Banana & Blueberry Walnut Cake – Unprocessed – Extracted-Sugar-Free

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The last banana/walnut cake I had eaten was been pretty delicious, but unfortunately I found out it had some maple syrup and coconut oil, and was risen using baking powder. This means extracted sugar, fat and an artificial salt. That was too bad! But…on the good side, it was based on whole oats and bananas. That kept me pretty excited to make an irreproachably clean one since that day, and at long last, I did! See above!

“But…walnuts?”
We had walnuts (and others nuts) in the pantry that we have been barely touching since learning about how nuts are actually not all that great for health despite their being “whole-food fats”, especially when they’re so easy to abuse. It was a matter of time until we’d figure out ways to finish our stock in a way that wouldn’t be detrimental to our health…you know…like a raw cake! I can’t think of a better use for walnuts than in this cake. Even as little as 50g in one whole cake loaf makes a gorgeous difference. Trust me, you will feel the walnut taste! It’s wonderful without too.

muffin_inside_610“Rising a cake without baking powder nor baking soda?”
Yes Ma’am, Yes Sir!
How to use the walnuts being sorted out, I still had to figure out the right good dough consistency to improve on my previously tacky/goey cakes, and tadaaa…

Yeast just works. You just need to embrace a different relationship to time, and opt-out from instant-everything…Spend some quality time with your loved ones, or enjoy a long hot bath with your favourite music, while this beauty takes its time to rise.

Also, leave the sponge cake expectations in the dungeon, along with refined flours and artificial rising agents (mineral salts) it requires…Those are not food. Yeast is food that can rise other food.
Be thankful for that and make the best of it.

So here is a beautiful cake that uses only whole foods for sweetness, no oil, nor any artificial or sodium-containing ingredients.
This is as unprocessed as it gets folks…and I intend to keep it that way!

Banana & Blueberry Walnut Cake – Unprocessed – Extracted-Sugar-Free
 
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Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole-food, plant-based, no oil, sweetness from whole fruit, no salt
Serves: 1 loaf cake
Ingredients
  • 3 cups of wholegrain rolled oats (300g)
  • ½ cups chickpea flour or besan (40g) – relax, it doesn't give a chickpea taste 🙂
  • 3 tsp instant yeast (or 4 tsp of activated dried yeast, activated in as little water as possible)
  • 5 very ripe bananas (600g of banana flesh)
  • 1 + ½ cups frozen blueberries (180g) optional)
  • ⅓ cup walnuts (50g)
  • Sweet spices to taste (optional, I used 1 tsp of a mix of ground star anise and cinnamon that was sitting around)
  • For sweetening: 1 cup of currants.
Instructions
  1. Blend the rolled oats into a flour. Pour in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add chickpea flour, spices and instant yeast (if you're using that) and combine well.
  3. Peel and mash your bananas with your clean hands.
  4. Use some of the banana mash in the blender with ½ cup of currants and blend, add more banana mash if it's too dry.
  5. Pour back in the mixing bowl, if you're using activated dried yeast add it now, and mix with hands until you get a uniform dough.
  6. Add the frozen blueberries, the other ½ cup of currants (whole), and the walnuts and mix another couple of minutes to incorporate them nicely.
  7. Line your loaf tin with baking sheet, pour batter and let sit until it doubles volume. This will most definitely more than an hour because the frozen blueberries will keep the batter cold for a while, which prevents the yeast from making babies and bubbles. You might be able to save time by thawing first, the blueberries might get mashed and look messier.
  8. When the dough has risen, pre-heat oven at 180°C (360 °F) and bake for about 40 minutes. Use a knife or toothpick, when the cake is done baking, there will be some streaks almost transparent. It it comes out full of whitish dough it needs more baking.
  9. Let cool and enjoy.
Notes
If you are recovering cardiovascular disease or allergic to nuts, just skip the walnuts. I put blueberries and sweet spices so that it still remains exciting without walnuts.
We've had this plain and with our whole-food lemon and orange marmalades. It's delicious!
Finally, this works as a muffin batter too.

 

Burgers Buns and Dinner Rolls – Vegan – Unprocessed

Multi purpose 100% wholemeal breads

Summary

The problem with commercial breads
The solution and what you need to know about the recipe
The recipe
A perfect vegan glaze for your buns

The problem with commercial breads

  • Did you know that the terms “wholemeal” and “whole grain” are not defined by law in most countries?
  • Did you know that a lot of commercial breads that claim to be “wholemeal” have only about 10~25% of wholemeal flour? (the rest being refined white flour)
  • Did you know that it’s common among processed bread makers to use coloring to make bread look browner so they can sell it as wholemeal bread?
  • Did you notice that most “wholemeal” recipes rarely go above 50% of wholemeal flour? (the rest being refined white flour).
  • Did you know what makes the flour white is that only a small part of the wheat grain is extracted, instead of the *whole* grain which far more nutrient dense?
  • Did you know most commercial bread have about 400mg of sodium per 100g (1g salt)? Eating what most people consider “a small amount of bread” means that with bread alone, people would  50% or more of the official warning for the daily upper limits of sodium intake.
  • Did you know that wholemeal flours used commercially are sometimes recomposed wholemeal flours created by combining processed white flour, with extracted pure bran?
  • Have you noticed how commercial breads have more and more unhealthy ingredients in them like dairy, sugar, oil, salt and additives?

Well. Screw aaaaaall of that 🙂 Check my buns:

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Whole foods including whole-grain/wholemeal breads, help prevent, stop, and reverse cardiovascular disease and diabetes and generally have a positive health effect on the 98~99% of people whom are not physically sensitive, or allergic to gluten and grains. Unfortunately, the illusion that food is whole, the illusion that the bread is a wholemeal bread or that it is health-promoting do not improve health, they damage it. There is no placebo effect with bread, unfortunately, otherwise many people would be healthier than they are with all the fake and processed wholemeal bread they eat everywhere.

Looking for best brand to buy? Been looking everywhere? Spare yourself, it’s the bread you make at home, from true wholemeal flour or whole grains which you will grind yourself.

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One solution I propose

This bread has 100% wholemeal flour, yeast and water, and that already works. For extra flavour, texture, and presentation, it calls for 6 whole other plants in it (a few more if you care to count the topping grains and seeds or the glaze).

This recipe (below) used the same base as for the Scrumptious Hot Cross Buns, except it skips all the spices and dried fruit and keeps everything else that makes a bread extra good.

Rising here relies purely on yeast (remember, baking powders are additives, not unlike an unnecessary supplement in powder form), and a 100% pure wholemeal flour is used. This may work with wholemeal spelt flour too.

I am very happy with these buns, they do rise, they’re nice and bouncy. Heads-up to whose new to whole foods: They’re high-density in every way, nutrients and also by weight.

If you are used to breads made of pure refined white flours that are made fluffy and light using mineral chemicals like baking powders and what not, you will definitely find this relatively “heavier” in every way.

It is absolutely normal for true wholemeal breads to be denser.

You might want to make slightly smaller burgers buns than people usually have because they’re quite filling.

I came across so many people, books and blogs (from top bakers sometimes!) saying “bread *needs* salt” (otherwise black hole), “yeast breads *must* have some salt”, “you *can’t* make a bread with pure wholemeal flour”

Nonsense. Look at this. These breads exist, so it must be possible, and I’m certainly not the first person to prove the dogmas wrong.
Just plants, water, yeast. Drops the mic and leaves! (to eat some bread).

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Recipe for Burger Buns & Dinner Rolls

Burgers Buns and Dinner Rolls – Vegan – Unprocessed
 
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Against popular (and expert) belief, it is possible to make bread with 100% of wholemeal flour. Even better, it bread can be done without salt too and taste good. All it takes a different process which I've managed to figure out with a fair deal or trial and error. It's all about rising time and flavour. Wheat flour has a strong wheaty taste so it helps to mask it with the help of fruit and maybe a hint of fennel. Fruit in bread? Oh yes, try and see for yourself!
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole foods, plant-based, no oil, no salt, no sugar
Cuisine: International
Serves: ~1kg of bread
Ingredients
Flours and yeast
  • 625 g wholemeal wheat flour (spelt should work too)
  • 5 tsp active dried yeast
Liquids
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) warm water for the yeast
  • 180ml (3/4 cup) warm soy milk (or other non-dairy) milk (might work with water or other truly unprocessed food)
Fruits
  • 125 g of sugar-free applesauce
  • Oil replacement to hold moisture: 3 Tbsp of {date or prune} paste . To make that paste: 1 cup of {dates or prunes} + ½ cup of water and blend
  • 2 blended oranges* (remove seeds first)
  • Binding: 3 egg replacers (3 Tbsp of flaxseed, mixed with 6 Tbsp of water. Mix and let sit for 2 minutes to absorb)
Instructions
  1. Combine yeast with the 60 ml of lukewarm water and let stand for 15 minutes to allow yeast to activate. It will will form small bubbles and begin to rise.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine this wet mixture: warm milk, apple purée, {date or prune} paste.
  3. In separate bowl, pour the flour, and if you want, some fennel seeds for flavour.
  4. Pour the yeast in the flour, mix, add the liquids and mix a few minutes until no flour is dry.
  5. Add egg replacer.
  6. Knead mixture (hand or dough hook) for 10 minutes or until springy to touch, whichever comes first.
  7. Transfer to a large bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave to rise for about 1 hour.
  8. After rising, pour on a bench and roll like a baguette to cut even-sized buns. Divide into 12-16 pieces for small bread rolls, or in ~9 to make burger buns. Roll to form each piece into a smooth ball. Place on lined baking tray.
  9. Cover with damp cloth and leave in warm place (like a warming drawer) for a further 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 170 degrees C (340 degrees F) for 15 minutes before baking.
  10. Bake for 25~30 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool on wire rack.
  11. If you would like a shiny effect on your breads to eventually stick some grains and seeds on top, check out the Veglaze (amaranth-based vegan perfect substitute for egg-wash).
Notes
Note 1: Instead of a bowl, I like to spread a layer of prune/date paste on a baking sheet, line a large pot with it, and put in my dough to rise, prevents sticking.

Note 2: I find that some extra lemon or lime juice really help with flavour in salt-free breads. It whips the tongue with a sour tang that reminds of sourdough and makes the tongue alive and happy enough to not need salt.

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A perfect vegan “egg wash” for perfect burger buns and breads

In a previous article, I explain my fruitful quest to find a perfect vegan replacement for egg-wash. You can now make burger buns that look exactly like we imagine them: shiny and golden with seeds on top!

Here’s what it does on breads:

veglaze before after

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Scrumptious Hot Cross Buns – Vegan – Unprocessed

 

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I had committed to make Hot Cross Buns last Easter with a friend, but really struggled to find a clean recipe Every recipe out there used: refined white flour, sugar, oil, eggs, dairy and other nutrient-depleted and health-damaging ingredients.

Thankfully, I was lucky to find Sonia Drake’s recipe as a good base using only wholemeal flour and mostly yeast (Thank you Sonia!). That was a good place to start. All I had to do was to wholefoodise it even further, and experiment batch after batch gradually to improve on the recipe.

I’m very happy with the result, so are virtually every single person of 20~30 people I gave them to. Tested and approved!

Here are some highlights of the improvements I’ve made on the original recipe, the recipe below includes them:

  • Nutmeg/mace is not used because of its toxicity, hence no mixed spice.
  • Spice mix made from single ingredients easy to source anywhere.
  • The spices are not the standard blend, so when giving it away, people will enjoy something that won’t taste like the other 500 Hot Cross Buns they had around Easter which all tasted exactly the same.
  • Rising agent is yeast only. Baking powder and salt is not used because unnecessary,processed and/or sodium content.
  • There are a few different barks sold as “cinnamon”. Ceylon cinnamon is used here because more gentle on the stomach than the regular cinnamon (which is Cassia cinnamon).
  • Whole vanilla bean was preferred to liquid vanilla extract. At 1$ extra for 12~16 buns, it was totally worth it!

Hot Cross Buns – Vegan – Unprocessed
 
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Total time
 
1 hour total of preparation and active work. 1 hour 30 of rising in total. 35~40 minutes of baking. Beginning to end: 3 to 4 hours to be on the safe side.
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole foods, vegan, plant nutrition, no oil, no salt, no sugar
Cuisine: Anglo-Saxon / Christian
Serves: 12~16 buns
Ingredients
The items preceded by ** mean: Prepare ahead of time, for instance the day before baking to keep the baking part fun.
Flours and yeast
  • 625 g wholemeal wheat flour
  • ** 50 g ground whole-grain rolled oats or whole oat flour (for the crosses)
  • 5 tsp active dried yeast (or 4 tsp instant yeast)
Liquids
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) warm water for the yeast
  • 180ml (3/4 cup) warm soy milk (or other non-dairy) milk
Fruits
  • ** 125 g apple puree or sauce (unsweetened)
  • ** Oil replacement to hold moisture: 3 tbsp of {date or prune} paste .
  • To make that paste: 1 cup of {dates or prunes} + ½ cup of water and blend
  • 150 g raisins, roughly chopped
  • 75 g currants (or other favourite of dried fruit)
  • **Grated zest of 1 {spray-free or organic} {orange or lemon}
  • **2 blended oranges (remove seeds first)
Spices (depending on how strong you want the flavour)
  • 1 inch of scraped vanilla bean (eq. of 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 2 tsp or 2 tbsp ground Ceylon cinnamon (or 1~2 tsp Cassia/regular cinnamon)
  • 2 tsp or 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger root (eq. of ~1 tsp ginger powder)
  • ¼ or ½ tsp ground clove
  • ¼ or ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ** Soak raisins, currants and {orange or lemon} zest in orange juice at least 2 hours or overnight.
  • ¼ or ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ or ½ tsp ground coriander seeds
  • Binding
  • ** 3 egg replacers (3 tbsp of ground flaxseed, mixed with 6 tbsp of water. Mix and sit for 2 minutes to absorb)
Instructions
  1. Combine yeast with the 60 ml of warm water and let stand for 15 minutes to allow yeast to activate. This yeast mixture will form small bubbles and begin to rise.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the following wet mixture: warm milk, wet spices (vanilla, grated ginger if used), apple puree, {date or prune} paste.
  3. In separate bowl, combine the following dry mixture: flour and dry spices.
  4. Stir yeast mixture + dry mixture into the wet mixture above. Combine for a couple of minutes until the dry ingredients are wet.
  5. Add egg replacer and lastly mix the soaked fruit.
  6. Knead mixture (hand or dough hook) for 10 minutes or until springy to touch, whichever comes first.
  7. Transfer to a very large bowl or large cooking pot: First lay a film of baking paper with a very thin {date or prune} paste layer spread on it with your hand so the dough later comes off easily. Cover with cling wrap or lid and leave to rise for about 1 hour, it should double in size.
  8. After this rising, roll gently the dough into a uniform cylinder (baguette shape). Divide mixture into 12-16 pieces (depending on how big you want the buns) and, roll to form each piece into a smooth ball. Place on lined baking tray, touching each other.
  9. Cover with damp cloth and leave in warm place (like a warming drawer) for a further 30 minutes to rise again. Preheat oven to 170 degrees C (340 degrees F) for 15 minutes before baking.
  10. Mix oat flour with enough water to a thick pancake batter consistency. Put in a piping bag or ziplock with a small cut hole in the corner. Use to draw the crosses just before putting the buns in the oven.
  11. Bake Hot Cross Buns for 25~30 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool on wire rack.
Notes
Serve warm. If not had right out of the oven, always warm up well on the grill before serving.
Lovely and Happy Easter to you!

 

Note 1: To get a shiny glaze on top. I used veglaze (amaranth cooking liquid).

Note 2: For sensitive stomachs, reduce or substitute clove by, for instance, any combination of ground aniseed, ground fennel seed, paprika (non-smoked), ground caraway; all of which regularly appear on various commercial preparations of mixed spices and allspice.

[Recipe] Pacific Spread – Moroccan-style Jackfruit Tuna with Spicy Tomato Sauce – WFPB

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What you’ll end up with

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How it looked before making it taste interesting

When I visited Morocco on family holidays as a child, I spent a fair deal of my pocket money on that no-frills snack: khobz b’sardine. It is Moroccan for a sandwich made of a flat thick whole-meal bread, filled with sardine/mackarel and harissa. Back in the 1990s, it was commonly made on the spot in these charming Arab-style convenience shops called hanout. Is it still? I do not know. What I know is while most canned fish tasted rather gross on its own, that canned fish came in a tomato sauce, and the shop owners (mul hanout) would often add harissa to give it some fire. As a kid, I loved the taste of that stuff.
It was the blissful ignorance of a child that doesn’t know any better just yet.

After a couple of (mostly non-vegan) decades of not having any fish sandwich, I recently got to rediscover the taste and experience of this delicious spread from the oceans, but with a major blissful upgrade. I can now enjoy this as much as I want, without the acidosis, osteoporosis, kidney stones, parasites, salmonella, industrial pollutant poisoning, heavy metal poisoning, obesity, higher cancer and cardiovascular disease risk, without trapping, asphyxiating and killing any fish nor damaging seabeds and biodiversity, nor depleting oceans…in short…this bliss comes without worrying about what eating fish does on human health, and without worrying about what fishing does in general.

It is always only the taste and food experience that people want and crave. Nobody truly wants the immense harm it took to make their favourite food experience possible.

So to bring a bit of positive in a world that could use more, this is the taste and experience, but without the harm. This recipe is indeed low-fat, oil-free, whole-foods and plant-based. For me it’s just a delicious spread, but I designed it to also be fully compatible with a successful process of recovery from heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other life-threatening conditions. For tips to make this even lower in sodium, see note at the bottom of the page.

You can enjoy this Pacific Spread as you want: in a salad, in a sandwich (Tuna Sammies), on crackers, of even as a face mask if that makes you happy 🙂 Enjoy!

Ok, more seriously now, if you want to make a version of this “tuna” that uses mayonnaise (as is commonly done in Western cultures: sammies, etc.) but without compromising on health, check out my low-fat whole-food mayo.

I would like you to play with this recipe, and tell me (most honestly, in the comments below) what you thought, the personal twist you gave it, or what you came up with, etc. I hope you will enjoy making (and eating) it as much as I did!

[Recipe] Pacific Spread – Vegan Tuna with Spicy Tomato Sauce
 
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Total time
 
An visually realistic, home-made, healthy whole-food version of "Vegan Toona" with a delicious tomato sauce, a zest of lemoney Morocco and with a bit of fire to it.
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole-food, plant-based, vegan
Cuisine: International, Moroccan
Serves: ~1 to 1.5 kgs
Ingredients
  • Ahead of time: Soak the sundried tomatoes as described
  • 1 can (~2 cups) of unripe (also called "green") jackfruit, or the equivalent in frozen unripe jackfruit
  • 2 cups of cooked chickpeas (~1 to 2 cans)
  • 1 cup of low-sodium sun-dried tomatoes
  • 10g of nori sheets (about 5 sheets sushi sheets roughly). I insist, nori. DO NOT USE KELP POWDER BECAUSE IT IS DANGEROUSLY HIGH IN IODINE, LIKE MOST RANDOM SEAWEED PRODUCTS.
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice (or lemon juice, we much prefer lime)
  • 2 lemons (for zest only, preferably organic)
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you like hotter than mild spicy)
  • freshly ground mixed pepper
Instructions
  1. Ahead of time: Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in boiling water for at least about 30 min to 1 hour. Overnight in cold water also works.
  2. Chop onions and garlic finely. Put in a pot with a bit of water, cover, and cook until soft on medium (~5 minutes)
  3. Meanwhile zest the lemons, and juice your lime
  4. When the onions and garlic are soft, add vinegar, chilli and cook for 5 more minutes.
  5. Meanwhile chop the (now softened) sun-dried tomatoes and the large chunks of jackfruit then add them in the pot and put just enough water for it to not be too dry and burn, cover, let cook 30 minutes with regular stirring and water additions if needed. Taste and adjust flavours if needed.
  6. Meanwhile, wet the seaweed with cold water until soft, blend it with ½ cup of water.
  7. When the pot is done cooking, set aside let cool.
  8. In a processor with a soft blade (the plastic blade often) the mixture in the pot, the chickpeas, the blended seaweed, the zested lemon, fresh lime juice, and a few turns of ground mixed pepper (to taste). Add water as needed for it to blend.
Notes
To keep the natural stringy texture of jackfruit, do not overblend.
Optimization: You can cut the preparation time down to ~30 minutes by dumping everything in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes, letting cool, then mixing.

 

Want a very low-sodium version?

  1. Substitute the canned unripe jackfruit with frozen unripe (or “green”) jackfruit (generally found in Asian stores). The last we bought actually looked golden yellow while being the unripe form. A less optimal option (higher in salt than frozen) is to soak the raw unripe canned jackfruit in hot water multiple times.
  2. Substituting the generic sun-dried tomatoes by organic, salt-free sun-dried tomatoes or any sun-dried tomatoes you can make at home using sun/dehydrator.
  3. Seaweed can also be desalted greatly by soaking it with multiple cold water changes. This works even better and faster when the seaweed is soaked in fresh water (not salty) right after foraging it yourself.

Thinking Outside the Oil Bottle – Can you solve this puzzle?

It’s almost fascinating how much science and time can be wasted on looking for and perfecting the right way to do the wrong thing. Fascinating…in a concerning way!

At the present time, the debates on (dietary) oil are only one of many such blindfolded colossal efforts to paint the “fine and complex” intricate science of a predictably unhelpful dead-end.

Popular belief and various media regularly bring up the discussions around “Which is oil/fat best for cooking?”, “Which is oil/fat best for salads?” or “Which oil/fat is best for health?”.  How many people take a step back and ask Hold on guys, first of all, do we need added oil any added fats at all?!

I’ve talked about why oil and high-fat are serious health hazards and not compatible with health. For those who understood the “why?” part, I also covered the “how?” part by explaining how we live without oil and high-fat foods.

Today, I want to poke your brains with a…graphic riddle. Mystery is sexy! Are you ready baby? Yes, I just called you baby. Confused? I know. But fear not, you will peel off one by one every layer of this mystery, the truth will be…naked! Ooooh it’s going to be…graphic! Brace yourself, it’s going to get really hot and heavy or perhaps not so heavy at all. In all cases, I hope it stimulates you, and together we can come to the conclusion that oil…is the just the dirty way of doing it, and that if you know what you’re doing and you’re doing it well…you don’t need that stuff.

Alright, more seriously now.

Are you good at solving puzzles? Yes? Then let’s play a game.
It’s a simple puzzle to solve, you can leave your interpretation in the comments if you think you found.

Clue #1: Below is a popular graph compiled by Lifehacker to master the art of using oils [1].

Clue #2: Below that infographic, I just snapped a photo of the front of our very standard (electric) oven at home.

Question: What does that inspire you? (Post in comments)

lifehacker oils fats_610

The various ways of joining the Stroke & Heart Attack club.

oven baking temperatures

Our very basic and standard electric oven.

Think outside the oil box, true “life” hacking starts with caring to preserve and protect life, first and foremost 🙂

Think you found the meaning of this juxtaposition of pictures? => Post in comments.

The debate that wonders “Which oil is the healthiest?” is really is about the same as arguing “Which form of heroin is the healthiest?”. What would be your reaction if there was a debate taken very seriously, and if both your friends and so-called world leading experts on health said “Black-tar heroin is the healthiest choice, because it is the richest in antioxidants. It’s healthiest to not re-use needles”.

Insane?

I know. Talking about “oil for health” is just as insane.

Have you already figured out ways to be happy in your life without heroin? Excellent! Now I’m hoping you solved the above puzzle. If you did, then you have also figured out how to get similar cooking results without cooking oils. A life with a warranty of being heart-attack-proof and stroke-proof is just around the corner for you.

Sources:
[1] The Best Temperatures and Uses for Common Cooking Oils, LifeHacker.com, March 2nd, 2014

Caramelising Onions Without any Oil or Fat – Method #2

If you are looking for a quick short but detailed recipe on a gold platter, wrong house, sorry. You can stay, please do by all means, but I warn: I try more and more to empower people’s sense of self-determination: thinking, finding, deciding things for themselves. You might think “Yeah I love that!”, sure. What that also means is no more detailed “straight-to-the-point” recipes for you, because that falls under spoon-feeding. Okay…maybe I will still write recipes, but that’s not what I want to do here.

This article will display one instance of the process of problem solving. Although you will find cues to make it yourself if you search or try, my point here is to write an article about food innovation, problem solving and advocacy.

A recipe is always the final result of some exploration. It’s the exploration I want to share, and want you to experience for yourself, more than just telling what I found. In other words, life is sculpting, not the sculpture. The relationship I’m comfortable having with you is one where you allow me to respect your potential, intellect, curiosity and sense of self-determination.

There are two ways of solving problems creatively: incrementally, and with a leap.

Incrementally, to solve the problem of caramelising onions without oil, you’d replace oil by added water. One increment further, you would try with no water at all and count on the water in the onions or whatever veggie you are “stir-frying”.

It works, but an avid user of onions, this method gave me some challenges after doing a lot of it: it took too much active time for my liking, involved a lot of stirring and adding water. The result is amazing caramelised onions, but I wondered “Can we do better?”.

Also, I had been chatting with restaurant owners that simply explained to me that oil is used primarily for convenience more than taste. After all, oil is capable of heating up to about 200°C, and because it’s liquid, that “liquid pan” can get anywhere on and in the food and help cook it faster. Recipes talking about caramelising onions typically take about 5 to 10 minutes. So OK, cooks want to get meals ready fast for their hungry customers I totally get that. Now “Can I find something that gives them that convenience and taste, AND at the same time, does not use oil and therefore results in the low-fat foods that prevent the much unnecessary heart disease?

Thinking a bit less incrementally lead to method #2. Now we’re getting the same thing, not doing the same thing.

My strategy was the following, really just using common sense, and more importantly, acting on it. One action leads to a question, that question leads to another action, and so on until you find a way. It pays off almost every single time, not in one try, but overall.

This is how I posed the problem of solving bulk onion caramelizing.

Hypothesises:

  1. People like onions caramelised, We must give them onions caramelised.
  2. The method must not include added fat of any kind
  3. The process must be simple, convenient, easy.

Some question were inescapable:

“Why do caramelised onions taste like caramelised onions?”
Answer: Because they are caramelised?

“What exactly does “caramelising” mean anyway?”
When sugars (not just the extracted/processed ones, even those in whole foods) are exposed to certain temperatures, for certain amounts of time, eventually caramelisation takes place. It changes the way the sugars naturally present in food taste.

“Oh ok…so what are these temperatures then?”
Well since it’s oil we’re trying to replace, how hot does the oil get when it touches the food we caramelise? I ask you, I know the answer. Do search it you will need it to solve a puzzle later.

Now that you have this number in mind, be ready for an epiphany:  solving this puzzle. should give you a wonderful idea.

The result of that idea is this :

_20160724_160711_-CARAMELIZED-ONIONS_-610

CARAMELIZED-ONION_610
“Uh…baked onions already exist, aren’t you re-inventing the wheel?”
True. Baked onions exist. I found out only after, and actually I’m glad I didn’t know about them, it could have held me back, it’s easy *not* to transcend the things we know exist.
Blank sheet of paper, let’s go!
I worked towards something that already exists, putting onions in an oven, whole. Sure…

The novelty here, if any, is not to use this process not to make an oil-free version of baked onions, but as a means to mass produce oil-free caramelized onion. That’s relevant.

In fact, I am happy baked onions already exist! Because if the concept is known to people, I can use that to introduce “baked onions”, only oil-free + as an *ingredient* for anything that needs caramelised onions!

I’d care little even if someone “invented” that use before me (wouldn’t be surprised + don’t care). What I do care about is that things like this *be used* to make people’s lives better. It does not matter who invents what solution. There are more solutions already available than people willing to search and implement them. In order to do some good justice to these solutions, we can’t tell people “just do this, trust me, it will solve your problem”. if a solution was found by thinking for ourselves, that’s the spirit that needs to be spread, not just the solution itself. A lot of the problems we seek to help others solve exist primarily because people are used to spoon-feeding in the first place. Spoon-feeding is what allowed for instance the meat and dairy industry to shove their hazardous products in people’s mouths along with the beliefs that it’s good for us.
The same way you don’t solve violence with violence, you don’t solve the ill-intended spoon-feeding with well-meaning spoon-feeding. Spoon-feeding in itself, is the root problem.
Also, it’s not enough to generate solutions and be critical enough to be able to discriminate the good from the bad ones, we need to individually research solutions, create solutions and most importantly share solutions.

As you can see I intentionally take time to lay down in great detail one “textbook case” of the process that led me to this way of mass-producing caramelized onions and therefore solving an important problem I was facing.

I did not give you the two-line recipe, because I care more about the readers learning to use fully their same brain as mine, in ways that find solutions to their problems. If I can do it, surely anyone can.

“Isn’t oven-caramelising onions a big waste of electric energy?
Well, relatively? Short answer is “No, far from it!”
A regular oven first comfortably one to two trays, at ~15 medium onions per tray. That’s roughly one to two hours (likely, cooking time increases with quantity) for 15 to 30 caramelised onions.
Prior to that I had spent 20 minutes, on medium heat. Slaving over that pot as well, so that was 20 minutes of *my time* too.
Do the maths. My guesstimation right now favours, a lower financial cost than with oil (medical costs included) and all oil-free methods compared: definitely less active human time, and quite possibly less processing energy (electricity, gas, etc). Any objections? Anyone got better? If you have either, please do share. I will be the first trying, using it, and telling people about it!

“I am not much of a reader, and I just realised I had to go through all of this article when you could have just said – Whole onions in oven caramelize – 5 words, boom!”
Again, wrong address, sorry. If it takes a slow reader 15 minutes to read this, I had to go through many, many hours of caramelizing small amounts of onions with sub-optimal, slave-over-the-pot, non-scalable methods, until I got to this. The best possible solutions to complex problems are virtually always of a humiliatingly simple nature. In hindsight it’s always trivial. But this is the truth: complicated incremental solutions can already be difficult to find and require some creativity. Finding simple solutions is actually far more difficult, you will see when you try if you haven’t tried already. And what’s even more difficult than this, is teaching that kind of problem solving, instead of teaching the solutions.

[Recipe] Tomato sauce for Pizza – Low-fat – Unprocessed

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As a kitchen-unskilled 20-year-old student on junk foods, I used to rely heavily on processed pasta sauces. I didn’t know any better.

The years passed, I slowly taught my way out of kitchen illiteracy. But one thing I kept wondering though is: “How on Earth do these  processed sauces get that wonderful Italian aroma of herbs?”. So I spied on the ingredients of tomato pastes I liked and always saw rosemary, oregano, thyme in the ingredients, among other things. But every time I used these, I ended up with a tomato paste so very bitter it was borderline inedible. The mystery was on: How to get authentic strong and appetising flavours and smell of aromatic in herbs in sauces. I soon found out by accident…

“How on Earth do these darn processed sauces get that wonderful Italian aroma of herbs?”

Why was it bitter instead of tasting/smelling of wonderful herbs?

Because oil! I figured that out only after ditching oil as part of going whole-food plant-based. It was the oil that completely ruined the Mediterranean taste of thyme, rosemary and oregano. Use those generously, and cook them in a water base,  and I promise that you will finally capture the essence of those delicious Italian smells and tastes.
These herbs are also a lot more forgiving in terms of taste when you put too much provided it’s in a water base.

[Recipe] Tomato sauce for Pizza – Low-fat – Unprocessed
 
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A sauce that has everything you want in a pizza base: it's thick, sweet, garlicky and tomatoey
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole foods, plant nutrition, vegan, no oil, no salt, no sugar
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4 pizzas
Ingredients
  • 1 jar 500g of single-ingredient minimally-processed tomato paste (For NZ/OZ: Homebrand @Countdown/Woolworth contains salt at only 21mg sodium /100g), or the equivalent in home-reduced whole tomatoes (1.5 to 2kgs tomatoes gives 500 grams of reduced tomato paste)
  • 2 onions diced
  • 3~4 cloves of garlic chopped finely
  • 1 tsp rosemary (dried)
  • 1 tsp oregano (dried)
  • 1 tsp thyme (dried, rubbed)
  • Hot chilli: to taste.
  • Optional to adjust sweetness: Dates. If instead of sweet ripe tomatoes you get excuses for tomatoes, the hard unripe and sour stuff, you will need to balance out the sweetness. Maybe use up to ~50g dates blended until smooth with as little water as possible. To taste.
  • Optional to adjust sourness: Tamarind, lemon, or apple cider vinegar. If you get a very sweet batch of tomatoes, or like sourness, maybe use up to 1 tbsp single-ingredient tamarind paste (sweet and sour). To taste.
Instructions
  1. Cook all ingredients (except tomato paste and dates) on low-fire with as little water as possible.
  2. You want to keep this as thick as possible so this is the trick that I use: When the ingredients above are soft, use the cooking water (cooled) to blend dates.
  3. Pour the blended dates back in the pot, throw in the tomato paste and keep on the lowest setting with no cover for it to lose moisture and become thick.
Notes
Optional: If you have time, you can caramelise the onions + garlic first, by water-frying them (no oil) on slightly less than medium heat.

[Recipe] Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough – Oil-free – Unprocessed

pizza_610_WHOLEFOOD copyThis recipe was inspired from vegrecipesofindia‘s Whole Wheat Veg Pizza. I like that they used whole flour and baker’s yeast for a start. We adjusted it to remove/replace the processed ingredients (oil, sugar, salt) for improved health.

We have no issue with digesting wheat but some of our friends seriously do. So if you know a good gluten-free pizza dough that I could unprocess/wholefoodize I’m happy giving it a go => Comment or Contact.

[Recipe] Whole-grain Pizza Dough – Low-fat – Unprocessed
 
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Simple and easy recipe, lovely base for a low-fat whole-foods unprocessed pizza! This yields two oven-tray-sized pizzas. I like to understand what I'm doing instead of robotically follow recipes by the gram. So I infused a lot of rules and verifications methods in this recipe, so that people can pick up a different way of preparing food which uses your senses and intuition instead of scales and measurement spoons.
Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole foods, plant-based, vegan, oil-free, sugar-free, salt-free
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 2 oven-tray-sized pizzas
Ingredients
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour (360 g) because it's enough for two pizzas.
  • 1 to 1.25 cups water or add as required (230 mL to 290 mL)
  • 2 teaspoons of active dried yeast or (1.5 tsp instant yeast)
  • 2 tbsp prune paste (blend junk-free pitted prunes + just enough water for them to blend into a paste)
  • There are tricks to put up virtually any bread you want without needing a detailed recipe like this one, see the Notes.
Instructions
  1. Warm up ½ cup of water to hot bath temperature (40~45°C), add a bit of flour (1 tsp or so) and the yeast and stir (See Notes).
  2. While the yeast is busy making babies, get busy chopping your pizza toppings or preparing the sauce.
  3. After 10~15 minutes, yeast should start to bubble, it means...it's aliiiive! Stir generously.
  4. I put all the flour I am going to use on a flat clean kitchen top, make a whole in the middle, and pour the liquids progressively in the middle and incorporate more and more of the surrounding flour. Start with yeast of course, then progressively (in two or 3 rounds no more) incorporate more and more warm water and the prune paste until you fold in all the flour.
  5. Texture of the dough should be soft enough that it doesn't crack or resist a lot to kneading, but not so watery that it will stick to your fingers and drive you mad. The dough shouldn't stick to your table.
  6. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes, no more (that's my favourite part!)
  7. Cover in an air-tight fashion in some recipient and let rise 1 to 2 hours in warm place if possible. If your oven has a warming drawer (~40°C) use it to save rising time.
  8. In the meantime, make sure tomato sauce and toppings are ready, because once the dough is ready and the oven pre-heated, it will be too late to start cutting stuff up.
  9. When dough has risen, set your oven at 200~220°C to pre-heat for about 10~15 minutes.
  10. Divide dough in two, on a baking sheet roll with a pin into whatever pizza shape you want (we make them square use all of the oven tray's surface).
  11. Lay your thick tomato sauce and toppings.
  12. Bake in a minimally-disturbed oven at the same temp. (200~220°C) for 20 min for one pizza at a time, or until your topping are all cooked and before the bottom of the pizza crust gets brown or tacky.
Notes
Activating the yeast
I like to sit my warm cups of activating yeast in a bowl of warm water (also hot bath temperature) so the yeast doesn't cool down. Leave 10 to 15 minutes, it should start.
I also like to use either spring water or pre-boiled tap water, to remove the chlorine, which may slow down the yeast.

Make-dough without a recipe
I could summarize this recipe to one number, and that is "3", which is just how many cups of flour is needed. Everything else you can easily figure out and the basic process is always the same for all breads. For most breads, water content is almost always 60~70% (rule of thumb: a bit more than half) of the weight of the flour, yeast content always about 7~8 tsp active dried yeast per kg whole-grain flour (I prefer to remember 5 tsp per 600g because I often use 600g)
Prune paste serves as a moisture-holder, one of many unprocessed moisture-holding alternatives to oil, along with date paste or applesauce. The precise amount doesn't seem to matter too much, it won't taste like prunes, so just make sure to have and use some.

[Recipe] Khadija’s Moroccan Lentils – Oil-free – Unprocessed – Vegan

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Khadija's Moroccan Lentils – Oil-free – Unprocessed – Vegan
 
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Author:
Recipe type: low-fat, whole-food, plant-based, vegan, no oil, no salt, no sugar
Cuisine: Moroccan
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 440g dry lentils, preferably Puy lentils / French lentils soaked overnight.
  • 6 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 20 g coriander (a few sprigs), chopped
  • 20 g parsley (a few sprigs), chopped
  • zest of half a lemon, sliced off with a knife (only the yellow part, not the white inside) and cut in small bits. Do not grate!
Spices
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground chilli
Instructions
  1. Water-fry the onions until caramelised/browned. If you want to save time, skip caramelisation, just put the onions in the pot.
  2. Immediately add tomatoes, enough water for the spices to be in generous amounts of water (about 1 cup or ~ 230mL should do)
  3. Add all the spices and lemon, stir well, cover, set on medium heat and let boil for 5~10 min.
  4. Add the lentils, stir well, and fill the pot with enough water to cover a few centimetres over the top of the lentil surface.
  5. Cover only until it starts to boil, then let cook on medium heat for until the lentils are soft.
  6. Check now and then if more water is needed. You want to end with creamy lentils like in the picture, not watery nor dry either.
  7. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  8. Add the chopped greens (coriander + parsley) and stir.
Notes
Feel free to play around with adding the following (to taste):
Some salt-free concentrated tomato paste that uses only tomatoes, or more tomatoes well reduced.
Carrots
Celery
Baked shiitake mushrooms (chopped) for a bit of a chew, or other mild-tasting mushrooms. If using shiitake mushrooms, make sure to bake them first, otherwise their taste would be overpowering and throw the flavours off-balance.