a recipe that didn’t call for too many eggs as Java (our ten-month-old English Setter puppy) has taken to pinching them the minute they’re laid. I managed to retrieve a stray yolk for this recipe and was very pleased with the result…

Ingredients (makes 4-6 ramekins)

30g rye flour (you can use plain flour)

30g dessicated coconut

30g virgin coconut oil

400ml coconut milk

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 egg yolk

1 large ripe banana, mashed with a few drops of lemon juice to prevent oxidation

50g cane sugar

1 tablespoon honey

40g raisins previously soaked in rum (optional)

Approx. 30 frozen raspberries (or raspberry jam)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Prepare the ramekins by lining the bottom with six or seven frozen raspberries or a tablespoon of raspberry jam. Put the flour, dessicated coconut, coconut oil, coconut milk, vanilla essence and nutmeg into a heavy-bottomed medium-sized saucepan and heat gently, whisking continuously until the mixture thickens. Add the egg yolk, mashed banana, sugar, honey and raisins and return to the heat, again whisking well, for a few minutes. Pour the mixture into the ramekins, filling to about 1cm from the top. Bake for 20 minutes and then chill for a couple of hours before eating.

Dorset apple cake and disruptive females


dorsetapplecakeHugojournoandJava

I had hoped to find the time to sit down at my computer and write this post before now, but, once again, I’ve been absolutely rushed off my paws. I can’t let Java out of my sight for a minute without her getting up to something unthinkable (three pairs of riding boots and a school bag became history in the space of a week) and Bossy is being almost as troublesome. I suspect they might be in competition; could it be a girl thing? I think Bossy must be a bit vain because she thinks that she is capable of operating electronic equipment sans glasses (did you notice my subtle but appropriate use of a French word there? I am a sophisticated bilingual dog). Anyway, she appears convinced that repeatedly jabbing at every single button on the dishwasher/washing machine/television will help them work. Not so – we’ve been visited by three different men in white vans full of tools during the past few days. Luckily the Tall One seems to find it amusing, although I’m not sure why.

I commissioned my new byline picture from my favourite artist as it looks as though Java is going to become a fixture. I’m very pleased with it because it perfectly portrays my gravitas and her inconsequence. I hope you like it too.

Thank you Hugo for your contribution, although I’m not sure it’s altogether flattering. This simple cake is a cross between a cake and a scone. It’s not too sweet and delicious served warm or cold with some Greek yoghurt or ice cream.

Ingredients (serves 8)

250g spelt flour

Pinch of salt

50g salted butter

50g organic coconut oil

2 cooking apples, cored, peeled and diced

50g sultanas

75g cane sugar

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons of milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the flour in a bowl with the butter and coconut oil. Rub in the fats until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the apples, sultanas and sugar, then add the egg and milk and mix to a firm dough. Transfer the mixture to greased, medium-sized loaf tin, levelling the surface with your fingertips. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.