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sourdough bolo levedo with blueberries

These aren’t exactly the 5 minutes of the usual  Breakfast Cereal Challenge recipes, but they’re fast enough for a weekday morning.  We had this batch for breakfast this morning before work. Like everything made of sourdough, the time is not in the doing but in the waiting. It only takes about 20 minutes to make a batch, but the 20 minutes has to be the night before, and you have to start by feeding the starter the morning before.  So you really have to start dreaming of bolo levedo for breakfast a full day in advance. The upside is that you can wake up knowing that you are minutes away from sweet Portuguese muffins for breakfast.

I have (as usual) taken huge liberties with the traditional recipe – real Portuguese cooks should turn away now. The traditional version is made with yeast (though presumably the real traditional ones were sourdough), and if you don’t have a sourdough culture going, you can make them with a yeast dough.  The traditional ones have more sugar too, and no blueberries.

Blueberries are just coming into season and they are hugely healthy – any food with that purple colouring seems to be loaded with antioxidants.  The eggs and cottage cheese add a bit of protein to it too, so it fits the Witches Kitchen definition of healthy well enough to be a regular breakfast rather than a special treat.

The Recipe:

To make 8 English muffin sized bolos.

You need a cup of fed sourdough starter for this recipe, so I start the morning before – take my sourdough culture out of the fridge and feed it a cup of bakers flour mixed with a cup of water. In cool weather, I would pour a cupful into a bowl and leave it covered on my benchtop for the day, and put the rest back in the fridge.  But in these warm summer days I leave it in the fridge for the day and only take the cupful I need out when I get home.

The Evening Before:

fed sourdough starterThe sourdough starter should be nice and frothy as in the picture. Use an eggbeater to beat in

  • 2 eggs
  • a good dessertspoon of raw sugar
  • a good dessertspoon of skim milk powder
  • half a teaspoon of salt

Stir in a cup of bakers flour and tip another cup on the bench top. Knead the dough for a few minutes – enough to incorporate the second cupful, or most of it, and to get a smooth non-sticky dough.

Divide the dough into 8 balls and use a rolling pin to roll each ball out to the size of a saucer.

bolo levedo proved and ready to cookPut a dozen or so blueberries and 2 teaspoons of cottage cheese in the middle of each circle and fold in the edges, squeezing them together to make a ball of dough enclosing the filling.

Place the balls of dough, joins side down, on well oiled plates, cover with a clean tea towel, and leave them to prove overnight. By the morning they should look like this – spread and flattened but  nice and plump and risen to twice the size.

In the Morning

To Fry:

This is the traditional way to cook them.  Heat a heavy lightly oiled frypan.  Slide the bolo off their plates into the pan and cook over a fairly low heat for about 7 to 8  minutes each side until they are golden.

To Bake

You can also bake the bolo, but then they wouldn’t be bolo.  They’re good that way too though. Just put them on an oiled baking tray (instead of the plates). I have an antique gas (not fan forced oven), and in my oven I put them in a cold oven turned up high and bake for 20 minutes till golden. I put a blueberry decoratively in the middle of each of these  and brushed the top lightly with milk before baking.

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garlic mushrooms

The year is rushing towards the end now. I just realised that there are only five more  Breakfast Cereal Challenges  in this series. Wow, that went fast. And, just as with the Muesli Bar Challenge, I don’t feel like I’m anywhere nearly finished.

I’ve been waiting (impatiently) for garlic season to make this recipe.  It’s my very favourite way to eat both garlic and mushrooms.  Garlic and mushrooms are both superfoods, with a wide range of vitamins and minerals including some that are not that common.  They are both among the highest sources for selenium, an essential mineral that is often low, and they both contain phytonutrients that are anti-carcinogens, anti -inflammatory, and generally good for you.  This recipe uses a lot of both.  I’m working at home today, luckily.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – a year’s worth of breakfast recipes based on in-season ingredients, that are quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and that are preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste,  to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal”. The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

The Recipe

The trick with this is that it is a slow braise, not a stir fry – not too slow for breakfast – but it does need a good ten minutes to cook, preferably fifteen for the garlic oils to penetrate right through the mushrooms.

You need a heavy pot or pan with a lid.

  • Put it on a medium heat with a good knob of butter and an equal amount of olive oil.
  • While the butter is melting, chop up lots of garlic (fine) and lots of mushrooms (into slices). I use four cloves per person – a whole corm between the two of us, and half a dozen large field mushrooms each.  The mushrooms will shrink,  so you need a lot more than you think. If you have fresh home-grown garlic, you can use all the tender part of the stem too.
  • As soon as the butter is melted and starting to froth, turn the heat down low. Put the whole lot of the mushrooms and the (raw) garlic in at once and put the lid on. Cook, checking and stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or more.
  • While the mushrooms are cooking, make toast, and chop up a spring onion or two.
  • Towards the end of the mushroom cooking time, take the lid off if necessary to evaporate the juices. Add the spring onion, a dash of soy sauce, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
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It looks like dessert rather than breakfast doesn’t it?

My daughter came home from a sleepover at a friend’s house when she was little, with a very exciting story to tell.  They had apple pie and custard, for dinner, first! And apparently they did it often in her friend’s house and why couldn’t we have just dessert for dinner?

Once I established the details, I thought, why not?  It was home-made real apple pie with wholemeal crust, with real egg custard.  A perfectly balanced nutritious dinner.

We don’t often have dessert for dinner, but I quite like dessert for breakfast.  Real egg custard is sooooo easy, I really don’t get custard powder. Eggs are also a superfood, high in protein, B12 and choline, which is brain food.

The Recipe:

There are lots of methods for custard.  This is my super simple, working morning fast method.

For one – multipy by the number of serves.

  • Put ¾ cup of milk  in a pot with one teaspoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of (real) vanilla essence.  Low fat milk works fine, as does soy milk or oat milk, and I like to substitute treacle for sugar, though it does make the custard a dark colour.
  • Heat till it is very hot, just before it starts to rise.
  • While it is heating, blend together one medium egg and a good teaspoon of cornflour (or corn starch in USA).  I use a stick blender, but you can use a blender, food processor, or an egg beater (though the latter means you need a helper for the next bit).
  • With the blender going, pour the hot milk into the egg.
  • Tip the mixture back into the pot and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for literally one minute until it thickens.
That’s it.  Now why on earth would you use custard powder?
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(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – a year’s worth of breakfast recipes based on in-season ingredients, that are quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and that are preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste,  to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal” .The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)
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If you don’t grow them, you probably don’t know garlic scapes.  They’re the best bit of the garlic plant, and since so much of our garlic is imported from China, a bit that is not often seen in shops or markets.  Around this time of year, garlic sends up a central flower stalk with a head that is filled with tiny bulbils of mild, sweet garlicness.  The whole stalk is edible, hard to describe but a bit like garlicky asparagus in flavour maybe? Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial has a recipe for pistou, which I’m planning to try with the next ones I pick.  This lot went straight into scrambled eggs for breakfast.

The Recipe:

Good wholemeal toast on.

A little olive oil or butter in a heavy pan on a medium (not too high)  heat.

Chop the scapes, head and all, fairly fine and add to the olive oil.

Chop and add any other vegetables. To my taste, scapes are perfect with broccoli, pea shoots, spinach, tomatoes.

Use a fork to lightly beat an egg or two with a little plain yoghurt and some salt and pepper.  (The trick with scrambled eggs is not to over-beat the eggs).

The second trick with scrambled eggs is just enough and not too much scrambling (or they go watery).

And the third trick is just enough and not too much cooking.

Let them cook for a minute, then as they start to set but before they start to brown, give them a little stir, then leave again, stir, turn out onto the toast.

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It’s unusual spring weather this year.  Much cooler and wetter than normal, the result of another La Ninã pattern in the Pacific and positive dipole in the Indian Ocean.  It’s perfect weather for slugs and snails.  Here I am with the best strawberry patch for a few years, the reward for getting it together to pot up runners in midsummer last year, replant them in a well composted spot last autumn, and mulch them heavily in early spring.  And it has to go and be perfect slug weather.  Not fair!

Each morning early I’ve been picking strawberries, half for the chooks, slugs and all, and half for me.  Luckily half is as many as we can eat, but it does seem very decadent for the chooks to be getting a punnet of strawberries a day! I’m thinking I should put out some beer-traps.

The Recipe:

Use an egg beater to beat one small egg per person with just a little bit of milk.

Dip slices of good bread in the egg mix and  fry in a little butter or macadamia oil until they are crispy golden.

While the french toast is cooking, hull and halve the strawberries and put them in a bowl with just a teaspoon per person of honey and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. (Maybe I am weird, but I like a grating of black pepper too. )   Toss through to coat the strawberries.

As soon as the toast comes out, turn the heat off and while the pan is still hot, toss in the strawberries marinade and all.  Cook for just half a minute or so, just to warm and glaze the strawberries, then tip them out onto the toast.

Serve with a dollop of plain yoghurt.

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(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – a year’s worth of breakfast recipes based on in-season ingredients, that are quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and that are preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste,  to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal” .The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

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This one is cheating really.  It’s not a new recipe at all. It’s just Broad Beans on Toast blended. We are still picking lots of broad beans but it is getting towards the end of the season, and there’s been six weeks now when, if I ask  “what would you like for breakfast?” the answer is inevitably, unequivocally, eagerly “broad beans”.

They are my partner’s very favourite breakfast, which creates a problem.  I can’t get past the flavour combination of fresh broad beans (fava beans) with lemon, garlic, onion and olive oil.  And he can’t get past broad beans.  How many ways can you do broad beans with lemon, garlic, onion and olive oil? This way makes an appearance a couple of times a week.

Broad beans are a good source of low GI complex carbs, protein, and fibre, which means that they keep your blood sugar stable for a long time, so quite apart from the  l-dopa, a broad bean breakfast makes you feel good all day.

The Recipe:

Makes enough for two breakfast bowls.

It’s fastest in a pressure cooker, but a pot with a tight lid is fine.

Saute an onion, diced, in a good swig of olive oil.  When the onion is starting to brown, add

  • two (or more) cloves of garlic, crushed,
  • a cup of shelled broad beans, (I don’t double-peel – too finicky for me, and the fibre in the outer bean is the bit that’s really good for you).
  • a cup of water,
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a grinding of black pepper
  • and a good pinch of salt

Bring to pressure and pressure cook for 5 minutes, or put the lid on and simmer for 10 minutes watching it at the end.  You want the beans to be very soft in just a little liquid.

While it is cooking, make some toast and cut into dipping fingers.

Tip the broad beans into a blender, or use a stick blender to blend to a thick dip consistency. Taste and adjust the salt and lemon juice.

Serve with soldiers for dipping for breakfast or for supper, or, they also work well like this as a side dish with meat (reminiscent of mushy peas), or cold as a dip or spread.

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(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – a year’s worth of breakfast recipes based on in-season ingredients, that are quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and that are preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste,  to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal” .The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

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If  you’ve been following The Breakfast Challenge then you’ll know I’m a bit ambivalent about porridge.  I’m trying to like it.  Oats for breakfast are hugely healthy – low GI, cholesterol busting,  lots of  B vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – but regular old porridge is a bit bland for my tastes, unless it’s loaded up with brown sugar and cream, which sort of defeats the purpose.

So this is my kind of porridge – porridge with the flavours cranked right up.  But it needs a warning. Half the people I’ve tried it with love it (including me), half find it too confronting.  I think the test is, do you like pickled ginger? Or crystallized ginger? That sweet-hot combination? Then you will probably like this.

I’ve also added my recipe for skim milk yoghurt.  There are quite a few good recipes for yoghurt online, including Christine at Slow Living Essentials and Rhonda at Down To Earth.  I’ve avoided posting mine because I’m not sure which bits are really necessary to make it work and which bits are superstition!  But someone asked me in a Comment for my Skim Milk Yoghurt recipe, so here it is.

First the Spiced Strawberry Porridge Recipe:

For a single serve:

In a small pot, over a medium heat (too high and it will boil over) cook for around 5 minutes:

  • 1/3 cup plain (not quick) rolled oats 
  • 2 cups of water
  • ¼ teaspoon of finely grated fresh ginger (start with ¼ – I like a bit more)
  • 1 good teaspoon of honey
  • good pinch salt
  • good pinch freshly ground black pepper ( Not as strange as it seems -strawberries and pepper are a classic combination)
  • little pinch powdered cloves

While it is cooking, hull and halve a cup of strawberries.

When the porridge is nearly thick enough, add the strawberries and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes longer.  You want the strawberries to be just softened and the porridge turning pink.

Serve with a dollop of:

Skim Milk Yoghurt

Ok, this is deceptively simple but there’s lots of chemistry involved.

  • You want skim milk with the whey proteins denatured by heat.
  • You want slightly more milk solids than in regular liquid milk.
  • You want as little dissolved oxygen as possible.
  • You want the yoghurt bug and no others.
  • And you want a nice warm environment for the yoghurt culture to grow in for 10 to 16 hours.

So, my method is to use powdered skim milk.  This already has the the proteins changed in the process of powdering, and I can make it a bit strong.  If you use fresh skim milk, you need to add a spoonful or two of powdered milk, and heat it up till it just starts to rise, then cool it down again.

I mix it fairly gently by shaking, not using a blender or eggbeater, to avoid incorporating air, and once it is made, I leave it right alone – no shaking, stirring or hassling at all.

I use boiled water to mix it, and I sterilized the jar I make it in (by pressure cooking it for 5 minutes) originally, so as to eliminate competition from other cultures.  (I have tank water with no chlorine, so maybe you don’t need to do this.) Then I just make another batch in the same jar, using the last of the last batch as the starter.

And I use a variety of methods to keep it all warm long enough – the warming oven in the wood stove, a wide mouthed thermos filled with hot water, a blanket and the dashboard of the car out in the sun.

The Recipe (Adapt to Suit)

If you are making it for the first time, sterilize a jar and its lid.  Once you have a jar going, you can just keep using it.

In the sterile jar, put

  • 2 big spoonfuls of plain yoghurt from your last batch, or bought yoghurt of a similar kind (I used Yalna Low Fat Greek Yoghurt)
  • ½ cup of skim milk powder, plus 2 dessertspoons more powder.  I make these last two spoonfuls full cream milk powder, just to add that little bit of richness, but it works with all skim milk powder.
  • 1½ cups of boiled water, cooled to just a bit warmer than “baby bath” temperature.

Put the lid on and tip the jar upside down then up again enough times to dissolve the powder and the yoghurt, without getting it all frothy.

Tip a kettle full of nearly boiling water into a wide mouthed thermos and put the jar, with its lid on, in the thermos.  Put the lid on the thermos, wrap the lot in a towel, and leave it sit without disturbance for 8 hours.  Check. If the water has cooled down, refill the thermos with nearly boiling water and leave it alone again.  It takes between 10 and 16 hours to set, depending, I think, on how vigorous the original culture was.

When it is set you can put it in the fridge, or use it to make labne.  Don’t forget to leave the last two spoonfuls in the jar to make the next batch.

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Mulberry season is so short and so prolific, of all the things I am tempted to make jam from, mulberries are it.  But even mulberries don’t make it these days.

Once upon a time I used to make jam, when I was in my twenties, when I was doing 16 hours a day of physical work, when I was breastfeeding.  Several slices of bread loaded up with jam for breakfast, and another couple to finish off lunch.

But then my kids got to jam-eating age and trying to keep the sugar down and get them to really appreciate the more subtle tastes of fresh fruit, and filling the pantry up with home-made jam seemed a bit contradictory.  I’d make it, then go crook at them for eating it. And without breastfeeding or 16 hours of physical work to peel off the calories,  I lost my sweet tooth, and my partner banned his, so jam tended to just sit decoratively on the shelf for years.

So I stopped making it.

We are lucky.  In our climate there is seasonal fresh fruit available year round.  For a few weeks, mulberries are in everything. The birds get most of them but still there are unlimited amounts.  Then mulberry season is over, but just as the mulberries finish the blueberries start, then it’s on to the early stonefruit, then the grapes and mangoes and lychees and kiwis.  Then the passionfruit, apples and pears, then the mandarins and oranges.

Luckily I didn’t make any marmalade while citrus season was on. Otherwise I’d have to think about not letting it go to waste, rather than put mulberry not-jam on my toast.

The Recipe:

To get a nice variety of texture – whole chunks of mulberry in reduced mulberry syrup – you just need to cook the mulberries for different lengths of time.

Put a small pot on the stove with just a teaspoon of water and a little squeeze of lemon juice to start it off. Pinch the stem off and add mulberries one by one, giving it a stir every so often.  Add a teaspoon of sugar for each half cup of mulberries, just to get it turning jammy. As they cook, the mulberries will release juice, and at the same time evaporate off water.  So the amount of liquid should stay fairly constant and low.   Stop when you have enough or you run out of mulberries. The purple will wear off your fingers in a few hours, but don’t try this in a white shirt.

It will keep in the fridge for a while.  I really don’t know how long.  I’ve never tested it beyond a few days. But it is fast to make so I tend to just make what I need.

To make the yoghurt cream cheese, just leave some yoghurt (I use my homemade skim milk yoghurt) to strain through a fine cloth in the fridge overnight.  In the morning you will have yoghurt cream cheese in the cloth and an almost clear liquid strained out.  Transfer it to a clean jar and it will keep in the fridge for several days.

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This recipe is a riff on Mollie Katzen’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest, or at least it owes some heritage to that inspired combination of broccoli, lemon, eggs and cheese – which you wouldn’t think would work but it so does.

I’m still picking lots of broccoli side shoots every day and using every broccoli recipe in the repertoire to get through them. Luckily broccoli is a super food and you can’t eat too much of it –  huge amounts of calcium, folate, antioxidants (including one that’s good for protecting against macular degeneration), and  cancer preventative phytochemicals.

I remember when I first started gardening being amazed how productive broccoli is.  The supermarkets only ever sell the first big head, but that’s just a fraction of the harvest. The broccoli is the unopened flowers, and the plant is trying to get them open and fertilised by the bees, so it can set seed. Once the first head is cut, the plant has another go at flowering with side shoots.  So long as I can keep cutting, they will keep trying.  The buds get smaller and smaller, but you can keep them going for ages. The small buds are perfect for recipes like this.

The Recipe:

Two big serves.

To do this weekday morning fast…

  • Chop two cups of broccoli into flowerettes.
  • Put a medium sized heavy frypan on to heat up with a little olive oil.
  • Chop the white part of two spring onions and add to the pan.
  • Stir for a minute, then add the broccoli, then most of the spring onion greens.
  • Squeeze in
    • the juice of quarter of a lemon
    • a good grinding of black pepper.
    • and add just a dessertspoon of water
  • Put the lid on the pan and let the broccoli cook in its own steam for about 3 minutes, till it has just lost it’s crunch.
  • Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, blend
    • 3 eggs,
    • 3 big dessertspoons of low fat cottage cheese,
    • and just a dessertspoon of milk.
  • Give the broccoli a stir, then pour the egg mix evenly over it.  Turn the heat down low and put the lid back on. Cook for about 3 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, put some toast on to cook, turn the griller on to heat up, and grate a little sharp cheddar cheese.
  • Sprinkle the cheese over the top and put the pan under the griller.  Grill until the cheese is melted and golden.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal”. I’m going for a year’s worth of breakfast recipes, based on in-season ingredients, quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and  preferable, in nutrition, ethics, andtaste.  The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

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