Gluten free is a no-go for me

Gluten free. Saying “bye bye” to bread and cakes and everything in between – been there, done that, bought the Tshirt, ripped it up and now it is in the bin.

Nothing as drastic as that in reality, but in my mind that’s the relief I now feel.

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Being ‘gluten free’ in the UK is a common phrase. You could say, ‘it’s having a moment’. We overhear conversations in the street, see it on menus in restaurants, aisles dedicated to products of the kind are growing bigger and bigger in the supermarkets, and companies are using it on their packaging as a marketing ploy for people to buy it, as gluten free means it’s healthier….

HOWEVER if you are coeliac or have Crohn’s Disease, gluten most definitely should be steered well clear of. Thankfully for those of you unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with coeliacs diease the quality of gluten free products has improved drastically over the past few years, people are more aware of what it entails and being actually able to eat something other than lettuce leaves is proving easier than ever.

Back to the gluten free tribe. We seem to have had this idea hammered into our minds that a food with the gluten removed is virtuous. Gluten is the devil that is causing all of our ailments in this modern day. Bloating, constipation, leaky gut, headaches, weight gain, depression, you name it gluten will the reason and once removed you will be healthy and this aura of wellness will surround you forevermore. Scrolling through Instagram you see bloggers saying how they’re gluten, dairy and wheat free excluding it completely from their diets and vowing to never eat some sliced white again. In the news, guaranteed there is a headline at least once a week stating that cutting gluten from your diet will be the magic cure supposedly to cancer and Alzheimer’s (?!?!?). I used to believe, wandering down the free from aisle in Tesco, that I was doing myself some good. Picking up that gluten free bread, perhaps some bakewell tarts and a box of gluten free granola (all gluten and dairy free of course), that I was being healthy. Still eating toast with jam (more, jam with toast in my case), snacking on sweet pastries and cakes and baking with gluten free flours convinced that what I was doing was the right thing. As I’m sure many still do.

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In cafes we see cakes, cookies and brownies – without the gluten – appearing more and more frequently. I’d assume the thought passes through most peoples’ minds, that they wouldn’t dream of having a piece of normal cake, but that gluten free brownie is a no brainier. Compare the ingredients of your usual bread and its gluten free counterpart. First thing you will surely notice is the huge markup in price for something which is at least half the size, it feels like a dense rock and there will be so many unknown ingredients and added things you wouldn’t expect to see in bread to just keep it all stuck together. Next try the gluten free brownie, I’m reckoning the sugar content will be much higher as when you remove one thing it has to be replaced with something else to keep the flavour. And what’s cheaper than white sugar and vegetable fats?

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So what even is gluten? Well, it’s a protein. Gluten is not bread. Found naturally in wheat, spelt, rye and barley and added to convenience foods and sauces where it is used as a thickener. It’s what gives bread that good bounce and chew, and ensures your cake isn’t a pile of crumbs. So it is not the maker of all evil or spawn of the devil it is in fact protein. Perhaps by removing gluten from our diets we are missing out on a source of protein, which is something we all seem to be striving for more of nowadays?

If you’ve ever tried excluding something from your diet you will know how much of a shadow it casts over your life. You see the evictee everywhere you look, bread rolls shopping for milk, toast running for the bus, and croissants playing football in the street. You want it more and more, crave bread at every meal, spend hours in your day searching for where to eat with gluten free options, worrying about that pizza night your friends are planning and what you are going to eat and in the end probably end up crying into half a loaf of bread and butter.

Sucks to be gluten free.

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So, yes, of course if you feel like you have some digestive issues go and see your doctor or a nutritionist or dietitian to get that thing checked out. Don’t cut things out of your diet ‘cos your best friend told you to’, or you want to be as skinny as that blogger on Instagram and she doesn’t eat gluten. Think about the poor people who are coeliac and have to avoid gluten for the rest of their lives. It isn’t a choice for them. Don’t go on a ‘gluten free diet’ to lose weight, if the bread basket is placed in front of you and you fancy some, have some bread, it’s NOT going to kill you!

I have most definitely stopped that gluten free escapade well in its tracks. I now struggle to get through a weekend without a visit to our local baker for a loaf of sourdough, and if that’s not accessible there’s always a stash of rye bread in my freezer. At work if there’s some Danish pastry going free, no way on earth am I going to pass that up, and I am never going to a pay a premium for gluten free oats when oats naturally are gluten free in the first place!! On the sourdough note, due to the grains being fermented it is far more digestible than breads using commercial yeast, never mind tasting better due to a longer prove, so sourdough sure is the way to go.

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When you switch to a wholefoods based diet, or even increase the amount of fruits, veggies, wholegrains and legumes on your plate, you will notice that as a result you are eating less gluten. I’m not preaching here, if you want to go by that label then please do, but for me I find it better to not put up any fences between me and bread. No I don’t eat it everyday, I don’t eat white pasta, or pizza on a regular basis, not for the reason that they contain gluten, more for the fact that I base my diet on lovely veggies, beans, nuts and wholegrains. When I have pasta it’s either wholemeal or spelt and if I go out for a pizza it will be a bloody good one (not one rummaed from the freezer).

This is one of the latest trendy diets, but just don’t fall for it. Save your money for an occasional treat, that coffee from your favourite café, a massage, a dinner out with a loved one, or visit your local shops to buy some local produce and cook up a mega meal. Lots of plants is where it seems to be at, and I reckon it will be sticking around for a long time. And this diet sure ain’t a fad, this one’s a keeper!

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Carrot and lentil patties

If you know me fairly well, then you will know of the huge pile of cookbooks I own. Let’s say two huge piles. It’s become a bit of an addiction of mine. I’m that person who reads cookbooks from front to back and whenever I have a spare moment will happily flick through. Each birthday and Christmas I will, rest assured, add one or two new additions to my collection and swiftly forget about the others. Brutal, I know. I do have my absolute favourites though, that I return to time and time again, the tried and tested which are guaranteed to please. But even those recipes are few and far between, saved for when we are feeding guests or want a dish that I know will be a knockout, no stressin’! The rest of the time is dictated by what I’ve seen on blogs, TV, Instagram and most importantly the contents of my fridge.

That’s where the magic is!

 

At lunch I always feel the need for a falafel or patty, whatever you name it, something to finish off my bowl of veggies and grains and that will sit nicely with that obligatory hummus dollop. I always have the intention of making some but then get too hungry so end up going without or I don’t have any beans or grains already cooked (the whole point of a recipe like this is for making something out of the leftovers). Often too, I’ve had the intention of making a big batch to freeze but they end up dry, only palatable if smothered in a TONNE of dressing (make it a tahini one and its not a bad thing). I suppose given that I don’t follow recipes and add a little bit of this, take out that as we don’t have any in the cupboard, it’s guaranteed that many of my attempts will end up in the bin. It’s all a process of learning, except for those times when you don’t remember your mistakes and make them numerous times. The EXACT SAME ONES. Been there.

 

 

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Pre-bake, with a dusting of polenta for that much needed CRUNCH

 

This occasion however was a day for success. Thank the food gods. 

These carrot and lentil patties, came out unscathed, crunchy on the outside, and just what my lunch bowl was needing. Here I used some french lentils that I had overcooked, but any other beans or lentils would suffice just make sure to give them a bit of a mash first. The grated carrot could be changed to courgette or beetroot, any fresh herbs, omit the cheese all together or use more or less (I would’ve added more but it was the end of the block) feta would be nice, as would cheddar or some Parmesan. I haven’t tried making something like this without egg, it’s a great binding agent, but I’d assume a flax egg would work in the same way. And if they don’t hold together, well it just won’t be a plate to photo for Instagram I suppose. Sandwich in between your favourite bread or in a wrap, these would also be brilliant bites for a savoury energy ball. I find snacks rely too heavily upon dates and nuts, so one or two of these would be a great alternative.

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Carrot and lentil patties

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of lentils
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup grated/crumbled cheese
  • Handful of fresh herbs, any mixture of basil, parsley, coriander, mint
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp oats
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • Polenta for coating
  • Oil

Method

  1. Put the lentils in a large bowl and mash slightly so half are crushed and half are still left whole.
  2. On a box grater grate the carrot and add to the bowl along with the cheese.
  3. Finely chop the herbs and add to the lentil mixture along with the spices, oats and some seasoning and mix well.
  4. Crack in the egg and mix again to form quite a wet mixture.
  5. Leave in the fridge for at least 30 mins to firm up slightly.
  6. Heat the oven to 200/180C fan and line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper or a silicone sheet.
  7. With damp hands form the lentil mixture into 8 patties and place on the baking sheet.
  8. Brush with some oil and sprinkle over the polenta, this is what will give the crunch.
  9. Bake in the oven for 15 mins until firm and slightly golden.
  10. Will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for a few months.

Side note: if you plan on freezing the patties, bake for a little less time, around 10-12 mins then leave to cool before freezing. Place back in the oven when you want some from frozen until crispy and piping hot in the middle, this will ensure that they won’t dry out.

 

So here’s to happier lunchtimes and turning those droopy leftovers into something new.

Get rolling those patties!!

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Stumped about sugar?

Sugar. White and ‘processed’, dark brown, golden syrup, maple syrup, sweets, honey, toffee, caramel, fruit, dried fruit, coconut sugar, Stevia, molasses. Whatever your mind conjures up when I mention this buzzword, we have all been paying particular attention the past year or two to this meddling carbohydrate.

The word refined-sugar has been thrown around by health bloggers, newspapers and the media, a term supposedly describing types of sugar that have gone through a form of processing and had all ‘goodness’ removed. Countless recipes stream down your Pinterest feed that are labelled refined sugar free. Millionaire shortbread bars, brownies, cakes, cookies, all our favourite sweet treats made allegedly healthier. So eating the whole batch in one go is fine, because its not made with sugar right??

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Along with clean eating, gluten free, dairy free, low carb, all these diets which are becoming the norm, refined sugar free is another which has been added to the extensively long list. We are told day after day that sugar is the devil, no longer fat as we used to believe. That it causes cancer, diabetes, obesity, the main ailments that are  putting such a strain on our NHS and healthcare services. Of course sugar is a main ingredient in things such as fizzy drinks, sweets, cakes and biscuits, but does everyone think to look on the back of packets of sauces, ready meals, condiments, flavoured nuts and crisps? Take a flick through your cupboards and I’m sure you will be surprised at how thinly sugar manages to spread itself.

First things first, sugar isn’t all too great for us, just to put it straight. It’s found naturally in most foods like fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy, its very high in energy which in turn gives us energy to move, breathe and basically live. The thing we need to watch out for is added sugars or free sugars as you may often see it written. This term defines products where sugar has been added and isn’t found there naturally. Think of syrups, fizzy drinks, the sugar in your tea or coffee and even in fruit juices. When it comes to free sugars we have the choice of whether to add them or not, unlike total sugars such as lactose in milk and ones found in fruits and vegetables. For adults it’s recommended in the UK that we consume no more than 30g of added sugar every day. That 30g is quite difficult to picture in your head, so think about it like this, 7 tsp/sugar cubes MAX, and for children this number is obviously lower.

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In 2016, Jamie Oliver started the Childhood Obesity Strategy, in a ploy to crack down on increasing obesity rates in the UK. Some of many things he was campaigning for, a sugar tax, a ban on junk food advertising pre-watershed, clearer labelling including a visual sugar content, and reduction in manufacture for excessive sugar. If you watched Jamie’s Sugar Rush you will have seen the impacts that it is having on us all across the world, especially those consuming a typically ‘western diet’. After his petition going to debate in the commons, the government failed to accept the majority of his pleas, only compromising with the sugar tax with no given amount as of yet.

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We are all more aware now of the sugar content in things. I think we’re heading in a good direction, eating more consciously and lower sugar the majority of the time and eating the odd brownie if you fancy it, HELL why not! Of course it’s not going to do you any damage. That REAL brownie is surely going to satisfy that craving more than a sweet potato one full of maple syrup or agave syrup. My main issue is the group of people calling a sin on refined sugar-white caster sugar or soft brown sugar-meanwhile pouring bottles of maple syrup on their 2 ingredient pancakes or baking cakes with coconut sugar as it contains lots of minerals so its better for us.

I’m not a nutritionist or a dietitian, but I know well enough that sugar is sugar. No matter what you want to call it, our body sees all types of sugar in the same way. Whether it’s raw honey, agave syrup or caster sugar, it gives us energy, any extra is stored as fat and doesn’t give us any health benefits. It is true that maple syrup contains potassium, magnesium, zinc and calcium. It’s also true that coconut sugar contains electrolytes and vitamin C along with loads of other minerals, and yes raw honey is antibacterial (perfect if you have a sore throat) however you would have to eat a ton of any of these to reap any benefits. The amount of sugar consumed would obviously then outweigh the ‘good for you’ label.

Another group of people are the sugar free crusaders, shoving all types of sugar containing foods aside, including fresh fruit. That means no syrups, no apples, bananas, possibly the odd portion of berries because they’re ‘lower in sugar’, no dried fruit, juice only if its green made completely from vegetables. You see, I went through this phase, thinking I was doing the right thing. In the sugar free phase, I found I was opting for lots of nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt, avocados, things quite high in fat to fill in that sugar free hole. It wasn’t a great time, and seriously what is wrong with fruit?!? NOTHING, EXACTLY. Fruit contains fibre and lots of it, and if you’ve read my blog before you’ll know all too well that we need a lot of roughage in our diets. Dried fruit too contains lots of fibre, prunes have a reputation for a reason, so sprinkle them on your breakfasts and include them in your diets.

Happily now, I’ve managed to bring myself to a middle ground, keeping my overall added sugar levels to a minimum, but not putting a big red cross over it for the rest of eternity. There is nothing wrong with a little of the sweet stuff. No matter the source of origin your body will recognise it as glucose or fructose-just organic molecules-they aren’t separated into groups whether they came from a medjool date or a sugar cube. Remember those 7 tsp of added sugar to keep an eye on daily, and if you’re a lover of a sweet cuppa perhaps its a good time to start reigning it in. Take it slowly, stretched out over a few weeks and your taste buds will soon adjust.

Changing the odd daily habit will make a huge benefit to your diet in the long run:

  • When baking reduce the quantity of sugar by a third in recipes. It’s the maximum amount of sugar to remove without it affecting the structure and texture of the bake, but the flavour is still just as good.
  • Buy natural yogurt instead of sweetened and add your toppings and mix-ins to your own taste.
  • Instead of having jam or marmalade with butter on toast every morning for breakfast, try a spread of peanut, almond or even cashew butter with some sliced banana. The combination of high protein nut butter with the sugar from the fruit and carbohydrates from the bread will keep you going until lunchtime.
  • If you’re a big fan of fizzy and soft drinks, and water just is tasteless and boring, try infusing jugs of water with fresh fruits, citrus, herbs or vegetables. Things like mint, lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, berries, melon, as good as it sounds!
  • That chocolate bar is the only thing which gets you past 4pm? Banning it is not necessary, if you can learn to love dark chocolate. Preferably 70% or above, the higher the better, as it is lower in sugar and due to the deep intensity a few squares is usually enough.
  • If dairy free milks are your jam, check on the ingredients list. On many of them, sugar will be the second or third on the list. Opt for the unsweetened varieties, or ones made with rice for some natural sweetness.

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Let’s put a stop to this term refined sugar free. It’s defunct. Its all the same stuff. Sprinkling coconut sugar on your Rice Krispies sure ain’t no better than sprinkling white sugar on. So save those extra £££s (that stuff is expensive) and stick to a bowl of porridge!

Thanks for reading my little rant, if you have anything else to add or want to join in the conversation please do comment below.

Until next time, love and sweet blessings

X

 

 

Golden ginger pancakes

So I missed it. Shrove Tuesday that is, or Pancake day if you wish. This year, February the 28th, was the National Day of the Pancake. Fat, thin, puffed, rolled, however you take it, across the country Brits were flipping their pancakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I did have a pancake recipe planned, but for no other reason than I just didn’t get round to it, it wasn’t posted in time. Soz Guys.

Last Tuesday, eating pancakes for every meal of the day was of course allowed. It’s kinda obligatory as when else can you do it?? An indulgence that’s not frowned upon whether you’re 8 or 80, and if a whole jar of Nutella is consumed in one serving, no fingers will be pointed!! I’m not really a Nutella girl, my go-to is lemon and sugar however I updated it a little this year. Chunks of tart cheek-sucking blood orange and grapefruit, lemon juice and a good drizzle of local honey. That was swiftly followed by another spread liberally with the milk jam I spoke about in my last post. No need for an explanation, I’m sure you can all imagine the heavenlyness that graced my mouth.

Preceding the sweet pancakes there always has to be a savoury version in my house, and not too many as we don’t want to be too full for the MAIN event now do we?!? Obviously there’s no american pancakes allowed on pancake day, crepes are where it is at and so the batter doubles both for the savoury and the sweet. In the past I’ve made a version of the french galette, the crepes made from buckwheat flour a deep nutty smoky flour that when poured thin and crispy and wrapped around ham and Comte cheese sizzled under the grill with a handful of lemony spiked salad on the side, it’s simple, unadulterated but hits the spot. Or for the veggies, pear, cheddar, walnuts and some honey, or mushrooms spinach and a runny fried egg perched on top. Balances out the oncoming sugar-hit but leaves enough of a hole to eat at least one or two more pancakes!

Pancakes are a thing eaten worldwide, probably in every country, in many many different variations. So we all know the French crepe, and the American pancakes, thick fluffy and the size of your face. Hop across the continents to Asia where pancakes are a regular for breakfast. In South India there is the masala dosa. A pancake made by fermenting ground lentils and rice, spread so thinly you could read the newspaper through it, filled with a spiced potato mix and served with a lentil sambol and coconut chutney. Or in Sri Lanka there is the hopper. A coconut infused rice crepe with an egg cooked inside, topped with curries and chutneys. We all have grown up with the Chinese crispy duck pancakes, and one not so dissimilar is the banh xeo found in Vietnam. A coconut and turmeric spiced pancake typically stuffed with pork and prawns, mushrooms and raw crunchy vegetables alongside a dipping sauce heavy on the fish sauce called nuoc cham.

I wanted to stay seasonal this year, so for pancake day as the savoury course I opted for a spiced roast squash, sage and hazelnut pesto, spinach and some goats cheese (plus the sizzled chorizo for my dad, AKA meat fiend). We all enjoyed it so much it made me wonder why we don’t eat savoury pancakes more often, a brilliant way of cobbling together straggling leftovers from the fridge to make a wholly satisfying meal.

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Topped with blood orange and pink grapefruit, be pollen, sunflower seeds, yogurt, cashew butter, cinnamon and a drizzle of local raw honey

 

My recipe for you this time doesn’t actually involve crepes, sorry for the tease. Here’s a pancake recipe that can be used all year round, weekdays before work (yes they’re that quick) or for a long and relaxing weekend brunch. I threw this recipe together one morning, adapted from the two-ingredient pancakes I’m sure you’ve seen sneaking around on Pinterest. Originally it calls for one banana to two eggs, but by adding oats, bicarbonate of soda, spices, grated fresh ginger and ground linseeds it makes for an uber fluffy pancake.

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The banana in the batter makes them sweet so it’s not necessary to add any more sweetener, although a little drizzle of something never does any harm. Top with your favourite fruits, nut butter, chopped nuts or seeds and some yogurt and be prepared to lick the plate clean.

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Can you tell I was way too keen to get eating before I took these pictures?

 

Golden ginger pancakes

Serves 2-3 depending on your appetite

Ingredients

  • 1 large very ripe banana
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp ground linseeds/flaxseeds
  • Milk, around 1/4 cup

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients except the milk to a high speed blender such as a Nutribullet and blend until a smooth very thick batter forms. Add the milk and blend again, if it is still too thick add a little more milk.
  2. If you don’t have a high speed blender, mash the banana well in a bowl and whisk in the eggs. Substitute the rolled oats for oat flour or any other flour of your choice (wholemeal would be nice) and whisk well along with all the other ingredients. Add enough milk to thin the batter slightly as before.
  3. Place a frying pan on a medium high heat and add some oil. Brush the oil round to coat the base of the pan. When it is hot add ladlefuls of the batter, I usually manage 3 or 4 in a large pan, trying to keep them in a round-ish shape. When the edges start to set and there are loads of little bubbles on the surface flip the pancakes and leave to cook for 1 or 2 minutes more.
  4. Whilst you finish cooking the rest of the pancakes, put the cooked ones on a plate and cover with a tea towel. Put in a low oven to keep warm.
  5. Once all the pancakes are cooked serve as many as you wish, piled with your favourite fruit and toppings.

 

Treat yourself with love,care and a nice breakfast, and a successful day will surely follow. Love and breakfast wishes (and a very, very belated Happy Pancake Day to you!!)

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The new nut milk

Here’s a little quickie, more of a method than an actual recipe. The recent rise of people going dairy free or cutting down on dairy consumption with a switch to plantbased milks has grown exponentially. I personally have no issue with dairy, and wouldn’t cut it out of my diet as #1 I have done it before and it was pure evil, #2 I love yogurt and cheese too much. Like way way too much!

Also what’s wrong with cows milk, why is it being picked on so much recently by the media and certain health food bloggers and famous instagrammers? Are you avoiding it because someone else said you should or because you want to eat a ‘cleaner’ diet avoiding dairy, gluten, sugar and processed foods. Well perhaps take a peek at the ingredients list on your favourite almond milk brand, those ingredients sound very natural to you? Take a look at the side of a cows milk carton and whats on there, only one ingredient. Milk. Nothing wrong with that at all.

Now I’m not shunning plantbased milks, as I always have them in my fridge, nor am I shunning cows milk as even though its not my milk of choice I would anyday rather eat a cows milk yogurt over coconut or soya and a good chunk of cheddar cheese always hits the spot. I’m trying my best recently not to forbid anything in my diet because that just leaves guilt around certain products, if I fancy cheese, have some. Of course that small chunk isn’t going to make you fat, infact it is full of calcium and protein and satisfies that need so you’re not going to go crazy over the deprivation.

I feel that varying your diet up as much as possible is the best way to go, perhaps don’t start drinking plantbased milks for the so called benefits, do it because they can actually taste pretty good. Find the right brand and you’re onto a winner. If its a nut milk, one with a higher percentage of nuts is obviously the one to go for, otherwise it will be mainly water and possibly a bit of sugar completely lacking in any nutty flavour. Obviously it depends on your price bracket, I always like Rude Health and Plenish  as they taste plain lovely, but if you’re after something not extortionate in price or what you can just pick up in your Tesco Express then opt for Alpro unsweetened and Oatly is a good oat milk option. For the cheapest of the bunch if you’re not vegan or intolerant of course go for cows milk, I always like organic and full fat. We have so many options nowadays so chopping and changing between milks leaves our palates interested and not stuck in a monotonous rut!

For those of you fancying a bit of DIY? Maybe, if you are into your nut milks, and balk at the price of the good ones (when we’re talking £4 for a carton, that’s going a bit ridiculous), you can try making your own. Much easier than you might first think. All it requires is some nuts or seeds, water, a blender and a nut milk bag (failing that a clean tea towel).

It sounds quite the hassle, but there’s not much hands on time, and its quite fun to have a go for yourself. Even if you only do it the one time it’s worth a shot. Possibly some people do make their own nut milks on the regular however most people simply don’t have time for that. In that case do buy one from the supermarket, but this stuff tastes completely different to what you are used to, and it’s easy to get hooked!! Super creamy, so much more than supermarket brands, you can sweeten as you desire, use nuts or seeds that you would never discover on a shelf (toasted pecan cinnamon milk anyone?) and the process is so simple that it will give you a chance to get creative.

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Feel free to mix up the nuts, walnuts are lovely, or for a green hue to your milk try pistachios, sesame seeds have a lovely flavour and hazelnuts too. Perhaps try toasting your nuts or seeds prior to soaking for a deeper nutty aroma, or add other flavourings such as cinnamon, cardamom, cacao powder or blended fruits.

As the nuts have been soaked, real nut milk doesn’t keep as long as store bought. My carton in the fridge of a shop bought milk has kept for weeks with no hint of a sour, off flavour, whereas you may notice after 5 or so days the milk goes slightly sour. Not so great! So drink that up quick, it won’t be an issue as you will be drinking it at every opportunity you can find.

 

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Somebody’s been peeling beetroots!

 

When it comes to quantities I usually opt for 1 cup of nuts or seeds to 3-4 cups of water, depending on how thick or thin you like it. If the nuts are quite expensive you can use more water for a thinner milk but you get much more so it lasts longer. Try pouring on your porridge for some creaminess, splashed liberally over your muesli or granola, dunk warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, or just drink it chilled and straight up from the glass. If you like a higher protein content, you can leave the nuts in and miss out the straining step, that way it will be even richer and creamier. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to give that baby a good shake before using, as there’s no stabilisers or emulsifiers it will separate.

 

Almond and sesame milk

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw sesame seeds

 

Method

  1. Place the almonds and sesame seeds in a bowl and cover with water and a pinch of salt, put a plate on top and leave to soak overnight or for around 8 hours
  2. After the soaking period, drain the nuts and seeds and rinse well under water. Add to a blender and pour on top 3 cups of fresh water (not the soaking water).
  3. Blend well until it forms a creamy milky coloured liquid and there are no large chunks of almonds left. If you don’t have a stand blender add the nuts, seeds and water to a large bowl and blend with a stick blender, this may take a little while longer.
  4. Pour through a nut milk bag into a large jug or bowl and squeeze until all the liquid has passed through. You will be left with a damp flour left in the bag.
  5. Put the milk into a few screw lidded jars or a clip top bottle for up to 5 days in the fridge.
  6. Try to use up the nut pulp, put a heaped spoon in your smoothies, use it in bakes such as muffin recipes or macaroons, dry it in a low oven to make into almond flour or add to hummus and there’s even recipes to make nut cheese. Go wild.

 

I hope you will give homemade nut milk a chance to see how delicious it really can be, but don’t forget about our first friend cows milk he’s a fantastic breakfast fellow too. Whichever milk you choose, splash and pour with vigour, enjoy the gentle sweet creaminess and remember if you like it, that’s all that matters!!

Which variety of milk is your go to? And have you ever made your own nut milk before, let me know your ideas and tried and tested favourites in the comments below.

Much love and slurping!

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Some fashion week sustenance

It’s come around again, yet another season, 1/2 a year has been and gone. Something which first started off as a biannual event, has now spawned into hundreds of millions of shows new ones popping up each season, mens collection, cruise, couture, anniversary shows, pre collections, the fashion ‘week’ never ends for some.

From afar it seems a wondrous thing to be a part of – which it is when we eventually reach the following Tuesday and look back and say, ‘finally it is over!’ The slog though, it sure is a long and arduous one.

So the Monday before it officially begins on Friday we begin castings. Always one of the castings is the Fashion Scout event, a hall full of at least 20 designers where we must strut up and down, up and down, up and down until out little feet can’t carry us any longer. Add on top of that a good 5 or 6 castings and then crash on the sofa come 9 o’clock in a state of delirium.

And that’s only the first day!

Wake up and more castings again for the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday (Yayy no more on Tuesday!!). The list each day gets longer, castings start earlier and finish later and later and then the fittings, which can go well into the early hours of the morning as the teams behind the designers are putting the final touches to their shows.

All this running around, tube to bus, west to east and casting to show to fitting, it leaves us all rather hungry – ravenous fits the bill a bit more suitably. No matter how much the majority of models love you, Propercorn and Coconut water, I think we need some proper sustenance in our tummies.

So snacks are where it is at. Along with our heels, models cards and books (reading and portfolios) there will usually be a good array of snackage action in model handbags. I want to give some more ideas that stray away from said popcorn and popchips, because maybe they do fill that little hole but there’s not much in them to keep you going for very long. Things you can pick up quickly in supermarkets, cafes or have in your pocket for when that much needed energy dips. If you’re reading this and you’re not a model, they’re most definitely brilliant snacks to have on hand at anytime – the wait between lunch and dinner is hard enough to get though!!

 

#1 Squirrel sister bars

Find them in a trusty Boots, these fruit and nut bars are a delight. Sweet, but still full of nobbly nutty pieces that make it feel a satisfying snack rather than just a hit of pure energy. They come in four flavours: Cacao brownie, Raspberry ripple, Coconut cashew and Cacao orange, and each is portioned into two little finger bars, one for now and one for later, give one to a friend (if you’re feeling really kind), but most probably both at once because they are OH SO GOOD! If you can find it, make sure to get your hands on the cacao orange, I’m always out of luck as it’s sold out and it is definitely the best of the flavours!!

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#2 Hippeas

The new crisp on the block. These chickpea puffs are perfect for when you can’t get that bag of skips off your mind. The come in four flavours; Pepper Power, In Herbs We Trust, Sweet and Smokin’ and Far Out Fajita. Nicely savoury with a good puffy crunch. Thanks to incredible marketing and advertising I’m sure you’ve already heard of Hippeas as they’re so easy to find in the majority of healthfood stores around London, but also Whsmiths and Waitrose. Listen to the guys and, ‘give peas a chance’!

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#3 Deliciously Ella energy balls

Brought to you from the famed Deliciously Ella, these balls which currently come in three flavours popular from the blog, can be found in Starbucks, Waitrose, Sainsburys, The Mae Delis and various health food stores. They are very sweet, from the dates so will be perfect for a quick pick me up alongside your mochachococcino. The three flavours are Hazelnut and Raisin, Cashew and Ginger and Cacao and Almond, each made from only a few ingredients but all wholefoods, just fruit and nuts and some spices.

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#4 The Giving Tree, Broccoli crisps

Now for another savoury snackaroo. Little green broccoli trees which are vacuum fried and just a little salt is added. They are super crispy and munchable, you’ll find your way to the bottom of the packet in no time. There are a few options in The Giving Tree crisps, a mixture of sweet and savoury, the sweet ones are freeze dried and the savoury ones are vacuum fried both ways retaining all their nutrients.

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#5 A piece of fruit

Couldn’t write a snacks list without some fruit. I tend to opt for oranges, pears and apples because bananas usually end up as a big mush over my heels. Full of natural sugars, fibre and loads of vitamins and minerals, which are much needed as our tired-out bodies are pushed to their limits, all in one portable package.

 

#6 Trail mix

Another oh so simple one. I like to make my own up as it’s cheaper and I get to choose what goes in the mix. Chuck in any of your favourite nuts, seeds, dried fruit and perhaps some coconut flakes for a quick energy boosting snack. The protein and fats in the nuts should keep you sustained for a good while (at least hopefully until you get some proper lunch or dinner). Try a variety of nuts, not just your typical almonds and cashews for some interest. Also, if chocolate goes in there, I won’t tell.  Fashion week is a devilish time and chocolate soothes everything.

 

#7 Emily’s Fruit/Veg Crisps

Another of the vacuum crisped crisps.  My favourites are the Root Veg crisps and the French beans, Sugarsnaps and Black Edamame. Munch on the bus or add as a lunch topper for some crunch. Also available are fruit crisps in flavours such as pineapple, apple and banana.

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#8 Rawsage

An unassuming snack bar I received once in a Lifebox. If you’re like me and crave something savoury to add to your snacking instead of all the sweet fruity based bars, this will be your new go to. A raw vegan version of the popular salami snack, Peperami, indeed a raw sausage! It tastes pretty fab, brazil nuts, sundried tomatoes, herbs and spices combine for a flavour full of umami and even a very similar texture to the original. Find it in Planet organic, and give it a try!

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#9 Rude Health ‘The Oaty’

A lot of the time I am sick and tired of fruit and nuts, and need a little biscuit, reminiscent of a Digestive but so much tastier and wholesome. The oatcakes from Rude Health are a great handbag snack and the best of the oatcake bunch. They come in a few variations, The Oaty, The Spelt Oaty, the Rye Oaty, the 4 Seed Oaty and the Ginger and Turmeric Oaty. In the box there’s portioned packets ready to take on the go. My favourite, the Ginger and Turmeric Oaty is lovely with a cup of milk, or perhaps a golden milk for a double turmeric hit, as a bedtime snack – the slow releasing carbs will help you with a restful sleep. In my humble opinion, the best oatcake out there, I’ve tried a few and these most definitely have no similarities to cardboard!!

 

So don’t let fashion week get you down, and don’t let boring snacking get you down either. There’s plenty of options out there, just pick something that you enjoy and that will help you keep on trudgin’. Also make sure it stands the handbag test, noone wants a mass of crumbs in the bottom or an explosion when you go to find your purse. Tupperware is the saviour in this scenario, oh and baby wipes!!!

Happy Fashion Week to you All, and GOOD LUCK!!

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A pot of liquid gold

Hands up who likes nut butter.

Hello my fellow friends.

Hands up who spends a fortune on nut butters, seemingly weekly because you can’t just have the one variety in your cupboard and a teaspoon always is a permanent feature propped up in the jar.

Still there?

I was wandering round planet organic the other day killing some time and obviously ended up facing a row upon row of nuts and seeds in jars, swiftly followed by tea the other lover in my life (I seriously need to find myself a boyfriend). The varieties are endless, every nut or seed is on offer, some chocolatey –  a riff on Nutella – others spiced up, some raw, some roasted, the list goes on and on and on. People are becoming more innovative in their flavour creations, no longer sticking to just sea salt, trying to cater for their audience of evolving tastebuds. Beautiful packaging sure is a feast for the eyes, but turn your gaze to the price tag…  just walk away, swiftly.

However much I love a little splurge on new products to test out and try, when prices are rattling up to £12 for a piddly little jar, that’s one indulgence too far. So I tend to use my aisle perusing as a source of inspiration. Gather my thoughts and *mind journal* new tastes and flavours to have a play around with come the weekend.

One jar I’ve always been tempted by, but gawk at the price tag for, the royalty that is the macadamia butter. We’ve all picked up a packet in the supermarket, wondering why on earth they cost so much, a pack of almonds or cashews are so cheap in comparison, so I’m sure that they are quite often overlooked.

When living a more plantbased lifestyle it’s necessary to get enough protein and fibre throughout your day, usually in the form of nuts, legumes and grains. The majority of these are grown abroad in sunnier climes as the UK just isn’t suitable. I’m sure you all know about the recent concerns in places like California who grow almonds in abundance but due to recent droughts and the sudden clean eating craze they’re struggling to keep up with demand. They’re not the only country. Of course we can’t be self efficient by just relying on our own local produce, we have such worldwide varied tastes now that meat and two veg just won’t cut it. I feel by varying the type of nuts and grains you buy, is one way of helping and not putting as much pressure on the countries already struggling. Instead of almonds and quinoa next time try pecans and millet, or walnuts and amaranth, pumpkin seeds and spelt. There are so many options available for us now we should all be making the most of it.

So back to the macadamias, perhaps another reason why we aren’t stocking up on them is the queries of how high in fat they are. We still believe that fat is bad, low fat= good. Friends and family still comment saying, ‘no I don’t eat nuts they’re really high in fat’, ‘avocados they will make me fat’ and ‘I only drink skimmed milk because the fat is bad for me’. When introduced into a balanced diet, all these plantbased fats are incredible for our skin and health, we just need to keep in mind ‘in moderation’. Fats keep you satiated and tell that part in your brain that that food was good. Its so important too if you’re eating lots of vegetables, these fats unlock all the fat soluble vitamins and minerals, so you can reap all the benefits.

So let me break this down for you. Macadamias are high in monounsaturated fats (the GOOD ONES) found in abundance in avocados, olives, olive oil, nuts and whole milk. Research has proven that eating plenty of these fats helps to reduce cholesterol, prevent heart disease, and diabetes. As with all nuts, macadamias are high in fibre, both the soluble and insoluble kind, meaning happy digestion!! They also contain a whole host of valuable vitamins and minerals, manganese, thiamine, copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and vitamin B6, all which help the body to thrive.

That’s one good nut.

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Golden and toasted after a few minutes in the oven

 

Macadamia butter works well in both sweet and savoury food, it is also a great substitute for butter. Now I’m not sinning butter, it’s golden lusciousness never fails to make me happy when slicked on toast, but sometimes we need to change things up a bit. And I know there are some of you out there that don’t like butter (it’s a mystery to me) but this will sit nicely on your toast, swirled into your porridge or mixed with ginger, lime and soy to make a creamy Asian salad dressing.

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Sit the little pot of nut butter in the fridge where it will keep for a while, probably a few months, but seriously will it last that long? I highly doubt it, you will be finding every opportunity you can to crack open the jar. The other day I paired it with mango and date syrup on top of pancakes, we may be in the middle of winter here in the UK but for those few moments I was transported to a tropical paradise. I do like to keep as seasonal as possible with my produce but sometimes we just need that little bit of sunshine in our mornings.

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Almost there… this is the stage where it forms a big clump and you think the nut butter will never go thin and silky. Just hang on, macadamia butter is only moments away.

 

Macadamia butter

Ingredients

  • 1 packet macadamia nuts
  • Pinch of sea salt

Method

  1. Set the oven to 180C. Open the packet of macadamias and tip them all out onto a tray or in a roasting dish so they sit in a flat layer.
  2. Put in the oven, until they smell toasty and they have tinged brown on the edges. Don’t let them burn.
  3. Once out of the oven, put the nuts in a food processor and set to a high speed. Leave the food processor on until a smooth creamy paste has formed. It doesn’t take very long with macadamias due to the high fat content, but scrape the sides down as necessary.
  4. Add a big pinch of nice sea salt, and whizz for a few minutes more.
  5. Transfer into a clean jar and store in the fridge.

 

How do you use your nut butters? Are they just for breakfast and eating with a spoon or do you use them in savoury dishes too. Think satay, creamy salad dressings, dipping sauces, a substitute for tahini in hummus. Please do comment with your thoughts and ideas, I’d love some new inspiration as always!

Happy blending, you nutty lot!

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