Matcha comin’ right ‘atcha

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I have only one, but one very special magic trick.

No cutting people in half or cards up my sleeves, this magic trick is one that i’m sure no one else performs.

You guessed it. Making packets of matcha powder disappear.

WHAT?!?

Let me explain if I may. Twice now I have bought a larger packet of matcha powder that has mysteriously gone walkabouts. Those things aren’t cheap I’ll have you know, so the last thing I want is to be losing them.

A while back now I had made my favourite matcha latte, and put the packet of matcha away…now maybe i’m lying and left it on the side or possibly  put it in one of our many cupboards,but where it is now lodging is a mystery to me.

I asked my mum and dad and both of them are no wiser than I am. I did blame my dad that he threw it away thinking the packet was empty, he’s just an easy target.

But still no clue.

In an annoyed ploy I set out to buy another packet of matcha, hoping that inevitably as soon as the new matcha arrived, hurrah the old one would be living right beneath my nose.

So the new one arrived I opened it, but still no sign of Mr older matcha.

Then again after making my matcha one day, the next time I came to look for Mr new matcha, what had happened? He’d disappeared too.

In a big tantrum I blamed my mum, dad, the cat, but no one had a clue where the second had disappeared to.

Piling everything out the cupboards we looked everywhere that it could possibly be. The tea cupboard, the cereals, my cupboard (I don’t even know whats in there except chocolate), the nuts, dried fruits. EVERYWHERE.

My mum swore blind she hadn’t seen it, until I spied a silver sachet in the tea overflow cupboard. Of course we didn’t think to look in there. And of course she’d forgotten that she’d put it in there with all the other teas.

DUH

So we solved that one.

But still no sign of Mr old matcha.

Well, after all of that I recently have been on a matcha latte kick.

 

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The model ready for his closeup

 

I am a serious tea drinker. As I’ve already mentioned we have a tea cupboard and a tea overflow cupboard, in the literal sense that every time you open the door all the boxes flow out and fall on your head.

Everyday I have my green tea for a needed caffeine hit after I’ve eaten my breakfast (anyone else get headaches if they don’t have a cuppa?), if i’m lounging around then I’ll probably have a second and get a bit buzzy. Always a mint infused tea after lunch, another with my afternoon snack and one or two if i’m still feeling peckish after dinner. Phew that’s a lot of tea.

Its so cold here in the UK, if I haven’t got warmth from sunshine the very least I can have is a hot tea and a fluffy jumper.

I always seem to hit the 11-11:30 lull. Not hungry enough for a proper snack, but not full enough from breakfast to keep going another hour until lunchtime. The perfect time for a matcha latte then.

No excuses needed.

Frothy creamy dairy free milk whizzed up to make a pastel hue of green, that will brighten any misty grey day.

 

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Whisk it, whisk it real good!

 

Matcha is nothing new however. Maybe it is to us in the west, its enjoying the ride on the wellness train just like quinoa and açai. But it does have a lot of history in japan, particularly with Buddhist monks.

Let’s go way back.

I mean way way way back to 1191.

The zen Buddhist, Eisai introduced the ground tea leaves, aka matcha, to Japan. Him and his fellow Buddhist monks used to drink matcha in the afternoon to prepare them for their meditation. Matcha is said to bring clarity to the mind, maintain a level of sustained energy and helped them to remain more centred and focused.

So it worked for the Buddhist monks, what’s the benefit for those of us not spending all day meditating?

It does boast quite a few health benefits, when prepared correctly. The first, high in antioxidants. Found in most brightly coloured fruit and veg, dark chocolate and green tea, vital to fight off diseases, cancers and UV radiation, basically all environmental strains that our bodies shouldn’t be exposed to. Whilst green tea is high in antioxidants, matcha has 137 times the amount so something worth adding to your diet.

Second, it helps to put you in a state of calm. Maybe its the process of making the matcha, frothing up the tea with hot (not boiling) water then frothing the milk and pouring one into the other. But studies have found that L-theanine the amino acid which helps you RELAXXXX and also slows the release of caffeine in the body, is found in matcha powder, in fact in most tea however it is most concentrated in matcha. Time for some zen then.

We all know green tea contains caffeine, if you’ve ever drank it at night and struggled to drift asleep you’ll know well enough. Matcha contains only a third of the amount of caffeine as your regular coffee and only a little more than a cup of green tea around 24mg-39mg. Giving you alertness without the crash and burn only an hour or so later.

Dosing you up with around 3.25mg of calcium, 1.85mg of vitamin C, 274mg of protein and 20.5mg of potassium, it outweighs all the other well known ‘superfoods’ such as acai and goji berries. (But we all know the term ‘superfood’ is a load of BS, don’t we?)

Finally, I’m not going to go into all that detoxing the body rubbish, we have a liver and kidneys for that. But it’s said to help with a clearer complexion. Obviously eating a healthy diet of lots of fruit and vegetables wholegrain carbs and healthy fats will help with that, but women in japan have been using matcha as a face mask for YEARS. (As well as putting matcha in anything and everything, READ: matcha Kitkats, matcha Oreos…). Now doesn’t it seem that most Japanese women have beautiful porcelain skin, it might just be in their genes, but i’ll drink matcha to that!

 

 

Now on to the recipe.

FINALLY

So I like to use this matcha powder. It’s premium grade, you can buy cheap matcha powders usually bulked up with loads of sugar, colouring and milk powder (hello starbucks), but not overly expensive as we all have to look after those pennies. Choose one that’s right for you, there are loads and loads out there.

Make sure to seal the matcha packet every time you use it, keep it out of sunlight and in a cool and dark place. Light causes the tea to oxidise, meaning a lot of the benefits are leached out of the tea.

Also a note on the type of milk to use. You can use dairy milk, or soya milk, oat milk is my favourite for flavour and frothing abilities (particularly the brand Oatly, the even do foamable!!!), however rice milk, coconut, almond, cashew all is good here. The Rude Health milks taste amazing with the matcha as they are slightly sweet. BUT you just don’t get a good enough froth. And what’s a latte without some froth eh?

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Wait for it…waittttt for itttt…..

If you have a milk steamer, all the better, but I use one of the handheld milk frothers they’re really cheap and do the job nicely. Traditionally matcha is made in a bowl and whisked up with a bamboo whisk, I would  like to own one of these but I have no space, something from my kitchen cabinets would have to be removed to make space for it. Sad. Times. So maybe not as traditional, but if you have one go ahead and have a proper tea ceremony.

Matcha Latte

Ingredients

  • 1/2 – 1 tsp matcha powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup of boiled – but left to cool slightly – water

Method

  1. In your cup whisk your matcha in the hot water until frothy.
  2. Meanwhile, either in the microwave or in a pan on the hob, heat your milk until steaming but not boiling.
  3. Whisk the milk until it is really frothy, then pour into the matcha.

As simple as that.

If you like, add a little grating of nutmeg, or for a touch of sweetness if your taste buds are begging for it add some raw honey, maple syrup or rice malt syrup. However if you’re using a plant based milk I don’t find it necessary.

 

So zen up your life, have a moment of calm and centring. No need to think of everything on your to do list, just sit and sip your warm cuddley matcha.

Enjoy and breeathhheeeeee

X

Anyone else, notice the amount of times I said the word matcha. OH there goes another one. Its such a good word, and FUN FACT: the word matcha comes from the two words in Japanese, cha meaning tea, and ma meaning powdered. So literally powdered tea.

Get telling all your friends I’m sure they’ll be well impressed.

(Ha good luck with that!)

 

 

 

 

Beans beans good for your heart, the more you eat the more you 💨

I’ve been going on about it a lot recently, not sure what’s come over me. I always get mini obsessions over one thing. And that thing recently is fibre.

If you’re anything like me, when you picture fibre in your mind it looks like some dry coarse brown stuff given to people with bowel issues. Yupp that will get mentioned a lot in this post too. There are certain foods in the world that look like that, ground linseeds, flaxseeds or psyllium husk and if eaten in large quantities may cause you some *issues*. However fibre is usually packaged up into perfect parcels (fruit and vegetables ring any bells?), requiring a good amount of chewing action to reap the benefits.

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Is this what you had in mind when i mentioned fibre? Doesn’t look that appetising not gonna lie.

So first of all, WHAT IS FIBRE?!?

Shout out to all the veggie lovers out there. It’s solely found in plant based foods. Keep on searching but you’ll never find it in your fillet steak or chicken drumsticks, or any egg, dairy, meat or fish produce. So there we have it, just eat more PLANTS.

There are two types of fibre found, soluble and insoluble fibre. I’m going to take you back to your GCSE Biology lessons here where I’m sure you were more preoccupied with drawing and learning certain male and lady parts rather than learning your plant cell structures. But hey ho, the knowledge might still be lurking in the recesses of your mind somewhere.

Soluble fibre

This does what it says. It dissolves in the water in your digestive system and feeds our best pals, the gut microbiota. Happy gut bacteria = happy tum. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, oats, pulses and golden linseeds would supply your buddies in your gut with all the food they need and prevent you from having an uncomfortable time on the toilet.

Insoluble fibre

This is what provides the bulk to our poop (I’m trying to make it cute here, help me!). Can’t put it any other way. This roughage is made up of all the indigestible bits like cellulose in the plan cell walls and instead of dissolving it absorbs the water, and you’ll become more regular as a result. Ever noticed sweetcorn before, so that’s full of insoluble fibre, ie we don’t digest it.

Add in plenty of whole grains to your diet (the insoluble fibre is what makes brown rice brown), dried fruits, nuts and seeds and the peelings on your fruit and veg. Those potatoes that you’ve just peeled for your mash taters, the majority of the goodness has just gone in the bin. Keep things rustic, don’t peel your fruit and veg, it just requires a good wash.

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Bits of cell wall in the plant cells make up insoluble fibre

Fibre is a carbohydrate and in a balanced diet we should be eating around 40% starchy carbohydrates throughout the day. All of our meals should be based around the good ol’carb.

CHEERS FROM THE CROWDS

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Yes you heard me right, more pasta, rice, potatoes, bread…wait wait wait, there’s a catch right?!?

Ok you got me. Make sure they’re wholegrain.

Is that really an issue though? Just as satisfying, perhaps even tastier than their white siblings and they don’t leave you slumped on the sofa resembling a pile of mash potato.

Remember that fruit and vegetables are carbohydrates too!! Make sure to add some to every meal if you can. A bowl of pasta is a wonderful thing, but it’s made supercharged by mixing it with some courgetti or adding some lemon and olive oil dressed rocket on the side or some garlicky green beans.

I’m sold.

So the government have upped our guidelines for the daily amount of fibre required to 30g.  Sounds pretty small right? Well when the average Brit is only consuming 18g per day, evidently some changes are needed. Picture one of those Quaker Oats instant porridge sachets, there you have around 27g so just under the 30g mark. That is the amount we should be aiming for. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

porridge-sachet

But as I said before everything we eat is wrapped in this perfect package by mother nature herself (beats amazon on packaging skills hands down). So that apple you had for your elevenses  (with the skin ofc), say an average sized one will contain around 4.4g of fibre. Only 13% of your daily requirements. OH DARN. That one apple also contains sugar, vitamin A and C, so keep on eating those apples they put you on the right path, we just need so much more throughout the day.

Sorry if this is sounding like mission impossible to you.

To help you out here’s some ideas to fibre up your life.

Breakfast:

  • Like porridge? Perfect. As I mentioned before oats are full of soluble fibre, but why not make them SUPER SUPER by mashing in half a banana or grating in half an apple whilst it is cooking, along with a heaped teaspoon of ground linseeds. Then top with the rest of the fruit chopped up.
  • Add some chopped nuts or nut butter to your cereal, porridge, toast, whatever you feel like. They’ll add a nice crunch, protein, healthy fats and you guessed it FIBRE.
  • Add dried fruit to your cereal or porridge, things like raisins, prunes, dates, apricots, cranberries, figs. Just make sure they don’t have any sugar added, you’re sweet enough.
  • Feel like some toast? Make sure its a wholegrain one, or spelt and rye are great alternatives.
  • If you’re still struggling to stray from the cereal box aisle, opt for the plainer cereals like Weetabix and Shredded Wheat. They contain the least amount of added sugar (if any) and can be topped so many ways to add some spice to your mornings.

 

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Fruit and fibre reinvented

 

Lunch:

  • Veggies, veggies and more veggies. I can’t stress how important it is to eat as many vegetables as possible. Make sure they make up 40% of your daily diet.
  • Fancy a bowl of pasta? Opt for the wholegrain version.
  • Noodles? Again choose wholegrain or udon or soba noodles which tend to contain some buckwheat flour.
  • Be adventurous with your grains: red, black, brown or wild rice, quinoa, amaranth, freekeh, pearl barley, spelt, buckwheat. They all have different flavours so experiment to find the grains you like.
  • Add beans or lentils to your salads to bulk them up, keep you full and add more, what’s that? Oh yes, fibre!
  • Need a hug in the form of a jacket potato and beans? The classic combination is full of fibre, a classic for a reason. Make it either a regular or sweet one, eat the skin, and top with your beans. To push it even further into super territory, serve with a green salad or some steamed greens.
  • Got a bowl of soup? Great, all those veggies means it is already full of fibre but eat it with a hunk of wholegrain bread or add a few spoons of cooked grain to the bottom of your bowl before slurping it up.
  • Want to fancify your salad? Grab some green leaves, add some roasted veg, add some raw veg either grated or chopped up, mix in some cooked grains, beans or lentils, sprinkle with dried fruit and chopped nuts and then mix well in your favourite dressing. Fibre festival in a bowl.
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Get topping your soup

 

 

Dinner:

  • Spag bol for dinner or shepherds pie? Halve the amount of minced meat you would usually use and bulk it up with a tin of beans or lentils. Adding in a portion of veg and extra fibre whilst reducing the amount of saturated fat, can you get any better than that?
  • Serve your curry with wholegrain rice or a wholegrain roti and bulk up the curry with some sweet/normal potatoes, or anything else lurking in your veg drawer.
  • Meat Free Monday, why not meat free Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. No matter what day it is make a hearty veggie dish such as a chilli, dahl, tagine, lasagne powered up with beans like cannellini or butter beans  or red lentils and puy lentils.

 

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A salad full of greens, grains and beans

 

And for those bits in between:

  • Keep it simple with a piece of fruit, bananas, apple, pears and oranges. At certain times of year go for the seasonal favourites, figs, persimmons, berries. Want it supercharged? Dip your apple slices in a tablespoon of nut butter or have a handful of nuts or seeds on the side.
  • Hummus fan? Who isn’t! Whizz up your own hummus varying the beans or simply buy a good quality shop bought one and munch with some crudites like pepper, carrots, cucumber and celery.
  • A handful of edamame beans in some tamari and chilli flakes will satisfy that salty craving as well as being chockablock of fibre.
  • A packet of popcorn, opt for the plain salted variety or try to seek out Propercorn, their Fiery Worcester and Sun-dried Tomato flavour is THE BEST. Or even better, make your own and go crazy with the flavourings.
  • Bake up some kale chips, Tear up kale and rub in oil, some salt, a splash of balsamic vinegar and spread on baking sheet. Bake in a low oven until crunchy and no moisture remains.
  • Mix up a super easy and munchable trail mix, mix any plain nuts such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews or brazils with some seeds like pumpkin and sunflower, a mixture of dried fruits such as dates, raisins, figs, cranberries, apricots, add a handful of coconut flakes perhaps some cacao nibs. If you’re feeling a little indulgent some deep dark 70%+ chocolate wouldn’t go amiss.

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After reading all of this you’re still asking WHY!?! Surely you’re not already convinced, a successful toilet trip makes us all extremely happy people… soz but it’s true.

So some scientific proof to seal the deal.

  • The main reason we all know about fibre, and I’m sure the only reason why you buy bran flakes from the supermarket (they taste like cardboard basically torture in a bowl) it prevents you getting constipated. MARVELLOUS. Or shall we say it promotes regular bowel movements, better now?
  • A diet high in fibre prevents certain cancers, particularly bowel cancer which is the most common cancer in the UK.
  • Fibre in the diet is proven to reduce obesity levels. By keeping you fuller for longer and also sending a message to your brain that you are satiated so won’t feel a strong need to snack.
  • Soluble fibre, in particular Beta-Glucans which are found in oats and barley lowers your cholesterol, therefore reducing your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

 

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If this gets you out of bed in the morning I applaud you

That’s that then. I don’t have much more to say about fibre, just that we all need to be eating more of it. By simply adding a portion of vegetables to your lunch or dinner, a piece of fruit at breakfast, a handful of nuts for a snack…. YEPP that easy.

Remember balance my friends, if we all eat a balanced plate of fruit and vegetables, starchy carbohydrates, protein and a small amount of fat we should be achieving these vital amounts of micro and macro nutrients that our bodies require to thrive.

Mashed potato, sofa dwelling monster no more!

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Wishing you all to be full of beans (pun intended)

X

 

 

 

A winning fridge forage

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DISCLAIMER: I’ve never been to Italy. Sad times, I KNOW! Every year when we’re looking for somewhere to go on our summer holidays, I put Italy on the top of my list. I’m not really fussy on where, Rome, Florence, Venice, Lake Garda, Sorrento, Bologna (new LOVE after watching on Rick steins long weekends), anywhere, as long as pasta, gelato and and lots of eating is involved. I’m there.

So before you start shouting at your screen I have had no experience of truly authentic Italian food on Italian ground. I’ve eaten some UHMAZINGGGGG Italian food in restaurants here in the UK, but I feel they’re hard to come by, usually catering for our British tastebuds. Find somewhere which sources it’s ingredients from across Italy, then you’re onto a winner.

So, this recipe is by no means Italian. I drew inspiration mainly from everyone’s love of pesto pasta, the highlight of a students diet, and the fact I had a big bunch of basil in the fridge that needed using up. That’s the way I tend to work when I’m cooking for myself or on a Friday night for a fridge clear out.

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I’m a big fan of courgetti, first of all it’s a chance to use my spiraliser. I still get mesmerised by the twirling of green curls coming out the other end. Second of all, eating a dish of solely pasta I find too heavy. If the sauce is meat based I tend to go for just courgetti, sauté it in a pan with a big spoon (or two) of sauce until steamy and bubbling. If I’m opting for a vegetarian or vegan meal I like to do half courgetti, half spaghetti.

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In terms of the type of pasta I like brown rice spaghetti or spelt spaghetti. There are so many alternative pastas on the supermarket shelves nowadays you just have to find one you like. There’s varieties made from beans like chickpeas, black beans and mung beans (sounds weird, but so so good) and some others from our favourite pseudograins like quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth. If money is an issue for you or you have no health food shops nearby, go for the whole grain version. It’s sold in the majority of supermarkets nowadays, as I said in the last post getting more fibre into our diets is so important, whole grain pasta is the one for the job.

I’m really sorry if the majority of my recipes use a food processor. I can’t tell you how much I miss it when I’m away from home, definitely my hero of the kitchen appliances! The pesto for this recipe can be made by finely chopping everything by hand, it will take a hell of a longer time than whizzing in the food processor, but it’s still achievable. If you seriously can’t be arsed by all means grab some pesto from the shops. No it won’t be as full of goodness as the homemade one is, I don’t think it will taste as good either. BUT follow the ‘better than’ idea. If by not making the pesto yourself you won’t cook and will just order in a pizza, then of course buying the pesto and serving up a hearty dish of courgette, peas, herbs, rocket and tomatoes is the best option.

So get cracking, it doesn’t take long to whizz up at all. Completely full of veggie goodness and can be vegan if you decide not to put some Parmesan shavings on top, but I couldn’t resist. I’m sorry to all the vegans out there but I just love cheese. SO. DAMN. MUCH.

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Pesto courgetti pasta with roasted tomatoes

This served around 2 people

Ingredients

For the pesto

  • 1 big handful of basil
  • 1 big handful parsley
  • 1 small handful pine nuts
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon
  • 4 tbsp olive/rapeseed oil
  • 2 heaped tbsp nutritional yeast (for that savoury depth that you don’t get from cheese) otherwise use a good grating of Parmesan
  • 1 clove of garlic (optional)

For the pasta

  • 1 courgette (as straight as possible)
  • Spaghetti ( I don’t know how much here, I always make too little or too much. Just judge it by how hungry you are)
  • 2 handfuls of frozen peas
  • Rocket
  • Parmesan

For the roast tomatoes

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive/rapeseed oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. For the roast tomatoes. Turn the oven to 170C/150C fan. Slice the tomatoes, smaller cherry ones in half and larger tomatoes into quarters so they are in even size chunks. Put into an oven proof dish, I prefer ceramic rather than metal because the tomatoes cook more evenly and are less likely to burn. Drizzle over some oil and a good pinch of salt. Place in the oven for around 20 to 30 mins until they are caramelised on the edges and slightly shrivelled. Put to one side.
  2. For the pesto. Place all the ingredients into the food processor and whizz until you get a paste. Check for seasoning, maybe add more lemon or nutritional yeast/Parmesan, whizz again then slowly drizzle in some water until you have the right consistency for a pesto. It should coat the back of your spoon.
  3. Fill a large pan with boiling water, add your chosen spaghetti and cook according to the pack directions with a good pinch of salt.
  4. Meanwhile, setup your spiralizer so its on the finer noodle setting, and spiralize your courgette. If you don’t have a spiralizer, use a julienner or a regular peeler. Or try this kitchen hack: sit your box grater on its side with the course grater facing up. Grate the courgette horizontallly against the teeth so you get long strands of courgetti.
  5. Put a large frying pan on a medium heat and add your courgetti and frozen peas. Heat them through, but keep stirring so they dont catch, until the courgetti has softened has the peas have cooked.
  6. Scoop all your pesto in with the courgetti with a scoop of the pasta cookng water and leave to warm through.
  7. When the pasta is cooked drain it and add to the frying pan along ith the roasted tomatoes, a few handfuls of rocket and  a big squeeze of lemon. Mix well then divide onto plates, drizzle with extra oil and a few shavings of paremsan.

Get twirlinnn’

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