My Blog 2017
The days get shorter and I reach for the slow cooker, trying as ever may new recipes along with a few favourites We have had a delightful time in Greece with our Greek friends and tried new foods and many new experiences, the sea is beautiful in September having been warmed by the suns rays during the summer. A simple breakfast of Greek yoghurt and honey is all it take sto fill you up with around 20g of protein until a light lunch prior to the aperitif time of an ouzo and nuts by the harbour, are you starting to get the picture. It is so lovely to spend time without the distractions of the mundae daily world of home. We had our Silver wedding Aniversary whilst we wre away which consisted of a wonderful stay at a boutique hotel which my darling husband booked, it was a real treat and we experienced a very different style of traditional al la carte cooking. We experienced a delicious goat dish with home made pasta and garlic yoghurt dressing, the bread and fish was intresting and wonderful. It was a toasted crouton of home made grainy rustic bread, with a mustard layer, horta booked in olive oil and topped off with a fillet of sea bass, a little more of the mustard dressing and a few cubes of potatoes and peppers made this a very pleasing dish on the eye. As a congratulations to us apart from the fact we had a delightul table overlooking the moonlit seascape we were offered a free dessert - my it was a real treat, various textures of chocolate and caramel filled the senses along with the locally procuded wine it was a perfect way to celebrate our anniversary. One of our favourites is still feta in filo drizzled in honey and sesame seed.
Following a fabulous two weeks in 30 degree temperatures to get the vitamin D levels topped up to tide me through the rest of winter I have returned to a bland, flat grey skied UK! But my soujourn around the Caribbean on Britannia has given me lots of foodie ideas both on and off the ship. The organisation, cooking and presentation of the meals on board never fails to amaze me , you get to experience the pride and passion of the P and O Chefs along with the best sea views. Menus were well planned and carefully designed to build day on day to prevent any great wastage, for example you may have had pheasant or venison on one day, but a starter will then crop up such as game pie on a following day. The soups on board were delicious and inspire a fresh look at those you make regularly, I tried a chickpea and choritzo soup, delicious pureed creamy warming Mediterranean taste about it Presentation is also key an example was a dessert from the Limelight Club - so so moreish
JANUARY - HAPPY NEW YEAR MAY IT BE ONE OF GOOD FOOD AND NUTRITION, WITH A TOUCH OF MEDITERRANEAN INFLUENCE - KALA CHRONIA.
Last Years Blog - 2015
I have been designing and tweaking some recipes in readiness for my next round of talks for 2016. I dont use powerpoint so I like to illustrate my sessions with food, must admit it goes down really well and always creates a good discussion amongst the group.
The addiitonal of the seasonal root veg is putting my slow cooker into overdrive and as I type this I have lamb shanks [ British ones] and parsnips, onions and a balsamic vinegar based stock on, the smell is divine. I like to support independant butchers and was quite surprised to visit one over the weekend whom I have had delicious local lamb from during the year to be offered New Zealand Lamb shanks, suffice to say they were not purchased!!
LUDLOW FOOD FESTIVAL
With the food and hygiene exams up to date with a good pass rate, I have been talking to many people about the benefits of remembering the hidden vitamins and minerals. Lots of very positive feedback from them and exciting recipes exchanged. The first weekend of June sees my local farm shops food festival, always a great event . Natalie and her team pull out all the stops and have a raft of local producers to share their products and tips with the public - lots of tasters, talking and above all no entry charge - well done Team its a great foodie event.
With the threat of some warmer weather, hopefully the garden produce will catch up and after the average daily temperature of just 9degrees through May, the sun will be nurturing our tomatoes, peppers etc allowing more Med influences to come to the forefront. I am busy preparing for my masterclasses in September and testing my recipes to ensure that they are spot on. Having to tweak owing to the time constraints of the masterclasses.
Foodie meals out will hopefully include some old haunting places, having recently tried somewhere new and had a mediocre meal which certainly didnt have the ambiance to meet the price!
You will see that I hae put June and July together on the seasonal foods, thats because they do tend to cross over a little so rather than deprive you of a full range, as the goods appear on the shelves you can shop and cook accordingly .
Ludlow spring Festival was a great event, again lots of wonderful producers and a real feel good atmosphere throughout the festival. I went along to check out the masterclasses as I will be hosting my own on Friday 11 September this year. I have now finshed designing my masterclasses and they will shortly be bookable via the Food Festival website. Places will be limited to about 20 people which when you think of the thousands that attend will mean you need to book early.
The weather was with us, a few meals out and a fab trip down to the Food and Drink expo at Birmingham, where I met some wonderful, passionate producers. Passionate in the way the their enthusiasm for their product was infectious and I must say of an incredibly high standard. Thank you to you all, which in due course I will mention indiviually however, in the meantime I have been tweeting about you on twitter.
December 2014 and a look back over the year
Having just spent some time in Budleigh Salterton and purchased the freshest fish from the fishermen on the beach, delicious Dover Sole. It reminds me how nice a simple cooked fillet of fish can be, especially when from sea to plate is a matter of three hours. Otterton Mill has got a delightful savoury tea for under a £5 per head which is great value for money. You get a home made cheese scone, pat of butter, pot of homemade chutney and a small slab of cheddar along with a cup of tea - suffice to say a couple of walks along the Otter River tempted us to partake. If you dont do the savoury tea then of course the original Devon clotted cream tea is another choice, and OK I admit we tried that to on a third occasion!!
What a fabulous start to the month with some warm weather and all the new Mediterranean style vegetables which are in abundance, the peppers, aubergine, tomatoes - it all brings out the good feelings that accompany the summer. Having auditioned and been accepted by Staffordshire WI as one of their chosen speakers I will now be bookable via their speakers book, booking now into 2015!!! seems a long way off.......
I've been experimenting with some gluten free ingredients including polenta, creating lower sugar cakes which are coming along very well - just contact me if you want the recipe.
Two weeks in Greece late during June has updated my thirst to include more Mediterranean recipes and share them with you, We had some stunning food inluding a delightful traditional local lunch on the small island of Sifnos. Sunday every week on Sifnos sees the locals following a tradition which has passed down the generations and I feel I would like to share the recipe and let you recreate the ambiance that we were lucky enough to sample. For a family [ 6 people] you will need 500g of chickpeas!!!
Chickpea Stew [ Revithia]
Friday night soak some dried chickpeas in cold water
Satuday morning - drain and rinse
Saturday afternoon - place the chickpeas either into a tradional ceramic pot [ Skepastaria] or straight into your slow cooker, add 3 onions thinly sliced, 6 tablespoons of olive oil, a bay leaf or two and cover with cold water.
The proper method is to take your ceramic pot [ personalised with your initials] to the local bread oven, place it in and leave it to cook in the oven till middle of sunday morning. If you dont have access to a bread oven use the slow cooker!!! strange we dont have a communal bread oven in our village!!!!!
Sunday late morning - retrieve the pot, serve with fresh olives, lemon juice, chunks of rustic bread and wine.
We were lucky enough to eat this under the fig trees on long communal tables all coutesy of Maria from Sifnaika Koakia tradtional village in Sifnos- a superb communal event for which I thank her very much.
Mid July has seen me doing a slot on Wots Cooking at the Newport show, a lovely crowd gathered to watch and taste my wares. The rewarding part of this is always sharing my passion for locally sourced, seasonal food coupled with increasing peoples knowledge of general nutrition so they see beyond the item and know what it good it does for their bodies. Lots of questions followed and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the food and my knowledge and answering the many questions that evolved from my talk.
Now the nights really are drawing out, it makes you feel like being out in the garden and getting your herbs back to edible quality. It seems this year that I hae managed to keep over the winter my Parsley, oregano, lemon blam, thyme, rosemary, chives and mint! that really is a first. I have just repotted them and made a feature of the pots in the corner of the patio so that in the hot summer nights!!!! [ good imaginatiion] you can smell them whilst sitting out sipping a chilled glass of something or other..
I must admit I find nothing nicer than creating a recipe and picking fresh herbs to add to it, rather than my dried stock that I use in the winter. I have also had to re pot my fig, the roots had grown through the pot and it was firmly attached to the soil! so a bigger and better pot has been sourced, its so big and heavy it will now need a crane to lift it!
1/3 = St Davids Day and what a lovely sunny day it turned out to be, perfect weather for the monthly Stone Farmers market, which I must admit is my favourite. All the usual stalls were there, I think more people were there earlier too....Purchases included some fantastic beef from Pimlots, Nr Market Drayton, smoked mackerel and smoked bacon from the Lancaster smokery stall. Bevs pork pie from Stafford , London Rd bakery from Stoke with their low GI seedy bread! [ almost as good as mine - only kidding ] Curry Box Uk, Simon's famous mango chutney [ once youve had this you wont want any other] Debs savoury eggs, I think I have worked my way through all of these now so Deb time for another new creation I think ready for summer picnics! The usual date and walnut cake from the WI stall. I didnt need any more jerk chicken paste from Louis this month as I am only part way through the jar, despite being a little on the heavy handed side with it last week - wow it was delicious but hot, hot hot! If you havent been to this market, note your diary dont bother with breakfast before you go as Pimlots cook their thick bacon and the smell of it cooking greets you so once youve had breakfast, nibble your way along to lunch and buy some goodies and either picnic at Barlaston Downs [ National Trust site with walks] or stay and try a homeade burger or wrap - you wont be disapointed. Oh and for the evening when you are home again take back with you some kalamata olives, feta and one of the local wines on offer - raise a glass and get the Mediterranean diet going, after all its the healthiest one around.
15/3 - the weather has been superb and my thoughts turn to the Mediterranean for one of the healthiest lifestyles known to man.. For those of you who have been to one of my talks I often tell you about how the Med diet has kept me off medication for psoriatic arthritis, and I know that when I follow this lifestyle properly I feel so much better... so I have started to incorporate these ingredients back into our every day diet, during the last week I have experiemented with homemade Greek lamb sausages, Soudzoukakia they were delicious, I served them with wholemeal pasta and my easy tomato sauce. The following night I cooked pork tenderloin sliced and coated with some ras al hanout , which I cooked on a bed of fennel which had a mix of olive oil and lemon juice to braise it with. Mashed celeriac accompanied this. Grilled halloumi with pita bread and some tzatziki dip made a quick meal one evening too.
Firstly, may I wish you all a Very Happy and Healthy 2014, dont fall into the trap of making those resolutions that you simply know you are not going to be able to follow. Did you know that research shows that most women give up on a diet after just 6 days, men last a little longer, they get to day 8!. So you can imagine that by February boredom sets in if you are trying to follow a very strict regime and the general lifestyle dictates that you are going to not be able to continue with this and have a social life. So whats the best way to do this, well approach it the right way and if the goals are achievable ie dont be too restrictive instead of saying to yourself "I want to lose weight" think "I want to improve my heart health, or I want to be less achy, or I want to be healthy" In this way as soon as you start to feel better then that is the incentive to continue.
Whatever diet/eating plan you decide to follow, one of the key things is to ensure that you include all the nutrients to keep your body healthy and funcitoning properly. So bearing that in mind think very carefuly before signing up to any No Fat, No Dairy diets, your body needs healthy fats & dairy, without it you are potentialy damaging your health.
There was a really good article in a daily paper which showed a young couple deciding to ditch the supermarkets and shop locally, not only have they saved nearly £1000 over the year, but their diet is much much healthier now They shop locally, using seasonal food where possible and supporting their local farmers markets. I must admit I do try where possible to follow these rules myself, having to use supermarkets for the hardware for the house really and a few bottles of wine. After all moderation is the key.! and red wine especially has some goodness to add to the overall diet, providing it is only a glass or two not the bottle!
So having spent a fabulous 2 weeks in the Caribbean on a cruise, extending my recipe ideas repertoire, as the food was sensational. It is back to the reality of a cold, wet and windy start to the new year. And like many of you my Healthy eating regime is getting back on track.... Good luck with your new year resolutions, make them achievable and you will do it.
Oh no the eleventh month of the year not only has arrived, but is actually nearly at the end. Sorry I havent updated so regularly but my talks have been busy and I have spent a very enjoyable evening with Shifnal townwomens guild, where they were not only interesting to talk to but very knowledgeable about food too... so all in all Nutrition for Healthy Ageing went down a storm and we polished off some samples of spelt bread, lamb meatballs, no syrup used flapjacks and some other things too. I dont think they went home hungry! Whilst I was there I was chatting about seasonal and local food and I had that day made a very easy butternut squash soup, so to fulfil demand that recipe is now on my website. Give it a try and boost your beta cartotene intake with the greatest of ease.
Farmers markets abound and if you havent already tried one I urge you to go along and sample and of course buy if you like some of our locally produced foods. They are growning in popularity, and how good it is to actually talk to the producers themselves, you know the history of the ingredients, the breeds if its meat and you can find out about their welfare policies and beliefs. It really is great to know you can trace your food from gate to plate literally!!!! If you are there around a lunchtime then take the opportunity to try the produce for your lunch! hot or cold there will be something there for you to eat.
The last weekend in November has seen the Lilleshall food show, an impressive array of hampers using local producers was on offer via HEFF - Heart of England Fine Foods. Oh and as an aside a pop up shop has "popped" up in Newport Shropshire which is stocking some of the HEFF producers goods, give it a go and make up your own Christmas hamper as a local gift for friends.
I've been very active on twitter with various foodie bits and pieces, give me a follow @ninanutrition and you may find some interesting information either local food wise or nutritional ideas........
25/10 Spelt has occupied quite a bit of my time, because I have been talking to people about using it and the many benefits of including it in your diet. I also have experimented with spelt in my breadmaker, something which the manufacturers dont endorse. But time was against me so if I can find a quick win using the breadmaker then all the better for both mind and digestion. Now because the gluten is more delicate than wheat you get better results if you handle spelt less than you would ordinary flour. So using my standard loaf mixture of 400g spelt flour, 1/2 teaspoon of dried yeast, 1g salt, 1 tbspn sugar, 15g butter and 330ml of water. I cooked one on wholemeal full cycle which takes 5 hours and the other on wholemeal quick cycle which takes 3 hours - the best results were the quicker version it was lighter and had a higher rise on it. The 5 hour load resembled a solid, more close textured loaf - still excellent for toast but harder to use for a sandwich. There are several spelt flours on the market, I find Doves and Sharpham park best in the breadmaker without having to add any wheat flour. Or if you want a slightly coarser grain of spelt then Bacheldre Mill flour will give you this, I dont find it works quite so well in the breadmaker without using 300g spelt with 100g white wheat flour. This does give still a close textured but quite well risen loaf.
21/10 - wow busy time, delivered a talk to a local group included some foodie tasters to wet their appetite and all in all it was a great evening, lots of forthcoming questions and nutritional shortfalls answered. One particular query is around Iron and lack of it in the body so I have pulled together some interesting facts and figures which you may find useful if you are struggling to keep those levels up.......
14/10Two weeks in the Mani, Greece have set me up for the winter ahead. The weather was fantastic, people wonderful and the food really was exquisite. We found a new restaurant in Aghios Nikolaos, Nr Stoupa run by a local girl called Elli. She took on the restaurant in June following a period where it had been closed, it has had a complete makover and the ambiance and food is worth going out of your way to try. The pride she had in getting the produce locally sourced, and trying old and new Greek recipes made this one of the best restaurants I have been in. We had actually tried for several nights to get in but it was always full! If you are lucky enough to be in Aghios Nikolaos during the Autumn/Winter she is keeping the restaurant open, she has a great fireplace and whilst the menu will be reduced you will be certain to get some good quality food. Kali Orexi!
Whilst there, the Kalamata olives we ate certainly helped the Greek ecomony too. They are certainly the ones that I always buy even back her in the UK, but having done some research via the internet and from written sources, I understand now why they are the ones to choose. Kalamata olives are large purply black almond shaped olives, they cannot be harvested green and have to be hand picked in order to avoid them bruising. Kalamata olives [ as all Greek olives] are cured naturally, they are not speeded up like some of their European cousins! I was horrified to read about the way of curing olives in Lye for some Spanish sourced olives [ Lye in some formats is used to clean drains!] also the addition of iron to some Italian olives to give them that shiny rubbery black look. So stick to Greek olives, the most you might get is a slit in them to assist the brining process. There are only two ways of processing in Greece, the long or the short method. The short method is to pack them in weak brine for around a week, then pack in wine vinegar, and olive oil often you buy these olives with a slit in them as this helps the brine take the bitterness away quicker from the newly picked olive. The longer method takes on average three months, during this time they are sitting in brine, then rinsed and packed ready for eating. These methods ensure that the levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory are of the highest level possible in your processed olive.
Incidentally I always buy Greek olive oil too as the Greek olive oil doesnt mix other Countries oil with theirs' , it is Pure Greek Olive Oil....
So having left the Greek sunshine behind we are now well into Autumn here and the slow cooker is working well to support some healthy nutritional meals with least effort. There are quite a few recipes on the recipe page but I will be adding to it in due course.
Nine months into the year, blimey! busy time in the kitchen for anyone who grows produce, I was bequeathed a huge courgette [ border line marrow] and was at a bit of a loss to utilise it, until a colleague mentioned that they had made for the last couple of years a delicious river cottage courgette chutney. No sooner mentioned than made! a nice Indian infused spiced chutney, which I am assurred will be perfect for Christmas time. Although I did take some into work and it disappeared very quickly. The recipe is easy to find on various websites if you want to give it a go....
I have also find a little bit of time to watch Nigel Slater on a Friday evening producing some economical dishes from "leftovers" One particular thing which caught my eye was a cheese scone! No not a small one but a large circular one to break and share. I just happened to have some stilton in the fridge which in itself is most unusual but it needed finsihing off so I set to and made the scone, it was delicious and I could quite see how it would accompany a thick tomato or veg soup on a brisk autumn/winter day. It made a delicious change from sandwiches for lunch for several days and stayed remarkably soft and tasty.
Having trimmed the bottom leaves from my cherry tomato plant, I have been sitting patiently awaiting the fruit to ripen, and rather like buses they all tend to ripen at once, so some of these little sweet cherry tomatoes have been added to slow cooker creations to enrich the sauces I have been making.
I know Autumn is on approach when I received a tweet from The Bell at Haughton, in Staffordshire to advise me that my favourite smoked haddock will soon be back on the menu. I must admit I am a lazy fish eater but this is the nicest smoked haddock I have eaten in a restaurant for a long time, so well done Alison I shall be hopefully trying it before too long. Last time I had it served with a chive veloute sauce and poached eggs and spinach - wow!
Sadly time hasnt allowed me to be out picking blackberries, but a posting on twitter from The Black Farmer showed the most perfect blackberries which I suggested once they had filled up on Blackberry and Apple Crumble! they could consider making a blackberry chutney, then I posted the recipe on twitter.. Dont know if that has been made but again a wonderful chutney for a boxing day with a plain pork pie or cold turkey sandwich.
August already! long warm days and they have been so far , plenty of Country fayres, local produce markets to investigate and buy from. Its a good time of year to host events for your friends, and that is just what we have been doing! Rustic meal for Friends from France inlcuded a beef in ale recipe cooked in the slow cooker, with a range of vegetables - finishing off with a rather crispy based lime and ginger delight. I'd like to say that the pizzas I cooked for 12 people who stood around the chiminea [ok it was a tad chilly at 9pm!] were home made but unfortunately not - work sometimes gets in the way so they were purchased but still very welcome by the dozen hungry mouths.
There have been a lot of fabulous foodie events, I have managed my usual Stone Farmers market [ the first Sat of the month!] Stafford Farmers Market [ second saturday of the month] unfortunately we really need the Stafford one to be busier so if you have chance pop along and buy some fantastic local produce, there is something for every meal of the day! and you can usually get something hot and freshly cooked for lunch. I bought some home made pakoras from Simon [www.curryboxuk.com] he specialises in Gujarati style cooking. If you buy the pakoras then also buy the mango chutney - a marriage made in heaven. I found out this month when my French friends were perusing the market that Simon also speaks French - is there no end to his talents.
I took full advantage of the Greek way of life by spending two weeks there during June, I can honestly say their tomatoes are the tastiest so far this year [ sorry local producers but the flavour is sublime!]. So having eaten in a few tavernas, the Panormos restaurant in Fiscardo. Kefallonia serves their own version of moussaka. Now like all Greek kitchens they dont divulge the full recipe but the main difference is the lack of potato and the introduction of courgette instead. All the ingredients are baked together in small individual dishes which allows the flavours to permeate and makes one of the most delicious moussakas I have tried in over 40 visits to Greece. The family deserve to do well there so if you are in Keffalonia, make your way to the Roman Excavations and the Panormos Restaurant is right next door - you wont be disappointed. If you also like a good Saganaki - then their cheese saganaki is different and try one portion between two with their tomato salad.....
So back to the UK and disappointingly the seasonal foods are still running behind, which means that some of the longer standing additions from May are still in the frame for July - I havent gone mad and forgotten to remove them its purely the weather that is meaning they are to remain there for you to still try.
gosh where has May gone, a very busy one for me. At least I managed to get out to Stone farmers market for my monthly fix lots of regulars there Debs Savoury Eggs, curry box, Pimlott beef, London Road Bakery [ in fact just enjoyed a very large roll full of goodness for lunch today!] and far too many to mention. It is a delightful morning out every first Saturday of the month. Now despite May having been Mediterranean Diet month, dont fall back into the old ways now its June. Take advantage of the sunny weather [ while its here] and enjoy those Feta, olive and avocado salads - think of the good omega fats, the calcium, and Vitamin E - what wonderful skin and healthy joints you will have if you eat like a Greek!
Well after a fairly quiet month website food wise, I am hoping to be able to spend more time in May to bring you some seasonal inspiration and new recipes. I havent just been resting on my laurels I have been visiting various places to source good local produce and still I find my favourite farmers market is Stone in Staffordshire. It is on the first Saturday of every month and stretches the length of the high street, you can get your hands on all sorts of meats including, veal, buffalo, prime locally reared meats, artisan bread, locally produced curry and accompanying spices, every sort of egg you could wish for [ well ok not perhaps every but most!] if you are partial to smoked fish the Lancaster smokery brings a tardis like phone box size smokery with them and the smell permeates throughout the town. Actually its not only fish they smoke but duck, cheese I feel you can ask them to smoke anything, but during the market it is usually a full load of kippers which are I assume a bit quicker to smoke and therefore so fresh they almost walk out to meet you. As the month with two bank holidays is upon us, I find we are wandering around garden centres checking out which herbs I am going to nuture and use this year, already my thyme, mint, oregano, curly parsley and garlic are doing well - all these are staples year round if I can keep them going. I think with the warmer weather it encourages me to grow some basil which I use with fresh tomatoes and pasta dishes - making me hungry already.
Finally the hour changes and the days get longer, bringing with it warmer weather!!! well only just starting. The first week has still been cold and leaving you wanting comforting casseroles, but as the mercury creeps up the lighter side of cooking starts to return. Whilst we are not quite into salads yet!!! the slow cooker has a different set of ingredients including peppers, tomotoes, spinach all in all a brightly coloured concoction which is ideal to serve with chunks of free range chicken or a mince beef dish. I like to take a set of ingredients for the basis and then think about the seasoning to turn it into either a Mediterranean style meal or a spicy Indian influenced dish. You can change the end result by utilising and understanding those various herbs and spices that sit in you spice rack. Mine certainly dont sit there they are well used and experimented with.
29 March Good Friday and a bright sunny day ideal for a walk, but what to cook afterwards. Well some line caught haddock is on the menu tonight with home made bread for a rather rustic meal.... Already had the shopping delivered from Greenfields, which included a rather nice free range chicken from Bryn Drew - they always taste so good, so I think a slow cooker roast is in order. Easy just pop a lemon sliced into the bottom of the slow cooker, add the chicken, drizzle with olive oil and !cook....... the smell will welcome you when you get back from whatever activity you have planned for your Easter Saturday. It doesnt need pre heating, pre cooking or anything else. But I can guarantee it will fall off the bone and taste exquisite
25 March - not often two entries in as many days, but with this incredibly cold snap I am creating a chicken and lentil dish tonight with some grainy mustard in it and I think some comforting mashed potato! perhaps even one of my light syrup sponges too...........I will leave the recipe on the main recipe page for now until it gets a bit more like spring!
24 March - having just returned from the Tip of cornwall where despite the weather forecast showing wall to wall rain we have had a glorious week with just one day of heavy rain, the rest of the time has been around 11 degrees, sun and broken cloud so ideal to get out and about walking the coast path. I found lots of wild garlic growing, a delicate flavour with usually a lot more nutrients in it that than the farmed variety. Easy to use the leaves, treat them like sorrel or spinach and steam then drizzle olive oil over and a little black pepper. Great accompaniment to Lamb, you can also chop it all up and use it to make a delicious stuffing mix. So having left blue skies we move "up country" as the locals say and headed off into first the cloud and cold of the East Devon Coast, then up towards the heart of England where from Worcester North the snow fields were visible. Bizarre to start off in 12 degrees of blue sky and finish with -1 and snow!!!! Its forced me into the kitchen upon my return and there is a slow cooker full of lentil, barley and tomato stew cooking for some lunches this week. The scones barely left the oven and they were eaten, no added sugar in these and they work everytime!. Then there is the spelt sponge cake filled with lemon curd from cottage delights and atouch of proper butter cream, supposed to be ready for Easter, some chance - two slices missing already......
Beginning of March-
Just been lulled into a false sense of security with the warm spring like weather, Stone Farmers market was a cracking day good number of stalls, met and chatted to some fantastic people including Park Hill Farm, The Port Lancaster Smokehouse, Curry Box UK, Deb from Savoury Eggs, Bevs Bakery and London Road Bakehouse. Well there were many more too but had I have stopped and chatted to all it would have been a very long day...... I purchased some shin beef from Park Hill Farm, and Pat was telling me their meat is all sourced themselves and sold directly from the farm. I can honestly say it was delicious, it just melted in the mouth having been given my beef in ale recipe treatment, They are on Twitter @ppimlott and they also have a great ethos for which they have been awarded in the past the Countryside Alliance Enterprise award. A week later in Stafford, a purchase has been made of some brisket - another old fashioned cut of meat but absolutely delightful when cooked slowly with root veg, all you need to do is add a yorkshire pud and a few roasties and you wont look back. I was also pleased to hear that on the same day as Stafford farmers market a new one has sprung up in Cheadle Staffordshire and they had a stall there too. Having tasted their beatiful product I will be purchasing next month from them.
I have had some great feedback from my recipes on the website and I thank everyone for that, I am purely sharing with you my favourites and ever be adventurous and try adding different things to a basic recipe to create a different dish with different nutrients in it.
So with a mix of weather this month it seems the root veg are still very much in attendance with my recipes but I have just made a chicken, onion, garlic and aubergine stew to which I have added wholemeal pasta and some cumin - a slightly lighter touch so fingers crossed it tastes as good on a cold day as it would have done on a spring day!!!
Well as January moves into February and the nights are slightly drawing out! thankfully, Christmas is a distant memory and thoughts now go towards Spring and Summer, let's start to really focus on getting the right nutrients into our bodies in readiness of the warmer days. Lets also think about a bit of belt tightening - excuse the pun! For example, we all know that blueberries are full of antioxidants but at this time of year they just have to be imported so swap these one week for a red cabbage - OK it wont mix too well with the yoghurt but it will still give you the same antioxidants at a fraction of the cost. Grate it onto sandwiches, finely slice and cook with mackerel or pork. Or make a healthy "slaw" out of it to serve with your salad or roasted meat/fish of choice. I am keen to promote local foods and to use local producers, often if you follow me on twitter @ninanutrition you will see what is happening in the world of food and nutrition.
Dont put away the slow cooker though, I will show you how to use it effectively through the seasons, it is a very good way of using less fashionable cuts of meat, which are often less expensive too. It also helps you to include your 5+ a day vegetables into your meals.
MID-MONTH UPDATE - Dont be put off Beef with the recent publicity, what I would say is though make friends with your local butcher and buy British Beef. There are many many cuts that are economical and easy to cook. Often the ready meals that you may have been eating can be recreated far more economically using more veg, slightly less meat and there are some crafty cooking methods that mean with a bit of planning and organisation you can get the dinner on the table in about the same time as heating a ready meal up. If you want to try just one thing. Buy a piece of brisket [ much cheaper than a roasting joint] put into an ovenproof dish with your vegetables of choice [ carrots, parsnips, potatoes, chunks of onion], some beef stock [a cube is fine] Use a slow cooker setting on your oven, or use your slow cooker - low temperatures, longer cooking time is the key. I use of course my slow cooker and the meat falls apart. Cheat a little if you like and pop a yorkshire pudding into the oven then your "Economical Beef " Dinner is ready to just enjoy.
SHROVE TUESDAY I also have some plans for pancakes with a difference I am going to use a savoury mince [ I know where the meat is from!!!!] filling, pop into pancakes roll up into cigar shapes, cover with some grated cheese and heat through till the cheese is melted - ideal if you are diabetic or dont like sweet pancakes. I am actually going to use the base recipe from my chilli without getting as far as adding the beans......
END OF THE MONTH ALREADY! Well March is on approach quickly now, the days are drawing out and the seasonal foods should start to change from the root veg to include some slightly lighter leafy greens and a few spring onions. I do wonder though with the strange weather we have had whether of not the seasons will act as they should it will certainly be worth keeping an eye on the local farmers and producers.
Yesterday I was on www.staffordradio.com at 1pm for a Food and nutrition slot, fantastic response many questions to answer from listeners following my first appearance - in fact we ran out of time! But I have been invited back and shall be back on the show 21 April [ about 8 weeks away]
I hope you were all realistic with your new year resolutions! Think Healthy and focus on making sure you feed your body with the nutrients it needs rather than concentrating on losing weight by following diets that cut out various foods. After all we all know Moderation is key! OK we are now midway into January and you may well be lacking some inspiration, check out the recipes that I have added and get your slow cooker primed and working for you! the chilli is a good antioxidant recipe, low in fat and you can serve it with some artisan bread as I did and or some brown basmati rice for a really healthy, higher fibre low fat creation.