Whole Wheat, No-knead, Sourdough Bread

This is real bread, not breadlike foodlike substance – just grains, water and salt in its simplest version. And lots of time. Bread isn’t great for a diet, I know that – but sourdough is lower GI than conventionally yeasted bread, longer fermentations like those in no-knead bread ease digestibility, and whole wheat provides fibre alongside the carbohydrates, lowering the GI further. By which I mean it’s probably as diet-friendly as it’s possible to be whilst still being bread, not broccoli or egg whites in disguise. Substituting 10% of the wheat flour for rye also makes it incrementally healthier! It took me many iterations to develop this formula and timings, based on the helpful recipes found online for white no-knead, whole wheat sourdough, and sourdough no-knead – but I couldn’t find a single recipe that combined all three – so here goes.

Having neglected my previous (highly-strung) sourdough starter to death, I wanted to try and develop a basic loaf that would fit in with our daily schedule and be as low GI as possible. This starter is based on Mike’s from Sourdough Home, and it’s wonderful – very stable and with a lovely rise. It was started on organic, stoneground rye but it’s now fed on plain white supermarket own-brand flour/filtered water and has a 100% hydration ratio (equal weights flour and water). His instructions and pictures are great, but the timings can vary depending on conditions – for example, in my cold February kitchen it took twice as long at each stage initially, 24 hours instead of 12 to see any activity. I gave some to a close friend who is a much better baker than I am, and we’ve both been baking with it for a few weeks very happily – so if you don’t fancy the one-week lead time or the faffing about, rather than making your own starter, see if you have a friend who can give you some of theirs. (maybe me!)

Bread and honey (2)

My friend came round for weekend breakfast – sourdough toast with butter, eggs and honey – she brought me some lovely green tea and I gave her a jam jar of starter to take home. The honey in the picture was a gift from the wonderful people at The Ledbury restaurant in West London, where the Husband took me for the best meal I’ve eaten in the UK.

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Healthy Banana Crumble

The essential elements of this pudding – bananas caramelised into toffeeish decadence, and a naturally sweet, buttery oat crumble – are gorgeous despite having not a single gram of refined sugar. Served with a touch of cool Greek yoghurt, or even some very cold cream, it is a gloriously satisfying low-GI dessert.

Banana crumble - sugar-free, dairy-free, wheat-free - yet delicious!

Banana crumble – sugar-free, dairy-free, wheat-free – yet delicious!

It’s been a great pudding for friends who come round, too (and the non-dieting husband) – a few extra elements mean that everyone can customise their pudding to their own specific dietary requirements, whether that’s minimum impact on blood sugar or maxmimum indulgence. I’m low GI but pretty relaxed about fat/protein, but someone limiting their fat intake might sprinkle on less crumble and have Greek yoghurt/ half-fat creme fraiche rather than cream. To cater for the other end of the spectrum, I’ll make a quick salted caramel sauce and heat up some custard (either tinned or homemade) and the building blocks are there for everyone to tailor their own dessert – from dairy-free and sugar-free dessert to banoffee crumble with lashings of custard.

add a layer of salted caramel sauce to make Banoffee Crumble

add a layer of salted caramel sauce to make Banoffee Crumble

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Healthy Cauliflower Cheese

…or rather, Cheese Cauliflower – because we invert the elements of this classic winter comfort food to make it feel-good in both senses of the word.

Classically, the essential comfort components of this dish are the bechamel sauce and the bubbling melted cheesy top, luxuriously blanketing the cauliflower itself. Here, we replace the fat and starch of the bechamel with a velvety cauliflower puree, and the layer of cheese with a few cubes of burnished halloumi, which have a much stronger presence and so we don’t need as much to make the same impact.

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Low (GI) – Ceilinged Kitchen

Hello, from what feels like the other side – certainly it’s been a while. A few things have happened over the months since I last posted, and so whilst I’ve still been cooking, we’ve got another constraint at the Low-Ceilinged Kitchen – in addition to being time-, cost- and expertise-constrained, we’ve gone all Low GI Joe.

Image result for gi joe rise of cobra

LOW GI Joe: The Rise of Carbra – an elite unit of dieticians battles pointy blood sugar spikes

(so happy to be able to indirectly cite this underrated gem of a film. I’m pretty sure I would have found GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra just as tense and compelling if we hadn’t been on an overnight bus in Peru at the time, and I’m mystified as to why Channing Tatum – who plays the eponymous hero – is so ashamed of it)

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Summer Rhubarb Crumble (+ bonus recipes for ice cream, trifle, pavlova and gin)

or, a Rhubarbershop Quartet featuring:

1. Rhubarb Crumble – a deconstructed version of the classic, delicious hot or cold (with optional extra decadence – the Rhubarbra Streisand)
2. Variations: Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream – an even more summery version combining the elements of fruit, custard and crumble and Rhubarb Trifle – the classic version, layered up with jelly and whipped cream
3. Poached rhubarb ideas – pavlova and porridge topping
4. Rhubarb Gin – recipe from a very clever Scottish friend (Irn Brubarb)

Let’s start with the crumble, which sounds like nursery food, doesn’t it? Apple, pear or plum crumbles, generously spiced with preserved ginger, are one of my favourite winter desserts. Decadent banoffee crumble, with a layer of dulce de leche blanketing the caramelised bananas, is another favourite.

But this is a crumble for summer, when rhubarb is in season, and you can even serve it cold – with just-poached rhubarb, custard and a burnished ginger biscuity-like crumble topping sprinkled on top. A bit like a simplified trifle. We made this in the Lake District with blushing stalks of rhubarb from the garden, which turn rosy rather than rusty when cooked – very gently, poached instead of stewed so that they still hold their shape.

Poached Rhubarb

For the custard, I cheated and used tinned Ambrosia – a convenient choice, since we’d come back from a long walk, but actually for this purpose it really works rather well. The sunny hue looks just right with the pink rhubarb, by which I mean exactly like rhubarb and custard boiled sweets. And the mouthfeel is actually just right in this case, just like a childhood pudding! Back in London, with supermarket rhubarb and an inclination to cook, I might make a batch of thick patisserie cream as the crumble accompaniment, with all the meditative stirring that entails, or use good bought vanilla ice cream (by which I don’t mean expensive, but I do mean good – Lidl’s gelato-style, which has more vanilla seeds than any other, is my preference) or cool, tangy frozen yoghurt (more of a method than a recipe, but buried in my recipe here), or just a drizzle of very cold cream.

In the past, I’ve made a dinner party version with patisserie cream, rhubarb, white chocolate sauce (100g fancy white chocolate, chopped and stirred into 100ml of double cream brought just to simmering point and then taken off the heat) and crushed meringue instead of crumble – a shameless copy of a restaurant dessert which was completely irresistible. Definitely a treat because it’s pretty full on.

Rhubarbra Streisand

Rhubarbra Streisand

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Mozzarella Garlic Bread

A particularly bouncy, airy bread; edges crisped and burnished with garlic butter and topped with strings of melted cheese. What could be more welcoming than a huge pan of fragrant bread, brought out of the oven as guests arrive? and Well, perhaps a tidy house. No matter. People who come round to our house generously describe it as having a “relaxed atmosphere”, and assure me that they feel more at home because I didn’t go to the effort of tidying up. What they don’t realise is that I actually did…

Cheesy Garlic Bread

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Poached-Roasted Quince (bonus: Quince Gin!)

The stalls along Seven Sisters Road sell £1 bowls of fruit and vegetables all year round. During the winter, they sell root vegetables, imported citrus fruits and bananas – but last weekend the first indicators of seasonal change arrived in the form of rosy pomegranates at one stall, enormous fragrant strawberries at another, and, almost glowing in their stainless steel bowl, bulging golden quince. I buy them every year from the local Turkish shops, but normally they are closer to a pound apiece than £1 for five, which is what I bought one Saturday a few weeks ago.

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Raw quince – golden

Poached quince, photographed through glass

Poached quince, photographed through glass

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