Banana and Apple Cinnamon Wholemeal Breadcrumb Cake

ck20

A delicious, moist, healthy cake with no added sugar, no added flour, no butter, no egg yolks – just jam-packed with natural and healthy ingredients and with a look and taste to rival anything on your usual cake stand?  You’d think I was making it up!!!

Not so – it’s taken me a week of experimenting to get the combination spot on, but this Banana and Apple Cinnamon Breadcrumb cake really is the perfect treat for this time of year.  Low fat, full of fibre and with the Autumnal pairings of apple and cinnamon in a cake format with a hint of bread pudding consistency, this is a delicious, satisfying and guilt-free delight for anyone.

So what’s in it?

Traditional sugars have been replaced by a much, much smaller amount (as it’s naturally much sweeter) of agave nectar.  Agave nectar is a plant-based syrup and has a much lower GI than normal sugar, so is an excellent baking alternative, specifically because you need comparatively little of it.  As it’s also a liquid, it can add moisture to your bake.

As a mixing ingredient I wanted to move away from flour, not from a gluten perspective in this particular bake, but because I wanted to add nutritional value to the recipe.  I therefore substituted wholemeal breadcrumbs, which are full of fibre and also deliver a soft texture and a good base flavour.

Butter wasn’t needed and neither were egg yolks, although I used the egg whites as a binding ingredient.

I baked my cake in a 6 inch tin, but it would also make a great little traybake.

If you’re following Weight Watchers, the whole cake is not only good for you, it’s only 19 points, which works out at an amazing 5 Propoints per 1/4 or 2 Propoints per 1/8. That’s how good the ingredients are!

So here goes with the recipe…

Ingredients…

  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • 4 small bananas (normal ripeness, not over-ripe)
  • 3 dessert apples (I used Royal Gala)
  • 200g wholemeal bread (that’s about 5 slices)
  • 1 dessertspoon cinnamon (a little less if you prefer)
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons of agave nectar

Method…

Pre-heat your oven to Gas Mark 4, 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F.  Prepare your cake tin – nowadays I usually do this using a quick squirt of cake release spray, which gives excellent results.  I used a 6 inch cake tin.

Pour two tablespoons of maple syrup into the base of your cake tin.  Slice one of the bananas into slices and arrange in the syrup.  Don’t worry if you have to start a second banana to complete the pattern…

ck4   ck5

ck18

Next prepare your dessert apples.  Peel them, cut into quarters, remove the cores and cut into small cubes.  Place into a microwaveable jug or bowl and microwave on full power for three minutes.  When done, drain off any excess moisture (using a sheet of kitchen towel if necessary to mop up little pools).  You don’t want this additional moisture in the bake as it will make your breadcrumbs go very soggy…

ck1    ck2

ck3

Prepare the remainder of the bananas by chopping them into tiny pieces.  Don’t mash them, as again this will have an effect on the breadcrumbs…

ck7

Next tear your slices of bread into two or three manageable pieces and put into a food processor with the cinnamon, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and blitz for a few seconds until you get your wonderfully aromatic breadcrumbs…

cka    cka1

Either remove the blade from the processor or transfer the breadcrumbs to a large bowl and then very gently mix in the banana pieces.  Don’t over mix – this should take seconds – the more you over work, the soggier your final mix will become…

ck10    ck11

Then do the same with the apple cubes….

ck12    ck13

Our final step before bringing everything together is to prepare the egg whites and agave nectar mixture (the colour in the photo below is the light on the nectar, not egg yolks, as there are none in this recipe).  Put both ingredients into a bowl and whisk on high speed for around a minute and you will get a meringue-type mixture…

ck8    ck9

By incorporating the eggs and syrup in a drier way, we can again stop the breadcrumbs from going soggy and create a better finish on the final cake.

Tip the fruity breadcrumb mixture into the meringue and fold through until lightly combined – again don’t over work…

ck14    ck15

Start to put the mixture into the tin.  Be careful initially, so you don’t displace the bananas in maple syrup   When it’s all in the tin, press down lightly to make sure the surface is level and that there are no gaps in the mixture, then put into the oven and bake for 30 minutes…

ck16    ck17

After 30 minutes, place a folded piece of baking paper of the top of the tin to prevent burning, then bake again for another 15-20 minutes until ready…

ck19

Carefully transfer to a cooling rack and tip out.  Leave to cool for a while before transferring to the serving plate, BUT you don’t necessarily need to let it cool completely – this cake is delcious warm too!  However you choose to serve it – enjoy!

ck20    ck21

ck22

 

 

Harvest Smoothie

harvest4

This delightfully refreshing smoothie is another example of the magic that can happen on fridge clearing day and definitely one that I’ll make again!  It has the sweetness of apples and blueberries with the cleansing and immune-enhancing benefits of cucumber and coriander/cilantro.

When I first started experimenting with smoothies I made the mistake of making them purely with fruit and as a result I often found them over-sweet, over-filling and not the kind of “get-up-and-go” boost I wanted.  It was only when I started playing around with other ingredients that in a normal dish I wouldn’t really consider that I started to get the “flavour and feel” effect right.  Very strange!

So the message is don’t be shy!  If it’s in the bottom of your fridge drawer, it’s fresh and you’re not sure what to do with it, mix it with some water, a couple of ice cubes, some fresh fruit and see what happens – you might just find a winner!

The quantities below made two of the glass size above, which is a large one!  If you’re following the Weight Watchers programme, this is a total Zero Hero, but is also full of five-a-days and lots of other great things for your body!

Here’s the recipe…

Ingredients…

  • 2 dessert apples (I used Royal Gala), peeled, cored and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 a cucumber, stalk bit at the end removed
  • 1 bunch of coriander/cilantro
  • 1 small/medium punnet of blueberries
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 ice cubes
  • about 3/4 of a glass of cold water (measured in the large tumbler in the picture)

Method…

Take all the ingredients…

harvest1

Peel, core and chop the apple into chunks.  Remove the stalk bit of the cucumber and cut into chunks, then put all the ingredients into a blender…

harvest2

Whizz together and your smoothie is ready!  Enjoy!

harvest3

harvest4

Baked Lentil Eggs

eg13

A few days ago I came across a recipe from around 100 years ago for “Cairo Eggs”.  Reading it, I realised that it was describing what appeared to be some kind of vegetarian Scotch Egg, so I decided have a play around in the kitchen yesterday and prepare something similar for lunch.

The recipe used lentils as a base, although I’ve altered some parts of the recipe according to the greater availability of ingredients today and I’ve also decided to make mine a baked rather than fried product for health reasons, but you can decide which you prefer.

In the recipe I’ve simply added “spices” and “herbs” as two of the ingredients.  I’ve done this because the number of flavour combinations that can be added to the lentils are vast and I’m sure that anyone one that already uses lentils can immediately think of some flavour combinations they’d like to try.

In the combination above I used…

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon plus bunches of flat leave parley and coriander and a few dried chilli flakes

As I was eating the eggs I immediately though that I’d also like to try them with a spice/herb mix added to the lentils of…

  • 1 dessertspoon mild curry powder, I dessertspoon mango chutney and a bunch of coriander

and…

  • 1 bunch of mint, some feta

As I say, once you get into it, the flavouring possibilities are endless – its quick and easy, so just get in there and have fun!

Finally I’ll say that the lentil mixture on mine, based on the mixture I used and the fact that I baked them, had a crisp shell, but a soft coating of lentil.  If you would prefer something less soft you can achieve this by bulking out the lentil mixture with breadcrumbs or similar and frying the finished eggs.

So here goes with the recipe…

Ingredients…

  • Hard boiled eggs (I made 5 finished eggs with these quantities)
  • a tin of green lentils
  • herbs (according to taste – see ideas above)
  • spices (according to taste – see ideas above)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 slices wholemeal bread

Method…

Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 7, 220 degrees C or 425 degrees F.

First hard boil and shell your eggs.  There are four in the bowl, but I later added a fifth, as I had enough lentil mixture to coat a further one…

eg5

In a food processor, prepare your breadcrumbs first.  Do it before you do the lentil mixture, because it will save a lot of washing up and time!  Simply rip up your two slices of bread and then blitz into crumbs for a few seconds…

eg1 - Copy    eg2 - Copy

Tip them onto a dinner plate for easy rolling later and then get on with the lentil mixture.

Drain the can of lentils and add them to the food processor with your chosen herbs, spices and some salt and pepper seasoning, then blitz into a smooth paste…

eg3 - Copy    eg4 - Copy

Carefully remove the blade, then use the mixture to coat each of the boiled eggs, roll them in the bread crumbs and place them on a baking tray or in an ovenproof dish on a piece of baking paper to prevent sticking.  Tip – you may find it easier to coat all your eggs first, then crumb all your eggs second to prevent to lentil mixture getting everywhere.)…

eg7 - Copy    eg6

eg8    eg9

Pop the cover eggs into the preheated oven and bake for around 10 – 15 minutes until your breadcrumb coating is crisp and golden brown…

eg10

Your Baked Lentil Eggs are now ready.  As I say, there is a lot of mileage with this recipe to play around with it and find a flavour combination and consistency that really works for you. I served mine with salad, as the photos below show.  However you play around with the basic recipe and adapt it a your own, enjoy!

eg12    eg13

Plaki

pl15

The inspiration for this delicious, low fat and filling dish originally came from a trawl through the archives, where I came across an old recipe dating back to the severe rationing days of the First World War, instructing households of the day on how to make the most of the very limited ingredients they had.

Plaki is a common element of Greek and Turkish cuisine and actually describes the way of cooking, rather than the dish itself.  Food is cooked in a base of onions, tomatoes and parsley, with ingredients such as olive oil and sometimes garlic added and popular versions include bean and also fish.

As this recipe, although slightly adapted, is based on an original period recipe, mine doesn’t contain garlic or olive oil.  It is, however, absolutely delicious.  I used a small amount of stock to “wet fry” my onions and add flavour and this, in turn, created a slightly wetter dish, which was basically a stew, but sitting in the delicious liquor created from the vegetables and fish during cooking – wonderful!  You can see the consistency in the photo above with the broth element beneath.

If you’re following Weight Watchers, I used a 125g cod fillet per person and the amount below served up two large portions.  I estimated the whole dish, including both fish portions to be 5 Propoints, so allocated 3 Propoints to my portion to be on the safe side.  It’s therefore a great dish to have if you want a decent meal and would like to eat a larger piece of fish or add bread, as it’s so low in points to begin with.

So here goes with the recipe…

Ingredients (serves two, but additional fish fillets can be added)…

  • 4 onions
  • a vegetable stock cube
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • bunch of parsley
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 2 white fish fillets
  • Lemon wedges to garnish

Method…

Pre-heat your oven to Gas Mark 7, 220 degrees C or 425 degrees F.

Finely chop your onions…

pl1

In a heavy, lidded pan that can also go in the oven if you have one (if not don’t worry – you can transfer to a casserole dish later) pour in about an inch of boiling water, add or crumble in your vegetable stock cube, whisking to mix well, then add in your onion, mix well, then bring back to a steady simmer…

pl2    pl3

pl4

Once simmering, lower the heat and cover with a heavy fitting lid to allow the onions to soften in the stock.

Next peel your tomatoes.  To do this, make a long score across the base of them in the shape of a cross, then place in a large bowl or jug and cover with boiling water.  Leave for a few moments – just long enough for you to chop your parsley…

pl5    pl6

pl7

Once the parsley is chopped, remove the tomatoes from the boiled water very carefully and place upside down on the chopping board with the cross showing.  They may be a little warm to work with, but you should find that the skins peel off easily.  Once the skins are all off, chop the tomatoes…

pl8    pl9

pl10

Your onions should now be softened and ready for the other ingredients.  Add the parsley and tomatoes and stir carefully to combine…

pl11    pl12

pl13

Taste the plaki at this stage before you add the raw fish and season with salt and pepper to taste, then add in the fish fillets – you can just see mine peeking through the veg!…

pl14

Transfer to a casserole dish if using and cover at this point, or simply replace the lid if you’re keeping the same pan and pop into the pre-heated oven for around 20 -25 minutes until the fish is ready.  This is just the kind of supper for a cold Autumn / fall day and is also lovely enough to make for guests too – prepare the plaki base in advance and then add the required number of fish fillets and bake as supper time approaches.  Garnish with lemon wedges.  Enjoy!

pl15

 

 

Roasted Tomatoes and Shallots on Rye with Poached Eggs

roast5

I love roasted vegetables, but all too often I find myself eating them with pasta or as an accompaniment to something else.  Lazy cooking really, as they are amazing and well-deserving of the leading role in any dish.  I created this meal to use up a few things in the kitchen and I can honestly say it was one of the tastiest and filling dinners I’ve had for a long time.  I will be making it again!

With regards to the quantity of veg used, I shared a pack of mixed tomatoes and a pack of shallots between two people, but mix up the roast veg and quantities if you wish to suit your own taste and appetite on the day, as it’s all good and so healthy!

If you’re following the Weight Watchers programme, based on the eggs, rye bread and olive oil I used, I estimated my portion to be 11 Propoints, partly based on information from the rye bread packaging, which came from Lidl.  However you can easily reduce this to only 6 Propoints by having one slice of rye bread and one poached egg instead of two.  Trust me!  It will still make a delicious, filling and healthy meal.

This couldn’t be easier to recreate, so here’s a quick run down of what I did…

Ingredients…

  • 1 pack of small tomatoes (I used a pack of three types of mini tomato)
  • 1 pack of shallots
  • small amount of olive oil (I used two teaspoons)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • rye bread (two slices per person)
  • eggs (two per person)

Method…

Preheat your oven to it’s highest setting.

Skin your shallots and cut your mini tomatoes in half and put them in an ovenproof dish with room to space them out.  Drizzle over the two teaspoons of olive oil and then use your hands to thoroughly coat the tomatoes and shallots.  Sprinkle over sea salt.  (I used sea salt flakes).

roast1

Place the dish in the preheated oven and bake until roasted.  I left mine for about 45 minutes…

roast2

Toast your rye bread and arrange on the plates, then divide the roasted tomatoes and shallots between them on top (with one or two lightly around the side for artistic effect!!!)…

roast3

Poach your eggs.

There is a lot said about poaching eggs!  I tried lots and lots of tips and never got it right (stirring the water, adding vinegar, etc, etc) until I ignored all this and just poached them!  Now all I do is boil the kettle, then transfer the water to my pan and keep the boil going.  I don’t add anything and I keep the water still and bubbling, as it is.  I then cook two eggs at a time by just cracking and dropping them in at opposite sides of the pan and leaving them.  At first the water will rise up and there will be a lot of cooked egg white style substance at the top.  I skim this off with a slotted spoon.  A second or two later there may be a little more, so I remove this too.  Then, after about a couple of minutes I gently lift one of the eggs onto the slotted spoon.  The shape will be perfect, because it has been allowed to just sit and boil in the water and you be able to see if it is ready or not.  If it needs a few seconds more, just lower gently back into the water.

When your eggs are ready, just sit them on top of your veg and season with freshly ground black pepper and a few more sea salt flakes or some freshly ground sea salt and hey presto – your Roasted Tomatoes and Shallots on Rye with Poached Eggs are ready – enjoy!

roast5