Last week I received, well not a letter, but an e-mail from America. It came from my friend Lily who writes the eclectic Lily’s Blog. I first met Lily through her blog, and what I love about it is that very eclecticism - you never know what you will read there, but you are sure to come away having learned something new.
At present Lily is in Minneapolis on an extended stay as her son undergoes surgery. It has been terrific to read her observations of her new life in the US. I particularly relished her story of a roadtrip she took earlier this month and the stunning images of autumn beauty she took along the way (check them out and also her images of the local downtown market are well worth looking at too).
Lily and I have had many interesting discussions over the past year on what makes a good blog and I’ve always found great inspiration in her posts. A combination of things have meant that I’ve fallen out of the habit of blogging here (and it is a habit – if you want to be a good blogger, you have to blog consistently). Lily reminded me that I’ve been neglecting my blog and so it’s time I did something about it.
Inspired by Lily’s American sojourn, I want to write today about cornbread. Native Americans were using ground corn for cooking long before European explorers arrived in the New World. Cornbread is a popular item in “soul food” enjoyed for its texture and scent. Last year when I was visiting the States, I fell in love with Whole Foods blueberry cornbread and brought back a packet of their cornmeal to try making it myself.
I’ve tried out many cornbread recipes and the one below is my healthiest yet – free of fat or sugar. This is the most basic recipe, which I tweak each time according to what I have in my cupboard or fridge. Blueberries are my favourite addition, but I’ve also experimented with grated sweet potato (deliciously sweet), lemon and orange rind. You can also make savoury cornbread muffins, which is next on my to-do list.
This recipe makes 12 muffins
1 C. cornmeal
1 C. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 C. lowfat buttermilk
1/4 C. clover honey or agave syrup
2 Tbsp. olive or sunflower oil
1. Preheat oven to 180 C and lightly grease a muffin pan.
2. Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to mix evenly, then create a well in the centre of the dry ingredients.
3. Add the eggs, buttermilk, honey or syrup and olive or sunflower oil to the middle of the mixing bowl. Whisk to combine, then incorporate the dry ingredients from the sides of the bowl, whisking just until evenly mixed.
4. Place the batter in the muffin pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.
The beautiful weather we had over the past few days has been such a joy. Today as I write this, the temperature has dropped considerably and the sky is overcast. So I am glad that yesterday evening we managed to eat outside in the last of the sunshine, for this being Ireland, who knows when it will be back.
I cooked some delicious seared salmon with an orange and ginger glaze and served it with some wild rice and salad – healthy and tasty and perfect for a sunny evening. The salmon is seared in sesame oil in a very hot frying pan to start and then transferred into a baking dish in a preheated oven. I drizzled 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and a small glass of white wine over the top before baking for 10 minutes. While the fish was baking, I heated a cup of orange juice with a teaspoon of grated orange zest, 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated root ginger and 3 tablespoons of dry sherry over a medium high heat until it was reduced by half. I then added two slices of orange to the sauce before drizzling it over the fish and for a final flourish I sprinkled some sesame seeds on top. It tasted wonderful, especially in the sunshine and it is such a healthy and simple dish to prepare. Next time the sun is shining, I will definitely be repeating this recipe…roll on summer!
I am trying to introduce more natural and healthy food into our diet. I made these bread rolls today. Spelt is an ancient form of wheat which is now enjoying something of a revival as a dietary grain due to its nutty flavor, high protein and nutrition content.It has low levels of gluten, which make it more digestible to those with mild wheat intolerances. This is recipe for spelt and sundflower seed rolls is one I saw Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall make on his TV programme River Cottage Autumn. Makes 12 Ingredients 1kg wholegrain spelt flour, plus a handful more for dusting 10g powdered dried yeast 20g fine sea salt 100g sunflower seeds, plus about 80g extra for coating 600ml warm milk, plus 120ml cold milk for coating 1 tbsp melted butter A little vegetable oil Method Tip the dough out on to a work surface and press all over with your fingertips to deflate. Divide into 12 pieces and shape these into rolls. Pour the remaining milk into a bowl, dip the rolls in it, then roll them in another bowl filled with the remaining seeds. Transfer to a well-floured clean tea towel, cover with a plastic bag or clingfilm and leave to prove until almost doubled in size. While the rolls are proving, preheat the oven to 250C/500F/gas mark 10, or its highest setting. Put a large baking sheet into the oven to heat up. Once hot, remove the baking sheet, place the rolls on top and return to the oven as quickly as possible. After 10 minutes, turn down the heat to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and bake until the rolls are well browned and feel hollow when you tap them – about 10-13 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack.