Easy like Saturday Morning – Chocolate Chip Cookies

11751439_10207305567134432_5913152121547736348_nI love rituals and rhythms, particularly around food. I think they help ground me but they also give my family an anchor, like a ship being gently moored in a bay.  It says be present, stay a while and smell the roses.  It means we can drop our fight and flight and settle into a quality of being where we can expand a little.

So one of my rituals on a saturday morning is to make these cookies, or a variation of some sorts.  Since they contain chocolate they are a huge hit with everyone.  They happen to be gluten-free, but you could substitute the rice flour for normal or spelt flour if you like.  I have my opinions about gluten-free, but will reserve them for another post.  In short no one in our family is a celiac but we try to eat most of our grains fermented, if I’m using a recipe where that’s not convenient I will use gluten-free flours instead.

I do however stay away from refined sugars, in fact at the moment I’m staying away from all sugar for a while.  Sugar really affects my body so after years of fine tuning I know which kind of sweet treats I can tolerate without going into a sugar coma.  In this recipe I’m using Rapadura sugar, which is the commercial name for dehydrated cane sugar juice. It has a wonderful rich, caramel like flavour and closely mimics sugar in its chemical properties, without upsetting the body. Do be careful though, in large quantities this may just have the same effect as regular white sugar.

 Im not going to tell you that these are guilt free, what does that even mean? Eat as many or a little as you feel is right for you and experiment with the amount of sugar in the recipe.  I find that if I eat something sweet, a healthy dose of fat (butter in this case) and protein (almonds and hazelnuts) helps my body chemistry to stay stable. I also tend to eat sweets after a meal so that there is something else already in my stomach to absorb the sugar.

Last but not least I do realise that the ingredients in this recipe are fairly pricey and that eating these on a daily basis is not really realistic.  Which is why I make them on a Saturday to last the weekend and once they are gone, they are gone. After all that is why they are called treats, right?

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole hazelnuts
  • 1 cup almond meal/flour
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 2/3 cup rapadura sugar (Coconut sugar works as well)
  • 1/2 cup soft butter or coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate chunks ( I use Lindt cooking chocolate) plus some pieces to decorate the cookies or you can use any other cookie decoration

Method

  • Put hazelnuts into the food processor and grind to a coarse meal
  • Add almond and rice flour, sugar, butter, salt and cinnamon and process until well mixed
  • Add water to bring it all together, it should be moist like wet sand but still firm
  • Put chocolate in for a final quick pulse
  • Form into walnut sized balls and put on a tray prepared with baking paper
  • Add the chocolate decoration to each cookie
  • Bake at 150 degrees celsius for 20 minutes

When you take the cookies out of the oven they will still be a little bit soft, don’t move them at this point.  Once they’ve cooled they will have hardened and you can move them.  I store mine in a glass Kilner jar, but they never last long anyway.  This recipe makes about 20-24 cookies, depending on how much dough gets eaten by little hands as they are making them!!

With Love x

Let Food Be Thy Medicine – Divine Basil and Rosemary Pesto

11204936_10207282948088970_2215560636389184009_nOn a recent trip to France (Cap Ferret) with my daughter Sofia, I was inspired to write a blog about my food experiences here.  It wasn’t so much the cheese, wine and bread that moved me but more the deep awareness and care for food, I encountered here. There seemed to be a deep desire to eat seasonally and locally, with great care taken by stall holders to pick just the right tomato to be eaten for dinner that night.  There was a buzz around the food with very little pre packaged food and mostly fresh produce.

Eating seasonally is so important.  First of all its better for the planet, but it’s actually also better for your body.  Our digestive fire is weakest in summer (according to Ayurvedic principles). So in summer its best to eat fruit and vegetables which are of course in abundance.  It’s a win, win situation.  As the seasons change so does the food, and our bodies. There is a reason watermelons and other cooling fruit make their appearance in the height of summer, and don’t grace our christmas table.

It is also means you don’t eat broccoli and kale all year round, because no single food group can supply all the nutrients we need.  Which brings me to the second cornerstone of health, food diversity.  Our Ancestors’ pre agricultural food habits were very much based on hunting and gathering, which meant not only did they eat seasonally but they also ate on average 145 different types of food a year.  The average person now will consume about 20 different foods, if they are lucky.

So how do you incorporate some of this wisdom into todays agricultural/supermarket monoculture onslaught?  There are several strategies; The obvious is to go shopping at your local market, buying whats available at that time of year.  Another thing you can do is to start foraging for simple things like nettle, dandelions, elderberries and blackberries, to suggest just a few.  These wild plants pack a nutritional punch far beyond anything you can buy at the supermarket.  And lastly you can make use of herbs all year round.  Herbs have a very high nutrient density and are real powerhouses. Having herbs everyday in some form will vastly improve your health.  Either as a tea, tonic, in salads, dressings, essential oils or as pesto.

I kept thinking about what inspired me here in France, and one of the things I was really drawn to was the feel and smell of nature around me. The beautiful smells of the pine forests, the feel of the soft needles underneath my toes and the creamy taste of pine kernels. If I had to make a dish right now, right here, what would it be? It had to be pesto drizzled over local sweet tomatoes served with some crusty bread and a chilled glass of wine.

Pesto is one of those amazing staples which are so very versatile.  Eat it plain on toast, add it to your scrambled eggs, drizzle it over a tomato salad or add it to pasta for a very simple meal.  I’ve chosen a combination of Basil and Rosemary.  Basil fortifies the digestive and nervous system and can be a good remedy for headaches and insomnia.  Rosemary has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and adds a beautiful flavour to the pesto.  I used pine nuts because I love their rich, creamy taste and they are also a very good source of protein.  You could experiment and replace them with any other kind of nut.

Divine Basil and Rosemary Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 cup tightly packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup rosemary leaves (without the stem)
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts
  • enough extra virgin olive oil to bring it to a smooth consistency about 1/2 cup
  • 1 clove of garlic

salt to taste (a generous pinch)

Method

  • Put all the ingredients in a food processor (except the oil and salt) and mix until it resembles a coarse ground mixture
  • With the motor running add olive oil slowly until the desired consistency is reached
  • Taste and season with salt

This should keep in the fridge for at least one week and it can also be frozen.  As the seasons change so will your pesto, so for example in spring try adding steamed nettle leaves or fresh dandelion leaves.

I will leave you with a quote from my favourite herbalist.

“One must tread delicately on those lands, its palace is built on shifting sands; And so fragile, one cruel look or word – Would utterly smash that porcelain world”

Juliette de Bairacli Levy

With Love x

Ginger Me Up Scotty

11222076_10207165900522854_7221535648668881162_nThis last two weeks I’ve been battling a cold, well primarily a very persistent cough.  I usually stay away from over the counter medicine and ply myself with herbs (I have an amazing tonic that I mix with manuka honey), vitamins and honey lemon drinks.  To no avail it seemed the cough was building itself a cosy nest inside my chest.

I have this theory that even though I lead a very healthy lifestyle, every now and again I get sick, and its ok.  Its one of the ways my body tells me to slow down.  It usually doesn’t last very long and I can still go about my usual daily business, albeit a little bit slower.  Its my body’s way of dropping into the microbes around it, and saying “hey just coming to check you guys out”!  This way my immune system gets a software update and we are good to go again for another 6 months.

Not this time though, this cough was needing some help to leave the nest. So A few days ago I thought I’d try to juice myself a really potent vitamin shot, naturally with some of my favourite ingredients: ginger root, lemon and apple.  Apples are a good base for any juice and its also a natural immune system booster, Lemon is high in vitamin C and has natural antibiotic properties and Ginger is a natural decongestant and it reduces inflammation in coughs and colds.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 organic Apple, skin and all
  • 1 lemon, peeled
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled
  • 2/3 cup of filtered water

METHOD

  • peel the lemon and piece of ginger.  When peeling the ginger root be very careful to just remove the top layer of skin, as most of the resins and volatile oils are right beneath the skin.  Instead of a peeler, use a teaspoon and gently scrape off the skin (this is the most complicated part of the recipe!)
  • quarter the apple and put all ingredients into the Vitamix or any other type of food processor ( you could use a juicer as well but I don’t bother with such small amounts)
  • process for 30-60s until it’s all shredded
  • separate the juice from the pulp using either a cheesecloth (that is what I use) or a fine wire mesh sieve

Enjoy this sweet, tangy and spicy drink, if you want you could add some honey.

yummy juice x

yummy juice x

Curiously this is my second ginger based recipe in two weeks, but I’ve really learned to listen to my body over the years.  So I know that if I crave something it’s for a good reason.  Now of course you still have to practise discernment in this craving business, otherwise chocolates and chips would be on my plate rather too often.  For me listening to the body goes beyond cravings or fad diets, it’s a deeper knowledge of knowing what works for your body. So ginger it is for now.

With Love x

Old remedies for a new world-making ginger beer

11709451_10207091021810933_654293667855352233_nI’m kind of obsessed with all things fermented but at the moment the runaway winner for sure is any kind of fizzy drink I can get my hands on. Especially now that the weather is finally getting hot, and believe me this is an exciting thing as London’s weather isn’t exactly tropical. Sour tonics or traditionally fermented drinks are simply tasty beverages, slightly sweet, slightly sour. Sometimes lightly alcoholic (depending on how long you brew them for) and always teeming with healthful lactic acid bacteria, enzymes and mineral ions.

 Homemade fizzy drinks, or soft drinks as they are also known, bear little resemblance to their commercial equivalents. The latter are mostly laden with glucose or corn syrups, additives, colourings and lack any of the health giving properties a home-brew brings.

In a long continuous tradition, by Peoples all around the world, these beverages have always been produced and we are now seeing a revival of traditional techniques.  All beverages require a starter culture of some sort ( bacteria or yeast based, or mostly both) and a carbohydrate for the culture to feed on.  The carbohydrate can be as simple as sugar-water flavoured with herbs or any kind of juice.  The taste combinations are endless. Once the culture has weaved its magic, you will end up with a delicious bubbly beverage.

There are many different kinds of starter cultures and the culture required for this drink can be easily made in your kitchen.  Its called a ginger bug (see picture above).

GINGER BUG

INGREDIENTS

  • ground or fresh ginger root
  • unrefined cane sugar
  • filtered water
  • old 500ml jam jar or snaplock jar

METHOD

  • Pour 1.5 cups of water into the jam jar, then add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of ground or fresh ginger. Close the jar and shake to mix
  • Everyday (for 5-7 days) add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of ginger and leave the jar in a warm space, with the lid off
  • After 5 days check to see if the bug is bubbling, if not continue for two more days.  If after 7 days its still not bubbling you have two options: 1. throw it all away and start again or 2. purchase a ginger bug from the internet  (Happy Kombucha is a very good site)

The ginger bug will keep indefinitely in the fridge.  In fact I like to think of it as another member of the family who requires a bit of love and attention. Feed it once a week with 2 teaspoons of sugar and ginger, keep it out for an hour and then pop it back in the fridge.  If your using the culture to make a drink, simply replace what you have used and then store it back in the fridge.

 

GINGER BEER – FOR BIG AND SMALL 

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 litres filtered water
  • 1.5 cups sugar (rapadura or unrefined cane sugar)
  • 5-15 cm of fresh ginger root, peeled
  • juice of 2 lemons

METHOD

  • Make a sugar syrup with 2 litres of water, 1.5 cups of sugar and the grated fresh ginger (5cm will give a mild flavour , 15 cm a strong flavour).
  • Boil it up for 5 min until the sugar has dissolved, then leave it to cool down.
  • Add the juice of two lemons and enough water to make up 4 Litres in total.
  • Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or a wire mesh sieve to remove the ginger.
  • Add a 1/4 cup of strained culture to the mixture and stir.
  • Bottle in sealable bottles, like old flip top beer bottles or old juice glass bottles.  I like using Kilner home-brew flip top bottles as they give a really good seal.
  • `Leave the beverage to ferment in a warm space for 2-3 days, opening the lid everyday to let out the built up carbon dioxide (which creates the natural bubbles in the beverage).  Once it tastes to your liking put it into the fridge for 1-2 days to set the bubbles.  It will continue to ferment in the fridge, but much more slowly. When you open ginger beer do so over the sink and very slowly as carbonation can be very strong.

11209570_10207110151569165_8024205499461621669_n

With Love x