How much is too much sugar? Can spices help? 6 easy tips on when, why & how to reduce.
Juicy complex questions - allow me to diverge a little before I answer… I got a bit carried away this month. Bear with me - There’s a delicious recipe at the end and great tips on regulating blood sugar levels.
Remember the old nursery rhyme, What are little girls made of? “sugar and spice and all things nice”. Well…what was once considered a compliment, could in these turbulent, confusing, foodie times be considered a controversial statement, an insult even? Technically speaking, you’d be pretty unhealthy if this was your constitution and you’d need a truckload of spices to counteract the inflammatory properties of the sugar.
Today we look at sugar and a spice. Sugar, the demonised food, we are told to avoid at all costs and a spice, revered for its medicinal qualities.
So which spice shall we pick to balance our blood sugar levels and why should we bother? Let me start with the second question.
No matter your dietary bent, the cornerstone to healthy eating is regulating blood sugar levels. Our bodies LOVE homeostasis. It means that they do not need to work as hard and this reduces stress (including oxidative on our cells.)
Let’s begin with a quick science lesson - what happens when we eat “sugars”?
We eat carbohydrates or “sugars”, some healthy (vegetables, fruit, legumes & wholegrains) some not so (sugar and refined “sugars”, based on processed white flour such as cakes, biscuits, crackers, white pasta, supermarket breads & lollies, potato crisps, ice-cream etc)
Carbohydrates are broken down in our bodies to glucose (a simple sugar) which is our body’s energy currency. Levels of glucose increase in our blood.
The pancreas senses the rising blood sugar levels and secretes insulin, a hormone that attaches to insulin receptors on each and every cell in our body to signal the cell to open up and let the glucose in.
Glucose is let into the cells and there is a decrease in the level of sugar circulating in the blood. Blood sugar levels stabilise. The pancreas stops secreting insulin.
Eating fats (nuts, seeds, oils, butter) and proteins (meat, fish, eggs, tofu) does not result in an insulin response as these foods do not contain “sugars”.
But what happens when things go wrong in this system?
When a person’s diet is high in sugar and refined sugars, their pancreas has to work harder to make more insulin to signal the cells to open up and let the glucose in.
A balanced diet containing protein, fat and complex carbohydrates (fibre) which slows digestion, reduces the overall sugar load, slows the subsequent insulin response and ultimately helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
Without protein, complex carbohydrates (fibre) and fat, blood sugar levels spike and plummet, leading to fluctuating blood sugar levels, fatigue and lethargy, brain fog, sugar cravings, poor memory and concentration, candida & gut dysbiosis and increased risk of type 2 diabetes and many other diseases (not to mention nutrient deficiencies.)
Tip #1 eat more protein, fat and fibre In other words eat real food. This will help slow the transit time in the gut and slow digestion, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels, helps you feel satiated, keeps you fuller for longer and results in the slow release of glucose which sustains energy levels for longer.
If a person’s diet is seriously high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, over a long period of time, the pancreas simply gets tired and has a hard time keeping up and/ or the insulin response becomes numbed as insulin receptors become overwhelmed by the increased levels of circulating insulin. This can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. This is not good.
Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult onset diabetes but the age is decreasing.
So how much is too much sugar?
Well let’s start with some statistics. The average Australian consumes 80g/ 20 teaspoons/ ⅓ cup of sugar every day. Yep! But let’s get something straight. I guarantee you that 95% of these hyper-sugar consumers would be unaware of how much sugar they actually eat. Most of this is sugar cleverly hidden in processed foods like breakfast cereal, fruit juice, muesli bars, sauces and baked goods. Once you eat this much sugar, your taste buds become accustomed to it and your sensitivity levels decrease.
Back to it. Let’s assume that 20 teaspoons is too many.
In March 2015, The World Health Organisation (WHO) released new guidelines on the consumption of “free sugars or monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.”
Note that sugar present in whole fruits and vegetables is not counted as free sugar as it comes naturally packaged with fibre, which slows digestion and absorption of sugars and balances blood sugar levels.
“A new WHO guideline recommends adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.”
Some would say that 6 teaspoons of sugar a day is still too high and I tend to agree but let’s take a quick peek at how easily these hidden sugars accumulate. Number of teaspoons of sugar are shown in brackets.
Sugar content of some common foods Cereal 50g Kellogs Just Right/ Nutrigrain, Uncle Toby’s Plus sultanas & bran/ Healthwise for Heart (3¾) Weetbix crunch or fruity (2¾) Uncle Tobys Oats temptations, sultanas, apples & honey (4)
Muesli bars 50g - some bars are actually smaller / size adjusted for comparison. Uncle Toby Fruit Twists/ Leda gluten free all/ Go Natural yoghurt fruit and nut delight/ Be natural fruit & nut yoghurt coated (5) Kellogs KTime twists, LCMs, crunchy nut, Nutrigrain, Special K (3 - 4½)
Fruit Juice 250ml apple, orange, pineapple unsweetened (5) Tomato sauce 1 tablespoon (1) Bread, 2 slices (1) Fruit bread 1 slice Tip Top Cafe Raisin Toast/ Bakers delight Dutch fruit loaf (8) Low fat, fruit yoghurt snack size 100g (snack size) (3) Softdrink can 375ml Coke, Sprite, Tonic water, Red Bull (10!!) Tonic water (8)
Remember the limit is 6 teaspoons. And many people would consider these foods as healthy.
tip #2 read labels if you do eat processed food. Let me say it again, Read labels. Remember the % are based on Adult consumption levels and often the upper limits as opposed to healthy limits. (This is covered in my lunchbox classes.)
really good reasons to reduce sugar.
Body does not have to produce as much insulin to regulate blood sugar levels
Protects pancreas (where insulin is made) and insulin receptors against “burnout”
Increased energy levels without the peaks and troughs
Sustained energy throughout the day
Increased ability to concentrate & protection against foggy brain
Helps maintain a healthy weight
Helps maintain healthy skin
Cuts the sugar cravings
Decreases risk of dental cavities
Delays ageing process
Reduces all inflammatory markers (skin, arthritis, infection etc)
Protects against candida (thrush - oral, genital and systemic) and gut dysbiosis
Long term - protects against chronic disease such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and many other extremely unattractive long term health issues.
I don’t personally think that everyone needs to give up sugar but I do think that it sugar needs to be eaten consciously. So, if you really fancy a piece of cake, I say enjoy it and don’t worry if it contains sugar or honey or maple syrup or rice malts syrup - sit down and eat every mouthful and taste it, guilt free - just not every day.
Do worry about high fructose corn syrup, super sweet “natural” sweeteners, artificial sweeteners and hidden sugars. And if you have constant sugar cravings or if you have candida or gut dysbiosis, a trip to the Nutritionist or Naturopath may be in order.
My point is that with all these “healthy sugars” around, even super smart people can be tricked into overeating sweet treats because of their health claims. Please don’t be fooled by this. There is no one “healthy sugar” for everyone.
Overconsumption of any sugar will lead to health issues and no matter the sweetener, there is always an insulin response.
tip #3 eat sugar consciously (and do not exceed 6 teaspoons/ day.) Do feel free to aim lower and have a couple of sugar free days/ week. Try to get your sweet fill from whole fruit - 2 pieces a day (more if you are very active).
Segway back to the spice that we will pick to assist in balancing blood sugar levels, cinnamon. Cinnamon is a spice universally loved for it’s pairing with apples, pears, pastry and all things sweet um even donuts. And for good reason.
Cinnamon is the spice to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine, ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine etc as a warming spice “to invigorate and move the blood”.
Cinnamon slows the digestion of carbohydrates, it acts on the insulin receptors to increase the uptake of glucose into the cells and speeds the rate of excess glucose being made into glycogen in the muscles and the liver. In these ways cinnamon helps to reduce circulating sugars in the blood.
Cinnamon has been found to be just as effective as the first generation diabetes drugs were.
Cinnamon, is naturally super sweet and if you do suffer from sugar cravings (real ones - that cause overconsumption of sugary foods and baked goods made from refined flour not just the desire for a piece of chocolate after dinner) you may like to try Cinnamon tea. It’s a delicious, herbal tea that not only satiates sweet cravings but also helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
tip #4 add cinnamon to your diet
Drink cinnamon tea.
Add cinnamon generously to all baked goods (1 tablespoon in Banana bread) Bliss balls, home made muesli, smoothies, crumble toppings, yoghurt etc
Sprinkle it on toast, porridge, stewed fruit, roast veggies and soups
Add cinnamon to savoury dishes too - it is often used in Mexican, Asian & Moroccan cuisines.
OK need a break? Get into the kitchen and whip up a little batch of these nom noms.
Cinnamon walnuts serving size ¼ cup 2 cups walnuts, soaked overnight in acidulated water 2 teaspoon ceylon cinnamon 2 - 4 teaspoons maple syrup
I do not have a sweet tooth so 2 teaspoons maple was great for me. The husband and kids like it with more. Suit yourself, start low and move up if you need to.
In a bowl large enough to hold the walnuts, mix the maple syrup and cinnamon, add walnuts and ensure they are really well coated.
Transfer to a baking tray that can hold the nuts in a single layer and roast at 120C for 15 minutes.
Turn nuts with a metal spatula. Cook for another 15 minutes.
Repeat this process until nuts are crispy but not dried out. This will take about 45 minutes. Store for as long as you can. My batch was gone before I could even take photos. Actually probably a good idea to double it.
Maple syrup is 75% sugar, but it contains loads of lovely minerals like manganese, zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium, vitamin B2, antioxidants and polyphenolic compounds. AND even if you use the full 4 teaspoons of maple syrup, that is less than ½ teaspoon per serve and because it is combined with healthy fats and protein in nuts, not to mention the cinnamon, the sugars will be slowly digested.
tip #5 attend a healthy cooking class
If you'd like more cooking tips, yummy recipes and nutrition wisdom, there are some great cooking classes scheduled for the next few months including kids' school holiday classes. They all encourage a delicious, nutritious balanced approach to food. Please join me. Class schedule.
tip #6 consult your nutritionist
If you would like further advice on nutrition, including how to eat a balanced diet, reduce sugar cravings, improve energy levels, combat foggy brain etc contact your qualified nutritionist for a private consultation.
Turmeric is a spice with such an amazing flavour and medicinal properties that you’ll be wanting to sprinkle it on your cereal before you know it... but wait as I have some much more palatable ideas. This potent spice has serious anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties just to name a few.
You will have come across turmeric in curry powders, mustards, sauces and cheeses.
With the Worldwide trend toward using natural additives in reducing the complications of diseases (Alleluia!) it is fitting that we explore the addition of common spices to tickle our taste buds, brighten up our dishes and our enhance our health.
Turmeric has been used medicinally in Ayurvedic practice since 1900BC. It also features in Indian and Traditional Chinese medicine. In 1910 Curumin (diferuloylmethane), a poly-phenolic compound (curcuminoid) was isolated as the active ingredient responsible for turmeric’s numerous therapeutic activities, including those of the skin, pulmonary, and gastrointestinal systems, aches, pains, wounds, sprains, and liver disorders.
Curcumin is widely used medicinally as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimutagenic, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-hyperglyaecemic and cancer preventive agent.
Turmeric has been shown to have positive outcomes in the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, oesophagitis, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and post‐surgical inflammation.
There is extensive research to back up the therapeutic claims of this wonder spice and it widely believed that it has potential against various malignant diseases including allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, inflammatory bowel diseases (due to its increased bioavailability in the gastrointestinal tract), hepatic fibrosis and gastrointestinal cancers. Research is currently being conducted.
Turmeric spice is made from steaming, drying and grinding the orange coloured rhizomes of the leafy green Curcuma Longa plant. It is not difficult to buy and a fresh rhizome planted in your garden will give rise to this attractive plant. It is worth noting that whilst fresh is often best, the extraction and drying process actually enhances the bioavailability of curcumin.
To enhance the bio-availability of curcumin it is recommended that 3% pepperine (from black pepper) be taken in conjunction with turmeric.
Turmeric yields 4% curcumin (this is the active ingredient) so 1 teaspoon of 3g provides you with 120mg curcumin, not bad if you’re adding to your diet in a preventative capacity - many studies purport positive outcomes with 50mg curcumin supplementation for cancer prevention. To put that into perspective a high dose curcumin supplement contains around 500mg curcumin.
CAUTIONS: If you are pregnant or breast feeding, have diabetes, gall bladder problems, GERD, have bleeding problems or hormone sensitivity issues please check with your practitioner before taking turmeric or curcumin in medicinal doses.
OK so now to add it to the diet:
Golden Turmeric milk - my commitment to you is solid. Proof of that is in the number of trial golden milks I have endured for your benefit, not all of them were what you’d call delicious. Benefits abound in this trial process of course so I’m not complaining. Turmeric is quite bitter so the addition of sweet spices is a great idea. You could also try vanilla, liquorice or aniseed. Golden milk has a truly earthy goodness about it that warms your soul and hugs your insides.
Turmeric paste ¼ cup turmeric powder ½ teaspoon black pepper 1 cup water 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or other oil of choice)
Combine turmeric and pepper in a small saucepan and stir in the water, bring to a simmer and add coconut oil. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring until a paste like consistency is reached, adding more water as required. Transfer to a jar and store for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Alternatively, measure out teaspoonfuls and freeze on a tray. Once frozen, pop into an airtight container.
My favourite golden milk 1 teaspoon turmeric paste 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon mixed spice 1 cup milk of choice (this bit’s important!) I prefer it with almond or full cream cow’s milk myself and find that with soy milk (no added sugar) maple syrup is needed. But give it a go for yourself. I’d love your feedback.
Combine the spices in a small saucepan and mix well to form a paste. Add a little milk if desired to loosen. Add remaining milk and simmer for a few minutes. Once warm, pour into a cup and drink. Pure anti-inflammatory health.
Thanks to Jo from Jo’s Herbadashery in Manly who shared the original Health Masters Live recipe with me.
Add turmeric paste or powder to your legumes, grains (and seeds such as buckwheat and quinoa) when cooking. 1 teaspoon per cup water. It is naturally anti-flatulent and has been used for centuries in Vegetarian cooking to alleviate unwanted side effects from improperly cooked grains and legumes.
Add to egg dishes - Turmeric omelette- ½ teaspoon paste to 2 eggs, 1 onion, 1 clove garlic, handful spinach and don’t forget the pepper. Cook in olive, or coconut oil, ghee or butter.
Add a thumb sized piece into freshly made vegetable and fruit juices and juithies (that’s a smoothie made from veggies and fruit with the fibre left in).
Add turmeric paste or powder to tagines, stews, casseroles, soups, breads, scones etc.
Rub into chicken or fish before frying or BBQing with garlic and olive or coconut oil.
One more word of WARNING. Turmeric does stain (even the powder) …everything from your washing up cloth, to your t.towels, bench tops, cooking utensils and hands, but rest assured with time it comes out of bench tops, cooking utensils and hands, not so much cloth.
Wishing you much love and laughter in your kitchen.
Summer is synonymous with surf, sand, sunscreen and icy poles. Isn't it? If you have kids it so is. So what do we do to keep them entertained in the looooong summer school holiday? We take them to the beach, slip, slop, slap them, run them ragged, feed then a SANDwich then take them home for a refreshing ice block. Even though I consider myself a label reader, for many years I was completely oblivious to the large number of numbers in the common frozen fruit confectionary that I subjected my kids (and my kids' friends to). I've been guilty of purchasing the pre-packed fruit sticks that you pop in the freezer - I thought they were pretty healthy - you know 99% fruit juice, what can be wrong with the other 1% - Well if you have the inclination, the time AND THE EYESIGHT to read them, this is what you would find in one of our most popular ice blocks.
Just soooo unnecessary. I'm not feeling particularly verbose and one day I'll do a wrap on why it's best not to eat numbers but for now let's just agree that numbers are generally man made flavours, preservatives and fillers to make your food more appealing and longer lasting. What we really want is to feed our kids food that is already appealing and does it really need to last for 2 years on a supermarket shelf? Maybe not.
So all you need to create a delicious, nutritious popsicle for your kids this summer is a blender or food processor of some description. I don't receive kickbacks but I am happy to share that the four I have for various reasons, which ALL work PERFECTLY for this recipe are the $39 Russell Hobbs, the $500 Breville whiz pro, The $300, Kitchenaid blender and the $2000+ Thermomix.
To make 6 ice blocks in the Zoku ice block holders you will need 1 mango, 2 peeled, deseeded oranges and 6 passionfruit. I also use cup cake papers and cups with paddle pop sticks.
Puree the mangos and oranges, then stir in the passionfruit. Pour into the moulds and pop into the freezer. 100% fruit! 100% health and happiness for your kids and your peace of mind.
You can of course make these with any number of fruit and liquid combos. We pour leftover smoothies into the moulds, whizz berries and coconut milk or water, banana and soy milk etc. Let your imagination be your limit. Buon appetito.
It can be tricky to fully immerse yourself in your work (no matter how much you love it) when the cicadas are chirping in the trees spelling long indulgent hammock reading sessions, the kids are competing for your undivided attention(flattering of course) AND on top of that, it seems like simply EVERYONE ELSE is skiing in a foreign country or frolicking in far off waters. One leg is still in full holiday swing and the other is limping slowly towards the starting block that is the new working year.
If like me you follow the foodie blogs and posts, you'll know by now that they are riddled with articles on 2015 food trends. There are many varied predictions on the rise and fall of rising ingredients and hip cuisine. Some made me laugh (the number of authors predicting the demise of kale) and others sing (Nose to tail fish eating, yep if you’re in you’ll be dining out on fishy livers & the like.) So the list thing has been done already.
I have been trying really hard to get a newsletter out… I’ve journeyed from Cabramatta to Alexandria, from Bowral to Thredbo in search of inspiration.
And finally I found it, right under my nose, in my very own spice drawer. I love cooking with spices. Their flavour can transform the most mundane ingredients into a rumba on your taste buds. Nutritionally speaking they can also really add some magic to your dish
Spices have been used for millennia for numerous purposes from enhancing taste and disguising spoiled food to stabilising blood sugar levels, staving off sugar cravings, upping the anti-oxidant content of your dish to providing seriously powerful medicinal remedies.
A simply fabulous summer spice is SUMAC. Sumac, a traditional Middle Eastern spice is a deep purplish red, with a tart, sour, citrus taste. The main spice in zataar, also delish on salads, lush on fish and chicken, can be used in place of lemon and lime, steeped with cinnamon in tea, used as a condiment with eggs, curries, quinoa etc.
But why eat Sumac? Well because it tastes really good AND it’s high in antioxidant phenolic acids and flavonoid and B and C vitamins. It’s unique properties mean that it is anti-inflammatory and helps fight free radical damage which may help reduce the risk of some cancers. Sumac has antimicrobial properties. Sumac also has anti hyperglycaemic properties meaning it can help balance blood sugar levels to avoid those sugar highs and lows. It may also assist in improving blood lipid profiles (think cholesterol and triglycerides.) AND remember it tastes good. In Traditional Iranian Medicine, it has been used to treat peptic ulcers.
Sumac berries are picked ripe, then dried and ground into powder or stored whole. You can buy Sumac at Middle Eastern and Indian food storers and many good green grocers (possibly even is supermarkets although you won't get a good sized bag there.)
So this year, the classes will be full of spices and spicy titbits on why you would be doing yourself a favour by adding them to your food. If you would like to learn more about the magical powers of spices and other whole foods, book into a cooking class and we’ll talk turkey.
Happy spicy cooking. Sumac chicken. I'll pop some more recipes up soon.
Whilst linguistically speaking the cha-cha is "a ballroom dance with small steps and swaying hip movements, performed to a Latin American rhythm. e.g. his feet began to move in an unmistakable cha-cha", the chia seed, like the cha-cha originated in Latin America. Ha!
So why has the re-emergence of this tiny black, white and speckled seed caused so much excitement?
With good merit I say. Salvia hispanica L (aka chia seeds) originated in Guatemala and Mexico in the pre columbian and Aztec periods and are touted for their neutraceutical benefits. The chia seed is well credentialed for its position on the functional super foods' list and has every right to have made its way back onto the dining table.
Nutritionally speaking, they punch way above their weight with 1 tablespoon (12g) of chia containing a whopping 2500mg of the essential Omega 3 Alpha Linolenic fatty acid, 3g protein (including high levels of the lovely Tryptophan) and 4g fibre (hello healthy gut flora).
Omega 3 fatty acids are famed for their anti-inflammatory health benefits including their ability to balance blood serum lipid levels, reduce LDL and increase HDL cholesterol.
Chia seeds are full of phenolic antioxidants including Quercetin, Kaempferol and Myricetin which protect the body from free radical oxidation and reduce inflammation. They are rich in minerals such as Calcium, Phosphorous, Manganese, Iron, Magnesium and Zinc, which translates to healthy bones and teeth, improved immunity and haemoglobin synthesis.
The amino acid, Tryptophan, which is the precursor to one the 3 important mood modulating neurotransmitters, serotonin, is found in high quantities in chia seeds. 2 tablespoons contains 202mg (equivalent to 60g serve of turkey).
Chia seeds are hydrophilic, absorbing up to 10 times their weight in water. This makes them a fabulous hydrator and appetite suppressant. Their high protein and fibre content will ensure that adding them to any dish will decrease Glycemic load (meaning more balanced blood sugar levels.) Their high fibre content will increase gut transit time, assist with the beneficial maintenance of healthy gut flora and induce satiety. But wait there’s more.
Chia seeds are also an incredibly versatile cooking ingredient. Once you learn their magical culinary powers, you will be converted.
Chia seeds can be used to thicken stews, soups, & casseroles, as a base for warm and cold breakfast puddings, as a base for warm and cold dessert puddings, to thicken jams, mousses, custards, sauces & mayonnaises and as an egg replacer (1 tablespoon chia + 3 tablespoons water = 1 large egg).
I have been trying to wean my family off a well known (fairly healthy) breakfast cereal for some years now and I have danced many a cha-cha in the effort. It was the chia breakie pudding that finally converted them ALL at the same time. Alleluia! It is a pretty versatile dish and can be prepared as a raw dish or on cold, rainy days can be served warm. Start with the seasonal fruit, add the liquid base of milk, yoghurt, coconut or almond milk or coconut water. Next add the chia seeds and spices. Ready to break the fast.
The recipe for a delicious chia pudding can be found here
Chia seeds are a member of the mint family and may have an allergenic effect in people who are allergic to sesame seeds and/ or mustard seeds.
Did you know that in NSW alone more than 800,000 tonnes of food is thrown out for garbage collection each year? The average household throws 315kg of food into the garbage each year...that's one stat you don't want to be a part of!That's not even counting what gets thrown into the compost....or the waste from food businesses. It is estimated that this waste of fresh fruit and veggies, meat, chicken and fish, packaged foods and leftovers equates to around $1000 per household each year...mmmm, I'm feeling a weekend retreat with those savings.
We are all doing our best right. We try hard to feed our families economically with nutritious, delicious food. It's hard.
There are loads of reasons for this unintentional waste, including; We buy too much food (think specials, double ups) We lose or forget about food in our overloaded pantries, fridges & freezers. We're scared of offal and secondary cuts of meat. We cook too much and don't eat the left overs. Plans change and we don't get the chance to cook the meals we've planned. We don't plan. We just prefer to wing it!
There should be a self help group for this kind of thing.... Oh hang on there is...
We're also cooking a bunch of delicious dishes using every last scrap of food we bought, we're going to eat it all up and look forward to saving $1000 each year from now on. (That's more than the scrapping of the carbon tax will save you...)
This gem fell from the lips of Matthew Evan’s (Tasmania’s Gourmet Farmer) so I blame him for my penchant for a biscuit with my cup of tea. It’s the bipolar opposite to the boring old “a moment on your lips a lifetime on your hips.” I salute you Matthew Evans but am acutely aware that you chase pigs around the farm and dig turnips form your fields before your cup of tea. I do not.
Since my office and backyard are devoid of turnips and pigs, I suppose a little caution is required when selecting my morning tea accompaniment. There are countless recipes for Bliss Balls and muesli bars but at this time of year, there is an opportunity to take something directly from nature and simply “heat and eat.” This is where the humble chestnut comes in.
Chestnuts are the ultimate “grab n go” indulgence food. As sweet as cake, as satisfying as a biscuit, as filling as a muffin and better for you than a health food bar.
Just one ingredient recipe….Delicious, sweet, nutritious, no fuss.
The chestnut, unlike other nuts only contains 2% fat (so it’s very different to other nuts). An average chestnut weighs around 15 - 20g (plump in season, although they do vary of course.) I think you could happily eat 2 with a cup of tea (more if you’ve been chasing pigs or small children.)
Eating 2 chestnuts will provide you with 17% of your daily manganese requirements and around 6% of your Thiamin, Folate and B12 requirements.
They are also pretty much a gourmet guarantee for success.
All you need to do to before roasting is place the nuts on a board and cut a cross in the top of the chestnut with a heavy sharp knife. A Chinese style cleaver is ideal and pretend you are chopping through chicken bones - non chopping hand away from the board. Pop them in a hot oven for 30 minutes and voila…the shells peel back, the tender nutty flesh warms and sweetens and the goodness is ready to be savoured. Even if you are not eating immediately, they are best peeled when warm - it's just easier.
While they are roasting, pop on the kettle, make a pot of tea and sit back and soak up the earthy goodness of the chestnut and your wholesome cuppa.
The season, alas is almost over so you must be careful when selecting your chestnuts. They are at their peak between March and June. Look for heavy nuts with clean shells. The lighter ones may have started to dry out. You can still cook with these, but they may be better for boiling and pureeing as it adds some water back in. You can spread the puree on toast with some pear or use it in cakes instead of banana or to replace butter and sugar.
Planet saving master stock creates the perfect soup.
One of the perks of working from home is the ability to keep warm and cozy in your ugh boots whilst typing very important documents... Even better is reaching behind you to stir the soup bubbling away on the cooktop eagerly awaiting the lunch bell!
Autumn's veggies are perfect for slow simmering in soups, braises and casseroles and, just as good, quickly blanched in a beautifully fragrant Asian broth.
Soup can be quick and easy or slow and complex. Either way, the quality of your soup will be elevated from appealing to out of this world with the addition of a high quality stock. The best stock, is of course the one you make yourself. It is fair to say that there is effort involved but it will pay you back 10-fold and if you are clever in the kitchen you will make a BIG batch and freeze some.
Your dietary bent will dictate your starting point. If you are vegetarian, omit the chook/ beef bones (really?) This is an important point as you will need to add in another flavour whammy.
Now I must confess, I just reacted to the lunch bell and ate a big bowl of Miso vegetable & tofu soup. One of my exceptions to purchasing pre made ingredients is miso - who’s gonna make their own? Replacing traditionally used dashi with home made fish stock, however, will make the world of difference to your miso soup. The salt content in both miso and dashi is very high and when combined makes one crave Asahi and that’s not good after lunch.
As in any recipe, the better the quality of the ingredients, the tastier the dish. Henschke Hill of Grace makes a better red wine reduction than a Jacob’s Creek. Couverture chocolate results in a richer cake than Cadbury’s. The list goes on.
However, veg that is past its prime is still full of nutrients and flavour and is too good to throw into the compost bin. United, we will fight waste.
It is of course best practise not to create limp vegetables in the first place but to eat them at their prime. Sometimes with the best of intentions, this does not happen. Perhaps you are very social an/ or successful in your glamorous job and you travel at the drop of a hat or are invited by clients to the latest theatre production. Whatever the reason, this is where the planet saving master stock comes in to play.
I do not teach this recipe in my classes but do refer to the practise of freezing leftover aromatics, garlic, ginger, chili, coriander etc for curry pastes and leafy greens and other veg for later use in one of several applications. This is one. If you never have limp veg, then please use the gorgeous fresh variety in the following recipe.
Do not use cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts or kale as they tend to add a sulphurous tinge to the stock and if overcooked taint the stock’s overall flavour.
Ask your butcher to reserve some chicken carcasses for you otherwise they tend to end up in the bones’ bin. Shudder. Beef marrow makes a fabulous beef stock. Not quite planet saving but for a fuller stock use a whole beef shin or a whole organic chicken. The silken shin meat can be sliced and is utterly delicious in soups or sandwiches with some tomato jam. You can also cut it into cubes or shred it and add to pasta sauces or shepherd’s pie. The chicken is not quite as robust but can still be added to soups and used in sandwiches. No minerals are destroyed in the cooking process, so nourishment still abounds.
You can use the bones from roasts such as beef ribeye or chicken and BBQs such as TBone or any others that tickle your fancy.
For a richer stock, you can roast your raw bones (beef or chicken but not fish) and vegetables until golden before adding to the stock pot. This additional step results in a sweeter more caramelised flavour and is excellent when a “brown stock” is called for as with French onion soup or Osso Bucco. When making an Asian Pho, raw bones are better as they result in a clear broth (if you follow the rules…)
When making your stock, just cover the ingredients with water, this way your stock will be more concentrated and the flavours fuller. You can always top it up if needed.
Do not stir your stock as it will make it cloudy.
Planet saving Masterstock the recipe
1. Select the base (do not mix chicken with beef) 2kg bones from organic roast chickens or grass fed roast beef 2kg grass fed beef or veal marrow bones +/- 2kg beef/ veal shin, bone in 2kg organic Chicken carcasses, necks, legs &/ or wings +/- large organic chicken (breasts removed) 2. Rinse RAW bones well. 3. Add to the stockpot and cover with cold water. 4. Bring slowly to a simmer. 5. Do not stir. For a very clear stock, DO STIR Vigorously, discard the first pot of water and start again from step 3. 6. Skim scum form the top of the stock as it forms. This takes about 15 minutes. Once scum has stopped forming, go to the next step. 7. Cut veggies into large chunks. Cooking time is slow so the flavours will infuse into the soup (2 - 3cm is fine) 1 leek or onion, ½ small bulb fennel (for chicken/ not beef), 1 carrot, 2 stalks celery, 1 tomato, 1 - 2 bay leaves, 2 cloves garlic, few sprigs parsley, sprig thyme Double the quantity if you are using bones and shin or chicken to make a bigger stock. 8. Add vegetables, aromatics & a pinch of salt. Do not stir. 9. Add a little more water if needed. 10. Simmer chicken for 3 hours. 11. Simmer beef for 4 - 5 hours. 12. Gently ladle or strain the stock. Easiest in 2 steps. i.Strain through a large colander to catch the bones. ii. Strain through a muslin lined sieve to remove impurities If you wan the stock to be super clear, ladle the stock from around the bones. 13. Transfer to a storage containers and freeze keeping a litre at least for your master stock base.
MASTER STOCK MUST BE SIMMERED EVERY 3 DAYS FOR 30 MINUTES. Use it or lose it. You must feed and tend your master stock, a little like a sourdough starter or those cute little piffles on Club Penguin... Add stock to gravies, braises, casseroles and soups. You can use this stock base to blanch veggies such as peas, carrots and beans. Water used to steam veggies can be added to it. Carrot peel, parsley stems, onion halves, shallots etc can all pop in for a swim on their way to the bin (do you like that?) I had to leave out the compost in bin coz it did not sound right! Any limp veg, can pass through the stock on their way to the compost. Raw or roast chicken or beef bones can also be added, but remember to stick to your original base. You’ll need to simmer for at least an hour, or 2 for raw, when adding bones. Use it. Love it. Tend it. Little steps towards saving the planet.
Delicious, nutritious, organic goodness to help you cane coastrek.
Athletes sometimes find it difficult to eat during an endurance event so it is important to ensure that your body is well nourished in the days leading up to the adventure. You can help your body during your training by ensuring every morsel that goes into your mouth is packed with nutritious goodness. That’s where the eye of the inca comes in.
The Eye of the Inca - launched especially for Coastrek is a delicious zesty bliss ball made with organic whole foods and packed with protein, omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, B vitamins, minerals and best of all a delicious zesty taste.
The Eye of the Inca is low GI for sustained energy release.
It contains protein for cell and muscle recovery & to keep you feeling satiated.
It has B vitamins to power ATP production which ultimately gets your muscles moving.
It is full of Minerals like Calcium & potassium to move those muscles and spare your bones and teeth which act as calcium reserves when your body aint getting enough.
It is packed with Antioxidants to stave off all those free radicals created with the seriously hard workout you are giving your bod.
and finally the Eye of the Inca is full of Deliciousness to keep a smile on your face and distract you from any minor aches and pains or desirous feelings of coastrek completion.
Thanks to everyone who came in for tasting - the final tweaking has led to a delicious Eye of the Inca.
You’ll want to walk longer so you can eat more! These Blissful Balls of goodness are also ORGANIC. Ingredients - all organically certified sulphur free apricots, Inca berries, pepitas, coconut, pea protein isolate (protein powder) and buckwheat nibs
If you'd like to purchase, please head to the online shop