Along the rewarding road to getting to know my food, selecting a different producer each month, I’ve found it less intimidating to first tick off the familiar. Eggs were easy, I grew up with backyard chickens and almost daily fresh eggs so was well aware of their value and how to source them. Vegetables came next and my excitement for farm fresh was (and still is) palpable. The farm has a break for two months over winter and I’m already missing the soil, my farm friends and those beautiful rows of kale, carrots, peas…I’d even plant beans again if given the chance (my least enjoyed job at Transition Farm). So, eggs and veggies, done, awesome!
Poultry took a bit of investigating and now I’m comfortable only buying a bird (a whole bird, at that) every now and then, forking out for free-range and organic, trying my hardest to support humane farming practices. I’ve spoken about where I buy bread and, when in season, mussels, sending a lot of love to a little corner of the Mornington Peninsula called Flinders. Most recently there was milk and this month I wanted to share where I’ve been buying nuts and flour, staples in my food world. Little by little I feel like I’m building up an arsenal of ace producers. And that feels pretty wonderful. So, let’s talk nuts and flour.
Bulk Wholefoods and looking for local
Every couple of months I have been driving to Somerville to visit Bulk Wholefoods. Here I stock up on “affordable wholesome food”, which is a passion and priority for Bibi, the store owner. I jumped for joy upon discovering Bulk Wholefoods earlier this year. This popular store on the Mornington Peninsula has a good turnover of produce, quality produce. There’s nothing like fresh nuts, folks. The tricky thing is asking yourself what you need to buy and not having the answer be “the entire store”.
Bulk Wholefoods has a really great variety of nuts, seeds and grains, most of which are organically grown, which has become a priority for me as I try to limit my exposure to the array of potentially harmful chemicals that are so prevalent in our world today. Organic wasn’t always a priority for me, and I do not exclusively eat pesticide-free food, but I try my darndest as a consumer and health conscious individual to go organic and reduce the chemicals I put in my body and on my skin (and to support better environmental practices). What I also love about Bulk Wholefoods is that the country of origin is clearly displayed on the bulk bins, making it easy for me to choose Australian grown (almonds!) and limit overseas goods (coconut). It’s really tricky to tick all the boxes when shopping for food today – sustainable, organic, local, fresh… the best advice I can give is to identify your priorities and do your best each time you shop. You might like to put your money towards Australian grown produce in lieu of it being organic. I favour supporting local producers, it is something I care about and feel to be an important issue. Plus if you get to know your farmer you can ask them questions directly and really learn about their farming practices. They may be employing organic principles but might not have forked out for the certification. If I can get both Australian and organic goods, well that’s just fabulous. As I have said before, I am still learning and I am certainly not perfect (and heck, I’m a Dietitian!). But I really believe we can try our best to make sure we are not lazy consumers, rather thinking for ourselves (asking questions, provocative ones!) and striving to be intentional with our choices. I have Robin from Transition Farm to thank for encouraging me in this endeavour, I could talk to her about food and health and growing and travel and life and love and community supported agriculture for hours.
Raw cacao is pretty much a staple in our house, but lately I’ve been treating myself to some maca (a supposedly hormone balancing root vegetable powder, which they stock at a great price and which tastes the least funky of all the maca varieties I’ve sampled). The cacao and maca I buy are organic, but they’re flown in from Peru. They’re a splurge financially and I’m just not sure how I feel about us Westerners suddenly going mad on these “superfoods” from South America. And then there’s those coconut flakes that creep into my basket on days when my willpower conveniently takes a nap upon stepping into Bibi’s store. They’re from Sri Lanka, which is decidedly not local, but they’re crazy delicious and make this granola recipe unbelievably scrumptious. This whole My Mindful Kitchen business is about making informed choices as a consumer, so I would love any tips you might have in terms of where you shop for these fancy foreign ingredients. Is the answer “don’t buy them?” Gah…maybe.
At Bulk Wholefoods you can also buy those sugars and syrups of coconut, palm and rice origin (and claim your goods to be “sugar free”), but for the marginal nutritional benefit they provide I’d prefer to just reduce my consumption of these sweeteners and focus on filling my baked goods with real food that isn’t an expensive fad. Food like spelt flour.
Spelt flour has certainly had a boom in popularity of late (I know, I know, I just said spelt wasn’t a fad, but I feel “fad” has such negative connotations and I only have love for this grain). As a dietitian I see this rise in popularity alongside an increase in clients presenting with food intolerances, particularly fructose malabsorption and gluten sensitivity. Spelt can often be a saviour to these individuals, as although it is a species of wheat (an ancient one, at that) and does contain gluten (so is certainly a no-go for those with Coeliac Disease) the protein structures are different to that of traditional wheat. Spelt contains less gluten and this gluten appears to be digested rather gently. It’s important to note that when people who fear they may be gluten sensitive cut down on food which contains wheat as the main ingredient, they are often reducing their intake of highly refined foods that may cause symptoms for a number of reasons (thereby omitting many other possible irritants along with gluten). Nevertheless, I am still quite smitten with spelt flour. I pick and choose my fancy flours and powders, some are a treat and not what I would consider an integral part of my diet. But spelt flour is most certainly a staple. And while I personally tolerate gluten fine, I do find I feel particularly great when eating goods made with spelt flour. I think that is largely due to the quality of the product I am buying…
The spelt flour I buy from Bulk Wholefoods is both Australian and organically grown. It is also stone-ground, which I appreciate for the more controlled, small batch, ‘hands on’ process. The stone-ground method is said to retain more of the nutrients compared to the now common high-speed, high-yield roller methods (and the flour is less prone to rancidity). Plus it tastes so much better and yields, I believe, a far superior baked good. The folk at Powlett Hill are doing great things with flour so you might like to check them out. There’s more to flour than the few brands we see at the Supermarket. So much more.
In terms of cooking with spelt flour I find it behaves most similarly to regular wheat flour in the kitchen (texturally and flavour-wise), so I’m rarely disappointed when substituting it into recipes. And you know what? Eating pancakes or cookies or buns made with spelt flour just feels good. My belly is happy eating this grain, particularly the fresh variety I get from Bulk Wholefoods. I asked Ben how he feels when eating spelt flour goods versus those made with the regular flour I used to get from the Supermarket, and he said it doesn’t seem as heavy and that spelt flour is “grainer…in a good way“. Indeed.
Remember, folks, every body is different. Most people benefit from using a variety of whole grains to ensure good health (importantly, good gut health!). I’m just letting you know I am terribly keen on a well-milled, quality flour and that spelt? Well, it kind of rocks.
Last week I Ben worked from home an additional day, as the mad weather had resulted in a power outage at his office. I was so thrilled when he told me the night before (having also planned to work from home that day) that I pulled this celebratory move and immediately planned to make carrot cake porridge for breakfast followed by broccoli and leek soup (his favourite) for lunch. Spelt scones seemed like the right accompaniment and indeed they were. Warm from the oven with a spot of butter, wedge of cheese and a sneaky anchovy or two, they were rather outrageous. Grainy, in a good way, leaving us feeling really really good inside.
Adapted from this recipe.
Makes two large scones perfect for a lunch date. Simply double the recipe for more and/or use a smaller cutter and adjust the cooking time as required (maybe 10-15 minutes for smaller scones).
1 & 1/4 cup Spelt flour (measured as per Joy the Baker’s instructions), plus a generous amount for kneading
1 & 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
30g cold Unsalted Butter
1/2 cup Milk
1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (hot!). Line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a mixing bowl.
3. Cut the cold butter into 2cm cubes and add to the flour bowl. Using your fingertips, incorporate the butter into the flour until it resembles crumbs (work quickly and do your best but leaving some larger pieces of butter are fine).
4. Drizzle in the milk while mixing the dough with your hands to ensure it is all incorporated. Form it into a ball then place it back in the mixing bowl before chilling in the fridge for 15 minutes.
5. After chilling, place the ball of dough on a well floured work bench and gently knead the dough, adding more flour as required until the dough feels smooth but still a little tacky (it will certainly be moist, but it shouldn’t be super wet). Form the dough into a small, smooth, high square mound and then, using a scone or biscuit cutter, cut out 3.5cm deep scones. You can use a different cutter here and make smaller ones, just be sure to cook them for less time (checking from ~10 minutes to see if they’re cooked).
6. Place the scones on the baking tray and bake in the hot oven for 20-25 minutes until cooked (mine are usually done at ~22 minutes). You will know they’re done when they’re hollow to tap on the bottom and look nicely browned and risen.
7. Serve warm with butter. Additional toppings might be cheddar cheese and anchovies (jarred in oil), which is the route I went. But some rich, chunky berry jam and creme fraiche would be divine.
Broccoli and Leek Soup
Makes two big bowls
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
10g Unsalted Butter (optional)
1/2 a large Leek, thinly sliced
400g Broccoli, (stem and florets), chopped
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
4 cups hot Homemade Chicken Stock (or vegetable stock. If going store bought opt for salt-reduced, as you’re using salt in the cooking process)
1 cup frozen Peas
A pinch of Sea Salt, plus extra for seasoning
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
1. Heat the oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Meanwhile, using a smaller pot, warm your stock. Back to the large pot, add the leek along with a pinch of sea salt and sautee until soft and fragrant (~5 minutes, turn down the heat and/or add a few drops of water if required to avoid over-browning). Add the garlic and cook for a further minute until fragrant. Add the broccoli and stir to coat with the leaky mixture for a minute, before adding the hot stock.
2. Allow the mixture to simmer for ~15 minutes until the broccoli is tender. In the last 5 minutes add the frozen peas. Adding them at this point will provide a bit of bright green sweetness to the soup (in the above photograph I used only 1/2 cup and it was a little pallid in colour).
3. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is smooth (or at least as smooth as you desire, I never puree anything too perfectly). At this point, taste the soup and adjust for seasoning (sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, a spoon of creme fraiche if you desire…).
4. Serve alongside spelt scones, thick slices of cheddar and some anchovies jarred in oil.