Savoury Lentil Cake

This post is an update / addition to the previous blog entitled ‘Red Split Lentil Bread’.  As promised I tried the second recipe suggestion given in the video link provided in the previous blog.   The ingredients to make the lentil bread are the same as this savoury cake but with the addition of a few more ingredients namely cheese, onion and herbs.  The rest of the instructions given for the lentil bread are the same for this recipe.  For the additions I used Greek Feta (200g) diced, a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley (because I have it growing in my back yard), a couple of tablespoons of finely chopped onion and a 1/4 teaspoon of coarse black pepper. 

Other varieties of cheese you can use include Halloumi, Mozzarella or basically any soft cheese.   Other suggested herbs are Dill or Basil.  I used finely chopped red onion but you could also use fresh spring onion, dried onion or chives.  

When I previously made the lentil bread I just greased the tin with olive oil as suggested in the video but I found it difficult to get the bread out of the baking tray without breaking it.  This time I used a baking tin liner.  I cooked this one in a round baking tin.  When the cake cooled down completely I was able to peel the liner off carefully without breaking the cake.

As I suspected, the savoury cake is really delicious and I am glad to be able to add it to my favourite recipes for regular use.  I had a slice of the cake this morning for breakfast served cold with some fresh cherry tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing (on the tomatoes).   The cheese and herbs combine harmoniously with the rest of the ingredients.   It would make a great lunch dish combined with a mixed salad.   Again, it holds together very well and so it could be added to your picnic basket for a filling and nutritious meal on the go.

 

You may be aware that there are concerns worldwide about shortages of wheat and other food products.  You will know how quickly we were plunged into fuel shortages and rising fuel prices.  I anticipate that more flexibility may be called for when it comes to our food choices in order to get the best nutrition into your diet.  ‘Bread’ is a real staple in our diet in Ireland.  We are slow to abandon bread even when it has a deleterious effect on our health.  Upon being told that her starving peasant subjects had no bread to eat, Marie-Antoinette, the queen of France during the French revolution, apparently responded “Let them eat cake”!  OK, so we’re not quite there.  We still have a wide variety of foods available to us, but changes could be coming down the line.  Save this cake recipe as it is very nutrition dense, not to mention delicious.   Marie-Antoinette’s subjects would have been well fed on this cake.  Of course, I get that the point of the story is not really ‘the bread/cake’ but the fact that she had no awareness of the real experience of her ‘peasants’ lives, their experience of life being so completely removed from her own.  Hmmm….. sound familiar??  Have we closed the gap between the rich and the poor 3-4 centuries later??  ‘Food for thought’!   If we did have to resort to using other flours to make bread or bread substitutes, lentils are a really good choice.  Apart from being relatively inexpensive, they have a long shelf life so you could buy in bulk now and be prepared.   It’s culinary uses are many and varied.  Lentils are ‘gluten free’ and are therefore unlikely to cause an immune reaction or digestive issues unlike wheat products.

Try it folks, you won’t be disappointed.  

🙂

Anne

Red Split Lentil Bread

I came across this recipe on YouTube.  I’ll provide the link below.  There are many versions of it online so you can check them out.

This one is basic and within the video the presenter gives a second option which includes the addition of cheese, herbs and spices to make a more savoury bread.  I hope to try that for my next bake.

The ingredients are simple and accessible.  It is ‘gluten free’ but not dairy free.  The presenter does mention ways around that, so you could check that out.  For bread I usually buy sourdough from Lidl and have noticed a recent price increase which is quite a leap from €1.95 to €2.15 for a cob.  I’m aware that I can make bread from oat flour and I do use this for crumbles and other bakes but for me personally I tend not to digest grains very well, especially early in the day when I’m most likely to eat bread.  The fermenting process with sourdough makes digestion easier for me, but I’m always looking for other healthy alternatives.  Also, in case my ‘go to’ bread becomes even more expensive, in these ‘uncertain times’, I will have some tried and tested options to fall back on.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of red split lentils
  • 1 cup natural yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 20g baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 60 mls of Olive Oil
Method:

Wash the red split lentils in a bowl until the water runs clear.  Leave the lentils to soak overnight in water.  Drain off the water through a sieve.  With a food processor (blade attachment) liquidize the lentils.  Remove half the mixture into a separate bowl.  To half the mixture still in the food processor, add the eggs, yogurt, olive oil, salt and baking powder.  Run until completely blended opening the lid to scrap down the side a couple of times.   Pour this mixture into the bowl with the rest of the lentils and mix well.  Pour into a greased tin.  Spread some seeds on top.  The video presenter used Sesame and Nigella seeds.  I did not have these to hand so I used sunflower seeds.  Place in a preheated oven at 180°C for 35-40 minutes.

To the left is a picture of the bread.  It turned out well.  I made the mistake of turning the oven dial to 280°C and only noticed it at about 15 minutes in, so this may have affected the bake? I’ll know the next time I bake it if there is a difference!  When I am making this again I think it might be better to line the baking tin, as I found it difficult to get the bread out.  The video had suggested using olive oil to grease the tin.

My thoughts on the bread

It’s texture is more ‘cake like’ than standard ‘bread like’ and the taste is more savoury than floury.  It is a little bit crumbly at first but when it is completely cooled down it holds together quite well.  It has a richer taste than standard bread.  It goes well with savoury food like nut butter and with a salad.  I have tried toasting some under the grill and in a toaster for a heated up version. It does not brown like standard bread, but it still works well toasted.   It goes down very well (digestion wise) I have had no acid or digestive discomfort after eating it.  It also goes well with sweet foods like banana or jam, however, the more ‘cake like’ texture may not stand up to a lot of handling.  For example, it might be better to slice some banana onto the bread rather than mash it on which could cause the bread to break up under the pressure.  Not ideal if you want to lift a slice up to your mouth!

In terms of nutritional value and value for money I will definitely be adding this to my ‘go to recipes’.  Lentils are a very good source of beneficial carbohydrates, protein, fibre, B vitamins and a variety of minerals including iron.  They are ‘gluten free’ and inexpensive.  I always use Free Range or Organic eggs.  Thankfully these are easily available to me.  Extra Virgin Olive oil is full of monounsaturated fatty acids which are very healthy fats to consume.   So lots of good nutrition there!!

I am storing this bread in an airtight container and because temperatures are quite warm at the moment, I’m keeping this in the fridge.  If you are of the mindset that bread should only present and taste a certain way, then this may be a bit of a stretch for you, but I have to say I’m very happy with the outcome.

 

 

←  Click this icon to view the video entitled:

Lentil Bread Recipe’ by Refika’s Kitchen

[Video is approximately 9 mins]

 

Enjoy 🙂

Anne

 

Pomegranate Flavour Fizzy Drink

This post is an update on a previous post entitled ‘Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade’.  You can check that out under Blog / Recipes.  Since then I have tried new flavours for this homemade drink.  I often use fresh pomegranate in my breakfast bowl but I came to try pomegranate as a fizzy drink flavour after my sister was clearing her kitchen of fresh produce to travel abroad and gave me a spare one.  In that first batch I made I also added some fresh lime juice (as I just happen to have a left over lime).  It turned out to be a delicious flavour combination.  I’ve since made a little video of how to use a pomegranate to make probiotic fizzy drinks.  [Click YouTube Icon below – it is 5 mins 31 seconds long]

Next time around I might add ‘star anise’ to the fermenting bottle of pomegranate to see how that flavour combination works.  I have used star anise in Kombucha in the past.  I really like the flavour it adds to the drink.  Finding flavour combinations that appeal to you is a matter of experimenting, but no matter what the outcome, the drink remains a really healthy option!

I just need to NOTE here that every time you use a pomegranate the flavour outcome will depend on the quality and ripeness of the fruit.  If you open a pomegranate and the seeds are a dark red and the juice rushes out as you cut into the fruit, this is likely to ultimately produce a richer, sweeter flavoured drink.  Unfortunately, when buying a pomegranate it can be pot luck as to whether it is ideal for juicing.  I have often purchased pomegranate that had quite dry and opaque looking seeds which are ok for sprinkling on your breakfast bowl or salad, but I wouldn’t recommend it for juicing.  It’s hard to tell before you open the fruit what you are going to find inside!

If you have watched the video I hope you enjoyed it and realize I am not a professional video maker by far.  I just produced it on my phone with an app called ‘Film Maker’ as a handy visual to follow.  If you are like me, I tend to follow a visual better than reading down through written text.  However, as previously stated, you will find the written instructions on how to make the ‘ginger bug’ starter and fizzy drink in my previous blog entitled ‘Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade’.

Enjoy 🙂

Anne

How to make Sauerkraut

I have to admit that even since childhood I have NOT been a fan of cooked cabbage or any cooked cruciferous vegetables for that matter.  In retrospect, when I consider how it was offered ‘plain cooked, perhaps even overcooked, smelly veg’ 😦 , I’m not surprised it didn’t appeal.  ‘No offence mother’!!  I could not be swayed, and I mean, AT ALL!!

Turns out cruciferous vegetables (cabbage in all its forms, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, radishes etc.) are one of the most nutritionally valuable and health beneficial foods you can consume.  The phytonutrients (phyto = plant) in crucifers protect our health by working as antioxidants to disarm free radicals before they can damage DNA, cell membranes and fat-containing molecules such as cholesterol.  These compounds actually signal our genes to increase production of enzymes involved in detoxification, the cleansing process through which our bodies eliminate harmful compounds.

In any case, I won’t be too hard on myself for having rejected crucifers for so long, since boiling drastically reduces the nutritional benefits which is lost through heat and into the water that went down the plug hole 😊.  In later years however, I happily consume various forms of raw cabbage e.g. coleslaw and other cruciferous containing salad dishes and of course, sauerkraut.   Some lightly steamed Broccoli drenched in butter with a sprinkle of pepper is also very pleasing to my taste buds, whereas to eat it overcooked is still a chore ☹  Here it is worth noting for anyone with Thyroid issues, it is best to cook crucifers even a little to deactivate the goitrogens contained in these vegetables.

You can read more about the benefits of cruciferous vegetables here.

Finally, with regard to the benefit of cruciferous vegetable in general, most nutritional therapists will be familiar with these benefits in relation to hormonal balance for both male and female hormones.  An increase in consumption of cruciferous vegetables is usually recommended and/or supplementation with diindolylmethane or DIM for short.

Classic Sauerkraut Recipe
(Dry salting method)     [To make one – 2 Litre Jar]
  • Head of Red or White Cabbage or mix
  • Sea Salt (800g of cabbage to 1 tablespoon of salt)
  • Juniper berries (1 ½ tblsp)
  • Caraway seeds (1 tblsp)
Method:
  1. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and cut out the core, then shred the cabbage. You can use a sharp kitchen knife or the shredder blade on a food processor.
  2. Place the cabbage in a large bowl and add the salt. Massage the salt through the cabbage and leave to stand for 30-60 minutes.  Mix in the berries and seeds.  (These add flavour but are optional).
  3. With washed hands massage the mixture until it is wet and limp.
  4. Fill a sterilized jar with handfuls of the mixture, making sure to press it firmly down with your fist. You will see more liquid seeping out.
  5. Fill the jar to within 2.5cm of the top. For successful fermentation it is crucial to keep the cabbage submerged, so place a weight on it.  [You can use the outer leaves at the top of the kraut and place a weight in the middle.  I have some heavy glass t-light holders which I have found to work well].
  6. Close the lid. Leave it sit for anything from 1 to 6 weeks.
  7. If you are using an airtight jar you may need to burp (release the build-up of carbon dioxide gas) by opening the lid once in a while. [Personally, I have never had to do this and have left my Sauerkraut ferments for 21 days unopened on most occasions.   Just keep an eye on it.  Local temperature is a key factor and in Ireland anyway, temperatures are generally not that high so it slows the process down.  Fermenting is definitely a learning process and you’ll get to know what to expect the more you experiment].
  8. When you are happy with the flavour and texture you can store the jar in the fridge. [I tend to make a bigger amount than I can use so I usually transfer it to smaller jars in the fridge].

Note:  The longer you leave your sauerkraut to ferment the more of a probiotic punch it will contain.

Sauerkraut benefits:

The process of fermentation increases the bio-availability of the plants nutrients making it even more nutritious than the original cabbage.  It is high in Vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium and a very good source of dietary fibre.  Other minerals it contains are iron, potassium, copper and manganese.

If you happen to find yourself in love with sauerkraut, please note that moderation is advised.  It is best to eat fermented cruciferous vegetables as condiments, not as large components of the diet.

You can do a deeper dive into the benefits of Sauerkraut here.

For me, as I’ve said, it provides a tasty, easily made and stored source of vegetable and at the same time a source of natural probiotic.  The strains of live friendly bacteria are diverse.  Probiotics in supplement form are great but you could cut out this expense by regularly including fermented foods into your diet.  It is comparatively way less expensive.  It may cost you a little more time in the kitchen but even this is minimal as it becomes just part of your routine.

I started my fermenting journey with Kefir.  I’m not a big fan of milk so I didn’t continue making this for very long.  Then I moved on to making Kombucha.  This is really nice and I tried many and varied types of tea and added flavours.  But, to date my favourite ferment besides Sauerkraut, is ‘Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade’.  It doesn’t have to be lemon. You can find my instructions on this website here. I have most recently tried pomegranate and this turned out to be really, really tasty.

Though my fermenting journey started with my Nutritional Therapy training where we learned to make kefir and water kefir, I currently rely on ‘The Cultured Club’ book by Dearbhla Reynolds to expand my knowledge and experience with ferments.

References

The Cultured Club’ ….subtitle ‘Fabulous Funky Fermentation Recipes’  by Derbhla Reynolds.

World’s Healthiest Foods [On-line] – ‘Optimizing Your Cells’ Detoxification/Cleansing Ability by Eating Cabbage and Other Cruciferous Veg’

Dr. Axe [On-line] – ‘5 Health Benefits of Sauerkraut and How to Make Your Own’

Insulin and Fertility

I have been doing lots of research to back up my presentation slides for the workshop on ‘Hormone Balance’ and it has become very apparent that for this and related issues like infertility and excess weight, which are very common today, there are a couple of key drivers.   By making our lives more and more convenient with convenience foods, transport, labour saving devices etc. we run the risk of losing our natural metabolism and balance, resulting in the many chronic diseases we now suffer.  If the original intention was to make life easier it has not equated to less stress and better health.  What we need are whole foods, fresh air, movement, relaxation, sleep, spending time in a natural environment and doing activities that engage us fully.  Modern life has disconnected us from our human nature and even though it makes perfect sense when we are reminded of the simple and basic needs of the body, we have a hard time believing that addressing these needs can have a significant impact on our health.  We can’t turn back time but we can take more control and make better choices for the sake of our health.

One such example is the overproduction of Insulin produced by the pancreas in response to food we have eaten with a high sugar or (glycaemic load), leading to blood sugar imbalance.  We’re not just talking here about white refined sugar, although it is that too, its also white bread, pasta, potatoes, cakes, processed food containing sugar or flour, sweets, alcohol, sodas and even fruit juices that tend to spike blood sugar and cause excess release of insulin. Historically, people had sugar as an occasional treat.  Today …… it is tempting you everywhere you go!  It’s even hidden in foods you would never have expected to find it in.  And, given that sugar in all its forms is highly addictive, as it fires up (endorphins) the addiction chemicals in the brain, it is little wonder we are hooked and coming back for more!

Dr. Mark Hyman has summed it up in a nutshell in his instagram post below.  I couldn’t have put it better myself so you have it here from the expert!  For the ladies and gentlemen who suffer issues of infertility, take note!

What I love about good nutritional advice is that even if you don’t have these particular issues, lowering the glycaemic load of your diet has health benefits for everyone bar none!  Modern life is set up to encourage us all to lean more towards higher glycaemic load foods and lifestyle factors.

View this post on Instagram

I don’t believe it’s coincidence that infertility has increased just like diabetes and obesity has. That’s because excess sugar and subsequent belly fat drive hormonal imbalances and create infertility.⠀ ⠀ In women, these imbalances manifest as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is really a nutritional and metabolic problem that adversely affects insulin and other hormones.⠀ ⠀ PCOS symptoms include irregular or heavy periods, acne, facial hair, scalp hair loss, increased belly fat, and increased levels of testosterone. Studies show PCOS affects 8 to 12 percent of all women, which interestingly correlates with the number of couples who suffer infertility.⠀ ⠀ In men, infertility manifests as lower testosterone, which indicates other hormones like insulin are also out of whack. Among the consequences are bellies, breasts (or man boobs), low sperm count, and decreased sex drive.⠀ ⠀ While problems like PCOS and low testosterone need to be properly assessed, diagnosed, and treated to get your metabolism working again, you have far more control over infertility than you might realize.⠀ ⠀ Studies confirm addressing lifestyle factors – including nutrition, weight, exercise, psychological stress, as well as environmental and occupational exposure –could have substantial effects on fertility. ⠀ ⠀ I recommend my patients take a multivitamin and other supplements and eat a whole food, low-glycemic-load, nutrient-rich, plant-based diet. Those strategies alone can have an enormous impact on fertility. ⠀ ⠀ While I ultimately encourage you to work with a Functional Medicine doctor to address and correct these problems, I have found these seven strategies can help anyone (female and male) balance hormones, reverse infertility, and create abundant health.⠀ ⠀ – Go low glycemic. ⠀ – Implement supplements like vitamin D, B vitamins, fish oil L-carnitine, vitamins C and E, N-acetylcysteine, zinc, and coenzyme Q10 ⠀ – Fix your gut by including gut-supporting foods like fermented foods, as well as fiber and probiotics.⠀ – Exercise regularly.⠀ – Control stress.⠀ – Get sufficient sleep.⠀ – Reduce your environmental toxin exposure. ⠀ ⠀ #pcos #hormonalimbalance #insulin #infertility

A post shared by Mark Hyman, M.D. (@drmarkhyman) on

If you click into the post on-line, among the hundreds of comments is one from a woman who states that her 17 year old daughter exists only because she changed her diet and lifestyle after being told she would never have children.  There are many more stories like this in the comments and around us everyday that you don’t hear about.

I have seen for myself in clinic, on a number of occasions, the very real success of balancing hormones for fertility.  It does require dedicated compliance to dietary and lifestyle changes but these are not beyond anyone’s capabilities.

The other driver of hormonal imbalances including infertility is excess ‘cortisol‘ levels in the body.  Cortisol is the stress hormone.  Eating a lower glycaemic load diet will help with overproduction of cortisol too.  Getting some moderate exercise, managing stress levels with mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing or finding a hobby that is engaging enough to reduce stress levels.    Also, getting adequate shut eye (sleep), will really help.

Conditions are more favourable for fertility when the body is in ‘relaxed mode’ or parasympathetic nervous system mode, and not in ‘fight or flight’ or sympathetic nervous system mode.  Our modern high stimulation diet and a lifestyle which is fast paced, indulgent, highly stressful and busy busy busy, sends a message to the body…… “this is not a good time to have a baby, I’m way too busy just surviving”.  The dietary and nutrition suggestions in the post are right on point to aid fertility.  Also, to bring your body into parasympathetic mode instantly, practice deep breathing or tuning in to your breathing on a regular basis.  Start by doing some long exhales (10 in succession) and soon you will be breathing deeply.  Another easy technique to switch your body into parasympathetic mode is to elevate your legs above the level of your heart.  Lying flat on the floor use a chair, the bed or the wall to elevate your legs and relax for 5 minutes in this position.  A daily practice will impact over time and the body will get the message “life is good, I am calm and capable, all is well, I have plenty of resources to reproduce”!

You can follow Dr Mark Hyman on instagram or by searching for ‘Dr Mark Hyman Instagram’ on line.

These strategies are not rocket science but are shown to bring about positive results for those that implement them.   The view that there needs to be a pill for every ill, as if we are machines that need a screw here and a drop of oil there, is being replaced with an integrative approach to restoring health to the body that recognizes us as individual beings, affected by our unique genetics, environment, food, movement, sleep, thoughts, emotions and beliefs.

 

Further reading recommendations:

  • The Low-GL Diet Bible, Patrick Holford
  • The Low- GL Diet Cookbook, Patrick Holford
  • Fat Around the Middle, Marilyn Glenville, PhD
  • The 4 Pillar Plan, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee [Balanced Living]
  • The Hormone Cure, Dr. Sara Gottfried M.D. [Hormone Balance]

 

© Limelight Nutrition 2019