Healthy Date Loaf – designed for human consumption

Date loaf served IMG_0974

Eating healthily is important to me, but taste is a non-negotiable. Who wants to cook, let alone eat food that resembles cattle fodder or tastes like cardboard?

So in my pursuit of flavour, and health, I learnt that loaf recipes which include dates are generally low in fat. Dates and their sticky goodness, contribute flavour, sugar, and moisture without adding copious amounts of sugar or fat. This led me to an Apple and Date loaf recipe on foodinaminute.co.nz. And from there, I developed my own variety of ‘date loaf’.

To make this Apple and Date loaf even ‘healthier’, I made the following changes to the recipe:

  • I halved the butter – one tablespoon is enough to add flavour. Sometimes I use oil instead.
  • To begin with, I left the sugar out, as the dates contribute enough sugar of their own. These days, I sometimes add golden syrup for depth of flavour and colour.
  • To me, eating healthily also means maximising the nutritional the value of my meals, so I always use a blend of wholemeal and plain flour, which adds fibre as well.
  • My variation uses more boiling water as I prefer a softer, lighter loaf.

In addition, I get bored easily, so I change the flavour each time I make this loaf. This depends on what I’m in the mood for. I’ll include some of my variations at the end.*

‘Healthy’ Date Loaf 

1 cup chopped dried dates

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp all spice

Boiling water (have at least 2 cups on hand)

1 T melted butter or oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/8 cup golden syrup (optional)

1 cup plain flour

1 cup wholemeal flour

2 tsp baking powder

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
  2. In a two-cup capacity jug, place the chopped dates, spices, and baking soda. Then fill the jug with the boiling water, to the top, covering the dates. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a bowl, combine the butter, egg, and golden syrup (if using).
  4. Combine the flours and baking powder.
  5. Gradually add the date and egg mixtures to the flour mixture. The resulting mixture should be pourable, but not liquid. If you find the mixture is a bit stiff, add a bit more boiled water.
  6. Transfer the mixture to a greased loaf tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes. After about 40 minutes, test whether the loaf is baked. If the loaf bounces back when touched and an inserted skewer comes out (almost) clean, it’s done. You want the loaf to still be moist when you take it out of the oven. Cooked sticky date mix on the skewer is ideal. Raw batter goop on the skewer means you may need to exercise more patience!
  7. Once the loaf is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave it to sit in the tin for a few minutes. Then transfer it to a cooling rack. Slice when completely cold.

Serve with a dollop of yoghurt or reheated with low-fat custard, for added protein.

Date loaf sliced IMG_0970

*Variations:

  • Banana-Date Loaf: Add a ripe, mashed banana to the date mix.
  • Pear-Date Loaf: Add a chopped, ripe pear to the date mix.
  • Berry Loaf: Substitute the dates and boiling water for a cup of berries, in juice.
  • Ginger-Date Loaf: Add a tablespoon of ginger to the spice mix and include the golden syrup.
  • Extra-spicy Date Loaf: Add other spices to the mix, such as cloves or a few crushed cardamom pods.
  • Coconut-Date Loaf: Stir through some coconut (approx half a cup) at the end.

Broccolini Mushroom Stir-Fry: Clean and Simple

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They say cats eat grass when they’re ill. Some believe cats eat grass to relieve sore throats. And I’ve also heard it’s a natural laxative … As for me, grass probably isn’t going to do it, but I know green’s what I’ve yearned for while feeling under the weather.

So, broccolini has been it. This broccoli-kai-lan hybrid has been around for a while, but it’s only recently that I’ve really come to love it. Light cooking produces a bright spring green colour and it has an easy-to-eat appeal, particularly when you’re feeling like baby-bites of food – it’s so tender that you can eat the entire stalk. It’s also high in vitamin C, A, and B6; calcium, iron, manganese, and potassium.

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When fresh, broccolini needs little attention. On this occasion, I stir-fried it with a few crushed garlic cloves; then added some tinned straw mushrooms, as well as some pre-marinated honey-soy tofu for protein. Keeping things clean and simple, I paired the stir-fry with rice (sushi rice, my favourite) and finished it off with a sprinkling of cashews.

Voilà. Clean, simple, healthy food for humans.

A beautiful thing

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Radicchio

Rushing out of Vic markets this week, some radicchios caught my eye. They looked so beautiful I had to go back for them. Once home, I rummaged around and found an excuse for my purchase: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Lentils, radicchio and walnuts salad – with NZ manuka honey! The warm red and yellow colours are a welcome sight in this cooler weather and the bitter radicchio is nicely balanced with the addictive honey-roasted walnuts.

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Yotam Ottolenghi’s Lentils, radicchio and walnuts salad

However, if entertaining a group, I’d recommend this salad as a side dish as the bitter radicchio can be overwhelming in bulk, or to more sensitive palates. As per usual, I made my own cuts and curves to the recipe, substituting the pecorino fiore sardo with pan-fried haloumi, omitting the chilli, and adding baby spinach. The original recipe can be found on The Guardian website. Enjoy.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s lentils, radicchio, and walnuts with manuka honey recipe