Is your daily loaf making you ill?

What exactly is in our bread?

Surely we should be able to buy a loaf of bread and believe that it is a simple and necessary food. However many of us are turning away from bread due to bloating, feelings of lethargy and a general belief that carbs are bad for you. On the other hand, as a staple, bread should be the staff of life. Shouldn’t it? Unless we have the facts presented to us it is difficult to make a judgement.

The Real Bread Campaign exists to raise awareness as to what actually goes on in the bread making industry and to promote independent bakers. The Real Bread Campaign is part of the charity Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming and much of their work is raising awareness.

The nasty bits

The campaign has deep concerns about additives. They believe that people should be aware of the possible side effects from the long list of permitted additives allowed in bread. The Food Intolerance Network claims of propionates (an additive commonly found in packaged bread) that: “Reactions can be anything from the usual range of food intolerance symptoms: migraine and headaches; gastro-intestinal symptoms including stomach aches, irritable bowel, diarrhoea, urinary urgency, bedwetting; eczema and other itchy skin rashes; nasal congestion (stuffy or runny nose); depression, unexplained tiredness, impairment of memory and concentration, speech delay; tachycardia (fast heart beat); growing pains, loud voice (no volume control); irritability, restlessness, inattention, difficulty settling to sleep, night waking and night terrors.”  That might well make you think again when snatching a loaf of pre-packed bread from the shelf. Propionates (E280) are just some of the permitted additives.

The Real Bread Campaign produced a thorough report which took nine months to complete. In “Are Supermarket Bloomers Pants?” they contacted six major supermarkets to get them to come clean about what is in their so-called fresh baked bread. As you can imagine where they got a reply, it was not as full or informative as they would have wished for.

The Real Bread Campaign also state, “It should be noted that loaves, dough or flour imported from or via other EU or EEA member states is not subject to UK regulation.” So there is even less control on what goes into our food, which is particularly concerning when we have limited supplies of flour in the UK, due to the poor harvests caused by extreme weather conditions. The expensive so-called artisanal bread sold in supermarkets is often no more than an expensive rip off. The Real Bread Campaign is asking supermarkets to “stop using ‘artisan’ and similar terms for any bakery products that have not been made from scratch using all natural ingredients and traditional techniques by trained and experienced craft bakers”. What most people don’t realise is that they are not safe spending extra on bread that looks fairly rustic; they still contain the dreaded flour improver, or flour treatment. These are additives combined to improve baking functionality. Flour treatment agents are used to increase the speed of dough rising, which makes more bread, therefore more profit. A proper artisan baker will not use these, allowing their breads to rise naturally. It is commonly believed that this quick rise is the cause of the unpleasant bloating that can occur after eating bread.

Fight back

With this information, would you now think twice about spending your hard earned dough on what is essentially a big con? To make some small protest, seek out your local baker, making bread in the traditional way. Or bake your own. There is nothing more blissful than creating your own bread, either by hand or in a bread-making machine. Choose your flour carefully; many well known brands contain imported flour which is not subject to UK regulations. Doves Farm organic flours and some of the smaller mills produce good quality flour. Just remember to check the label. Bread making is surprisingly easy and the actual making process takes about 10 minutes; it is the proving (or rising) that takes the time and this can be fitted in around other activities. If enough people take up a stance on this, perhaps we can get more accountability for what goes into our bread. See my recipes for a simple way to make your own. The Weekend Loaf is an easy way to make bread for the weekend, cutting down on waiting for it to prove by a slow rise in the fridge overnight. For a really tasty and healthy loaf check out my Spelt Bread. Happy Baking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOMEMADE PEA AND HAM SOUP

A very quick and tasty soup to make for lunch. You can also use up bacon if you have a couple of rashers in the fridge, rather than the ham which makes it a cheaper option for students.

Serves 2 as main course or 4 as a starter

 INGREDIENTS

1 Tablespoon mild olive oil (or butter if you prefer)

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 large potato, peeled and cut into cubes

400g frozen peas

400ml chicken stock (made from 1 x Knorr gel stock pot)

200ml milk

100g packet ham hock (cooked, diced ham)

 

METHOD

  1. Heat the oil or butter in a large saucepan on low or medium heat, then add the onion and potato, season with salt and pepper, then stir to coat the vegetables in the oil.
  2. Put a lid on the pan, cook on a low heat for 8-10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the onions are soft and translucent.
  3. Make up the stock by adding 1 x gel stock pot to 400ml of boiling water. Add the peas and stock to the pan, then bring to the boil. Cook for a couple of minutes until all of the peas have floated to the top of the stock and are tender and bright.
  4. Take the pan off the heat. Using a stick blender, process the peas until very smooth. Add the milk and process again.
  5. Bring the soup back to a simmer, then season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Both the ham and the stock are fairly salty, so you may not need to add salt.
  6. Stir the ham through the soup and serve.

Approx. cost = £4.50 (this pea soup without ham would be £2.50, so you could consider using up some rashers of bacon. Simply cook off and add at the end in place of the ham)

Black Olive Tapenade Recipe

A taste of summer and perfect on crostini with a glass of chilled pink wine. A regular free treat in South of France restaurants to keep you going whilst you peruse the menu.

INGREDIENTS

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 lemon, juice only

3 tbsp capers, chopped

6 anchovy fillets, chopped

250g/9oz black olives, pitted

small bunch fresh parsley, chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

METHOD

Very simply combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blitz slightly for a chunky texture, or for a smoother texture blitz for a bit longer. Spread onto slices of stale baguette, brushed with olive oil crisped in the oven. Alternatively serve as a dip with raw vegetables. Enjoy.

Tangy Marinaded Pork Salad for a Hot Summer’s Day

The perfect cook ahead recipe for a hot day. This recipe was gleaned from a book called Deep France by Celica Brayfield, an account of her living in France in monthly diary form, along with seasonal recipes. This recipe is deeply savoury and very handy when you don’t want to spend too much time cooking in the heat of the day.

For 6-8

500g/1lb 2oz pork fillet

3 tsp five-spice powder

salt and pepper

2 Tbsp soft brown sugar

1 Tbsp lemon thynme leaves

3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

3 large mild red chillies, deseeded and chopped

3 Tbsp soy sauce (I like the Kikkoman low salt)

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

3 Tbsp oil

METHOD

1. Marinate the pork fillet whole in all the other ingredients for at least an hour, but preferably overnight.

2. Rub the marinade in well and turn the fillet in the marinade several times. Cover and leave in the fridge.

3. When ready to cook, allow the pork to come to room temperature for half an hour

4. Preheat the oven to a high temperature. Put the pork on a piece of foil in a roasting tin, pour over the marinade and cook on the maximum heat for 5 minutes.

5. Turn the oven down to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Baste the pork again, with the marinade  and then roast the pork for a further 15-20 minutes, basting and turning twice more.

6. Remove from the oven, baste again and allow to cool.The outisde of the meat will be a deep glossy brown. When the meat is thoroughly cold, slice into thin medallions and serve with the salad below.

SALAD

2 limes

1 tsp sesame oil and 2 Tbsp light olive oil

2 tsp caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 Little Gem lettuce or half a cos or romaine lettuce

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced into fine batonms

a handful each of mint, basil and coriander leaves

4 spring onions, halved and shredded into strips

2 Tbsp toasted peanuts

METHOD

1. Juice one of the limes and mix the juice with the oils, sugar and salt

2. Peel the other lime and cut the flesh into segments.

3. Tear up the lettuce and put in a flat salad bowl. Mix in the cucumber, lime segments, herb leaves and spring onion strips. Chill until ready to serve.

4. Toss the chilled leaves with the lime dressing, Pile the slices of pork in the middle of the salad and glaze with a little of the leftover mariande.

4. Sprinkle over the peanuts and serve.

SERVE with a tray of olive oil roast potatoes.

Seeded Soda Bread

 

Seeded Soda Bread

This is my eldest niece’s favourite bread, especially when topped with smoked salmon, or when in Cardigan, smoked sewin for an extra special treat. It is a very easy recipe using cup measurements. The size of cup I use is a standard teacup, which equates to 200ml. It is perfect party food, if you cut the soda bread into small squares and top with smoked salmon; ideal with your favourite glass of fizz.

 

Ingredients

 

3 cups of wholemeal flour or seed and herb blend flour from Y Felin, St Dogmaels

1 cup of rolled oats

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

450ml natural yoghurt

 

Method

 

  1. Turn the oven to 200’C
  2. Combine the flour, oats, bicarb and salt
  3. Add the yoghurt and mix together to form a sticky mixture
  4. Place in a lined 2lb baking tin, or shape into a free form round shape
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes until cooked.

 

Note:

To check if the loaf is thoroughly cooked you can insert a skewer, as for cake testing. However, most bread bakers use the time honoured method of the thump test. To do this, remove the loaf from the tin or baking sheet, turn upside down and tap on the base. It will sound like tapping on a hollow tree if the loaf is cooked through. It’s hard to explain but after a number of times, you get to know.

Best eaten the day it is made, it is quick and delicious. It is important to use good quality flour as this makes all the difference. We like to buy ours when on holiday from the mill in St Dogmael’s, but Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Seeded Flour is also good.

Foolproof Chocolate Mousse Recipe

Chocolate Mousse close up of chocolate mousseA classic, no frills, chocolate mousse recipe. It is worth seeking out some unusual little glass pots to serve this in. I often use plain glass tea light holders which hold slightly less mixture, stretching the recipe to feed eight.

Quantities for 6

Ingredients

110g good quality dark chocolate, or a mix of dark and milk if serving to family

4 Tablespoons of icing sugar, sieved

4 medium eggs

4 Tablespoons of double cream

 

Method

  1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water
  2. Separate the eggs and whisk the whites until stiff
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with the icing sugar until foamy
  4. Add the double cream and mix in thoroughly
  5. Pour in the chocolate and give the mixture a good whisk for 2-3 minutes
  6. Carefully fold in the egg whites and pour into a serving dish or into your prettiest individual dishes
  7. Refrigerate for a minimum of three hours before serving
  8. Decorate with tiny white chocolate stars and edible glitter -as above

 

 

 

Easy Spelt Bread Recipe

Spelt Bread Recipe

After extensive research into what goes into the bread we buy I decided to make as much of my own bread as possible. Experimenting with some white spelt flour from Wessex Mill, I was delighted to discover how easy it is to work this dough. It quickly forms a dough ball without too much clinging to your fingers and needs very little oil or flour for kneading.  The dough felt light and elastic when kneading. The resulting loaf was really tasty, so much so that I made another batch and formed into rolls after the first rising. For 12 rolls follow the instructions below but cook for 13-15 minutes. You could also leave to rise the first time overnight as in The Weekend Loaf

INGREDIENTS

500 g   White Spelt Flour or Wholegrain Spelt Flour

3 tsps  Salt

7g   Quick Yeast

300ml Warm Water

3 Tbsp Olive Oil

Method

  1. In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, and quick yeast.
  2. Add the water and oil and roughly mix it into the flour in the bowl.
  3. When the dough has come together enough, turn out onto a lightly oiled or floured surface and  knead well until it feels smooth and pliable.This normally takes 4-5 minutes.
  4. Leave the dough covered with oiled cling film in a draught free place, for it to double in size. (This should take about an hour).
  5. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead the dough firmly for five minutes.
  6. Shape the dough and put it into an oiled 1kg/2lb bread tin or place it on an oiled baking sheet.
  7. Cover with oiled cling film and leave dough to rise for about 30 minutes in a warm place.
  8. Pre heat oven to 220°C/Fan200°C/425°F/Gas 7
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven, slide the loaf upside down onto your hand, protect form heat with a clean cloth. Tap the bottom to listen for the “hollow” sound, which will indicate if your loaf is done. See
  11. If you think it still needs a few minutes, but is brown on top, return to oven upside down to finish off cooking the base of the loaf.
  12. When the loaf is fully cooked, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack to cool.