Food is fascinating. I know that's quite point captain obvious coming from someone who spends as much time in the kitchen as I do, but I'm finding that just when you think you're getting a handle on things, a whole new world opens up and you're once again cast adrift in to a veritable sea of knowledge.
Since I started taking my running more seriously I've become interested in food from a nutritional perspective - what healthy eating really means, and the way various components are processed when you treat it in it's basic form, as a fuel. Within this, I've also taken a liking to superfoods. Not so much for their 'super' qualities, but more that I like things to be simple, and so when you're talking unprocessed, unrefined grains of old, you've certainly got my curiosity wanting.
The trouble with superfoods, however, is that they're still touted by the general populous as "hippy crap", which usually means they're rather hard to come by, often stupidly expensive, and if you do manage to find them the quality can be quite poor as they'll have been sourced and stored more on account of their revenue than the fact they're supposed to be edible.
Thankfully much of this is changing, and having recently discovered a fantastic local supplier I've been able to start playing around with whole grains and other such things that are just a little bit different. And the reason I'm so excited by this is not just on account of health considerations, but the fact that from my limited experience, these superfoods and friends are also adhering to my view that the more natural things are, the better they taste.
Take, for example, porridge. Now I love porridge, but there's porridge, and then there's steel-cut oatmeal.
Rather than being steamed and rolled to form your standard oat, steel-cut oats are simply cut into smaller pieces, and while they take a little longer to cook, what it means is that you get a deliciously creamy, sweet nutty oatmeal with a fantastic chewiness, with nothing more than oats, water and a lazy Sunday morning.
steel-cut oatmeal with coconut sugar
And once you take the "kid in a candy store" approach, your possibilities become endless. Gorgeously chewy oat and barberry biscuits take a more interesting turn with the addition of rolled spelt, crispy bran flakes and some grassy amaranth...
rolled spelt and cranberry biscuits
And your everyday health bar gets a textural overhaul with the likes of puffed millet, quinoa flakes and whatever else you like, really...
fruit 'n nut bar
So I may have gone a little grain-crazy during the week, but once the weekend rolled around and the quinces were quietly poaching in the corner, it was time to play with the first of my adventurous flours.
still smells like heaven...
Kamut flour is produced from Khorasan wheat, an ancient grain tracing ancestry to Egypt and the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia. The flour itself has a straw-like nature in both colour and aroma, and lends a buttery flavour when used in all manner of baked goods. It's considered a high energy wheat, being high in protein and minerals such as magnesium, is organic, and grown in Australia so we can even feel a little less guilty about our daily food mileage.
spot the difference...
So although bread had been the recommendation, I decided my first foray with Kamut would be a dark and spicy gingerbread cake. Now I, for one, like my gingerbread hot, and so a recipe employing fresh ginger, ground black pepper and coffee seemed all the better to bake with.
Spicy it most certainly was, and the Kamut definitely leant a lovely earthiness that you wouldn't get with just your everyday flour. Alone it was perhaps a little dry, maybe more bread-like than cake, but warm with a smear of butter and I'd say you'd have a goer. That, or some poached quinces and a scoop of homemade vanilla bean ice cream if you're feeling rather more devilish...
I think that a lot of people tend to write wholefoods off as a sacrifice, something that loses much of its flavour and pleasure by virtue of being 'good for you'. But to me it's the exact opposite, and with the right supplier there's such an incredible opportunity for discovery. For my part, there are now new flavours and textures to experience and a wonderful scope for baking experimentation as recipes are tweaked to incorporate the different properties of these fabulous new ingredients. And for a nerdy baker like me, that's pretty damn exciting...