Cooking deelitefully

Welcome to  the deelitefull blog.  I am a cooking and nutrition coach based in Dublin, Ireland.   Food should both taste great and make you feel great. My experience of some healthy eating guides & books is that they can be a little worthy, bland and humourless. Eating should always be a pleasure both to the senses and to the soul. There is nothing worse than eating a meal and feeling like you need a crane to hoist you out of your chair but on the other hand there is nothing more dreary than a meal that is assessed purely on the reduced calories and fat grams it contains. So on this blog you can follow my search for delicious healthy recipes with soul.  

Monday, May 31, 2010

Cardamom spiced "healthy" banana and walnut bread

There has being slight delay in blogging the last couple of weeks. Much apologies.   I was entertaining my oldest friend Sophie (aka Betty - not that she is old,  I have just known her since I was a toddler) and her 3 lovely boys. 

One of my earliest friendship memories with Soph is giving motivational speeches  to the non-egg laying hens her Dad  (a vet) was trying to cure when they lived on a farm in Somerset.  They duly preformed and we very proudly collected eggs on the last day of my holiday -  it later turned out our mums had bought the eggs in the shop and placed them in the hen-house the night before.  However we were convinced for years that we had single- handedly cured the hens with our delicious scraps, gently coaxing and wise words.  Who needs an X-box and play station when you have got hens to converse with.   I believe it was the same holiday my Dad got tossed into a hedge by an angry bull..... but thats a whole other story.
Anyway some ripe bananas and recipe tinkering ,  I think I have come up with my latest banana bread recipe.  Now if you belong to the “banana bread should be like cake” camp, this recipe may disappoint.   If however you are like me and think banana bread should be more bread like,  then you should enjoy this recipe.  And.... bonus... its relatively healthy.  It does have sugar but much less than many conventional banana bread recipes.  And no butter just a tablespoon of oil.   Don’t get me wrong ,  I quite like to make proper cakes with butter and sugar but for something like banana bread ,  it seems quite unnecessary.  Traditionally cinnamon is the spice for banana bread but I can’t get enough of cardamom.  Its absolutely one of my favorite spices,  for savoury and sweet dishes alike.    As a result you could probably fry up an old shoe and sprinkle it with cardamom and I would think it was delicious.  but I understand that not everyone has my cardamom obsession so please feel free to substitute with cinnamon.   Also because it is relatively low fat it doesn’t keep as long as some banana breads but it toasts beautifully. 
 This is a great way to use up really ripe bananas,  the riper the better,  mine had a leopard-like skin but an all black panther like skin is even better.

2 large eggs
100g of brown sugar
3 mashed very ripe bananas.
100ml of buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil ( I use rapeseed)
A dash of  vanilla extract ( 1/2 tsp in this case)
130 g of plain flour
130g of wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
50 g of walnuts , roughly chopped ( Pecans would be nice too)
Cardamom seeds (seeds from about 8 - 10 pods) / 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
Preheat oven to  180c/Gas 4/Fan 165c

Grease a 2lb loaf tin well and dust with flour. ( I cheat here and use greaseproof loaf tin liners - available from -  some of my tins have lost their non stickiness and it saves tears later on) 

Crack the cardmom pods with a knife and take out the seeds.  Crush in a pestle and morter or use your knife.

Beat eggs and sugar until thick and light, This takes around 4 minutes with an electric beater,  very much longer by hand ;-)
Mix in mashed bananas, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and cardamom seeds. 
Add in both flours, baking powder, baking soda and  salt, fold until just blended.  Then gently stir in the walnuts.  The mix will be quite sloppy
Pour mix into the prepared tin.
Bake in the oven for about 1 hour until golden brown on top.  Test it is cooked by inserting a skewer into center.  The skewer should come out clean.  
It  may take a little longer depending on your oven.  Tip :  If you feel the inside not fully cooked but the outside is getting to brown - Just put some tinfoil over the top and continue cooking in the oven.  This works for most cakes and breads.
Leave cake in the tin for a couple of minutes then turn out onto rack and cool.  I like to eat it while its still warmish. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Leaves of my own

My windowsill salad leaves had come on a lot in the last week. Just enough to provide a lunch time salad for 2.   I have been growing them in old clementine crates and last week’s sun really did its magic.   Added to the; you-couldn’t-get-fresher-than-these leaves were some fat asparagus spears, crumbled greek feta and a pomegranate molasses dressing from the Moro cookbook.  The sweet-sour dressing, salty feta and fresh tasting asparagus and salad leaves provided a tumbling contrast of flavours.  You can steam, grill or boil the asparagus spears.  Sometimes the ends of asparagus can be a little woody,   just flex the ends and the woody ends will snap off in just the right place.  Steam or boil for 3-5 minutes depending on the thickness of the spears.  I like them slightly bendy but still with some bite.  
Here is the recipe for the dressing.  Pomegranate molasses is a delicious sweet-sour syrup used across the Middle East.  It is available in The Asian Market on Dublin's Drury street and also in Spiceland off Harcourt street.  I have also seen it in some supermarkets.  It is used in lots of Middle Eastern dishes and also diluted for a refreshing drink.  Its made from the juice of sour pomegranates boiled down until it looks like Molasses or treacle hence the name.
Pomegranate molasses dressing ( adapted from a Moro recipe)
1 garlic clove crushed
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon of water
4 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper
Pinch of sugar

Put garlic, cinnamon, pomegranate molasses, salt and pepper in a clean screw top jar and shake (with lid on ;-) )
Add water, olive oil and pinch of sugar and shake again until dressing emulsifies
To assemble salad
Place salad leaves in salad bowl
Add cooked asparagus spears
crumble over some feta
Add dressing and mix gently using your hands

Eat straight away --- yummo