Physics and Christmas dinner!

Christmas is quickly arriving upon us. A classic problem that comes with it, is how long should I cook my turkey to get a tasty and moist roast on Christmas day.
A British doctor in physics and food lover: Peter Barham, has decided to apply Fick's law of diffusion to calculate the best timing for his traditional Christmas roast.
Fick's law says that the diffusion coefficient at different temperatures is often found to be well predicted by J= -D * D C/Dx.
Molecular scientists calculate the heat diffusion process in an animal supposing that the temperature is constant, that the bird is a cylinder and homogeneous, etc. and can achieve an accurate but complex results involving the radius of the animal, the thermal diffusion coefficient, the temperature in the turkey and the temperature in the oven.
Luckily P Braham found simplified way to apply the flick's law to cook his Christmas diner. The flick's law applied to the cooking of a turkey says that the heating time (t) required to reach a known temperature in the center of a turkey is proportional to the square root of the radius of the turkey. As the mass (M) of a sphere is proportional to cubic root of its radius we can find out how long it will take to cook our Christmas diner using this formula:
Now, not everybody has a PHD in physics so there are some of the results that were found:
  • At 180 degrees Celsius a turkey of 5kg requires 2h25 of cooking, a bird of 7kg, 3h00.
  • At 160 degrees Celsius a 5kg turkey will require 3h35 in the oven, a 7kg bird 4h30.


Chestnuts, Coconuts and Sago and gluten Intolerance

This last post should conclude my research about food and gluten intolerance. I would like in this last article to talk briefly about three minor type of flour that are extracted from unusual sources: chestnuts, coconuts and sago.

Since prehistory, chestnuts have been dried and ground into flour and used in the same way that starchy cereals are. Before the arrival of the potatoes and maize from the New World chestnuts were an essential subsistence food in the mountainous and marginal agricultural areas of France, Corsica and Italy. Its nutritional breakdown is as follow: Nutrient for 100gm of flour Calories 371 (calories from Total Fat 33) ; Total Fat 3.67 gm (Saturated Fat 0.7 gm (17.9%), Polyunsaturated Fat 1.6 gm (44.0%), Monounsaturated Fat 1.4 gm (38.1%) ) ; Cholesterol < gm =" grams" mg =" milligrams" iu =" international" re =" retinol">

Chestnut flour is poor in protein and gluten free. It is traditionally used to make gruels, breads, pastas, batters (great for pancakes!), cakes, polenta, and provides substance in soups.

Coconut flour refers to the screened food-grade product obtained after drying, expelling and/or extracting most of the oil or milk from sound coconut meat. The meat is either pared or unpared. It is sub-classified according to its fat content (low, medium and high), protein content (high protein) and fiber content (high fiber).
The manufacturing of virgin coconut oil and flour involves two processing methods either by the:

1) Dry process which involves drying of grinded coconut meat, oil extraction and pulverizing the meal. The process produces a high protein coconut flour (33%) which can be used as wheat substitute. The advantages of the this process is the high oil recovery at 88% based on the oil content of the meat (65%) or 58% of the dried granulated meat and good quality of the oil with a free fatty acid content of 0.1%. The dry process also produces high protein flour which can be used in making pan de sal and other baked products.

2) Wet process wherein the meat is extracted with milk, drying of the residue and grinding to produce the flour. In the wet process, almost 52% of the available oil in the fresh meat is recovered. To optimize the oil extraction efficiency of the wet process developed a technology to further extract the oil from the meal after milk extraction. The meal or residue that remains still contains a lot of oil 35-48% fat content in which 38% colorless oil is recovered and 40% coco flour is obtained as a by-product. Instead of selling the residue as feeds this can be further processed to produce two high-value products, VCO and flour. The coconut flour is high in fiber content 60% dietary fiber which can be used as a functional ingredient in the lowering of glycemic index and serum cholesterol levels.

1. Whole full fat coconut flour: Coconut flour prepared from unpared dehydrated and edible coconut kernels by pre-pressing and solvent extraction.
2. Coconut flour from pared Coconut flour prepared from pared, coconut dehydrated and edible coconut kernel.
3.Defatted coconut flour: Food Coconut flour obtained from food-grade grade copra meal or copra that has been defatted by solvent/mechanical extraction. The resulting flour is brownish in color Sub-classification: low fat Coconut flour with 10-15% fat ; medium fat Coconut flour with 16-25% fat ; high fat Coconut flour with 25-48% fat ; Low-fat, high-fiber coconut Coconut flour from finely ground coconut flour residue “sapal”. The fat content of the resulting flour range from 10-15% and has a total dietary fiber content of more than 60%.

4. High-protein, high-fiber Coconut flour prepared from dehydrated finely ground coconut meat.

5. Paring flour Coconut flour prepared from the paring or the testa of the coconut.

6. Copra meal Coconut meat obtained after extracting oil for granulated copra.

There is a proximate Composition of Coconut Flour From Fresh-Dry Process(1st figure), from wet-dry Process (2nd figure)
Moisture 4.5/ 6.7 ; Fat 10.7/ 10.9 ; Crude Fiber 40/ 60.9 (as dietary fiber) ; Protein 17.5/ 10.8 ; Ash 5.5/ 3.16 ; Carbohydrates 61.8/ 68.5.
Note that coconut flour is gluten free therefore suitable for coeliacs.

Coconut flour can be used to bake cakes and in the making of batters.

Sago is a powdery starch made from the processed pith (the word comes from the Old English word piþa, meaning substance, akin to Middle dutch pit, meaning the pit of a fruit) found inside the trunks of the Sago Palm metroxylon sagu. The genus name metroxilon is derived from Greek and means heartwood, while the species name sagu is from a local name for the food. Sago forms a major staple food for the lowland peoples of New Guinea and the Moluccas where it is often cooked and eaten as a form of pancake with fish.
Sago looks like tapioca and both are pearly grains of starch, but tapioca is made from the root of the cassava root.
This palm tree only flower and fruit once before they die. The stems are harvested just before the flower forms as it is only then that they are full of the stored starch which will be used for flowering and fruiting. The trunks are cut into sections and into halves and the starch is beaten or extracted from the "heartwood", the traditional methods is to collect the starch when it settles out of water. One palm yields 150 to 300kg of starch.
Sago flour is nearly pure carbohydrate (starch), and contains very little vitamins, or minerals. However, as sago palms are typically found in areas unsuited for other forms of agriculture, sago cultivation is often the most ecologically appropriate form of land-use.
A portion of 100 grams of dry sago yields 355 calories, including an average of 94 grams of carbohydrate, 0.2 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of dietary fiber, 10mg of calcium, 1.2mg of iron, and negligible amounts of fat, carotene, thiamine, and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). It is free from gluten making it a suitable substitutes for gluten intolerant people.
Sago flour can be use to make batters, unleavened flat breads, and noddles.
Useful links about gluten intolerance:


Millet and Gluten Intolerance

Millet is the name used for a number of different grains, all of them with very small seeds, 1-2 mm in diameter. These includes, plants from the Panicum, Setaria, Pennisetum and Eleusine species. The millets are native to Africa and Asia, and have been cultivated for 6000 years. They're especially important in arid lands because they have one of the lowest water requirements of any cereals and will grow in poor soil and is unique due to its short growing season. It can develop from a planted seed to a mature, ready to harvest plant in as little as 65 days. Millet is a tall erect annual grass with an appearance strikingly similar to maize. The seeds are enclosed in colored hulls, with color depending on variety, and the seed heads themselves are held above the grassy plant on a spike like panicle 6 to 14 inches long and are extremely attractive. Because of a remarkably hard, indigestible hull, this grain must be hulled before it can be used for human consumption.

Millet is highly nutritious, gluten free and like buckwheat and quinoa, is not an acid forming food so is soothing and is considered to be one of the least allergenic and most digestible grains available.
Millet is tasty, with a mildly sweet, nut-like flavor.
Millets protein content varies between 16 and 22%, it is also high in fiber, B-complex vitamins including niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin, the essential amino acid methionine, lecithin, and some vitamin E. It is particularly high in the minerals iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium. The typical nutritional value of a 120 g serving is as follow: Energy 433 cals or 1812 kJ ; Total Fats 3.5 g (no cholesterol, no saturated fat, no polyunsaturated, 3.5 g monoinsatured fat); Carbohydrates 87.5 g ; Protein 11.9 g ; Fibre 3.8 g ; Sodium 144 mg ; Potassium 390 mg ; Iron 8.2 mg ; Calcium 24 mg.
The seeds are also rich in phytochemicals, including Phytic acid, which is believed to lower cholesterol, and Phytate, which is associated with reduced cancer risk.

A characteristic of millet is the presence in the hulls and seeds, of small amounts of a goiterogenic substances that limit uptake of iodine to the thyroid. In large amounts these "thyroid function inhibitors" can cause goiter and some researchers feel this may explain, at least in part, the perplexing correlation between millet consumption and goiter incidence in some of the developing countries where millet constitutes a significant part of the diet.
These substances are diminished during the hulling process but there is definitely controversy concerning the idea that the process of cooking largely destroys those that are left in the seed itself. Some researchers including Dr. Jeffrey Bland believe that cooking greatly diminishes these substances; others claim that it doesn’t and that in fact if millet is cooked and stored in the refrigerator for a week, a practice common in many cultures, these substances will actually increase as much as six fold I have to say I haven't found any serious proof and studies results to make my mind on a good way to minimize the effect of these substance, so if you have any thyroid gland problems avoid this cereal.
There are other vegetables clother to us that also contain these goiterogenic substances such as brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, spinach, turnips, rutabagas, cassava, soy beans, peanuts, peaches, and pears.
Millets is used in various cultures in many diverse ways: The Hunzas, who live in a remote area of the Himalayan foothills are known for their excellent health and longevity and for whom millet is used as staple in their diet use millets as a cereal, in soups.
In Eastern Europe millet is used in porridge and kasha, or is fermented into a beverage and in Africa it is used to make bread, as baby food, and as uji, a thin gruel used as breakfast porridge.

The general guideline to cook millet is 3 parts water or stock and 1 part grain, and cook for approximately 30 to 40 minutes or until water is completely absorbed. The grain has a fluffier texture when less water is used and is very moist and dense when cooked with extra water. If millet is presoaked the cooking time is shortened by 5 to 10 minutes. There is an interesting cooking method that I came across in a book called "Hunza Health Secrets" is to soak the grain overnight, steam over boiling water for thirty minutes.

The flavor of millet can be enhanced by lightly roasting the grains in a dry pan before cooking; stir constantly for approximately three minutes. Millet is a tasty cereal add on in casseroles, breads, soups, stews, soufflés, pilaf, and stuffing. It can, also, be served as a side dish or served under sautéed vegetables or with beans and can be popped like corn for use as a snack or breakfast cereal. Millet can be, safely, sprouted for use in salads and sandwiches.
Millet flour produces light, dry, delicate baked goods and a crust that is thin and buttery smooth. For yeast breads up to 30% millet flour may be used, but only combined with glutinous flours to enable the bread to rise (cf dough and batters part I)

Useful links about gluten intolerance:


Teff and Gluten Intolerance

Teff, eragrostis in Latin, is believed to have originated in Ethiopia between 4000 and 1000 BC. Teff seeds were discovered in a pyramid thought to date back to 3359 BC. The word teff is thought to have been derived from the Amharic word teffa which means "lost," due to its small size it is easily is lost if dropped. It is the smallest grain in the world, measuring only about 1/32 of an inch in diameter. It takes 150 grains of teff to make the weight of a grain of wheat. The common English names for teff are teff, lovegrass, and annual bunch grass.
This grain has been widely cultivated and used in Ethiopia, India and Australia. It would seem that because of its superior nutritional qualities, teff would be available to all persons in Ethiopia to make injera. However, while it is the preferred grain in making injera, its availability is limited by its high cost. Teff is currently the most expensive grain to purchase in Ethiopia as it requires labor-intensive harvesting and processing techniques, and produces especially low yields. Although teff covers the greatest land space in Ethiopia, it has the lowest yield per hectare, an average of 910kg/ha. In 1996-1997, teff covered 31% of the total landmass, as compared to 17% and 13% for corn and wheat respectively. The total yield for the teff grown in that year was only 26-28%.

The nutritional value of a portion of 100g of teff is as follow: Energy 1452 KJ. Protein 10 g, Fat 2.5 g, Carbohydrates 76.5 g (Fibers 3.5 g, Starch 73.0), Food fibre 5 g, Lysine 2.80 g, Isoleucine 3.90 g, Valine 5.00 g, Phenylalanine 4.80 g, Tyrosine 2.10 g, Tryptophan 1.50 g, Treonine 3.40 g, Histidine 1.90 g, Arginine 3.40 g, Methionine 2.50 g, 387 milligrams of calcium, 15 milligrams of iron. It is also a rich source of other minerals including magnesium, boron, copper, phosphorous and zinc. Note that teff is gluten free making it suitable for Coeliacs.

Teff is grown in Ethiopia and Eritrea predominately for human consumption. It is ground into flour, fermented for three days then made into injera. It is also used in porridge and used as an ingredient in home-brewed alcoholic drinks. Teff is used in mixtures with soybean, chickpea and other grains and is becoming popular as baby food because of its high mineral content.

In Ethiopia, teff has multiple other uses including acting as reinforcement for thatched roofs and mud bricks.The grass is grown as forage for cattle and is also used as a component in adobe construction in Ethiopia.

Useful links about gluten intolerance:


Sorghum and Gluten Intolerance

Sorghum (sorghum bicolor) evolved in the steppes and savannas of the north-east quadrant of Africa. It was domesticated there, about 2000 BCE and then spread from there throughout Africa, India and later China.
Grain sorghum has an amazing capacity to tolerate drought and heat, and is even able to produce its fruits during periods of extended drought, in circumstances that would impede production in most other grains. Sorghum leaves roll along the midrib when moisture- stressed, making the plant more drought resistant than other grain plants. Sorghum is a staple food for a lot of people around the world.
Sorghum's grains are quite small, around 4mm long and 2mm wide. Its protein content is higher than corn and about equal to wheat. It is, also reach in tannin, an acidic complex, that can affect both the taste and nutritional value of sorghum. Historically, farmers were used to grow sorghum with a high tannin content because it's not palatable to birds.
The Nutritional breakdown of Sorghum is as follow: For a serving of a 100 g, 339 Calories, 3.3 g Fat (Saturated Fat 0.457 mg, Monounsaturated Fat 0.993 mg, Polyunsaturated Fat 1.37 mg), 75 g Carbohydrates (no sugar, no dietary fiber), Protein 11 g (no glutenin, no gliadine), Sodium 6 mg, Thiamin 0.237 mg, Riboflavin 0.142 mg, Niacin 2.927 mg, Calcium 28 mg, Iron 4.4 mg, Phosphorus 287 mg, Potassium 350 mg. Being deficient in gluten, sorghum is an excellent alternative to wheat for coeliacs.
Sorghum starch can be manufactured by a wet-milling process similar to that used for corn starch, then made into dextrose for use in foods. The grain can be a source of grain and butyl alcohol.
Source FAO

Sorghum is cooked like most grains boiled or steamed. It can be used to make unleavened breads, porridge or gruel, couscous, beer, and specialty foods such as popped grain and syrup from sweet sorghum. Note that sorghum should not be sprouted as the seed germinates, it produces a protective cyanide-generating system (seeAmaranth).
In Africa, the straw of traditional tall sorghum is used to make palisades in villages or around a homestead. The plant bases are an important source of fuel for cooking and the stems of wild varieties are used to make baskets or fish traps. Dye extracted from sorghum is used in West Africa to color leather red.

It is believed that while traveling in Europe, Benjamin Franklin was impressed with a small broomcorn broom he used to clean his hat. He found a few seeds attached to the straw, and took them with him when he returned to Philadelphia. He planted the seeds and initiated an industry. Arcola, Illinois is known as the "Broom Corn Capital of the World." Since the late 1800's, area farmers grew the sorghum used in the broom industry. Arcola holds an annual Broom Corn Festival each September.


Guide to my Recipes

This what these little signs at the bottom of my recipes means:
  • Suitable for freezing.
  • Contains nuts
Costing Levels
  • Inexpensive
  • Not too expensive
  • Expensive

Pungency Levels

  • Mild
  • Hot
    Extremely hot
  • Vegan: Suitable for our vegans friends.
  • Vegetarian: Suitable for our vegetarians friends.


French Sauce Terminology & Classification

Before starting this list of the classic French sauce, I would like to do a little of brief about the three men who set the standard for all Chefs: Marie Antoine Careme, Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin and Georges Auguste Escoffier.

Marie Antoine Carême (1784-1833) was the founder and architect of French haute cuisine. He was one of at least 25 children born to an impoverished family who put him out on the street at the age of about 10 to make his own way in the world. One day, he knocked on the door of a restaurant for a job. By the age of 21 he was chef de cuisine to Talleyrand. He also served as head chef in the kitchens of the future George IV of England, Emperor Alexander I of Russia, and Baron James de Rothschild. He wrote several voluminous works on cookery, which included hundreds of recipes, menus, history of French cookery, instructions for organizing kitchens, and of course, instructions for monumental architectural constructions of food for pieces montees.. He died at the age of 48, and is remembered as the “chef of kings and the king of chefs.”

Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) was a lawyer, magistrate, and politician, and creator of the "Osmasome" this little part of the sauce flavour that escape into the air allow the guest to know what is cooking in the kitchen. He wrote one of the most celebrated works on food, "Physiologie du gout" (The Physiology of Taste), which was published 2 years before his death. It consists of 8 volumes and its full title is 'The Physiology of Taste, or Meditation on Transcendent Gastronomy, a Work Theoretical, Historical, and Programmed. His work does not relate of many recipes, but a lot of them have left their name in French classics culinary terms (Savarin cake, duck with orange sauce or duck Brillat-Savarin). His literary work is full of anecdotes and observations covering all aspects of the pleasures of the table. He was quite possibly the greatest food critic ever.

Georges Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935) was called "the emperor of chefs" and “emperor of the world’s kitchens” by Emperor William II of Germany. He modernized and codified the elaborate haute cuisine created by M. Antoine Careme, and developed the "brigade de cuisine" system of kitchen organization. Escoffier was chef at the Carlton Hotel in London, the Grande National Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland, the Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo, the Savoy in London and the Ritz hotels in Paris and New York City. His books include "Guide culinaire" and "Ma Cuisine".
This is a list of basic French sauces is based on this classification define by Careme and revised a hundred years later by Escoffier. Most sauce of the French "Grande Cuisine" are either based or variations of these sauces. You may find it useful to have a better understanding of some dishes on the menus of restaurant serving French cuisine.
Basic Sauce: Brown or Espagnole, made with brown stock (Veal, Beef), brown roux and red wine and tomatoes

Bordelaise ( Trad: from Bordeaux): Red wine, Shallots and Veal bone marrow.
Diable (trad: Devil): White wine, Shallots, Cayenne pepper.
Lyonnaise (Trad: from Lyon): White wine, Onions.
Madeira: Madeira Wine.
Périgueux (Trad: Small town in Perigord in the south-west of France): Madeira wine, Truffles.
Piquante: White wine, Vinegar, Gherkins, Capers.
Poivrade: (Trad: Peppered): Vinegar, Peppercorn.
Red wine sauce: Red wine.
Robert: White wine, Dijon Mustard, Onions.

Basic sauce Velouté (Trad: velvety), made with white stock (veal, chicken, fish), blond roux

Allemande (Trad: German): Egg yolk, Mushroom, Cream.
White Bordelaise (Trad: from Bordeaux): White wine, Shallots.
Ravigote (Trad: Invigorated): White wine, Vinegar.
Supreme: Poultry stock, Cream, Butter.

Basic sauce: Béchamel (Named after a gastronome*), made with milk and white roux

Creme: Cream.
Mornay (Named after a family): Cheese, Egg yolks, Fish or Poultry stock.
Soubise (Named after a army commander): Onion compote.

Basic sauce: Hollandaise (From Holland): made with eggs, butter, lemon juice or vinegar

Mousseline (Light cloth): Whipped cream.
Béarnaise (From Béarn): Vinegar, Shallots, Cracked pepper, Tarragon and Chervil.
Choron (Named after its creator*): Béarnaise with tomato fondu.

Basic sauce: Mayonnaise, made with egg yolk, Dijon mustard, vegetable oil, lemon juice or vinegar
Rémoulade(Trad: twice ground): Gherkins, Capers, Mustard, Anchovy paste
Tartare: Shallots, Capers, Mustard, Gherkins, Parsley.

*Louis Bechameil (1630-1703) was 17th century financier who was chief steward of King Louis XIV's household. Supposedly Béchamel sauce was named for him by Chef Francois Pierre de la Varenne.

*Alexander Etienne Choron(1837-1924)was a French chef from Caen who created the sauce choron, which is Béarnaise sauce with tomato puree. Choron was the chef de cuisine at the famous Voisin restaurant in Paris. During the Siege of 1871 he served many animals (some from the zoo) as food, including elephant, camel, cat, wolf, and St. Bernard. (Trivia: Cesar Ritz of hotel fame was a waiter there at the time).


What means: Bleached Flour?

Unbleached flour has become a quite common description on baking recipes. Whether it is in cookery books or blogs, it always sounds healthier. Isn't it? So, what is the antagonist of unbleached flour made of and why is it, that bleached flour sounds like the bad guy of the baking world.

First I will start to explain why, bleaching (whitning agent to be more precise) agent are used during the milling process of wheat flour. Experienced bakers will all, tell you the same thing: freshly milled flour makes a weak gluten, a slack dough and a dense loaf. In fact, wheat flour as to be aged, naturaly or chemicaly*, to allow the gluten development and improve its baking properties. The natural process of oxydation of the flour helps freeing the glutenin protein's end sulfur groups to react with each other and form even longer gluten chains that give the dough greater elasticity.

The down side of this process is that the yellowish flour becomes progressively paler as the xanthophyll pigments are oxydized to a colorless form.

The second explaination is of a cultural aspect. Our western society has become used to immaculate white bread. The demand of white bread has progressively overthrone the old traditional greyish, yellowish bread from my childhood.

Now, once the phenomenon of the color changes in air aged flour was understood, millers started to use bleaching agents, "I'll give their little name later," to whiten flours. Then, our consumptions habits changing and the increase in the demand of white bread (in opposition the the old traditional bread) as made its use the norm.

What are these bleaching agent? The first that was used is called azodicarbonamide. When it reacts with flour, it behaves as a hydrogen acceptor, and is quickly and completely converted to biurea, which is stable even during baking. The reaction occurs only during wetting of the dough. Acceptable doses for flour treatment range between 0-45 ppm. It is also used in the production of foamed plastics and the manufacture of gaskets. In the UK, the H.S.E has identified azodicarbonamide as a respiratory sensitiser (a possible cause of asthma) and determined that products should be labeled with "May cause sensitisation by inhalation." The use of azodicarbonamide as a food additive is banned in Australiaand in Europe.

The others are:
  • Organic peroxides: named benzoyl peroxide, it is a radical initiator. Homolytic cleavage of the weak oxygen-oxygen bond forms free radicals which trigger further reactions. It is also used in treatment of acne and in tooth whitening and hair dye. It is potential cancerogene and may act as a mutagen. It is also banned in Europe.
  • Calcium peroxide: (CaO2) is a solid peroxide with a white or yellowish color. For all practical purposes calcium peroxide is insoluble in water but will dissolve in acid to form hydrogen peroxide . When in contact with water it will immediately begin to decompose releasing oxygen. In agriculture it is used as a fertilizer, and is also used in the presowing treatments of rice seeds. Also, calcium peroxide has found use in the aquaculture industry as it is used to oxygenate and disinfect water, and in the ecological restoration industry as it is used in the treatment of soils. It is banned in Europe as a food additive. Its E number is E930.
  • Nitrogen dioxide: is the chemical coupound NO2. This reddish-brown gas has a characteristic sharp, biting odor. NO2 is one of the most prominent air pollutants and a poison by inhalation. It is banned in the EU and Australia.
  • Chlorine dioxide: is a chemical compound of formula ClO2. This greenish-yellow gas crystallizes as orange crystals at −59 °C. As one of several oxides of chlorine, it is a potent and useful oxidizing agent used in water treatment and in bleaching. Chlorine dioxide is used primarily (>95%) for bleaching of wood pulp, but is also used for the bleaching of flour and for the disinfection of water. It is reported to produce diabetes-causing contaminant alloxan when reacting with the proteins contained in flour. You may have guessed it is banned in Europe and Australia.

As you may have noticed chemical bleaching of flour is banned in the EU and Australia, there flour whitening and improving is done by adding some fava bean flour or soy flour. They act as flour improver as they fast forward the the gluten development as well as whitening wheat flour.

I let you come to your own conclusions and make your choice: bleached or unbleached flour...

* Chemicals used as flour improver. They are used mainly to speed up the development of the gluten. They are: Chlorine gas, bromate (banned since the 80's), Acid ascorbic (vitamin C) and anti caking agents.


Fonio and Gluten Intolerance

Fonio is a small annual herbaceous plant of the genus digitalis that grows to a height of 30 to 80 cm. Fonio is considered to be the oldest cereal in West Africa. In the Malian Dogon tribe's legend of the origin and creation of the universe, the fonio grain, is known as po, the "germ of the world".
White fonio (Digitaria exilis) is primarily grown in Guinea, where it is a staple for people living in the mountain regions of Fouta Djalon. It is also found in Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, etc. In West Africa: Digitaria exilis or fonio, white fonio, fundi or findi, acha, hungry rice. Digitaria iburua or black fonio, iburu. In Eastern Europe: Digitaria sanguinalis or large crabgrass or hairy crabgrass. In India: Digitaria cruciata or raishan. Only Digitaria exilis is of any real importance in West Africa nowadays.

Fonio produces rough grains, which still have their glumes (characteristic chafflike bracts of the inflorescence of grasses, sedges at the base of a spikelet) and lemmas (bract in a grass spikelet just below the pistil and stamens) after threshing. At this stage, the grain is known as raw or "paddy" fonio. Paddy fonio, the tip of which still has its seed coating, is oval with one slightly flattened side. The grains are very small (L: 1.5 mm, W: 0.9 mm). On average, there are 1000 grains in half a gram.

Hulled fonio grains have a shiny pericarp whose colour varies from white through yellow to purple. They have a hilum on one side and a relatively large germ, containing the fat reserves, on the other. The kernel, which is the main storage organ, is made up of starch grains and a small protein reserve. It is the main element in whitened fonio. Fonio is highly nutritious.
The nutritional composition of fonio differs little from wheat. The husked grain white fonio contains 8 to 10%percent protein (the black fonio has a protein content of 11.8%), carbohydrates 85%, fat 4 %, ash 1%.
The protein analysis of white fonio in comparison with a whole egg is: 7.3 percent of methionine, 46 percent of lysine, 72% isoleucine, 90-100% of valine, tryptophan, threonine, and phenylalanine, 127% of leucine; 175% of total sulfur; and 189 percent for methionine.
Furthermore, fonio does not contain any glutenin or gliadin proteins which are the constituents of gluten, making this cereal suitable for people with gluten intolerance.
Fonio grain is used in a variety of ways. It is used to make porridge and couscous, ground and mixed with other flours to bake breads, popped and brewed for beer. It is a good substitute for semolina in the making of pastas and shortbread biscuits. The best way to cook fonio is steaming or boiling for about 20 minutes.
In the Hausa region of Nigeria and Benin, people prepare a wusu-wusu (couscous) using both types of fonio. In northern Togo, the Lambas brew the tchapalo (the most famous beer of the country) from white fonio. In southern Togo, the Akposso and Akebou peoples prepare fonio with beans in a dish that is reserved for special occasions.
I recieved quite few e-mails asking me where fonio can be purchased, so there is the only online shop the I am aware of:
Useful links about gluten intolerance:


White Bread

This recipe is the basic white bread recipe that I use in the restaurant. It is a classic French, yeast, white bread. It can be shaped and flavoured to your liking with sun dried tomatoes, pesto, etc.

This is a recipe for 2 large loaf of 500g:
  • 1kg Stronghold (T55), unbleached flour (organic flour is best)
  • 12g Salt
  • 40g Fresh yeast
  • 1/2 lit/ 1 pt (about) Water

Mix the flour and the salt (add your flavouring at this point). Dissolve the yeast in half of the water. Place the flour in a mixer (type Kenwood chef), set on slow and slowly add the water/ yeast mixture. Add the rest of the water slowly until the dough reaches a soft, moist texture. You may not need all the water as the flour does not behave the same way if the weather is dry or humid. Set you food mixer on fast for 5 minutes then on slow for another 10 minutes. At this point, the gluten matrix forms and the starch absorb the moisture and solidify the gluten matrix by filling the gaps in the gluten web of protein.

Place your dough in a warm place, covered with a clean kitchen cloth. Let it proof for 1 hour. The fermentation process takes place. The yeasts feed on the glucose component, of the starch and generate some CO2. The dough rises and doubles in size.

Put the dough in a the mixer and set it on a medium speed for 6 minutes. On a clean and floured surface knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes. Dive it in two parts of equal size. Shape your bread to your liking. Place your bread on a baking tray leaving some space for the to rise again. Score the bread. Set a side to proof for 1/2 hour in a warm place. This is the final fermentation process, more CO2 is produced as well as some alcohol type molecule that will kill the yeast in the bread.

Preheat your oven on high heat (230 degrees Centigrade) and place a container of water in it. Sprinkle some flour on the bread put in the oven for about 40 minutes. After 10 minutes set your oven to 160 degrees Centigrade. The first part of the of the cooking process will create the crust and the flavour of the bread by the browning reaction or "Maillard reaction". The very same chemical reactions that happen when you roast meat. The second part of the cooking process set the starch/ protein walls around the bubbles of CO2.

Leave the bread to cool on a pastry rack.

For a more in depth look at what is going on when your are making bread follow this link:

"Great eaters and great sleepers are incapable of anything else that is great."

Henry IV of France

Nut free, Dairy free, vegetarian


Amaranth and Gluten Intolerance

Amaranth is a tiny seed, about 1 to 2 mm across, of three species of amaranthus. It originated in Mexico and Central and South America. There, this pseudo-cereal crop was already, cultivated 5000 years ago. The Incas, Mayas and Aztecs considered amaranth a staple food as well as maize and beans. After the arrival of the Spanish conquistador the cultivation of the crop was banned. In response, the indigenous population stored their harvest in hard to reach places of mountainous Central and South America. It is only in the 16th Century that amaranth was introduced in Europe, but only as an ornamental plant. From there, different species of amaranth spread throughout the world during 17th, 18th and 19th century. In India, China and under the harsh conditions of Himalayas this plant became important grain and/or vegetable crop.

At present amaranth is grown in the USA, South America, India, China and Russia. The Czech Republic is the most important grower in Europe (approx. 250 hectares). Today this seed supplements other grains in many baked goods and breakfast cereals, and snacks. The Aztec combination of popped amaranth seeds and sticky sweetener lives on in Mexican alegria ("joy"). In India amaranth is known as rajeera (the king's grain) and is the main ingredient of Indian laddoo (traditional sweet).

Amaranth is an interesting seed for coeliacs as it is nutritious and free of gluten. There is a breakdown of its composition for a serving of 100g:

Water 9.84g ; Protein 14.45g ; Fat 6.51g (Saturated Fat 1.662 mg, Monounsaturated Fat 1.433 mg, Polyunsaturated Fat 2.891 mg) ; Carbohydrates 66,71g ; Vitamin C 4.2 mg ; Thiamin 0.08 mg ; Riboflavin 0.208 mg ; Niacin 1.286 mg ; Vitamin B6 0.223 mg ; Folate 49 mcg ; Food Folate 49 5.6 mcg ; Dietary Folate Equivalents 49 mcg ; Pantothenic Acid 1.047 mcg ; Calcium 153 mg ; Iron 7.59 mg ; Magnesium 266 mg ; Phosphorus 455 mg ; Potassium 366 mg ; Sodium 21 mg ; Zinc 3.18 mg ; Copper 0.777 mg ; Manganese 2.26 mg.

Energy for 100g: 374 kcal or 1565kj

Amaranth seeds can be cooked like all edible cereals; Steamed or boiled, they are great puffed. They enter the composition of yeast breads in a ratio 1/3 amaranth flour 2/3 wheat flour on average. The reason for this is the lack of gluten components, glutenin and gliadin, does not allow the creation of the elasticity and plasticity necessary to the development of the dough. It is possible to bake breads made exclusively from amaranth flour with the use of baking powder. The result is a soda bread type of baked goods. Amaranth is a good substitute to wheat flour in the making of batters, crepes, pancakes and fritters, etc. Amaranth is also, used in breakfast cereals and sports bars.

Note that the leaves can also, be cooked like spinach or in salads.


Why Almonds Don't Taste Like Almond Flavouring?

I don't know if you have noticed the difference in taste between the delicate nutty flavours of the common domesticated almonds and the very strong, distinctive flavouring of almond extract. I got curious and decided to investigate. This is the result of my enquiries:

The answer was very simple: the common, eating almond nuts and the almonds used to make "almond extract" are different. One is edible the second one is, potentially toxic. I am not going to focus on the first one, but one the wild bitter almond that is used in almond flavouring.

The wild bitter almonds is the original tree from almond trees family and is originated from Mediterranean and middle eastern region. The second type of almond tree, the domesticated non toxic one, seems to be a mutant of the wild bitter almond tree that has evolved to be able to grow and mature its fruits under much colder horizons.

As I said earlier the nut of the bitter almond is potentially dangerous. A study showed that just few bitter nut eaten in one sitting could kill a child. It is due to its defensive system. A bitter hydrogen cyanide* based poison that is generated when the kernel is broken. But, it turns out that one of the by-product of cyanide production is a molecule called benzaldehyde*. A volatile molecule that is the essence of wild almond flavour and a major contributor in the complex aromas of apricots, cherries, plums and peaches. The "safe" almond varieties lack of both bitterness and the characteristic aroma of the wild "unsafe" ones.

Note that in the U.S, wild bitter almonds are generally unavailable. Here, in Europe they are used in various food products, added in small amounts in marzipan (France) to bring depth to the mixture, they come into the making of amaretto liqueur in Italy as well as in the composition of amaretti biscuits, etc.

The commonest form of bitter-almond flavour is a bottled extract, which contains the aromatic benzaldehyde without its cyanide friend. The pure almond extract is benzaldehyde that is extracted from bitter almonds only, while natural almond extract contains our "B" friend produced from cassia bark (also known as cinnamon tree). Finally, the imitation extract is made with chemically synthesized benzaldehyde.

*Benzaldehyde: in simple words: oil of bitter almonds, C 6 H 5 CHO, the simplest representative of the aromatic aldehyde. It was first isolated in 1803 and was the subject of an important investigation by v.Liebig in 1837 . It occurs naturally in the form of the glucoside amygdalin (C20H27N011), which is present in bitter almonds, cherries, peaches and the leaves of the cherry laurel; and is obtained from this substance by hydrolysis with dilute acids: C20H27N011+2H20 =HCN+2C6H,206+C6H5CHO. It occurs free in bitter almonds, being formed by an enzyme decomposition of amygdalin.

*Hydrogen Cyanide: It is a molecule of the cyanogen family. They are highly toxic and volatile compounds, easily recognised by their almond like aromas. The hydrogen cyanide chemical formula is HCN, which means that it made of 1 atom of hydrogen, 1 atom of carbone and 1 atom of nitrogen. Plants have developed these poisons to warn animals and eventually kill them, in the purpose of allowing their seeds to mature and disperse. When the plant's tissue is damaged by chewing, the cyanogens are mixed with the plants enzyme that breaks them apart and release hydrogen cyanide.

Hydrogen cyanide rich-foods, such as manioc, bamboo shoots,and tropical variety of Lima beans are made safe for consumption by open boiling, leaching in water and fermentation.


Potato Farl or Fadge

The Irish potato bread, also known as potato farl or fadge is a unleavened flat bread, cooked on a griddle, in which most of the wheat flour is replaced by mashed potatoes. It appeared at the beginning of the 1900's as people developed a way to make use of the leftovers of mashed potatoes. At the time, and since a the beginning of the British occupation of the Island, potatoes were the only staple food for the great majority of the population. Nowadays it is traditionally served for breakfast alongside the eggs, sausage, black and white pudding, etc... It exists a couple of variations from Northern Ireland: The Pratie Oaten made with fine wholemeal flour instead of the wheat flour and the apple Potato bread which is a potato bread filled with apple. It is a speciality of county Armagh.

There a recipe for 8 plain potato breads:

  • 225g/ 8oz warm cooked potato (floury potatoes work best)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 25g/ 1oz butter, melted
  • 50g/ 2oz plain flour
Mash the potatoes well, put them back into the pot on low heat for 5-8 minutes to dry them out. Add salt and butter, then work in enough flour to make a pliable dough. Divide the dough in two and roll out on a floured surface to form two circles 22cm / 9 inch in diameter and 1/2cm/ 1/4 inch in thickness. Cut each circle into quarters and bake on a hot griddle or non-stick frying pan for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned on both sides. Some people like to grease the baking surface, while others prefer a light dusting of flour for a drier effect.

"Veal is a very young beef and, like a very young girlfriend, it's cute but boring and expensive."

P.J. O'Rourke

Vegetarian, Nut free