I sometimes think that onions are overlooked when it comes to soup, but a good bowl of well made onion soup is an absolute joy and extremely nutritious!
Onions are great infection fighters and immune boosters and this is exactly the time of year that we need a wee boost, with all the stress of Christmas preparations, the cold and damp weather and for most of us too much alcohol, chocolate, and junk food. Add to that too many late nights and an never ending to do list, all of which depletes our immune system leaving us vulnerable to whatever bugs are doing the rounds!
But not to worry, onions to the rescue!
I came across this soup recipe in a Sunday magazine and loved the simplicity of it. The onions are simply oven roasted with some herbs, until they are deliciously sweet and tender and then blended with some good quality veggie stock! I use Kallo organic stock cubes or Marigold Bouillon Powder.
Voila, soup done!
The trick is to let the onions roast until they are really soft and deep gold in colour
There are so many varieties of onions! I recently bought some rather lovely pink onions so I used a mixture of pink, red and white onions in my soup but any combination would work.
Onion soup is traditionally served with a slice of toasted bread and cheese on the top but I would rather have a nice slice of sourdough on the side!
I am a big fan of simple recipes that pack a punch in the flavour and nutrition stakes and that's exactly what this soup does. Onions are a staple in most folks kitchen so this soup can be thrown together anytime!
It is absolutely delicious and is a definite contender for Festive entertaining, it's that good!
So without further rambling, here is the simple recipe!
Luxurious Onion Soup
....your health in your hands......
I came across this recipe a few weeks ago over at Jessicainthekitchen.com a great blog promoting real wholesome plant based food. Jessica is American, hence the original name Cauliflower Buffalo Wings! Americans are big on chicken wings and eat loads of them, usually deep fried, and extremely unhealthy and produced under terrible conditions. There is nothing healthy about the way these chickens are raised, and cheap food is produced at a real cost to the poor suffering animals and ultimately to our health, if we choose to eat them.
So my plea is to please try these cauliflower ones instead and leave the chicken wings off your plate!
Someone commented on Twitter about Cauliflower having wings, when I shared my photo a few days ago. It made me laugh when they suggested that perhaps you needed to buy GM cauliflower for the wings! Made me think Crispy Cauliflower Wings is a bit of a stupid name so I am renaming them Crispy Cauliflower Bites!
These are just the most delicious, crispy, flavoursome and healthy finger foods on the planet! Perfect food for sharing and you can dip them in whatever dip or sauce you fancy!
These are perfect for movie night or a wee pre dinner snack, they are so nutritious you could eat the lot yourself! I genuinely think you could persuade a few vegetable haters to try these or even fussy kids !
Please leave me a comment if you manage it!!
I love cauliflower and it has a long season in the UK so readily available and locally grown for quite a few months of the year. I should just add that cauliflower is a bit of a superstar in the health stakes. Its a great source of vit C, vit K, B vitamins, omega 3 fats, magnesium, antioxidants and phytonutrients which protect against cancer. It contains choline for brain health, its anti inflammatory,supports the digestive system and detoxification.
So quite a few reasons to eat it! I do think that cauliflower tends to get overlooked for its brighter cousin broccoli, but to be honest it has almost as many health benefits! I guess you could make these with broccoli or romanesco too!
These are miles away from soggy cauliflower florets dripping in artery clogging cheese sauce and are so simple yet so nutritious and healthy!
They do have a cheesy flavour but it comes from Nutritional Yeast Flakes, which are a godsend for vegans who like cheesy flavour without the dairy!
I would advise everyone to go and buy some, they are packed with all the B vitamins, iron, zinc and protein, and cost around £3.75 from any health food store. In my opinion these are way better than a B vitamin supplement. B vitamins are crucial for energy production and dealing with stress so we could all benefit from them!
I also use them to make the most delicious Vegan Almond Parmesan, which is packed with flavour and nutrition, from seaweed flakes, garlic, lemon rind, sea salt and ground almonds! Very handy and versatile and way better than old smelly socks parmesan!
So back to the recipe, you need a medium to large cauliflower, broken into bite sized florets. The trick with these is to dip the florets in batter then into breadcrumbs for a fantastic crunchy coating that sticks! They are then simply baked in a hot oven for 20 to 30 minutes so no faffing about with hot oil. I really detest deep frying anything, I just hate the smell of hot oil and it seems to cling to my clothes so I smell all greasy and horrible!!
Oven baking is far healthier too so that's always my preferred cooking method for anything crunchy.
The batter is just flour and plant based milk, with seasoning. I added cumin, smoked paprika, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to mine but you could add any herbs or spices you like! Top tip from Jessica, if your cauliflower florets are wet, the batter won't stick, so I didn't wash mine I just wiped it with damp kitchen roll!
I always have a bag of breadcrumbs in the freezer. I just blitz any leftover bread in my food processor for instant breadcrumbs. At Nourished by Nature nothing is wasted and since I am always baking lots of sourdough, I generally have spare! And mine is all organic which is even better! I also cut spare sourdough into cubes, freeze them, then oven bake them with some oil and herbs for excellent crunchy croutons!
So to recap these are simply cauliflower florets, dipped in a flour/milk batter, seasoned anyway you like, coated in breadcrumbs, then baked in a hot oven!
You can make a gluten free version using gluten free flour and breadcrumbs. Chickpea flour is naturally gluten free. Doves farm produce decent gluten free flour too.
Serve with any dipping sauce, chilli sauce, guacamole, tomato salsa or even good old tomato ketchup! I served mine with fermented tomato ketchup, sweetened with maple syrup and naturally fermented for a probiotic hit and fantastic flavour!
I will share the recipe soon!
I also made a tamari/maple/tomato dip which tasted great, it just didn't look good in the photo, it was brown!! If you want to make it, just use equal amounts of tamari/maple syrup and tomato puree. Loosen it up with some oil and add crushed garlic and sea salt!
So here is the very simple recipe....
CRISPY CAULIFLOWER BITES
.......your health in your hands........
Okay this week I'm hanging onto the remnants of summer and sharing another fabulous recipe from the One World Vegan Retreat.
This is just summer in a pan and reminds me of warm sunny days!
I think we are all aware that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest and this dish originates from sunny Spain so join the ranks of the healthy and make this fantastic dish a regular part of your repertoire!
It is a real crowd pleaser, it's so colourful and tastes amazing!
Fiesta relates to the wonderful colours of all the veggies. Eat the rainbow for vibrant good health and this paella has all the colours, as you can see from my vibrant photo!
We have made it twice since the retreat and it is delicious. You can vary the veggies according to what you have available and your personal tastes. We have used cubed aubergine instead of fennel, mushrooms could easily replace artichokes, since they are a bit of an acquired taste but I rather like them!
Most supermarkets sell artichokes in a jar, usually beside the antipasti, sun dried tomatoes and olives, I bought mine from Aldi and they are a great price and perfect for this dish.
You can add frozen peas or sweetcorn instead of the beans and/or fennel and just leave the artichokes out if you don't like them.
Flavour is provided by smoked and sweet paprika, two of my favourite spices! Oh and turmeric for amazing health benefits and colour and garlic just because it adds amazing flavour and is natures antibiotic! Great to include loads of it as we move into colder weather, and who wants to succumb to colds and flu, most definitely not me!
It is essential when making paella to use the right kind of rice! You need short grain white rice or paella rice, most supermarkets stock it. It's different to risotto rice which is stickier and not what you want. Gloopy paella is not great!
A top tip from Lee, don't stir your paella, its not like risotto! This is a good thing which makes this a perfect dinner party dish! No standing over a hot stove while your guests are knocking back the wine! There is actually wine in this so a great reason to crack open a bottle and have a wee glass while you are prepping all your veggies!
This is a wonderful dish to take straight to the table, it has a real wow factor and can easily be served at the table. Some delicious artisan bread is a lovely accompaniment and of course a nice big glass of wine!
I served mine with a 3 day fermented delicously tangy freshly baked spelt sourdough!
Yum and extra brownie points for me! I also used my homegrown wee yellow tomatoes, my other tomatoes are all still green! I will be making some green tomato chutney and fermented green tomatoes, I have loads of them! Maybe my next blog post....
Here is the recipe.....
Ingredients - Serves 4 to 6
.....your health in your hands.....
I am frequently asked when I am writing a book, if I am writing a book or if already have one and the answer to that is not any time soon, probably never and no!
Biggest procrastinator right here......
Anyway one of the reasons I started the blog was to share recipes and knowledge freely with anyone interested in eating plant based for health.
There are so many amazing books on plant based & vegan cooking that it becomes overwhelming and in all honesty we don't need hundreds of different recipes. Most folks buy cookery books then never make anything and I have to admit even I am guilty of that but in my defense I buy a lot of books, for research purposes!
My favourite authors are Lee Watson, Aine Carlin and Anna Jones who all have amazing cookery books and I'd highly recommend them.
I have to say that I love nothing better than settling down to read a new cookery book, its one of lifes pleasures, and planning which recipes to try first. I am old fashioned in that I prefer a good old book made of paper than on line or e books but there is a place for them and to be honest its much easier to upload a wee selection of recipes.
I am always drawn to healthier options and will often adapt recipes to make them more healthy. The majority of the recipes I share are vegan and in fact all of the recipes in my wee e book are vegan.
So this brings me back to this wee E book, which I have to admit, Jenna my rather creative daughter put together for me!
I would never have got around to it, technology is not my thing and it would be beyond my capabilities to format and put this book together, so big thanks to Jenna for doing it for me.
We all have strengths and weaknesses and no one is good at everything. I prefer to focus on what I am good at and not stress out about the things I'm not!
In my opinion, asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness!!
Jenna put a similar wee book together many years ago when she was raising money to go to Sri Lanka and India to volunteer with street kids.
In true Jenna style, she didn't want to just do the usual sponsored event, so decided to focus on her strength at the time, which was her passion for vegan cooking.
She hosted vegan dinner parties and just asked people to pay what they thought it was worth.
They were a huge success and everyone loved the food, even though there was not one vegan among them!
Jenna put together a fab wee book with her recipes, and some lovely photos and quotes, and we sold 150 of them. Everyone who attended the dinner parties bought at least one and most people ordered an extra one. I still have the book and I always said if I ever did get around to writing a book, I would keep it simple and follow Jennas format.
Tried and tested family favourite recipes, all simple but delicious and healthy, with lovely photos and a few wee favourite quotes, which is exactly what this book is.
The photographs with the quotes are Jennas. She is also an ace photographer!
Back to the book, it has 4 sections;
Nourishing Soups & Salads
and there is a very useful Cupboard Essentials List at the beginning, with all you need to stock up a healthy kitchen.
The last page of the book lists all the recipes in Categories with links to each individual recipe which is a useful way to find your favourites and save you time scrolling through the whole book!
Its really simple to download the book, just click on the link above the Subscribe box and the book will magically be downloaded to your device!
Alternatively, you can print the book out!!
Our health is our greatest asset and there is no time like NOW, to introduce healthier options.
I can guarantee that all the recipes in the book are absolutely delicious and will wow your taste buds, nourish and energise your body and impress your family and friends!
You have nothing to lose and lots to gain so go ahead and download the book, remember its free and you will give you access to lots of my favourite recipes in one place!
You can also Subscribe to the blog, if you haven't already, so you won't miss any new recipes. Just put your details in the boxes and click Subscribe and you're all signed up!
I would appreciate any feedback from anyone who downloads my wee book!
....your health in your hands....
Well since the vegan cooking retreat in Wales, I have discovered a love of smoky flavoured food!
Smoky flavours are big in Mexican food and we had a whole spread of chilli, bean, dishes to eat our way through! It wasn't difficult, the food was all delicious!
The main ingredient to impart a smoky flavour is smoked paprika, quite different to sweet paprika or normal paprika. It generally comes in a wee square tin and is a lovely deep red colour. A little goes a long way! This is a store cupboard essential in our house.
Jenna spent a few months in Mexico last year and just loved all the vibrant food. Chillies are a big part of the cuisine and there are so many varieties, some of them extremely hot! I am a total chilli wimp and really can't handle hot food, unless I have some cooling yoghurt or a big jug of cold water!
Anyway, back to these delicious and so simple big portobello mushrooms with a lovely smoky marinade.
These literally take 5 minutes to prepare, then they are cooked in the oven, no faffing about with hot frying pans! I like to make life as simple as possible and will always choose to oven bake rather than fry foods in oil. Oven baked is healthier too so another reason to use this method.
I love mushrooms of all varieties but the big portobello mushrooms are fabulous sliced and marinated, they almost taste meaty so make a great alternative to animal protein.
Mushrooms are a great source of protein, fibre, iron, zinc, selenium, folate, B vitamins and are low in carbohydrates so are always a healthy choice.
So back to this extremely simple recipe! I kind of made it up and it worked so well I've made it a few times! Great when you need a meal in a hurry and this tastes and looks good enough to serve up at a dinner party!
I have served them on a bed of sweet potato mash and also on a pea & mint puree, both delicious drizzled with any extra marinade.
You can use a mixture of mushrooms, you will need around 500g or around 6 big portobello mushrooms for 4 people. They do tend to shrink a bit when cooked!
I really hope you give this a go, its so easy and tastes delicious! You can impress your friends and family with a healthy meat free main!
So here is the very simple recipe.....
Smoky Portobello Mushrooms
......your health in your hands.....
I've just returned from a fab vegan cooking retreat in the beautiful Welsh countryside, run by my awesome cool dude pal Lee Watson of The Beach House Kitchen and author of my favourite vegan cookbook Peace & Parsnips!
The theme was recipes from around the world, focusing on Lees favourite places, and believe me he has been everywhere, cooking with locals and picking up tips, spices and recipes on his travels.
I am planning to share my favourites from the retreat but I'm heading off to The Lake District with Jenna today, sadly she is going to work in a beautiful vegetarian B & B, so I'll have to do all my own cooking!!
So since I came home I have made this delicious soup from Indonesia since I had all the ingredients to hand so I'm sharing this first!
This soup is packed with flavour from coconut, turmeric, ginger and basil and full of the most health giving ingredients quinoa, kale, squash and lentils! Its literally a meal in a bowl, packed with fibre, protein, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and good fats!
Everything a body needs to stay healthy and it tastes amazing!!
This is definitely comfort food at its best, warming, nourishing and delicious! Just what we need more of as the weather changes and we head into autumn.
Although to be honest our weather is so bad that I make soups all year round!!
Soup is also very easy to digest and simple to make so another two reasons to make it! This one is also gluten free!
Anyway without further ado, here is the recipe....
SULAWESI QUINOA & SQUASH SOUP
.......your health in your hands.....
Well I can't believe that the summer holidays are over and the kids are all back at school! It's not been much of a summer, although we have made the most of it! We are now the proud owners of an old classic VW Camper Van called Bruce and I just love him. Its so much fun, its like camping but all nice and cosy with a pull out cooker, a really comfy bed, an excellent cool box and loads of storage for all our stuff.
I have decided to extend my holidays until October to make the most of Bruce before the weather changes and the nights are shorter! I'm so good to myself!
We are going to a 3 day Festival in Inveraray at the beginning of September which I'm most excited about!
I'm also heading back to Wales to another Vegan Cooking Retreat run by my cool dude buddy Lee Watson of Peace & Parsnips fame, my favourite vegan cookery book!
So lots to look forward to and enjoy, lucky me!!
I have a blessed life indeed.
So back to sharing some healthy recipes with you lovely people!
Another of my healthy obsessions is cookery books and the latest addition to my collection is;
Veggie Desserts and Cakes by Kate Hackworthy
so for my first blog post in a while I thought I'd share a really simple recipe from her book.
I love veggies and eat shed loads of them so this book appealed to me big time!
I think we are all familiar with Carrot Cake, but this book takes the use of veggies in cakes to new levels! Parsnips, beetroot, cauliflower, kale, peas, sweet potatoes, aubergine, spinach, swede, and sweetcorn all get a mention!
I'm all for using sweet veggies in cakes but I'm yet to be convinced by cauliflower and kale!!
I once made a chocolate and cauliflower cake for the BBC Kitchen Cafe Programme which I was a guest on. The very smell of it was awful and was not improved by the most luscious chocolate frosting. I couldn't even try it, the cauliflower smell was so strong and off putting! Maybe I just used a particularly strong cauliflower but I thought at the time that some things are just wrong and cauliflower and cake is one of them!! So needless to say I won't be trying that again!
On the plus side, there are many lovely recipes to try, so I thought I'd start with these Beetroot Seedy Squares! I'm a big fan of beetroot and always have a few vacuum packs in the fridge.
I adapted the recipe a bit, I used half the amount of beetroot and rolled them into balls instead of cutting them into squares. Beetroot although sweet has a strong earthy taste which can be overpowering and I didn't want to make a whole batch then discover that no one liked them! I can't stand waste so I played it safe and I'm delighted with the results. These wee bites are a lovely colour so I decided not to roll them in seeds or coconut. I like them bare!! The beetroot flavour is very subtle and perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the dates. Mixed seeds, ( I used sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and linseeds ) add texture, loads of good fats, protein and minerals, oats contain soluble fibre and dates are just packed with everything a body needs!
So these wee nutrient dense power bites make a delicious healthy snack at any time of day or when you feel in need of an energy boost!
Also great for packed lunches and hungry kids!!
So overall verdict for these wee bites is a big thumbs up! Next on my list are Pea and Mint Cupcakes, Sweet Potato and Pecan Blondies and Cucumber and Lemon Cake with Gin Icing!! I was sold at the Gin icing!!
Kate also has a blog which is well worth checking out.
So here is her recipe, slightly adapted...
BEETROOT BLISS BITES
Makes 25 wee bites
I bought some great bargains at Holland and Barrett yesterday, among them, two bags of lovely dried Lerida Figs!
I absolutely love fresh figs but dried ones are also delicious and perfect in chutneys and this fabulous Fig & Olive Tapenade.
An intense sweet and salty at the same time, totally versatile, delicious, packed with nutrition and containing two fermented products, olives and apple cider vinegar, this is well worth making and its so simple.
Just remember to buy preservative free olives. I used black Kalamata from Aldi and green olives from Lidl, both delicious and a great price but if you want to push the boat out and splash out on some more expensive deli olives, then go right ahead!
Olives are a great source of monounsaturated fats, minerals, vitamins, fibre and various powerful antioxidants. I think we are all aware that the Mediterranean diet is an extremely healthy one, olives and quality olive oil are consumed in large amounts, along with plenty of seasonal colourful veggies and locally caught fish. Not forgetting regular consumption of red wine which we all know has various benefits for our health!!
Figs are a brilliant source of calcium and magnesium for strong bones, fibre which provides a laxative effect and balances blood sugar, and lots of other trace minerals.
This is a great wee accompaniment to tapas style food and pairs particularly well with goats cheese on toasted sourdough bread or to accompany a cheese board.
It has a really intense flavour so a little goes a long way.
This would make a lovely gift, in a nice glass jar with a hand written label!
On that note, this is so good I'm off to make another batch!!
Here is the simple recipe.....
FIG & OLIVE TAPENADE
.....your health in your hands....
What can I say, where have the last two months gone? I have been neglecting my blog and I do apologise!
But I have been having so much fun fermenting stuff and working on my workshops, which are going from strength to strength! This is seriously addictive, I have been researching, buying books, joining Facebook Groups and experimenting like a mad scientist, in the kitchen! Well I actually am a scientist and some folks would say I am mad, especially my family, who have to live with me and all my weird concoctions!
My fridge is full of jars of ferments, sourdough starters, kefir, kefir cheese, whey and coconut kefir and numerous bottles of kombucha!
I have a scoby hotel with spare kombucha scobies ( you will have to come to a workshop to find out more about these amazing cultures, they look a bit like slimy aliens but they create the most delicious, probiotic, health affirming drink!
Kefir grains are similar microbial and bacterial cultures but they look like wee mini cauliflowers and magically convert organic milk into one of the most probiotic foods on the planet. Home made is way superior to anything you can buy and its so much cheaper, once you have the cultures, they just keep on growing!
So I think I am justified in calling myself a Fermentista..., someone who ferments things! I rather like that!
So for my first blog post in quite some time, and since we are in BBQ season I thought I'd share a really simple recipe for Sweetcorn Relish but this isn't standard run of the mill, full of refined sugar relish you buy from the shops! Oh no this is totally different and actually has no added sugar at all and its fermented so its packed with beneficial probiotics too!
You can use frozen or fresh sweetcorn but if you are using fresh try and use the freshest you can. The longer corn sits on the shelves after harvesting the more the natural sugar turns to starch and the big appeal of sweetcorn for most of us is the delicious natural sweetness!
Frozen sweetcorn is generally frozen directly after harvesting, as are peas, so the majority of the vitamins are preserved and the sugars should be relatively intact!
Aldi and Lidl stock delicious supersweet frozen corn, which is a great price too. I always have a bag in the freezer! There is less waste since you just use what you need, rather than opening a tin and only using half of it.
Anyway back to this delicious summer relish! It incorporates a rainbow of colours from red onion, red pepper, courgette and fresh green coriander as well as vibrant yellow corn!
Every colour contains different phytochemicals all with amazing power to heal us and keep us well.
The process of fermenting harnesses the power of the natural lactobacillus bacteria (LAB for short), present on all fresh fruit and vegetables and these guys are among the toughest bacteria out there! Given the right conditions they will destroy any pathogenic or harmful bacteria leaving a fantastically powerful ferment full of these health affirming wee guys!
Magic happens when you ferment foods, problem compounds are broken down, vitamins are made more bio available meaning they are easier to digest, vitamins are formed especially B vitamins and Vitamin K essential for strong bones!
These probiotic foods are so powerful, we should all be including them in our diets.
The main thing to remember with fermenting veggies is to keep the veggies submerged in the brine solution. This creates the perfect environment for the lactobaccillus bacteria to work their magic and keeps moulds and yeast at bay! So wee mantra to remember when fermenting veggies
Under the brine and all is fine!!
The easiest way to do this is to use a small ziplock bag, press it down onto the top of your ferment then fill it with water or brine solution (2tsp salt per 500ml water) to act as a weight to keep the veggies under the brine. If you use brine solution, if your bag leaks, the salinity of your ferment won't be compromised! Remember to put a plate or bowl under your ferment to catch any leaking brine. As the fermentation progresses, carbon dioxide is produced which can build up if not released, so don't tightly screw the lid on your jar. Just seal the ziplock bag and cover loosely with the lid. Also its important to leave a bit of headspace in your jar so don't fill it right to the top. You need room for the ziplock bag! All the supermarkets, Aldi, Lidl, Home Bargains sell Kilner jars which are perfect for fermenting but any large glass jar will do. We save all our jars, especially large ones, olives and coconut oil are our favourites for fermenting. Once your relish is ready, you can transfer it to smaller jars where it will keep in the fridge for around a month.
So go have some fun and impress everyone at your next BBQ with your homemade, refined sugar free, probiotic relish!!
So here is the simple recipe..
Fermented Sweetcorn Relish
So, after much procrastination, I have finally put together an awesome new workshop on all things fermented!
For those of you who are not familiar with the terms microbiome, probiotics, prebiotics or fermentation, let me enlighten you!!
The microbiome could just be the most important indicator of our health on every level. It's so important that it is being classed as an independent organ, as important as the heart, liver, and kidneys!
For those of you not familiar with the term, it refers to our gut bacteria, the trillions of beneficial bacteria that live in our colon. We tend to group bacteria together as bad and something to be destroyed, hence the huge focus on antibacterial sprays, hand washes and of course antibiotics. Now while antibiotics are essential and can be lifesaving, they tend to be over prescribed, for simple infections our immune systems can deal with. A side effect of antibiotics is that they tend to kill off both good and bad bacteria so our immune system is compromised.
Our immune system largely exists in our gut and is massively affected by the foods we choose to eat, drugs we take, environmental toxins, chemicals, stress and alcohol. We are all familiar with the term "gut feeling" The majority of our happy hormone serotonin is produced in the gut, along with numerous other hormones.
Our gut bacteria are responsible for breaking down starches to simple sugars, proteins to amino acids, they produce B vitamins, folic acid and vitamin K, break down phytic acid which can bind with iron and zinc and make them unavailable. So the microbiome has a massive effect on the digestive system. Optimising gut bacteria can alleviate many symptoms of IBS, crohns disease, colitis and leaky gut.
There are literally no health issues that fermented foods can't help with,
autoimmune disease, asthma and allergies, skin problems, kidney problems, depression, the list is endless.
Fermented foods and drinks have been around for hundreds of years, every traditional culture has their own version. Fermentation was used to preserve food, long before the days of refrigeration and freezers. The interesting thing is that traditional processes result in a food with higher nutritional value, increased vitamins, beneficial bacteria and a lot of problem compounds, like phytic acid and gluten broken down.
In our so called modern culture we have introduced pasteurisation to kill off any pathogenic bacteria but at the same time destroying all the good bacteria which could benefit our health, along with countless other beneficial enzymes, which help us to digest and utilise the nutrients in the food. So in effect we end up with a food or product of lesser nutritional value than the one we started with. Add countless preservatives, mostly chemicals and you have another problem, these chemicals adversely affect our beneficial gut bacteria too!
So you can see how easily our gut bacteria can be destroyed and we suffer the consequences. Another important fact to consider is that these beneficial bacteria, if you are fortunate enough to have any, need to be fed and they need fibre, lots of it which comes from plants, fruits, veggies and wholefoods. So if your diet is lacking in fibre, which it will be if you eat a standard western diet, heavy on processed foods, meat and dairy, then your gut bacteria will be unbalanced in favour of the bad guys, which thrive on sugar!
So let me rewind and simplify this. We need to eat a diet with adequate amounts of fibre to support good gut bacteria. Stress, sugar, artificial sweeteners, chemicals, alcohol, antibiotics, environmental toxins all adversely affect the balance of bacteria in our gut.
So what can we do about it?
It's all very well to feed the existing strains of bacteria but what is more exciting and impacting is to eat foods containing lots of these beneficial microbes. It doesn't take long to recolonise the gut and the more fermented foods and drinks you consume, the stronger and more diverse your gut bacteria will be.
Just think of it as having your own wee army, fighting off foreign invaders, pre digesting food, reducing inflammation, increasing your energy, strengthening your immune system, boosting metabolism and creating vibrant great health for you!
Probiotic yoghurt type drinks like Actimel and Yakult, widely advertised as promoting gut health are not terribly effective and contain only a few strains of bacteria, which are mostly destroyed in the acid of our stomach and don't make it to the colon where they need to be to do their job. A much better idea is to learn to make your own much more potent and effective fermented foods and drinks at home!
The TV programme, Trust me I'm a Doctor a few weeks ago set up an interesting comparison of Yoghurt Drinks, Home made kefir and a diet high in prebiotics, on gut bacteria. Not surprisingly, the home made kefir group came out on top, followed by the diet group. The yoghurt drinks had the least impact on bacterial diversity. Home made kefir can contain up to 40 different beneficial strains of bacteria compared to yoghurt type drinks which contain 3 or 4. These drinks also contain added sugar which we don't need!
So this brings me back to my new Introduction to Fermentation Workshop, which covers fermented veggies, including sauerkraut and its spicy cousin Kimchi, Kombucha, a deliciously refreshing drink made from sweetened fermented green tea and Switchel, made from already fermented apple cider vinegar, ginger, lemon and maple syrup.
Kefir, both coconut kefir and dairy which can be easily made into a probiotic rich cream cheese. Coconut kefir makes delicious smoothies, ice cream and salad dressings.
Sourdough, the most delicious, nutritious bread on the planet, which lots of folks with gluten intolerance can eat without digestive upset. The gluten is broken down during the long fermentation process. Sourdough has only three ingredients, flour, water and salt. Compare that to commercially produced bread with all sorts of flour improvers, preservatives and chemicals added. It's no wonder people have problems digesting it!!
The point of the workshop is to introduce all the different types of fermented foods and drinks, along with equipment needed, cultures, recipes, with clear instructions and plenty of opportunity to taste all the foods and drinks, so you can make an informed decision about which foods and drinks best suit your tastebuds and lifestyle.
I can't lie and say that fermenting your own foods and drinks is a breeze, but I have been fermenting for years and have learned from experience so now I want to pass on my quite extensive knowledge, in the hope that it will inspire you to introduce these amazing superfoods and drinks into your diet. I have simplified and adapted methods to be as straightforward as possible. For example Switchel can be made overnight, using already fermented apple cider vinegar, into a delicious drink flavoured with lemon, ginger and maple syrup, with benefits similar to kombucha, which can take a few weeks to brew and requires a culture called a Scoby, which needs looking after and feeding, much like a wee pet!
Kefir can be made in less than 24 hours with live kefir grains and organic milk, its just a matter of getting the conditions right and knowing what the finished product is supposed to taste like and what to do if it goes wrong. Sometimes we can be put off before we get started so I hope you can learn from my mistakes!
I will be running regular Fermentation Workshops over the next few months so please contact me if you are interested.
It could just be the best decision you make for your health!
Dates for April are Saturday 8th and Saturday 22nd, from 11am till 3pm.
The cost is £65 and includes lots of delicious food, book recommendations, instructions, recipes, equipment costs and plenty of support and guidance to start your own Fermented Food Journey!
You can contact me here to book a place. Maximum of 6 people per workshop .
I look forward to seeing you...
...your health in your hands....
A healthy lifestyle blog with green living tips, plant-based recipes and natural health magic.