28. April 2013

A Perfect Bread

O my, oh my. I just made the best bread I could probably smear butter and jelly on.
Seriously, I am so excited because I used to hate to make yeast doughs.
Yeast was my worst enemy and I avoided baking with it at all costs. Streusel cake for anyones birthday? Ehm, let’s make muffins instead. Homemade pizza? Mum, could you..?
But with the years I realized that baking with yeast wasn’t actually that difficult if you sticked to certain rules:

1. Only use warm, never HOT water, since it would kill the yeast
2. Only use ingredients at room temperature (never take anything straight out of the fridge)
3. Don’t let the yeast come near the salt
4. Activate the yeast by mixing it with warm water and a little sugar
5. Be patient enough to let the dough sit for a looong time
6. Be patient anough to knead the dough very well

Oh well. To be honest point #5 isn’t my strenghth. Although I create recipes myself, I find it very hard to follow a recipe my own. I always improvise while cooking and most of the time end up adding or omitting ingredients to my liking.
But today, I almost followed this recipe precisely. I guess it was the yeast that intimidated me.
By “followed almost” I mean that I used spelt instead of wheat flour. And I kind of dismissed rule #5, because I let the dough rise only half the time the recipe suggested.
But since recipes are only suggestions, the bread still turned out wonderfully.

The recipe:
Making a good bread can be something very intimidating. It’s not only the yeast that needs to be conquered, but also the memory of homemade bread that is hard as a stone and as tasty as a sponge. I am ashamed to admit, that I know what I am talking about. Ehem.
But when you stick to the above mentioned rules, there shouldn’t be too much left that could make you cry over your dough. Although I let the bread rise for “only” an hour total, it still turned out very fluffy and moist. The key to the fluffiness is the kneading! Don’t omit the 10 minutes of kneading the dough very well with your mixer.
I think this bread has everything that one wishes for. It is fluffy on the insight and crunchy on the outside. The oats get slighty toasty and add a great nutty flavor to it.
I prefer to eat it with a generous smear of strawberry jam and goat’s cheese but feel free to eat it with anything you like.

Last but not least, let my say thank you to Jenna for this amazing recipe. She is a genious and I love her blog.


Oat and Spelt Breakfast Bread
(Inspired by Jenna Weber)

(makes one loaf)

370g spelt flour (type 630)
48g rolled oats
14g sugar
8g salt
7g active dry yeast (1 package)
1 1/3 cups (330ml)water, luke warm
15g (vegan) butter, at room temperature

In a small bowl mix water and active dry yeast. Let sit on the counter for a few minutes until the mixture gets bubbly.

In a larger bowl mix flour, oats, sugar and salt. Add water-yeast mixture and knead with a handmixer (dough hooks!) for 10 minutes on high speed. I do not recommend to knead by hand, since the dough is very sticky! At the end of the kneading time, the dough should be less sticky and smooth. Cover the bowl with a table cloth and let sit in a warm place for 45 minutes or until the dough has about doubled in size.

When the dough has doubled, put it on a slightly floured surface and sprinkle with additional oats (as many as you like). Slightly roll the dough to make the oats stick to the dough slightly. Add the dough into a greased  loaf pan. Cover with a table cloth and let sit in a warm spot for 15 minutes.

In the meantime preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
After 15 minutes add bread to the oven ande reduce heat to 175°C. Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown. And crunchy. Do not open the oven while the bread is still baking.
Remove the bread from the pan and let cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

23. April 2013

Leeks with Roasted Zucchini and Minted Cucumber Dip

I am really passionate about simple, whole foods that have a lot of flavor, taste delicious and aren’t a mess to make. I enjoy being in the kitchen, don’t get me wrong, and I probably spend most of my free-time (besides being outside) there, but quite frequently I get to cooking because I am hungry. Normally I start cooking in the late afternoon or around noon, when I have the time. Since I am an early bird, breakfast happens to be around 7 or 7.30 am.
Four hours later I will be hungry again, and if you’d ask anyone who knows me, she’d probably tell you that I can get really grumpy when I am hungry and do not get to eat, like immediately!
I must admit, that I haven’t really refered to leeks as a vegetable itself. Of course, I know that it IS a vegetable, but I never bothered to cook it and eat it on its own. Leeks belong into soups and that’s it. Oh, I was terribly wrong and I am so sorry for my ignorance.
This dish actually was a result of not knowing what to cook for dinner. I found myself at the supermarket, and with zero idea what I wanted to eat. Nothing sounded very appealing and to be honest, the shelves where almost empty and  there wasn't too much fresh produce left (it was 6 pm after all) that I could choose from.
However, they still had leeks and zucchini. "Oh great", I thought. "What should I do with those two?"
I kept on contemplating but in the end, I bought a bunch of fresh leeks and three zucchini.
On the drive home I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Leeks and zucchini? I had neither seen anyone eat those two vegetables together, nor could I come up with a recipe that would solve my dilemma.

Sometimes the best strategy is to just get started. I washed the veggies, cut the leeks into thin rounds, placed them in a colander, and wished for some "godly" inspiration.
Oh well. No such luck.
With the zucchini, I decided to go with an old favorite and just stick them into the oven for roasting. Never fails to be a hit!
Since I still had no idea what to do with the leeks, I thought it would be the best idea to steam it in a little coconut oil. So simple but it turned out to be totally wonderful.
I also made a nice tzaziki-like yoghurt dip to go along with the veggies to spice things up a bit.

The recipe:

As I have already said, this dish is very simple and I really stuck to the basics. Fresh thyme adds a nice flavor to both the leeks and the zucchini and the mint yoghurt underlines the light and summery theme. If you are not a fan of zucchini, I could also imagine this dish with roasted eggplant, pepper or even sweet potatoes.
It also makes a great side spread for a barbecue or summer brunch.

Leeks with Roasted Zucchini and Minted Cucumber Dip
(serves 2-3)

1 Tbsp coconut oil
5 leeks, sliced diagonally
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of ground cumin

Heat oil in a wide pot.Add leeks and thyme sprigs and steam on medium heat for 15-20 minutes or until very soft. Season with a generous amount of salt, pepper, and a pinch of cumin.

Roasted zucchini:
3 zucchini, halved and cut lenghthwise
1 Tbsp olive oil
Fleur de sel, pepper
Fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F).
Place zucchini halves on a lined baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with a generous amount of fresh thyme.
Bake at 175°C for 20-25 minutes or until soft and slightly brown.

Minted cucumber Dip:
½ English cucumber,finely shredded
200g (about 3/4 cup) sheeps’s yoghurt
3 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup mint leaves, minced
Salt, pepper to taste
Pinch of ground cilantro

Olive oil for drizzling

Mix the shredded cucumber with a sprinkle of salt and place  into a strainer. Drain for about 15 minutes.
In a small bowl mix drained cucumber, yoghurt, lemon juice and mint. Season with salt, pepper, and cilantro.

20. April 2013

Vegetable studded Lemon Risotto

Sometimes it is all about comfort food. You know, there are days when I feel like I should have stayed in bed because nothing is working out. Then I normally go to the kitchen, chop up some vegetables and cook myself a risotto. Making risotto is equally therapeutical as cooking a large portion of oatmeal or pasta sauce. Stir, stir, stir yout little heart out.
Stirring a pot full of creamy things and the smell of onions never fails to make me feel better. When I want a very hearty dish, I add mushrooms. As a vegetarian you always have to get creative with your food. Hearty meals are something that remind me of my childhood and family gatherings. Since there were no vegetarians in my family back then, meals were always centered around a meat dish. Once in a while I crave the meaty flavor without having the urge to actually grab a piece of meat. Then I reach for mushrooms since they contain this hearty and somewhat heavy flavor of a steak.

The recipe:
The risotto is actually quite simple. I just added a few vegetables to lighten things up and make it a comforting but still healthy dish. Roasted eggplant is one of my favorite things in the world and I think it pairs well with the lemon. I wanted some spinach in it, too, because green things aren’t just pretty additions to every meal, but are also very nutritious.
If you feel like it, you can also add some goat’s cheese to the risotto, but I think it is not needed.
I hope you enjoy this creamy, (vegan) vegetable studded risotto as much as I do!

Vegetable studded Lemon Risotto
(Serves 2 as a main dish)

1 heaping tsp coconut oil
½ sweet onion, minced
2 large brown (or portabello) mushrooms, about 2 cups (150g), finely chopped
3/4 cup (140g) risotto rice
About 2 cups (500ml) vegetable broth
Zest of ½ lemon
(Salt and pepper if needed)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 eggplant, chopped
Salt and pepper

2 large handfuls young spinach leaves

In a pot heat coconut oil. Add minced onion and chopped mushrooms and cook on medium heat for a few minutes until the onion gets translucent. Then add the rice and stir. Add about  (1 ½ cups) 400ml of vegetable broth. Bring risotto to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Cook the rice for about 25 minutes. Stir frequently and add vegetable broth as needed.
I used 2 cups (500ml) total, but feel free to add more if you want it creamier.

While the risotto cooks, fry eggplant in a nonsticking pan. I kept the heat relatively high, to achieve nice brown cubes. Season with salt and pepper when the eggplant is done (after approx. 15 minutes ) and set aside.

Wash spinach leaves and remove stems. Set aside.

When the risotto is done, add fried eggplant and lemon zest and stir to combine.
Then add spinach leaves and fold into the hot risotto. There should be enough heat to wilt the spinach. Cover risotto with a lid and let rest for a few minutes. Serve immediately.

What do you make yourself when you are feeling low?