Mediterranean Carrot, Parsley & Fennel Seed Loaf

Don’t ever call me, doll.’

Yes, I just began this blog post with a quote from Lola Bunny (Space Jam). When I was a little girl my hero was Bugs Bunny. When Space Jam came out, I watched it every day without fail, admiring Bugs’ carrot-eating habit and Lola’s strong, independent woman vibe. I grew up munching on carrots almost everyday, probably my most healthful practice growing up. Now my mum actually questions if my tan comes from consuming so many carrots and sweet potatoes, but I assure her that I would have a slightly more orange tinge if that were the case (cue carotenaemia – an actual thing). Bugs aside, in comes this herbed carrot loaf.


As you can see I’m not very patient, the crust is the best part of any loaf in my opinion.

Every week I try to make a loaf, whether this be a buckwheat, rye, spelt or veggie loaf, to have on hand for early mornings and lazy lunches, because I am Romanian and bread is synonymous with life. There is a saying in Romania, ‘bun/bună ca pâinea caldă’, which is literally saying you are a quality person, better than warm bread. Now that is a compliment. I have a collection of tried and tested recipes that I rotate every week from my bookshelf, but I really wanted to create my own with a unique flavour that also packs a nutritional punch. I’m calling this a loaf as opposed to a bread as you should not expect a traditional loaf of bread that Romanians would eat in one sitting. It is dense, filling and delicious. Rather than preaching about the benefits of adding vegetables and herbs to every meal (keep it simple, health and food should never be stress-inducing) I will just subtly present this loaf that has 4 cups of grated carrots. 😉

Nutrition Talk
Mediterranean food inspires me so much. The colour, the aroma, the lifestyle, the love. What I really adore about the Mediterranean lifestyle is that food is stripped back, simplicity is essential. Social media doesn’t dictate what is trendy in the Mediterranean, food is to be loved, enjoyed and shared. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with being inspired by the newest food trend, there is also something incredibly beautiful about sharing a Caprese or Niçoise salad with someone you love. A simple foundation of olive oil, lemon, balsamic vinegar, a liberal scattering of herbs, and salt and pepper can elevate any dish.

Parsley and fennel seeds fulfill the senses. Everything could do with a generous sprinkle of both. Fennel seeds have traditionally been used as carminatives, a remedy easing abdominal cramping, bloating, flatulence and facilitating digestion. They are composed of volatile essential oils, which provide fennel seeds their unique property. Flavonoid antioxidants such as kaempferol and quercetin are present, quenching free radicals and providing protection from many illnesses. Additionally, fennel seeds have been shown effective in amenorrhoea and dysmenorrhoea, supporting the menstrual cycle. Try not to skip the fennel seeds, it gives the loaf a distinct taste and aroma.

Similar to fennel seeds, parsley also contains volatile oils, of note myristicin which activates glutathione-S-transferase, catalysing detoxification of toxic compounds. This makes parsley a super addition to support the liver via boosting liver enzyme production. The neutralisation of particular types of carcinogens (coming from charcoal grill smoke and cigarettes) may also be assisted by the activity of the chemoprotective volatile oils present in parsley. I have attached a link at the bottom of this post if you’d like to read up on the many health benefits of parsley – a true superfood. Whenever I use the leaves, I chop up the stems and sauté them with onion, garlic, ginger and spices at the beginning of a blended soup, ensuring I minimise waste. Sometimes I also make parsley tea, anything goes!

My passion for herbs runs so deep that I even have a mezzaluna knife and chopping board because my patience runs thin and my knife skills are still questionable. I’m known for leaving herbs (and stems – woops) whole due to the frustration that chopping herbs induces in me – I’m sure my family wonder why they let me cook when this happens, scuze/sorry! So the mezzaluna ensures I can reduce a massive pile of herbs to a fine dice thus my meals regularly feature herbs. #lifesaver But I trust that you are way more patient than me. 😉

There are so many ways to enjoy this loaf. Toasted and dipped into my miso and sweet potato soup (so European), for brekkie with this pesto and goat’s cheese or ricotta, olive tapenade, hummus, scrambled eggs or baked cumin and tomato eggs, smashed avo, a few slices in my uni lunchbox as a snack…all amazing options as this baby is very versatile and a sneaky little way to get some veggies in as well which I love. My favourite way is to pan-toast 2 slices, spread with Paté di Olive Taggiasche (thanks Giuly), mashed avocado and goat’s cheese alongside my matcha latte.

A few notes: When trialing the loaf my first one was slightly soggy therefore the arrowroot/tapioca is essential if you want a loaf that holds together better. Leaving it overnight in the fridge and pan-toasting in the morning will also produce a firmer loaf. I also made the mistake of using cumin seeds the first time because I am a bit of a haphazard cook, delicious but I wanted fennel seeds. I’m even considering adding sliced Kalamata olives to the loaf batter as well because olives are life.

Mediterranean Carrot, Parsley & Fennel Seed Loaf

Makes 1 loaf (about 12 slices)

Ingredients:

  • 400 g / 4 cups grated carrots (or use the grater attachment on a food processor)
  • 2 big handfuls parsley, finely chopped (I honestly put way more because I love my herbs)
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • a pinch of cumin
  • 150 g / 1 ½ cups of hazelnut meal/flour (can use almond)
  • 30 g / ¼ cup of tapioca flour/arrowroot
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarb soda
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • pepitas, to top
  • sliced Kalamata olives, to top

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Mix the grated carrots, parsley, fennel seeds and cumin in a large bowl. Add the hazelnut meal, tapioca/arrowroot, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt and pepper, mix again.

Make a well in the centre of this mixture and crack the eggs into the middle and add the olive oil and apple cider vinegar as well. Whisk the liquids in the centre with a fork then incorporate this into the rest of the batter until everything is well combined – use your hands! Transfer this mixture to the loaf tin and smooth out the top. Sprinkle with pepitas and press some sliced olives on the top.

Bake in the oven for 50 minutes – 1 hour, checking regularly around the 40 minute mark until a skewer comes out clean. Ensure you are not burning the loaf as all ovens are different. Your loaf may need a little more time as this is quite a dense loaf and does not rise like a traditional loaf.

Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then take loaf out of the tin and leave on a wire rack to cool completely and firm up. Slice and serve! This will keep up to a week in the fridge. Alternatively, you can leave to fully cool, slice and freeze individual slices into zip lock bags or place a sheet of baking paper between each slice. Toast before eating, can pan-toast alternatively, 2 minutes on each side.

*Try baking this as a flatbread by transferring to a lined baking tray and flattening this mixture into a rectangle. Bake for 25 minutes in a 200°C oven. Slice into sandwich slice pieces.

***************************************************************

Links:

Sweet Potato, Lentil & Miso Soup with a Hazelnut, Mint & Parsley Pesto

Soup is my love declaration to winter. Although knits, snow, mountains and hot chocolates are just about the only things that get me excited for winter, warming up a pot of this veg-filled, hearty soup truly fixes (just about) anything. Other than that, I’m a true summer gal at heart. ♥ With my upcoming European adventure only a month away, I couldn’t leave without posting my favourite immune-boosting combination. It is sweet, salty and warming all in one beautiful hit.

Warming up a big pot of this soup every winter to share with your friends and family is so good for the soul and your body. If you’re feeling in need of a cleanse or a detoxifying meal, then this is your jam. Soups are much gentler and warming for your system therefore they can be digested easily by the body leaving you with a combination of healing nutrients cleansing your organs. I make this for dinner usually after a really rainy day and whilst it’s on the stove I’ll whip up this pesto using whole bunches of greens and a new Spotify playlist on repeat (and dance). 😉 This soup is also indicated if you really want something delicious to eat, which is good enough for me, just saying!

This pesto was created out of my love for parsley, lemons, mint and hazelnuts. *ahem that’s why I’m Hazelcoco* What initially was purely an experiment, turned into something delicious I now make regularly. Add a dollop to the soup when serving, lather it on anything that is edible and use it as a face mask. The lentils really bulk this soup out and add some protein, you can’t really taste them though which is great if you have a bit of an aversion to lentils. If you’re after some ‘food as medicine’ immunity, the onion, ginger and garlic which all contain antibacterial and antiviral properties accompanied by the alkalising greens in the pesto all provide the body with strength to prevent illness, promote healing and cleanse the body. Despite all these benefits, food for me is about enjoyment, pleasure and fun, so if this soup didn’t achieve those first primary satisfactions it would not have been posted. 😉

β-carotene – the Vitamin A powerhouse
I really cannot go past sweet potatoes, whether they are roasted as wedges, mashed or simply pureed into a soup, they are my favourite (along with 50 other foods have you noticed?) All orange vegetables contain carotenoids, specifically β-carotene, which act as precursors to vitamin A. Not all carotenoids express this ability but β-carotene most certainly does. They exhibit antioxidant activity, and aid in immune system function and vision (after conversion of provitamin A to vitamin A). Therefore, there is a lot to love about all my favourite orange veggies so definitely try to include a few servings of these body-loving vegetables throughout the week.

A few notes on the ingredients. As you can see I have suggested to peel the sweet potatoes and carrots, although these contain a lot of goodness, when the origin is unknown and you’re not sure where they were grown (which I admit is most of the time for me), then it is safer to peel. The miso paste is essential in this, please don’t skip it, although we are boiling it at this stage and the probiotic effects will be nullified, the taste is out of this world. I love Spiral Foods brown rice miso paste, which is readily available at Woolworths though any health food store will carry miso. Use your leftover miso scraped onto toast with avocado, tahini or hummus on top and use to make your own dip creation. Your jar of pesto can be used on anything from crackers, homemade pizza, wraps, zoodles, omelettes, quinoa salads, grilled fish, on a savoury pancake etc.. Leftover mint leaves make great tea when combined with lemon, raw honey and boiling water. If you haven’t realised yet I really want to encourage you to use ALL your leftovers.

Sweet Potato, Lentil & Miso Soup with a Hazelnut, Parsley & Mint Pesto Topping

Serves: 6 + (depending on your appetite)

Ingredients for the soup:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil/olive oil
  • 2 brown onions, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled & grated
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (approx. 1.3kg), peeled & roughly chopped into cubes
  • 2 carrots (approx. 350g), peeled & roughly chopped into cubes
  • 1 and a 1/4 cups of dried red lentils, rinsed (200g)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons red/brown rice miso paste
  • water
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • salt and pepper

Ingredients for the pesto:
(makes a full jar)

  • 2 – 4 garlic cloves, sliced (depending on your taste – I use 4)
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts (approx. 65g)*
  • 1 bunch of parsley, ends trimmed off with leaves and stalks roughly chopped
    (yes, the whole bunch, approx. 130g/4 handfuls)
  • 1/2 bunch of mint, leaves only
    (approx. 50g/1 handful)
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil + extra if needed
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt/herb salt/Himalayan pink salt
  • pinch of pepper

*I’ve made this with pecans as well with similarly great results.

Make sure all your vegetables are chopped prior to beginning. Heat the oil in a large pot on low heat. Add onions, garlic and ginger and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the chopped sweet potatoes, carrots and lentils and stir with a wooden spoon, coating the vegetables with the onion mix. Add the 2 heaped tablespoons of miso paste to the pot, and now add water. I haven’t provided measurements as the consistency is up to you, I find the perfect consistency to be enough water to just cover all of the vegetables in the pot. Give this another stir to break up the miso paste and combine it with the rest of the ingredients.

Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat and let simmer for 20-25 minutes until all the vegetables are soft and the lentils have cooked (they should look soft). While this is happening, make your pesto. Add all of the pesto ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth making sure there are no green or garlicky chunks. You may need to scrape down the sides a few times. Truthfully, I use a hand blender for this process. Taste and adjust seasonings, add more olive oil if you like, I usually end up using 1/3 of a cup. Place the pesto in a jar and set aside.

When the vegetables and lentils are soft, use an immersion/hand blender and puree the soup until really smooth and creamy! If you have a blender you can use this (carefully). Squeeze the juice of 1 lime into the pot and stir with a wooden spoon or blend again to incorporate that. Taste and adjust the seasonings, I find the miso gives it enough saltiness already. Ladle the soup into bowls, add a spoonful of pesto to the top of each bowl and swirl through. Enjoy!

The pesto keeps in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge, use for up to a week on everything.

Serve with: rye sourdough toast, lemon/lime wedges, greens (like arugula/rocket, watercress), dukkah, pepitas, #avoontoast + lemon or hummus + sliced tomato (use good quality bread/sourdough), sesame seeds, goat’s feta cheese etc.
* In the pictures I served it with homemade millet and zucchini toast.

***************************************************************

Useful links: