Phthalates In Food- When Labelling Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story

Over the summer months I’ve been reading rather than writing. I’m currently reading Nate Silver’s ‘The Signal And The Noise’, which is a fascinating look at the world of Big Data; not really the sort of thing I discuss here, but I would highly recommend it none the less. What might be more relevant to my readers however is a book which has made a huge impression on myself and my family; it has changed the way we look at many foods and has genuinely altered the way we source and cook ingredients. Continue reading

Chickpea Burgers With Sourdough Buns

To me nothing signifies summer so much as our little apple buds beginning to swell.
To me nothing signifies summer so much as our little apple buds beginning to swell.

Summer has finally arrived, late and half-hearted as it often tends to be in this corner of the world. Like any red-blooded male I rushed to the supermarket at the first glimpse of a clear sky yesterday and bought up most of their stock of charcoal, as well as enough meat to feed a small army, which was supposed to last us the whole weekend. In my enthusiasm to get grilling last night I somehow managed to cook all the sausages, chicken legs and homemade burgers at one sitting (standing?). What’s more, the rest of the family also seemed to get caught up in Barbecue Fever and, indulging their inner carnivores, managed to scoff more or less the entire mountain of meat.

Feeling a little the worse for wear after last night’s meat binge (which I admit may have been washed down by an ale or two), I figured we needed to have a vegetarian day, and these protein-rich chickpea burgers with their soft sourdough buns always go down a treat. They’re also really easy to prepare. I like to serve them with a good dollop of sweet chilli sauce, but they’d be equally good with some mayonnaise. Our raised vegetable beds are just beginning to produce some lovely salad leaves as well, which make for a beautiful light side dish.

For The Sourdough Buns (makes 6):

75g sourdough starter (here’s how to make it)

300g strong white bread flour

170g milk

10g soft butter

3g salt

8g honey

1 medium egg

Around 9 hours before you plan to eat, combine all your ingredients and knead thoroughly by hand or (preferably) with a mixer and dough hook until you have a very smooth, soft dough. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and stretch and fold it, forming it into a ball with a smooth surface. Place smooth side up in a clean lightly oiled bowl and cover. Allow to ferment for around 6 hours at room temperature.

Again, turn out onto a floured surface and divide and shape into 6 small balls of dough. Using the palm of your hand pat each of these down until they are no more than 1cm thick, then place in a greased baking dish and cover for their final proof. After around an hour, brush the tops of the buns with an egg white and place in a preheated oven at 190C (375F) for 20 minutes.

Remove from the baking dish and allow to cool on a wire rack for about an hour before serving.

Sourdough buns all set for the oven.

For The Chickpea Burgers:

80g breadcrumbs- sourdough of course!

480g chickpeas (cooked from dry or 2 drained tins)

1 small onion

2 egg yolks

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

1 heaped tsp cumin powder

1 level tsp paprika

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp harissa paste (more or less to taste)

Salt & pepper

1 plum tomato, deseeded and chopped

Preheat your oven to 220C (430F).

Using a blender, puree half the chickpeas with the rest of the ingredients except the tomato. Place the puree in a bowl and mix in the remainder of the chickpeas and the tomato, keeping them intact. Using your hands, form the mixture into 6 patties (squeeze them tight!), and place them on a well-oiled baking sheet.

Bake the burgers for 15 minutes, turning them over after 10 minutes. Serve in your sliced cooled buns with the topping of your choice and enjoy the taste of summer.

Delicious healthy vegetarian burgers, served with fresh sourdough buns, potato salad, and homegrown greens.


Easy Sourdough Pizzas With No-Cook Tomato Sauce

I would imagine that pizza ranks highly on most peoples’ list of favourite foods, it certainly does in our house, and Saturday is generally pizza night in Chez Nous. It’s always a hit with our little people, particularly when they get to choose and arrange their own toppings. Homemade bases are always so much better than store-bought, but if you have your sourdough starter up and running you can take this to a whole new level Continue reading

Clonakilty Black Pudding & Porridge Sourdough

20150515_223959I found myself in the Cornucopia that is Cork’s English Market the other day, and with Conor Bofin’s recipe for pork belly fresh in my mind, I headed straight for the butcher’s counter. I somehow seemed to end up with the porcine equivalent of Giant Haystacks, and I anticipated significant quantities of leftovers, so I was in need of a bread which would make the most of the belly sandwiches to follow. Sticking with the leftovers theme, the inspiration (and ingredients) for this recipe came from my kids’ breakfast dishes yesterday morning. Continue reading

San Francisco Sourdough – The Insomniac’s Version

Having been subjected to a general anaesthetic for knee surgery the day before, my circadian rhythm was clearly struggling to re-establish itself yesterday morning. Bright as a lark, I found myself perusing recipes and blogs on the cursed ever-present smartphone. One of my favourite sourdough bloggers is dmsnyder on, and I was taken by his San Francisco sourdough with added wholewheat, which looked and sounded divine. My drug-addled brain calculated that I would have just enough time to squeeze in a bake before heading back to bed in around 21 hours time, so slipping on my dressing gown, I glided (hobbled) downstairs to get to work. Continue reading

Unapologetically Onion & Parmesan Sourdough

We’re currently ‘enjoying’ a typical Irish May; with summer on the horizon the winds have picked up, and although the newly planted shrubs in the garden would probably benefit from the heavy rain, I think they are too preoccupied with recovering from the previous night’s frost to be able to make the most of it. Any thoughts of food still revolve around hearty, warming dishes and salad season feels like it’s months away. And so, when planning the weekend’s menu for the family, soup was an obvious choice for one of our lunches. Not just any soup, but peppery, meaty oxtail soup which I adore.

Now there’s nothing wrong with a good oxtail soup and crusty white sourdough, but I really fancied coming up with something much more robust which could hold its own against a bowl of liquid beef. This onion and parmesan combination sounded good in my head, and it didn’t disappoint on the table either. The aroma as it bakes is just gorgeous, but this bread is not for the faint-hearted. It really does deliver on the flavour front. Continue reading

Sourdough And The Real Bread Movement

2015-06-08 12.13.38Bread is a staple foodstuff; one which most of us eat and feed to our families on a daily basis. Bread produced through slow fermentation using a mixed population of yeast and bacteria has been an important part of our diet for millennia. But bread has changed over recent decades, and the product you will now find on most supermarket shelves bears very little resemblance to ‘real’ bread which can be produced in a less industrialised setting. For reasons of aesthetics, extending shelf life, shortened production time, and improved machinability (reducing wear and tear on factory machinery), most retail bread has been subjected to chemical processing and refinement which has robbed it of its flavour, texture, and most importantly much of its nutritional benefit. Continue reading