Toasted savoury seeds

One of the big benefits of eating whole, unrefined plant-based foods is that food starts to taste different – and wonderful! When you change to a whole-food plant-based diet, cutting out lots of refined fats and sugars as well as high-sodium animal products, it takes a few weeks for your taste-buds to change – but only a few. Suddenly, you realise that each dish tastes delicious unadorned. This old blog post tells you more about taste.

But even though natural flavours start coming through in individual, fresh products, how to combine and enhance them to get a taste sensation still comes down to cooking technique. Continue reading “Toasted savoury seeds”

Celebrating pulses

Did you know that today, 10th February is World Pulses Day? And why not, as pulses — beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils – are awesome for so many reasons and play a key role in a whole-food plant-based diet.

But why have they been designated their own special day? As with most international or national ‘days’, it’s really a campaign to increase awareness of the importance of pulses in our global food system. And for us as humans, the impact of climate change, growing populations and food scarcity and security, finding a sustainable food source that provides excellent nutrition and minimal environmental impact is key to our future survival on this planet. And pulses may just be the answer.So what difference can pulses make?

Firstly, they are good for health. And in a world where chronic health problems are on a massive increase, that’s a major factor. Research shows that pulses can contribute towards reducing health problems like heart disease and obesity, a major issue in countries that have an excess of food products but malnutrition (ie: getting too much of the bulk nutrients, not enough of essential micronutrients). Equally, they are great for those populations that still suffer from food scarcity and undernutrition. Because beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas are packed full of wonderful nutrients ranging from plant-base proteins to tiny rainbow phytonutrients. This infographic explains more.

As well as being good for us, they’re also good for the environment. They enrich the soil they grow in, reducing the need for harsh chemicals and fertilisers, which is better for the local ecosystem and waterways. They grow in harsh environments, areas of the world where many things won’t grow, a plus for remote populations. And they also have the lowest carbon footprint of any food group, requiring fewer natural resources. For example, approximately 1800 gallons of water is needed to produce 1lb of meat, whereas only 43 gallons are needed to produce 1lb of pulses. That’s a huge difference.

There are so many different ways to use pulses in every day meals, ranging from super snacks like hummus and falafels, to curries, savoury bakes and even bread. Here are links to some of my favourite recipes where beans, lentils, peas or chickpeas are the star.

If you want to know more about pulses and World Pulses Day, have a look at their website https://pulses.org/what-are-pulses – there’s some fascinating information on there.

So on World Pulses Day, are you going to celebrate with a special dish? Do let me know what you choose to eat!

Last day of Advent

It’s Christmas Eve, and day 24 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar, the last instalment for this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts over the last 3 weeks or so and that they have helped make your plant-based Christmas a little easier!

As it’s Christmas Eve, I’m gifting you an early present – access to 5 of the recipes coming up in my new book Eat Well Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie. I’m so excited as it’s been a long-held ambition to be a published author. Out in February 2019, my dream is coming true!

More than just a plant-based cookery book, Eat Well, Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie is an accessible guide to understanding the connection between the food we eat, our health and the wider world around us. I explore our amazing bodies and how they prefer to live like Baby Bear – just right. It’s packed full of loads of fascinating facts, useful information and my tried and tested top tips.

Of course there are delicious recipes too – over 100 of them. Easy to follow and full of deliciousness there will be something to please even the fussiest of veggie eaters!

As valued readers of my blog, I’m giving you opportunity to have a sneak-peak of 5 recipes and exclusive access to pre-launch offers. Just sign up to my special book mailing list and you will can try out the recipes straight away, just in time for Christmas (in case you haven’t got anything else to do 😉 ).

Sign up now!

Finally, the last thing to do is thank you for being part of The Sensitive Foodie community and wish you all a very merry and tasty Christmas.

Christmas tipples

As well as fine food, Christmas is a time for a little alcoholic indulgence too – some more than others! Whether it’s the office party, a friends gathering or the main meal itself, there’s usually a glass or two on offer. But when you’re following a plant-based diet, or have restrictions due to allergies or intolerances, it can create another whole dilemma, as there can be many hidden ingredients in your drink of choice.

So for day 19 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar, lets have a look at booze!

One of the reasons I started my journey to wellness was to make sure I could drink wine again. That may seem a little shallow, but discovering I had an intolerance to yeast meant that wine was off the menu. And that was very disappointing, but equally a great incentive to make positive changes. It wasn’t that I couldn’t live without wine, it’s just a very social and enjoyable thing. But one of the things I learnt about wine really surprised me – the agents used for fining, or in layman’s terms getting all the gunky fermented leftovers out.

This old blog post explains more, but basically ingredients like milk protein, egg white and isinglass (fish bladders!) are used to filter out the gunk. This means that elements of these are left behind (although some wine makers deny this), creating potential problems for anyone with a intolerance to dairy, egg or fish, or who has chosen to follow a vegan diet. Legislation has meant that labelling is supposed to clearly state what may be lurking in the wine, but this is not as good as it’s supposed to be.

And even if you find one make that seems to be ok, that might only apply for one year’s batch, not another. I realised this whilst browsing the wine in a local supermarket. A particular white wine labelled vegetarian on the shelf, but when I examined the bottle label it contain shellfish. Looking more closely, there were 2016 and 2017 batches next to each other on the shelf. One was with shellfish, the other without. It would have been very easy to pick the wrong one when the shelf label clearly said vegetarian.

Supermarket own brand wines are generally clearly labelled, which is great. The other sure way to ensure no animal product has been near your wine is to choose those clearly labelled vegan. This can be tricky when you’re actually in the supermarket, so do some research before hand on their website. Wine store like Majestic Wine have some useful information about their vegan wines and I’ve found independent wine shops are generally very helpful. Barnivore is still a great resource for getting the right wine and beer (as you can have the same issue here).  If you’re looking for some recommendations, here’s two useful articles that might help –  20 best vegan wines and 10 vegan beers.

What about the expensive stuff, champagne? Although the double fermentation process removes the problem for people with yeast sensitivities, animal products may still be used for fining. But there are well-known brands that are safe to purchase. Check out this great article on champagne, and prepare your credit card for a battering!

Sometimes it’s not the fining that’s the problem, but sulfites. These are produced as a natural by-product of fermentation, so it’s impossible to have completely sulphite-free wine. But extra is often added as a preservative, creating problems for those with a sulphite or nitrite intolerance.  If it’s an allergy then wine is just a no-go area. If a small amount is ok, look for low-sulphite options. Some organic wines fit this bill. Have a look on supermarket websites or Majestic Wine again for options. But remember that sulphites act as a preservative, so will need drinking more quickly. Not often a problem at this time of year!

As for other drinks, most clear spirits are free from animal additives, although I did come across a special Christmas gin infused with wafts of roast turkey! Needless to say, we didn’t buy it. Creamy liquors are not an option though for anyone avoiding dairy products. Good news for Baileys lovers though, as their Bailey’s Almonde is now available in the UK, although it carries a hefty price tag. I will be making my own version again this year – check out this recipe to see how. It may not taste like exactly like the original, but it’s pretty close and delicious.

Whatever your tipple choice this Christmas, please do remember to drink responsibly, particularly if you have a health problem or are taking medication and never if you are the designated driver. The older I get, the less I can tolerate, so it’s important to drink quality rather than quantity!

What’s your favourite tipple? Do let me know, especially if I haven’t mentioned it here. 

5 brilliant gadgets for Christmas

When you start cooking from scratch and creating new plant-based recipes, it’s handy to have some time-saving devices to hand. After all, there can be a lots of chopping, grating and blending involved!  I have a selection of kitchen gadgets, some are more useful than others, some are extras rather than essentials.

I am often asked which ones I recommend, so as Day 4 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent calendar, I thought it might be useful to give you some suggestions. After all, Santa might as well bring you something you are going to use! There’s a full range of prices too, depending on how much you want to splash out. Just to let you know, the photos linked to Amazon are connected to my affiliate account. This means if you order them with the link, I get a little commission. You can of course choose to buy them wherever you like!

If you have a favourite gadget I haven’t included, do let me know what it is.

1) Hand blender and small grinding pot. You may be surprised to see this at the top of my list, but it’s the most frequently used gadget in my cupboard! I have a Bosch one that has lasted me well. I love this kit because it’s:

  • Perfect for blending soups when I’m too hungry to wait for it to cool down to use the blender
  • Comes with a blender jug to whizz up mayos or sauces
  • The grinding pot is perfectly sized for making pestos and chopping small amounts of veggies
  • Comes with lids to keep things in the fridge so you don’t need to waste plastic
  • Doesn’t need much storage space
  • Is pretty cheap for so many functions

2) Food processor. When I first started eating a whole-food plant-based diet I had an old Kenwood food processor, a wedding present that had been abandoned to the back of the cupboard collecting dust. It certainly started earning it’s keep though and chopped, blended and grated on a daily basis until it finally refused to work no more! Needing to upgrade, I went for durability (and Mother-in-Law’s recommendation) and invested in a Magimix. It was a good decision.

I like the Magimix because:

  • It is powerful so can deal with anything you throw at it. The power used varies according to what you put in it as well – clever stuff!
  • It has multiple functions – chopping, blending, whisking, slicing and grating.
  • There are 3 bowl sizes to choose from for different roles and different overall machine sizes so you can buy one with a smaller capacity if you are cooking for less people
  • It comes in easy to clean finishes
  • The customer service is excellent and the guarantee worth having
  • It looks lovely on the worktop.

There are a couple of down sides as well.

  • It’s very heavy so not so practical to move in and out of cupboards
  • The accessory holder takes up space in the cupboard (although it’s very neat)
  • It is more expensive than other brands on the market, but not excessively so for the quality of product.

3) Silicon baking mat. The cheapest gadget on this list, and the only none electrical item. It may not seem like the sexist gadget but once you have one you’ll wonder how you managed without!

When you’re cooking without oil, or making pastry without fat or gluten, a silicon baking mat makes all the difference. Of course you can always use baking paper, but I prefer to have a non-disposable item for less environmental impact.

These mats are durable and fold away into a drawer. They do need washing well if you are cooking with strong odours. Plus I would suggest using a scent-free washing up liquid otherwise it can take on some of the aromas which may not go so well with your cookies!

4) Soup maker. Now full disclosure here – I don’t actually have one of these. But there have been a flurry of these being bought by people who have done my Eat Well Live Well course that maybe Santa might like to bring me one this year!

Soup features a lot in my course, and my upcoming book (which is not out until February otherwise it would be on this list 😉 ). It’s so automatic for me now that it doesn’t take long to chop, pop in a pan and cook up. But if you’re new to it, or have little time to spend in the kitchen, this soup maker could be the answer. You just add the ingredients, press the button and it does the business.

Word of warning – the chopping bit is quite loud so don’t disappear and do something else then wonder if someone is trying to break into the kitchen! It cooks at a temperature that keeps the nutrients intact too. The full-sized ones make 6 portions, so you may have some left over for another day. If that’s too big, there is a small one on the market too.

There are other brands than this Morphy Richards one, but this is the one highly recommended by my group, so I’m trusting their judgement.

5) Thermomix. This is a big ticket item, but could be the ultimate gadget you’ve been looking for. Again, full disclosure – I don’t have one of these as I love spending time in the kitchen. However, if you are short on time, or just don’t enjoy the process, this machine gives you the opportunity to cook healthy, fresh food without being a slave to the oven. The people I know who have bought one swear by it.

The main benefits of this piece of kit are:

  • The machine does most of the work for you
  • It chops, sautés, braises, boils, stews, blends. You can even steam things on the top.
  • Variable cooking temperatures means you have control. Also, as it cooks at a lower temperature, it retains many of the lovely vitamins and phytonutrients that can be lost.
  • You can access a huge range of Thermomix recipes online – although still come back to my Foodie blog for inspiration!

You can’t buy Thermomix in the shops. Instead they are sold through independent consultants. That’s good as you can actually spend time learning about and experiencing the equipment before making the investment. Beatriz, the lady I know who sells Thermomix, will even come and cook a meal for you and some friends so you can see and taste just what it does. Click on her photo to go to her website or send her an email to btriznuez@gmail.com

 

The incredible rise of plant-based eating

If you’ve noticed lots of plant-based eating trivia in the news today, it’s because it’s World Vegan Day. Whilst the rise of plant-based eating may upset some, I for one am (unsurprisingly) delighted that more and more people, of all ages, are beginning to make changes to the way they eat.

Research by Waitrose (click here)  indicates that 1:8 people in the UK now classify themselves as vegetarian or vegan, with many more declaring they are ‘meat-reducers’. I’m sure the irony that the editor of Waitrose magazine resigned this week over his unnecessarily aggressive comments on vegans is not lost on them!

It’s amazing how quickly things have changed in a very short period of time. I think back to when I first started The Sensitive Foodie blog in 2012 – it was all shiny and new then! Now plant-based cookbooks are the third most popular genre and it’s even featured on Great British Bake-off! It’s now much easier to eat out, with most restaurants offering at least one option and supermarkets are employing chefs to develop new ranges of vegan ready meals.

And it’s not just the UK; the movement is growing throughout Europe and further afield.

Whilst detractors may dismiss these changes as a short-term fad fuelled by social media, there are many good solid reasons why people are making the move to a more plant-based lifestyle

  • Health. Basically, eating a diet that’s high in plant foods is good for you. And there’s piles of research that backs it up. In particular, a whole-food plant-based diet can be used to reverse chronic health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease and halt a whole host of other health challenges ranging from multiple sclerosis to cancer.
  • Weight. Eating plant-based food that is packed with fibre helps you lose weight. Lots of people who have come on my Eat Well Live Well course have had amazing success, some losing up to a stone in only three months. That’s eating whole plant-food not refined and processed ready meals. Sorry to be a bore, but junk food is still junk food!
  • Environment. Humans have a devastating impact on the world. The food industry, particularly animal-based food, uses huge amounts of natural resources and produces lots of waste. And an every-increasing world population that continues to pillage and pollute means the problem is only going to get worse unless action is taken. There are many things we can do as individuals to help care for our beautiful world; eating a plant-based diet has the most direct impact.
  • Animals. The internet has helped opened people’s eyes to the reality of using animals as food, something that many of us were brought up to believe was totally normal, natural and necessary. Footage of intensively farmed animals fighting to survive, processes in abattoirs or the heart-broken cry of a cow parted from her new-born calf is now readily available. And it’s making people think.

The food industry is changing too. As demand increases, so does the variety of products available. This year alone has seen a 61% increase in new vegan products on the market.

But a word of warning; if you are increasing the amount of plant-based food in your diet for your health or to lose weight, swapping to vegan versions of processed foods will not yield the results you are looking for. Many of these new products, or ‘accidently vegan’ products like Oreo cookies or Ben and Jerry’s vegan ice cream are packed with refined sugars and fats as well as food-like chemicals, just like their mainstream versions.

When I changed to a whole-food plant-based diet because of my food intolerances, there was much less to tempt me away – there just wasn’t the option. Now it’s much harder and I think I would struggle if my new ways of eating weren’t firmly established. My taste-buds are definitely attuned to whole foods; anything with refined sugar in is just way too sweet and not enjoyable at all.

The good thing about more options though is that it’s much easier to make positive changes. There are more resources available too, from organisations like Viva and Veganuary, on-line programmes and Facebook groups and a whole variety of cookery books. And websites, like The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen of course. My blog has a whole variety of simple but tasty recipes that have been road-tested and work, which is most important.

If you find the world of plant-based eating for health fascinating and want to read more, my new book The Sensitive Foodie: Eat Yourself Well will be for you. Being published early 2019, it covers all sorts of information you may not have come across before as well as over 100 recipes to try yourself at home.

In the meantime, if you’ve started your own plant-based journey, congratulations for taking action that helps not only yourself but the world around you. Happy eating!

 

 

 

 

Top tips for perfect plant-based pancakes

It’s Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day. Traditionally made with milk, eggs and flour, at first glance it might seem pancakes are off the menu for sensitive eaters or plant-based diners. Fortunately, that’s not the case. There’s a whole assortment of plant-based pancake recipes available that are egg, dairy and even gluten free.

Here are three versions on the website you could try:

  1. A simple buckwheat pancake, so gluten free as well as dairy free, more like a traditional pancake and still just as good! http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/buckwheat-pancakes-for-pancake-day/
  2. A lovely thick and fluffy pancake made with apple and maple syrup – http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/half-term-breakfast-pancakes/
  3. If you fancy something even more unusual, why not give these pumpkin pancakes a go? http://thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com/pumpkin-pancakes/

Whatever type of plant-based pancakes you try, there is the potential for disaster in creating the mix or cooking the pancake. So to avoid disappointment and frustration, and to have wonderfully light and tasty pancakes to devour tonight, here are my top tips for a perfect Pancake Day. Enjoy!

  1. If you are making a flax-egg, make sure you use freshly ground flaxseed and leave the mix to thicken for a few minutes before pouring into the pan. You need to let the flaxseed to do it’s magic and help stop the pancake falling apart when you flip it.
  2. Use a good quality non-stick pancake pan or thin frying pan. Pre-heat the pan on a medium heat for a couple of minutes before pouring in the first dollop of batter. This will help the pancake to cook through more evenly, preventing it from either burning, or just not cooking at all!
  3. Patience is key. Once you have poured in your pancake mix and spread it around the pan, leave it be until the surface is covered with lots of bubbles. If you have the heat right, it won’t burn and will be set enough to flip successfully. Go to soon, and it will collapse in a soggy heap.
  4. Be adventurous – plant-based cooking is the perfect opportunity to let your creativity run wild, either with the mix or with the toppings.
  5. Have fun. Letting the kids help with creating and cooking your pancakes is the perfect opportunity to spend quality time with them, as well as help them learn about real food and flavours.