oatmeal with almond milk

oatmeal with almond milk
A delicious bowl of oatmeal with almond milk.

My beautiful sister is a medical doctor, yoga teacher and busy business owner who, in addition to being an all-round nice person and a luxury handbag addict, runs a holistic health programme based on a blend of science and Eastern philosophy. Through the process of thought, movement, physical care and spiritual nourishment, the Global Goddess Project aims to encourage people to live healthier, more fulfilling lives.

And what could be a better way to begin that life than with oatmeal?

breakfast oatmeal
It takes just five minutes to make oatmeal.

Oatmeal is one of those beloved breakfast stalwarts you probably grew up with. On cold wintry days before the house had quite lost its chill, I would shiver my way into the kitchen and scant minutes later, sink into a pile of oats that warmed me from the inside out. It was not quite enough to make up for the fact that I was no longer snuggled under my doona, but it was a comforting consolation.

oats
Hay there. Remember us?

If you need further motivation to embrace oatmeal, just think about the fact that oats are one of the best foods you could possibly eat. Oats are high in insoluble and soluble fibre, including a specific type of soluble fibre called beta-glucans, which are proven to lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. They’re low-GI, which means they are digested slowly and are an excellent choice for diabetics.

Oh, and they’re naturally gluten-free. More oats for everyone, I say!

If you’re looking for a breakfast that you can have on a detox, low-stress or immunity-boosting diet, look no further. The almond milk makes it dairy-free and the blueberries, which are high in vitamins C and K as well as cancer-fighting flavonoids, are tasty as well as being extremely good for you.

So take five minutes at the start of your day to treat yourself well. Don’t you deserve it?

oatmeal
It’s like a big hug at breakfast.

Oatmeal with almond milk
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup water
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tbsp honey
Small handful blueberries

Place the oats and water in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until the water has been absorbed.

Add the almond milk and cook the oatmeal for 4 minutes, or until the milk has been absorbed and it achieves a thick consistency.

Stir through the honey and blueberries. Oh, and don’t forget to soak the oatmeal pan immediately – removing hardened oatmeal is a soul-destroying experience.

A few notes about oats.
Rolled vs steel-cut: the difference here is in the process. Rolled oats are de-husked, steamed, rolled and then lightly toasted. Steel-cut oats are chopped before steaming so they retain bits of the bran layer. They’re chewier, taste nuttier, have a slightly lower GI profile and typically take longer to cook (about 30 minutes on the stovetop). You can pre-soak them overnight to reduce the cooking time if you want to use steel-cut oats.

Gluten-free: oats are naturally gluten-free, but can be cross-contaminated during growing if they’re next to wheat fields. If you’re gluten-intolerant, you can buy gluten-free oats that have been certified through growth and production as being free from gluten.

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sweetcorn pancakes with bacon

Oh Sunday brunch, will you ever stop with your loveliness?
Oh Sunday, will you ever stop with your loveliness?

There’s something impossibly lazy about a Sunday morning. I’m always reluctant to wake, generally unwilling to leave the sanctuary of the doona covers, but Sunday beckons to me nevertheless, murmuring of long coffees and longer brunches in the soft sunlight, hinting at mellow, gentle laughter and promising peaceful moments of perfect happiness.

And who am I to resist Sunday’s siren song?

Corn pancakes with bacon: the perfect Sunday brunch.
Corn pancakes with bacon: the perfect Sunday brunch.

It’s tempting to make something quick and easy like bagels, but if I’m feeling particularly motivated I like to make something indulgent and special for Sunday brunch. I love these corn pancakes – they’re basically a savoury variation of the American pancakes I made a few weeks ago. They might, in another lifetime, be called corn fritters, but I tend to think that fritters are deep-fried and crunchier, whereas these darlings are soft and fluffy, punctuated with sweet bursts of sunshine from golden kernels of corn.

They are best served with bacon and avocado, and I added a dab of crème fraîche and a splash of really good balsamic vinegar. You could also try something sharp like a citrusy salsa or springy relish. I did poach an egg to go on top, but don’t trouble yourself. In the end, I think it’s enough to go with the pancakes and bacon.

Rivers of rich egg yolk gliding down mountains of golden pancakes.
Rivers of rich egg yolk gliding down a mountain of golden pancakes.

My Sunday plans: feast well, then spend the rest of the day groaning under the immense weight of my own epicurian satisfaction.

Corn pancakes with bacon (makes 6)
225g plain flour (1½ cups)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1 pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
30g butter, melted and cooled
300ml milk (1¼ cups)
400g tin of corn kernels, drained
2 spring onions, finely chopped
6 rashers of bacon

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together.

Add the eggs, butter, milk, corn and spring onions and mix well.

Let the mixture stand while you heat a non-stick pan to a medium heat. Add a ladleful of batter. When bubbles start to form on the surface (about 2-3 minutes), you can flip and cook on the other side.

Depending on how crispy you like it, you can start cooking the bacon when there’s two pancakes left to cook (I like it crispy but not tough, which takes about 6 minutes under a grill or on the stovetop). Serve together with lamb’s lettuce, balsamic vinegar and crème fraîche.

pancake saturday

What's your favourite pancake topping?
What’s your favourite pancake topping?

Saturday is undoubtedly my favourite day of the week. Blissfully free of the Monday to Friday grind and yet lacking those Sunday blues that can descend on the day-before-you-go-back-to-work, Saturday is a friend that brings with it a sleep-in, morning coffee and a deep sense of relaxation.

To me, there’s no better day to have pancakes.

Pancake Saturday may not be as famous as Shrove Tuesday, but since I work full time and have neither the ability nor the desire to get up at 6am to make pancakes on the appropriate day, I postponed. And oh, the wait was worth it.

I defy you to stop at just one.
I defy you to stop at just one.

I’ve made gluten free pancakes before, but this recipe, taken from Nigella, is strictly traditional; it makes thick, sponge-like American pancakes and I even used white flour and everything (I did substitute dark muscovado sugar for the white sugar, but that was purely a matter of what I had in the cupboard).

There are rumours that you can make a pretty darn good pancake with wholemeal flour, and that’s what I’ll be trying next.

A veritable cascade of syrup.
A veritable waterfall of syrup.

American pancakes
225g plain flour (1½ cups)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1 pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
30g butter, melted and cooled
300ml milk (1¼ cups)

Take the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, sugar and salt – and mix in a bowl.

Make a well in the centre and pour in the wet ingredients – eggs, butter and milk.

Mix together briefly and let the mixture stand as you heat the frypan. The batter will look fairly runny, but it puffs up in the pan.

Oil the pan and dollop a small amount of batter onto the surface. Wait until the surface bubbles and then you can flip the pancake and cook for a minute on the other side.

the hangover brekkie

Minimum fuss. Maximum comfort.
Minimum fuss. Maximum comfort.

Let’s be honest: is there anything better than a drink or two with friends after a difficult week?

I salute those of you going through Dry January, I really do. But it seems like everyone I know is reluctant to accept the fact that the festivities of the Christmas period have passed, and have carried on merrily arranging dinners, drinks, events and celebrations all to be accompanied by vast quantities of wine or colourful cocktails.

And who am I to resist the siren call of the grain and grape?

Of course, nights out on the town don’t come without a cost, and the morning after can be a terrible, penitent affair. The food situation can be particularly tricky, with your stomach behaving like a moody teenager; one day it can rebel at the slightest hint of acid, weird textures, odd smells and adventurous tastes, the next it can protest at bland, comforting foods, beg for caffeine and yearn for oil (I inevitably wake up wanting a burger and fries).

I like this particular hangover brekkie because it manages to be comforting and plain without being boring. Also, I generally have the ingredients sitting in the fridge, which is perfect for when you can’t face the long wander down the street to the shops.

The hangover brekkie
2 slices toast
2 tbsp hummus
Half a chorizo sausage
4 eggs
Salt and pepper
Parsley (optional)

Chop the chorizo into small pieces and place in a dry pan over medium heat. Depending on the size of the slices, it can take around 2-5 minutes to cook. You’ll know they’re done when they turn a brilliant red-gold. Remove and place onto a paper towel.

Crack the eggs into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and beat. Place in the pan over a low heat and cook, dragging the spatula through the middle to scramble them. Now would be a good time to put the toast on as well.

When the eggs begin to look sloppy, add the chorizo back to the pan and cook the eggs through.

Spread the hummus on the toast or serve on the side. Top with the eggs and if you have parsley, it will add a fresh, vibrant crunch.

Last but not least, make yourself a cup of tea and think about what you’ve done, and whether there is any photo evidence you’ll need to take care of once you’re back to full strength.

smoked salmon bagels

From fridge to plate in five minutes.
From fridge to plate in five minutes.

Some Sunday mornings you spring out of bed, ready to cook a full English and take on the world (or Oxford Circus) powered by the holy breakfast trinity of eggs, bacon and HP sauce.

Other Sunday mornings, no force, human or divine, could part you from your doona.

This is one of those mornings, and since I’m nursing a cold that, like a bad house guest, just won’t seem to pack up and leave, here is what I ate. Not because I think you need a recipe for something as simple as pouring milk over cereal, but because occasionally we all need a reminder of how deeply satisfying a smoked salmon bagel can be.

Smoked salmon bagels
1 wholemeal bagel (ok, I’ll concede to the sesame seeded kind too)
2 tbsp Philadelphia cream cheese
2 slices smoked salmon

You know what to do. Enjoy your Sunday morning!

almond flour pancakes

Sunday breakfast means pancakes.
Sunday breakfast means pancakes.

What is a Sunday without pancakes? Just another day of the week that ends in ‘y’, obviously.

When I was growing up, there was always a flurry of excitement when pikelets entered the house. Pikelets are really pancakes, but Down Under pancakes are the size of a small dinner plate, whereas pikelets are a neat, manageable handful. Each member of my family pretty much eats them the same way; slathered in peanut butter, or toasted and slathered in peanut butter.

It wasn’t until much later in life that I learned the ‘proper’ way of eating them in Australia is with golden syrup, and by then it was too late – the lifelong habit of eating savoury goods with these little gems had stuck. Eventually I happened upon the Canadian way of eating them with bacon and maple syrup, and it became a close second to the peanut butter breakfast rally.

Pancakes should be light, fluffy and served with something equally delicious.
Pancakes should be light, fluffy and served with something equally delicious.

Of course, making pancakes is pretty simple, but the primary ingredient is flour. Not only do I rarely keep flour in the house (there’s a bad weevil experience behind that), but one of my good friends has recently been diagnosed with both IBS and coeliac disease, and it has been my mission over the past few weeks to look at things she can eat, which is trickier than you might expect.

Coeliac disease is at least consistent, although painful: no gluten, which means no wheat, barley, rye, spelt, flour derived from any of those, nothing that has come into contact with gluten products. Restrictive, but straightforward. Lots of things are marked gluten-free and the label will generally tell you if gluten is present in the product.

IBS is a whole different beast. Following the FODMAP diet seems to help her, but it’s difficult to remember what to avoid. It’s also supremely tough to eat out when you have to avoid onion and garlic and that’s present in almost everything in a commercial kitchen.

I wanted to try out a recipe that would help my buddy put the spark back into her Sunday breakfast. So here it is: taken from about.com, these almond flour pancakes are gluten-free, IBS-friendly, low-carb, easy and very filling.

I probably did not need to eat all four pancakes, but hey, it’s a Sunday.

Almond flour pancakes (makes 4)
Half a cup of almond flour
1 egg
10 drops of liquid stevia (you can substitute with liquid sucralose or just use half a tablespoon of sugar)
1/8 cup of water
1 tablespoon oil
small sprinkle of salt

Warm your non-stick frying pan over medium heat whilst you mix all ingredients together.

Place two tablespoons of mixture into the pan. The good thing about this is that it doesn’t spread far, so if your pan is big enough you can do two at a time.

The pancake needs about 2-3 minutes on the first side before you flip it. They don’t really bubble the same way a pancake does, but you’ll know when it’s ready to turn because the edges will become lighter as they cook – once the pancake has a white ring all the way around, it’s ok to flip. It will need about a minute on the other side.

Serve with bacon, peanut butter or if you must, drizzled with golden syrup, and relish the Sunday-morning feeling.

The perfect Sunday breakfast.
The perfect Sunday breakfast.

A note about cooking for coeliacs: this is probably an obvious point but if you’re cooking for a coeliac, make sure the pan, all your utensils and crockery are ultra-squeaky-clean. The slightest bit of gluten can make them seriously ill.

perfect poachies

Breakfast: one of the three most imporant meals of the day.

There’s something very special about poaching. I think it’s mainly because it’s such a precarious process and one we generally prefer to leave to cafes with experience in that kind of thing. After all, it involves breaching the protective barrier of the shell and expecting the whites to hold together and surround the yolk in an aesthetically-pleasing fashion while you simmer it in a pan of hot water – honestly, we don’t expect much, do we?

I’m not going to get holier-than-thou about free range eggs, because it’s not as if I haven’t bowed to cost pressures and bought cage eggs before. But for poachies, there is simply no alternative. You have to use the free range kind, which have better shells so they’re less likely to explode in the pan when you boil them. They also tend to be larger, more flavoursome and upon consuming them, you achieve a nice halo effect that only comes with doing the humane thing and being able to feel virtuous about it.

Little beauties. Aren’t you gorgeous?

The other non-negotiable factor is the freshness of the egg. If you don’t have super fresh eggs – they’re not always easy to get in London – you should consider scrambling, frying, hard-boiling or half-boiling your little loved ones. Either that, or lower your expectations. The albumen in fresh eggs clings to the yolk better and will help you to achieve that nice ‘whole egg’ look. Once they’re a few days old, it begins to pull away and it makes it difficult to keep the team together.

Poached Eggs
2 large free-range eggs
Vinegar

Half-fill a pan with water and bring to a low boil. Add a splash of vinegar – don’t worry, you won’t be able to taste it. It just helps the shells not to crack when you boil eggs (incidentally, if you’re hard-boiling, the vinegar will stop the shells from splitting and leaking egg white into the pan).

Using a slotted spoon, gently lower the two eggs into the pan. Boil for 20 seconds and rescue.

Using a fork to split the shell, break one egg into a shallow dish. The white should just have begun to take on a translucent sheen.

Being an egg ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Make sure the water is on a low simmer – steam should be rising from the pan, but the water shouldn’t be moving very much. An occasional bubble is good. Hold the dish over the water and gently slip the egg into the pan. The way it falls is the way it sets, so be careful!

In a perfect world, every egg would poach like this.

A soft-poached egg takes approximately 2-3 minutes. If your pan is large enough and your egg seems to be holding it together nicely, do the other egg on the other side of the pan. Otherwise, cook your egg for 2 minutes and place into iced water to stop the cooking process while you take care of the other eggs. Before serving, dip it into hot water for 30 seconds.

And hey, don’t worry so much if your egg whites run everywhere. If it’s just for you, nobody will know – and if you’re cooking for other people, they’re probably just happy they’re not the ones at the stove.