Month: February 2016

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Wheat-free hot cross buns and the benefits of rye flour

Wheat-free hot cross buns and the benefits of rye flour

So, after a lot of disasters, which included many batches of hot cross rocks! I finally managed to produce a batch of edible buns!  These were created for a PR agency who are trying to promote the use of rye flour.

I’m not afraid of carbohydrates in the diet and spend quite a lot of time sticking up for the health benefits of including this food group in the diet.  I don’t mean promoting the consumption of sugary drinks and mars bars,  but the inclusion of small amounts of good quality wholegrain foods that add valuable fibre, B vitamins, magnesium and iron to the diet.

We don’t need a huge amount of carbohydrate in the diet and what you need can be manipulated based on your health goals.  If you’re a healthy weight and very active, training hard, then they’re a valuable source of immediate energy in the form of glucose (the body’s preferred source of energy), that helps to prevent fatigue by storing glycogen in the muscles and liver.  However, overloading the body with carbohydrate foods as well as leading an inactive lifestyle, will lead to weight gain and if you’re trying to lose weight then cutting back is a useful tactic given the fat storage effect of insulin.  Limiting carbohydrates in the diet to no more that 50g per day, which equates to 2 slices of bread or 200g of cooked wholegrain pasta, rice or quinoa, can force the body into utilising fat stores as an energy source (a process called ketosis).   You don’t want to remain in this state indefinitely, but studies show ketogenic diets are an effective way to reduce body fat and ultimately overall body weight.

Foods made using rye flour such as pumpernickel are a good choice of carbohydrate given their high fibre content.  Most people don’t eat enough fibre and this nutrient has been shown to protect against heart disease and bowel cancer as well as helping to control blood sugar levels and maintain fullness between meals.  Rye is also a good source of magnesium, iron , zinc, manganese and copper as well as B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin and B6, which are all essential for the conversion of food into energy used by cells as well as maintaining healthy skin and nervous system.

Rye is also wheat-free, although not suitable for coeliacs or those with gluten sensitivity as it still contains gluten.  Whilst there are a significant number of people who experience bloating and digestive upset when they eat too much wheat, a diagnosed allergy is very rare.  The most dangerous form of wheat allergy occurs in people after exercising within a few hours of eating these foods.  Exercise-induced changes in the body either trigger an allergic reaction or worsen the immune response to a wheat protein.  This condition normally results in life-threatening anaphylaxis.

These hot cross buns are made using rye and gluten-free flours.  They’re not as fluffy and light as your usual hot cross buns and fail to rise in the same way but still taste great.  I also like the homemade look of these hot cross buns! You can play around with the ingredients and experiment with different flavours such as cranberry and orange or ginger and apple.  I have switched the caster sugar in this recipe for honey (still a sugar but with more depth of flavour) and used less of it so they contain about half the sugar of traditional shop-bought buns.

Adding in dried fruit and walnuts helps to boost the nutritional content of the buns although they should still be seen as a sweet treat.  The best way to enjoy them is toasted with a little butter.  I have no problem with using butter as it’s a much more natural food (and tastier) than chemically produced margarines that are high in omega 6.  Although butter is high in saturated fat, we are now beginning to question the effect on health (especially heart health) of foods naturally high in this type of fat, although it’s still high in calories so you need to go easy!


Apple, walnut and cinnamon hot cross buns

Makes 12

250 calories

10.3g fat, 3g sat fat, 35.2g carb, 9g sugar, 7.4g protein, 2.7g fibre

Source of magnesium, selenium, B6, B12 and folate




250g wholemeal rye flour

200g gluten-free white flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground mixed spice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

85g butter

2 x 7g sachets of easy-blend dried yeast

325ml almond milk, slightly warmed

4 medium eggs, beaten

3 tbsp honey

2 small apples, peeled and chopped

85g sultanas

30g walnuts, crushed


Cross glaze

100g gluten-free white flour

2 tbsp water



  1. Grease two large baking sheets and lightly dust with rye flour.
  2. Add the flours, salt and spices to a large bowl and combine.
  3. Add the butter and rub into the flour mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Stir in the yeast the add the milk, eggs and honey then beat with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth.
  5. Stir in the apples, sultanas and walnuts until evenly dispersed.
  6. Use a tablespoon and drop the mixture onto the baking sheets making sure each one is widely spaced. Use a knife dipped in water to shape each one into a round shape.
  7. Cover each of the baking sheets with greased cling film and leave somewhere warm to rise for 40 minutes until doubled in size and small holes appear on the surface. Remove the cling film.
  8. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  9. In a small bowl combine 100g gluten-free flour with 2 tbsp of water to form a thick paste. Transfer to a piping bag and pipe crosses on the buns.
  10. Place the baking sheets in the centre of the oven and cook for 30 minutes. They will not rise like a usual hot cross bun as they have been made using rye and gluten-free flours.
  11. Once cooked transfer to a wire rack. In a small bowl, combine a little honey and water then brush lightly over each bun whilst still hot to create a glaze.


Padron peppers with smoked paprika and flaked sea salt

Padron peppers with smoked paprika and flaked sea salt

Great way to up your (at least) five-a-day

This super-quick dish is a tasty way to get a serving of veggies into your daily diet. I love to make these peppers as a snack whilst working at home during the day or when peckish after supper. Peppers are one of the richest sources of vitamin C, which acts a powerful antioxidant in the body, protecting cells from free radical damage. Vitamin C is also essential for the formation of collagen, which is a key component of connective tissues in the body as well as that of the skin (provides support and elasticity), and also helps with wound healing. Most of us get more than enough of this vitamin from fruits and vegetables in the diet. A single serving of these peppers provides over 150% of the RDA as well as a source of B6 and folate.

Serves 2

70 calories per serving


1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
200g Padrón peppers
1 tsp flaky sea salt
½ tsp smoked paprika


  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over a high heat until just smoking.
  2. Add the peppers and toss occasionally until the skins blister and the peppers are softened. They should be well coloured all over.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the salt and paprika.
  4. Serve on a plate or wooden board along side the salt/paprika mix. Eat by dipping the peppers in the paprika salt.
Sesame crusted tuna with Asian salad and soy/mirin dressing

Sesame crusted tuna with Asian salad and soy/mirin dressing

Japanese-style lunch bursting with omega 3 (download as a PDF japanese-style-tuna-with-asian-salad)

Don’t be scared off by the long list of ingredients as this dish is simple to prepare and is beyond tasty and fresh. Tuna is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids that have are thought to benefit the heart by increasing HDL cholesterol and reducing inflammation in the body.

These fatty acids are also good for the skin by supporting cell membranes that act as a passageway to nutrients in and waste out of cells as well as retaining water that moisturises and plumps the skin. This dish is also a good option for those trying to cut down the carbs in their diet, but you can serve with brown rice or quinoa as an option.


Serves 2

480 calories per serving (using 1 tbsp of chive oil)



250g fresh tuna (the best quality you can find)

25g sesame seeds



1 medium avocado

½ cucumber

1 head of pak choy

1 tbsp chives, chopped

Small handful of coriander, finely chopped

A few mint leaves, finely chopped

2 tsp sesame oil

½ lime, juiced




30ml reduced sodium, light soy sauce

30ml mirin

2 tsp rice wine vinegar
Chive oil
120ml light olive oil

Large handful of chives, finely chopped




  1. Place the sesame seeds on a small plate.
  2. Brush the tuna with a little light olive oil and roll in the sesame seeds until all the sides are covered then set aside.
  3. Prepare the salad. Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone then peel off the skin. Cut each half into thin slices. Half the cucumber and remove the seeds then cut each half into thin slices diagonally. Trim the bottom off the pak choy and wash the leaves then dry and slice each leaf into thin strips. Add the avocado, cucumber and pak choy to a medium-sized bowl and gently combine. Add the chives, coriander and mint along with the sesame oil and lime juice then continue to combine.
  4. Prepare the dressing by adding the ingredients to a small bowl and whisking with a fork.
  5. For the chive oil, place the oil and chives in a small blender and whizz for 30 seconds. This will make a larger quantity of oil than required but you can keep it in a container in the fridge.
  6. Heat a little oil in a large, non-stick frying pan or griddle until smoking hot. Place the tuna on the pan and cook for one and a half minutes on each side (medium-rare).
  7. To serve the dish, cut the tuna into thin slices and place on a long, rectangular, shallow-sided dish. Mound the salad at one end of the dish. Pour the soy dressing over the tuna and salad the drizzle a little of the chive oil over the tuna (to taste).


Download as a PDF (japanese-style-tuna-with-asian-salad)



Moroccan butternut squash and red lentil soup

Moroccan butternut squash and red lentil soup

High fibre soup

Butternut squash is a very rich source of beta-catorene, which is pant chemical that gives its bright orange colour.  This pigment also acts as a profile antioxidant in the body that helps to reduce oxidative damage from free radical (caused by environmental factors). This soup is also high in fibre that helps maintain good digestion and has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease, control blood glucose levels as well as help with weight maintenance.

Ras El Hanout is a Moroccan spice made from a blend of coriander, ginger, paprika, allspice, cardamon, cloves and rose petals.


High vis soup

Serves 2 (generous servings)


1 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut in to chunks

2 garlic cloves

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

100g red lentils

2 tsp Ras El Hanout

Small pinch of dried chillies

800ml vegetable stock

Sea salt

Black pepper


To serve

Sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Pomegranate arils

Fresh mint, finely chopped



  1. Pre heat the oven to 200C.
  2. Season the squash with salt and pepper then wrap in foil with the garlic. Place the foil package on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 20 minutes until tender then remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion.  Fry for 5-8 minutes until soft.  Add the Ras El Hanout and dried chillies then cook for a further 1 minute.
  4. Add the squash, garlic and lentils to the pan and stir.  Pour in the stock and bring to the boil.
  5. Once boiled turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the lentils are tender.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Take the soup off the heat and blend with a stick blender until smooth.  If the soup is too thick then add water until you get your desired consistency (soup should be a thick consistency).
  8. Divide the soup between two bowls and garnish with seeds, pomegranate and chopped mint.


Soup in a row




Super green stir-fry with smoked tofu

Super green stir-fry with smoked tofu

Rob Hobson, head of nutrition at Healthspan, talks about the link between mood and food with Fighting Fifty and creates this delicious vegetarian dish which is rich in magnesium, tryptophan, B vitamins, iron and fibre and is useful for anaemia, anxiety, PMS, fatigue, menopause and insomnia.




Avocado and white bean smash

Avocado and white bean smash

Delicious light supper (download as a PDF avocado-and-white-bean-smash-on-sourdough)

This dish makes a great quick lunch or supper dish.  Avocado is rich in heart healthy nutrients including fibre, magnesium, potassium and folate.  These creamy fruits are also rich in healthy monounsaturated fats that help to increase levels of HDL (good ) cholesterol.  Fibre also help to reduce cholesterol by binding with it in the gut and removing it form the body.

Serves 2

550 calories per serving


1 large avocado

225g cooked white beans, drained and rinse (I prefer the Spanish variety you can buy in jars but you can use a 400g can of beans)

1/2 garlic clove, minced

1 small handful of coriander, finely chopped

A few chives, finely chopped

1/2 lime, juiced

Sea salt

Black pepper

4 thin slices of fresh bread such as sourdough or rye


  1. Prepare the avocado by halving, removing the stone and scooping out the flesh.  Add the avocado to a medium-sized bowl and mash with a fork.
  2. Add the beans to the bowl and continue to lightly mash the mixture.
  3. Stir in the garlic, herbs, lime juice, salt and pepper.
  4. Toast the bread.
  5. To serve, top each slice with the avocado mixture  and serve two slices per person on a small plate. 


Avocado and spoon

Download as a PDF (avocado-and-white-bean-smash-on-sourdough)

Rye pancakes with blueberry and ginger compote

Rye pancakes with blueberry and ginger compote

Antioxidant-rich breakfast (download as a PDF rye-flour-pancakes-with-blueberries)

These delicious pancakes make a great breakfast or brunch.  Rye four is a good alternative for people who are trying to eat  less wheat.  The blueberries are rich in plant compounds called flavonoids that act as antioxidants in the body and have been shown to help protect against disease.


Serves 4  (makes 12 pancakes)

260 calories per serving




100g wholemeal rye flour

Pinch of salt

2 eggs

150ml almond milk

1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil



300g blueberries

1/2 tsp ginger, peeled and grated

1/4 lime, juiced

2 tsp honey


120g zero fat, thick Greek yoghurt



  1. Place the flour and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Separate the eggs and add the yolk to the bowl with the flour.  Pour in the almond milk and beat with a wooden spoon.
  3. Place the egg white in a medium-sized bowl and whisk until soft peaks start to form.
  4. Fold 1 tbsp of the egg white into the pancakes batter then add the remaining egg white and fold very gently to retain the air.
  5. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan.  Add 1 tbsp of the mixture at a time to the pan (you will be able to fit 4-6 pancakes per batch).  Once air bubbles start to form on the top of the pancakes (after about 1-2 minutes), flip them over and cook for a further 1-2 minutes until lightly browned.  Transfer the pancakes to a plate and repeat until all the pancakes are cooked (keep them warm by covering the plate with foil.
  6. To make the compote, place the blueberries, ginger, lime juice and honey in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring gently.  Once boiling, turn down the heat and cook gently for about 5 minutes until some of the blueberries start to burst.  Once done, remove the pan from the heat.
  7. To serve, place 3 pancakes per person on a small plate, spoon over the compote and top with 1 tbsp of yoghurt.


Download as a PDF (rye-flour-pancakes-with-blueberries)








A heart healthy breakfast

Heart disease is the leading cause of premature death in the UK.  Diet and lifestyle factors have a huge influence on the likelihood of developing heart disease and most of us are well aware of what these are, however, it is the the willingness to change behaviour that poses one the biggest barriers to improving health.  Living a sedentary lifestyle and smoking are risk factors for the condition as is being overweight, which comes with its own set of risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, all of which are directly associated to the food choices we make.

Eating a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods will ensure that you get all the nutrients your body needs to maintain good heart health as well as limit those that can increase your risk of heart disease.  A diet rich in plant-based foods, healthy fats (found in foods such as extra virgin olive oil and oily fish) and small amounts of meat, as illustrated by the Mediterranean diet,  is the ultimate heart-healthy way of eating and research has highlighted the benefit of certain foods included in this particular diet such as extra virgin olive oil and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.

The best way to start your day is by eating a nutritious breakfast. Not only does it set you up for the day ahead, but research shows that eating breakfast can help with weight loss as you are more likely to eat less across the day.  Opting for high protein foods is also good for weight loss and studies have shown that eggs can lead to greater satiety (feeling of fullness) than grain-based breakfasts, making you less likely to reach for snacks mid-morning.   If you do not eat eggs then try another protein-rich breakfast such as smoked salmon, scrambled tofu or yoghurt with seeds and nuts.  Choosing sensible portion sizes is also important for weight loss and eating from a small plate is a good tactic (You can find useful examples of average portion sizes of individual foods by visiting sites such as NHS choices or Weight Watchers).

Eggs still get a bad wrap when it comes to heart health as they are naturally high in cholesterol, however we now know that naturally occurring cholesterol in foods has little significant impact on harmful levels in the body.  The British Heart Foundation states that there is no limit on the amount of eggs you can safely include in your diet (although people with very high cholesterol or familial hypercholesterolaemia need to be more cautious).

This delicious shakshuka recipe may not be something to cook on a daily basis, but it makes a great healthy brunch dish for the weekend.  Red peppers, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and tomatoes are rich in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (found in plants) that act as antioxidants in the body and help to protect it against disease.  Try serving with slices of toasted sourdough bread or on its own if you are trying to cut down on carbohydrate foods.  This dish is also really versatile.  I have added in a few handfuls of green peas but it can also be modified into something heartier for supper by adding cannellini beans or a serving of brown rice or quinoa.



Serves 3-4

300 calories per serving (without bread)


2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

300g cherry tomatoes, halved

½ lemon, zested

1 tbsp smoked paprika

2 tsp ground cumin

Small pinch of saffron

500ml stock (chicken or vegetable)

3 sweet red peppers, de-seeded and sliced

1 red chilli, chopped

2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes

2 handfuls of frozen peas

1 tsp sea salt

Ground black pepper

6 large eggs

Small handful flat leaf parsley

Small handful chopped coriander



  1. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pan set on the hob over a medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and garlic then fry for 5-8 minutes until soft.
  3. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Add the lemon zest, paprika, cumin and saffron then cook for a further minute.
  5. Add the stock, peppers, chilli and chopped tomatoes. Cook for 20 minutes or until the peppers are tender. Add the peas after 15 minutes of cooking. You may need to add a little more water if the dish dries out too much. The consistency should be thick but not dry.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Make a well in the sauce using a spoon and crack in one egg. Repeat for the other five eggs.
  8. Place the pan in the oven and cook for about five minutes until the egg whites are cooked and the yolk is still runny. Cook a little longer of you do not like runny yolks.
  9. Remove the pan from the oven and garnish with the herbs.
  10. Serve the shakshuka with freshly toasted sourdough or other bread of choice.