Best of the Best – January

So it’s now 2021 and we’re working harder than ever nourishing ourselves with food after one of the craziest years!

After periods of stress and even potential illness its crucial to now start maximising the nutrients you’re consuming to rebuild overall health and energy levels. Focusing on a good quality wholefood plant-based diet is a great start, as you’ll literally be flooding your system with nutrition without making it work harder dealing with lots of processed foods, toxins, chemicals etc.

In order to get the best from our plant-based meal, its super useful to know what fruits and vegetables are at their best right now. Produce in season will almost always be more nutrient rich, tastier and often significantly cheaper. Organic if you can but local is great if not  – look for freshness and not perfection!

Have a dig around at your supermarket and see what you can find. Farm shops, greengrocers and market stalls are also mostly still open and are some of the best places to find something local, in addition to any veg box schemes running in your area – here in East Devon we’re big Riverford fans

Over the coming months we’ll be sharing guides of what UK grown seasonal produce to look for and some fab ways to prepare and enjoy them.

So forget the out of season cardboard tomatoes in January and have a try with some of the seasonal stars instead!

Quick kitchen hacks – midweek bean stir fry

We all need a super-fast midweek meal that we can make in a hurry from storecupboard ingredients and whatever is in the fridge.

Feel free to use whichever vegetables you have available in this stir fry and aim for about four handfuls of chopped vegetables in total. Just make sure everything is cut to the same size so they cook evenly.

My favourites are spring onions, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, courgettes, cabbage, kohl rabi, peas, sweetcorn – whatever you fancy!

To make this recipe even faster I always serve this with rice noodles. They are made from rice flour so are also wheat and gluten free. They only require a quick soaking in boiling water so can be ready in literally a few minutes.

Adding beans gives a protein and fibre hit and makes the dish much more satisfying to see you through the evening.

Finish by sprinkling with mixed seeds such as flax and sesame to add extra nutritional power.

Midweek Bean Stir Fry

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small chilli (optional)
  • 1 tsp vegetable stock powder
  • 4 handfuls of chopped vegetables
  • 1 tin adzuki, black beans or black eye peas
  • 1 tbsp mixed seeds and fresh coriander (optional)

For the sauce:

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp red miso paste

Whisk the sauce ingredients together and set aside to allow the flavours to develop.

Add the olive oil to a large pan and gently fry the onion. Add the garlic and other vegetables and fry for a couple of minutes.

Add 1 mug of water and the stock powder and allow the vegetables to gently steam fry. Once all the liquid is absorbed, check if all the vegetables are tender, if not add a little more water and cook for a couple of extra minutes.

Drain the beans and rinse.

Once the vegetables are cooked through, stir in the sauce and the beans, then cook for about one minute.

Pour over rice noodles and sprinkle with mixed seeds and fresh coriander.

Serve with extra soy or chilli sauce if desired.

Serves four.

Supercharged overnight oats

I think for a long time I was the only person who just didn’t get overnight oats. Surely its just cold porridge – how can that be a nice thing for breakfast?

But after actually making it – I’m prepared to admit I was wrong – in reality they make an easy, delicious and healthy breakfast!

Overnight oats are now my go-to when I know I have a busy day or will be short of time before rushing out of the door in the morning.

I portion out the dry ingredients into jars in advance and keep them ready in the cupboard. As all the ingredients are dried and everything is in an airtight jar, they will keep fresh for ages – not that they usually last that long!

All you have to do then is grab a jar the night before and rehydrate everything with some milk – oat milk is my favourite as it seems appropriate! In a pinch even water will do. Then just leave in the fridge to eat in the morning.

I usually just take the jar to work and enjoy once I get there – just make sure your jar is leak proof and you seal the lid well (speaking from experience….).

If you get five minutes in the morning, its great to top these with some extra fresh or dried fruit or superfoods. My current loves are goji berries, cacao nibs and a sprinkle of bee pollen. A few strawberries or raspberries are also perfect. 

This is my favourite basic recipe, but it is completely flexible. Try any type of dried fruit or seeds that you have in and go for any sweet spice you love, I love mixed spice but cinnamon is also fantastic. Have a play!

Basic overnight oats recipe (per serving)

  • 40g good quality porridge oats
  • 1 tsp protein powder (this one is my favourite)
  • 2 medium dates (about 15g), chopped
  • Pinch of mixed spice
  • 1 tsp flax seeds
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • Enough milk (whichever type is your favourite) to cover
  • For chocolate overnight oats add 2 tsp organic cacao powder.

Put all the dried ingredients together in a jar and stir to mix everything up.

The night before you want to eat, pour milk over the oats until they are fully covered. Stir or shake everything together until completely mixed and there are no lumps of dry oats or powder.

In the morning, give everything a good stir and top with fruit or whatever you fancy!

The other thing I love about this recipe is the ability to add in other superfoods and it just gets better! I often include some or all of these powders to give an extra nutrition boost.

Certainly don’t feel you need to use any of these as they oats are great without, but if you want to try something extra or new why not give some of these a go?

Maca powder

  • Use 1 tsp of powder per portion
  • Maca is an ancient food from the Andes. It’s rich in minerals such as iodine, calcium, potassium, iron and zinc in addition to Vitamins B6 and C. Studies have shown maca to be effective in boosting energy, stamina, memory and could also reduce some symptoms of depression.

Reishi mushroom

  • Use ¼ tsp of powder per portion
  • This medicinal mushroom has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years. Reishi is an apoptogenic and is believed to help strengthen your immune cells, lower blood pressure and have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Some studies have also shown reishi to be great for helping the body to combat stress and reduce the risk of premature aging.

Astragalus root

  • Use ¼ tsp of powder per portion
  • Astragalus has a long tradition in Chinese medicine and is used for a variety of conditions. It has been shown to assist with respiratory illnesses such as colds and flu as well as helping to protect the heart and liver. This is also another great immune system strengthener.

Super Vital Powder

  • Use 1 tsp of powder per portion
  • I love the fruity taste of this blend of beetroot, acai and baobab. It also adds a fantastic blast of vitamin C and antioxidants. Just what you need in the morning!

Quick kitchen hacks – lemon & garlic olives

Who doesn’t love olives as part of a salad, antipasti board or with drinks?

Although only popular on the menu in this part of Europe for the last 40 years or so, they are certainly not a new food – the Romans couldn’t live without them and even managed to grow them in the UK!

The wide ranging fantastic health benefits of eating olives are now well known. Their monounsaturated fatty acid content helps to maintain our HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol, while polyphenols assist in reducing chronic inflammation. Olives also have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, great for detoxification and a fantastic boost for our skin and hair.

Unfortunately, so many in the shops are packed in cheap oils and other additives and to be honest the flavour can often be less than exciting.

Olives from your local deli can be amazing and definitely worth buying but as with all such products – they won’t be cheap!

This is one example where making your own is not only super quick and significantly more economical. You’ll also be rewarded with a healthier and much more delicious end result.

So, here’s a quick kitchen hack to make my favourite super smart olives, super easy!

  • 1 small jar of stoned green olives in brine
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil

Empty the olives into a sieve and wash off the brine. Leave to dry.

Remove the zest from the lemon and chop into small strips. Chop the garlic into thin slices.

Remove the rosemary needles from the stalk.

Mix the lemon, garlic and rosemary with the olives, season with a little black pepper and pack into a glass jar.

Pour over enough olive oil to completely cover, and leave for at least 12 hours to marinate.

Make sure that the olives fill the jar you’re using without leaving too much space around them, otherwise you will need loads of olive oil to cover.

Try sprinkling with a little freshly chopped parsley just before serving for extra colour and detox benefits. Don’t forget that once the olives have been eaten, you’ll also have a fantastic flavoured olive oil left to cook with.

Store in the fridge but bring to room temperature before you enjoy them. These will keep really well, just make sure that they stay covered in olive oil – top up if you need to.

Super easy sensational slaws

Spring is finally actually here (we hope!) and it’s the perfect time to start experimenting with some salads.

I’ve always loved slaws as they’re just so versatile. Add to basic greens and you have a colourful salad, add to a sandwich or just serve as a side to add some raw goodness to a main dish.

These are my top three never fail slaws to add some colour and zest to a meal, whilst only taking minutes to prepare. They will all keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator ready for you to enjoy whenever!

Fennel and orange slaw

Crunchy anise flavoured fennel is mixed with sweet orange and sharp red onion in this super colourful slaw. The fennel will discolour quickly so make sure you work fast with the dressing.

  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 orange
  • 1/2 red onion
  • Small handful of fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

To make the salad, finely shred the fennel and grate the carrot. Cut the orange into segments and cut each into small pieces. Finely dice the red onion.

In a small bowl, mix all the dressing ingredients together.

Toss over the vegetables and mix well. Sprinkle over finely chopped fresh parsley and mix again.

Celeriac remoulade

A classic French dish which I always make lighter using natural yoghurt instead of mayo. I’ve also given this a West Country twist using local apple cider vinegar instead of the traditional red wine version. Just don’t be tempted to use English mustard, as the celeriac needs the softer flavour that comes from French.

  • 450g celeriac
  • 1 tsp mustard (either Dijon or wholegrain)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 8 tbsp plain yoghurt (dairy or non-dairy)

Peel and quarter the celeriac, then either grate or shred in a food processor.

Add all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly until the celeriac is fully coated.

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Carrot and chia seed salad

A great way to boost your omega 3 with chia seeds that isn’t a pudding! As well as giving this salad a nutrient boost they add great texture. Don’t worry if the seeds will absorb some of the dressing if made in advance.

  • 2 carrots
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 1 heaped tsp chia seeds

Peel the carrots and grate. Add all the other ingredients except the chia seeds to a small bowl and mix thoroughly.

Pour over the grated carrots and sprinkle in the chia seeds.

Mix everything well until completely coated and serve.

5 real ways to boost your health right now

Boosting your health and nutrition, its’s easy right? Not always. So many of us lead busy lives juggling work, home and families, that food often falls to the bottom of the priority list.

Making a few simple changes can have an incredibly powerful impact on our overall health and is a great place to start on the road to feeling more fantastic than ever.

Add in the good things

Ok, this may sound obvious but instead of focusing on what you’re going to cut out why not look at what you can add in? Try making an extra vegetable to go with a dish, perhaps a side of greens or something raw to kick off the meal? Can you grab some extra fruit, nuts or seeds during the day?

The magic is… the more you add in the good stuff it leaves little room for the not so good stuff – we can only eat so much in a day! And of course, you start to feel so good eating the best food, that becomes everything you want.

Count chemicals, not calories

All calories are not created equal. Foods such as avocados and nuts deliver a large calorific hit but are full of essential nutrients you don’t want to miss. To boost your health start counting the chemicals and stop worrying about the calories.

Many food additives can have a seriously negative effect on your overall health, and we are still completely in the dark about the long term impact of consuming these in large quantities.

Get stuck in reading the ingredient lists of your food. If you don’t recognise the name of something as food– it’s probably not great. As a rule of thumb, anything labelled fat free, sugar free etc – think chemical weapon!

It’s also likely that if additives are being included these are to compensate for the food being of poor quality or to give it a super long shelf life – these are not going to be nutritionally rich foods!

Make it yourself

There are so many health advantages to preparing food in your own kitchen, I could write an entire article!

Frequently, packaged food is made with a completely different agenda to the food you make yourself. The aim is often to boost profits and make incredibly cheap ingredients taste good – not to nourish you.

Often the homemade version of most foods will be lower in salt, fat and sugar as well as countless other chemicals. Obviously, that loaf of bread or bowl of coleslaw you make at home doesn’t need to stay fresh on a shelf for several weeks so there’s no need for a host of preservatives and stabilisers.

Stick to fresh foods with their own flavours and then there’s no need for the extras!

Stay inspired

Surround yourself with books, films, websites, ideas and articles to keep your motivation up. You generally won’t sit down to eat a huge bag of crisps or a massive bar of chocolate straight after watching a documentary on healthy eating!

Talk to friends about the changes you want to make and connect with those who already follow similar paths. Try swapping recipes for extra ideas.  Inspiring each other is powerful!

Start by putting together a list of healthy foods that you love – there’s loads to go at. Think about your favourite fruits, vegetables, dips ,sauces etc and start there.

Making a permanent change takes time and being interested and inspired makes the process so much more enjoyable.

Once you start to eat not just good food but great food, there’s no going back!

Curried lentil soup

This soup is comfort food at its best – warming, rich and gently spiced. Perfect for a cold day when you need a little pick me up.

This recipe is loosely based on a retro seventies mulligatawny only minus the meat and adding in a few more spices. As well as tasting great the extra coriander and cumin give the soup an anti-inflammatory boost, while the garlic lends a helping hand to the immune system.

Try letting your garlic stand for around 10 minutes after chopping before cooking to allow the allicin to build. Allicin is one of the sulphurous compounds in garlic that is both antibacterial and antifungal, so a fantastic addition to the diet. Interestingly microwaving kills off almost all of garlic’s helpful properties – so stick to the saucepan!

Cook this super low and slow for best results, so the lentils break down and the potatoes soften to almost crumbly. This makes for a smooth and beautifully silky textured soup. Go for any type of stock you like here – I always use veggie but chicken or beef would also work.

  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2.5cm fresh ginger
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 170g red lentils
  • 1.5 litres stock
  • 30g basmati rice
  • 1 tbsp mango chutney

Finely chop the onion and garlic cloves then grate the piece of fresh ginger. Chop the potatoes into small cubes.

Transfer the vegetables to a heavy based pan and add the cumin, coriander, turmeric and curry powder.

Gently rinse the lentils in cold water and add to the pan with the stock.

Bring everything to the boil and then simmer on a very low heat for around 1 hour. Meanwhile cook the basmati rice according to packet instructions.

When ready the soup should be thick, smooth and golden. At this point add the basmati rice and stir in the mango chutney.

Serve with a little fresh coriander.


Raw nut and seed bars

Its snack time!

There are always times when no matter how hard you try you just need to eat something between meals. A little preparation goes a seriously long way and having something healthy and delicious to snack on is essential.

These bars are super delicious and contain an absolute powerhouse of a dried fruit – the goji berry. These tiny berries are packed with around 500 times more Vitamin C per gram than oranges and are a great source of Vitamins A, B1, B2 and B6. They also contain ten times the antioxidant content of blueberries so they are fab for boosting skin health. The fresh berries deteriorate quickly so drying preserves their nutrient value.

There are some great bars out there to buy but so many are loaded with additives, preservatives and sugars – some almost as much as a bar of chocolate (so then you might as well have the chocolate…)

These bars take only five minutes to make and you can freestyle with any nuts or seeds you have kicking around. They’re great when you’re craving something sweet and a piece of fruit won’t quite cut it! Have a go.

160g dates
350g nuts, any type
50g seeds, any type
50g goji berries
75g oats
100g smooth nut butter
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp agave syrup/honey
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Cover the dates in hot water and leave to soak for at least 30 minutes, until soft.

Line a 25 x 25cm tin with parchment or greaseproof paper.

Place the nuts, seeds and oats in a food processor and whizz until chopped and mixed well.

Add all the other ingredients and mix until combined.

Transfer to the prepared tin and press down well until even. Place in the fridge to chill.

Cut into squares and transfer to an airtight container. Store in the fridge.

Pimp it up!! Drizzle over some melted dark chocolate. Take the cocoa solids as high as you dare!

Raw cacao? Isn’t it just cocoa?

Well the quick answer is both yes and no!

Most commercial cocoa powder is produced via the Dutch method meaning it’s been heated up to around 150C. That and the potential chemical solvents involved in the process mean many of the nutrients and antioxidants do not survive.

Raw organic cacao on the other hand is not subjected to temperatures exceeding 40C meaning that all the lovely vitamins and minerals remain.

So, what are the benefits of going raw when it comes to chocolate?

For starters raw cacao is packed full of antioxidant flavonoids – 40x more than blueberries and 21 times more than green tea!

It’s super rich in magnesium and one of the highest plant-based sources of iron. The presence of phenethylamine and anandamide also deliver mood boosting and anti-depressant properties.

Of course the main added benefit is that it tastes great, and fun part is finding your favourite way to use it.

We all fancy a sweet treat every now and again and this recipe delivers on taste and nutrition. Its a simple pudding that combines cacao, avocado and banana and adds a touch of extra sweetness from dates so no refined sugar involved.

There are a thousand avocado puddings out there, but this is the best I’ve ever tasted by far. Extensive research has been undertaken, so see what you think!

Raw Cacao Avocado Pudding

  • 85g dates, stoned
  • 2 ripe medium avocados
  • 2 ripe medium bananas
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)

Makes around six small puddings

Soak the dates in warm water for around 30 minutes to soften, then drain.

Place the avocados, bananas and soaked dates in a blender and pulse until smooth.

Add all the other ingredients and blend again until everything is combined and the pudding has a silky texture.

Transfer to small serving dishes and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

To add texture try serving with a sprinkling of goji berries, raw cacao nibs, toasted nuts or some bee pollen – really whatever you fancy!

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