I wanted to start posting a few guest posts on my blog to introduce you to some friends of mine and let them take control and present a recipe they love. In this series, you’ll meet some people that I love and respect and who inspire me. I’m really excited to share these recipes with you and to try them out myself. The first of these takeovers is with my friend Imogen that I met through Instagram almost 2 years ago now, thank you PIIT 28! When she’s not impressing me her yoga poses, it’s her delicious culinary creations. When I asked her to share a recipe for this blog, she started telling me about a bread recipe. Obviously as a French person, I’m a serious bread lover so I was quickly seduced by her Sweet Potato, Chive, Roasted Garlic Bread.
I’ll let Imogen take it from here and I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe!
When I was asked to provide a guest recipe for this blog, my immediate thoughts were.. ‘better think of something impressive!’ and ‘what is a good, healthy food?!’. The first is probably understandable, but the second thought is a bit more complex. It isn’t that I don’t understand what ‘healthy’ means in general terms (nutritious, good macros…) – it’s that I know there are a lot of strong opinions out there as to what you should or should not eat. Some people demonise fat, some sugar in all forms, some sugar – but only if it’s refined. Some people think we should only eat fruit, some people think that your diet should consist of nuts and seeds – and famously, some people think it’s a good idea to eat only cabbage soup.
One food in particular that a lot of people seem to have a fear of eating is bread. Bread, the enemy. Sliced white bread in cheap sandwiches, flavourless white toast in the morning. “Bread makes you fat”. Well, I’m not here to tell anyone what they should or should not eat (although my philosophy has always been ‘everything in moderation’ – and that includes you, dark chocolate in my desk drawer…) – but personally, I think bread is great. That said, plain white flavourless bread makes me sad. Bread shouldn’t just be a platter for some other food! Bread should be the star. Bread should get to contain fun ingredients. With that in mind, I decided to share my favourite bread recipe – and yes, it’s even made with white flour. White flour is not the enemy either. I think the key to a good bread is giving it a little extra time – making a starter the night before, or even a few days in advance, to build the flavour – and love (code word: don’t skimp on the salt). Add in some herbs, spices, other ingredients. Never be afraid to put in a bit of extra smoked paprika if that’s what you’re in the mood for.
I firmly believe that the majority of foods have their place in a healthy diet. Taking care of your body is important, but you also have to live your life! One of the best ways to take control of ‘scary’ foods is just to make them yourself – that way you know exactly what you’re eating. So, without further ado… bread!
How would you describe yourself?
This is the kind of question that seems to go around in meetings when you start a new job – and always fills me with a deep sense of dread! Usually I end up telling a really inappropriate for work story in a panic. I’m a little bit of many things – a scientist, a yogi, a baker, a gamer, someone who likes to lift heavy objects for fun. I promise I have zero inappropriate stories. Promise.
Can you tell us more about this recipe? What would you it eat with?
I adapted this recipe from a Peter Reinhart book I have on baking bread – annoyingly (as a scientist!) the measurements are all in cups rather than grams… but I think the result is worth it. A really tasty and soft bread with a firm but not too thick crust. That said, I can’t help but adjust recipes – the original one calls for normal potatoes and rosemary. If I see a normal potato, I immediately wonder if I could change it for a sweet potato (the answer is usually yes). I like to have this bread for lunch at the weekend – my favourite thing is to have it plain with some caramelised onion hummus. That’s the best! But it works really well with some avocado, tomatoes, and a little bit of sriracha too.
What would be your ideal meal?
I generally try to eat healthy and colourful whole foods (*looking sideways at some delicious muffins I baked earlier that definitely count because they were made by me FROM whole foods, right? Sugar is totally a whole food…*) – and my favourite meals are usually ones that are ‘naturally’ healthy and vegetarian/vegan. When I say ‘naturally’, I mean ones that require no specific substitution (like fake cheese), and can be enjoyed in their originally intended form. One of my go-to weeknight meals is a smoked tofu stir fry with loads of colourful vegetables – red cabbage, mushrooms, spring onions, peppers, bean sporuts, green beans.. and a few cashew nuts or peanuts thrown in. The more colours, the better it looks and tastes!
What are you tricks to eat healthy?
Colour! If your food looks good, you’ll want to eat it. No one wants to eat a sad homogeneous brown/grey meal. Predictable gooey mushroom risotto vegetarian option, I see you…! Making sure you have a range of colours in your food also handily ensures you have a range of nutrients too. I almost always add red cabbage/red onions to food, because purple is often a missing colour. Also, make sure you really up your sauce game – whether for salads, stir fries, grain bowls, or anything really. A good sweet/salty/acidic/smooth sauce can work wonders to lift a meal. Lemon tahini dressing, for example, really goes with most things.
Best food to fuel you up (before yoga or any other practice)?
Tamari almond date snacks! I always have some of these in the freezer, and they’re so easy to make. I got the recipe from Christine Salus (who does some awesome YouTube HIIT workouts) – you get some medjool dates, put half a teaspoon or so of cashew nut butter in them, insert a tamari almond (or any almond, but it’s nice to get that little bit of salt), roll them in a little melted dark chocolate, and sprinkle with some chopped nuts of your choice. Then freeze for an hour, and cut in half. Store them in the freezer. They are so good for a healthy burst of energy, and I love the sweet/salty contrast! I do also quite liked pressed fruit/nut bars, like nakd bars.
What kind of sports do you practice?
I do a combination of yoga, pilates, HIIT, and weights. I can get bored of doing the same exercises, so it’s important to me to have a varied routine. I particularly love weights, which are a surprising metabolism booster! At the moment my heaviest weight is a 16kg kettle bell, but I have my eye on sizing up… I’ve started doing banded deadlifts with them to add to the challenge, rather than just the weight alone. Typically I practice yoga for about 15-20 minutes each morning, and maybe 40 minutes at the weekend – if I have time. Fitting your workout around a normal work schedule can be pretty tough. I do my pilates/HIIT/weights in the evening.
How do you stay motivated?
Variety and habit! I usually work out using online videos, which are an amazing resource (the further away from my house I have to go to exercise, the less likely it is to happen) – but it’s important to find an instructor that you really connect with. I’ve mentioned her before, but Christine Salus is a real favourite. Setting specific goals is also a great way to encourage yourself to work out – and I don’t mean some nebulous like ‘lose weight’ I mean ‘do 10 badass pushups’! My current goal is to be able to hold a solid hand stand – let’s just say it’s a work in progress…
What rituals you practice every day?
My morning yoga practice is probably my most important one. I specifically get up an hour earlier than I need to in order to fit in my practice. Recently, I’ve started writing a to-do list in the evening (for the next day) – I divide it into work and non-work goals. I find that helps to wind my mind down. Oh, and tea. I have a little clay teapot made for one, and I have some white or green tea when I get home. It’s just about taking that little bit of time for yourself.
Sweet Potato, Roasted Garlic and Chive Bread
For the Biga*
- 2,5 cups strong bread flour
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 0,8 - 1 cup water
For the Bread
- 200 g biga from the day before
- 3 cups of strong flour bread**
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 pre roasted sweet potato
- 1 pre roasted head of garlic
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp freshly chopped chives ***
- 0,8 cups of water
- additional oil for coating the loaves
- if possible, some cornmeal/semolina to dust the baking sheet with
For the Biga
Make the 'biga' - a flavour making base for your bread. Mix the flour and yeast together in a bowl.
Add 0.8 cups of water and stir. Begin to knead with your hands.
If needed, add some more water. Generally it's better for the dough to be a bit sticky, than a bit dry.
Transfer onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes. When the dough is smooth and tacky (not sticky), coat it lightly with oil and transfer it into a plastic bowl.
Cover the bowl, and leave it for about 2-4 hours to rise
Knead the biga lightly to degas, then transfer it to the fridge - for up to 3 days, whenever you need it.
While the biga rises, you can also prepare the garlic and sweet potato. You could do this on the day, too.
Cut the top off a head of garlic, and drip a small amount of oil into the head. Wrap in foil and bake in the oven for around 40 minutes at 180 degrees C.
Lightly oil a medium sized sweet potato, and wrap it in foil. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes to 1 hour (depending on size), at 180 degrees C.
Store in the fridge overnight.
For the bread
Remove the biga, sweet potato, and garlic from the fridge 1 hour before baking, to remove some of the chill. Remove the garlic cloves from their skins, and remove the skin from the sweet potato.
Stir together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, black pepper, yeast).
Add the biga, sweet potato, garlic, oil, chives and 0.8 cups of water.
Stir this together, and then begin to knead with your hand. Add more flour or more water if required. Remember that it is easier to add more flour than it is to add more water! (Hint: I find it easier to handle the bread if I lightly coat my hands in oil)
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes. Make sure that the dough passes the windowpane test! It should be smooth and pliable.
Transfer the dough into an oiled bowl and cover it. Leave the dough to rise for about 2 hours - it should double in size
Line your baking tray with greaseproof paper, and dust with cornmeal. If you don't have cornmeal, lightly oil the paper.
Remove the dough from the bowl, and divide it into two pieces. Shape each piece into a 'boule' by pulling down from the top and tucking in the dough underneath, making a ball shape. You sould see some tension over the top of the dough.
Place each boule on a baking tray. Lightly cover, and leave to prove for 1-2 hours, or until they have doubled in size.
Bake at 180 degrees C for about 40 minutes. If you tap the bread underneath, it should sound hollow. If the bread is well coloured but the crust is slightly soft, or becomes soft after a few minutes out of the oven, simply return to bake for a further 5-10 minutes to thicken the crust.
*To make 2 400 - 500 grams loaves, you will need about half of the biga recipe - the other half can live happily in the freezer for about 3 months (or you can just halve everything).
** (I recommend NOT using wholemeal for this, it gives the bread a strange texture)
***oregano or rosemary also work very well