In Rude Health

On Sunday I attended the Rude Health exhibition in the RDS. On entering I felt like a child in a sweet shop and the urge to run around and sample everything on offer was too great however, I did my homework before I went and had decided what speakers and cookery demonstrations etc I wanted to see. There was so much on offer from natural health products, services and an abundance of food stands. The underlying theme was organic, locally produced and sustainable produce. There was a good percentage of new enterprise and the level of enthusiasm was tangible which is so heartening to witness in today’s economic climate.

There were two people who really stood out for me firstly Professor Jane Plant who gave a talk on Eating For Better Health – The Importance of An Alkaline Diet. And Dr. Prannie Rhatigan who demonstrated recipes from her cook book Irish Seaweed Kitchen.

Professor Jane Plant talked about the importance of balancing our alkaline over acid intake within our food, the relationship between this, and the prevention of such diseases as osteoporosis and certain cancers. And globally the affects this imbalance has had over the years. She also talked about how environmental pollutants such as pesticides; growth hormones etc are having a huge impact on people’s health and well-being. I know I’m stating the obvious here, we’ve known the impact of environmental pollutants for years however,  when this point is driven home with statistics outlining the actual impacts, it makes you sit up and really listen.

Next was Dr. Prannie Rhatigan who is a medical doctor and has been familiar with seaweed as a cooking ingredient, since childhood. Her father took her to harvest seaweed on the west coast of Ireland. Which played a huge part in her developing a knowledge of seasonal seaweed harvesting patterns.

For many years Prannie has cooked with seaweed and on Sunday gave an enthusiastic cookery demonstration. Which for me revealed just how simple it can be to cook with seaweed and more importantly the huge health benefits by regularly including seaweed in our diets.

‘Research has shown that seaweeds have an apoptotic effect on cancer cells. This means that they cause cancer cells to die while otherwise protecting normal healthy cells’

We then got to sample a lot of what was demonstrated, all delicious!!!! And although my kitchen is bursting with cookbooks, I NEEDED to buy her book, Irish Seaweed Kitchen. Which already, has started to demystify cooking with seaweed.

All in all, the primary theme of the day for me was that we should be very mindful of what we are putting into our bodies. Food is our fuel source and if that source is compromised in any way, over time it can have a negative impact on our bodies and us.

I came away from the exhibition brimming with energy and ideas and couldn’t wait to get stuck into my new cookbook.

Yesterday, as it was Monday (and Monday’s very often turn out to be my bake/cook day), I decided to try one of Prannie’s recipes and maybe incorporate some of her ideas into the recipes I regularly cook. Yesterday also marked the start of National Organic Week, which was very appropriate in light of the previous day’s exhibition. Now I know organic ingredients have traditionally been more expensive than non organic, however, they are becoming more readily available and the gap in price difference is reducing considerably. For instance Lidl, Tesco and Superquinn have a great range of organic vegetables, pastas, flour etc. Farmer’s markets are another source or buying straight from the farmer also cuts costs e.g. Marc Michel Kilpeddar Co. Wicklow.

Where possible I try to use organic ingredients, when I bake and cook. One of my biggest gripes is that a lot of Irish top brands put unnecessary preservatives in their flour. For this reason and because I tend to bake a lot of bread, cakes etc, I buy organic flour. Dove’s farm is the one I’m using at the moment for white bread, soda bread and cakes. However, as I like to support locally produced and Irish products I also use, Abbey or Heart’s Delight wholemeal flour for brown bread.

So, enough digression!

The recipe I tried from Prannie’s cookbook was for a spelt yeast bread. I didn’t have any spelt flour so I used strong white flour instead. The results were fantastic!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbspn honey
  • 300ml/10fl oz tepid water
  • 500g/1lb 2oz white spelt flour (I used strong white flour)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbspn olive oil
  • 20g/1oz dry weight duileasc or mixed seaweed chopped
  • 1 tspn /sachet dried yeast

Method:

Oil a 2lb loaf tin and set aside.

Dissolve the honey in 100ml/3 fl oz of hot water. Add the remaining 200ml/7 fl oz of cold water and stir

Sieve the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the water containing honey then add the egg, olive oil, yeast and choice of seaweed. I used mixed seaweed, it was a pack called sea spice, which essentially was a variety of seaweeds. Seaweed can be bought in most health shops.

Combine these ingredients forming a dough and on a lightly dusted surface, knead the dough for up to10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and springy to the touch. Put the dough into a large oiled bowl. Cover tightly with cling film and place somewhere warm to double in size. This will take about an hour.

So when the dough has more than doubled in size, knock back, punching the dough and knead for about 2 to 3 minutes. Shape into a loaf and put into the prepared tin. Place an empty tin of the same size upside down over the dough and set aside in a warm place again to rise. Use a large bowl if you don’t have a tin. After 30 – 40 minutes the dough should have doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 220c/435f/gas 7. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 40 – 45 minutes.

Note: I egg washed the top of the loaf when I placed it in the loaf tin, just before the dough has risen for the second time. It gave a lovely sheen to the loaf. :O)

When cooked the bread will sound hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

This bread was light and fluffy, the kids loved and it was great toasted with breakfast the next morning.

The Bread of Life:

I also add about 20g of the mixed seaweed to the bread recipe I usually make from the post ‘The bread of Life’ and it worked really well.

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