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I finally got to visit Vermont recently. Land of lakes, liberals and great cheese.  The Chester farmer’s market saw us procure a large jug of local maple syrup and feast on Ana’s amazing empanadas. As for the banana bread, nothing revolutionary here but a healthy and delicious recipe which contains no refined sugar and is quickly thrown together for breakfast, on-the-go baby snacks or afternoon tea.


6 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup maple syrup
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 ripe mashed bananas
1/3 cup coconut flakes
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
sprinkle of salt


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees f. Cream the butter with maple syrup and add the other wet ingredients and the coconut flakes. In a separate bowl mix the flour with the baking powder, soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold until just incorporated – do not overmix.
Pour into a lined and greased loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes.


Moist, green flecked breakfast bread with a nutty bite. Finding a good grainy flour really makes a difference.  I first came across zucchini bread years ago while working on Martha’s Vineyard for a summer. We would bike over to Morning Glory farm in the mornings just to get some of their zucchini bread for breakfast eaten while rocking on their front porch watching the pumpkins sprout. It just seemed so perfect to use courgettes in baking. Easily combined with carrots, chocolate, lemons…..

So I played around with recipes and used a nutty flour here – a multi-grain with various cereals. If you don’t find such a flour easily just add a handful of sunflower seeds, flax, quinoa or other cereals. As for the oils, nut oil adds a nice rich flavour.  For a sweetner, here I stuck to regular brown cane sugar but maple or agave syrup or honey could easily substitute for health and sweetness. The poppy seeds give great texture – just watch out for seeds in your smile afterward!


  • 1 large courgette – finely grated (skin on)
  • 2 eggs
  • 200 gr sugar
  • 125 gr vanilla yogurt
  • 60ml sunflower oil
  • 60 ml nut oil (walnut)
  • 200 gr flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Butter for greasing tin


In one (big) bowl cream the eggs with the sugar. Then add the oils, the vanilla essence, the grated zucchini and the yogurt. In another bowl combine the flour with the other dry ingredients. Fold the dry mixture into the wet without over-mixing. Then pour the resulting batter into a greased loaf tin. Bake at about 190  for about 40 – 50 minutes depending on your oven.

Moutabal’s no good without something to scoop it up with…..

Although pita breads work for this, it’s better to seek out a more traditional middle eastern flat bread such as lavash often available in larger supermarkets. Cut into triangles and rub with olive or nut oil. Dust with a few teaspoonfuls of fragrant zaatar and roast for a max of ten minutes until golden and crispy. Otherwise soft tortilla wraps could work well as an alternative. Just lay out flat, cut into pieces and oven bake. Let cool and serve with dips and drinks.

A crunchy, dense, no-rise, no-fuss loaf that’s done and dusted within an hour.

Experimenting with different flours is always fun. In France, flours tend to have less gluten and so home bread making has a different dimension.  Seek out a strong bread flour for these kinds of quick breads, even if they are labeled for the machine you can still use them for baking by hand. Look for a high ‘T’ number – the higher the T the higher the gluten content. If you don’t find a flour with muesli already added use a combination of rye and wholewheat flours and add seeds, nuts, dried fruits as you wish separately. Dried cranberries and raisins are good plus the usual mix of sunflower or pumpkin seeds.


350 gr flour (rye/muesli/plain) – often half rye and half wholewheat or another multi-cereal bread flour works best

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

250 gr natural yogurt (Greek yogurt or other plain yogurt..)

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons raw oats

3 tablespoons honey/maple syrup/agave nectar

1 tablespoon nut oil or olive oil

1 tablespoon corn flour or flour (for kneading)

dried fruits and seeds as wanted ( 1-2 tablespoons)


Preheat your oven to at least 200°C.  In a large bowl, mix the flours, the seeds, the oats, the dried fruit and the baking soda. Separately, mix the yogurt, water, honey or maple syrup together.

Slowly, slowly fold in the liquid to the flour until it forms a breadcrumb like mixture.

Pull it together until a rough dough holds together then turn it out onto a floured surface (use the cornflour – scatter it onto your work surface). Knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball coating your hands in the olive oil while shaping the dough into an oblong loaf.  Using a knife score a few lines down the middle or cross-ways.

Bake in a hot oven (200°C) for about 30-40 minutes – you can check by tapping the base – a hollow sound indicates that the bread is done.

Turn out onto a rack and allow to cool. Keeps for a week in a dry airtight place. Excellent when toasted or served with hummus, cheese or marmalade.

Itching to make some kind of pizza, comforting bread or just a floury mess in the kitchen I decided to attack the flat bread recipe in one of my favourite armchair travel cookbooks. This book is a homage to the Lebanese cooking that is integral to the heritage of Greg Malouf, one of the authors. Well over three hundred pages of mezze, meats and sweets. Recipes but much more. A simply written account of a journey back home but also an exploration of Lebanese culture and cuisine as well as those of Syria. There is a real sense of a humbling personal experience and genuine love of the food of the region whether it’s because it evokes childhood dishes served up by aunts or grandmothers at home in Australia or his palpable awe at the prospect of visiting the homeland. But more then that, the recipes are authentic, easy to follow yet challenging, a joy to cook, aromatic, comforting and elegant and a reminder of all the other ingredients out there and ways of making food there are. I judge cookbooks often more by how entertaining they are to read then how useful they are in the kitchen. These recipes are given in a cultural context, with detailed descriptions of each region, different local producers and methods so the reader can take the time to understand where a dish came from, the regional influences and nuances that led to the appearance of a certain recipe on a given page and if nothing else it will transport you to a sunny street in Damascus or a busy Beirut street cafe in a matter of pages.

IMG_0963- Manoushi bread dough – recipe taken from Saha – A chef’s journey through Lebanon and Syria by Greg and Lucy Malouf, published in 2005.

This kind of cooking is the real slow food movement, short cuts not recommended. We’re often talking ingredients not found lying around the kitchen and methods that require a bit of elbow grease. But no matter. Part of the fun is seeking out those ingredients and seeing if you can knead and slice and smell your way into producing something like Aleppo style lamb with a cherry sauce or roasted quail in flat bread with a pistachio sauce. Even just a good home made hummus or moutabel.

I enjoy making bread, kneading far more then is necessary but enjoying the therapeutic process required to make that smooth soft seamless ball of dough from the chaos and mess that is flour, water and yeast.

This bread is essentially a basic pizza dough and is a basic snack food of Lebanon and Syria served either simply with a scattering of sumac ansd  zaatar or used as the base for a hearty sandwich. Sumac is a rusty reddish coloured berry that is dried and ground to make a spicy flavouring for soups, sauces or meat. It is also an ingredient of zaatar which is another condiment made with a mixture of thyme, salt and toasted  sesame seeds, a salty topping for the traditional Lebanese galettes or Manouch’e….use it instead of salt to brighten things up.
When the dough is ready divide it up into about twelve small pieces. Or as many as you’ll need. The dough you don’t use you can freeze or refrigerate.

Here is their recipe, keep the dough in the fridge overnight if you’re not ready to use it. Cover it well in plastic when putting in the fridge so it doesn’t absorb any strange flavours or yeasts. Once ready to use, tear off pieces of dough to make mini pizzas in a matter of minutes if you so feel like it…or maybe make one big ‘pizza’….as you wish.

355 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon dried yeast
a half teaspoon salt
a quarter teaspoon of sugar
6 or 7 fluid oz. of warm water
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Mix the flour, yeast and salt. Add the olive oil. Dilute the sugar in the water. Add the water slowly and pull the mixture together until it forms a sticky dough. Don’t worry if it’s a mess and stringy and difficult. Just tip it out onto a floured board and start kneading. Push and fold adding flour or a little water depending on how sticky the dough is.
When you have a smooth tacky but not sticky ball of dough, smooth a little oil around it, cover it and put it in a warm place to rise for a couple of hours.
Then, when ready to use, have your oven pre-heated and roll out and press a small piece of dough with the idea of making a mini pizza, throw it around until it’s thin and stretchy but not too thin.
Spread it with a little olive oil, salt, sumac and zaatar or whatever you wish and bake for about 8 minutes preferably using a pizza stone.

Rye and honey

I like to experiment with different kinds of flour. There are so many grains and tastes and textures out there that it seems a pity not to experiment. However, this is often with disastrous results. For example I think I have to swear off chickpea flour. We just don’t get each other. But with rye flour it’s different. It works. I think it’s love…..

So when I bought two bags of rye flour the other day I thought I’d play with a Swedish rye bread recipe I had found. This is a great breakfast bread alone or toasted with a little butter or cream cheese. Also a good sweet bread for making open sandwiches I suspect. This recipe calls for buttermilk but plain or Greek yogurt thinned with a little milk would also work perfectly well.

Note: for this recipe I use 125gram empty yogurt pots to measure the flour. It gives a great moist yet dense loaf that stays fresh for ages

Preheat the oven to about 200 degrees. Line or grease a regular loaf tin.

This recipe is going here to try and help me win a cookbook!healty


5 cups of rye flour
or 4 cups of rye four and one cup of wholewheat flour
(1 cup = 125 gr.)

2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teasp baking powder
1 teasp. salt

3 or 4 tablespoons of honey
a little hot water to mix with the honey and make it liquid
2 cups or 2 and a half of plain yogurt or buttermilk
I use buttermilk (lait fermenté) or kefir

*Sunflower seeds, flax seeds are good for the mix but totally optional
*A handful of rolled or instant oats and several tablespoons of maple syrup or honey for the topping
*A handful of raisins and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon


Mix all the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl mix the buttermilk or yogurt with the honey. If the honey is very solid add a little hot water to liquefy it.

Add the liquid to the dry ingredients slowly forming a round sticky dough. Add less or more buttermilk if you feel it’s too dry or to wet….

Then pour, push or pull the sticky mess into a loaf tin. No knead to need:) Sorry, couldn’t resist….
Smooth out the top and spread into the corners of your loaf tin

For the topping
At this point – scatter a generous layer of oats and some maple syrup (honey would do too) over the top before putting it in the oven so it forms a crunchy topping in cooking. This is perhaps the best part so don’t skip it.

Put in a hot oven at about 180 degrees c. for about 40 – 50 minutes…depends on your oven really. Keep an eye on it. When a knife comes out clean it’s done.