Funky ferments from Loving Foods

I’m sure many of you reading this will be well and truly familiar with kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi. Perhaps due to the fact that I talk about them quite often, always giving that gut some good loving! Or maybe it’s due to them going through a hype at the moment, these new foods that we are discovering and adding to our diets which are actually age old processes that past generations lost the taste and practice for.

In London and other major capital cities or areas of known ‘wellness’, these foods are a regular on the menu and found in every health food shop. Occasionally kombucha is even served on tap in bars!!! Kombucha shots, now that’s some drinking game I’d happily be a part of. I have a few favourite brands of kombucha from my stints in living in London, particularly Jarr and Wild Fizz kombucha. There are now so many new companies popping up with unique and interesting flavours it’s hard to keep up.

Now there’s a little problem in that I live in the north of England. To the majority, fermented tea sounds like a brew that you put down and forgot about for a few days, only to find it smelling slightly cheesy a few days later.

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Thankfully that’s not what it is, and there are a few new companies in Manchester alone busy brewing up the bubbly stuff. One of these is Loving Foods. Situated in Hale Barns they’re a relatively new start up founded by brother and sister Mendel and Faye. They specialise in fermented foods and drinks, none of them pasteurised so the good bacteria is alive and thriving to maintain a healthy gut flora. Everything is made traditionally, salt, vegetables and spices left to sit and bubble until tangy, and the kombucha made from green tea to leave that fruity-almost-cider flavour us booch fans adore.

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I first picked up a bottle of their hibiscus and lime booch from a cafe called The Garden in Hale who stock a small range of their products to buy. Loving Foods products are also available to buy online if you are not from the area and they also deliver worldwide! Anyone else know how to describe the flavour of hibiscus? Me neither, but it’s tart and refreshing all the same. Poured directly over ice for a boost, or if you’re feeling naughty on a Saturday night, mixed with some vodka. Don’t blame me if the results are less than virtuous!!

The other flavours on offer are blueberry and lavender, lemon and ginger, matcha and mint and grapefruit hibiscus and ginger – which is my favourite of the lot! Something for everyone and every mood. They also produce a drink called Jun, one I hadn’t heard of until recently, similar to a kombucha however instead of sugar it is fermented with honey. Thought to originate in Tibet and known as the champagne of kombucha, this is a very special and niche drink that you won’t be able to find in many other places.

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Alongside the drinks Loving Foods also produce cultured vegetables. Sauerkraut – classic, sauerkraut – juniper and caraway, kimchi – classic, kimchi – turmeric and black pepper and their own creation of krautchi – a blend of carrot, kohlrabi and fennel. Their sauerkraut is as tangy as it should be, and would happily sit besides a bratwurst as it would a buddha bowl. The kimchi has a little more heat (not blow your head off though) with some fragrance from the ginger and garlic. All the cultured vegetables are easy to add to your diet, breakfast, lunch or dinner, and even snacks they’ll find their way in! High in prebiotics to feed your gut bacteria and also those necessary probiotics to increase the diversity of your gut microbiota too.

SO. I am SUPERRRR excited to announce that I have paired up with Loving Foods, and I have 3 kombuchas and 3 of the cultured vegetables to giveaway. One of you lucky lot will get your hands upon the blueberry and lavender kombucha, lemon and ginger and grapefruit, hibiscus and ginger AND also a jar of sauerkraut, kimchi and a krautchi too. A little bit of everything that Loving Foods have on offer. To enter find me on Instagram @theahudson and follow the instructions on the post. Sadly I can only offer this to those of you in the UK, but the main reason is to draw attention to this young company who have big things ahead of them. I’m sure we shall we seeing a lot more of them in the near future!

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So you GUYZZZZ. Head on over to my Instagram to enter and tell all of your friends so you have a better chance of winning, the competition closes at 11:59pm Monday 18th September GMT, so that gives you 1 week, and I will choose at random and announce the winner on Tuesday. Best of luck to you all, and a big thank you to Loving Foods. Someone is in for a real treat.

Sorry folks the giveaway has now ended. Thank you to all who entered!

CHEERS my lovelies *raises glass of booch!*

XX

 

Millet and quinoa pancakes

Pancakes.

According to the English Oxford Dictionary a pancake is ‘a thin flat cake of batter, fried on both sides in a pan, and typically rolled up with a sweet or savoury filling’. Well that pretty much sums up what we call a pancake here in the UK but it can come in many forms from all stretches of the globe. The French crépes, British scotch pancakes, dutch poffertjes, or what the word conjures up in my mind, the American pancake. Thick, fluffy, piled into a teetering tower and drenched in maple syrup and slabs of butter.

Memories of past holidays to Florida and New York, obviously integrated a trip (or two) to a proper American diner. There may have been biscuits and gravy, hash browns and eggs over easy on the menu, who knows what else. My eyes searched for one thing only, pancakes. My first experience was a bit of a shocker, used to the scotch pancakes at home – small one or two mouthfuls at the very most – I was not expecting pancake pillows to arrive. Three, each the size of the plate, edging on an inch thick, a dab of butter sat slumping on top and the maple syrup, or is it called pancake syrup?? Well that was there waiting on the side. Needless to say I was a growing girl so I sure managed the plateful with no issues.

On my trip to New York, we found ourselves in a place called Tick Tock Diner, right across from Penn Station. It was a sunny but brisk morning (those winds that gust down the avenues in New York really do chill your bones), hungry for a day of much walking and sights to see, pancakes were calling. Opting for an adaptation of the original, scented with cinnamon and studded with raisins and apples, not forgetting the cream cheese butter mingling it all together, they were possibly the best I have ever sampled.

No matter how much I love pancakes, the gallon of maple syrup on the side isn’t going to do you any wonders for the everyday breakfast, but all in the name of balance my eyes will always gravitate towards them on a brunch menu. A good American pancake usually has some buttermilk in the mix, a soured milk product (traditionally the liquid that is leftover after making butter) which reacts with the raising agent to give that lift and cloud-like texture, plus some plain flour, egg, milk and butter and that’s pretty much it. Simple ingredients to make a such a satisfying end result.

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I’m on a self mission to eat include as many wholegrains (therefore fibre!) into my diet as I can. Although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with plain flour (all white wheat flours are fortified in the UK with beneficial vitamin and minerals. Typically Thiamin, Niacin, Iron and Calcium Carbonate), I like to go off-piste with my pancakes. A mixture of millet and quinoa is what I used here, but so man other combinations work too. Try substituting oats, rice (white, brown, black or red), amaranth, spelt, buckwheat. Don’t try teff though! I made that mistake once and when I went to drain it, straight through the sieve and down the sink the grains went. Teff is so tiny, but didn’t realise the grains were that tiny.

The evening or day before you plan to make the pancakes, soak the grains with a little vinegar or lemon juice, drain and rinse in the morning and simply blend in a high-powered blender with the other ingredients. No mess, and you can pour the batter directly into the hot pan. Just the ticket for a lazy weekend brunch.

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This recipe isn’t vegan, I do like to use an egg to give that fluffiness which would otherwise be a denser pancake. It adds some protein too, however I have made them without in the past. Either substituting for a chia/flax egg or even removing completely will still give results, you will need to cook them a little longer to ensure they are cooked throughout, but keeping warm in a low oven should help with that nicely.

Make sure also to use a non-stick pan, sometimes these like to be little buggers and stick solid to the bottom, they do come away eventually just in their own time with a little perseverance and a fish slice. I reckon a skillet would work too I’ve just never used one. Pour the batter thin and they require a low-medium heat in order to cook through. Just be patient with them, and flip over when the surface is full of little bubbles and the edges are set.

I like to serve my pancakes sweet, with loads of fruit, yogurt, nut butter, sprinkley bits for some crunch and texture and if you like a drizzle of maple syrup or honey. Add a ripe banana to the batter if you like the pancakes to be sweet, plus some cinnamon for a banana-bread-vibe. However there’s no stopping you serving these up as a savoury option. For-go the cinnamon and vanilla extract in the recipe, perhaps adding some black pepper, spices such as ground cumin or turmeric, a cooked beetroot, or some spinach or herbs blitzed through the mix. I’m salivating now. A fried egg on top, some avocado, sliced chillies, a handful of greens and chilli sauce…that’s breakfast planned for next weekend at the Hudson household.

Millet and quinoa pancakes

  • Servings: 3-4 depending on your appetite
  • Print

I served these pancakes with chopped plum, sliced banana and some blackberries, coconut yogurt, some homemade roasted almond walnut and coconut butter and bee pollen and cacao nibs. You can go as fancy or as simple as you want, changing each time depending on what fruit is at its best and what yogurt is your favourite. Don’t forget that maple syrup drizzle too, or honey if you prefer, it is pancakes after all.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup millet
  • ½ cup quinoa
  • Squeeze of lemon juice or vinegar
  • ¼-1/2 cup of milk or water
  • 1 egg (optional) or use a chia/flax egg or omit completely
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Oil for frying

Directions

  1. The night before place the millet in one bowl and the quinoa in another bowl, cover with water, add a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to both then top with a plate and leave to soak overnight.
  2. The following morning, drain both the grains in a sieve and rinse well under cold running water. Shake to get rid of excess water.
  3. Add the grains to a high-powered blender along with all the other ingredients and starting with 1/4 of a cup of milk or water. Blend until completely smooth, similar to a pancake batter. If it is looking a bit thick add more water or milk a little at a time until the right consistency is achieved.
  4. Meanwhile preheat the oven to low and place a plate in there wrapped in a clean tea towel.
  5. Heat a large frying pan (or skillet) on a medium heat and brush with a little oil. After a couple of minutes pour the batter into a round pancake and spread it gently to 3 to 4 inch diameter. I usually manage three at a time in one pan.
  6. Once the pancakes are set at the edges and bubbles have appeared on the surface, flip the pancakes over with a spatula or fish slice and leave to cook for a couple minutes more until cooked through.
  7. Transfer to the plate in the oven and keep them wrapped up with the tea towel.
  8. Repeat until all of the batter has been used up, keeping all cooked pancakes warm in the oven and then serve immediately.
  9. Any leftover pancakes can be kept in the fridge for a few days, or freeze them so they can be popped straight into the toaster whenever you need your pancake fix.

Happy Brunching!!

XO

Romesco white bean dip

For those of you holidaying abroad this summer, or considering it’s the end of August, have already spent your week away and have hoiday blues. You’ve wined and dined eating the local cuisine, immersed yourself in a new culture, had many failed attempts at the local lingo, driven on the wrong side of the road and made many memories.

That’s what holidays are really about the memories.

A certain time and place, the view, the company, it all adds up to make these memories. Ever had lunch on a beach drinking a glass of wine, to go and buy that very same bottle to take home, but when it comes to drinking, it just doesn’t taste as good. Or asked the waiter for the recipe for that sublime paella or meze dish to cook it at home, it most likely won’t taste as good.

So I bring to you a take on a famous sauce from the northern region of Spain, Catalonia. The romesco sauce is punchy from the paprika and cayenne but rich due to the almonds and Spanish olive oil. If you’ve ever experienced a true romesco sauce, no this won’t be the same, it may not be as good, it may even be better?!? But it has its feet stuck firmly in its roots.

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The original sauce uses bread as a thickener, a good white sourdough or chunky country loaf is ideal as it also imparts some flavour. Here though I’ve opted for some white beans. When making a dip I tend to gravitate towards a plantbased protein, typically in the form of lentils or beans, so whether it comes to afternoon snacking or building a big veggie bowl it will keep me sustained. White beans help to thicken the dip and provide a creaminess meaning less oil is needed plus who doesn’t like an alternative to hummus!?! I may feel the urge to bathe in it, but sometimes a change is necessary, so in comes this bright red beauty.

How much chilli, and which variety of chilli you use is comepletely up to you. I use a picante paprika by La Chinata, it is the hot smoked kind so has a good kick, if you’re using paprika just from the supermarket you may need to add a little more to get the right smoky level. Also I used half a dried ancho chilli which has sweeter fruity notes and isn’t too spicy but dried chilli flakes will substitute just finneeeeee. You won’t need to rehydrate these so just add straight to the food processor.

 

I served this in a few different ways, just as a dip with crudites, once in a big veggie bowl packed with sweet potato and courgette chips, avocado, some grains and greens. Another time in a packed lunch with olives, carrot, extra butter beans and a few other veggies thrown in the mix. Stir in some extra olive oil, vinegar if you like and a drop of water to make a killer salad dressing that will liven up any old salad. Or serve with some simply cooked fish or chicken or steak, or smeared underneath a plate of roasted meditteranean veg. I like to work on a leftover lunch policy, they are always the best ones. Throw together whatever is lingering, the crazier and more random sure will be the better!

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Enough chatting, let’s hop to it!

Romesco white bean dip

  • Servings: one big bowl full
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Ingredients

  • 1 tin of white beans (I used haricot)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree ( I had 2 tbsp of tinned cherry tomatoes that were leftover)
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp almond butter or a handful of almonds (roasting them would make it taste even better)
  • 1/2 dried ancho chilli (or 1/2 tsp chilli flakes)
  • 1/2 tsp picante smoked paprika (use 1 tsp of paprika if it’s not as strong)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 good pinches of salt
  • small handful of fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Set the oven to 190C/170C fan. Place the peppers on a tray and put in the oven for up to 45 minutes until the skin is blackened and the peppers are soft. Set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile put the 1/2 ancho chilli in a mug and pour enough boiling water over to cover and leave to rehydrate.
  3. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle peel away the charred skins and remove the seeds and white membranes. Then put into a food processor.
  4. Place all the other ingredients along with the ancho chilli (not the water though) in the food processor and blitz until a smooth puree is formed.
  5. Taste and check for seasoning, salt, smokiness, acidity, spiciness and adjust as you like.
  6. Scoop into a serving bowl, garnish with extra parsley or store in a Tupperware where it will keep for around 5 days.

Have you got any favourite recipes from past holidays that you make on repeat at home? Maybe it’s the peri peri chicken from Portugal, a rabbit stew from Malta (that’s one that is on my list) a further flung pav bhaji from Mumbai or fava, one of my favourite Greek dishes that I still haven’t got round to cooking. Don’t you worry I’ll be in a yellow split pea frenzy by the time I’m back in my kitchen!

Enjoy the last of your summer!

X

 

Low-sugar acai bowl

My Instagram feed has been LOADED lately with smoothies. Smoothie bowls, açai bowls, ‘nice’ cream, basically blended up cold things, with toppings for crunch.

Don’t forget the toppings!

Out of all the breakfast foods (OK perhaps not the avo toast as that is the ULTIMATE in photogenicity) the smoothie bowl photos rather well. Thick and creamy in a vibrant green or purple – or brown if you use spinach – a good nut butter drizzle and the generous overflow streaming down the sides. It’s cool, similar to ice cream so surely is the perfect candidate for summer breakfasts when porridge most definitely isn’t the answer.

Why is it then that every time I make a smoothie, it just doesn’t float my boat. I’m not sure whether it’s that a liquid meal just doesn’t satiate my appetite? Or perhaps that I’m conscious of not adding too much fruit so instead it ends up tasting of pond, never mind resembling one? I just can’t figure it out. SOS (save ones’ smoothies).

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Now I’m sure we’ve all heard of the açai bowl. A street snack from Brazil which is a deep purple berry frozen and blended and then topped with toppings galore. Bananas, granola, berries, coconut, seeds, you name it, you can top it. Here in the UK the açai berry isn’t as abundant so we have to rely on frozen bananas for the texture and then freeze dried açai powder or little frozen sachets of the açai pulp for the taste and colour. If you’re then centering your toppings around granola, banana and berries it’s not a very balanced breakfast. Meaning spiked blood sugar levels and a grumble in your belly by 11am. Breakfast preferably wants to contain a good balance of slow and fast release carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats so we need to rethink our smoothie bowl making rituals.

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Something else that has been trending lately. Fruit-free and low-sugar smoothies. Yuppp that’s right, ones that supposedly don’t taste like salad, are filling and all add up to that much needed 5-a-day (or is it now 7, or 10? I’m not sure it keeps changing). Frozen banana is the fruit of choice when it comes to smoothies, but have you ever considered steamed and frozen cauliflower? Or courgette? Or butternut squash? Thought not. Me neither. The furthest I ever roamed into vegetable territory was spinach or kale , the odd bit of avocado – that’s technically a fruit so doesn’t count!

Steamed to make it gentler on your tummy and frozen to keep the smoothie chilled, vegetables are a wondrous addition. Paired with ground flaxseeds, a spoon of plantbased protein powder, some berries, maybe a cheeky half a date as I’m just not that hard-core, milk and any funky powders you like, you’d be none the wiser that it contains some cruciferous vegetables. A spoon of oats or soaked buckwheat blended into the mix would be ideal if you need it super filling, or a generous sprinkle (*ahem* handful) of granola or muesli…leftover cookies in my case.

Maybe this smoothie bowl is the one that will change things forever? It was good. I’m not going to lie. But I am still ever faithful to my porridge/toast/muesli/overnight-oats rotation. The girl knows what she likes. -\_(‘~’)_/-

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Maybe I haven’t landed upon the perfect granola yet? Not too sweet, plenty of crunch. The sort that you just can’t get off of your mind. Saying that, this one was mega, it hasn’t escaped my mind. Maybe I’ve found the one?!?

If you’re after some more smoothie bowl inspiration and recipes, all low sugar veggie-centric and drool worthy may I add, head to these blogs and Instagram accounts. These girls are killing it in the smoothie game.

Low-sugar açai bowl

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup steamed and frozen cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup steamed and frozen courgette (zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup berries (I used a mixture of strawberries and blackberries, any fresh or frozen would work)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup milk
  • 1 heaped tbsp açai powder
  • 1 tbsp protein powder (I used hemp)
  • 1 tsp ground flaxseeds/linseeds
  • 1/2-1 date depending on sweetness preference

Topping ideas

  • Granola (try to use a low sugar one)
  • Muesli
  • These crumbled up cookies
  • Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, banana, kiwi
  • Bee pollen
  • Cacao nibs
  • Chopped Nuts
  • Nut or seed butter (I used a roasted almond, cashew and hazelnut)
  • Yogurt
  • Coconut flakes
  • Puffed rice, buckwheat, quinoa or amaranth

Directions

  1. Add all the ingredients for the smoothie into a high powdered blender, starting with 1/4 cup of milk.
  2. Blend until everything is blitzed smooth and you have a thick smoothie with the consistency of ice cream, adding more milk if necessary. A high powered blender will work best here, I use a nutribullet. One less powerful will struggle to blend the frozen fruit and vegetables and it will be lumpy.
  3. Spoon into a bowl (watch your tongue on that blade I know you’re licking it clean!)
  4. Choose your toppings, add as many or as few as you wish.
  5. Dive in whilst it’s still cold, and don’t forget that picture for Instagram!

Enjoyed al fresco basking in the morning sunshine listening to the birds whistle their tunes. That’s the ideal breakfast situation. Not achievable most of the time I know, but on the one day that it appears, make the most of it. Embrace it with both hands, the smoothie bowl included, and DIG IN!

X

Burnt courgette veggie chilli and all the fixings

Meat Free Monday. An initiative started up to encourage eating a vegetarian meal altogether as a family just one day per week, to improve your health as well as the health of the environment. Also there’s One Part Plant, started up by Jessica Murnane, with the idea to eat one plant based meal per day. Some use it as a chance for a healthy meal full of vegetables, others to reduce the impact of meat production on the environment. By vegetarian I’m talking vegetables, grains, legumes, a bit of dairy or eggs perhaps (I do love me a bit of cheese), but definitely not Quorn fish fingers and chips. Please can a vegetarian explain to me why you would want to eat something which resembles the taste and texture of a fish finger when you choose not to eat the real thing? I just don’t get it.

Now for many, a vegetarian meal completely devoid of meat, fish and sometimes eggs and dairy too if it’s vegan, well that’s not a meal. I’m from the North of England. The home of meat and two veg, bread and dripping, Lancashire hotpot and the legendary Pie Barm (google Wigan Kebab). If it contains, meat, potatoes and pastry, it’s probably Northern and the food that we were brought up on. It’s cold up here, we need the stodge to keep the warmth in our bones.

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The struggle here has to be the Dads. Happy with steak and chips every night I’m sure, the meal that always fits the bill, but not necessarily a happy one on the purse strings. A veggie meal for Meat Free Monday which isn’t too funky, not too many greens and no weird unpronounceable components like quinoa or edamame or tzatziki, that’s what we’re after. I always opt for a veggie chilli full of different beans, lentils and veggies for that texture and a lack of meat means we need to up the flavour for some oomph! Of course whenever the pan is set down at the table for dinner my dad has to ask ‘does this contain any meat’, well no it doesn’t. Nevertheless we all really enjoy it, and as soon as he has dug in the lack of beef isn’t mentioned again.

Chilli Con Carne is one of those meals I remember fondly from my childhood. Something which is quick and easy for busy families and makes everyone happy. One made from minced beef and tomatoes (basically Spag Bol minus the herbs with added spices and chilli) and a tin of kidney beans thrown in the mix. Probably the only meal we used to eat that contained beans or legumes (the chickpea was alien to me) and the beans I then picked out and left sucked of their chilli juices on the side of the plate. Oh how things have changed. Spooned on top of white rice and a side of garlic bread it was a regular on the meal rotation.

Perhaps traditional in the UK, but not so much a traditional recipe. Hailing from Mexico the Chilli Con Carne is a far cry away from what we are used to. Chunks of beef, like cheek, brisket or shin slowly simmered in a deeply rich sauce, no minced beef here, and technically kidney beans shouldn’t be seen either. A melange of spices, paprika and different chillies all balanced to give layers of smoky-sweet flavour which is finished off with some dark chocolate (it makes all the difference). Cooked up in one pot, cowboy style, that’s how a chilli should be.

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Well and truly burnt

For those Meat Free Mondays we want a veggie chilli which isn’t just a substitute or a side, but it’s even better than the real thing. So good that the vegetarians have to fight to get their fill before the carnivores tuck in. That’s when you know it’s good. Vegetarian food is no more difficult than cooking meat it just requires extra spices and flavouring tricks to pack in that flavour. Different pulses, grains and vegetables are used to provide varying texture and interest so every mouthful is different.

I like to serve this veggie chilli over a jacket or baked sweet potato, but brown or white rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, in a wrap or just in a deep bowl with tortillas to scoop up the juices. All will suffice here. The toppings are a necessity. Whether you go basic with some guacamole or all out with sour cream, coriander, lime to squeeze, feta or grated cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, pickled jalapenos, chilli sauce (Cholula Hot Sauce always is a winner), spiced up salsa and some sauerkraut. This is the pot that will suit all, just make sure to fill the table so everyone can DIY.

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This recipe I found in the January edition of Good Food magazine, from Izy Hossack (of Top with Cinnamon). It was a recipe for a burnt aubergine veggie chilli, and, not like me at all, we didn’t have any aubergines in and I couldn’t be bothered to walk down to the shops in the rain to get some. So courgettes had to do. If you’re familiar with making Baba Ghanoush, the courgettes need to be charred under a grill or directly on your gas ring until blackened and starting to collapse. The skins are then peeled away to leave a silky smooth interior with some smokiness that is to be folded through the chilli. If you’d prefer, here is the original recipe using the aubergines, but at this time of year I’m sure you avid gardeners are growing courgettes out of your ears. So for a respite from courgette chutney and fritters, add this into your courgette cooking repertoire.

Below are also the recipes for the sweetcorn and tomato salsa and guacamole with which I served the chilli. Super simple and quick and only require a few extra ingredients. But it’s the extras that make this dish shine!!

Burnt courgette veggie chilli

Ingredients

  • 2 courgettes
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 1 stick celery, finely diced
  • 30g red lentils, rinsed until the water runs clear
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 1 tin black beans
  • 3 tbsp dark soy sauce/tamari
  • 1 heaped tsp chipotle paste
  • 1 tin plum tomatoes
  • 20g dark chocolate (70% plus, the darker the better)
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or more/less to taste)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 heaped tsp vegetable stock powder (I use Bouillon)
  • 400ml water

Directions

  1. Turn your grill up to high and place the courgettes under for around 30 mins to 45 mins, turning occasionally until well blackened and charred all over. If you have a gas hob place the courgettes directly on the ring and char until completely blackened. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan then add the onion, carrots and celery and cook gently for around 20 minutes until softened. Stir often to make sure they don’t burn.
  3. Go back to the courgettes and peel away the burnt skin to reveal the soft inner flesh. Throw away all the burnt bits, making sure to scrape every little bit of the insides away and set aside.
  4. Once the carrots, celery and onions have softened add the red lentils and the two tins of beans along with the water in the cans. Add in the courgette flesh, soy sauce, tinned tomatoes, chipotle paste, all the herbs and spices, chocolate, vegetable stock and 400 ml of water. Stir everything together, bring to the boil, then turn down to a very low simmer.
  5. Put the lid on ajar, and leave to cook for 1 1/2 hrs, stirring very often, as it thickens it will stick to the bottom. If it starts to look a bit thick add a bit more water.
  6. After the time, take off the lid and check the consistency, if it seems a little thin leave to reduce for another 15 minutes or so longer. You want a thick sauce.
  7. Check the seasoning, adding more salt or chilli if you think necessary, then squeeze in the juice of half a lime, sprinkle with some coriander and take to the table to serve.

Sweetcorn and tomato salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 tin sweetcorn
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • Handful of coriander leaves and stalks
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded

Directions

  1. Drain the sweetcorn and put into a bowl.
  2. Finely dice the tomatoes, slice the coriander leaves and stalks finely along with the deseeded chilli and add all to the sweetcorn.
  3. Squeeze in the juice of some lime, a big pinch of salt and pepper then taste for seasoning. Add more chilli, lime or salt if you like and serve spooned on top of the veggie chilli.

Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 lime

Directions

  1. Slice the avocados in half and scoop out the flesh into a bowl.
  2. Add the juice of the lime and a large pinch of salt and mash well with a fork. Leave chunkier if you like or mash until smooth and creamy if that’s what you prefer. Taste for seasoning.

 

Let me know what you think if you cook this recipe. It doesn’t have to be on a Monday either, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, any day it will be good. And the leftovers even better. If you’re making this for a solo dinner or two people, make the full amount. Eat leftovers for dinner or lunch later in the week or freeze for a rainy day.

Snuggly warming hugs

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Chocolate and banana granola clumps

Let’s start this post with a quiz. Name for me a breakfast food that one might consider ‘healthy’?

I’ll give you a few seconds to think about it…

Was granola one of the first ideas to come to mind? A deep bowl of fat free yogurt, chopped fresh fruit, and a generous smattering of granola. Not forgetting the drizzle of runny honey.

I’m not going to get into the debate here of clean vs dirty. Healthy v unhealthy. As is there really an unhealthy food? A slice of cake someone may think of as unhealthy however when you take a look at your diet as a whole if it’s sandwiched in between lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, surely that constitutes as a balanced diet? Kale and quinoa may be ‘healthy’ but if they don’t make you happy, are we living as well as we think. Cake, cookies, brownies and the sweeter things in life are as necessary as kale. That is fact.

Back to the granola, I’m sure there are many brands we grew up eating or still tip into our bowls each and every morning. Maybe you only bought some boxes believing they were healthy, perhaps better than your favourite Cornflakes, but didn’t really take any pleasure from eating them. Words such as natural, free from refined sugars, organic, low fat, whole, all suck us in to the belief that we are making the right choices. Go and take a closer look at almost any box of granola on the supermarket shelves. Take a real close look. HINT, look at the sugar content.

I know I’ve mentioned before about my thoughts on sugar. I’m not a nutritionist, a dietitian or anyone who has the scientific plain facts, so I suppose what I say should be taken with a pinch of salt. Nonetheless, it’s evident that as a nation we consume far too much of the sweet stuff. I’m not just talking caster sugar. Maple syrup, honey and agave I’m looking at you too.  Our recommended daily allowance currently stands at 30g per day, that’s 6 tsp. Take a regular can of coke for example, when that contains 35g (7 tsp) you can see how the numbers stack up.

Anything which contains more than 5g of sugar per 100g is said to be high. As sugar or a syrup is the ingredient in granola which brings the crunch, it is going to be higher than say a box of muesli or shredded wheat. There are granolas on the market which have much lower sugar content and are GL (glycemic load) tested, so won’t cause as much of a spike in your sugar levels. That being said, if like me you have tried this one in particular, will know that it resembles a certain food for our feathery friends. Bird food. Dry, floury, not much crunch and rather bland, food for fuel not for enjoyment.

No one needs that. Life isn’t made for boring breakfasts.

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I’m sure many of you have seen this recipe before from one of my favourites, Green Kitchen Stories. Their banana granola is a bit of a worldwide phenomenon. My New Roots has a recipe also. In fact it’s far from a new concept. Google banana granola and the posts are numerous. Hundreds and thousands of them. Hello innovative blogger over here! But you can never have enough granola recipes.

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Yet again I had a few bananas, well past their best, festering in the fruit bowl. Usually that always means banana bread, but no eggs and so far no success with a vegan version of said bread, I just wasn’t going to take the risk. Banana granola was on my mind. Sweetened with fruit and just a little maple syrup to bring the crunch. Thoughts of baking low and slow to ensure no burnt bitter ends and using up some brown rice puffs hiding in the back of the cupboard, well obviously my brain on that particular day was fully functioning. Clumpy granola, lightly sweetened, boulders of crunch to munch whether it be for breakfast or as a snack. It was a result.

This one. A heavy dousing of raw cacao, a big pinch of salt is essential, and some peanut butter too. Cos’ why not! Chopped nuts, coconut flakes, oats, raw buckwheat and puffed rice mixed well with some cinnamon for that sweet spice. It’s simple as you like, low in added sugar and one to use up whatever is going in your cupboards.

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I can’t forget to mention that it’s dad approved. From a dad who likes his breakfasts of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, granola, Shreddies and Weetabix on rotation, and that is that. But this stuff by the handful, he was more than happy. Take it as you like. In a bowl drowned with your milk of choice, ice cold. Or some yogurt, whether it’s coconut, cows or almond topped with a big handful and some fruit. That açai bowl or smoothie that was begging for a bit of crunch, here’s your answer. As a topper for porridge, toast, overnight oats, a vessel for scooping up nut butter or just popping into your mouth… You got it!

Plus it’s chocolate flavoured. How can you go wrong?!?!

Chocolate and banana granola clumps

  • Servings: Makes a small serving which can be doubled easily ( just divide between two trays and rotate them halfway through baking)
  • Print

Ingredients

Dry ingredients:

  • 40g almonds
  • 40g walnuts
  • 40g flaked coconut
  • 50g puffed brown rice
  • 25g raw buckwheat
  • 75g rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 big pinch of salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp rapeseed oil (olive oil or coconut oil will work too)
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 very ripe banana

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan. Line a baking tray with baking paper or a silicone baking sheet.
  2. Chop the almonds and walnuts roughly and add to a bowl along with all the other dry ingredients and stir together.
  3. In a saucepan mash the banana to a purée then add all the other wet ingredients and heat gently until everything has melted and combined.
  4. Pour the banana mixture into the oat mixture and give it a good stir until there are no dry bits left and everything is mixed well.
  5. Transfer to the baking sheet, pat into a thick layer and put in the oven for 20 minutes.
  6. After that time, give the granola a stir by folding it over trying not to break the clumps up too much. Rotate the tray and place back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes. Checking the granola every 5 minutes, stirring the outside edges into the middle to ensure they are not burning.
  7. Take out of the oven when deep brown and smelling delicious. It will firm up even more as it cools.
  8. Leave the tray to cool on a wire rack, whilst the scent of chocolatey banana bread wafts through the house, so hide away from wandering hands! Store in a Tupperware at room temperature where it will keep for around 1 month.

Hope you enjoy this one. It sure is a winner. I’ll be off now, I’ve just eaten a mouthful of granola and I want some more!

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What’s the dealio with dairy?

We pour it on our cereal, splash it in our tea, our coffee, eat it as an after dinner dessert or slice onto crackers with chutney for a mid-afternoon snack. Dairy in all its forms is something we have been brought up on. In the western world we are told as soon as we stop breast feeding to drink our milk, so much so that is an integral part of most peoples’ diets.

Memories of a glass of warm milk before bed as it helps to send you to sleep, that minuscule red wheel of Babybel cheese you fished out of your lunchbox daily, and squeezy yogurts that you stuck in the freezer to make into ice lollies on those (more frequent back then) days of stuffy summer. Frubes I’m looking at you! Dairy, seemed to be a fundamental part of the diet.

Marketing campaigns encourage parents to feed their children dairy products, enforcing the fact that without it they won’t get enough calcium to grow and have strong bones, ‘it will make you strongerer’. The fear of rickets is probably on most parents minds, so if the guidelines say to eat dairy, the children will eat it. What if they were lactose intolerant though? Around 10-20 years ago the only option you had as a dairy alternative was fortified soya milk. Probably sweetened. Most likely a bit gross. There wasn’t really much development in terms of dairy free milks, yogurts and cheeses, and the free from aisle…what free from aisle? If you were lactose intolerant you either gave it up cold turkey, or suffered the consequences.

I can’t pinpoint when exactly, but here in the UK, let’s say 5 years ago? Something triggered a small amount of the population to go dairy free. We also became more aware of the effects of soya on the environment and how it disrupts hormone levels (particularly for us women). The dairy free market was steadily growing, the occasional almond and coconut milks were accessible, still didn’t taste that good- mainly water and emulsifiers – so the need for creamy dairy wasn’t ever satisfied. You know it’s become a thing when Starbucks catch onto the trend and almond and coconut milk become an optional extra, with a 30p charge of course. Soon the media channelled into it spreading the word that dairy is the devil, it leads to cancer and causes osteoporosis, and every other ailment under the sun.

Around the same time, another tribe of people were touting that low fat dairy should be avoided at all costs. You can still eat your cheese, yogurts, milk and butter, but ensure that it is full fat. The higher the better for some, swearing off high fat – low carb diets. Bulletproof coffee (that is indeed coffee blitzed with butter to supposedly give a creamy drink without the crash from the caffeine), full fat yogurt, choosing cheese over dessert and searching out raw milk if possible. Totally contrasting to the dairy free crowd, making it utterly confusing to us consumers.

There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer to this problem for the time being. The government guidelines include dairy as part of a healthy balanced diet, it’s a good source of protein and calcium ensuring that you stick to lower fat varieties as the amount of saturated fat can be high. Personally, I find a happy ground in between all this conflict. I eat full fat yogurt (organic if I can, Yeo Valley is my go to), spread salted butter liberally on my toast and eat cheese when I want. I enjoy dairy. Cutting it out from my life would make me miserable and being unhappy doesn’t contribute to a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve ever experimented with removing or reducing your consumption of something, you will have realised that it penultimately ends up in being substituted with something else. The best dairy substitute by far is nuts, healthy though they are, you can always over do it. Need some cream, use cashews, spread nut butter instead of butter on toast, make cheese from cashews herbs and garlic, and milk from, yet again, more nuts.

Nuts aren’t the only culprits in the dairy free gang. Rice milk has been a favourite for many for years as it’s naturally very sweet, and coconut milk too for something a bit creamier and richer. Oat milk hailing from Sweden and even hemp, quinoa and tiger nut milk can all be spotted. If you’re wanting to switch up your milk routine and try something new here’s a list of dairy free milks that I would always choose. They are tried and tested, all of them with a different flavour which lends themselves to different things.

  • Oatly – Oat Milk

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A personal favourite, creamy milk which tastes as delicious chilled from the fridge as it does on your morning muesli or stirred into your porridge. Also note that it is one of the best dairy free milks for using in tea and coffee as its foams well and doesn’t separate. I tend to choose the blue Oatly carton as it is fortified with calcium, vitamin D, B12 and riboflavin and it is also cheaper than the organic version.

  • Rude Health

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I’m a huge fan of the company Rude Health, having sampled all of their range of milks (many times I may add) they still are a firm staple on my shopping list. Their almond, hazelnut and coconut milks all are made with a base of brown rice so are delicately sweet, perfect for those of you wanting some sweetness without adding sugar, and when blended into smoothies or lattes have a nice subtle flavour. Then there’s the ultimate almond for the purists – with a heftier price tag – and a higher percentage of nuts and none of the rice. The cashew milk too, which I’m highly fond of, purely made from cashews and water, it is the creamiest of the lot and makes a mean turmeric or matcha latte. All of the Rude Health milks have the added bonus that there are no emulsifiers or stabilisers so they do require a good shake before pouring. However if you’re worried about missing out on certain nutrients when you cut out milk, none of these are fortified so you may want to opt for another brand for the everyday use.

  • Alpro – Unsweetened roasted almond milk

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Alpro is well known by the masses notably for soya products, which has a bit of a bad rap. This almond milk though is the best of the lot they offer. Unsweetened and fresh, it’s the sort of milk that fits into your everyday life. More cost-effective too at the cheapest on offer, but with a very low content of almonds and quite a neutral flavour it may not be the most exciting for your tastebuds.

  • Califia farms – Unsweetened almond milk

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New to the UK and currently found in Sainsburys, Califia Farms is a bit of a game changer in terms of almond milk. Carageenan free, no added sugars and utterly delicious I have to add, this one is something to hunt down. It’s so good I enjoy drinking it as is, from a glass (and when I’m that desperate straight from the bottle) and that’s that. Also brilliant for use in hot drinks as there is no curdling and it isn’t thin so you won’t require half a carton to get your tea how you like.

Now what’s my stance on dairy? I love the stuff and have tried (vow to never again) giving it up, and believe that if you aren’t allergic or intolerant and most importantly you enjoy it, don’t deprive yourself. Dairy is high in saturated fat but as long as you don’t overdo it, there will absolutely be no problems. Here’s some of the dairy products that I like to eat, I always try to stick to organic if possible and mix it up by consuming not only cows milk, but sheeps, goats and buffalo too. You will be surprised how many of your favourite cheeses aren’t actually made from cows milk.

 

  • Yeo Valley – Natural yogurt, Greek style yogurt and salted butter

 

I love this brand as all of their products are organic the cows are fed on luscious grass and made in Somerset . I always return back to their natural yogurt, or the greek style if I want something richer, as it has a good tang and you can find it in most supermarkets and even corner shops. The butter too is lovely, a bright marigold yellow with a little salt, spread it on sourdough. That’s what you call heaven.

  • St. Helen’s farm – Goats yogurt

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This may be a dividing option. It’s rich, but with a salty savouriness that balances all out. The flavour too is much stronger than a cows milk yogurt so a little goes much further. Dolloped on a crumble, topped with strawberries or strained to make a labneh. Perhaps keep it real simple with just a drizzle of local honey and a little pinch of salt, bloomin’ marvellous!

  • Feta cheese

The most famous of offerings from Greece. That salty crumbly cheese that none of us can get enough of. It makes every meal better, whether that be avo on toast, a mundane salad, a sandwich or a pile of broccoli. Add feta and automatically it is elevated. Traditionally feta is made only from goats milk so try to opt for one of those, searching in your local Aldi or Lidl should do the trick.

  • Halloumi

Halloumi tends to be the vegetarians’ choice (and eaten by all the carnivores too) particularly when BBQ weather rolls along. You Nando’s aficionados will know the drill. Squeaky cheese, as my mum refers to it, takes on flavours well so when marinaded and griddled to leave blackened scorch marks, that rivals any sausage or chicken drumstick. Another cheese which traditionally is made from goats or ewes milk and found in the Mediterranean sunnier climes of Cyprus.

  • Longley Farm – Crème Fraîche

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From a dairy local to me comes this crème fraîche. Alongside many yogurts, butters, milk and creams they produce, this is the better than any supermarket version. If anyone knows in more detail, please back me up on this, but supposedly this is the only variety of cream available to buy in France. Crème fraîche goes through a fermenting process to give it that tang, meaning it lasts longer in the fridge and is better for our digestion than cream.

  • Godminster – Organic Cheddar cheese

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Having worked a stint in a farm shop and on a cheese counter, a good few chunks of cheese came my way. Blue, Cheddar, Lancashire, Cheshire, Brie, goats cheese, I like them all, but when it comes to making a cheese board I know that a good cheddar will always be the first to disappear and everyone fights for the last slither. This Cheddar cheese from Somerset is mature and punchy enough to stand up to any chutney, but still creamy and lingers on your palate…until the next piece. Available to buy in the UK at many delis by the slice or in individual truckles. Grated into a cauliflower cheese or sliced in a cheese sandwich, guaranteed it will be the best you have ever made.

To wrap it all up, I still don’t think there’s an outright decision on whether we should be eating dairy or not. Do what works for you. I do try to limit my dairy consumption, so that means substituting dairy milk for a plant based milk instead, for environmental reasons mainly as methane production is one of the main causes of global warming. Milk is something in the western diet that is consumed at least once a day, particularly for us Brits – we’re all rather partial to a cuppa – very swiftly by switching that up you’ll be eating and drinking much less. Yogurts, cheeses, butter and cream don’t tend to be an everyday thing. Also yogurt and crème fraîche (and some butters if they’re french) are all fermented or cultured. They’re beneficial to our guts and if you’re not a huge fan of other fermented products such as sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi they are a good way of getting those good bacteria into your diet.

Do what’s right for you, your lifestyle and your budget. As long as we’re all ensuring to eat as many vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, mainly plant based, then that cheeseboard and a glass of vino, it’s there to ENJOY!

Until next time

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