January Jams

In order for me to keep on top of the blog, and to keep things fresh, I’m starting a new series. So every month I will be writing a list of things that I’m vibing on, and it won’t just be food related don’t you worry!

In the early stages of 2017, it seems a common trend that everyone is feeling slightly under the weather, missing some sunshine and (even though I don’t believe in it) is on a relentless diet that is draining you of all frivolity and joy. These are some of the things that are ‘getting me through’ January, filling up my evenings and brightening up my days.

#1

Fuss-Free Moisturiser – Clean Beauty Co.

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Get in from work, go in the shower, wash hair, get out and slather body in moisturiser, if not legs will soon be scaling, as the winter leaves you looking like a lizard. Go to bed, only to wake up in the middle of the night really sticky, really really sticky but so COLD.

Anyone else?

I never end up putting moisturiser on because I hate the routine of prancing around with nothing on, swinging my arms around until the said cream has sunk in and it’s safe to put some clothes on without a trail of white rings left on my tights.

So, here’s the miracle product: an in-shower moisturiser that’s completely natural. At the end of your shower rub liberally allover, then hop out (no need to rinse) and just pat dry. Your skin will feel utterly smooth, and no sticky residue leftover. I think Clean Beauty Co. have sadly stopped selling this product as they are going on to bigger and better things (see this book), however you can find the recipe here for a little Sunday DIY. I can tell you, once my next jar has run out (will probably only take a month, it’s that good) I will be making this on the regular. Watch this space, everyone who knows me will probably be receiving a tub!

 

#2

Hotel Chocolat Tea

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This came along with a few other gifts from a good friend for Christmas, tea tends to feature always in her gift buying which = V. happy Thea.

Recently I’ve been quite obsessed with the Hotel Chocolat rare and vintage chocolate bars (and the free samples every time you visit the shop) but was yet to try the tea. There are five different varieties which you can either buy a single for 75p or a pack of 10 for £5.00. Each catering for a different time of day or specific need, in the Teaolat range: Energise, Invigorate, Refresh, Cacao Breakfast, Unwind and Spice. All containing one specific ingredient, cacao nibs. The cacao nibs come across strongest in the aroma, a whiff of hot chocolate but mingled with divine spices and herbs. Next time you pop by Hotel Chocolat grab some of the samples to try and when you have a spare minute boil the kettle and let one brew for a few moments of bliss.

 

#3

The OA

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How could I leave out something to binge on on Netflix. That’s what January is all about right? On the sofa, under a duvet with some snacks and a cuppa. After watching (and LOVING) Stranger things, up popped Netflix’s next recommendation (they’re onto something there I think) for me and my mum. A series called The OA, with not much explanation as to what it is about.

‘Having gone missing seven years ago, the previously blind Prairie returns home, now in her 20s with her sight restored. While many believe she is a miracle, others worry that she could be dangerous.’

So four episodes in, it’s GOOD. Brad Pitt is one of the producers, I think that says it all. It’s most definitely weird, really odd at first, but stick with it. If you’re a Sci-Fi and mystery fan like me, you will be hooked!

 

#4

Pink Puffer Coat – Monki Exclusive to Asos

I attempted to buy this coat on many occasions with no luck. It seems everyone else wants this big, soft, pastel pink duvet to wrap themselves up tight in the cold.

With no luck of buying it, as Asos kept selling out and only the larger sizes were left in stock, I gave up on my dreams of becoming a big marshmallow. UNTIL, on Christmas morning my last present to unwrap was a huuugeeee surprise and out came this coat. It has not been off my back since. In the UK we’ve had all sorts of weather the past few weeks and even during the heavy snow fall it has kept me warm, snug and cosy without any complaints (actually OVERHEATING has been the biggest thing, but rather that than be cold any day). On the Monki website they also have the coat in black (sadly the mustard and dark green tartan print has gone), but hop to it and you might bag yourself a beauty.

 

#5

Microplane Grater

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I love cooking. Can you tell?

I’m not a big gadget fan, however there are a few little things which make the process much speedier and oh so more satisfying. Queue my Microplane grater. Whenever a recipe calls for the zest of some citrus the overall result will be so much zingier and tarter. Picture a lemon drizz but with a real zippy tanginess that cuts through the sugary sweet topping, or if you’re making a stir-fry lumps of ginger and garlic aren’t overly pleasant, so whizz some across the Microplane and it will be distributed evenly to leave a good heat in its wake. I understand you’re reading this and thinking, ‘how sad’ yes it is. I don’t really care as I’ve got my Microplane and that makes me happy.

 

#6

Maple peanut butter – Pip N Nut

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Of course I couldn’t do this post without jamming on a food product. If you’re from the UK, I’d assume you will have heard of this new brand which has been growing exponentially over the past year. Now stocked in Sainsburys, Waitrose, Wholefoods, Holland and Barrett, Plant Organic and many other health food shops nationwide. Currently there is a peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, coconut almond butter, honey cinnamon cashew butter and this limited edition, crunchy maple peanut butter.

DONE

It’s sweet, that’s expected, but slather on some carrot or celery sticks for a snack, swirl into zoats or porridge topped with tart berries. It’s mighty mighty fine. As this one is a limited edition I don’t think you’ll find it on the shelves for much longer, but then of course another genius new flavour will be on the market. Whilst you have the chance, grab a tub and spoon and you’ll thank me later.

So that’s it for this month’s jams. I will be back in February with some new and old discoveries which I can’t wait to share. Please do comment, email or find me on Instagram and let me know what you’ve been obsessing and jamming on recently. I’d love to hear and have a chat!

Much love

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beet tahini balls

When I was little, toast or cereal was the only thing on the cards for breakfast. Well thinking about it, it was almost always a big bowl of cereal. Toast was one of those things that sounded great beforehand, crisped and bronzed, slathered well with salted butter and a thin slick of ruby jam, BUT in reality a soggy piece of white loaf spread with flora and overly sweet strawberry jam. Nah never did it for me.

So bowl of cereal it was to break the fast. My eyes always shone at the sight of some Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, Shreddies, Rice Krispies or come winter warm Shredded Wheat or Weetabix with a sliced up banana. Now my mum was always a Sugar Puffs gal. If you’re new to the British cereal aisle, you’ll find them under the name of Honey Monster Puffs, a puffed wheat sweetened with sugar and honey. IN FACT, looking at the nutritional breakdown on the packet, containing 5 types of sugar, there are certainly better options out there.

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(On tasting these bars, my mum remarked how they are similar to Sugar Puffs, I’m hoping on a much more wholesome scale, but I will definitely take that as a good thing.)

Between me and my mum we’re both BIG fans of a good muesli bar (I’m not including my dad here because it’s near impossible to tempt him with a healthier treat, he’s only down for proper brownies and chocolate). I’ve attempted many in the past, and it really is hard to find a good one. Some granola bars are just way too dry, other ‘no-bake’ muesli bars too crumbly and fall apart, some using way too many dried dates or a big glug of maple syrup. I always return to the Muesli Bar from Green Kitchen Stories (on their desserts apps), they keep really well in the freezer and transport without turning into a mass of crumbs. If you fancy a baked bar, this Feelgood flapjack is lovely, just on the right side of sweetness, dipped into a cup of milk, crumbled on top of some yogurt or spread liberally with nut butter. Totally satisfying and moreish.

Now this recipe from Golubka Kitchen has been on my radar for quite a while now. Remember Rice Krispies Squares? The Rice Krispie snack glued together by a mass of marshmallows, this is slightly reminiscent of them. Gloriously magenta in colour, they use blended cooked beetroot to lend a slight earthiness as well as the mega hue. Oats and puffed brown rice make them more sustaining as a snack, and tahini and hazelnut butter lend a richness as well as a good dose of plant based protein. I added a handful of raisins for chewy nuggets, another of sunflower and pumpkin seeds for crunch and some cacao nibs for that 4pm much needed cacao hit.

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Note: The bars are best kept in the freezer and will keep there for a good few months, just take them out a few minutes before serving to soften. I have eaten some straight out the freezer but at room temperature is the best way to enjoy them. They are sticky and gooey and everything you want in a little snack bar. If you’re feeling fancy, drizzle with a little dark chocolate or some raw chocolate, i just rolled mine in whizzed up coconut flakes. The choice is yours.

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Beet Tahini Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 small beetroot, cooked (I roasted mine whole in its skin in foil, then peeled. However use vacuum packed if you can’t get fresh beets)
  • 1/2 cup soft dates, pitted
  • 1-2 tbsp plant based milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups wholegrain puffs (I used brown rice, try buckwheat, quinoa)
  • 1/2 cup tahini (try to use a brand such as Meridian, its much thicker)
  • 2 tbsp other nut butter (I used hazelnut sunflower seed butter but anything else will work)
  • Handful cacao nibs
  • Handful sunflower seeds
  • Handful pumpkin seeds
  • Handful raisins
  • Large handful of desiccated coconut or coconut flakes

 

Method

  1. Make sure the beet is peeled, then chop up and put in the food processor with the dates, 1 tbsp of milk, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Whizz up to form a smooth paste, and add more milk if it is struggling and still lumpy.
  2. Tip into a large mixing bowl and add all the other ingredients except the desiccated coconut.
  3. Mix well to form a sticky mixture, if it’s too wet add another handful of oats or if i’ts too dry add a little more milk. It needs to come together in one big clump.
  4. Form into little rounded mounds, akin to a coconut macaroon. I find this easier by wetting my hands with water first. Sprinkle the coconut out on a plate and roll the balls in the coconut until evenly covered.
  5. Place on a few plates in the freezer for at least an hour to set, then transfer to a Tupperware where they will keep in the freezer for a few months.

I hope these will brighten up your snacking or on-the-hoof breakfasts.

With love

X

 

Soup for the soul

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Rummaging through the fridge I found a lump of cheese, wrapped tightly in clingfilm (thank GOD, think of the odour) yellowing on the edges and blue tufts sprouting up in many patches. I thought to myself, “I don’t remember this blue cheese, I know we have a Stilton but that’s with all the other cheeses in a paper bag”. Then it clicked, yep it’s that Peakland White Stilton that I brought home from work as I dropped a huge chunk on the floor.          

.It wasn’t intentional.

I am that person. I’m not wasting it, there’s always a home for dropped sausage rolls, ciabattas and Peakland White Stilton Cheese. << What I’ve collected so far and I’m sure the list will grow longer.

A cheese that’s supposed to be a creamy soft white in colour is mild in flavour with a slight pepperiness you would get from a mature Blue cheese. It was destined to be made into a soup.

However the little bacteria suckers beat me, they’ve been feasting on it for a good while now…I’m going to leave them to it.

 

So here’s a quick and easy soup recipe to use up some cheese leftovers. I’m sure we all have a fridge full at his time of year, when you can’t bear the sight of any more cheese and crackers or cheese and a slither of Christmas cake. I’ve used Cropwell Bishop Stilton, but any blue cheese would work really well. For example, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Harrogate blue, Yorkshire blue, I could go on and on (I do work in a deli with cheese!!) or even that white Stilton that was waiting rather too patiently. Just be sure to taste before you serve as some blues are much stronger so you might need less, and others are creamier and less piquant.

At this time of year, a soup is on the lunch menu weekly, preferably served with a slice of warm-in-the-centre sourdough from my local bakery and a big smattering of butter, or some rye toast (I like Biona rye), possibly a smear of hummus, perhaps even baked sweet potato wedges dipped in hummus. It makes the perfect satisfying lunch and you can rest in peace knowing there was a good amount of veggies thrown in the mix. I added a few large handfuls of spinach as I wanted to UP the veg quota, if you’d rather stick to the traditional, leave out the spinach all together and possibly use two heads of cauliflower, or to go along with the green thing use broccoli instead. Just make sure to add in those stalks, this is frugal feeding at its finest.

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Cauliflower and Stilton soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp ghee or rapeseed oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large head of cauliflower (substitute broccoli or use a mixture of the two)
  • Around 500ml-750ml of vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • A few large handfuls of spinach
  • 50g Stilton (or any other blue cheese)

 

Method

  1. Finely dice the onion and cook in the ghee in a large pan until softened. Up to 10 minutes.
  2. Whilst the onion is cooking, chop the cauliflower into florets and chop the stalk into small chunks.
  3. Before the 10 minutes is up, add the stalks to soften for a few minutes.
  4. Put the cauliflower florets in the pan and stir around then pour in the stock, start with 500ml you can add more later if it needs it. There’s nothing worse than thin soup.
  5. Bring to the boil then reduce to a low simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes with the lid ajar, until the cauliflower is soft and cooked through.
  6. Turn off the heat, add the spinach to the pan give it a good stir around and pop the lid on for a few minutes to let it wilt.
  7. Crumble the Stilton into the soup.
  8. Using either a stick blender or an upright blender (the latter will make a smoother soup, I used my Nutribullet in a couple of batches) blend until completely smooth adding extra stock/boiling water if necessary, until its at a consistency you like.
  9. Reheat slowly on the hob, stirring to prevent sticking on the bottom and serve in bowls with extra black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Oh and some bread for dipping is obligatory.
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Clean bowls all round

Keep warm this winter, take a flask of soup to keep the shivers at bay.

Much love

X

You’re sweet enough as you are

We’ve ran out of mincemeat. That’s it. The official ending of Christmas.

I made a mini (silent) vow to myself in the Christmas run up that I would try to eat as many mince pies as possible to satisfy my hunger for the boozy tarts until next year.

Now post-December I believe my attempt was rather feeble. Probably only reached a grand total of 10, or maybe it’s 20…I’m not too sure. Next year I will have to step up my game.

I suppose as a blog trying to promote a healthier lifestyle you may think that I am totally contradicting myself. Mince pies containing sugar, butter, pastry, alcohol and dried fruits aren’t exactly going to help maintain your figure but for one month of the year we wear so many layers to protect from the cold, that extra bit of padding will be hardly noticeable.

That’s what I tell myself anyway.

So here’s to January, mince pie free but in desperate need for a sweet treat that really ain’t that sweet. Well, in fact it contains no added sugar at all, unrefined, refined or otherwise.

That’s more like it.

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I really do love baking, and there are so many ‘sugar free’ recipes out there. However these recipes typically replace the full amount of sugar that you would find in a normal cake with an equal amount of ‘unrefined sugar’, such as maple syrup, coconut sugar and agave nectar. If you’ve ever ventured into a health food shop you will know all too well that these substitutes will leave a large gaping hole in your pocket. Aside from the price tag, they will still cause the same addictive sugar rush we get from bog standard caster sugar.

^^This is the issue I have. A ‘so-called’ healthier cake never tastes as good as a proper one. You may be munching on your vegan, sugar free, gluten free cupcake saying how amazing it tastes, how light and airy it is…but let’s be frank, it ain’t. Now on the odd occasion give me a proper slice of Victoria sponge, some Bakewell tart and I’ll be on cloud 9 but not desperate for another piece as just the one wasn’t completely satisfying.

I’m on a mission to find baking recipes full of wholesome ingredients, which don’t pretend to be a healthified version of our favourites, taste amazing and contain as little added sugar, or none at all, as possible.

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One thing I like to do if baking a NORMAL recipe is reduce the amount of sugar by 1/3, it doesn’t affect the taste and it is the most amount of sugar you can take away without affecting the overall bake and texture. So that 200g of sugar in your sponge, try reducing it to 130g, your taste buds will gradually get used to flavours less saccharine and start to appreciate others nuances such as the toastiness of nuts, a hint of vanilla, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg or that little bit of salt on your choc chip cookie.

So this past week I’ve had a couple of bananas gradually darkening, way past an enjoyable eating stage, in my fruit bowl. There’s only one answer for that. Of course. BANANA BREAD! Perhaps one of my favourite cakes, sliced into a thick chunk, occasionally toasted but always (OK sometimes peanut butter sneaks in there instead) with a thick blanket of organic salted butter.

I suppose a lot of people assume banana bread is quite a healthy affair, considering it contains a portion of fruit right? Sorry but quite wrong. Banana bread tends to contain a hell of a lot of added sugar, even when the bananas are sweet enough as they are.

So here’s my favourite recipe which just uses the natural sweetness of the bananas with no added extras. It’s light and airy, not claggy like some banana breads can often be, spiced richly with cinnamon it sits well enough on your plate for breakfast as it does a 4pm slump snack. Try adding a handful of raisins and crushed walnuts to the batter for some more texture and an extra bit of added sweetness that feels a little more indulgent. I like it both ways.

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Banana bread

This banana bread contains no added sugar, is gluten and wheat free and can be made dairy free by substituting the butter with coconut oil. I made this one nut free using pumpkin and sunflower seeds in the batter and topping, however a handful of walnuts or pecans is always a welcome addition. Half a tablespoon of maple syrup can be added if you feel it won’t be sweet enough, but I think it is perfect without, especially if you add raisins to the batter.

Recipe adapted from Hemsley and Hemsley

Ingredients

  • 4 large very ripe bananas
  • 60g coconut flour
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp maple syrup (optional, I feel it’s fine without)
  • A handful of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds (or crushed walnuts, pecans and some raisins, or perhaps even some dark chocolate chunks)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Grease and line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper and set aside for later.
  2. Peel the bananas, and weigh out 350g. Reserve the leftover banana to slice up and decorate the top, or do as I did, save for later for on top of a slice of banana bread spread with peanut butter. Mash the weighed out banana until smooth.
  3. Whisk together, the coconut flour, salt, cinnamon and bicarb in a bowl.
  4. Crack the eggs into the mashed banana, whisk together and mix in the melted butter, vanilla extract, apple cider vinegar and extra maple syrup if you’re using it.
  5. Tip the dry ingredients into the banana-egg mixture and whisk until there are no lumps remaining.
  6. Add in a handful of seeds or your addins of choice and mix well.
  7. Pour into the tin, top with more seeds and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Cover with foil if its browning too quickly.
  8. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack, then store in a Tupperware in the fridge. Or slice portions and freeze ready to stick in the toaster for a quick breakfast or snack.

NOTE: If you use sunflower seeds in the batter, as I did here, don’t be alarmed if you spy bright green flecks in your banana bread. The sunflower seeds react with the bicarbonate of soda and turn green. They’re completely harmless and taste no different, it will still be as delicious.

You stick the kettle on, I’ll bring the banana bread and butter. Deal?

With love and blissful moments

X

 

 

 

hello 2017

New year, new me.

Really, are we still going through the same notions as soon as that clock hits 12 on the 31st of January??

The feelings of guilt for the past month of indulgence and enjoyment (yes didn’t we all have a good time), plans of restriction, intentions of sweaty runs in the arctic gales which will be preceded by a bowl of kale with a no-oil dressing, an early bedtime and an early rise only to start it all again.

Because kale is good for me, right?!?

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This kid knows about intuitive eating

It may sound healthy but that person sure ain’t happy.

2017 should be the year when we realise diets are out the window, and the word balance comes to mind. It’s thrown around a lot these days along with intuitive and mindfulness and I’m sure you use them yourself and have no idea what they really mean.

Intuitive eating is a nutrition philosophy based on the premise that becoming more attuned to the body’s natural hunger signals is a more effective way to attain a healthy weight, rather than keeping track of the amounts of energy and fats in foods.

Thanks Wikipedia
Being healthy 24/7 just isn’t being human. We all see those Insta stars with daily updates of their meals, gym selfies without an ounce of sweat dripping off their faces or a hair out of place, and quotes telling us to ‘glow like a glowstick’ which of course mean well but i’m a human being not an inanimate object and i have feelings. Somedays I really don’t want to be a ‘strong woman’. Collapsing in a heap on the sofa and saying “I can’t” might be the thing that’s needed.

 

I must admit, my interest in food and into this whole ‘wellness’ scene started when I came across Deliciously Ella. It was a good few years ago now, and she didn’t have that worldwide status that she’s now achieved. Slowly taking over the world one sweet potato brownie at a time. I didn’t quite see the downside at the time, but decided to follow a diet like hers, basically of just fruit and vegetables, lots of dates and nuts for energy because I was always hungry.

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There we have, the first example of an unsustainable way of life.

I used to beat myself up about why my meals never looked as amazing as hers (and other fellow Insta health gurus) why my skin wasn’t glowing and why I wasn’t a happy person with a smile plastered on my face.

I’m not against Deliciously Ella at all, I think what she has done for the UK and almost the rest of the world is a really good thing. making more of us aware that we need more fruit and vegetables in our lives, and a good slice of avo on toast of course. I just think it can be quite dangerous for many people if they start to cut things out of their diets unnecessarily. Ella has written many posts about how her lifestyle isn’t the ‘be all and end all’ although some people don’t seem to understand that still. But even her food choices has changed over the years, at the very beginning she was extremely strict, avoiding things like rye and spelt, eggs and fish, whereas now she uses rye bread almost daily, eggs are used in the pancakes in The Mae Deli, and she has admitted to eating fish occasionally, soon to be followed up by hoards of angry followers shaming and guilt tripping her.

It’s this part of the wellness community that I hate. One persons’ food choices shouldn’t be shamed by anyone. Whether you’re vegan, flexitarian, pescetarian, vegetarian, meatarian, fruitarian, whatever other ‘arian’ you may be, that’s your life you’re leading and the choices you make are for you. Nobody else.

As long as you’re healthy, have no vitamin or mineral deficiencies and can live your life full of energy nourished from the fuel you give it, that’s A OK.

Back to January and the wave of diet fads and abstaining from alcohol we all feel pressured to partake in. Number one why? It’s cold, we’re back at work and its a whole 12 months till Christmas comes around again. Also the only time when watching elf wrapped in your duvet becomes acceptable (i.e. not in the middle of summer). In winter, we’re supposed to be laying on a little extra fat as insulation to shield us from the dropping temperatures. Big hearty meals should be celebrated: steaming stews, soups, pies, a nice bit of molten cheesy goo is welcome and some stodge in the form of a good ‘ol potato is always on the menu. Use this furnace from the inside to power up for a bracing walk out in nature. Move your body around, do whatever you fancy whether it be dancing in your knickers, going to the gym or a gentle jog round the park. As long as you enjoy it that’s all that matters.

One thing I love about my mum is how realistic she is. While the majority of adults are on a dry January, she has a dry November (with an exception for drinks at the weekend and whenever we have pasta red wine is a must). No it’s not completely perfect but every year she follows it through and even my dad joins in. All in all they end up drinking much less than usual. Her thoughts are that January is pretty depressing, as I’ve already mentioned before, so supplementing it with a ban on alcohol is just plain wrong. We need a bit of the hard stuff to make it through to the end unscathed. November is the time when we’re starting to get excited about the festive period, so why not stop drinking and save a bit of money to either spend on a loved one or as a special gift for yourself, after all you deserved it.

So back to January. 2017. That’s right, but doesn’t it sound so wrong. Out with the diets and in with all round wellbeing, trying to be a bit healthier, but still enjoy the sweet things in life. Whether that’s a daily square of chocolate, a glass of vino with your meal, a bowl of apple crumble and steaming custard. Seriously what is wrong with that?!

By depriving yourself, it’s only human nature that you will end up craving more of the forbidden fruits and face plant into a tin of Quality Street.

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We’ve all done it

So say no to restriction, no to cutting out whole food groups, your friends may be singing and dancing about a new diet they’re on and how amazing they feel, but are they feeling the same a few weeks down the line? I highly doubt it. Enjoy things in moderation, eat every meal, no feelings of guilt and learn to love yourself. It’s a hell of a lot easier to say than to do (I’m struggling but it’s one of my aims to improve on this year).

Read this piece by Laura Thomas on learning to respect our eating habits, enjoying our food and a big fat NO to diet culture.

I always like to follow the same principles, loads of veggies, a bit of meat or fish if I fancy it just not every day, protein with every meal typically in the form of nuts, beans, lentils, tofu (I’m attempting to learn to like it), organic full fat dairy, healthy fats like olive oil and rapeseed oil, avocados, olives and a variety of whole grains. Not forgetting my favourite indulgences of a thick wad of butter on sourdough, cheese, wine, dark chocolate, and a big fat pudding and custard, they make me happy and make me human. This is what works for me and we are all different so listen to your bodies and when you get a pang for that sticky toffee pudding HAVE IT!

So lets all celebrate this new year, new experiences and people are awaiting. Start with a bang by enjoying some fresh air, making tasty heart warming food and spending it with friends and family. That sounds a hell of a lot better to me than going on 6:30am runs in the rain and eating an iceberg lettuce salad for lunch, which one sounds healthier to you?

Much love, wishes and warmth sent for this January. Don’t worry it’s nearly Summer!

X

 

 

 

An ode to Brussels (sprouts that is)

* NB. I was planning to post this before Christmas. But making fudge, nougat failures, cakes, puddings, stuffings and all things inbetween got in the way. So here it is anyway for those of you having a Christmas dinner round 2 (or perhaps 3, 4 or 5, we all have to get our fill!) *

#2 for the Christmas countdown

What is Christmas without them? The Marmite of the Christmas world. Love them or hate them, they have to make a feature at the festive table.

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Not too hard to guess
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Hello sprout friend

They’re in season from October to March, a true winter vegetable they are little hardy creatures. To pull through the snowy weather, night chills and complete lack of warmth we should pay them some more respect. No Ken Bruce, the sprouts shouldn’t be put on to boil in August. Nor should they require long arduous hours of cutting crosses in the bottom. Ignore all the myths, I’m going to give you the FACTS. How to make them the stars of the show because a sprout isn’t only for Christmas!!

Quick. Fast. Hot.

Not the review given by The Evening Standard for the next 50 Shades of Grey film, but three words you should remember for future reference when cooking your sprouts.

We have all been brought up with mushy sprouts found to grace every table at Christmas. Boiled to an inch of their short lived lives, leaving a whiff in their wake. Nutritionally there’s not much going for them by the time they reach your plate, but most importantly they taste pretty bad and soggy.

I want to cover the nutritional front first, but you wont even care when it comes to eating them, they will be that good. My crack Brussels?!?

Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, think cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, pak choy, kale. A lot of our favourite greens tend to be cruciferous, meaning they have sulphur compounds in them. These phytonutrients are known as glucosinates and have a proven ability to fight cancer and disease. Pretty powerful stuff!

Also high in Vitamin C, A, K, Folate, Potassium, Fibre, just to name a few. All cruciferous vegetables are well worth adding to your diet, but Brussels sprouts in particular as they top the list for the highest concentration of glucosinates.

Now onto the cookery. You see the sprouts don’t require much of your time at all. Just 10 minutes in a piping hot oven will char them and soften them just nicely.

Or perhaps, try stir frying, deep frying(?!?) or even add them to your festive slaw. Slice really realllyyyyyy thinly and toss with the usual mix of carrot, cabbage, fennel, pepper and leave to soften in a sharp and zippy dressing.

Blooming marvellous.

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You’ll either find them in a net, loose in a bag or even on a stick!

Sprouts, like most other brassicas stand up to a good punch in the face of flavour. They pair really well with flavours from the east, ginger, soy/tamari, miso, spring onion, chilli. Also Moroccan flavours such as sumac, ras el hanout, dukkah, sesame, harissa, or just go traditional with lemon, herbs, butter and a good grinding of salt and pepper.

My favourite way of preparing sprouts has to be roasted, piled in a bowl with loads of other veggies like baked sweet potato, creamy avocado, hummus and a big pile of tangled rocket leaves- it makes the ULTIMATE winter bliss bowl.

 

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Tamari and coconut roasted sprouts

Ingredients

  • Coconut oil
  • Sprouts, as many as you’d like
  • Tamari
  • Lime

Method

  1. Turn the oven up to 220C, you want it hot so the little outer leaves burn slightly and get really crispy.
  2. Slice the bottoms off the sprouts and peel off any leaves if they’re a bit scabby
  3. Slice the larger ones in half, but leave smaller ones whole.
  4. In a ceramic or metal dish (big enough to fit all the sprouts in a single even layer) put a spoon of coconut oil in, around 1 tbsp should be good and put into the hot oven to melt.
  5. When the coconut oil is hot, take the dish out the oven and toss the sprouts in the hot oil. Shake over a good amount of tamari and pop back into the oven.
  6. Cook for around 10 minutes, when finished they should be tender but not mushy.
  7. Tip into a serving dish, squeeze over a bit of lime and serve whilst still hot. However they’re still as good cold.

 

Cranberry, cinnamon and ghee

Taking our favourite flavours from cranberry sauce, the tart but sweet cranberries contrast nicely with the slight bitterness of sprouts. Feel free to use coconut oil again instead of ghee, it tastes lovely but ghee has that rich butteriness and the golden colour is just too beautiful!

Ingredients

  • Sprouts
  • Ghee
  • Cinnamon
  • Dried cranberries

 

  1. Set the oven to 220C
  2. Put a spoon of ghee into a metal/ceramic dish and put into the oven to get hot.
  3. Wash the sprouts, chop off the ends, peel away any scraggly leaves and cut bigger ones in half.
  4. Take the dish out the oven toss the sprouts in the hot ghee, sprinkle over a little cinnamon and a good pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Place in the oven for 10 minutes or until crispy and tender.
  6. Tip into a serving dish and mix with a handful of dried cranberries.

 

Lemon and parsley

Finally, a good zesty option that will go with almost anything. Make sure to use a nice quality rapeseed oil or something that has a high smoking point. Avoid extra virgin olive oil and leave that for drizzling at the end.

Ingredients

  • Sprouts
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Parsley
  • Lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil (or more rapeseed oil) for drizzling

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 220C
  2. Put a glug of rapeseed oil in a baking dish/tin and leave to warm up in the oven.
  3. Prepare the sprouts as before, cutting any larger ones in half.
  4. Take the dish out the oven, tip in the sprouts sprinkle over salt and pepper and leave to roast in the oven for around 10 minutes.
  5. When cooked to your liking, take out the oven, finely zest some lemon over the top, sprinkle over some finely chopped parsley, squeeze over a little lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
  6. Serve in a bowl and dive in.

As there are so many delicious variations here’s a list of links from fellow bloggers and chefs and recipes that I am adding to my ‘to make’ list.

Give them a go, and do comment below telling me your favourite ways with sprouts!!

(And that is not in the bin!!!)

Much love, and festive wishes with a bottle of sherry on top

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It’s here. IT’S HERE

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So it’s here. The official beginning of the lead up to Christmas. Possibly better than the day itself, yes I think so.

Filled with mince pies (never enough of them), carols, alcohol (too much of that), chocolate (too much of that too), Christmas markets and twinkly lights.

So this time last year I was in Mumbai, living there for three months, up until December the 20th. In a majoritively (Urban dictionary definition: ‘A word used by stupid people to seem smart instead of mostly or mainly’) Hindu city, who obviously don’t celebrate Christmas as we Brits do, I was feeling pretty low to say the least about missing out on the festive run up. However I was so pleasantly surprised to see brightly rainbow coloured decorations decking the stalls along the roads and Christmas carols in the cafes, it managed to fill that void in my heart.

But still no advent calendar, or mince pies (I really do love them and have created so many variations, brownie mince pies being the latest), and living with a Russian who also doesn’t celebrate Christmas in a similar fashion, it just wasn’t the same.

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When I finally arrived home, (YES FINALLY) Christmas dinner was one of my first proper meals, hot warmth swimming in gravy not a bowl of salady crunch.

BUT minus the sprouts. I KNOW. It was indeed a travesty. So this year I am making up for it going through at least a packet a week and giving the little cabbages the love they require.

So it’s a big deal this year to celebrate Christmas properly, I’m making up for the lack of festivities last year. Is it possible that I started my Christmas planning in September/October. Why of course? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Christmas chutney jarred up and ready for for its party outfit packaging, mincemeat made twice because I’ve nearly used up the first batch, Christmas cards made and decorations being crocheted as we speak.

I really am that girl (or should I say granny?)

Speaking of mincemeat, there’s two types that I like to make. First a traditional one. I used both of these recipes this year from the queen Mary Bezza herself and Barney Desmazery from the Good Food team. The former is almost all used up and the latter is steeping in its brandy bath for a couple of weeks before the lids are popped open. I do reduce the sugar by around a third in the traditional recipes-considering the sheer amount of dried fruit it can stand a little less  teeth-aching sweetness. The second is a mincemeat aimed towards me, using completely wholefoods, no suet, no candied peel (that stuff is of the devil), and absolutely no added sugar.

I found the recipe from the Hemsley sisters, make up a batch or even double and store in the fridge as there’s no sugar to act as the preservative. It’s brilliant stuff, and of course it finds its way into my porridge annually as a Christmas eve festive brekky.

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Get some mincemeat in there, your porridge will thank you

Now onto the casing, the pastry. I have been playing around with pastry recipes for a good while, never quite happy. Sometimes too bland, others too sweet, too hard and not crumbly and short enough. I like to bite into a mince pie (preferably still warm from the oven) and it disintegrates into a dreamy roof-of-the-mouth scorching buttery loveliness. YA FEEL ME?!?

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To add to my Christmas collection and slumping shelf of cookbooks, I bought the new offering from Gizzi Erskine, Gizzi’s Season’s Eatings. Not just Christmas recipes, full of new and inspiring ideas for Halloween all the way through to NYE and what to do with those pesky leftovers as SOMEBODY bought too large a turkey and no one can ever cook it properly (Brine it people!!).

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So flicking through, a recipe for mince pies obviously caught my eye. New flavour combinations always cry out for a test run but these will be on repeat. I always make my pastry with white spelt flour rather than plain flour. 1. Its saves me time from making two different pastries because nobody has time for that, and 2. spelt has a much lower gluten content than wheat therefore no chance of overworking and hello short crumbliness.

So get making a batch of this pastry, maybe two to keep one in the freezer for a later date, and then get those mince pies in the oven. Of course a mince pie should be a treat but as we only eat them for one month of the year I think a couple more is allowed. Still warm out the oven and doused in some cold cream, it’s Christmas for gods sake.

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Mince pies with an earl grey and orange pastry

I’ve reduced the sugar by quite a mile in these mince pies, and by making everything from scratch you can alter it to your own tastes. As I’ve said already it is Christmas so allow yourself a break and enjoy the festivities, a little too much sugar won’t do you any harm at all. Compared to the shop bought mince pies these have more of an adult flavour letting the dried fruits shine through and of course the brandy. And if there’s not enough tummy warming liquor in the pies, have a little tipple on the side. Sherry is my choice, Harvey’s Bristol Cream, it wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

Ingredients

Mincemeat

Adapted from Hemsley and Hemsley

  • 2 eating apples
  • 160g dried fruit, I like a combination of raisins, sultanas, cranberries, apricots, prunes (whatever you have in your cupboards)
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 an orange
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 25g butter or coconut oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 – 5 tbsp brandy

Earl grey and orange pastry

Adapted from Gizzi’s Season’s Eatings: Feasts and Celebrations from Halloween to Happy New Year

  • 3 tbsp boiling water
  • 1/2 tsp loose earl grey tea
  • 2 tbsp orange juice (I use the orange that I’ve zested)
  • 1 free range egg
  • 225g white spelt flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 125g fridge-cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • Coconut sugar (or caster sugar) for sprinkling

Method

First make the mincemeat

  1. Leaving the skin on the apples finely chop them so they are the same size as the raisins.
  2. Place the apples in a large pan and cook on a medium heat with the lid on until they start to soften slightly.
  3. Add all the other mincemeat ingredients except the brandy and cook with the lid on for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. When the apples are soft, and the dried fruit plump, take the pan off the heat and leave to cool.
  5. When cool add the brandy, depending on your taste. I like to add more because I like the boozy flavour.
  6. Spoon into sterilised jars and store in the fridge.

Second make the pastry

  1. Pour the boiling water over the tea leaves and leave to infuse until cool, then store in the fridge.
  2. Beat the orange juice with egg and set aside.
  3. Put the flour, salt and orange zest in a food processor and whizz for a few seconds. Then tip in the butter and whizz to form a breadcrumb-like consistency.
  4. Add 1 tbsp of the egg mixture and all of the cold tea, and pulse until the pastry is forming large clumps. You may need up to 3 tbsp of the egg, but it should feel like it is on the drier side and needs slightly more liquid, when the texture is right.
  5. Tip onto a floured side and bind into a ball, being careful not to knead it.
  6. Squish into a flat round, wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Will keep in the fridge for around 5 days, also can be frozen to be used another time.

The mince pies

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan
  2. Roll the pastry on a floured surface to around 3mm thick. Using an 8cm fluted cutter, cut around 12 circles and place them in a bun tin.
  3. Put around 1 tbsp of mincemeat in the pastry cases, try to get in as much filling as possible without mince pie eruptions.
  4. Then using a 6.5cm round cutter, or a star cutter, cut 12 tops out the rest of the pastry. If you run out, roll up the scraps and re-roll to finish cutting out the lids.
  5. Brush the edges of the tarts with the remaining egg and orange mixture, then top with the lids. If you have a full lid, squeeze the rims together and cut a little hole in the middle to let out the steam.
  6. Brush with more orange and egg mixture and sprinkle with a little coconut sugar.
  7. Place the tin in the oven for around 15 minutes, or until they are bubbling and golden brown.
  8. Leave to cool if you can resist, if you can’t and you burn your mouth, don’t blame me!
  9. Eat with gusto, a sherry in one hand, mince pie in the other. Aaaand repeat!

 

Merry Christmas my loves

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