Monday, March 9, 2015

Sugar-free Banana Carrot Loaf

To be honest, the reason why I don't bake a lot is because I can't bring myself to measure out the cups of sugar or mounds of butter that are so often required in most traditional baking recipes. So when I find a sweet-thing recipe that has minimal amounts of either, I'm almost immediately sold.

These days, there's no shortage of recipes accommodating the 'sugar-free' lifestyle, but I find it interesting to note how they substitute other ingredients for regular white or brown sugar. Often, I find it's honey, maple syrup, or dates; but even more often it's slightly obscure (read: expensive) options like agave syrup, rice malt syrup, stevia (a plant-derived sweetener), or coconut sugar - to name a few.

Without a doubt, I prefer recipes which use the former, mostly for cost and even familiarity to an extent, and seeing ingredient lists things like rice malt syrup, I'm almost immediately turned off. So for those reasons, I love the following recipe because it uses good ol' fashioned dates and bananas.

I discovered this recipe a few months ago on My New Roots - an inspired, natural foods and nutrition-based blog by Canadian, Sarah B., who bases herself in Copenhagen. She writes incredibly accessible healthy recipes with thorough nutritional information about key ingredients. To be honest, I haven't made much from her blog - reading it more for inspiration and guilt-free food porn - but her 'Best Friends Banana Carrot Cake' inspired me to get baking.

Sugar-free Banana Carrot Loaf makes a 9"x13.5" loaf
// from My New Roots //
I've renamed this a 'loaf' instead of 'cake', as I never feel the need to ice the finished product as Sarah B. does in the original recipe. If you feel lost without icing, I'd recommend cream cheese swirled through with maple syrup or honey; otherwise, I love it plain, or with a dollop of full-fat organic yoghurt and some honey for a comforting spike of sweetness. A perfect option for breakfast or an anytime-of-day treat.

2 c wholemeal flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp fine sea salt (*less if using salted butter)
3/4 c finely chopped walnuts
110g unsalted* butter, heated until just melted
1/2 c dried dates, seeded & finely chopped into a paste
3 ripe bananas (1 1/4 c), mashed well
1 1/2 c grated carrots, about 3 medium
handful each of raisins, dried pineapple, coconut flakes - or anything like it that you fancy (chocolate included)
1/2 c plain yoghurt
2 eggs, lightly whisked

Preheat oven to 180degC / 350degF. Line a 9x5x3" loaf or 8x8" cake pan with parchment paper. Sift flour, b.p., cinnamon, and salt together in medium bowl. Stir in walnuts and set aside. Stir dates into melted butter, breaking up dates slightly.

In large separate bowl, combine banana and carrots, and add date/butter mix, stirring together and breaking up dates as you go. Whisk in yoghurt and eggs. Add flour mix and stir until everything just comes together. Spoon into prepared pan. Bake for about 50-70 mins (with a loaf pan, mine is ready around 60-65 minutes, it will be less if using a cake pan where the thickness of the cake is less), or until a toothpick tests clean in the centre. Remove from oven and cool.

Instead of icing, serve simply with full-fat natural yoghurt.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Chinese New Year: Simple Noodle Soup

Mushroom and Bok Choy Noodle Soup

Any excuse for noodles! But here, the soup brings it all together.

To a base chicken stock, add slices of ginger, garlic, spring onions (the white part), soy sauce and simmer for 10-15 minutes, removing aromatics. Taste for seasoning. Pre-cook dried noodles in a separate pot of boiling water, drain and set aside.

I experimented with the mushroom (I had portobello, but dried shiitake would be ideal, especially for adding the hydration liquid to the soup base) - pan-frying half in reserved chicken fat for super flavour (there is no vegetarian alternative for flavour here), leaving half raw to be cooked by the soup.

To assemble // Over a spoonful of chicken fat (optional, but inspired by Japanese ramen preparation), place cooked noodles in serving bowl. Soft poach an egg separately (or prepare a boiled egg), while bringing soup back up to a gentle boil and poaching bok choy for up to a minute, until just cooked. Remove and arrange with noodles. Add mushrooms and place egg atop. Add soup to bowl, gently pouring over everything to reheat. Leftover chicken would be a most welcome addition.