Tag Archives: cooking

How to Make Your Own Cashew Milk

I like making my own cashew milk because its rich and creamy and it tends not to split in coffee or tea. I won’t lie and say I never buy store bought plant milks (because I do), but I try not to do so all the time because commercial manufacturers do add rather a lot of extra unnecessary additives. (However, as with cow’s milk, they do fortify these milks as well, so remember to adequately supplement your diet if you decide to eschew the commercial plant milks entirely.)  Of all the homemade plant milks I’ve made, cashew milk is my most successful one and everyone who has tasted it has loved it. It passes my “milk and cookies test” meaning it is delicious served neat in a glass with a cookie for dunking.

Nutrition-wise, cashews are one of the lowest fat nuts with around 82% of their fat being unsaturated, and of that, 66% is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, like the kind you find in olive oil. It has been found that when added to a low-fat diet, monounsaturated fats can help reduce high triglyceride levels in diabetes patients.  (Triglycerides are the form in which fats are carried in our blood and are what block our insulin receptors from activating and prevent glucose from entering our cells, thus keeping blood glucose levels high and contributing to the diabetes process.)

Cashews are also a great source of copper and a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Its also great news that regular nut eaters tend to be slimmer than non nut-eaters and are also at a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, gallstones and Type 2 Diabetes. Just stick to your portion sizes of roughly 1/3 c of nuts per day.

I make my cashew milk quite extra thick and creamy, but if you want a thinner drink, just add more fresh filtered water in 50ml increments until you get the consistency you like. I also recommend buying cashew pieces because its often cheaper than buying whole cashew pieces. If you’re buying in bulk, make sure you store your cashews in the fridge (for up to 6 months) or the freezer (for up to a year).

Ingredients

  • 1 cup organic cashew nuts*
  • 6 cups fresh filtered water
  • medjool date*
  • Pinch of sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (optional)

Equipment

Method

1. Soak your cashew nuts overnight (or for at least 4 hours) in 2 cups of fresh filtered water with the medjool date and a pinch of salt. You’ll be amazed at how plump and moist the nuts will become after even just a few hours of soaking.

2. After soaking, drain the pre-soaked nuts (and de-pitted medjool date) and add them all to a high speed blender with 4 cups of fresh filtered water. You can now add a pinch of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of vanilla. This is optional, but I highly recommend it because of how delicious it makes the end product! Blend this mixture on a high speed for 1-2 minutes, depending on how powerful your blender is.

3. Strain the mixture through your nut milk bag* and store in a jar or milk bottle in the fridge. It will keep for up to 3 days.

Tip: You can save any remaining strained nut pulp by freezing it and adding it to cookies or other baked goods at a later date, however if you have a high speed blender, you’re unlikely to have much or any pulp leftover.

cashew-931960_1920Sources: World’s Healthiest FoodsJournal of Biological ChemistryLivestrong, “How Not to Die” by Dr Michael Greger MD



*I’ve popped in a few affiliate links into this post, directly with Nutri Ninja (worldwide) and Amazon (UK), so if you’d like to support what I do here at Our Little Organic Life, then please do shop via these links – you don’t pay any more and I get a small commission. Thanks!

Gingerbread Ice Cream

Its the weekend and sometimes you just need a little cake and ice cream.  In this case together…in one dessert.  My gingerbread ice cream recipe uses leftover Hot Water Gingerbread cake (though you could use store bought gingersnaps if you were in a pinch) to make a delicious frozen custard.  Best of all, you don’t need to have an ice cream maker to do this recipe.

If you’d like to make this recipe, check it out on my recipe blog by clicking HERE.

Enjoy!

ice cream 5gingerbread ice cream 2.1

Pescatarian Paleo

Okay, like soooooo many others, I’ve jumped on the Paleo bandwagon this January.

But here in the UK the Paleo diet is not quite so much a ‘thing’ yet. In fact, if I had a nickel for every blank look I’ve received when I’ve said I’m doing Paleo, well, I’d have a few nickels at least. (But hey, I live in the UK, so what good are nickels to me?)

So, what IS the Paleo diet? Well, its based on the premise that our guts haven’t really evolved much in the last 15,000 years so we’re really better off eating what our Paleolithic ancestors ate, including fish, grass-fed pasture-raised meats, eggs, vegetables & fruit, fungi, roots and nuts. Things you can’t eat are grains, legumes, dairy, (white) potatoes, refined salts and sugars and processed oils. (Processed oils? Yeah, I know, all oils are processed. I use common sense here: pasture-fed butter, organic raw coconut oil and olive oil are the only cooking fats I keep in the house. If I ate red meat, lard would be on that list as well.) This way of eating isn’t just about weight loss. Done properly, its helped a lot of people with autoimmune issues (Crohn’s, Coeliac, etc) and leaky gut, as well as people with inflammation issues caused by food intolerances they may not even have been aware of before.

The thing is, I’m pescatarian. I don’t eat red meat or poultry, but I do eat fish, so I can’t strictly be called a vegetarian or an omnivore. So I contacted Dr Loren Cordain, an expert on the Paleo diet about whether I could adapt this diet as a pescatarian. I received a fairly prompt, blunt and unhelpful response setting out that in no uncertain terms would they advocate not eating meat. It threw me a little bit, but only for about 2 minutes until I thought about it logically. Whats not to love about this way of eating and why did I need commercial validation to do it anyway? My diet is now filled with brightly coloured vegetables and greenery, fresh organic fish, organic free-range eggs and healthy fats & nuts – lots of unprocessed foods. All I have eliminated from my diet is a vast amount of sugar – by this I mean sugar in the form of bread, pasta and grains, not just refined sugar. So, I say boooo to Dr Cordain and I’m just enjoying doing Paleo the way that works for me.

So, have I lost any weight with the diet? Well, its only been 3 weeks and as I don’t have a functional set of scales, I honestly couldn’t tell you. What I can say is that my stomach is much flatter, I feel overall much more toned and my energy levels are much higher than they were.

Have I cheated? Well, yes. I have. Several times. And I’m okay with that. There have been a couple of mornings when I have really missed my oatmeal, cooked with coconut cream and sweetened with apple and raisins – so I made it. I didn’t feel the worse for having it. I’ve also continued to have a bit of organic milk in my tea and the odd bit of sheep or goat milk cheese. For me its not a competition about being ‘right’ – its a process of finding out what works best for my lifestyle and what makes me feel the healthiest. I lived a low-fat lifestyle for years, but now my diet is full of plenty of healthy fats – yes, including some saturated fats – and as a result, I’m staying full throughout the day and my usual mid-afternoon hypoglycaemic episodes appear to have disappeared.

What do I eat? You know, its much MUCH easier than I thought it would be. For lunch I might pack a tupperware box filled with organic baby spinach, a small baked sweet potato with a tad of feta crumbled on top, a grated carrot salad with raisins, a small bag of nuts as a snack and a couple of pieces of fruit. Or a half an avocado on a bed of quinoa with some greens on the side or cooked kale with a lemon wedge to squeeze over it all. Because I work in an office, I tend to save eating fishy things for dinner at home or restaurants – at the moment I’m really into Alaskan wild salmon, though also am trying to eat more local sustainable fish and also sardines. I’ve also found a fantastic recipe for cauliflower pizza that I have adapted by putting sheep feta in the crust and grating some St Helen’s hard goat cheese (a version of cheddar) on top.

Because I have a sweet tooth, I also sometimes make an um…healthy(ish) sundae for dessert. To do this, I whiz up 1.5 frozen bananas in the food processor with a tablespoon of maple syrup. If it needs more liquid to get creamy, add a tablespoon of coconut water or coconut milk. That makes the ice ‘cream’, which is like the texture of soft serve. To make the chocolate sauce, you’ll need to open a can of full fat coconut milk which has been in the fridge for at least 24 hours (I always keep a few in the fridge now – the coconut cream rises to the top of the can and hardens and delicious coconut water remains at the bottom of the can, so you can use both) and scoop a heaped tablespoon of the coconut cream into a small saucepan. On a low-med heat, melt the coconut cream and whisk in a couple of teaspoons of a dark cacao powder along with enough maple syrup or coconut sugar to sweeten. It will make a thick, fudgey hot chocolate sauce to pour over your ice ‘cream’. Delicious!

There are some wonderful bloggers out there who inspire me with a regular dose of Paleo friendly recipes for meals, packed lunches, cakes, cookies & muffins. Here are my favourites! (And please don’t knock the Mommy Bloggers – these women channel their energies into creating delicious food for their amazing websites and have a better grasp on social media than most FTSE500 companies!)

Against All Grain

Primal Palate

Coconut Mama

Elana’s Pantry

Nom Nom Paleo

The Paleo Mama

The Paleo Mom

Paleo Newbie

In general, I guess while there is a lot I’m enjoying about this way of eating, I’m a little cautious about cutting significant food groups from the diet and probably lean a bit more toward the Weston A Price dietary guidelines than strict Paleo, but we’ll see how it goes. By my next post I may have eased off the Paleo thing a bit. Its not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’m not convinced that its necessary to eliminate properly prepared grains from the diet but rest assured there are some tasty recipes in the wings and more adventures of dining in London to come.

Pastitsio

Dear readers… I wrote this post nearly two weeks ago, but my laptop died somewhere along the way.  I hope you enjoy the memories of the London snow & the recipe for pastitsio (regular, vegetarian & gluten-free versions)….

peckham rye common

London has been blanketed in a rare covering of snow these last few days and from what I can see, its only us owners of large dogs who dare to don our arctic gear and bravely head out into the 2 inches of snow. It gives me a chance to show off my new down coat from UniQlo – a Christmas present from my mother.  Despite the fact that I am constantly cold in the general London state of damp, I feel oddly warm when out in the snow; so after this morning’s excursion through Peckham Rye Park, Gwenny (the dog) and I elected to spend some time in the front garden brushing clear the walkway of snow, just enjoying the quiet as the snow continued to fall.

Cold weather requires some serious carbs and in anticipation of today’s serious snowfall, I spent yesterday morning dragging Mr Harris through Waitrose to get the ingredients for a pastitsio – something I had never made before.  Having spent the last 25 years as a pescatarian, I also had no idea how it was meant to taste either.   I normally turn to Vefa’s Kitchen whenever I decide to try a new Greek recipe, but on this occasion I decided to try Rick Stein’s version.

Here’s Rick making his recipe:

First of all, let me say that to anyone who describes this pastitsio as a ‘Greek lasagne’ – you are doing pastitsio a severe injustice.  Its actually nothing like a Greek lasagne, except that both involve ragu and pasta in a sort of layering system.  Ok, so I can see why you would describe it as a Greek lasagne, but I can’t tell you how much infinitely better pastitsio is.  Sorry to any Italian readers, but its true.

I went to great pains to make two versions – mine was made with gluten-free corn penne and Quorn mince.  Mr Harris’ version was made with tortiglioni and mince from some of Prince Charles’ horribly expensive aberdeen angus cows.  I knew that all the extra work & additional expense in making two versions was totally worth it when my husband tried a mouthful of each and announced “yeah…actually, you can’t really tell the difference”.  I suspect the reason for that is because of the incredibly pungent and yet extremely counterintuitive combination of Greek flavours:   oregano, cinnamon & tomato.  It gives that…what’s the Greek for ‘je ne sais quois’?  (According to my Babylon translator that’s Δεν ξέρω τι.)  Ok, so it gives that Δεν ξέρω τι to a lot of Greek dishes.  It feels wrong, but as soon as the oregano liberates its fragrant oil and the cinnamon sticks start to soften and unfurl and release their flavours slowly into the sauce, the smell is distinct and the flavour does not disappoint.  It tastes exactly as its meant to and all the oregano in the world alone cannot achieve it without the accompanying cinnamon.

A few pointers along the way.  I will say that when making the white sauce, this is not the time for skimmed milk.  I used a combination of whole milk and  2% milk.  It needs to be rich, creamy, calorific and very nutmeggy.  Also, tomato paste.  It comes in metal tubes and they last for ages when kept in the fridge.  Why buy a jar which will be half used and covered in a field of fuzzy mould next week?  Unless you actually cook with it everyday, just stock up on tubes of proper Italian or Greek tomato paste and keep them in the fridge after they’ve been opened.  I have included my notes on how to make vegetarian & gluten free adaptations of the recipe at the bottom.

Pastitsio

pastitsio

Ingredients

For the meat sauce

4 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 kg lean minced beef

200 ml red wine

500 ml passata

4 tbsp tomato paste

2 x 10 cm cinnamon sticks

¼ tsp ground cloves

2 tbsp dried oregano, Greek if possible

2 tbsp fresh chopped oregano

3 fresh bay leaves

For the pasta

500 g tubularpasta, such as rigatoni, tubetti or tortiglioni

2 eggs, lightly beaten

50 g Greek kefalotiri cheese or parmesan, finely grated

2 tbsp butter, melted, for greasing

10 g fresh white breadcrumbs

For the white sauce

115 g butter

115 g plain flour

1.2 litres whole milk, plus a little extra

¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Method

1. For the meat sauce: heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pan. Add the onion & garlic and fry until just beginning to brown. Add the minced beef and fry over a high heat for 3-4 minutes, breaking up any lumps with the wooden spoon.   (If you’re making the vegetarian version, don’t add the Quorn here – just cook the sauce down on its own and add the Quorn at the very end)
2. Add the red wine, tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon stick, ground cloves, dried and fresh oregano, bay leaves, 100ml water, 1½ teaspoons salt and some black pepper. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring now and then, until the sauce has thickened but is still nicely moist. Discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaves.
3. For the pasta: bring 4.5 litres water to the boil in a large saucepan with 8 teaspoons salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, taking care not to overcook as the pasta will cook a little further in the oven. Drain well, transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool slightly.
4. For the white sauce: melt the butter in a medium-sized non-stick saucepan. Add the flour and cook, stirring, over a medium heat for 1 minute. Gradually beat in the milk, then bring to the boil, stirring. Lower the heat and leave to simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper to taste.
5. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Stir 250ml (about one-fifth) of the white sauce into the warm pasta with the beaten eggs and half the grated cheese. Keep the remaining sauce warm over a low heat, stirring now and then and adding more milk if it begins to get a little thick.
6. Use the melted butter to grease a large, shallow ovenproof dish that measures about 23cm x 33cm x 7cm. Spread one-third of the pasta over the base of the dish and cover with half the meat sauce. Add another third of the pasta, then the rest of the meat sauce, then a final layer of pasta.
7. Spoon over the remaining white sauce. Mix the last of the grated cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top. Bake for 40 minutes, or until bubbling hot and golden brown.  This recipe makes 10-12 portions.

Vegetarian version:  If you’re making a vegetarian version, exchange the meat for two boxes of Quorn mince, but don’t let it stew in the tomato sauce as you would with the meat.  Just add it to the tomato sauce at the very end, just before you start the layering process.  Be sure to use a vegetarian parmesan if you’re not using the Greek cheese.

Gluten-free version:  I made my version gluten-free by using gluten-free flour in the white sauce, gluten free Dove’s Farm corn penne and gluten free breadcrumbs.  I keep an inexpensive stockpile of gluten-free breadcrumbs by whizzing leftover slices of Sainsbury’s disgusting Free From gluten free white bread in the food processor, letting it dry out on a baking tray, and storing it in a large tupperware container, for future use.

pastitsio 2

Shop by the Season

Fresh raspberries from Kent I bought at Bermondsey Farmer’s Market this morning

I don’t always buy organic.

I do when I can, but sometimes I prefer to buy the local Kent or Sussex grown tomatoes if that’s what is available at the farmer’s market, rather than the organic Spanish ones at the big chain superstore, which are laden with the additional guilt of unecessary food miles and extra packaging.  I shop the way my conscience tells me to, and sometimes that means that means making difficult choices.  The one choice I never compromise on, however, is how my food tastes.   I’m not going to buy either of those tomatoes if they taste of damp cardboard.  And certainly not unless they smell like a tomato should smell; of damp earth and acidic fruitiness.

Buying what’s in season usually keeps me on the right track for getting the freshest & most flavour packed produce.  And, as a farmer I am not, my vegetable guy at the market always steers me in the right direction, so my general horticultural ignorance doesn’t seem to hinder me too much.

Luckily I didn’t have to make any difficult choices this morning when at the farmer’s market.  My fish guy, Chris, was there with his truck back full of sustainably caught sole, haddock, crab, plaice and mackerel.  I bought some plaice and got the instructions on how to prepare it.  Chris is a 4th generation fisherman and though I’ve not been buying from him for too long, his fish is always fresh & odour-free and I’ve found his advice to be consistently spot on.  When I prepare my dinner tonight, I’ll season and flour the plaice lightly and fry it in butter, finishing it only with a squeeze of lemon.  A little fennel, sliced thinly and sauteed to transparency in butter (if I still had a gallbladder, it would hate me now) and well seasoned with salt & pepper and a tablespoon of luxuriously thick and tart creme fraiche stirred in at the end, will make a beautiful and simple side dish to accompany the fish.

But wait, I need to tell you more about the butter!  Its Glastonbury butter!  Green’s of Glastonbury are a family-run dairy farm from…well, Glastonbury in Somerset, where their organically certified herd munches on the grass around the slopes of Glastonbury Tor.  They are mainly a cheese producer, but they also sell their own butter, which is sold in huge round wodges and they also make the most nutty and sharp unpasturised cheddar you will ever taste.

After the amount of butter and creme fraiche in my supper, I think the cheddar will have to wait for another day, but the abundance of raspberries in season means I will still be having dessert tonight.  But this time, no Greek yogurt, no creme fraiche, no drizzle of honey.  Just plain raspberries, so ripe that each drupelet bursts open and starts to melt as it touches your tongue.

Cake & Jam

Butterylemonyvanillaness.

Gooseberry Jam

Until you have tried this cake you will think that is a non-existent and very silly word.  After you have tried this cake, you will know exactly what I mean.  Yellowy organic butter creamed to whiteness with organic sugar.  Eggs from free-range, organic, corn-fed chickens are mixed in, one by one; each yolk is almost orange and the batter starts to regain its golden eggy shade again.  Vanilla and fresh organic lemon zest are added for flavour, and two sticky dollops of honey from my parent’s apiary.  Baking powder, some sea salt and spelt flour are sifted in to the mix and slowly stirred to the thickness of an old fashioned cake batter which smells like the birthdays of your childhood.  And just when you think it sounds as if it might be getting to be too sweet, now imagine that I have cut the cake in half and spread a thick layer of gloriously tart and freshly homeade gooseberry jam.

The gooseberry jam itself was another learning experience.  I’ve never made it before, and every time you try to preserve a new fruit, estimating its pectin content is a bit like throwing craps.  So I turned to Nigel Slater, who I always turn to when I have no idea what I’m doing.  (He won’t know it, but he taught me to roast my first chicken when I, as a naieve vegetarian, thought I’d treat my boyfriend to a Sunday roast.)  I roughly followed a recipe, mixing the gooseberries with an almost equal quantity sugar and a drop or two of water, to partly dissolve the sugar.  Its incredibly satisfying, popping the gooseberries with a spoon as they start to warm up and become soft.  (All the therapeutic qualities of bubblewrap, but with a lovely tart smell.)  I squeezed in a bit of lemon juice to help keep the lovely livid shade of gooseberries in tact, but to no use, as they soon took on a translucent, candied fruit quality, and after about 45 minutes of regular stirring and fussing, the jam finally became jammy, with big chunks of partly dissolved gooseberry skins – all in a beautiful quincy rust shade.

In all truth, this cake was intended to culminate its existence in the form of a Washington Pie.  But, in order to turn a vanilla cake filled with gooseberry preserves into a proper Washington Pie, like the kind my grandmother makes for my visits to Canada, you’d need to cover the entire thing in a thick layer of whipped cream.  For today, though, I’m afraid that some semi-health conscious urge has stopped me from going to these lengths.   We instead, settle for a slice each, after dinner, with a heaped spoonful of low fat creme fraiche.

Find Your Farmer’s Market

Bermondsey Farmer’s Market Finds

Kermit the Frog wasn’t wrong.  It ain’t easy being green.  It ain’t cheap either.

Buying things in glass bottles & recycled cardboard punnets.  Weighing up whether to buy the organic milk from the big chain store or the regular milk from the small local shop.  Thank God for Saturdays when throughout the UK and North America, farmers and small producers flock to the towns and cities and put up their stalls to flog their wares for the day.  Thank God for the Farmer’s Market.  Suddenly the anxiety from the constant onslaught of ethical decisions I associate with buying food melt away, and I can just enjoy the experience of buying good food and having a ‘good chinwag’ (as my boyfriend so delicately puts it) with the producers.

Sometimes you don’t have the extra money to buy as your ethics would guide you.  Sometimes you just don’t have the time.  Sometimes the products you want just aren’t available.  (Seriously, just try to find organic tonic!)  But sometimes, just sometimes, you’ll be suprised.

Today I went to Bermondsey Farmer’s Market (in the heart of Bermondsey Square, for those of you who are interested) with £30 in my handbag.  It has been an expensive month so far, but despite that, I had intended to head out to the famous (and I might add extremely pricey) Borough Market to buy some organic basics for the week, I was halted in my tracks by a small green sign guiding me into Bermondsey Square.

Rather than the few veg and bottle of organic gin which I had intended to buy at Borough Market, I instead came home laden with the following groceries.  Most organic.  All locally sourced.  And all for my £30.

  • 1 litre fresh Bramley apple juice from Norfolk (http://www.droveorchards.com/)
  • 1 large handful of samphire
  • 1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley, organic
  • 1 large garlic head, organic
  • 1 cucumber, organic
  • 1 fennel bulb, organic
  • 2 punnets gooseberries, organic
  • 4 punnets raspberries, organic
  • 1 100% rye bread, organic
  • 1 whole lemon sole, sustainably caught
  • 2 chicken thighs, organic & free range
  • 3 small buffalo steaks, organic
  • 6 eggs, organic & free range
  • 1 ball of fresh, homeade mozarella, organic
  • 1 large spanikopita
  • 2 small Portuguese custard tarts

I dare you to spend £30 at Tesco (or $50 at Loblaws for my Canadian readers) and do so well…

The spanikopita was absolutely yumlicious and I scoffed it for my lunch as soon as I got home.  The Bramley apple juice is extremely more-ish and very dry, and I suspect it will make an excellent apple gimlet – I do realise there is probably no such thing as an apple gimlet, but I decided on the way home that it sounded like a good idea.  A nice pre-dinner cocktail.  As a starter for dinner tonight, I think the mozarella ball will be nice, sliced thinly and served on a plate, alternated between slices of ripe vine tomatoes and basil leaves and sprinkled lightly with a sort of Portuguese version of fleur de sel which I have and some coarsely ground organic black pepper.  The chicken thighs will be massaged in butter before being doused in olive oil, garlic and slices of lemon and being roasted in the oven later tonight for my boyfriend’s dinner while I have the lemon sole on a bed of samphire.  I’ve never made lemon sole, but I recently saw on Saturday Kitchen how to ripe the skin off in one single, swift yank – not dissimilar to leg waxing actually.  Dessert will consist of the raspberries, which are already starting to melt, they’re so ripe, crudely poured overtop of the Portuguese custard tarts and followed by a cup of hot Ethiopian roast coffee.

So, not to sound pushy, but get out there, find your Farmer’s Market and buy something special to cook for someone you love.  Even that person is just you.