Lentils for breakfast- welcome

Here is your invitation to sample beautiful recipes that are good for you, good for the planet and good to eat. They mainly feature plants, because that's what I try to eat the most. I am not a fancy cook, but I believe that food is one of our greatest pleasures and deserves to be celebrated. Real food, whole food, kind food. Welcome to the feast!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Sunshine on toast: homemade sunflower seed butter

This recipe's full title is cinnamon vanilla sunflower butter. I found it on 101 Cookbooksthe beautiful blog of Heidi Middleton, the 1st food blogger I started to follow.

Heidi's photos are so gorgeous and so exquisite that I want to sob with envy when I gaze upon them.  Her palate is white and ethereal and the lines are clean and modern, while the styling features much-loved old or found objects that suggest reverence for cooking past and gone.

Heidi's blog does a wonderful thing: suggesting a lovely life, glimpsed softly through lace curtains.

But I have had a couple of epic fails with her recipes. One was a dal that produced a kind of pale yellow gruel that I threw out in disgust and frustration (but later wished I'd kept to use as as stock for another batch). The other was a chocolate-y, salty, banana confection. Intriguing . . . but odd and ultimately uneaten.

I've never cooked anything else. I just sigh over the beauty of each post and marvel at the number of comments she receives and the ads she runs and the archives she has accumulated and the cookbooks she has published.

Talented cooks are not like everyone else

I have this theory that talented cooks have their idiosyncratic signature. What they make tastes delicious in their unique way. But it doesn't necessarily translate when you try to capture it in that imperfect communication device: the recipe. Just because it has been bound into a set of instructions and measurements does not mean you too can cook it like the angels.

My husband's salad dressing is the ultimate union of oil and acid. But mine tastes nothing like his, even when he's standing next to me telling me what to do. He has a gift for cooking and his food always tastes wonderful. It just does. And I'm sure Heidi's partner would say the same thing. Whereas me . . . I plod through recipes, making mistakes.

And that's the other thing. If I try to follow a recipe properly and not go off at my uninformed tangents and it doesn't work, I always assume it's my basic incompetence. So, my failed attempts at following Heidi's recipes are quite likely to be the result of my lack of skill and absence of that instinctive kitchen alchemy that separates the plodders from the angels.

Sunflower butter

Which brings us to cinnamon vanilla sunflower butter.

Do you love nut butters? I do, particularly macadamia nut, which I would eat direct from the jar in a frenzy if I wasn't so preoccupied with my soft little tummy. I also love big fat artisinal loaves of bread. Nut butter on a fresh loaf of Iggy's sourdough? Ecstasy.

When I read this recipe I thought of that perfect moment of biting into a slice of bread. And that's when I decided to try it.

Cinnamon Vanilla Sunflower Butter

225 g raw sunflower seeds
60 ml oil (I used macadamia because I had some; Heidi suggests sunflower, which makes sense!)
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp vanilla bean paste (I used the award-winning Heilala Vanilla)
3 tsp ground cinnamon
zest of 1/2 a lemon

Heat the oven to 165 C. Toast the seeds on a rimmed baking sheet until fragrant and golden. Stir a couple of times to make sure they toast evenly. Cool for 10 mins.

Puree the seeds in the food processor with a generous spoonful of oil and the salt. As the motor runs, drizzle in another 2 spoonfuls. Scrape the mixture down the sides once or twice along the way. The aim is an even, smooth consistency, so take your time.

Once the mixture starts to look smooth, add the vanilla paste and cinnamon. Pulse to incorporate.

Evaluate the consistency. Add more oil if it is on the thick, pastey side. Add more salt if you want and the lemon zest. Pulse again and voila. Store in a jar in a cupboard.

The result

My butter was far too thick to start with. Sticking-to-the-top-of-your-mouth thick.

Heidi lists 60 ml of oil in her ingredient list, but suggest using just 3 tablespoons of oil in her method. That wasn't enough. A day after I'd made my butter, I remixed it again drizzling in more oil to make it creamier and easier to eat. So, I would say keep assessing how your mixture is coming together and use as much oil as it seems to need.

How does it taste? Not overly sweet, certainly nutty and dark and spicy.  It would be particularly delicious on fresh apple because it tastes to me as if it needs something sweeter to complement it.

Are you a nut butter fan? What's your favourite? What do you most love to spread on bread? Hard one to answer, there is so much that I love to spread on bread! Let me know what you think in the comments.

Bread + butter

I watched this hilarious video recently: David Mitchell ranting about the Atkins Diet in the Guardian. He has some sensible points to make about those reliable foods that keep soldiering on and that we love for a lifetime, like bread and butter. His view that there is no better food than bread and butter illustrates brilliantly how Paleo is unlikely to ever go mainstream. If you have 4 mins, it will cheer you up. Unless you're a Paleo, in which case prepare for some eye-rolling.

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