Shocking pink beetroot bread

Do not adjust your screen: this bread really is THAT pink. I’ve been having a little bit of fun in the last couple of weeks, experimenting with adding vegetable purees to bread dough. I told the Small Girl I was going to do a magic trick and waved my ‘wand’ (a wooden spoon) over the teatowel-wrapped loaf while chanting the following:

Ala kazam, ala kajink

Make this bread purple-y pink!

As you can see, it worked a treat. Unfortunately she wasn’t that keen on eating it – and I admit, the colour is pretty arresting – but the bread is lovely. Here’s how to play the same trick at your house.

Beetroot Bread

Beetroot bread
Last year when I interviewed the lovely Ruth Pretty for work she showed me her prized collection of Time-Life ‘Foods of the World’ cookbooks and recommended that I look out for them. I think she cast a good spell over me, because I went through a particularly good period of finding gems in charity shops or on Trade Me immediately afterwards. One was a Time-Life Bread book, sadly not from the same edition as Ruth’s, but edited by Richard Olney and absolutely loaded with amazing recipes and bread knowledge. There’s a recipe dating from 1654 in the book that uses pumpkin, which inspired me to try beetroot. The 1654 recipe uses a lot of yeast and lets the bread rise for hours – I just adapted my normal recipe and it worked out fine. This makes a very springy, soft loaf. The beetroot taste is discernable, but not as shocking as the colour might suggest. A tablespoon of fennel seeds would be a nice addition, especially if you’re going to eat the bread with salmon and cream cheese.

500g beetroot, topped, tailed and halved
500g strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
60-90ml warm water

Prepare the beetroot first. Boil it for 20-30 minutes, until easily pierced with a knife. Drain, then puree in a food processor or with a stick blender. Set aside to cool. You can do this well in advance, but the puree should be at room temperature when it comes to making the bread.
Mix the flour, yeast and salt together in a large bowl, then stir in the beetroot. Mix well, adding a little water, until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Lightly oil the worksurface, then tip the dough out onto it. Pick up one side of the dough, stretch it up, then bring it down again on top of itself. Repeat from the opposite corner. Do this another three times, then scrape the dough from your hands and walk away. Leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes, then come back and repeat the pick up and stretch process again. Then leave it again for 10 minutes. Do this process once more, then scoop the dough into a well-oiled large bowl. Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for about 45 minutes, until nearly doubled.
Heat the oven to 200C. Tip the dough out onto the bench and knock back gently, pressing it out into a rectangle. Roll this up into a large baguette-sort of shape, or shape to fit a large loaf tin. Leave on a lined tray (or in an oiled tin) for 25 minutes, then bake for 30-35 minutes. Tip onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Treat me: Spelt Apple Bread

You know those smug, holier-than-thou people who announce they’ve given up sugar/caffeine/alcohol/oxygen? I’m not one of them. And I’m glad.
Yesterday I met a woman who told me about her bizarre bodysculpting diet and all I could do was feel sorry for her, despite the fact she could probably crack an egg between her thighs.
For her, food was just fuel – I suppose that’s the only way to look at it when you are eating seven ‘meals’ of broccoli, spirulina and tuna a day – which I thought was profoundly depressing. In hindsight, this explains why we met at a café where there was nothing to eat. And why she works in fashion PR. But I digress.
Despite not wanting to give up any of my vices, last week I gave an old recipe of mine a makeover – reducing the sugar, the oil, adding in fruit and using wholemeal spelt flour instead of white flour. It turned out pretty damn well – and completely different – which has made me wonder about changing a few other things. But don’t worry, I’m not about to become a bodysculpting fiend. Stripper heels and diamante bikinis aren’t really my style…

Spelt Apple Bread
I go a bit mad for apples at this time of year and frequently buy more than our fridge/bench can hold. I even dreamt we had an apple tree the other night and woke up cross at myself for buying apples when we had our very own tree. Anyway, this recipe uses four of them, which is a good start. A nice thick slice of this is a good on-the-go breakfast and it freezes well.

3 eggs
150ml oil
200g brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
80ml (1/3 cup) yoghurt
260g wholemeal spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
3 large apples, grated (to make about 300g grated apple)
50g rolled oats
100g walnuts, roughly chopped
1 large apple, quartered, cored and thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 170c and grease and line a large loaf tin. Put the eggs, oil, sugar, yoghurt and vanilla in a large bowl and beat well. Sift in the dry ingredients and stir gently to combine, then fold in the apple, rolled oats and walnuts.
Pour into the prepared tin and arrange the sliced apple on top. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer plunged into the loaf comes out cleanly. Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Have a great weekend, everyone. I’m hoping to plant some Chilean guavas and baby papaya trees in my garden, which must be as good for you as lifting weights, don’t you think?

Emergency bacon and egg pie

As much as I try to be one of those organised meal plan types, there are often times when the wheels come off and we veer perilously close to having toasted sandwiches for dinner. My latest emergency dinner is a good old bacon and egg pie – there are no dishes, you can throw the whole thing together in minutes, and if you’re lucky there will be some leftover for lunch tomorrow.

Speedy bacon and egg pie
The one in the photograph was made with flaky pastry to Stephanie Alexander’s recipe, but for emergency dinners I pull out a packet of the frozen stuff (for New Zealand readers, this one is excellent). Follow these instructions and dinner will be on the table in no time.

500g frozen flaky puff pastry
250g bacon or ham, chopped
6 eggs
A bunch of spring onions, chopped, or a package of my instant caramelised onions
a dollop of your favourite chutney
salt and pepper
a splash of milk to glaze the top

As soon  as you get in the door, preheat the oven to 210C and take the pastry and caramelised onions out of the freezer. Take your coat off, read your child a story/play hide ‘n seek/talk to your spouse/put the washing machine on/unload the dishwasher.
When the pastry is mostly thawed, line a pie dish (I use my favourite all-purpose ex-brownie pan, measuring about 20cm x 30cm) with a sheet of pastry. Scatter the ham/bacon and onions on top. Grind over lots of pepper and a touch of salt.
Lightly whisk the eggs together, just to break the yolks up, and stir in the chutney. Pour this mixture over the ham and onions. Top with a sheet of pastry and crimp the edges. Prick the lid a few times with a fork and brush it with milk.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the pastry is risen and golden and cooked through. Serves four.

What’s your current favourite emergency dinner?

Lucy’s Christmas Chutney

There are many pre-Christmas things I have failed to do this year. If you’re going to the letterbox every day in the hope that I’ve remembered to send you a Christmas card, let me save you the trip. It’s December 20 and my Christmas cards are sitting on my desk, half-written. At least, I think they’re here somewhere. A box unpacked itself on the desk over the weekend and it’s a miracle I can find the keyboard.
The only thing that’s stopping me feeling like a complete failure is that I had the presence of mind to a) make the Christmas cake and b) make my famous Christmas chutney before we moved house. Yes, the 2.25g cake and a polybin full of jars added to the load, but it was worth it. I’ve been dispensing jars hither and yon all week and it’s done wonders for my festive spirit. I’m just sorry I can’t post them.

Lucy’s Christmas Chutney
I’ve been making this since 1997, when the internet was just a baby and I was just a slip of a girl (ish). It’s great with ham, cold turkey, cheese and bread, especially if all of these things are consumed while reclining on a deckchair/sofa and reading something you got for Christmas. This year I added walnuts (about a cupful) for a bit of crunch, but it’s great just as is.

450g tart green apples (about 3), peeled, cored and cut into 1cm chunks.
225g onions (1 large), peeled and chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup dates, roughly chopped
1 cup seedless raisins
1 cup prunes, roughly chopped
2/3 cup crystallised ginger, roughly chopped
2 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder
2 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups white vinegar
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Reduce the heat and simmer very gently uncovered for about 45 minutes until the mixture is thick and the fruit is soft. You should be able to squish the apple with the back of a wooden spoon and the raisins will look swollen and plump. Don’t wander off and forget about the mixture, it will need regular stirring to prevent it from sticking. If it becomes too thick, add more vinegar.
Spoon the chutney into sterilised jars and seal with cellophane or tight-fitting lids. Makes about four 350ml jars.

Let them eat olive cake

Some things sound odd. Bacon ice cream. Caviar foam. Olive cake. But wait, olive cake is actually very, very good. This recipe comes from an amazing woman I met a couple of months ago after discovering her sweet cured olives. Helen knows everything there is to know about olives (and then some) – and this is absolutely delicious.

Helen’s Olive Cake
This is like an antipasto all-in-one – a light, fluffy scone-ish dough loaded with good Mediterranean flavours. I’ve added feta and herbs because I happened to have lots of both at the time. Make this for a weekend picnic or to serve a group of very hungry people with drinks.

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
leaves from a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup plain yoghurt
1 roasted red pepper (from a jar), chopped
2 cups black olives, pitted and chopped
6 sundried tomatoes, chopped
2 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 24cm cake tin. Cook the onion, garlic and herbs in a little olive oil until soft, then set aside to cool slightly.
Beat the eggs, oil and yoghurt together in a large bowl. Stir in the cooked onion and garlic, roasted red pepper, olives, feta and sundried tomatoes. Sift the flour and baking powder over the top and gently combine. Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 40-50 minutes. Cool to room temperature before cutting into wedges with a serrated knife. Best eaten on the day you make it, but leftovers can be frozen and successfully taken to work for lunch.