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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Let the Sun Shine in with Sunbutter!

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I actually wrote this a few days ago from London with a view out of my apartment window of the grey misty rain outside.  It appears the weather has really started to turn.  I’m not going to lie, I’m not a big fan of this kind of weather and it is at this time of year, I turn to a few essentials to boost my immune system and brighten my mood.

Supplements like Vitamin D (the sunshine Vit) are really useful, particularly when there is not much sunshine around at the moment.  Oily fish is also a good source of Vit D.  A lack of vitamin D can really affect your mood and energy levels.

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With the colder weather there can also be a rise in flu and colds and to combat this, it can be helpful to boost your immunity with Vitamin C & Zinc supplements, Echinacea drops (10 days taking the drops, 10 days off).

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Also making sure you are getting enough probiotic; Sauerkraut is a great option here, or natural Sheep/Goat yoghurt or even probiotic Coconut yoghurt.

I have also heard that Clove tea is good at cleansing your system of pollutants and parasites, it also provides some powerful antioxidants to support your immune system.  Just put a teaspoon of whole cloves into a pestle and mortar and give them a bash around to release the natural oils and put into a pot with boiling water to steep for 5 minutes, strain and pour.  1-2 cups a day should really help prep your body for the colder months ahead.

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Now let the sunshine in with Sun butter!

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I love sunflowers, they are not only so vibrant and cheerful they also produce some incredibly nutritious seeds that can really transform you health.  Packed full of Selenium, Calcium, Magnesium, Copper and Vitamin E they really have the whole package in terms of promoting bone health, preventing cell damage, alleviating stress, and reducing inflammation in the body – easing joint pain.

Hello health! Welcome back! 🙂

I first discovered Sun butter when I lived in California – I mean where else but the golden state would they name it sun butter!  I soon discovered that it is really easy to make and much cheaper. Here is how:

It really depends on how much you have – you want at least 500g of sunflower seeds to make up a decent batch. 1KG will give you a good yield (fills about a 1litre kilner jar). My example below was with about 500g. Best deals for nuts & seeds can be found online.

Start by lightly toasting the seeds in a frying pan (dry – no oil) low – medium heat. You will need to do this in batches so that the “toast” is even and make sure you regularly toss and shake the pan.  Be careful not to over do it – too much and the sun butter will taste burnt, too little and the flavour won’t be as rich. This pic below is a little uneven – I needed to do a bit more tossing here!

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Once you have toasted the whole batch, throw them in a food processor and leave to cool for at least 15 minutes (they retain their heat pretty well).

Now set the blades ‘a whizzing.  You will see at first it goes to a dust like consistency and gradually they start to clump together.

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This is when you need to use a spatula to scrape around the sides and pull it altogether, between whizzes.

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You need to keep doing this until the natural oils from the seeds have started to release and it is becoming more paste like.

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Then add a good pinch of Himalayan salt (the least processed the better) and gradually start to add in, a good quality Olive oil.  You will start to see the paste becoming smoother and smoother.  The amount of oil you add is really personal preference, I like quite a lot so it has a good sheen! Keep tasting and checking the smoothness of the paste. For a touch of sweetness I like to add 1-2 tsps of Maple syrup to taste (remember this is high GI – so less is more)

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As you can see, Sunbutter, unfortunately does not a pretty picture take!

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It looks kind of like cement!

But trust me, it tastes delicious and is great served on Gluten free toast, but I love having it with crudites or slices of apple.  It is a great little snack buddy and easily assembled in a little tupperware if you are going to be out and about.

A little organisation goes a long way… you only have one body in this lifetime, why not make it a healthy, happy one?

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Brunch Baby! Saffron infused Buckwheat Groats with Poached Smoked Haddock

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Breakfast/brunch in my opinion is the best meal of the day – get it right and it sets you up for the rest of day.

I’ll be honest this was one of my spur of the moment creations, which actually turned out so well, it was too good not to share.  As it was an experiment, I didn’t do my usual stage by stage pictures and my measurements will not be exact, but hopefully I will be able to describe it in enough detail that you will get the gist!

This recipe came about as a result of me shopping at my local supermarket at a particular time… I can’t tell you when, as it’s a secret… but suffice to say if you get to know when your local supermarket, puts out their reduced items on the fish, cheese and meat counters, you can get some awesome deals and get inspired to create some inventive dishes – so much fun and I love a good bargain!

I got some un-dyed, line caught, smoked haddock (at a great price) and enough to feed two of us.

Over a low heat,  I put the fish skin side down in a poaching pan with a knob of goat butter and covered the fish in full fat goat milk.

I seasoned with a little salt & pepper, a dried bay leaf and a good pinch of Saffron.  I gently brought it up to a simmer (took about couple of minutes).

At this point the fish had started to get that opaque white look about it, so I scooped it out and put it onto a plate to one side.

Meanwhile I thoroughly rinsed my Buckwheat groats (approx 2tbs per person) and I put them into the milk mixture in the pan, along with a good splash of water (a little less than 1/4 pint).

I then knocked the heat up a notch and let it come to the boil and then back to a simmer for about 15-20 minutes. By this point the buckwheat groats had swelled and absorbed most of the liquid.

I then placed the fish back in the pan for 2 minutes to warm through again.

Finally to serve I peeled the skin off the fish and flaked it.  I then plated up with torn, fresh, flat leaf parsley and a touch more seasoning.

This was a really lovely, lazy brunch dish, perfect to share over a cuppa and the papers.

A note on Buckwheat groats: (you can buy online or in health food stores) – well I’m a big fan of buckwheat as you may know if you’ve read my pancake recipe. For those that don’t know Buckwheat is naturally gluten-free and related to the Rhubarb plant. It helps lower blood sugar levels and is full of antioxidants and general health promoting properties.  I love working with the flour in cakes etc, but the groats just add another dimension in the texture department.  They retain their shape well and add a bit of nutty bite to a dish.  You can soak them over night which makes them softer and they cook a lot more quickly like this, which can be good if you are short of time in the morning. I actually quite like them with a bit of bite, a bit more al dente in texture, but up to you. In the recipe above they still had the “bit of bite” factor.

Fish is a great source of protein and the buckwheat groats add a slow release carb to the dish, while the goat milk adds a lovely (alkaline, easy to digest) creaminess.  So good, I will definitely be doing this again! 🙂

Use Your Loaf part two: Bella’s Bread

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Gluten-free bread works a little differently to “normal” bread.  In some ways it is a lot easier to make as you don’t have to spend a tonne of time kneading the dough to get the “glutens” elastic.  I do think it is worth getting an electric dough hook or beater though.  The ingredients seem to work better together if they are combined quickly, I have found.

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I like to use 1/2 Dove’s GF brown bread flour blend and 1/2 Buckwheat flour, as I think it tastes better and you know I’m a big fan of Buckwheat!

Ingredients:

250g Buckwheat Flour

250g Dove’s Brown Bread blend flour

(this is what Dove’s blend contains:)

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2 tsp quick dried Yeast (Dove’s farm does a good one)

1 tbsp Coconut palm sugar (lower GI than normal sugar and more natural)

1 tsp Vit C powder

1 tsp salt (you know me, big fan of the Himalayan variety, 84 trace elements)

2 tbsp Linseeds

1tbsp Chia seeds and a splash of water (buy online or at a health food store)

1/4 pint Goat milk (Goat milk is more alkalising than cow’s milk and much more easily digested. Or you could use Coconut milk if you prefer)

3/4 pint of water (if you don’t want to use milk at all, just make the water up to 1 pint)

1 egg, beaten. (you can leave this out, but I have found the bread stays fresher for longer and it gives it a nicer texture and bounce, not to mention the added protein)

1 tbsp Coconut oil (soft/melted) / or melted Goat butter if you prefer.

Method: 

Start with the chia seeds. Chia seeds are a South American diet staple, packed full of omega 3’s, antioxidants, protein and fibre. They also apparently lower cholesterol, and are great at lowering blood sugar levels too.  Bring it! 🙂 You can use them to top salads or yoghurt or to make a morning porridge too.

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1) Add a splash of water to your 1 tbs of Chia seeds – just enough to cover them.

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You will notice after a couple of minutes that they start to swell and absorb the water.

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Until finally you will end up with a gelatinous mixture: I like to call this a “chia seed gel.”

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2) Add the goat milk and water (to make a pint) to a small pan and gently warm through until almost boiling – then set it aside to cool slightly.  If the milk is too hot when you add it to the yeast, it will kill it off and your bread won’t rise…

3) Meanwhile in a large bowl add the flours, yeast, coconut sugar, salt, and vitamin C.

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4) Add the Chia seed “gel” and the beaten egg and give it a whizz with the electric hooks/beater:

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5) Next, slowly add the warmed milk/water and the oil or butter to the mix, a little at a time, as you continue with the electric hooks/beater.  Between “whizzes,” I find it is useful to use a large spoon to fold any dry mixture that has stuck to the bowl, onto the top, before adding the next bit of liquid and giving it another whiz.

6) Finally add the Linseeds (more Omega 3’s, fibre and well, general awesomeness!) for the final whizz.

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7) The mixture will be quite sticky and wet – see how different it is from “normal” bread it almost looks porridgy! I then cover the bowl with a clean tea towel (which I run under warm water and squeeze out beforehand) and leave it for about an hour to allow the bread to prove.  It might take a little longer if the room is cold but I don’t think it is necessary to rush the prove by adding artificial heat – the yeast will work in it’s own good time. At this point it’s worth pre-heating the oven to 150C.

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Look how much it has risen! 🙂

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The way you tell if it has “proved” enough is by giving it a poke!

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8) If the indentation of your finger remains in the dough you are good to go!  If not leave it a bit longer. This dough can just be gently tipped onto a lined/greased baking sheet and gently shaped into a dome or you can tip it into a loaf tin like the one below (2lbs).  This particular dough was rather exciteable and actually over flowed the tin slightly – perhaps it might have been happier on the baking sheet! 😉 Once in the tin or on the sheet let it sit for a few minutes to settle into it’s new position. It is also nice to add an extra sprinkle of Linseeds to the top here.

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Top tip: I use a re-useable “Magic non stick liner” for my tins… Lakeland online

9) Then into the oven it goes.  I like to put a tray underneath with some water in it. This adds a humidity to the oven and makes the outer crust crispier but also makes the bread nice and soft on the inside.  Remember my exciteable dough? Well it actually kind of dripped into the tray below – another reason why it is useful to have the tray there!

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10) I have found this bread takes about 1 hour to cook through and get a nice crisp golden coating. It should give a satisfying “knock” when you tap it and when you poke a knife into it, it should come out fairly “clean” – there might be a little residue, but as long as it is not goopy, wet dough it is fine!  Tip it out onto a cooling rack and let the bread cool fully before slicing – it will hold its shape and tastes better! Patience! 😉

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Smoked trout, Avocado, Rocket, Watercress salad sandwich

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Toasted and topped with tomato puree grilled goat cheese, peppers and basil.

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Open topped toasted bacon “sarney!” 🙂

Bella’s Powerkraut: Boost your gut flora and get your health tip-pity top!

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Digestive health is important and I’m a firm believer that the right kinds of food, really can be a panacea for everyone.  At the same time “food glorious food” really is a joyous experience when the right combination of flavours and textures are brought together to play a symphony on your palate, so I certainly don’t advocate denying yourself the enjoyment of tasty food.

Ok so here’s the deal, I didn’t invent Sauerkraut; versions of it were invented as far back as 2000 years ago in China – the simplest of recipes – Cabbage and Salt. So what’s the big deal and why are fermented foods kind of the big secret health weapon?

Well apparently Sauerkraut is extremely high in vitamins C, B and K. In addition to that you get calcium, magnesium, dietary fibre, folate, iron, potassium, copper and manganese and the fermentation process, actually increases the bio-availability of the nutrients, which makes the humble cabbage even more nutrient dense, than it’s original, naked beginnings.  Raw Sauerkraut also contains live Lactobacillus and is rich in enzymes. So it really is all set to boost your immunity and your digestive health, by promoting the growth of healthy flora in your gut and protecting you against many diseases of the digestive tract.

Ever had antibiotics in your lifetime? If the answer is yes, then it’s totally worth re-colonising these healthy gut-flora guys back into your system!

Hurrah to the “kraut!”

Now, you can buy Sauerkraut from various stores but that’s not fun, can be pricey, and the pasteurized ones have had all the good stuff killed off anyway! Also, why spend a fortune on shop bought pro-biotic tablets or pro-biotic (packed full of sugar) yoghurts, when it’s so easy to make your own yummy, pro-biotic packed, “Power-kraut!”

You can get yourself a proper Sauerkraut making crock pot, there are loads of styles online, but if like me you are so excited about getting started and you can’t possibly wait for delivery of one these fancy (sometimes expensive) pots – just dive in with gusto! Get yourself a cabbage red or white or why not one of each?

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Some salt… I like Himalyan salt, bacuse it is unrefined and unprocessed and apparently it contains the full spectrum of 84 minerals and trace elements, which a lot of processed salts are missing.

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I usually grind the salt up if I’ve bought the larger rocks… Now shred those cabbages finely, into long thin strips like this:

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Or if you are short of time, throw it in a food processor, shred mode-styley like this:

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If you want to be a bit adventurous and go the Bella’s Power-kraut route why not throw in some carrot (Vit A and Beta Carotene), Fennel (Vit C, Folate, and Potassium), a sprinkle of Juniper berries (high in Vit C and apparently lowers blood sugar, improves digestion and helps promote kidney health) and a few Star-Anise (contains antioxidant properties and is considered to be anti viral and anti fungal) for an extra awesome “Vit-hit!” Now in a large bowl, layer up the shredded veg with a good sprinkling of salt for each layer.

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IMG_3112Pack the shredded, salt-layered veg down – really squash it (make sure you have clean hands and use cling-film as a barrier – it’s just less messy and more hygienic that way.) The salt will draw the moisture out of the veg and the lacto-fermentation process will begin:

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IMG_3125You will see the liquid being drawn out as you squash it down… Put a small plate that fits the inside rim of the large bowl on top, this helps keep the air out and keep the pressure on.  I find a weighty jar of rice helps keeps things nice and squashed down to. Then cover the whole lot in cling-film.

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In warmer weather you will see the tell tail fermenting signals starting fairly quickly – a few little bubbles appearing up the side of the bowl within the first 12 hours; it might take longer if things are a little cooler.  All you need to do is check on it every couple of days, making sure it is well squashed and you should see more liquid drawn out, starting to rise above the line of the cabbage.  It can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks for your Sauerkraut to be ready.  How you know if it is “ripe,” is by giving it regular taste tests around the end of week two.  The texture of the vegetables will have softened and the taste will be tangy, a hint of vinegar and mellow saltiness.  At the point you feel it has reached, it’s prime in the taste department, jar it up and it will keep in the fridge for several months – if it lasts that long! 😉

It is a unique flavour but goes oh-so well with slices of ham or smoked Mackerel.  Get inspired and shred some cabbage!  Power to the “Kraut!” 🙂

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Use Your Loaf! Part one…

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“What!? You can’t eat bread or Pasta!? What do you eat!? That must mean you can’t eat cakes and stuff too? Blimey!”

These comments are usually followed by a deep pitying look, as though my life must almost, not be worth living!

I have heard this so often over the years and when I was younger it used to bother me, perhaps because I didn’t know what I know now.  Now when I hear these comments, I tend to have a wry smile on my face because I actually think my food tastes better and is a hell of a lot healthier!

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Saffron infused Buckwheat groats with poached smoked haddock…

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Chargrilled Squid with a selection of chargrilled vegetables…

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Sexy Little Nectarine Tart

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Mixed salad with smoked Mackerel and Bella’s Powerkraut.

When you stop eating gluten your brain hones in all the “glutinous” stuff you will “miss out on.”  In search of gluten-free alternatives you go to the “free-from” section in the supermarket.

IMG_1724 You find the selection of GF breads, cakes and crackers is impressive and pretty darn pricey, but you think:

“I need these “essentials,” so I can still enjoy my life!”

As you start sampling these products you think:

“Wow, these taste pretty good.”

You start to feel better because you are not having all the horrendous symptoms that go with intolerance to gluten.  It actually gives you a false sense of security, that your health is on track and in pretty good shape…

For years I used to buy this stuff, alongside continuing my gluten-free experiments in the kitchen, without really factoring in the “SUGAR CONTENT!”

When you look at a nutritional label you want to see the carbohydrate Vs “of which sugars.” The GF stuff scores very high in the sugar stakes:

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IMG_1729 IMG_1730 It is almost as if the manufacturers have in solving, the “issue,” of “lack of gluten” have made up for it, with additional sugar and “fillers,” that make it cheaper for them to make. In addition because us GF folk “need” alternatives to the other convenience foods on offer, they figure they can charge a fortune for it!

The gluten-free food market is the biggest growing and most profitable food market worldwide.  Partly due to more and more people being diagnosed with intolerance and food related illnesses, but also because of the amount they charge for this “specialist” food!

As a nation it has almost become “in-grained” in us (‘scuse the pun) that we must have bread, cereal or pasta at most meals.  We really don’t need that much carbohydrate to survive – how many of us, are Olympic athletes or go out hunting for our food these days? Why are we so dependent on these “essentials?” I could talk for hours on this subject, but for now maybe worth having a think about it?

I know from personal experience that eating these convenience GF foods is a ticking time bomb… My health started coming off the rails a few years ago, my hormones went out of whack and I was told I had something called insulin resistance; which in layman’s terms means, when I eat food with a lot of sugar in it, my insulin levels go bonkers! It was a big wake up call.  I decided to take control and really look at the food I was eating and I urge you to do the same, whether you are gluten intolerant or not. Ultimately the more natural and less processed the food you put into your body is, the more health rewards your body will give you. 🙂

While I choose not to have bread every day, I do occasionally make a loaf.  My GF bread recipe won’t break the health bank. It is versatile, soft enough to make sandwiches and it also makes delicious toast too… Click the link below for the recipe. Enjoy! 🙂

USE YOUR LOAF PART TWO: BELLA’S BREAD

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USE YOUR LOAF PART TWO: BELLA’S BREAD