Perfect for Christmas: Swedish Sourdough Bread

Have you made your sourdough starter yet? Annemieke, from Plastic-Free Tuesday, joins us again with more sourdough recipes. This time for Swedish bread. A perfect holiday treat!

I love sourdough products! Sourdough has such a rich flavor. Last month I shared with you a recipe for delicious pancakes (highly recommended!). This time I want to introduce you to one of my favorite sourdough breads. The recipe comes from a Swedish cookbook. Ingredients include walnuts and apple, which makes it a perfect bread for Christmas breakfast/brunch or as a starter/side dish for Christmas dinner.

Ingredients for two loafs of bread:

  • 150 milliliter (rye) sourdough starter – click here to learn make your own
  • 1100 milliliter whole-wheat flour
  • at least 200 milliliter lukewarm water (23-26 degrees Celsius)
  • 150 milliliter pearl barley (or barley)
  • 100 milliliter raisins
  • 75 milliliter coarsely chopped walnuts

  • 50 milliliter deciliter wheat bran
  • another 375 milliliter water
  • 1 apple
  • 0.5 tablespoon salt

For plastic-free wheat bran (rough or fine and enriched), raisins, barley, and walnuts you can buy them from the bulk bags, for example at 1,000 Items, using your own reusable bag or container. You can purchase whole wheat flour in paper sacks from Chef’s.

Baking the bread in three stages (over 24+ hours)

Step 1

In the morning right after getting up or in the evening before going to bed, pour the rye sourdough starter in a large bowl. Add the whole-wheat flour and the lukewarm water. Knead the dough for about five minutes. I use a Bosch MUM kitchen machine for this. Of course you can also use your hands. Make sure to spread some flour over your hands and the dough so that the dough is less sticky. In the end, the dough should form a nice round ball that does not stick to your hands. If the dough keeps falling apart, add some extra water (lukewarm) until the dough sticks together and forms a ball.

Take the dough out of the bowl. Spread some flour at the bottom of the bowl. This helps prevent the dough from sticking to the bowl. Put the dough back in the bowl. Put a clean kitchen towel over the bowl and let the dough rest for 24 hours, at room temperature.


Step 2, twelve hours after kneading the dough

Take another bowl or pot. Put the pearl barley, raisins, walnuts, and wheat bran in it. Boil 375 milliliter water and pour this in the bowl. Blend together using a big spoon. Let rest for 12 hours.

Step 3, 24 hours after kneading the dough


Turn on the oven (250 degrees Celsius). Add the mix of pearl barley, raisins, walnuts, and wheat bran to the dough.


Rasp or grate (coarsely) a washed apple (don’t peel the apple!). Add it to the dough. Add also half a tablespoon of salt.


Knead the dough again. Use a kitchen machine if you have one or if you can borrow one. Use your hands if you don’t have a kitchen machine. It takes a little longer, but it is doable and a nice workout. Be sure to pour some flour over your hands and a little bit on the dough so that it does not stick to your hands.

Knead until the dough is well mixed. This time the final result is not a nice round ball (as after step 1), but a sticky mess. Put parchment paper in two bread loaf pans. Transfer the dough from the bowl to the two pans. Place the pans in the oven (lower part of the oven). Decrease the temperature to 200 degrees Celsius.

Take the bread out of the oven after 50 minutes. Let cool down a little while and then take the bread out of the pans. Carefully remove the parchment paper. Wrap the bread in a clean kitchen towel.

The shelf life of sourdough bread is longer than regular bread. As opposed to regular bread, sourdough bread matures and becomes tastier over time.

Being Dutch, I enjoy eating this bread with peanut butter or apple syrup. But I imagine it tastes excellent with goat cheese or something else too.

Merry Christmas and bon appétit!


Plastic-free, healthy, and tasty: Home-made sourdough pancakes

Annemieke of Plastic Free Tuesday is back! This time she shares with us a recipe for sourdough pancakes.

Eating without buying or throwing away any plastic is easy and fun! Just Do-It-Yourself! #DIY! Home-made food is usually also healthier and more delicious than eating out or taking away. And it saves money.

Last month I shared with you how to make your own plastic-free sourdough starter. It takes about a week before the starter is alive and kicking. Your starter is ready to be used for baking if it is bubbling vigorously. Sometimes, my starter is so alive that it escapes the jar!

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Initially, I started to experiment with sourdough when I was looking for a plastic-free alternative to baking powder. The baking powder I used for my carrot cake muffins came in plastic and I wanted to get rid of it. On the internet I read that baking powder can be replaced with sourdough in combination with baking soda. In many parts of the world, the latter comes in cardboard boxes.

To keep the sourdough starter alive, I stir daily with a clean, wooden spoon. Every second day, I add new flour and some water (23-26 degrees Celsius/73.4-78.8 F) in a 1:1 ratio. Every week, I feed my starter a big meal. I empty almost the entire jar. I leave only about 1 deciliter in the jar. I then add about three times as much flour and lukewarm water (again, in a 1:1 ratio) and stir. This kind of big meals makes that the pH drops. This makes it easier for the bacteria to multiply.

It would be a waste to throw away the sourdough that I take out of the jar. So instead, I follow the instructions of Sandor Katz to use this sourdough to bake pancakes. It’s easy and super delicious. Just note that because this recipe involves fermentation, it is a two-step process. In the morning (or evening) you prepare the dough, in the evening (or next morning) you can eat the pancakes.


3 deciliter sourdough starter

4 deciliter flour (I use whole-wheat flour)

4 deciliter water (23-26 degrees Celsius or 73.4-78.8 F)

1 onion

1 clove of garlic

1 bell pepper (I prefer a green one)

coconut oil, butter or any other kind of oil

2 eggs


1 tablespoon peanut butter

For plastic-free flour in Dahab, you can buy your flour from the bulk bags, for example at 1,000 Items, using your own reusable bag or container. The shop carries all purpose and semolina flour. You can also purchase whole wheat flour in paper sacks from Chef’s. Remember to bring your own bag or container and you can buy the onion, garlic, bell pepper, butter, and eggs without plastic packaging. Look for local peanut butter brand AHEF which comes in a glass jar.

Step 1.

In the morning (before you go to work) or in the evening (before you go to bed), transfer 3 deciliter sourdough starter from the jar in a bowl (preferably plastic-free) or pot. Add 4 deciliter of flour. Add the lukewarm (23-26 degrees Celsius) water. Blend everything until the dough is smooth. Put a clean kitchen towel on top and leave it to rest for at least a few hours so that it can ferment. After about 10-12 hours, there will be bubbles in the dough.

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Step 2

Usually I blend the sourdough starter, flour, and water in the morning and leave it to ferment the whole day until I come back from work in the evening. Once the dough is ready for baking, chop the onion and mince (or chop) the garlic. Cut the bell pepper into small pieces.

Pour some oil in a frying pan. Fry the onion, garlic, and bell pepper. In the meanwhile, add the 2 eggs, some salt, and the tablespoon peanut butter to the dough. Blend until smooth. Add the fried veggies too and blend again.

Heat some oil in the frying pan. Pour some dough into the frying pan. I prefer small and relatively thin pancakes (because they turn out nicest this way), so I do not fill the entire pan. I only use a little bit of dough for each pancake. Make sure you move the frying pan around so that the dough is spread out. You don’t want thick pancakes, because that means risking that the outside is done but the inside is not.

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Wait until the upper side has turned dry. Then, carefully flip the pancake. Once both sides are golden brown, the pancake is ready.

This recipe will make about 10 pancakes.

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The pancakes are still very delicious the next day if kept refrigerated. They are delicious served with peanut butter, vegetable based spread, and/or avocado.

This is a recipe based on the instructions of Sandor Katz in his book “The Art of Fermentation” (page 236).

Bon appetite!

Popcorn: A Perfect (almost) Plastic-free Snack

We all have our own preferences when it comes to the snacks we love. Popcorn is one of my favorites, satisfying my craving for salty crunchiness. It’s also a great alternative to all the snacks available on the market. You know, all those snacks packaged in plastic – potato chips, nuts, energy bars, cookies, and cakes. Besides the issue of the plastic packaging, the nutritional value of these “foods” is also questionable. I’m not a big fan of snacks on most days, so it is easy for me to REFUSE these packaged snacks. When I do feel the need for a snack, one of the foods I reach for is popcorn.

If you bring your own bag, you can purchase popcorn completely plastic-free from the bulk bags at 1,000 Items (Alf Sunf) in Assalah Square. This past weekend, I paid LE 10 for a kilo of popcorn. Make sure you buy from the bag that says “POPCORN” because corn feed for chickens is also available.

popcorn in bulk

Bring your own bag or reuse a plastic one you already have.

To pop the popcorn on my stove, I cover the bottom of a pan with about a tablespoon of cold vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter). I then pour the kernels in, just enough to make one layer.

The oil, unfortunately, comes in a plastic bottle so when I purchase oil I always buy the largest bottle possible. (Crystal Sunflower Oil, 3 Liters) This at least reduces the amount of plastic that will need to be recycled. 


Plastic-Saving Tip: Buy the largest bottle available.

The ghee comes in a glass jar that can be reused or recycled, but it does have a small amount of plastic on the lid. I prefer the ghee not only because it’s less plastic, but it’s tastier too!


Less plastic and better tasting – ghee

I cover the pan and put in on medium heat. As the oil heats, I shake the pan gently every once in awhile to make sure all kernels are covered evenly in oil. I continue to do this as the kernels pop. Once the popping has stopped, I remove the pan from the stove and pour the popcorn into a large bowl, sprinkle some salt on top, and start munching. I don’t measure anything so if you need more precise instructions, read these.


What is your favorite snack food? Does it come packaged in plastic? Do you make it yourself? Do you have any recipes to share?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

The Pearl of Dahab Roastery – for Plastic-Free Nuts, Spices, and More!

The Pearl of Dahab Roastery, located directly next to Ralph’s German Bakery in Asalah Square, is THE place to purchase plastic-free nuts and spices – as long as you remember to BYOB, or Bring Your Own Bag!

pearl of dahab

Actually, it doesn’t have to be a bag. It can be any reusable container you have on hand. We bring our own reusable plastic containers or repurposed empty tea tins.

Old tea tins being reused to purchase and store spices.

Old tea tins being reused to purchase and store spices.

This shop offers a range of dried goods in bulk:

  • NUTS – Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and a variety of peanuts including my favorites: peanuts covered in chocolate or honey and sesame.
  • SEEDS – Sesame and all the types of “lib” you could want, which you can also purchase in the recycled paper cones typically used to package snack seeds in Egypt.
  • SPICES – The dried and powered ginger and cinnamon are my favorites, but you can also get cumin, coriander, cardamon, nutmeg, sage, bay leaf, and more.
  • CANDY – I’ve actually never purchased candy, but the shop does carry jelly beans and other chewy candies.
Walnuts purchased in our own container.

Walnuts purchased in our own container.

Like all of the shops we use for our plastic-free shopping, it takes the shopkeepers a bit of time to get used to our request to use our own bags or containers. Unlike the street food shops where business is brisk, at the roastery you’ll have plenty of time to make your request and wait for your order. There’s no pushing or yelling here!

How To Make Your Own Sourdough – all plastic-free!

We’ve got another guest blog for you today from Annemieke of Plastic-Free Tuesday, which she launched in 2014 “to create more awareness about the adverse impacts of our plastic consumption.” Today she shares instructions for making sourdough. 

I love sourdough bread. It’s delicious. No other bread can beat the deep, distinct taste of sourdough bread. It’s Slow Food. Rather than being produced in a rush, as happens with most bread you find in bakeries and supermarkets nowadays, authentic sourdough bread takes days to make. And even after baking, the taste will continue to mature.

Besides the unique taste, sourdough bread is also beneficial for your health. Did you know that our bodies contain more bacteria than human cells? In fact, there are ten times more bacteria than human cells in our body! 100 trillion bacteria live in our intestines. In order to stay healthy, we must help the benign bacteria to thrive. Fermented foods such as sourdough bread feed these benign bacteria. Eating some fermented foods daily helps keep you healthy.

Real sourdough bread and #BYOB

You can of course try to buy sourdough bread at your local bakery or supermarket. I say “try”, because –at least in my home country, the Netherlands– it is not uncommon that bread sold as “sourdough” is made with regular yeast and only has some “sourdough powder” added to it. So if you do buy, please always inquire whether the bread contains yeast. If it does, it is not authentic sourdough bread.

If you happen to find real sourdough bread at your local bakery or supermarket, make sure to refuse the plastic or paper bag. Instead, just #BYOB. #BringYourOwnBag. While this feels awkward the first time you ask the shop assistant to put your bread in your own bag, very soon it will feel perfectly normal. I have never received negative comments on my reusable bags. People always say things like “so environmentally friendly,” “such nice material,” and “where can I buy these bags?”. #BYOB is a great conversation starter.

Making your own sourdough takes only 5 minutes!

If you can’t find real sourdough bread or simply enjoy making your own food, you can easily make it yourself. What you need is a high quality starter. Of course you could purchase this online or elsewhere, but in order to avoid any waste, best is to make the starter by yourself. All you need is water, flour (I use rye or buckwheat, but you could also use whole wheat flour), kitchen scale, boiled water, thermometer, and a jar.

For plastic-free flour in Dahab, you can buy your flour from the bulk bags, for example at 1,000 Items, using your own reusable bag or container. The shop carries all purpose and semolina flour. You can also purchase whole wheat flour in paper sacks from Chef’s.

Before you start, make sure to wash, rinse, and dry the jar thoroughly. Put the jar on a kitchen scale. Turn the scale on. Pour 100 gram flour in the jar. Be careful, you must be precise. Boil a little bit of water. Leave the water in a large bowl if it is chlorinated to allow the chlorine to evaporate. Blend the hot water with cold water until the temperature drops till 23-26 degrees Celsius (73.4-78.8 F). Add 100 gram of the water to the flour. Stir with a spoon until smooth. Put the lid on the jar, but don’t close it because air should be able to flow out if needed. Leave the jar outside the fridge. It takes about a week for the starter to be ready for baking. Make sure to stir the paste at least once a day with a clean spoon. I use a wooden one.

Sourdough 1

Feed it like a pet

After two or three days you will find bubbles in the jar and it will start to smell sour (yet fresh). In order to keep your sourdough alive, you must now feed it regularly. The first time you feed it, best is to add 300-400 grams of both water (23-26 degrees Celsius) and flour. After this, you should feed your sourdough every two days. Add water (23-26 degrees Celsius) and flour in a 1:1 ratio (i.e. as much water as flour) and stir. Once your sourdough is bubbling vigorously, it is ready to be used in bread and other delicacies. In my next blogs I will share how to use it to make pancakes and bread using your own home-made starter. Much more on fermented foods can be found in Sandor Katz’s “The Art of Fermentation.”

Sourdough 2

Skip the frozen veggies & buy fresh instead

One of my favorites dishes to make is spinach quiche. This recipe that I like calls for a refrigerated ready crust and frozen spinach. Several years ago, as I continued on my journey to use less plastic, I stopped buying frozen spinach as it came packaged in not one but two plastic bags. I must have made this decision when there was fresh spinach available at the local green grocers. Buying fresh greens instead is the easiest and most obvious way to cut down the amount of plastic, as long as we REFUSE the plastic bags provided and remember to bring our own. But at that point, we had that habit down. So it was an easy step to replace the frozen spinach with fresh plastic-free spinach.

But then I had a craving for this quiche and there was no fresh spinach in town. With my husband’s reassurance (he’s usually the one doing the cooking in our kitchen), I made the quiche, replacing the spinach with fresh mulukheiyah (a mallow). I was hesitant about this replacement at first because the Egyptian dish that is made with this green often has a slimy texture that puts me off a bit. The quiche, however, was delicious!

With that success, it became easier to substitute different fresh greens in various recipes, depending on what was available at the green grocers. Whenever my husband buys beets with their greens still in good shape, I make this Pasta with Beet Greens and Blue Cheese. But those greens are not always available, so I have made this pasta with both fresh mulukheiyah and spinach. These aren’t as flavorful as the beet greens in this recipe but it still makes a quick, tasty meal.

In the intense summertime heat of Dahab, though, it’s rare to find nice fresh greens on the market. Not a leaf of spinach or mallow to be seen anywhere! Lucky for us, several weeks ago Habiba Organic Farm returned to our weekly Community Market at Sheikh Salem. And on their table were baskets full of beautiful fresh greens – leaves of the Moringa tree! A new green to try in my quiche! I didn’t even need a bag, I just walked away with the green bouquet in my hands.

Moringa Quiche Collage

Getting the leaves off the stems took a bit time, but I am not that picky and did not mind if a few of the small stems fell off with the leaves. Otherwise, I followed my usual recipe and the resulting quiche was another delicious success! Actually, I found the moringa quiche tastier than the mulukheiyah so I plan to experiment more with these moringa greens, especially since they are local, organic, super-nutritious, and available PLASTIC-FREE! 🙂

I encourage you to do the same. If you are using frozen vegetables in your meals, search the shelves and see what fresh greens or vegetables are available that might make a tasty replacement. Have fun and get creative! And remember to bring your own reusable bag so you can REFUSE the plastic ones.

As for the crust, I’ve always made my own (I don’t even know if frozen ones are available here in Dahab.) and I particularly like this Olive Oil Tart Crust. Making this recipe with less plastic is easy if you purchase flour in bulk using your own reusable bag or container and buy olive oil in glass bottles or metal jerkins. I have yet to find a solution for salt though. I’ve only ever seen it in plastic bags so if you know a plastic-free alternative available here in Dahab, please share it with us in the comments.

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Banana “Ice Cream” (Plastic-free, of course!)

For those of us wanting to REDUCE the amount of plastic waste we produce, finding plastic-free alternatives to snack foods can sometimes be challenging. The easiest way, of course, is to MAKE YOUR OWN. And to make our snacks 100% plastic-free, we must purchase the ingredients without plastic packaging.

One of my favorite summer snacks is ice cream. Since the locally-produced-and-packaged ice cream is not very tasty in my opinion, it it easy for me to REFUSE. Instead, when I am craving something cool and creamy, I head to Nirvana Indian Restaurant for their tasty homemade ice cream. As far as a take-away snack, I think this is a great option – you can order the ice cream in a cone and it’s plastic-free!

But is it truly a 100% plastic-free snack? What plastic packaging is thrown away by the restaurant when they make this ice-cream? Which milk are they using and how is it packaged?

I often make my own yogurt at home and will mix it with fruit and honey to make my own frozen yogurt. But making my own yogurt involves buying milk in Tetra Paks, which are not recycled here in Dahab, so I began to wonder how I could make a frozen snack without any plastic waste. I found the answer in bananas!

It was news to me, but it probably won’t surprise any vegans out there – bananas make a deliciously creamy frozen dessert!

banana ice cream

my banana “ice-cream”

Basically, you chop and freeze bananas and then blend or process them until they are smooth and creamy. You can refreeze the mix if you want or eat it straight away. I followed this recipe and added a dash of nutmeg and a few drops of vanilla oil to the bananas. (I purchased both the nutmeg and vanilla oil in bulk in my own containers so there was no plastic packaging. I did not use a bag to purchase the bananas, just carried them in my hands.) The possibilities, though, are endless when it comes to other flavors and ingredients you want to add. For my next batch, I plan on adding peanut butter.

The only drawback to making this plastic-free “ice-cream” is, of course, the fact that you have to have a decent quality blender or food processor. I don’t have the best blender, but it did the job. I think next time I will not freeze the bananas overnight before blending; I’ll just freeze them for a couple of hours instead. If you don’t have your own blending or processing device, ask a friend who does. Sharing these kitchen appliances is also good for the environment!

What are you waiting for? Buy a bunch of bananas and have fun experimenting with different flavored “ice creams”!

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle