Autumn and I return – Blackberry and Apple Loaf

Blackberries

Cannot believe I have not posted since the Spring. Somehow lost my focus, but an amazing holiday in Denmark and Norway has completely inspired me to cook again.

Why, you may wonder?

The list is long however one word, maybe two…or three, sums up the impressions our summer holiday left with me.

Natural – Wholesome – Simple

Bread is not just bread; it is seeded, it is rye, it is wholemeal, it has nuts in it, berries – dark chocolate. Wow! That is one recipe that will be shared eventually!

The environment is not just used; it is adored, appreciated, cherished, looked after. Every turn takes your breath away. Every turn inspires dreaming and laughter. Maybe some of the dreams created whilst there will be shared eventually!

People are not just strangers that pass you by; they are strong, sturdy, friendly, helpful and kind souls who make a proper effort to make your day better than it already was. True selflessness and kindness. Inspiring.

Walks are not just walks; they are rejuvenating, awe-inspiring, berry picking, soul enlightening miracles. And from the walks come fruit – berries – and from those berries come wonderful recipes. One of which I will share with you now. 🙂

Picking

We had friends over a few weekends ago and went for an amazing walk through fields of clover, parks, over little bridges and close by lakes. All along the way were rows and rows of blackberry bramble; bursting with ripe berries. I made a mental note and promised the children to return with bags and bowls…

For those that have followed this blog for a while, and cooked my recipes, you will know that I always try to incorporate healthy aspects into every meal (almost anyway!).  This gorgeous blackberry and apple loaf is no different. Very easy, very quick – moist – full of flavour, rye and fruit. A great lunch box or after school treat or a lovely Sunday breakfast or tea time surprise for the family.

What goodness will it give you?

  1. Exercise, a smile on your face, your children out of the house and maybe muddy shoes – picking the berries of course!
  2. Vitamin A & C, dietary fibre, heart-healthy fats, potassium and calcium – blackberries are an amazing addition to your diet. They are one of the berries women are advised to eat if they would like a flatter stomach (or so I have heard…)!
  3. Potentially cancer reducing – apple peel has quercetin in it – some studies have shown this to be a cancer reducing food.
  4. Slow releasing energy – rye! Read more here: benefits of rye

No excuses – get your wellingtons on, get into the outdoors, and pick those blackberries before they disappear.

Blackberry and Apple Loaf

150g rye flour

100g plain flour

175g butter (can be substituted for vegetable oil or apple sauce)

100g dark brown unrefined cane sugar

5 tbsp. Demerara sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. baking powder

2 eggs

Zest of an orange

1 green apple grated (NOT peeled)

225g blackberries

  • Pre heat your oven to 180C
  • Grease a loaf tin using either butter or vegetable oil (approximately 1.5L)
  • Place the two flour types, butter (or oil/applesauce) and two sugar types in a mixing bowl
  • Combine with your fingers until the mixture resembles bread crumbs
  • Take 5 table spoons of this mixture and place it in a separate bowl – you will use this as topping at the end
  • Add the cinnamon to the topping mixture
  • Add the baking powder to the flour mixture
  • In a separate bowl combine eggs, the zest of orange and the grated apple
  • Pour the fruit mixture into the flour mixture and combine with a fork – do not over-mix (this will make a harder textured cake)
  • Gently fold the blackberries into the dough, again making sure not to over-mix
  • Spoon the dough into the loaf tin, sprinkle with the topping and place in the warm oven for approximately 1 hour (or slightly longer depending on your oven/tin etc. Please insert a skewer into the loaf after an hour to check that the dough is fully baked). If the cake starts looking a little dark for your liking simply place some tin foil over the top of it and leave to bake until it has finished.
  • Let it cool in the tin on a wire rack for a good 30 minutes before removing.
  • Serve as is or with crème fraiche/ice cream/custard….
  • (the little jar in the pictures below contains blackberry and ginger compote – great with cheese! That recipe will have to follow)

(for more information on the healthy benefits of almost anything: http://health.learninginfo.org/)

ApplesBlackberry and Apple LoafFinished LoafAs a gift?

Pomegranate #4 – Fennel, Orange and Pomegranate Salad

If you are scared of fennel and/or believe you do not like it – try this recipe! It will bring you round to the absolutely gorgeous fresh and crunchy taste that is fennel and you will never look back!

A few words about fennel, if nothing else than to broaden the mind and make you appreciate this little, fat, white bulb!

  • Fennel is widely cultivated for its edible, strongly flavoured leaves and fruits and its aniseed flavour comes from anethol, an aromatic compound also found in star anise. Its taste and aroma is therefore similar to this, though not as strong.
  • Health benefits of fennel include relief from anemia, indigestion, wind, constipation, colic, diarrhea, respiratory disorders and menstrual disorders.
  • Using fennel in food helps protect eyes from inflammation this due to the presence of both ani oxidants and vitamin C which are both very beneficial for the rejuvenation of tissues and prevention of aging – read more about vitamin C here and anti oxidants here).
  • If you suffer from indigestion, or bad breath (or both!), try chewing fennel seeds after your meal – this is apparently common in India.

I have used a few recipes as inspiration (telegraph, bbc, woman’s hour website) but combined my own favourite bits to make this a really stunning starter, a quick lunch or even an afternoon bite of food (if you are going to be having a late dinner maybe?)

The best thing about the recipe is the seasonality of it – it is a real winter salad with oranges being at their best at the moment, and fennel readily available. Furthermore the children love the sweet crunch – and it looks beautiful with the emerald pomegranate seeds scattered around. It is bright and fresh, in taste and colour, and will bring a smile to your face.

Fennel, Orange and Pomegranate Salad

1 fennel bulb – medium – washed, centre removed
2 oranges
Seeds of 1/2 a pomegranate
Lump of feta cheese
 
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp runny honey
 
(fresh chilli is a lovely addition as are a few fresh mint sprigs)
 
  • Wash the fennel bulb and core it – this is easily done by cutting the bulb in half and removing core as you would that of an apple
  • Slice the fennel thinly – julienne style strips – and throw them in a bowl
  • Peel the oranges with a knife removing all of the white pith. Cut in between the membranes to release each small section of orange – do this over the fennel bowl so as to catch the juices as they drip
  • Break the feta into small pieces and throw into the fennel bowl
  • Clean and prepare the pomegranate seeds (read more here) and add to the bowl
  • In a jar combine the olive oil lemon juice, red wine vinegar and honey and shake – pour this dressing over the salad and toss gently
  • Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled – if you want to, add the mint for presentation and flavour and the chilli for an extra kick! It is lovely on its own but also gorgeous with fish or meat.

Pomegranate #1 – Benefits and Throw-in Salad

January is a bit of a dark and dreary month – grey, prone to be wet, often lacking in both snow and sun as well as full of people making New Year’s resolutions, and breaking them!

After enjoying the theme of rye I wanted another healthy, but prettier and more colourful subject to finish off January! What better one than Pomegranate. Absolutely brimming with health, beautiful to look at and eat, crunchy, juicy, sweet and sour – it has it all.

Thought to be native to Persia, the fruit is now grown everywhere from Spain to California. It features richly in mythology, as a symbol of birth, eternal life, and death, owing to its abundance of seeds and ability to ‘bleed’. The deep red skin of the pomegranate was thought to link it to the blood of the earth, a taboo colour. Hence the fruit’s association with forbidden desire (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/3937053.stm).

The edible pomegranate fruit is a berry and has thick reddish skin. There can be between 200 and 1400 seeds in a pomegranate fruit and to many these are considered a nightmare to remove! A few tips to those that fall in this category:

  • open the pomegranate by scoring it with a knife and breaking it open then chuck it all into a bowl filled with cold, clean tap water. The red arils (seeds) will sink and the inedible pulp float – it works a treat
  • according to Wikipedia, another option is to cut the pomegranate in half, score each half of the exterior rind four to six times, hold the pomegranate half over a bowl and smack the rind with a large spoon. The arils should eject from the pomegranate directly into the bowl, leaving only a dozen or more deeply embedded arils to remove (I can imagine the mess though and have personally never done it this way!!)

Apart from providing an abundance of Vitamin C as well as fibre, pomegranates are filled with antioxidants – as raspberries and other berries – which protect the body from the nasty chemicals in the blood (which gets there through our own bad habits! Read more about that here!). Finally it can help to prevent heart disease, relieve stress and may improve your sex life – if that is not enough to convince you to try some of my recipes, the fruit may hold the key of youth (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2060163/Pomegranate-prevents-heart-disease-improves-sex-life-elixir-youth.html)!

As a start, here is a stunning way to enjoy the pomegranate seeds! A throw-it-all-in salad!

Pomegranate Throw-in Salad

green leaves of your choice – I love watercress, baby spinach and rocket leaves
boiled or poached egg – semi-hard to hard-boiled/poached
half the seeds of a pomegranate
avocado
blueberries
grated carrot
big spoonful of hummus
thick slices of roast turkey breast (or pieces of turkey ends)
red pepper slices
olives
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar (or glaze)
 
  • Boil an egg for 8-9 minutes or poach for 5 minutes – let cool
  • Wash and pat try your leaves and lay them on a plate
  • Wash and grate a carrot and place on leaves
  • Slice open an avocado, cut into slices and lay these on leaves
  • Lay the turkey ends on the leaves
  • Wash and slice a red pepper – lay some of the slices on your place
  • Lay a great big dollop of hummus on the side of the leaves – recipe here
  • Throw on some olives
  • Scatter a small handful of blueberries on top
  • Finally, the  pièce de résistance, the pomegranate seeds! Prepare as mentioned above and scatter generously on the leaves
  • Dress with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or glaze)
  • Serve with a piece of toasted rye bread, bread sticks, rye crisps….choices are many!

Lemon, Honey and Ginger Tea

This is simply heaven! If you are feeling sniffly and cold, perhaps a bit sickly, or just in need of a pick me up – look no further! It is a vitamin booster if ever there was any and it tastes great too!

As ginger and lemon are strong flavours you may have to play with the dosages a bit to make it suit perfectly to your taste buds! This is how I love to drink it!

Juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp runny honey
Good chunk of fresh ginger – peeled and finely chopped
Boiling water – enough for 4 cups of tea
  • Get a flask or a tea pot
  • Place the ginger, lemon juice and honey in it
  • Pour your boiling water over this and leave for 15 minutes to infuse
  • When ready to pour you can either sieve into cups or simply avoid the bits of ginger that come with the tea while you drink!
  • Snuggle up on the sofa, cover yourself with a blanket and close your eyes…heaven!

The Magic of Lemons

After my chocolate passion spell, followed by a week on holiday with lots of marshmallow roasting and cream teas, I wanted a healthy theme and one that included a food I could cook and use mostly for savoury recipes. When I then read on the Discovery Health website that Vitamin C promotes the production of collagen (a protein that encourages cell growth and promotes skin firmness) I knew that lemon would be a good choice!

It has been lovely using lemon in all my recipes, from breakfast to dinner, and apart from feeling positively refreshed, I am sure my skin looks better! Furthermore, our home has gained a wonderful subtle scent of spring – without me even needing to clean!

Lemon is well-known for having a multitude of health benefits, the main ones being strong antibacterial, antiviral, and immune-boosting powers. They also act as a weight loss aid due to the fact that they induce the liver to create bile which is a juice that dissolves the fat in your food (more on this in a great article on lifemojo.com). During this process. the juices also clean out your liver. If these are not enough reasons to enjoy some of my recipes, read on to discover more glorious secrets about this little yellow gem!

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