Coconut Overnight Muesli

I get it. We don’t always have time to prepare meals ahead, eat Instagram worthy breakfasts every morning, occasionally a proper meal doesn’t even get a look in. In reality breakfast is porridge splodged into a bowl dripping down the sides, and lunch on the go comprises of an apple and a bag of almonds. For those desperate times convenience food is called upon, whether it’s Pret, M&S, Itsu, ‘insert name of food place here’, they’re easy, offer lots of choice for all diets and appetite, however it sure can all add up.

The past few weeks I’ve been here there and everywhere. Last minute jobs and changes of plans resulted in throwing clothes in a bag (not forgetting the toothbrush) and making a dash for it. Packed lunches went out the window, dinner and mealtimes completely thrown all over the show, mouthfuls taken in between hair plaiting and foundation applying. At times like these food is fuel, not eaten mindfully and enjoyed as it should.

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When I know I’m going to have a crazy busy day, no scheduled mealtimes and the lunch option only centres around curled up sandwiches and party sized bags of Haribo, I ensure to have a really good breakfast. One that’s enjoyed slowly, peacefully as a moment to myself. I cherish those moments. Something with a good mix of slow release carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein and a bit of sweetness. Overnight oats pretty much ticks all of those boxes. Plus, the added extra that it can be made in a jar ready to pick up on your way out via the fridge, and eaten on the train, in your car whilst stuck in traffic or al desko. WIN WIN.

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I’m having a bit of a moment lately with muesli. The textures and sog that you get when it’s been soaking in milk for a brief sitting and every mouthful is just that little bit more different than the last. Yet again in the summer months I do enjoy a little fling with overnight oats. Porridge’s cooler friend, the one that was just thrown effortlessly together, walks with a breeze and without a care in the world with a touch of prepped smugness. I’ll have some of that please.

Grab your favourite muesli, I lean towards Rude Health’s Super Seed muesli, favouring more grains and seeds rather than dried fruit to control the sweetness levels. Prepared in the same way as we would overnight oats, stirred up with ground linseeds, yogurt, milk, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. We all have time for that surely? Prepare a large batch for the week ahead and divide into individual jars ready for the morning dash.

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To make it super thick and creamy, yogurt is a necessity. It adds a tang along with soaking the grains so they are more easily digested. An organic full fat yogurt with probiotic cultures, such as Yeo Valley, is an accessible choice found in most supermarkets here in the UK. I love yogurt, and eat dairy so that isn’t an issue for me, however I do enjoy mixing things up a little. On the odd occasion going for a coconut yogurt such as Coyo or Coconut Collaborative, some goats yogurt or almond or cashew yogurt. We’ve had a sudden influx here of alternative dairy products, Nush and Abbot Kinney are both coconut, almond and cashew yogurt brands which have recently appeared on the shelves. I even spotted a rice milk yogurt the other day. Don’t get me started on oat yogurt, a variety I have been desperate to try for AGES, Oatly my favourite oat milk brand from Sweden are yet to bring the yogurt to the UK. I am waiting, fidgeting, not patiently at all, but waiting all the same. Yes, alternative yogurts are more expensive, but it’s enjoyable to try new products and discover what you like, even if it is only very occasionally as a payday treat.

This particular day I had an opened tub of natural Coyo (if you have ever tried the salted caramel flavour, it is so good it’s just plain wrong!). Coyo is a lusciously thick coconut yogurt, more like coconut cream, so you don’t need much to be satisfied. That’s why I manage to stretch out one pot to a few servings. This overnight muesli could be made with any yogurt as a substitute, whichever you have open or is your favourite.

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I like to top this with fresh fruit, berries particularly are wonderful, or some mashed banana or grated apple stirred through just before serving to add a nice sweetness. A spoon of nut butter and some more seeds on top (you can never have too many) for crunch and bee pollen, because why not. If making your breakfast look pretty nourishes your soul, then go on and have a field day.

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Coconut overnight muesli

This makes just the one serving but you can double, triple or multiply the quantities as many times as you need to make a jar for breakfast every weekday. Eat on the train or whenever you get a chance to breathe and enjoy, and DON’T FORGET THE SPOON!!

Ingredients

  • 45g muesli
  • 1 tsp ground linseeds (ground flax or chia seeds work too)
  • Small pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 (large) tbsp coconut yogurt
  • 1/4-1/3 cup of milk (nut, oat, rice, cows, they all are good)
  • Berries to serve
  • Bee pollen
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almond butter

Method

  1. Mix the muesli, salt, cinnamon and ground linseeds in a bowl.
  2. Add the yogurt and stir until evenly combined.
  3. Starting with a 1/4 cup of milk mix well, if it is still quite thick add a splash more until the thickness of pancake batter, remembering it thickens up overnight. Place in the fridge until the next day or whenever it is served.
  4. At breakfast, give it a good stir add more milk if you like it thinner and top with berries, a sprinkle of sunflower seeds and bee pollen, of course the almond butter too.
  5. If preparing for a few days ahead divide evenly into jars and add the toppings that you like where they will keep for 5-7 days, ready to be taken as and when needed.

I’m ready now for some much needed chill time. No more meals out of tupperware. Sitting at a table eating with a knife and fork (not plastic ones), perhaps a small glass of wine surrounded by my family. That’s what food should be about. And I cannot wait.

Hugs and kisses

X

 

Asparagus and Jersey Royal Spring Salad

A month or so ago the first of the British asparagus hit my local greengrocers. Little bundles of the tufty spears piled high, all in need of a quick steam and toss with golden salted butter. All for the reasonable price of £4.20. I think not.

It’s something I’m yet to get my head around, paying such a premium for produce from our own country, when you can buy a pack from Peru or Mexico for a mere £2.

Where’s the logic in that?

I just had to practice my patience for a little longer, only a week or two, and now of course it will feature in every meal possible up until the end of June. I know it’s available to us year round, but when trying to eat seasonally there’s nothing more exciting than the first encounters of our British grown produce. It marks the new season, along with the newborn tiddly lambs and daffodils sprouting everywhere, asparagus means spring really does feel official.

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It’s such a versatile veg too, and if you’ve never tried it, you’re missing out. Along with your buttered soldiers try some asparagus to dive in your dippy egg. The nooks and crannies in the spear grips onto that golden yolk, and not forgetting it’s one of your five-a-day already in the bag. The first arrivals tend to be thinner, perfect for serving simply with a crack of black pepper and sea salt. Shave with a speed peeler or mandolin (watch those digits!!!) and serve as a tangle in a salad. Towards the latter end of the season it starts to become woodier, so lends itself to being grilled or roasted for some charred tips and smoky edges sitting perfectly beside some protein like salmon, steak or chicken or in a big veggie bowl with a dip.

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The week following Easter I spent some quality time with my mum, doing what we do best – coffee shop crawls and a bit of clothes shop perusing (the big venture for a dress for my mum for a wedding). The weather was a bit grim and grey but to make the most of a bad thing off we went out for a scone with clotted cream and raspberry jam and a pot of chamomile tea. The tea rooms we visited are set deep in the countryside, surrounded by rolling green hills, I cannot imagine how beautiful it would be on a bright sunny day. To kill two birds with one stone (so they say) we also went to a nearby farm where they have a shop selling all homemade produce which I’ve been meaning to visit for a good while (in the past I just sent my dad). A haven for homemade sausages, bacon and black pudding all using local, free range, rare-breed pork, smoked fish (all smoked themselves), eggs, jams, chutneys and smoked cheese. It really is in an old cow shed – as the name suggests – but there’s so many magical products nestled inside. I managed to bag a couple of boxes of eggs, all of which are mixed colours and sizes coming from the different breeds of chicken (and of course the yolks are golden), a couple of packets of sausages and some smoked peanut butter (I’m thinking sticky satay chicken wings or aubergines!). Sadly I missed out on the wild garlic pesto. I know, I’m annoyed too. I had dreams of smothering it over pasta with some roasted tomatoes, rocket and Parmesan. But it only means I have to go back soon. Not really sad about that. Not. At. All.

I had plans that night for a super chill meal for my mum and I. Ideas of a salad, but warm, hearty and full of veggies, felt necessary. Also I fancied a bit of stodge, so new season Jersey Royals were a no-brainer. The asparagus was roasted, and the potatoes boiled whole then both tossed in a nutty herby dressing whilst still warm to absorb the oils and flavour. The dressing was a kind of pesto/salsa verde mash up, loads of watercress, parsley, mint and dill, capers, lemon and toasted pistachios because you can’t have enough green. I reserved two of the asparagus spears and shaved them into thin ribbons, mixed with cress, watercress and some jammy yolked eggies, this truly was the ultimate spring salad.

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Asparagus and Jersey Royal Spring salad

If you don’t have all the herbs for the dressing just use extra watercress and up the amounts of the ones you do have. Some wild garlic would be an excellent addition, some basil too – if it’s looking a bit sad. If you’re struggling to get hold of some asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli (broccoli rabe I think it’s called in America), tenderstem or your bog-standard broccoli would even do the trick at a push.

Ingredients

Serves 2

  • Jersey royals – around 8 or 10 depending how hungry you are
  • Bunch of asparagus
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 packet of cress
  • 1/2 bag of watercress

Dressing

  • 1/2 bag of watercress
  • Small handful dill
  • Small handful parsley
  • Small handful mint
  • Fennel fronds (optional)
  • 2 tbsp capers (in brine, rinse if in salt)
  • Handful pistachios (without shells
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Turn the oven to 180 C
  2. Wash the Jersey Royals and place in a pan of cold water with a big pinch of salt. Bring to the boil then turn down to bubble for around 20 to 30 mins until tender.
  3. Meanwhile boil the eggs. Bring a pan of water to a vigorous boil, add some salt, then dip the eggs in the water briefly, remove and then fully submerge and leave to cook for 7 minutes. When the timer is up, stick the eggs in ice cold water to stop them cooking further.
  4. Reserve two asparagus spears for later, and with the rest snap off any woody ends and put in a roasting tin with a drizzle of oil and some salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for around 10 to 15 minutes until tender and crisp on the edges.
  5. To make the dressing, finely chop the watercress and the herbs and place in a bowl. Next chop the capers and mix in with the herbs. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, add 2 tbsp of olive oil, the mustard and red wine vinegar and a little water to make a thick dressing, the same consistency of a pesto. Check for seasoning and add more lemon or vinegar if you think necessary.
  6. When the potatoes have cooked, drain the water and leave to steam dry for a minute or so. Slice them in half and place on a platter with the roast asparagus and half the dressing. Toss together until everything is coated.
  7. With the reserved asparagus get a speed peeler or mandolin and shave thinly, put on the platter along with the watercress and cress. Toss again and dot the remaining dressing all over.
  8. Crack the eggs and peel them, they should be cool enough to handle. Slice into quarters and place on top of the salad.
  9. Serve and enjoy!

If you’re ever in the Peak District area do make a visit to The Old Cow Shed in Chisworth and The Woodlands Tea Rooms in Charlesworth for a traditional afternoon tea or lunch using locally sourced produce.

I’d love to hear if you’ve managed to get your hands on some wild garlic or how you make the most of asparagus when it’s back in for the ever so short season.

All the love

X

 

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!!)

X

 

February Faves

Considering it’s the last day of February, I suppose I’m a bit late to the show with this post, but here it is nonetheless. I’ve been running a bit frantic and erratic the past few weeks with it being fashion week, my body is struggling to wind down and get rid of the tickly cough that is still lingering. Keeping a chilled mind (wish me luck) and eating lots of nourishing food is on my agenda to get back to feeling ME again!

I feel like February has whizzed around and there hasn’t been much that I’ve been in to. Feeling ill always tends to knock my appetite, and breakfast-actually just muesli as I couldn’t even face porridge (there was definitely something wrong!) – seemed to be the only thing I could stomach. But we’re back in the kitchen and my mind is racing, hopping from country to country for new ideas and things I NEED to cook. ASAP! There will be some recipes arriving in this space soon, first up will be some pancakes. So quick and easy to whip together in the morning, weekday or weekends. Your whole family will enjoy them, tower up as high as you dare and add your favourite toppings with an obligatory drizzle of that somethin’ sweeeeet. More on that later, not in time for Shrove Tuesday, but anyway pancakes shouldn’t be restricted solely to one day in the year, you can make them whenever the fancy takes you!

So back to the faves for February, nothing groundbreaking or new but definitely things that have put a smile on my face and reduced the damage from these recent wintry dreary days and illnesses that are passing round.

 

 

#1 The Collective Yogurt

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We all know that when eating yogurt, full fat, organic (if possible) and natural with cultures is where it’s at. If you’re not a dairy eater then there’s loads of lovely coconut yogurts on the market, soya yogurts and even the odd almond yogurt. But this month for me it’s been all about the dairy. I like one with tang that is still thick, luscious and creamy and The Collective has it all. Started in New Zealand but now easily found in the UK in many supermarkets such as Tesco and The Co-Op, they use British milk and not much else. There is a regularly changing limited edition, and many other fruity flavours like raspberry, passion fruit, mango, blueberry and one of my friends’ favourite Russian Fudge (she was known to eat the whole 450g tub in one go, on a few occasions). My favourite the ‘Straight Up’ is a natural yogurt with nothing else added, waiting for you to get creative and add your own toppings or eat as is.

 

#2 Super Seed Muesli – Rude Health

 

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It seems that a product from Rude Health will be appearing here repeatedly. I love to celebrate British and local producers and when they keep coming up trumps with each and every product, I won’t let anyone stop me from shouting about it!! I’ve lost my appetite these past few weeks, a rare occurrence for me. Porridge is always one of my favourite meals, jazzed up in numerous ways, as is toast spread thick with nut butter and topped with fruit and yogurt or some some squished justtttt-ripe avocado and chilli flakes. None of those were rocking my boat, porridge made me feel nauseous and toast just was too much crunch. I’m never one to repeat a breakfast either, there has to be something new everyday keeping breakfast fresh and exciting.

Not recently though, day after day a bowl of muesli, ground linseeds, cinnamon, a piece of fruit chopped up, a drizzle of nut or seed butter, drowned in milk and a dollop of yogurt. Granola just doesn’t do it for me, I like a bit of mush to my cereal, the milk to soften the edges and everything meld together. Enter Rude Health muesli, this one jam packed with seeds, grains and some dried fruit. No bird seed, no floury flavourless sawdust stewing in your milk, every bite is different and of course delicious. Now I’ve made my way through the Super Seed Muesli a new one has entered the cupboard, The Ultimate Muesli. With 23 ingredients I think we are going to get on very well.

 

#3 The Great Pottery Throwdown – BBC Two

 

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What’s February without something to watch on the box? There’s been a few re-incarnations of this type of telly ever since the very first Great British Bake Off. From sewing, allotments, painting and currently pottery, thought to be old-fashioned past times when brought on to prime time TV these hobbies are having a resurgence. Due to GBBO, peoples’ interest in baking and homemade cakes has risen drastically, and the other TV spawns have caused a similar reaction with sewing coming back-in-vogue and more people trying to be more self-sufficient by growing their own fruit and vegetables. Currently on the tellybox is The Great Pottery Throwdown, in it’s second series this show takes 10 amateur potters and puts them through their paces each week. There’s flames. sweat, blood (not yet, although there’s a few weeks left, it could still happen) and lots of tears, if this show doesn’t make you want to get throwing some clay with it dripping off your nose, streaked through your hair and caught in your eyelashes, then I don’t know what will. Catch it at 8pm on Thursday nights on BBC Two, and find the past episodes on BBC iPlayer.

 

#4 Sauerkraut – The Plucky Pickle  (and ferments in general)

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Sauerkraut is not a new thing, neither is kefir, kombucha, kimchi or bread and butter pickles. When made properly, a few good quality ingredients and natural bacteria from the air are left to ferment for a few days, pickles are a remarkable thing. They add that zing that is missing from your meals, pleasuring your taste buds whilst soothing your tummy. I went to a local market hall the other week, Altrincham market which has been revived and now draws crowds from either end of the country. It’s an oasis of good food, drink, atmosphere and products you can sample and take home. Meandering round I stumbled upon a stall called The Plucky Pickle, where she was selling kombucha of many things (all homemade), obviously I got a glass to sip as we went but a jar of sauerkraut came along aswell. Made with cabbage, salt, juniper berries, caraway seeds and black pepper, its pure simplicity but tastes amazing on everything!! If you can make it to Altrincham Market make sure to stop by The Plucky Pickle, if not grab some sauerkraut from your local health food shop or even make some yourself. It is very simple, just takes a few weeks until it’s ready. When buying some from a shop, ensure that it’s not pasteurised as that kills off any of the beneficial bacteria. Search out ferments, and try to incorporate them into your diets, perhaps starting with a good sourdough and some sauerkraut, for a kick of chilli get on the kimchi bandwagon. It sure is addictive.

 

#5 Weleda Products

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As part of fashion week, every season in the Mayfair Hotel there is a lounge called the Model Zone for all us weary models, as a place to rest and re-calibrate. Part of the lounge includes lots of food and snacks but also three lovely ladies from Weleda dishing out goodie bags jam packed full of products, hand massages, full body massages and facials. Utter bliss indeed. If you’ve never heard of Weleda, they were founded in 1921 by an Austrian philosopher, a Dutch doctor and a pharmacist and chemist both from Munich in Germany. They specialise in natural, organic beauty and skincare products. You can find their products in many health food stores and natural beauty stores, also Planet Organic, Holland and Barrett and Wholefoods.

They are most well known for a product called Skin Food that I have been addicted to ever since receiving my first tube a few years back. A complete all-rounder, calms chapped hands, use as a body moisturiser, part of a massage along with other oils and for anything that needs some deep moisturising like elbows, heels and kneecaps. The smell is beautiful, as is the packaging and I couldn’t recommend it any more. Take a look at their website for other products they sell, from hair care to makeup to skin products, all natural so you have the knowledge that what you’re putting on to your body is as good as what you’re putting into your body.

 

#6 Noisette Bakehouse

 

I’ve been following Sarah Lemanski for a little while, at just a hop over The Pennines I haven’t yet made it over to Leeds to sample some of her cakes and bakes. HOWEVER, as a regular listener to Laura Thomas and her podcast ‘Don’t Salt My Game’, the other week she was pairing up with Sarah for a giveaway celebrating some ‘Galentines’ love. Obviously I entered as we all do to these Instagram giveaways never expecting to win a thing. Whilst listening to the most recent pod my name was read out loud, well that was a nice little perk to my Friday!! When I arrived home after fashion week, there were three little packages waiting patiently for me and my mum to sample. First of the bunch some milk jam, a caramel like confection of boiled down milk, sugar, honey, salt and vanilla. I’m yet to try but it will be making its way onto my pancakes veryyyyyy soon. Another was the Strawberry Balsamic Caramels and some vegan Tahini Cacao and Rose truffles. With a flavour similar to turkish delight but enhanced by the toasty tahini. Indulgent and so incredibly moreish, we are pacing ourselves as when the bottom of the packet arrives that will be a sad sad day. If you’re in need of a sweet treat, get on over to Leeds, QUICK, to bag yourself some Noisette Bakehouse goodies. However if you’re not local visit her online shop and get a lil’ something delivered to your door.

 

So that’s it for this month, as we’re coming into spring I’m so excited for brighter days and spring vegetables coming into season. So long root vegetables and kale and hello new potatoes, spring greens, asparagus, watercress and wild garlic. Not forgetting that rhubarb, I’m sure there will be the odd crumble in the duration. I’m writing this as it’s snowing outside, so perhaps we may have to wait a little longer than usual for zippy greens and that famed asparagus, and I’m planning on foraging for some wild garlic very soon. What’s been your THING these past weeks during February? Please do comment and share!!

Well wishes and warmth

X

 

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!

X

 

Time for a bit of tucker chez Federal

Do you know anyone who’s not a sucker for eggs? ALWAYS some toasted sourdough, perhaps smoked salmn or a dollop of mashed avocado. Pair that with a nice cup of tea or a creamy flat white and you’ve got yourself a date.

Manchester is spewing out new coffee shops and all-day brunch spots, head to the Northern Quarter and you will see what I mean. One thing we seem to do well, is a good coffee shop. A little bit makeshift, INDIE (if you so wish), full of industrial architecture, half finished paint jobs and men with beards. That’s all the ingredients you need for something to succeed. Add in a stellar brunch menu and they will come in their hoardes.

With Manchester being the closest city to me, it’s my hometown, I feel comfortable there and that there’s no place much better. Perhaps London has a slight one-up, but Manchester isn’t lagging far behind. Ever since all the young creatives, business people and anyone searching for that dream has vacated to London, its growing wider and wider with not enough housing to fit them all. Manchester is defineitly benefiting from that, a lot of work and large companies are moving offices UP NORTH, so people are following – and minus the London pricetag.

Even Manchester seems to be spreading its wings, with places like Levenshulme, Chorlton, and Ancoats -once destinations you wouldn’t venture through if you could help it – to now being the trendy parts of town. With good food, good drinks and what more do you need?

The recent popularity in Aussie style cafes, where we all sit for a picture perfect brunch anytime of the day, eggs oozing, with a lil’ cheeky cocktail at 11 o’clock, really is kicking off in Manchester. I doubt many of us coffee shop dwellers have even visited the country, never mind experienced the real deal. In my experience, of only ever seeing pictures on Instagram and scrolling past quickly before I get too jealous, is that they’re as near as damn it legit.

Ok, minus the sunshine, Bondi beach and 30+ temps. But we can’t have everything.

One of my favourites of the BRUNCH (poor pun attempt, I know!) has to be Federal. Open since 2014, this unassuming spot on the corner opposite the Arndale Fish Market has got a lot to give, and has been slowly growing in popularlity over the years. It took me so long to get there, when I finaly made it, at 6:30PM on a weeknight (they say all-day brunch so I took their word), of course it was worth the wait. But I should’ve been before because I haven’t eaten enough brunches in my lifetime. Has anyone, ever?

 

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Plus a bit of plate porn, I was tempted to lick the plate clean and slip it into my handbag. Shhhhhhh…

They do simplicity, done well. Not an overly extensive menu, you see I think that’s the proof of a GOOD eatery. But eggs any way, eggs benedicts, French toast, sweetcorn fritters, banana bread, bagels, sourdough (not sooooo toasted that it flies across the room when you cut into it, just enough browning to stop any sogginess in its tracks) are all there. Plus a daily changing two specials, one is always an omelette the other a surprise. usually containing eggs though, why ofc!

 

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On my first visit me and my mum traipsed through the brisk northern winds to Federal and found a warm and cozy spot in the corner. We went for a pre-theatre dinner, before heading off to see The Rocky Horror Show. All in all a good night. They do a small list of cocktails and wines, but we weren’t indulging ourselves too much now. So a glance at the menu and for me it had to be poached eggs and avo on toast with smoked salmon and she opted for the halloumi and shrooms.

GAH, its so good!!

The prices ae completely reasonable, you won’t be paying over £10, infact most of the dishes range around £7-£9 (the other bonus about living in Manchester rather than London) and the portions are hefty enough. However if you’re STILL hungry??? there’s a delightlful array of cakes and pastries and some Australian sweets. Not forgetting those Lamingtons, and if you’re lucky a Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese custard tart).

 

 

**ALSO**, for you Aussies out there, there is MILO on the drinks menu. I’d never heard of this apparant childhood favourite drink until I went to India where I was stayng with a South African and she was raving about the stuff. FYI her sweet tooth was on overdrive. It seems similar to our Nesquick with a malty flavour like a Horlicks, served cold or as a warm drink. No I didn’t have a test run, I will admire the packaging as a cutlery holder but that’s as far as I will go.

So obviously Federal called for a second visit. This time, no matter how tempted I was by the French toat (dripping in ruby berry juices marbled with creamy mascarpone on a tower of eggy bread) I went back to the old favourite. Sourdough, poachies, avocado, grilled tomato, some mushrooms (I nicked from my mum) and this time a big pile of side salad to up my veggies – you know how much I like my veggies. And my mum also went back to her favourite, halloumi and shrooms. Toast, grilled and golden halloumi, poached eggs, garlicky sautéed mushrooms, a sweetly spiced tomato chutney and dukkah.

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Two perfect poachies (and a hell load of spinach)

 

Followed swiftly by a flat white and a green tea, their coffee is smooth and creamy with lots of options of milk. Obviously its made with whole milk, but Rude Health almond milk is on offer (mini fist pump) and Bonsoy soy milk. The tea selection is wonderful, proper tea leves in a tea pot and a wide variety too. I went for the green ginseng which I always search out on a menu. There’s matcha lattes, chai lattes, cold brew coffee, an in house blitzed Superman juice and cocktails a plenty.

Obviously, there’s many more coffee shops and restaurants in Manchester for me to testrun, but Federal will always be one that I’ll be referring back to time and time again. If you’re ever in the city centre and need a bite to eat (arrive with an appetite) I’d seriously advise a perch in Federal, and if you are there don’t forget to call me and i’ll join you!!

I’ll be bringing more from Manchester soon, hoping to give you an insight to some of the amazing food we have on offer. There’s some stiff competition to London, lacking on the ‘healthy eating’ front I must admit you need to go further afield, but if you’re in need of some proper northern grub Manchester will have you covered.

 

Federal

9 Nicholas Croft, Manchester, M4 1EY

 

Happy brunching you lovely lot

X