Friday, 20 December 2013

Back to Natural Eating in Surrey Life December 2013 issue :)

The December 2013 issue of Surrey Life magazine is filled with vintage Christmas ideas, festive foodie tips and beautiful photos of scenery around the Surrey.

 
The cover alone is enough to make me feel Christmassy and it just gets better inside.

Although I particularly recommend having a look at a certain article (I may be ever so slightly biased!) as I'm delighted that my book, Back to Natural Eating, has been featured in this Christmas issue! :) x

Thursday, 14 November 2013

It's not Christmas... yet. And a Sausage and Bean Stew


It's about this time of year that I get silly excited about Christmas. I know, Halloween's just passed. I apologise for my younger-than-acceptable mental age.

However, none of this means that I want shops to start playing Christmas tunes. No, not yet. Save that for December. It's still November. I blame this reason for the fact that I am incredibly disorganised when it comes to buying Christmas presents. I tend to save all the shopping till the last minute and then complain and whine about how busy it is the last few days before Christmas. Wondering why on earth there are so many people rushing around town and how they could be so disorganised, leaving it till the very last minute to get it together. Meanwhile, doing exactly the same thing myself and planning out how to wrap all my hypothetical presents the morning of the actual day... #sittinginmyivorytower.

Nope, I was excited about Halloween, now I want a month off in November and then to start thinking about Christmas in December.

That is what logical me says.

The more excitable, slightly holiday-crazed side of me however can only extend logic to this; "Dear goodness, the first mince pies are out in shops. It must be Christmas."

So yet again, I apologise. I realise I'm one of those annoying people at this time of year but I just can't help myself. I will try to keep it repressed so you don't have to read about my abundance of Christmas cheer until December. I guess it's a very fortunate thing that my blog doesn't have speakers linked to it otherwise my incessant Christmas related humming may very well drive you to the edge.

Anyway, instead I will be focusing my energies on Autumn/Winter warming foods.

The second thing I wanted to get out of my system is I find this time of the year can be difficult to eat sensibly. I tend to find that Summer brings about fresh salads, cooling drinks and it's easier to grab whole foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. Making meals quicker and easier. Autumn and going into Winter however, is a different story. The colder weather makes me yearn for warm, filling foods. Nutrient dense foods served heaped up in comforting bowlfuls. Cooler weather also means nostalgic comfort foods are on my mind. The sweet treats associated with Halloween and the spiced cookies and pastry heavy foods associated with the event-occurring-in-December-which-I-am-not-going-to-mention-until-December (maybe that's even more irritating?!).

So as a congratulations for making it through this post mostly unscathed by tinsel and glitter, here is a recipe to plant us firmly in the spirit of Winter-related celebrations.

Sausage and Beans Stew

Remember to remove the Bay Leaf before eating!
Sausage stews make me think of coming home after a long day. Pulling my boots off, leaving them discarded by the door, alongside my gloves, scarf and coat. Curling up on the sofa with a steaming bowl of Sausage and bean stew nestled in between cupped hands.


I don’t eat beans often but when I do, they have to taste good. Pairing them up with this classic combo makes for a hearty stew with a flavourful sauce. Making it a fab meal for a casual night-in or a hearty get-together with friends.
Serves 4
 
Ingredients
 
Good quality sausages ( I used 8)
1 can of cooked mixed beans*
1 can beansprouts*
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt to taste (I started out with ¼ teaspoon and add more bit by bit if required)
Sprinkle of white pepper
½ teaspoon ground mixed spice
¼ teaspoon mustard powder
1 bay leaf (remember to remove before eating)
Generous sprinkle of dried oregano
About half a jar of tomato passata (about 300ml)
2 onions
200g white mushrooms
1 green pepper
Coconut oil
 
How to make it;
·         Deseed the green pepper and chop into strips
·         Finely chop the onions
·         Peel and slice the mushrooms
·         Squeeze the sausage meat out of its casing in thirds into the saucepan
·         Add the chopped veg  and sausage meat to a saucepan with a teaspoon of coconut oil and allow to gently sauté over a low heat
·         Add the drained beansprouts, salt, white pepper, mustard powder, ground mixed spice, dried oregano and balsamic vinegar to the saucepan and give a good mix
·         Once the sausage has slightly browned and the veg has significantly softened, add the tomato passata and mix in.
·         Boil the kettle and add water to the saucepan until the sausages and veg are covered
·         Bring to the boil for a couple of minutes and then turn down to a simmer
·         Place the lid on the saucepan and allow to simmer for a further 40 minutes
·         Once the sausage meat has cooked through, serve in bowl whilst still hot with fork or spoon (or like me, a spork :) )
·         Enjoy!!

*If beans and beansprouts aren’t your thing then you can replace these with other types of veg, such as; boiled new potatoes, sweet potatoes, chickpeas or other green veg.

Let me know what you try in the comments section!

x

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Wealden Times - Midsummer Fair 2013

Good Thursday everyone!

This year I've been invited to do a cooking demonstration at the Wealden Times Midsummer Fair.

Can you say AH?! I'm very excited but at the same time, feel like I've subconciously allowed a butterfly garden to set-up home in my stomach.

I'll be cooking recipes from my book "Back to Natural Eating" and my second up-and-coming book.

The fair takes place on the 6th, 7th and 8th June 2013 and my cooking demonstration is on Thursday 6th June 2013 at 10am.

I hope I'll see a few of you there -  it looks like a fun few days and I'm excited to be a part of it!



Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Boxes, boxes everywhere but where's a bite to eat?

There hasn’t been a great deal of home cooking going on here lately.

As you may have noticed.
Things have been a little chaotic whilst we’ve been trying to set-up the house to be a little more comfortable. I should explain; every house we’ve moved to has always taken a while to properly settle into. For different reasons, most of the time building work comes first and then house rearranging can begin but sometimes life just gets in the way and the house has to take a bit of a backseat for a while and boxes remain the elephant in the room (I do always love looking through and unpacking all of the boxes eventually, to find items I didn’t remember I had – it’s a bit like Christmas :) ).

As anyone who has been in a house with building work/ refurnishing or to be honest anything involving more boxes of stuff you’d all but forgotten about and unearthing landscapes of dust at the same time will know, this can take longer than anticipated. Involving certain rooms being inactivated temporarily, whilst being rearranged and knocked about a bit.
 
Another obstacle which seems to arise, during busier moments, is cooking. A healthy home cooked meal is usually the last thing on your mind (funnily enough unless someone else cooks it for you – I find that’s always acceptable! :D I give such subtle hints! :P) as you slump on the floor amid the heaps of washing, clothes, recyclables and the usual array of furniture you broke trying to move it from one room to another through an inconceivably small doorway (In my defense - space always looks so much bigger before you actually start to move things around…).

So, when it comes to fuelling up what is one to do?
Go out for dinner?
Valid option; granted it’s way more expensive than eating in but it does get you out of the house for a while so you can rediscover what breathing air that isn’t filled with dust is like again (at a certain stage some might say this is priceless)
Takeaway?
You could reach out for the phone and use this as an excuse for a takeaway? Again this very much depends on the takeaway and as this (I’m hoping) is a one off/ rare occurrence then there are some healthier options you can turn to in desperate moments.
Eat simple food involving little prep from home?

This depends on the level of “unrest” the house is in but you can do a surprising amount with very little.

I have predominantly chosen the third option. I feel better, the cleaner I eat and so eating healthier gives me more energy to keep up with most of the tasks which need to be done.
However, I’ve had 1.5 takeaways; one I had pad thai (this one contained rice noodles, not wheat – I find I’m ok with very occasional consumption of rice) which I topped with shredded duck. The 0.5 takeaway consisted of a handful of chips. I eat potatoes fairly regularly but not in takeaway chip form.

The majority of the time I’ve been eating;
Fresh fruit; green apples, banana and strawberries in particular. These are so easy to prep; wash and eat. Kindest recipe instructions ever! :)
Nuts and seeds; I have a jar of almond butter on standby for adding to fruit-based breakfasts and a small handful of nuts for snacking on; almonds, pecans, the odd cashew.
Hard boiled eggs; these are a great snack and a great source of protein. I boil a few eggs and leave them in the fridge for when I need a snack. Then peel and eat.
Vegtables; I’m a massive fan of the stirfry. A bit of fat eg organic or/and grassfed butter or coconut oil with a handful of colourful veggies and an egg or two sounds like perfection but if the cooker is off limits? Salads are the uncooked equivalent. Big topping-heavy salads make me smile and if only the weather would take the hint and get with the times I’d be eating them all the time.
Snacks; You’ll hear everywhere that processed foods are generally bad for you. I say it myself A LOT. However there are some packaged products which are pretty handy and the lesser of the evils when you’re in a tight spot and in need of food. One of my favourites lately has been Nakd bars. These bars are basically dates and nuts smushed into a bar. I’ve been using them as snacks for ages and they’ve saved me from hunger-induced bad choices many-a-time.

Do you have any go-to choices or tips for what to eat when life turns a bit topsy-turvy?
Here are a few snaps of my typical eats over the last few days;

Strawberries, 1/4 banana, few peanuts, 1 tsp almond butter




Lightly sauteed green veg and onion in butter

 

An "everything" salad

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Caramel covered Chocolate Brownie Pancakes

With pancake day coming up on Tuesday, it's time for pancakes. However, what I really wanted were brownies. And having promised myself a chocolate recipe or two over February, I decided to mix the two.
Et voila! So here we have my chocolate brownie pancakes.

Decadent, moist and cakey, these pancakes are definitely a sweet treat that will be a very occasional indulgence. Incredibly rich, it's actually difficult to overeat these (despite trying! ;) .

As if these didn't taste devishly sinful enough, I made a super quick caramel sauce to drizzle over the top. Although my drizzling may have turned into a complete caramel drenching!

These pancakes contain butter and so if you are completely avoiding dairy then you can omit the butter. I find the butter lends a richer flavour to the pancakes.

They are very fudgey pancakes and so must be cooked over a low heat and flilpped very carefully.

Without further ado, here are my;

Chocolate brownie pancakes
Paleo, Primal, Grain -ree, Naturally gluten-free, refined sugar-free, can be dairy-free; omit butter

Serves 2 / makes 8 pancakes

Ingredients;

25g coconut flour
3 eggs
3 level tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
25g butter
100ml coconut milk (full fat)
75g dates
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Pinch sea salt

How to make them;

  • Add the dates to a small bowl with a splash of water and the salt
  • Heat in a microwave for a few seconds until soft enough to mash with the back of a spoon until fairly smooth
  • Allow to cool and the add with the butter to a big bowl and use an electric whisk to mix the dates and the butter together
  • Add the eggs, coconut milk, coconut flour, cocoa powder and vanilla essence and whisk together until smooth
  • This should make a thick batter
  • Heat a frying pan over a low heat
  • Add a knob of butter to the frying pan and melt
  • Add a tablespoon of the batter to the frying pan and smooth out slightly until rouhgly round in shape; don't worry if this is not perfectly circular. These are thick, fudgey pancakes and so are not going to be uniform but they will make up for it in taste :)
  • Allow the pancakes to cook over the low heat until cooked on one side and then very carefully use a spatula to flip the pancakes over to cook on the other side
  • Once cooked on both sides, remove from the frying pan and stack up in two stacks of four pancakes

...with a super quick caramel sauce
Paleo, Primal, dairy-free, grain-free, gluten-free

Makes enough to drizzle over 2 servings of chocolate brownie pancakes

Ingredients;

100ml coconut milk (full fat)
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
pinch of coarse sea salt
(up to) 1 teaspoon coconut flour

How to make the sauce;
  • Add the coconut milk, vanilla essence, salt, coconut flour and palm sugar to a small pan and heat over a low to medium heat
  • Heat gently until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency; this should be a syrup-like consistency
  • Once this is reached, remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly
  • Drizzle over the chocolate brownie pancakes and serve
  • Yum! :)

Happy Pancake day for Tuesday everyone! :)

Which pancakes are YOU making for pancake day? Plain and simple? Or pancake extravagance? Are you going to try these chocolate brownie pancakes?
Let me know in the comments :)

Monday, 4 February 2013

Chocolatey facts

So, February has arrived.

It' still cold.

And if your New Years resolutions haven't all gone to ruin then please tell me how you've managed to keep it up! Think I may have been too ambitious with mine this year. On my list I have gems such as learning a language in a, lets say, quite "optimistic" time frame. In fact I did want to learn two, yet fear that I may have just been carried away with the promise of a fresh year to get my hands on.

Other things i have done slightly better with, such as, reading. I promised myself that I would become "well-read." You know those people who manage to recite on que the perfect quotation for a situation or make appropriate references to the classics? Yeah, that's not me... Ever so slightly in awe of them.

So now January has ended and Feburary is upon us, I've decided to get into the swing of things. And I'm giving this blog a good chocolate coating. What better topic for the home month of Valentines day and let's face it... yet another month in which I am no doubt going to be indulging in a fair amount of chocolate.

As is the case with many others, I have a chocolate weakness. It is up there next to ice cream. Honestly, whats better than ice cream? Really, what?!

"But you like to eat healthily and you're talking about eating chocolate?" I hear you cry.
True, I like to eat as healthily as possible. I find limiting my sugar intake helps me and this isn't too difficult when cutting out the majority of highly processed foods.

So where does chocolate fit in?

Unsweetened cocoa is said to have certain health benefits. However, it is important to note that this is UNSWEETENED cocoa.

So what's wrong with standard chocolate bars?

The most common problematic ingredients in chocolate bars are;

Sugar and milk powder; The sugar and milk in regular chocolate bars can take away from the healthy effects of the cocoa. Sugar especially makes up the vast bulk of a great deal of chocolate bars and as it has been said that sugar has immunosuppressive effects and seeing as a great deal of conventional chocolate bars are filled with the stuff, this can't be the greatest health move.

Soy lethicin"One other common source of soy is lecithin which is used as a emulsifier in many foods and supplements. Most lecithin in the US is derived from soy but there are some newer products that extract it from organic sunflower. We switched over to the organic sunflower lecithin a few years ago in all of our products."

Some fun sugar related facts - number 20 is particularly important

So what types of chocolate are there left?

Personally, I've been on the figurative chocolate tour bus trying to figure out where I stand on this issue. The debate between articficial sweeteners, normal refined sugar chocolate to fructose sweetened chocolate. There's quite a wide choice avaliable and I've kept my mind fairly open to the subject. Even now I am not 100% in one camp when it comes to which chocolate may be best in terms of which is the pinnacle of chocolate health perfection. Yet weighing up what I know, my chocolate of choice is dark chocolate. I like to chose a good quality organic dark chocolate with the largest percentage of cocoa that I can still enjoy the chocolatey taste through. This usually hovers around the 70% to 85% mark. Depending on the brand - they all have slightly different tastes. I do still play around with xylitol sweetened chocolate (they taste good and actually give a bit of a minty fresh aftertaste) but they are usually fairly brief encounters as I find the GI side effects unpleasant and it is a fine line to cross before you've had "enough."

I do have occasions, as with most things, where I am faced with, in this case, some really special chocolates. Chocolate is a pleasurable food and while I may keep tabs on the amount I eat and definitely the quality, you can bet I am not going to miss out for a genuinely special one off.

What type of chocolate do you eat? Do you find artificially sweetened chocolates work for you or do you prefer a natural sweetener? Or is chocolate more about enjoyment and for the occasional treat, quality can take a backseat?

Is chocolate one of your vices or does your heart belong to another, such as my unreciprocated love affair with ice cream?

Let me know you're chocolatey thoughts in the comments! x


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Featured in The Green Parent magazine!!

So I had a lovely photo of the cover of the new Green Parent magazine (Feb/March 2013 edition) to post today but for some reason, I cannot post it. Not amused.

Update; Computer has temporarily dropped strike and I have added the photo :)



Computer let me upload it; finally! :)


But whilst I'm coaxing the computer to upload it, I wanted to say that I'm excited to let you know that I have a full page article under the Meet the Chef section, which includes my Vanilla Cashew Pancakes recipe (Back to Natural Eating); this makes a nice stack of scotch pancakes and with Pancake day less than a month away, it's a great recipe to keep to hand. There are also some other recipes in the food and drink section which I have been eyeing up and consequently added to my list to try out. I feel very honoured to be included in a magzine, which prioritises health and clean living so highly :)

I'm curious, Do any of you read magazines concerned with health and clean lifestyles such as The Green Parent? Or do you turn to the internet to get your information?
Personally, I like to read a lot of health blogs but I also like the sentimentality of a physical-hold-in-your-hand-paper-copy book or a magazine to sit down to, especially when travelling. I still find the whole idea of reading a book with a hot cup of peppermint tea (in my case) either in a coffee shop or sitting on the train quite romantic. Is that old fashioned? I feel relaxed just talking about it. Sigh...


Saturday, 12 January 2013

A Christmas from home

Hello there!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and you've all started off on what (fingers crossed) will be be a fantastic year! :)

I've had a lovely Christmas at home and have truly loved being around my friends and family. Starting from about the 23rd December right through till the 2nd January is a uniquely relaxing time of year. The world seems quieter (with the exception of bustling high streets everywhere for the last remaining days leading up to Christmas) and I'm able to let technology take a much needed break from my life, leaving it ready and waiting for the beginning of the New Year.

We had a fairly unconventional Christmas tree this year too. I went to pick up a tree with the rest of my family (love this tradition!) and bucked the norm by returning with a waist-height tree in it's own little pot. The traditional lights went up but no Christmas angel this year... no, that would be far too traditional.

So what did our family have to put in pride of place on the very top branch of our dumpling of a tree?

A Christmas Mouse.

Yes you heard right. We abandoned the little sense we had left and placed a little toy mouse on the uppermost branch. The real corker about this tree topper? When you press it, it sings, "Let it snow," and not in the standard human voice, oh no, in a hilariously cute, squeaky voice. So cute and strangely addictive! There wasn't an hour that passed on Christmas day that we wouldn't hear it's ear-piercing rendition starting again. Best angel replacement ever.

Being part polish, I also celebrate Wigilia. My family look forward to this night year round. Wigilia is all about family and food. The night starts off with a big bowl of Barszcz; a clear red beetroot soup with chopped beetroot and a nicely sharp tang. Huge bowls of Uszka* dominate the table. These are little pastry parcels filled with either potato or sauerkraut. The next course is a mixture of new potatoes, various vegetables, fish dishes and kotlety. This is a point we definitely deviate from tradition once again. Technically meat isn't meant to be eaten on Wigilia, only fish. However Kotlety; really gorgeous meat burgers (I have a recipe for a take on these in my cookbook Back to Natural Eating) made their way to the Wigilia table. mmm... the meal is followed up by a special Tort* recipe my Babcia makes (a multitiered cake with 3 different icings; lemon, coffee and chocolate. Then the entire cake is drenched in chocolate), along with hot drinks whilst the present opening begins and wrapping paper is being thrown across the room.

*Foods such as Uszka and Tort, which contain wheat and wheat and sugar respectively, I allow myself to eat a small amount of as I know that this is definitely a one off at this time of year and it is a tradition which I hold close to my heart.

I acquired an extra special present this year at Wigilia. My Babcia (grandmother) gave me a book filled with some of her recipes which she had typed out and added to the pages. I am in love with this gift from her; heartfelt presents are always the best :)

Naturally my next move over the next few days post-Christmas was to start making recipes. The family were all rooting for the same recipe; Bigos.

Bigos is also sometimes known as Hunters Stew. The base is usually sauerkraut with chopped meats added to it, especially sausages such as wiejska and kabanos or even bacon. The idea is to use this as a way to use up any leftover meats you have left and is a hearty staple dish with relatively few ingredients.

Bigos

Paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, sugar-free

This recipe is adapted from my Babcias recipe.

Ingredients;

1kg sauerkraut; you can buy this in jars
1 onion
2 bay leaves
4 whole black peppercorns
6 mini kabanoses; I used kabanos, but you can use any type of meats and I personally think wiejska is one of the tastiest meats to use. Also feel free to use bacon and other types of sausage instead. Use roughly 150g meat
150g button mushrooms
Handful of dried mushrooms
Enough chicken stock to cover
Coarse sea salt to taste
1 teaspoon coconut oil for frying

How;

  • Finely chop the onion and sautee in a large pan with the coconut oil

  • Drain the sauerkraut, leaving the liquid to one side

  • Add the sauerkraut to the saucepan along with the bay leaves and peppercorns

  • Cover the ingredients in chicken stock

  • Bring to the boil for 2 minutes and then reduce to a simmer and cover to cook for 30 minutes

  • Add the dried mushrooms to a seperate bowl and allow to soak

  • Peel and chop the button mushrooms and finely chop the onion

  • Sautee the mushroom pieces and onion in cocout oil in a frying pan until soft

  • Chop the soaked mushroom and kabanoses into pieces and add to the sauerkraut with the sauteed mushroom and onion pieces

  • Stir, cover and leave to cook again for another 30 minutes

  • Taste the sauerkraut and when cooked through, remove from the heat

  • I like to leave in the pot and allow everyone to help themselves

Enjoy! :) x