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It’s been a hard year for most of us and it’s only February. Aside from the fact that 2020 seemed to be somewhat a write off, it doesn’t look like 2021 is going to be much better if the first month of the year is anything to go by. 

But, it’s February, the month to spread a little love and tell those we care about the most that they mean a lot. I’m sure there’s no better way to do that than with food. Food brings us together, at the best and the worst times. 

Food together as a family 

Some of my greatest experiences with my family have been round a dinner table and I probably guess it’s the same for you. Let’s take Christmas for example. Once you pass childhood, opening presents isn’t the most exciting part of the day, eating dinner is. That’s not just because Christmas dinner is one of the single most delicious meals ever, it’s because you’re surrounded by family. 

Whenever there is a special occasion in my family the day revolves around food. Well at least it does for me. There’s nothing better than sitting with your family, laughing, chatting and enjoying delicious food, and you know it. 

Now I’ll stop making you sad by talking about all of these incredible food memories we’re all missing out on. Let’s talk about some ways food can bring us together, despite circumstances. 

Zoom food calls 

It might not be quite the same as having everyone round at the same dinner table, but we have to compromise. Picture the scene, it’s Saturday night and you’re at home in your pyjamas about to crack a film on, when suddenly you hear shouting and laughing behind you. That’s your friends on the Zoom call, all prepped with their takeaway pizza and you’re about to have a film night. 

You’ve each ordered your favourite takeaway, got the snacks in and you’re ready to hit play at the exact same time. Just hope you don’t have slow internet or you’ll be 10 seconds behind everyone else laughing. Now let food bring you together, virtually. 

Send care packages 

Could you think of anything better than opening your front door to a hamper full of food? Neither could I. So why not do that for someone you care about? It’s a lonely time for many and I can almost guarantee sending someone their favourite food is bound to put at least a small smile on their face. 

You could make it even better by giving produce from local shops and sellers. Of course, no one’s going to complain if you Prime a package of food, but you’ll be helping even more businesses if you opt for hampers and foods from local bakeries/butchers/corner shops. Then you’ll be putting a smile on well more than one face. 

Moral of the story? February is the month of love, but also food. If you want to show someone you care about them, cook their favourite meal, buy them a gift voucher to their favourite restaurant or leave them a parcel of goodies. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does show that you care. 

I’ve been on a mission recently to try and eat as many seasonal fruit and vegetables as possible. Partly because it’s better for the environment, and partly because I’ve found an amazing farm shop close by and I want to take full advantage of their produce. So, each month I’m scrolling through the Veg Society website to find out what’s in season, and with it being January in the UK, I wasn’t expecting much. 

However, to my delight, the UK actually has some delicious seasonal crops in January. Two of my particular favourites being leek and potato, and you know what that means…it’s soup time. 

Leek and potato soup is a close contender with tomato as my favourite. It’s so heart-warming I’d say it’s the closest thing you can get to a hug in a mug (or bowl). Top it off with a few slices of homemade sourdough, watching the rainfall outside and you’ve got yourself the recipe for a perfect winter’s afternoon indoors. 

If you aren’t quite as excited by the prospect of leek and potato soup as I am then you’re doing something wrong. So, I’m going to let you in on a few of my secrets to perfect your recipe… 

Be picky with your ingredients  

You know like you don’t need to season a good quality piece of meat much to make it taste good? Well the same applies with vegetables. If you want a really good soup you need really good ingredients to start with. 

What does this mean? Choose vegetables from your local farm shop or even straight from your garden. Sourcing your ingredients as locally as possible means that they will be fresh. On top of this, if buying from a local farm shop, you can ask when the vegetables were picked, if they use chemicals etc. You can get real down and dirty about the source of your veggies. 


recipe-celery-leek-soup

Find this Creamy Celery, Leek and Potato soup recipe here!


Are your herbs in date? 

It doesn’t stop there, the rest of your ingredients should also be top quality if you want the best soup results. Make sure your dried herbs are in date. Most people don’t realise that dried herbs and spices even have an expiry date. Although they don’t ‘go off’ like fresh food they do lose their flavour. 

As a general rule of thumb, dried herbs are best consumed within two years. Anything after this and they begin to lose their flavour and it won’t be as pungent as it once was. I hope now you’ve read this you’re rummaging through your cupboards and doing a cleanout. 

Take your time  

Don’t worry there’s no rush, take it slow. Let the ingredients infuse and do their thing. If you rush the process then you won’t allow the flavours to bond and you really will be missing out on how amazing the soup could be. 

Now that doesn’t mean let the vegetables burn to a crisp. Keep the heat low and really let the flavours of the vegetables come into their own. The beauty of eating (or drinking) homemade soup is just as much about the process as it is the final product. So enjoy it, put your music on and let your soul fall into the soup. 

I want to say one thing to finish. These tricks don’t just apply to making soup, they pretty much apply to cooking any dish. Fresh ingredients, good herbs and taking your time. Keep these three things in mind whenever you’re cooking and you’ve got a recipe for success.

No matter where you are in the world right now, you’re probably stuck there. Given the global pandemic, we’ve all got a bit of cabin fever being stuck in the same country, city and sofa for quite some time. Although there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it might be some time before we’re out venturing the European streets sipping wine and enjoying fine foods. 

I don’t mean to get you down, but that’s the truth. For those of us that love to travel, and especially travel and eat, we’ve got to cling on a little bit longer. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our favourite things. Fortunately for us, there’s a little thing called Netflix. Jam packed with food and travel programmes to keep up busy and get us prepared for when the time finally comes. So, here’s a rundown of some of my favourite food travel programmes on Netflix, that will inspire you to get cooking, or maybe even plan your next trip. 

Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown  

This comes first because it’s a favourite of mine. Anthony Bourdain takes food and travel to a whole new level. Not only because you discover local culinary delights, but in each episode you learn about the culture and the everyday lives of people living in the different cities. 

The thing that stands out the most about this series? Bourdain wasn’t afraid to visit places where others wouldn’t dare. You’ll know exactly what I mean if you watch the episode in Libya. You’ll discover so much more than country famous dishes, you get to see what people eat in their homes. Plus you’ve got 13 series and plenty of content to get through. 

Ugly Delicious  

Dave Chang is another favourite chef of mine. His restaurant Momofuku in Las Vegas is definitely on my list of places to visit. This is a fantastic programme if you are interested in learning more about the history of food and how it has evolved over time, whilst also drooling over delicious dishes. 

Each episode focuses on a particular food, then Chang and his team explore how that dish has been adapted to suit different cultures and changed over time. All I need to say is this…immediately after watching the fried chicken episode, I got straight in my car and drove to KFC. Yes, it’s that influential. 

Chef’s Table 

If you’re a foodie then chances are you’ve heard of this. In-fact, no you won’t have just heard of it, you’ll have binged watched it, then compiled a list of all the places you need to visit from the programme. And if you haven’t done that, that’s exactly what you’re about to do. 

Chef’s table is the best of the best when it comes to Chefs all around the world. Each season surrounds a specific topic, from Chef’s table France to a whole series dedicated to pastry (I know). They follow the lives of influential chefs, delving into their philosophies and techniques. The series is so aesthetically pleasing you’ll be just as blown away with the cinematography as you will the food. 

Here’s the bottom line. We can’t do these things ourselves, so instead we’ll have to be satisfied with watching everyone else do them. Although it might seem like a kick in the teeth, and you’ll be itching to go yourself, use this as planning time. Watch the programmes and make the most detailed food trip of your life. Next time you’re away you won’t be wandering the streets starving, finding the closest tourist hotspot. Instead, you’ll have pre-book and pre-planned all of Bourdain’s favourite places. 

Everyone loves apples, they’re crisp, fresh and taste goddamn good. But what about pears? I’ll be honest I’m really not the biggest fan, but I also very rarely see people eating them. Why is it that we give apples so much praise, yet we shun pears and leave them at the bottom of the fruit pile?

You might be reading this and thinking “you’re talking nonsense, I always eat pears” and that’s cool, at least someone is. But when I’m food shopping, in the UK the aisles are brimming with several varieties of apple, whereas there are very few pears. Those that have been put on display are often bruised and battered. In-order to prove this menial point, I asked several friends which they preferred, to which at least 80% responded that apples were their favourite.

But I think it’s time we give pears some love. Especially as they are seasonal for January and February, and definitely tasting their best. Like apples, the variety of the pears depends on how it tastes and feels. Some, such as Bosc or Asian pears are crisp and often crunchy, Bartlett pears on the other hand are soft and juicy. The main factor for most pears is that they’re sweet, and complement so many other foods. So let’s be nice to them, they were considered a symbol of immortality after all.

Best way to eat pears

Poach them – If you want your pears to last longer then I’d definitely recommend poaching them. This is a super easy method and you can keep the pears for up to 5 days refrigerated after being poached. Usually the firmer varieties such as Bosc pears are the best as they retain their shape.

To poach them, slice the pears into halves or quarters and remove the core. Place them in a pan and cover with water. Then it’s up to you to choose your flavours. Some of the best flavours to compliment poached pear include:

Bring to the boil and cook for 10-20 minutes. To check they are cooked, poke a knife into the pear, if it meets no resistance then you know they’re done.

Grill them – If you’re looking for a way to add pears to a savoury dish then grilling them is the way to go. Start by halving and de-coring them, then glaze the pears in honey or sugar and lemon. Grill for around 10 minutes until soft and there are griddle marks on the insides.

Grilled pears complement pork and sausages extremely well, or you can even add them to a salad to add sweeter notes. That being said, they also taste great with vanilla ice-cream or yoghurt.fruit confesion

Just eat them – You don’t have to do anything fancy with a pear to make it taste good, just ensure it’s ripe and in season. Feel free to peel it, de-core it or go full-blown cave man and just eat it as it is. Currently Comice and Concorde pears are in season and will therefore be the best options for flavour. To ripen, keep them at room temperature and out of the fridge.

Next time you’re heading for a piece of fruit, why not consider a pear? If you’re going to do it, now is the best time, and worst thing that will happen? You’ll be left with sweet flavours running down your chin as you take a juicy bite.

If you’ve not heard all of the latest news and trends on gut health, where have you been for the last 2 years? Gut health has been all the rage because scientists are slowly beginning to discover more about our gut and how it plays a massive role in various aspects of our health.  

One area that is being looked into more is foods that can have both a positive and negative impact on our gut. It is coming to light that high sugar and fried foods aren’t great for gut health. Whereas, one type of food that may have a positive impact on our gut health is fermented foods. 

What are fermented foods? 

It’s about to get a little bit sciency, so buckle up. Fermentation is the process of converting carbohydrates to alcohol or acids using microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria. It sounds pretty yucky, and it is, but there are a lot of common foods that use this process. 

Fermented foods last much longer because alcohol acts as a preservative. This also means that foods that have been fermented often have a sharp taste that can be like marmite (you love it or you hate it). Some common fermented foods include: 

What are the benefits of fermented foods?  

So, you may not be convinced by that list of peculiar sounding foods, but trust me you will be when you hear the benefits. Eating fermented foods may take some getting used to, but frequently eating them can really improve your gut health. 

Your gut is made up of all different kinds of bacteria, both good and bad. Some foods increase the good ones, and others such as high sugar and fatty foods increase the bad. When foods are fermented, the probiotics produced can restore the balance of good bacteria in your gut. This is especially important if you suffer from any gut-related problems such as IBS. 

In a 6 week study, participants ate 125g of yoghurt-like fermented milk and found that it improved their symptoms of IBS by reducing bloating and increasing stool frequency.  


Recipe-Black-Lentil-Spinach-Chickpea

Check out this Vegetarian Spinach and Black Lentil soup recipe


More important now than ever, fermented foods can also have a positive effect on your immune system and in digestion. Your gut is pretty much linked to everything else in the body, therefore, if your gut is doing well, chances are so are the other systems. The high probiotic content in fermented foods can boost the immune system and helps you to recover quicker. On top of this, often fermented foods are rich in vitamins and minerals, so you know they’re doing good. 

Adding fermented foods to your meals 

Now, I’m not suggesting you add fermented foods to every single meal, but a little bit here and there is definitely a great place to start. If like me, you’ve got a bit of a plain palette, stick to the simpler foods such as cheese and yoghurt, try to avoid over processed supermarket brands and choose to purchase them from your local farm shop or grocers. 

Then, when you want to start opening up, why not try some of these meals at a restaurant? That way you’ll get an idea of how they should taste and the best flavours to compliment them. How often have you tried to make something at home, and it tasted x10 better in a restaurant? Exactly, so try the best first before you dismiss it because maybe you haven’t cooked it properly or chosen the best flavours. 

Get ready to give your gut a big friendly hug.

What’s the one thing I dread about Christmas day? Eating dry, tasteless turkey. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas dinner as much as the next person. In-fact, I spend most of my day building up to the food, because it’s the best part of the day. But, it has forever been tainted in England with the idea of a poorly cooked piece of meat.

I’m here to tell you that you can take a stand against dry turkey. You don’t need to eat it anymore, because there are things you can do to make turkey taste good. Be prepared to see turkey in a whole new light.

Let it rest

With big pieces of meat it is absolutely essential that you let the meat rest before eating it. Although it might seem odd, there is a method to the madness.

When meat cooks, the muscle fibres tighten and the water inside the meat is pushed towards the surface. Now if you cut the meat straight after taking it out of the oven, all of this juicy liquid will pour out and you’ll be left with a very dry piece of meat. However, by letting it rest, we are allowing the water to redistribute back into the meat, leaving you with a juicy, tender turkey.

Because turkey is often large, you should be leaving it to rest for at least an hour. Be prepared to include this time in your cooking prep.

Wrap it up

Usually you’ll always wrap your meat in tin foil when cooking to keep the juices in. That being said, if you want a crispy skin then you need to take the foil off before the turkey has finished cooking.

Loosely cover your turkey in tin foil for the majority of the cooking time, but remove the foil for the last 30-40 minutes. Not only will your skin dry up, but it will also allow the juices to flow into the tin, the foundations for a delicious Christmas gravy.

Season appropriately 

Stuff it – It’s not just about what you put on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Make sure to stuff the inside of your turkey with all of the classic aromatic flavours, these include:

Flavoured butter – I mean, who doesn’t love garlic butter? You can purchase flavoured butters or mix your favourite herbs yourself. Then spread the butter mix under the skin of the turkey for a super intense flavour. You can also use other seasonings under the skin to get as much flavour as possible.

Don’t be boring – Yes I said it! It’s time to mix up your flavours this festive season. Of course we love tradition, but it doesn’t harm anyone to mix things up every once in a while. Check online for some unusual turkey flavours, some of the tastiest options are:

After all of this, if you still aren’t convinced that turkey can’t be tasty, I suggest picking another meat. But, why not get creative this Christmas and zhuzh up your turkey?

It was the famous Nobel laureate Dr. Linus Pauling who taught the world that taking large amounts of vitamin C can keep the common cold away. But he was wrong. I’m sorry to break it to you, but there is no solid evidence that glugging orange juice will prevent you from a nasty cold each winter. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t important though.

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin, meaning we do not produce it ourselves, but our body needs it to function properly. The vitamin helps promote good immune function, the absorption or iron and also keeps your bones healthy. Without a sufficient amount of vitamin C, your immune system will be impaired and you will be more susceptible to infections, something no one wants at this time. But, before you pop open the vitamin supplements and start chugging down the pills, please read this first.

YOU DON’T NEED SUPPLEMENTS.

Unless you have specifically been told by a medical professional to supplement your diet with vitamin C, the majority of the population can acquire enough through a healthy, balanced diet. We honestly take for granted how important and nutritious food is. There are so many foods out there packed with vitamin C, and it’s the tasty ones too. And I’m going to blow your mind, I am not including any citrus fruits in this list.

Sweet Yellow Peppers

Sweet yellow peppers age like a fine wine, the more they mature the higher the vitamin C content. So, don’t be afraid to let them get a little wrinkly. 75g of pepper provides 137mg of vitamin C, way over the daily recommended amount, you definitely don’t need supplements.

Here are some different dishes to use sweet yellow pepper in:


recipe-roasted-pepper-tomato-soup

Check out this Roasted Pepper and Tomato soup recipe


Broccoli 

This is one of the more popular vegetables in the cruciferous family (the ones that give you wind) and there’s a good reason for it. Broccoli is jam packed with nutrients. Along with around 57mg of vitamin C, it is also a great source of vitamins A, E, K and folic acid. The key to making good broccoli is seasoning well. Next time you parboil your broccoli, try finishing by sautéing with the following seasoning:

Say goodbye to soggy green vegetables and hello to crisp, flavourful dishes, crammed with a whole load of nutrients.


recipe-romanesco-broccoli-potato-soup

Check out this Romanesco Broccoli soup recipe


Thyme

Who’d have thought that herbs also provided us with vitamins and minerals? In-fact, gram for gram thyme has three times more vitamin C than an orange. Obviously you probably don’t consume quite that much thyme in a day. But this means that even with a teaspoon of fresh thyme sprinkled over your dish, you can still increase your daily intake of vitamin C. Foods that work well with thyme include:


recipe-turmeric-chicken-chickpea-soup

Check out this Chicken Soup with Turmeric, Chickpea and Thyme


Now, hopefully I’ve convinced you to check your fridge for vitamins instead of the supplement cupboard. The thing is, vegetables are often filled with various vitamins and minerals that work together to provide a healthy environment for your body. And, unless you’ve been told by a doctor to take supplements, you will find the majority of the nutrients you need in the food you eat.

If you grew up in England then chances are carrots were a staple part of your diet. Root vegetables are about the only thing we can successfully grow in the UK year on year, so we have to rely on them in meals.

That being said, carrots never take centre stage in a meal. They are always an afterthought,  or just one of several vegetables you feel obliged to add to a roast dinner. Quite frankly, I don’t think we are giving carrots enough justice for how delicious and versatile they really are. So, this is just a short article to tickle your tastebuds and enlighten you on the various ways you can help carrots stand in the spotlight from now on.

Carrot cake

How many of you won’t even try carrot cake because the thought of carrot in a dessert is totally not right? I understand and I was exactly the same. The same goes for avocado in chocolate and chickpea brownies. But I promise if you give it a go then you will be surprised and overwhelmed. The secret to a good carrot cake is a healthy dose of cinnamon and nutmeg. Against all odds, the flavour combination is incredible and sweet. If you are really put off by the thought of carrots, ensure you grate them as finely as possible so that you don’t get too much of the texture.

Carrot soups

Carrot and coriander soup you’ve probably heard of, but this isn’t the only variety of carrot soup out there. Carrots are so versatile, the subtle sweet and earthy flavours mean that they go with several flavours. Even creamy carrot soup on its own is good enough for me, but if you fancy some other flavours then check out this list of ideas:


Recipe-Creamy-Vegan-Parsnip-Carrot-Butternut-Squash-Sweet-Potato-Soup

Check out these Carrot soup recipes


Glazed carrots

The classic way to season carrots would be salt, pepper and butter, but where’s the fun in that? No, glazed carrots should definitely be on your list of meals this week because they bring a whole new flavour sensation to the game. Remember how I said that carrots have a sweet/earthy tone? Well glazing carrots with sweet stuff will accentuate this and bring out the best in the vegetable. You can then add the carrots to a salad, serve them as a side with a tender piece of meat or push into puff pastry and serve as a tart. The best things to glaze your carrots in include:

Are you convinced yet? Carrots can be an incredible little vegetable and if you usually take them for granted them you sure won’t anymore. Found your own favourite ways of cooking carrots? Then let us know and bless the world with your orange recipes.

If you aren’t from the UK and aren’t familiar with Bonfire night then let me explain, because it all might sound pretty weird.

A brief history of bonfire night…

Back in 1605 a chap called Guy Fawkes planned to kill the King by blowing up the Houses of Parliament. It all came down to religion, Catholics vs Protestants. Guy Fawkes placed gunpowder under the houses of parliament, and he was unfortunately rumbled. In celebration, we plant a dummy of Fawkes on top of a bonfire and set it alight, along with fireworks. It’s all incredibly unusual, but also very British.

So now back to the point of this story. One of the other traditions that comes with bonfire night is toffee apples. Fruit mixed with other sugary items has always been popular. Who doesn’t love strawberries dipped in chocolate? I can even cope with banoffee. But I draw the line with toffee apples. This concoction was created in the early 1900s and has been eaten ever since on the 5th of November by children across the country. What is it exactly? An apple on a stick dipped in candied sugar and dried, brittle enough to break your teeth, and if that doesn’t do it then the inhumane amounts of sugar will surely rot them away. Kids don’t even enjoy the best part of it, the apple. They usually lick/pick off the sugar and throw the fruit away, it’s abominable.

It doesn’t just stop there though, now companies and supermarkets have taken it to another level and caked apples in all sorts of products, chocolate, marshmallows, popping candy and basically anything that will stick to sugar. But what’s the problem with this? Well there isn’t any problem if you love toffee apples and you don’t mind a few extra fillings. But why can’t we just appreciate the apple without having to drench it in processed products? My issue is that this method of cooking (if you can call it that) completely takes away everything an apple has to offer and that’s just such a shame.


soup_apple_beetroot_fennel_recipes

Need a soup containing apple?

Find it in this Apple, Fennel and Beetroot soup recipe here!


For the love of the lovely apple

At this time of year in the UK, we’ve just been through a plentiful harvest of various types of apple. There are so many things you can do to accentuate the flavour, taste and texture of apples. Add them to a crumble, squeeze fresh apple juice or simply just eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away. Is there anything better than getting your teeth into a crisp, cold apple? I don’t think so. The beauty of them is that they come in so many different varieties, they don’t need to be tarnished in such a way that there is simply nothing left of the original flavour.

So here is my plea to you this November. Instead of reaching to the supermarket shelves for that sugar coated, low quality apple. Choose a fresh apple instead. Enjoy it on its own, or in a dish and enjoy the brilliant flavours and texture it has to offer. Just don’t dip it in sugar.

For this article I tried to find out exactly how many different types of squash there are and it seems to be infinite. Most websites showed around 15 different types of squash. But one threw out 25 variations, so i’m still none the wiser. Anyway, the reason I wanted to make a point about the various types of squash is because I don’t dislike all of them, just a few.

When you think of a squash, there is probably one particular type of vegetable that comes to mind. Whether that’s a butternut, spaghetti squash or even a pumpkin, these all come from the same family. That being said, they all have varying flavours, textures and tastes. You could like one squash and hate the other (like me). Today we are here to deconstruct some of the most popular forms of squash and see what you can do with them.

Pumpkin

I couldn’t not talk about pumpkins as they are very vogue at this time of year with Halloween just passing. If you’ve been celebrating Halloween with the kids then you probably have a whole lot of pumpkin seeds/puree leftover that you don’t know what to do with. I am not envious of you. This squash in-particular smells really bad. Every year that putrid scent shoots up my nose when I’m helping my little brother and sister carve their pumpkins.

That being said, you’ve got to love them. Even if it’s just because you like making scary faces out of them. But what you shouldn’t do is waste them. Here are some things you can do with the leftovers:

Seeds:

Puree:


recipe-vegan-pumpkin-lemongrass-sweet-potato-soup

Try this spiced, vegan Pumpkin and Sweet Potato soup recipe!


Butternut Squash 

Sorry, this is one squash that I really have no love for. I’ve tried it on many occasions, in a variety of forms, but I still can’t seem to swallow it. Butternut squash just doesn’t float my boat, regardless of the taste, it’s the texture. It’s just too soft and that doesn’t bode well with my palette, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it.

If you can get past the texture then I highly recommend trying out butternut squash as an alternative to meat in many recipes. Some of the most popular dishes include:


soup_vegan_butternut_squash_soup

Try this Vegan Butternut Squash soup recipe!


Spaghetti Squash 

This is probably one of the lesser known vegetables in the squash family but it sure isn’t one to miss. But I can see why you’d stride straight past it in a supermarket. It’s big and yellow and pretty intimidating if you don’t know what to do with it. The only reason I’ve ventured out is because it’s a great alternative to pasta.

But I promise, it isn’t as scary as you think, in-fact it’s a super versatile squash just like the rest of them. The easiest way to cook spaghetti squash is by oven cooking for 30-45 minutes until soft. From here, you can pull away the inside to get that spaghetti style texture. I know this may not sound like a good point, but spaghetti squash is pretty bland, and this is what makes it so brilliant. It means it will soak up the flavour or whatever sauce, dressing you choose to cover it with.

Now you see, squash aren’t my favourite vegetables but they are so versatile it’s hard not to be impressed by them. Next time you’re in the supermarket don’t be afraid to pick up a new variety and see what adventure it can take you on pumpkin seeds.

It’s potato season, and who doesn’t love a potato in at least one of its various forms. The potato is a mighty vegetable that can be roasted, fried, baked, boiled and cooked in many other forms that we probably don’t even know about. But none are quite as humble as fries ( or chips as we call them in England).

Potato fries are the nation’s favourite food. In-fact, if you visit a British supermarket, you’ll see a whole frozen aisle dedicated to them. But today we aren’t here to talk about the potato itself, and instead how we season potatoes. Obviously salt is a must when it comes to topping your fries, but I want to give you an insight into other herbs and spices that will bring a whole new flavour to your fries.

Oregano

This is a favourite in Greece and if you’ve ever had gyros then you’ll know exactly what i’m talking about. Oregano is often used on pizza, pasta and various meat dishes, but works just as well, if not better, on fries.

There are several variations of oregano, with Greek and Italian being the most popular. If you want to make true, authentic Greek fries then source your Greek oregano from the supermarket or specialist herbal shops. It doesn’t matter whether you choose fresh or dried, as long as you put plenty on.


recipe-creamy-garlic-potato-soup

Find this Creamy Garlic and Potato soup recipe here!


Rosemary

If you are British you will probably be more than familiar with rosemary on your roast potatoes. So, why not mix things up a bit and throw it on your fries, too?

Rosemary is a woody, fragrant herb that can be found dried on the shelves of most supermarkets. Try sprinkling on your fries once cooked, or for a more potent flavour, add a spring or two of rosemary when part boiling your fries before oven cooking. Rosemary fries are the perfect complement to any lamb dish.

Seaweed salt

Seaweed salt and I became acquainted back in 2017 on a weekend trip to Brussels. Doing what most of us do, scouring the streets for the best local food, we came across a fish and chip shop selling daily caught fish with, you guessed it, seaweed salt fries.

This changed the whole salt game for me within the first bite. Seaweed is naturally very salty, but at this point I’d never considered seaweed salt to be a thing. But I’m so glad it is. Seaweed salt is full of minerals and therefore has a much stronger taste than most table salts. Sprinkling this on your fries may offer a subtle umami taste that goes extremely well with Asian dishes.

Parmesan

Cheesy chips? Yes, please! Cheese on fries comes in various forms in different countries, Poutine in Canada and chips cheese and gravy in the North of England. Parmesan on fries is probably one of the most refined versions though.

In Italy, it is common to pour parmesan on most things, so why not include fries on that list? As potatoes have a subtle taste, parmesan can really hit you with a burst of flavour to bring new life to the dish.

Garlic & mixed herbs

Garlic should be used on pretty much everything, and fries are no exception.

You can chop fresh garlic and cook it with the fries or sprinkle garlic granules once cooked, but you should definitely add garlic. And just to give it that extra hit of flavour, add mixed herbs to your fries for a truly Mediterranean taste.

Fries don’t have to be boring. Sure you can use table salt and pepper, but why stop there? There is a whole world of herbs and spices that are waiting to be sprinkled on your potatoes. Now you’ve got some insight into things that work, it’s time to experiment.

With corn season finally here, we can imagine picturesque rows of the sweet golden vegetable towering high in fields. It really is the definition of Autumn and can be used in a variety of ways, from smokey whole corn on the BBQ, to canned and frozen corn being thrown into hearty soups.

One of my favourite flavour combinations is tuna and sweetcorn. There’s a reason this famous duo can be found in various assortments, because it just works. With that being said, today’s recipe is all about taking tuna and sweetcorn to a new level.

Tuna and sweetcorn filo pizza is a fantastic quick dish that is light enough to be served as lunch, but can also be mixed with various other items to create a great pick and mix dinner. It’s cheap, easy and requires minimal effort. Whether you choose fresh, tinned or frozen corn is your choice, each will bring its own flavour to the dish.

In-fact, this really is the perfect store cupboard recipe. These are all inexpensive ingredients that if aren’t already in the back of one of your cupboards, can be found in most, if not all supermarkets. You just need some imagination, and some salt and pepper to bring the whole thing together…

Ingredients

● 5 sheets filo pastry
● 1 tin tuna, drained and flaked
● 1 tin sweetcorn, drained
● 4 tbsp creme fraiche
● 60g mozzarella, grated
● 2 tbsp olive oil
● Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and place a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray.
2. Place a sheet of filo on the tray, they lightly brush with olive oil. Layer the filo sheets and continue this process on each.
3. Mix the tuna and sweetcorn in a bowl, adding salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spread the creme fraiche over the top layer of filo, leaving approx 1 ½ inch from the border the whole way round.
5. Spread the tuna and sweetcorn mixture evenly over the creme fraiche.
6. Sprinkle the mozzarella over as a topping until evenly coated.
7. Place in the oven for 12-14 minutes until cooked and the filo pastry is golden brown.
8. Slice and serve.


Recipe-Black-Lentil-Spinach-Chickpea

Need a perfect companion for your Tuna and Corn pizza?

Find it in this Black Lentil, Spinach and Chickpea soup recipe here!


Cooking celeriac isn’t easy. In fact, just looking directly at celeriac can be quite intimidating. Where do you cut it? Does it need peeling? Parboil before baking?

My first experience with celeriac was a few years back, trying to cook a healthy dinner with a friend. It was the first time I’d ever seen one and like most of us, I had no idea. Where do you even start? Long story short, we never really worked out how to cook the celeriac because my friend cut her finger open trying to peel it. So, I’ve been put off ever since.

However, a few years down the line I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t escape celeriac any longer. It’s in season and it is such a versatile root vegetable that can be used in so many ways. It’s time to face up to my fears.

Don’t: Just start peeling

Before you jump straight into it, you need to prepare the celeriac, and do it safely. As you can see from above, there may be consequences if not.

Begin by cutting the top and the base of the celeriac off using a sharp knife. Then you have a stable base to cut the rest of the skin off. Just be sure not to take too much flesh. It’s best to use a sharp knife rather than a peeler for this process as there are many bumpy excess parts of a celeriac. This means it could be a bumpy ride.

Now you’ve removed the skin, you can begin to chop the celeriac to your desired shape.

Do: Mash it 

If it makes things easier, pretend it’s a potato. Celeriac can be cooked in many of the same ways that a potato can, including mashing. If you are looking for a way to add more variety to your diet, swapping your mashed potato for mashed celeriac is a pretty easy way to go about it.

Chop your celeriac into small cubes and place in a pan. Cover the celeriac with water and add a sprinkle of salt. Boil for 10-15 minutes until the celeriac becomes soft and easy to mash. From here you can go to town with your ingredients, use butter and cream for a truly creamy celeriac mash. The possibilities are endless! Cheese, chives, spring onion, bacon, tailor the celeriac to suit your taste buds.


recipe-creamy-potato-celeriac-soup

Find this Creamy Potato and Celeriac soup recipe here!


 

Don’t: Cook it

If on the other hand, you are looking for a lighter dish, then definitely don’t cook celeriac. Although with many root vegetables it’s best to cook them, this isn’t always the case with celeriac.

Raw, celeriac has a fantastic crunch with a nutty flavour, therefore it is perfect for a salad or slaw. This nutty taste is lost when cooking. So, if you’re looking for something more refreshing, and to add texture, use celeriac in a salad, it pairs well with apple and carrots.

You’ve got the tools and the knowledge you need to finally take the steps towards buying celeriac and actually using it. Go forth and cook, or don’t cook a fantastic celeriac recipe.

Eating a primarily plant based diet has an infinite list of benefits. We’ve all been told from a young age to ‘eat our greens’ and vegetables are top of the list when it comes to food groups that parents try to make their children eat.

That being said, if you follow a primarily plant based diet, although you may feel like a pinnacle of health, there’s definitely one thing you’ll have struggled with at some point, protein. It’s the bane of a vegetarian/vegan’s life, especially one that leads an active lifestyle. Most high protein sources come from animal based products and therefore trying to muster up a high protein diet from plants is, let’s face it, a tough one.

But, it’s not impossible. In-fact, many athletes have opted to switch to a plant based diet and have proven that it is possible to lead a balanced, high protein diet.

What is protein?

Let’s clear things up first, you probably need to know exactly what protein is before we go on talking about the different sources of it.

Protein is one of three macronutrients, along with fats and carbohydrates. These are the nutrients the body needs in large amounts in-order to function properly and keep all of the systems intact. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are mainly used to build muscle mass, help hair and nails grow, and help to regulate some hormones.

As you can see, protein is pretty important. But let’s get down to what exactly it does.

Why do we need it? 

Now you can see that protein is essential, but let’s dig a little deeper into its benefits. First thing first, one of the main things that protein does is help to repair and build muscle. Therefore, if you are doing a lot of exercise and looking to build muscle, you’ve got to get your protein in. Otherwise those muscles of yours will not grow as much as they could.

On top of this, protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, so if you’re looking for a way to feel full, make sure you’ve got protein packed meals. This can also come in handy if you’re opting for a healthier lifestyle and trying to lose weight.

In terms of what’s going on on the inside, protein helps to produce hormones and makes up enzymes that aid chemical reactions in the body. Regardless of whether you are active or not, you need a sufficient amount of protein for your body to work well.


recipe-creamy-vegan-quinoa-chard-chickpea-soup

Hungry for inspiration?
Find this  Creamy Vegan Quinoa, Chard and Chickpea soup and other vegan soup recipe here!


 

Plant based proteins

So, you’ve probably gathered that the majority of the protein you often eat comes from animal products such as meat and dairy, which can be a problem for those that choose a more plant based diet. That being said, there are certainly still ways that you can get a healthy amount of protein through plant based meals. It may take a little more planning and consideration, but it can be done.

Lentils  – 9g per 100g

Lentils are often found cooped up in a jar somewhere in the kitchen and left because many people don’t really know what to do with them, but they are an essential if you are looking to get more plant based protein in your diet.

Not only do they provide a good source of protein, they are also rich with iron and potassium. Lentils are best served in stews, soups and curries.

Broccoli – 4g per stalk

As well as being a good source of plant based protein, broccoli also contains calcium, folic acid and vitamins A,C,E,K,. No wonder it was a staple on my plate as a child. This means 4 stalks of broccoli will fill you with 16g of fibrous protein.

Edamame beans – 11g per 100g

These are a source of soy protein, vitamin K and antioxidants. Not sure how to cook them? Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a pan and throw the beans in, dash the salt and pepper on top and fry for a few minutes. Now you’ve got the perfect high protein afternoon snack.

Plant based protein powder

Often the main protein powder on the shelves is whey protein, but finally plant based protein powders are having their time to shine. There are several options out there for you to trial and test until you find one that tickles your fancy. The main protein sources are:

See it isn’t so bad when you really look into it. Vegetables are quite literally jam packed full of so many nutrients, including protein which is why it’s so important to get as many into your diet as possible. Choosing a primarily plant based diet does leave you lacking in some areas, but with prior planning and the information above, you can get cracking with the high protein vegetable dishes of your choice.

I am going to straight out admit that I’ve never liked cabbage. In northern England, the most excessive and exciting way to eat it is by creating a sloppy mess slumped on your Sunday roast dinner plate. Not appealing. With many cruciferous vegetables, I think a lot of us have a shared lack of knowledge of various ways to cook them, or maybe that’s just me. But the standard seems to be, roast, boil or fry, add a dash of salt and that’s about as adventurous as I get.

This is probably why cabbage has never really taken my fancy. Not knowing how to flavour or season it, the best way to cook it for different textures. And in all honesty, I have ever really given it much thought…until last month. This was a time when my perspective of cabbage (and most vegetables) completely changed. It was like an epiphany. The grand awakening of the cabbage, or something like that.

Recalling back to July, an old friend of mine, now a chef, invited my partner and I round for dinner. It was a chance to have a well deserved catch up, especially as lock down measures had been lifted in the UK and we enjoyed some good, home cooked food together. Plus, you always know it’s going to be good when your host is a professional chef.

The Moment of Truth

But, being a slightly picky eater, I was skeptical about what was about to be served, but my God was I wrong. We were presented with several small dishes ranging from fried chicken to a cream based fish, but what was the standout? The cabbage.

This was living proof that vegetables can be amazing if you know how to cook them. The white inside of the cabbage contrasted with the charred golden edges after being blasted at a high oven temperature for 20 minutes.I bet you’re itching to know what made it taste so good, well luckily I am going to tell you, it’s a secret that needs to be shared.

Here were the key ingredients:

Now I don’t know about you, but toasting cumin seeds and throwing them on a vegetable was never an idea I have had before, I didn’t even know it was a thing. I would like to think that I’m quite up to date with the latest food trends, but not when it comes to vegetables. This was possibly one of the first times I truly enjoyed eating a vegetable more than meat.


recipe_coconut_shrimp_cabbage_rice_soup

Looking for another way to try out your new-found love of cabbage?
Find this Coconut Shrimp, Cabbage and Rice soup recipe here!


 

And the Cabbage Flavor

The cabbage acted like a sponge, soaking up the marinated flavours, but somehow managed to stay crispy enough that it didn’t feel soggy in your mouth. These were such obvious flavour combinations, chili and lemon, but I’d never have thought to put them on a cabbage.

And what’s the take home lesson from this? Learn more about cooking vegetables. Experiment with flavours and cooking methods. because something that might be growing in your back garden could produce the best meal you’ve ever had.

 

 

Unfortunately for us in the UK, fresh produce is not as easy to come by as more exotic and warmer countries. However, in late summer/early Autumn something magical happens. The sides of pavements are brimming with thorns, if you pass by a canal you’ll be cautious of spikes catching your legs, but if you look a little closer you’ll see something beautiful growing…blackberries.

It isn’t often that a fruit is so easy to forage in this part of the world, unless you have knowledge on the subject. But blackberries thrive at this time of year and it gives us all the chance to connect with nature and pretend that we are true foragers. It is an especially important time for children to have their eyes opened up to the delights that nature has to offer and take it home for a tasty treat later on. This is something every child should have the chance to experience.

That’s because it’s something that will never be forgotten. Food brings us closer together, that’s just a fact. But it makes a moment even more important when you are picking the food yourself then going home to enjoy it with loved ones.

Growing up, I was never particularly surrounded by nature. I’ve lived in a city my whole life and my parents weren’t great fans of the outdoors. So, it was pretty standard to be playing on the streets, avoiding cars passing by. Visiting my nana was always memorable, as I’d be having my hair pulled into tight plaits, spending time with family and fussing over food (I was a picky eater unfortunately). But, there was one time that I will never forget, the time we went picking blackberries.

Blackberry Picking with Nana

One day, staying at my nana’s she decided to take me out to pick some blackberries. It wasn’t much effort as they were 10 steps away across the road. As a child, there is something exhilarating about picking food, like you’re an explorer deep in the amazon rainforests, except I was by the side of a road, but that doesn’t matter when you have a child’s imagination. We collected the succulent berries, leaving pinkish stains on our fingertips and took them straight inside to be washed and enjoyed. Even now as an adult, I can’t help think of the little bursts of flavour jam packed into the blackberry bubbles.


recipe_blackberry_soup

Find this Blackberry and Raspberry Fruit soup recipe here!


 

But what’s the point of me telling you all of this? Well I think the most important thing to take is that it’s blackberry season, so if you’re in the UK or any other country where blackberries grow you should be taking full advantage of this. Pick them, eat them, freeze them. Frozen berries can be stored for months and used for smoothies, desserts and everything else in-between.

As well as this, it’s a small reminder of the importance of food in our lives and the memories it brings. Yes, it is just a humble blackberry, but going to pick fruit with the kids, then teaching them a recipe will be something they’ll never forget. So, this story is about seasonal fruit, but it is also about how food brings us together.