Sesame & rosemary spice

Posted in: DF, N, S, SF, V, WF

Naming this recipe was particularly tricky: seasoning or flour-less breadcrumb? Is crunch or crumb too circa 1996? Either way, it’s a random experiment that quickly evolved into a storehouse staple. Seasoning on steroids, I sprinkle it on everything from mushrooms on toast to kale (trust me); soups to salads. Even the most pathetic emergency supper is instantly transformed into meaty, nutty, spicy, saltiness. And it’s carb-free, protein packed and ideal for reducing your salt intake. Now do you see why no name does it justice?

Sesame,-rosemary-&-chilli-spice

INGREDIENTS

200g sesame seeds
100g sunflower seeds
50g ground almonds
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp smoked paprika or chipotle – optional
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp turmeric
4 sprigs rosemary
50g parmesan – drop this for a vegan option which is just as tasty.

METHOD

Pre-heat oven to 200C. Line two baking trays with the seeds, ground almonds and spice. Keep to a thin layer or the edges and bottom will burn while half the seeds remain white.

Sesame-spice

Cook in oven 8-10 mins or until browned. Stir half way through, ensuring the bottom seeds don’t burn. Remove and leave to cool.

In a blender, blitz parmesan and rosemary. Add chilled seed mix and whizz till you have a fine bread crumb consistency with lots of sesame seeds still in tact for texture.

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 wks.

Sprinkle over roasted veggies, put 1 dsp onto soups with a dollop of Labneh, or my favourite, sprinkled onto Mushrooms & poached egg on rye.

Sesame-&-rosemary-spice

I’ve recently developed a (minor) addiction to this on tahini marinated kale, which I’ll share soon. Think meaty, nutty salad. Yes, such a thing exists.

Tortilla (Tor-tee-ya): Spanish omelette

Posted in: DF, S, SF, Uncategorized, V, WF

I hounded Dad Garcia to make me this throughout my childhood, that and churros. And steak, egg and chips… Hmm… I’m not painting the healthiest picture here… Don’t worry, mum hid 10kg of mushy spinach in pancakes to make up for it. A bad day. Anyway, I maintain that Papi’s tortilla is the best, and after years of being his tattie sous chef, here it is. A perfect summer fridge staple for a snack or any meal of the day (seriously). For picnics in the park (maybe not this week), or to eat On the Go. ¡Aproveche!

Tortilla (Tor-tee-ya) - Spanish omelette

Makes 8 good sized trozos (slices)

INGREDIENTS

1.2 kg potatoes, peeled
1 large onion
3 tsp sea salt
300ml olive oil – 200ml will be drained off!
6 eggs

METHOD

Peel and chop potatoes to approx. 2” chunks. Peel and chop onion – quartered and halved is enough. Set oil to heat in heavy based frying pan on a high heat.

Tortilla (Spanish omelette). Wholesome Seduction

Mix potatoes, onion and salt in a bowl and add to boiling oil. Reduce to a medium to low flame (the potatoes need to simmer as opposed to steam), cover and cook for approx. 45 mins, gently stirring every 15 mins.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs with sea salt. Test to see if potatoes are soft, drain off oil and return to heat. Pour over eggs, shaking the pan to ensure all ingredients are mixed. Cook for 3 mins, pulling the edges away from the pan with the back of a wooden spoon.

Tortilla (Spanish omelette). Wholesome Seduction.

Shake to ensure base is loose, place a plate on top and flip. Transfer back to the frying pan for 1 – 2 mins and cook the reverse, again pulling down the sides to give your tortilla a curved edge.

Place a knife in the centre to test. I like the egg to still be slightly wet in the middle but you can also cook through, both are delicious.

Tortilla (Spanish omelette). Wholesome Seduction.

Transfer to a serving plate and allow to cool slightly before eating. Perfect hot or cold with salad. My preference has always been for the latter; I find the salty, waxy, olive oil potato and caramelised onion flavours come through more when at room temperature. But that’s just my opinion…

 

The best thing since sliced bread, my EP article

To say Gail’s Artisan Bakery owners, Ran Avidan and Tom Molnar are passionate about bread would be an understatement. On moving to the UK, they struggled to find the ‘daily bread’ of France or Europe, instead being faced with a chemical laden, plastic wrapped alternative that, according to Ran, “It’s only by coincidence both are called bread”. So, instead of dropping their suggestions into Greggs, they left their McKinsey & Co jobs in favour of creating a local community bakery that would bring back the age-old art of bread to Londoners.

Tom & Ran, Gail's Artisan Bakery

In 2004, they teamed up with Gail Stephens, of Baker & Spice fame but found their dream was delayed as they took over the management of Gail’s wholesale business, The Bread Factory. As Tom explains, “We came into a company with great bakers, great product and great customers; but imagine the least profitable business you can, that’s a craft business. It’s not romantic at all. There’s no reward system in place and the wrong people often get pats on the back.” Within two years they had doubled turnover, built a new state of the art bakery and won the London Chamber of Commerce Turnaround Business of the Year award. They were now ready to resume their mission and the first Gail’s Artisan Bakery was born.

Now, I could be considered a Gail’s Geek. It’s my local coffee stop of choice and I’m yet to find a better wholesale muffin than that of The Bread Factory. But am I just buying into the cake displays worthy of an art gallery? It’s definitely a big part of the appeal. But what about the Gail’s name, and what does Artisan actually mean? There are no clear standards to use the artisan tag in the UK, hence it’s increasing popularity and perhaps subsequent ambiguity on what it promises. In essence, it’s simple; go back to the way bread was baked for thousands of years: natural ingredients, less haste and more hands… Oh and a stone oven for the perfect crumb (the inner part to you and I) and crust.

According to Ran, “In Europe 70 – 80% of bread consumed is artisan or craft and only 20 – 30% industrialized. In the UK, it’s the reverse”. If we buy bread once a week from the supermarket, it needs to be “full of additives and chemicals that will keep it alive, probably after we die”. Most packaged breads contain as many as 20 ingredients, the majority of which I defy you to find in the Oxford English Dictionary. A true craft loaf contains closer to 4: flour, water, yeast or starter and salt, and any ingredients added won’t require a chemistry degree to pronounce.

In fact, as Ran explains, it’s this “extensive modification of flour that makes breads harder to digest and many believe is responsible for the rise in illnesses such as coeliac. Lots of wheat intollerant people can eat spelt for example, as it’s the same as it was hundreds of years ago”. Indeed, I’ve heard it said that the Roman Empire was built on this ancient grain, but as Tom is quick to point out, “it gives a third of the yield of flour” and I wonder if this is something we’re prepared to pay for.

The key to good bread is in the fermentation. It’s here that the personality and flavour develop and as such, a craft bread is left to prove for up to 48 hours. A commercial loaf by contrast, can be mixed, baked, sliced and bagged in less than an hour, with the help of expanding and preserving additives and lots of machinery. Yep that’s right, from two and a half days to one hour.

For Tom there’s no contest, “there’s something very simple about bread. It can be done so well, just like good coffee, if you take a little bit of care and time. And why wouldn’t you?” By definition, an artisan is a worker skilled in an applied art, and on watching the Gails “master bakers” it’s no surprise that on average, they’ve been with Gail’s for well over 10 years. I was transfixed. While one transformed a stretch of dough into six inch strips at the speed of light with what looked like a cleaver (no cookie cutters here!), the other magically molded future ciabattas, entirely with his hands. “And all to within 5g when spot checked”, Ran proudly confirms.

When they took over The Bread Factory, Ran and Tom were under no illusions that their strengths lay in procedures and “asking questions”, not in the kitchen. As Tom admits, “We weren’t bakers or chefs, so we gave [the business] a lot of respect”. Throughout my tour of the building, the efficiency, H&S standards and mutual deference between baker and boss is evident. But all this must come at price and are we too conditioned to like the one stop shop sandwich bread?

Gail's Artisan Bakery. Wholesome Seduction.

For Ran it’s simple: “there’s no comparison between supermarket bread and true artisan. Just try it.” He has a point. On sourcing their 100% Rye for a restaurant, I confirmed with The Bread Factory twice that there was definitely no wheat – it tastes that good! Given that Gail’s is now in Waitrose, Ocado and Harvey Nichols, along with a host of London’s top restaurants, I’m evidently not the only one who thinks so.

So what about the future? With six existing sites and another in the pipeline this year, Ran and Tom’s quest to be London’s community baker is becoming a reality. “We’re against chains” Ran is quick to point out. “We want to be a non-chain, chain, with each store retaining it’s own personality. We’ve grown organically, focusing on labour and good ingredients and want to build a brand where when people are asked what’s great artisan bread, they say Gail’s.” Any regrets? The smiles are immediate, “No regrets”, then Tom adds, “I’d like to have a Sunday off”.

One thing’s for certain, old fashioned style fonts, crests and packaging don’t make an artisan bread and if it takes more than 3 seconds to read the ingredients, it’s not worthy of the name. But are we prepared to pay that little bit more for quality and do we have the time for our daily bread? Well, I’m converted. Ran and Tom’s passion for The Staff of Life is infectious and I intend to have my cake and eat it… although I wouldn’t rule out the aid of a freezer.

This article was first published in EP Magazine.

The Anti-diet: Fresh, naturally

Posted in: Uncategorized

By this I mean made by you. Or your granny / the local deli / anyone not advocating the use of ingredients you’d expect to find in a science lab. As this blog eulogises, food is our fuel. I have a sneaking suspicion our growing girths and ever more vociferous food intolerance grumbles, can largely be attributed to the unpronounceable nasties poured into our ready-meals.

Seasonally Seductive Variety

Our bodies like variety. And by eating seasonally, you automatically tick the balanced diet manifesto. At the very least, you’ll never unwittingly consume horse in your beef burgers again.

Horse Burgers

And don’t get me started on salt, fat and sugar. It’s now common knowledge that many ready meals contain over half our recommended daily allowance of the former in a single serving. As a result, salt has become a swear word when in fact, our bodies need it to function.

It’s like this: Our heart is a muscle. Our digestive tract and limbs, amongst other things, are controlled by our muscles. Without salt, said muscles can’t move (hence cramp). If you’re not living off packaged loaves or processed food, you can probably scratch this one off your worry list.

Caravan Coffee, Exmouth Market, London.

By the same token, coffee houses such as Monmouth, All Press and Caravan (pictured), don’t do skinny milk. Because lattes weren’t invented with watered down, processed lactose. Coffee and the sweet, velvety cows milk are perfect partners. Enjoy them as they’re meant to be – in a smaller cup as opposed to a 32oz Venti bucket.

Pick and MIx. Love Hearts.

And what is the deal with sugar? When did we Brits develop such a super saccharine tooth? Most Rhubarb crumbles are now sweeter than Pick ‘N Mix with even ready meals and low fat foods typically loaded with sugar. It’s no wonder obesity and diabetes are on the increase, hence the press recently turning into our most vociferous saccherophobe (sugar hater). sugar demon taking such a beating by the press of late. On current trends, by 2050 half the UK adult population will be obese. We currently stand at 1/3. Nice.

For the record, the legendary J. Sheekey’s still flies the flag for our tangy British crumble favourite, complimented with the silkiest, vanilla bean speckled crème Anglais. #drool

JSheekey Oyster Bar, London.

“But I don’t step foot in my kitchen before 9pm”, I hear you groan. Without wishing to sound like Martha Stewart, soups, stews and salads can be super quick to prepare. The key is to make bigger batches for the fridge or freezer.

Next week I’ll blog some key recipes that can be mixed and matched for a week of almost instantaneous post work suppers and office lunch boxes, putting into easy practice what must seem like Anti-diet overload! In the meantime, click on the Seasonal Seducers and recipes for Wholesomely Seductive eating that’s a way of life, as opposed to a starve v. binge battle.

For more Anti-diet tips click on the Tag on the right, or type Anti-diet into the Search box at the top.

All Anti-diet posts have been approved by nutritionist and Gather & Gather colleague Kate Taylor, find her on Twitter @kate_t85