Wholefood Cooking

Kudzu | Umeboshi | Ginger Drink for Cold and Flu Season

Right now I am thousands of kilometres up in the air, flying to Sydney. I’m sitting by the window and the sun is streaming in – all the clouds, cold and rain are far below me. It’s delicious to feel this sun warming my bones. I’ve got a busy schedule in Sydney with classes, seminars and talks, so being well is on my mind. When I was in Sydney this time last year, my bestie and colleague Holly Davis had caught the dastardly flu – omg it was horrible for her, she was seriously and very, very sick. We were talking on the phone (over a cup of tea) recently and of course the conversation steered to how we can best keep ourselves well. We decided to do a FB Live session (which you can find on my FB page) and whilst it didn’t go exactly to plan, there is still a lot of good information there. In that vein I’d love to share those ideas with you and give you the recipe I talked about in that FB Live post. They may well be of use.

Right now in both hemispheres nature is moving. As we move away from the equinox, the energy begins to rise once again from resting deep in the ground and is becoming warmer in the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa in the Northern Hemisphere. Nature is beginning it’s descent into the resting period. It is not a straight path, the energies are in flux. This is peak season for cold and flus’, no matter where you are. This is what I do to help reduce the chance that I fall vulnerable to it all.

LIFE STYLE

  1. Get Enough Rest
    I have learnt the hard, hard way to ensure that I get enough rest. That I don’t ‘soldier on’. A couple of days going more slowly, off or resting is better than 2 weeks in bed and weeks to really feel well again.
  2. Let Go
    I am learning to let go. There are many things I can’t control and it’s too stressful trying to. Part of my work transformation is finding the way to work that is less stressful and more delicious. This is a big part of me moving my classes online as I simply can’t travel everywhere to do them. I’m just loving the creativity it offers, but better still the greater time I get to share with you in this format. If you would like to see what that’s looking like head to www.wholefoodcookingonlineclasses.com
  3. Get some Fresh Air and Get Close to Nature
    Late Winter / Early Spring in the Southern Hemisphere is still very cold but gorgeous for getting out and walking. Early Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere – is there ever a better time to be out as the leaves come falling down?
  4. Simplify
    Your life, your food.

ON AND IN YOUR BODY

  1. Chicken Bone Stock
    It’s in the fat my friends. That’s where those bug fighting good guys are. It’s also in the broth – nourishing and easy to digest (again, less stressful, this time on the digestive system).
  2. Coconut Oil (Fat Again)
    This is a wonderful source of your short chain fatty acids – anti viral, anti fungal and anti bacterial.
  3. Animal Fat
    Egg yolk, butter, cream – brilliant for the immune system.
  4. Shiitake Mushrooms
    Excellent Immune boosters. Dried are my fave and I only buy the Spiral brand, in the U.S check out the Eden brand.
  5. Ginger and Turmeric
    Myself, I’m not a fan of Turmeric just don’t like the flavour and astringent aspect of it, but if you do go for it. Have both, any way you like them.
  6. Citrus
    In the southern hemisphere citrus is everywhere. Early spring in Northern Hemisphere lemons may be around.
  7. Kudzu and Umeboshi Plum
    Kudzu is a highly alkalinising starch with strong descending properties. It’s also wonderful for the immune system, brilliant for reducing stress and anti-inflammatory.  Ume Plum is actually a type of apricot fermented with salt and perilla (shiso herb). It’s highly anti bacterial and alkalinising to boot. It comes as whole ‘plums’ or paste (that’s paste you can see in the picture above). I’m going to give you a recipe for one of my fave ‘cure -alls’ the infamous Kudzu, Ume, Tamari and Ginger Drink. Best brands – Spiral and Eden (see above).
  8. Healing Chicken Soup (Healing Fish Soup is none too shabby either)
    This recipe appears in my first book Wholefood – Heal, Nourish, Delight and combines chicken stock, shiitake and ginger. It’s a winner.
  9. Hot Bath and Sesame Oil Rub
    Sesame oil is revered in Ayurveda for it’s anti – bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti – oxident rich profile. It’s brilliant for reducing Vata, which in these in – between seasons (especially Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere) can increase. Make sure it’s the best quality, organic and naturally sourced Sesame Oil available. Again, I would look to the brands noted for the Shiitake Mushrooms above – Spiral and Eden.

I hope that helps and gives you some ideas. Do make the Kudzu, Ume, Tamari and Ginger Drink though, it’s just wonderful….

x Jude

Please note that none of the information in this post can take the place of professional advice and quite possibly, is not proven in the professional, medical world.

Red Onion, Zucchini and Tomato Bake

Hello there !!

Here we are with another year come around. I have to say, after the trials of 2017 (shared it seems, by just about everybody else)  I’m quite happy about it. A wonderful chance to wipe the slate clean, reset ourselves and head of in the direction of where we want to go. For me ? I want a less crazy, let me live and eat a little more simply and more seasonally. And this is the vein in which we are starting out…..

If you happen to live in Australia, then you are almost bound to be over run with zucchini. Tis the season.They grow and double in size overnight, they are prolific, and they’re cheap (because there are so many of them!) and if you turn your back on them, they will take over. They are something I can grow, but also my little market garden stall is almost giving them away. Now beyond Zucchini Fritters (Wholefood for Children), Zucchini and Sultana Loaf (Wholefood for Children), stuffed zucchini and the ever brilliant Zucchini Slice (made famous by the Australian Womens Weekly, but to which I add heaps of other veggies), this bake is a super simple (meaning crazy easy and oh so quick) and wildly delicious option.If you are into raw zucchini noodles, then now is the time and place (not in the dead of winter) – now is their time to shine and zoodle like there’s no tomorrow. But, back to our bake… it’s a mish – mash of two things – Mum’s tomato pie (tomato, onion, breadcrumbs, dot butter on top) that we always had in summer with a roast, and the classic Tian of summer vegetables.

But, in truth the whole dish started when I discovered that the red onions I’d planted, and thought were not a great success, apparently got it all together and became big fat bulbs of oniony goodness. I also had a glut of tomatoes courtesy of my niece, and said zucchinis. When I cut into those onions, oh my they were just begging for a bit of heat so those sugars could caramelise up and become something quite stupendous.

So before I get to the recipe, there is one super important thing that makes the world of difference. The dish. A tian (a bit like a gratin) is all about the dish. It needs to be shallow – and classically shapes outward (this helps the juices reduce and become oh so good) you can see that clearly in the dish I used. But you need something that is going to get hot. I mean really hot. My preference is for cast iron, and failing that enamel coasted tin. What this does is caramelise the vegetables and the juices along the edges, which totally changes the flavour. So in a few words, if you can – shallow, sides flanging outwards, enamel coated tin or cast iron.

This would make a brilliant lunch with a green salad and some good cheese (goat preferably) if desired. Or perhaps a wonderful bean salad. It makes a great partner for a meat or fish main too. It begs for a glass of great reddish wine. It is totally not averse to pesto (Coming Home to Eat or Wholefood for Children), or a tapenade (I would suggest the Arame Tapenade from Wholefood From the Ground Up) – all in all it is a plant focused winner and workhorse. I hope you love it as much as I do….

I wish you a wonderful 2018, filled with good things, and if trials come along the fortitude and ability to bear them, quiet moments filled with calm and satisfaction. May there also be much joy and deliciousness at your table and in your life.

Until next time… x Jude

PS….Seasonality and what to cook with all that produce is a big theme for me this year, and a focus of my newsletter. If you’d like to join me there, I’d love to share it with you…. you can SUBSCRIBE HERE.

All these gorgeous photos ©Harriet Harcourt

 

THE​ ​MIGHTY​ ​​ ​GOOD​ ​AND​ ​NOURISHING​ ​OAT​ ​BISCUIT​ & BAR ​FOR​ ​ADULTS​ ​AND​ ​CHILDREN​

Photography ©Harriet Harcourt
Photgraphy ©Harriet Harcourt

When​ ​I​ ​was​ ​recently​ ​asked​ ​by​ ​Organic​ ​Times​ ​to​ ​develop​ ​a​ ​recipe,​ ​I​ ​jumped​ ​at​ ​the​ ​opportunity​ ​to use​ ​their​ ​chocolate​ ​as​ ​my​ ​primary​ ​ingredient​ ​(you​ ​can​ ​read​ ​more​ ​about​ ​why​ ​below).​ ​But​ ​what​ ​to make​ ​?!!!​ ​So​ ​I​ ​went​ ​to​ ​you, my ​ ​readers​ ​on​ ​Instagram​ ​and​ ​Facebook​ ​and​ ​overwhelmingly​ ​the​ ​request was​ ​for​ ​a​ ​SIMPLE,​ ​EASY​ ​AND​ ​QUICK​ ​TO​ ​MAKE,​ ​NOURISHING,​ ​MIGHTY​ ​GOOD,​ ​CHOC DROP​ ​SOMETHING​ ​for​ ​school​ ​lunches,​ ​afternoon​ ​tea​ ​and​ ​something​ ​an​ ​adult​ ​might​ ​love​ ​as well, please Jude !!!!​ ​I’m​ ​thrilled​ ​with​ ​the​ ​end​ ​result.​ ​Whilst​ ​the​ ​adult​ ​and​ ​child​ ​version​ ​are​ ​slightly​ ​different, they​ ​have​ ​enough​ ​common​ ​DNA​ ​allowing​ ​for​ ​them​ ​to​ ​made​ ​together,​ ​and​ ​it’s​ ​super​ ​easy​ ​and quick​ ​to​ ​do.​ ​Both​ ​last​ ​brilliantly​ ​in​ ​an​ ​airtight​ ​container​ ​for​ ​up​ ​to​ ​-​ ​well,​ ​I​ ​was​ ​still​ ​eating samples​ ​after​ ​2​ ​weeks​ ​(but​ ​obviously​ ​they​ ​are​ ​at​ ​their​ ​best​ ​within​ ​7​ ​days).

 

What’s so good about Organic Times cacao/cocoa / chocolate?
Chocolate,​ ​as​ ​we​ ​know​ ​it,​ ​is​ ​the​ ​result​ ​of​ ​a​ ​long​ ​process.​ ​Seeds​ ​from​ ​the​ ​cacao​ ​tree​ ​are​ ​firstly scooped​ ​out​ ​of​ ​the​ ​large​ ​pods​ ​and​ ​left​ ​to​ ​ferment​ ​and​ ​then​ ​spread​ ​out​ ​to​ ​dry.​ ​At​ ​this​ ​stage,​ ​the beans​ ​are​ ​considered​ ​to​ ​be​ ​raw​ ​—​ ​the​ ​full​ ​flavour​ ​that​ ​is​ ​chocolate,​ ​is​ ​yet​ ​to​ ​be​ ​realised.​ ​The seeds​ ​are​ ​then​ ​roasted​ ​and​ ​shelled​ ​to​ ​become​ ​what​ ​we​ ​call​ ​nibs,​ ​which​ ​can​ ​be​ ​left​ ​whole​ ​or broken​ ​into​ ​pieces.​ ​During​ ​roasting​ ​the​ ​flavour​ ​of​ ​cocoa​ ​is​ ​developed.​ ​Within​ ​the​ ​Raw​ ​Food movement,​ ​a​ ​view​ ​is​ ​held​ ​that​ ​raw​ ​cocoa/​ ​cacao​ ​ (​both​ ​names​ ​are​ ​correct,​ ​and​ ​either​ ​can​ ​be​ ​used​) nibs​ ​and​ ​(and​ ​thus​ ​all​ ​chocolate​ ​products​ ​that​ ​come​ ​from​ ​them)​ ​are​ ​more​ ​nutritious​ ​and preferable but​ ​this​ ​is​ ​highly​ ​contentious​ ​and​ ​not at all ​necessarily​ ​true,​ ​as​ ​that​ ​desirable​ ​mineral​ ​and nutrient​ ​bounty​ ​is​ ​only​ ​made​ ​bio​ ​available​ ​during​ ​the​ ​fermentation​ ​process. ​Whilst​ ​the​ ​raw product​ ​does​ ​have​ ​higher​ ​levels​ ​of​ ​phytonutrients​ ​they​ ​also​ ​have​ ​higher​ ​levels​ ​of​ ​antinutrients such​ ​as​ ​phytic​ ​acid​ ​(and​ ​indeed​ ​are​ ​along​ ​with​ ​coffee,​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​high​ ​phytic​ ​acid​ ​seeds)​ ​which makes​ ​very​ ​little​ ​bio​ ​available.​ ​​ ​Fermentation​ ​plays​ ​a​ ​primary​ ​role​ ​in​ ​breaking​ ​these​ ​anti nutrients​ ​down,​ ​where​ ​high​ ​temperatures​ ​are​ ​reached​ ​during​ ​this​ ​process and this is the traditional wisdom of cacao.
The​ ​nibs​ ​are​ ​then​ ​ground​ ​to​ ​form​ ​a​ ​thick​ ​paste​ ​—​ ​this​ ​is​ ​known​ ​as​ ​​cocoa​ ​liquor​,​ ​​ ​made​ ​up​ ​of​ ​fat (which​ ​we​ ​call​ ​cocoa​ ​butter)​ ​and​ ​cocoa​ ​solids​ ​(which​ ​we​ ​call​ ​cocoa​ ​|​ ​cacao​ ​powder)​ ​—​ ​do you remember the movie Chocolat (yes with the gorgeous Johnny Depp) – where she would grind the nibs into the liquor on the old stone ? – and​ ​in some​ ​cases​ ​vanilla​ ​and​ ​sugar​ ​is​ ​also​ ​added​ ​at​ ​this​ ​stage.​ ​The​ ​cocoa​ ​liquor​ ​can ​then​ ​pressed​ ​to remove​ ​most​ ​of​ ​the​ ​fat​ ​(cocoa​ ​butter),​ ​and​ ​the​ ​remaining​ ​solids​ ​are​ ​ground​ ​to​ ​what​ ​we​ ​know​ ​as cocoa​ ​|cacao​ ​powder.​ ​Cocoa​ ​is​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​like​ ​coffee,​ ​quite​ ​acidic​ ​—​ ​this​ ​varies​ ​with​ ​the​ ​variety​ ​of bean,​ ​and​ ​is​ ​also​ ​increased​ ​when​ ​the​ ​fat​ ​is​ ​removed.​ ​Organic​ ​Times​ ​chocolate​ ​products​ ​are grown​ ​and​ ​processed​ ​to​ ​the​ ​highest​ ​traditional​ ​standards,​ ​and​ ​because​ ​they​ ​are​ ​not​ ​raw​ ​you​ ​are assured​ ​of​ ​a​ ​delicious,​ ​health​ ​supportive​ ​​ ​and​ ​​ ​nourishing​ ​end​ ​result.

 

Natural​ ​cocoa​ ​powder​ ​and​ ​dutched​ ​cocoa​ ​powder
Most​ ​natural​ ​cocoa​ ​powders​ ​are​ ​tart​ ​and​ ​acidic, especially if they are not of high quality. ​One​ ​of​ ​the​ ​methods​ ​devised​ ​to​ ​reduce​ ​this problem​ ​was​ ​that​ ​of​ ​alkalising​ ​the​ ​cocoa​ ​powder​ ​by​ ​soaking​ ​the​ ​nibs​ ​in​ ​an​ ​alkaline solution,​ ​commonly​ ​potassium​ ​carbonate,​ ​which​ ​neutralises​ ​the​ ​acid​ ​and​ ​softens​ ​the​ ​flavour (by a Dutchman, hence the term Dutching or Dutched cacao/cocoa). This​ ​process​ ​also​ ​changes​ ​the​ ​colour​ ​of​ ​the​ ​cocoa​ ​to​ ​a​ ​deep​ ​chocolatey​ ​red.​ ​I​ ​do​ ​love​ ​using Dutched​ ​cocoa​ ​powder,​ ​with​ ​Organic​ ​Times​ ​as​ ​my​ ​first​ ​choice.​ ​In​ ​baking,​ ​you​ ​must​ ​know​ ​which type​ ​of​ ​cocoa​ ​powder​ ​you​ ​are​ ​dealing​ ​with,​ ​as​ ​the​ ​acidity​ ​of​ ​a​ ​natural​ ​or​ ​undutched​ ​cocoa​ ​will interact​ ​with​ ​whatever​ ​leavening​ ​you​ ​are​ ​using.

 

Organic​ ​Times​ ​Dark​ ​Choc​ ​Drops
Dark​ ​chocolate​ ​set​ ​in​ ​bars​ ​or​ ​as​ ​drops,​ ​is​ ​a​ ​mixture​ ​of​ ​varying​ ​%​ ​of​ ​cocoa​ ​liquor,​ ​sweetening, flavouring​ ​(such​ ​as​ ​vanilla),​ ​and​ ​an​ ​emulsifier,​ ​commonly​ ​soya​ ​lecithin.​ ​The​ ​proportions determine​ ​the​ ​mouthfeel,​ ​flavour​ ​and​ ​use​ ​of​ ​the​ ​end​ ​result​ ​.​ ​Most​ ​organic​ ​brands​ ​use​ ​raw​ ​sugar, but​ ​​Organic​ ​Time​s​ ​uses​ ​rapadura​ ​sugar,​ ​and​ ​it​ ​makes​ ​for​ ​a​ ​beautifully​ ​wholesome,​ ​​ ​sweetened chocolate.

 

If you would like to read further about the lowdown of the Organic Times Cacao | Cocoa | Chocolate go HERE, it’s well worth the read.

I’d love to hear how you go, and how you like them… I do hope you enjoy both recipes…. x Jude 

 

Recipes ©Jude Blereau and Organic Times 2017

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Anatomy of a Carrot Cake Recipe

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My daughter Nessie has been growing carrots – glorious, sweet and so good (as is she) – so carrots have been on the menu quite a bit here. I posted a simple roast carrots on instagram, and was asked for a carrot cake recipe. Hmmm….. I thought, okay, but wanted to re-work the recipe that appears in my first book Wholefood – heal, nourish, delight. Don’t get me wrong I love that recipe – dense, chock full of raisins, nuts, coconut and yes, pineapple. But I had been thinking to shift it to a slightly more wintery version (which really makes sense as that is when carrots are in season), to match those carrots more so with other foods that belong in the same season ( I also wanted a lighter textured crumb). This reflects very much where I am today in my wholefood journey – matching seasonality and locality, using ingredients from a simple pantry. But changing (or converting) a recipe is a process – often scientific, but also because we are working with real ingredients (with different energy fields) we have to work with intuition and heart too.

The original recipe calls for 1 cup white spelt, 1 cup wholemeal, 1 cup dark muscovado sugar, 4 cups grated carrot, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 cup each nuts and sultanas, 3 eggs and 1/2 cup oil (oh and that pineapple, 1/4 cup of the  juice and the coconut). Looking at the core ingredients and knowing the cake, I reworked the trial recipe to:

TRIAL ONE:

1 cup white spelt (130 g), 1 cup wholemeal spelt (145g) 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 cup dark muscovado (170g) 2 cups grated carrot (250g) spices, vanilla, 3 eggs, 3/4 cup olive oil (185ml), 1/2 cup each nuts and raisins. So what I had in effect done, was to remove fat and moisture from so many nuts, coconut,  pineapple (including it’s juice) and sultanas. To compensate for this, I increased the oil by 60ml, and reduced the amount of carrot. Yes, reducing the carrot will mean that some moisture is lost, but it also means that the batter is less bound by the carrot, and the leavening can move more freely through the batter. I chose to not do a simple wet to dry mix, but rather allow myself the opportunity to include more air into the batter (and thus lighten it) by beating the eggs and sugar to the ribbon before hand. The result: some of the spices were too strong in flavour (I had upped them considerably and included cardamom), and as you can see, it hasn’t risen all that well. It was slightly dry (only very slightly) but none the less it wasn’t bad – nothing that a bit of cream cheese icing (or a spread of butter) couldn’t kiss and make better. But, it was still a bit dense for me.

Carrot-Cake-0021

TRIAL TWO:

To me, there were two obvious issues. 1) it was too dense and 2) a little dry. Good conversions are best done by thinking (often over a cup of tea)  and thus was on my mind  as I went to bed that night. Somewhere around 1am, it occurred to me that even though the obvious next step was to increase the moisture, with 60ml orange juice (much more seasonally appropriate and I had hundreds from mum’s tree) I somehow felt that wasn’t going to be enough. Why ? Because it felt (and here is the heart and intuition bit) that the ingredients were somehow isolated from each other, it wasn’t tasting or feeling like a comfortable whole. But perhaps lessening the heft of the wholemeal flour by a bit might bring those primary ingredients closer together and allow them to form that relationship, and make the whole? Lessening the flour would also help with the dry factor. Lessening the flour and increasing the liquid moisture (the 60ml) orange juice would also make the batter a bit more liquid and allow the air produced by the leavening to actually move freely through the batter. I also changed the leavening slightly reducing the baking powder to 2 teaspoons, and using 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda (an alkali which would react with that 60ml acidic orange juice) as it is a sturdier lifter than baking powder alone. Result ? Totally brilliant – was fabulous. At some point I will also try replacing the 3/4 cup of wholemeal spelt with 1 cup (110g) barley flour. Because of it’s super low gluten content, I feel confident that adding 1/4 cup extra of flour won’t make any difference…

Carrot-Cake-0023

It was super successful, loved, eaten and left overs lasted really well. If you’ve got carrots coming out of your ears right now, give this a go this weekend… (oh and these Carrot Fritters on an older post are so good too….)

x Jude

Beautiful photography by and ©Harriet Harcourt 

 

Tahini, Orange + Date Gluten Free Muesli Bar

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I know, it’s been ages since I’ve been here – it’s been a busy time teaching, getting my back pergola in and working on the on-line classes that will be launching around mid June. I am so excited about both things – the pergola because this means I can now sort out the paving, which means I can then get the garden started. I have so missed having a back garden, where I can grown even a handful of vegetables, so getting the garden in is the plan for over winter. I can see this is a bit of a metaphor for my own self too – a new garden to be planted with seeds and a new path to travel. On -line classes represent this new path for me and I can see that this will free me up to be able to far better respond to your needs. You already invite me into your homes, honour me by making me a part of your lives as you cook and eat from my books. But there is only so much you can say and show in a book (so much is edited out), and oh my I do have a lot to say to you and show you ! All to help you understand the WHY  something is good, the WHAT and then the HOW to use it, so you get to nourish yourself and those you love in the easiest possible (and most delicious) ways.

Where I have been though, is letting my newsletter subscribers in on what I’m buying and eating each month – seasonality of ingredients is a huge issue, and so often the best place to start when we are working out what to eat. I’ve noticed though that so many people no longer know what actually is in season, and thought this might be a bit of a guide. Lots of other good things go on in my newsletters (recipes, first in line for events, classes, discounts, treats) and if you would like to stay connected with what’s happening more often, I’d love to welcome you to our community. All you need to do is go HERE. And, I’m more than happy if you’d like to shoot me an email and tell me how I can help you, what is it that you are struggling with ? I’m easy to reach jude@wholefoodcooking.com.au

But  I’m here today with a recipe I hope you will love. That’s just my photo there – I’ve missed having the lovely Harriet Harcourt here taking her gorgeous photo’s but I think it shows the muesli bar off quite well.

This bar was the result of our CONVERSION CLASS – taking a recipe and converting it to the individual restrictions. The brief for this was ‘please make me a yummy gluten free, dairy free, egg free, muesli bar’. All good conversions start generally with a cup of tea and a good think. These are the points I thought about:

  • First up – flavour. Gluten free quinoa and amaranth flakes are very strongly flavoured, so how do we tone that down? I have been an admirer of the Tahini,Orange and Coconut gluten free muesli by my good friend Emma Galloway – seriously, she had me at the word tahini. So what if we really went tahini, orange, date, cardamon – this would go a long way to balancing out those strong quinoa / amaranth flavours.
  • Secondly – texture. I felt the bar needed a bit of chew, to be somewhere along the line of a muesli bar and that classic Womens Weekly Oat and Sultana Slice. A bit of chew would allow the eater to also fully experience the dates and dried fruit. Brown Rice Syrup is a perfect candidate for this, giving a lovely crisp exterior but chewy interior. ( I have a huge preference for the Spiral brand – this is a wholesome product, far superior to the many highly refined ones on the market). The honey adds a bit more depth of flavour and sweetness, with a lovely chew also. You will also note the 1/4 cup true arrowroot – this was to help break up the quinoa and amaranth flakes with a bit of chew – it would also help to bind the bar together.

I hope you enjoy it….. I’m sorry it’s not standardised into gm/ or straight cups, but I feel pretty confident it will work !

And Easter ? This glorious time of descending and cooling energy in the Southern Hemisphere and the welcoming of the light and sun in the Northern Hemisphere ? Here are a couple of old blog posts (so not great photo’s but trust me, great food)…..

Wishing you a blessed, peaceful Easter….

x  Jude 

 

Walnut and Yoghurt Cake

Fish Pie for Easter

 

 

Low Sugar Jam

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I’m thinking jam. Tis the season with the berries and stone fruits harvesting.

We have become very accustomed to fruits available all the year round, but you will find they have nowhere near the same level of flavour. Fruits are fleeting, lasting only a few weeks, but there is a way to capture that moment — jam. But not jam as you might know it, but a spoonful of deliciousness that tastes like the fruit it is, with just enough sweetness to bring out it’s full flavour. A snapshot of the season in a jar. Now I am often asked can you make jam with something other than sugar, or less sugar and the answer is complex, and included below. So here it all is – as Wholefood Baking is currently out of print, I’ve put the recipe here for you. I promise you that once you know the hows, it’s very easy. But there are rules….

The only fruit to use is that which is ripe, preferably organic and in season. Fruits such as this are bursting with natural sweetness, colour with enormous complexity and luscious flavour. The jam (it’s a universal recipe) here relies less on sugar, and more so on technique to capture the true complexity and glory of fruit flavour — it is a snapshot of the fruit at its best and the season. Jams are very easy to make, and will store in the pantry for up to one year. On a cold winter’s day, when you take that batch of scones out of the oven, you will thank yourself for your stash of homemade jams and the colour and taste of summer will lift your spirits.

Technically, the object of preserving is to slow down the process of decay. Food spoils from the continued activity of natural enzymes in all fruits and vegetables and the continued work of microorganisms in the form of moulds, yeasts and bacteria present in the food and air.

SUGAR, PECTIN AND ACID

Jam relies on sugar to saturate the natural moisture of the fruit and thus preserve it. I am often asked if something other than sugar can be used to make jam — the answer is complex. Many of the sugar-free jams you see are made with white grape juice concentrate, use pectin and have been processed in a boiling-water bath. Because there is not enough sucrose to saturate the fruit and preserve it (and this is true of many other non-sucrose based sweeteners, such as stevia, agave and brown rice syrup), the boiling-water bath is the preserving method. I prefer to use one of the semi-refined organic raw sugars (not rapadura, which is too low in sucrose and too strong in flavour)( I like to use the Billingtons Golden Castor Sugar)  in the smallest possible amount, this allows the glorious flavour of the fruit to shine through.  Most jam recipes call for equal quantities of sugar to fruit by weight. You need about 60–70 per cent sugar for good gelling to occur naturally (sugar, pectin, acidity). I find this way too much sugar and prefer a ratio of 20–40 per cent sugar to fruit, but this will vary with the fruit — tart fruit will require more, and sweet fruit will require less. Because the holy trinity of sugar, pectin and acid is disrupted, this will result in a softer ‘set’, which I happen to prefer.

Pectin is a carbohydrate that helps to ‘set’ jam. It is particularly concentrated in the skins and cores of fruit. The conversion of the pre-curser substances to pectin occurs naturally during ripening but can also be forced by long cooking, as in the traditional methods of making jam without added pectin. Fruits vary in how much pectin, or pectin pre-cursers, they contain. Pectin produces structure and a kind of stiffness in jam by forming a water-holding network within the crushed fruit. Before gelling starts, individual molecules of pectin are surrounded and isolated from each other by water molecules. If the surrounding solution is acidic enough, the pectin loses some of its attraction for these isolating water molecules. Sour fruit will normally provide enough acid to take care of this step. If the acid content of the fruit is low, lemon juice can be added to make the fruit mixture more acidic. Once the pectin has loosened its hold on the water molecules, something more attractive must pull the water away from the pectin — this is the role of sugar. With its water stripped away, pectin opens out into a structure that links readily with other pectin molecules to form a three- dimensional network — a gel.

 

Fruits with high natural pectin and acid content include:  blackberries + crab apples + cranberries + plums+ quinces+ sour apples

Fruits with low natural pectin and acid content include: apricots+ blueberries + figs+ grapes+ guava+ peaches+ pears+ prunes+ raspberries + rhubarb+ strawberries

Low-pectin fruits benefit from the addition of lemon, to boost the acidity and thus setting. Unripe fruit (sour) will also increase acidity. Jam is best made with a good percentage of fruit that is not overripe because as the fruit ripens, the pectin breaks down and you will not get a good set.

PICK THE RIGHT POT

The right pot is critical to making low-sugar jam, I cannot stress this enough.  Mine is a traditional French copper preserving pan that is shallow and wide. It’s about 12 cm (41⁄2 inches) high, 36 cm (141⁄4 inches) across the base and 39 cm (151⁄2 inches) across the top, with a 10 litre (350 fl oz) capacity. The wide surface area encourages evaporation and reduction, thus cooking the jam quickly. It is extremely difficult to make jam in a deep pot with a small surface area — tall pans are a major cause of runny jam.

However, you can make smaller amounts in your average large domestic saucepan. You can use a simple stainless steel pan — just make sure it is not too deep. A wider and more shallow pan with less capacity (for example, a sauté pan with a 5 litre/ 175 fl oz capacity and a depth of 8 cm/31⁄4 inches) is better than a pot with a 10 litre/350 fl oz capacity, but a depth of 16–18 cm (61⁄4–7 inches), or even a frypan with a large shallow surface area. It will mean you can only make small amounts at a time — about 2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) of fruit, but your jam will be more successful. You can also use a 20–24 cm (8–91⁄2 inch) typical domestic saucepan, but keep the amount of fruit to 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz).

Never make jam in large quantities — another cause of runny jam — and never crowd your pan. How much fruit you use (the weight) will depend on the size of your pan — for mine, I use 4 kg (9 lb). A good guide is to only fill your pan two-thirds full of fruit.

JARS AND LIDS

Always use tempered jars that can withstand the temperatures involved in sterilising, jam-making and storage. Some jars manufactured for products such as coffee, peanut butter and mayonnaise are not tempered and do not have strong seals on the lids. Jars must not be cracked, chipped or damaged in any way, and lids must not be scratched or dented. Jars can be re-used, but lids are good for one use only.

STERILISING YOUR EQUIPMENT

Your jars, lids, ladles and funnels must all be sterilised. This is easy to do in an oven at 120°C (235°F/Gas 1⁄2) for 20 minutes. Jars and lids must be sterilised, dry and warm. Once sterilised, turn the oven off and leave in the warm oven until the jam is ready. Equipment can also be boiled for 12 minutes in a large saucepan of water, then dried in the oven at a low temperature.

PUTTING THE JAM INTO JARS

Bottling technique is the other very important part of making low-sugar jams — the jam must be spooned with a sterilised ladle through a sterilised funnel into warm jars (as hot jam into cool or cold jars will cause the jars to break) as soon as it is ready. Make sure the sterilised jars are warm (from sterilising and then being kept warm in the oven) and sit them on a wooden surface or on towels (so they don’t crack when the hot jam is added). This process will ensure the jars seal properly and that the jam does not spoil.

After ladling the jam into the jars, make sure there is no spillage as this will hinder a seal being formed. Gently wipe any spillage, taking care not to touch the sterilised lip of the jar. Place the lids on, taking care to touch only the outside of the lids. Holding the jars with a damp cloth (for a good grip), turn the lids until firm.

Let the jars sit until fully cool — do not move them for 12 hours or you can disrupt the vacuum process. A concave dip in the middle of the lid indicates a vacuum seal. If there is no concave dip, store the jam in the fridge and use straight away.

Once opened and the seal is broken, the jam begins to deteriorate and must be kept in the fridge.

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The beautiful photo at the top of this post is ©Cath Muscat and all copy is ©Jude Blereau and Murdoch Books, and taken from Wholefood Baking. Published by Murdoch Books, 2013.