Thursday, 21 May 2009

why does barley look so disgusting, but taste so delicious...

I made a delicious barley and sausage stew last night. absolutely delicious. but as i was going to take some photographs of it i realised how disgusting it looked. sometimes healthy food just doesn't seem so appetizing. it appeared like a medieval meal (which stew is, i suppose).

anyway, there was no way to make this stew appear more delicious, so i thought i would write it instead.

if you've never had pearl barley before, you are seriously missing out. it is so yummy. it has a fantastic texture. and it is really good for you too. low GI and everything!

its so easy to use, i literally put it into the stew, cover over the lid, turn the heat way down or off and let it do its thing for about 2 hours - overnight is better. it absorbs all the flavours around it, and tastes phenomenal.

so here's my recipe:
- chop and fry 1 leek, 2 carrots and 3 onions in a tbsp of olive oil
- once they are browned off and cooked, put these in a large saucepan and add some passata, some hot water and some bouillon. and don't forget to season it too.
- take some sausages (5-6) and fry them up. chop them into chunks (you don't have too actually, but i think the flavours are better infused into the rest of the stew)
- add these to the tomato sauce you've just made.
- put about a handful of pearl barley into the pan leave to simmer for 1 hour, then turn off and rest for 2+

you can easily do this in a slow cooker, and it will taste amazing. just add the cooked ingredients to your slow cooker instead of a large saucepan.

...there we go, ready to eat deliciousness!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

gluten free, wheat free, egg free cookies

ok, so these rose a bit more than cookies should do, but that just meant that they were light and fluffy, and that isn't a bad thing. we just might have to call them mini cakes instead.

i made the quantities up as I went along, but here's what I used:
margarine, fructose sugar, maple syrup, milk, gluten/wheat free flour, baking powder.

- start by mixing some margarine with the sugar. beat it until its pale and creamy.
- add a couple of dashes of maple syrup, and a drop of milk. mix it all up, until it looks kinda glossy.
- add a little bit of baking powder. then add in the flour bit by bit, mixing after each addition until well combined. the final batter should be between dropping consistency and dough (too much flour and it will be too dry, so be careful)
- drop them onto a greaseproof tray (flatten with a fork for more cookie shaped results!) and bake in the oven at 180c until golden.
the only bad thing about these biscuits is that they were really crumbly because there was no egg in them. maybe egg replacer or something similar might do the trick!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

goodness direct

with tasty and ethical brands like Biona, Rachels' Organic, Forest Foods, Redwood, Amisa Organic, Doves Farm, Mrs Crimbles, TRUfree and loads more, i love Goodness Direct!

every time i go on their website i can't help but think yum. plus its almost all good for you. its free delivery over £35 which is excellent, and seriously i could stock up for ages on this stuff. there's some beauty products too, as well as standard household stuff. i can't wait to make my first order!

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Saturday, 16 May 2009

italy, conad & me

i have just arrived back from my holiday in italy with my family! it was such gorgeous weather, and delicious food.

on our second day we went out to the local supermarket to get some supplies for the kitchen... and the Conad was such an experience to shop in, i thought i would give you a sneak peek inside an Italian supermarket.

it was so much fun looking round the shop, as there were some totally new brands i had never heard of. And it was interesting seeing completely new food too. i was amazed and over the moon to see prepacked and cooked chickpeas, spinach and pearl barley. wowee, how healthy!

so. ironically, we were never served anything remotely this healthy. loads of white pasta, and way too much salt. everything was really good, but i felt so bloated and big by the end of the week. and thirsty because of the salt.

but, we did find out some tasty snacks, that were totally salt free, with no added sugar (zucchiere)...

it does look like baby food, but tasted delicious, especially the mixed fruit one. yum!

every evening we had a chef cook us dinner in our villa (oh my word, how posh is that?), and there were always 4 courses. first was some sort of bruschetta type bread with a topping. next was the pasta course. then, the meat course with a few vegetables (covered with olive oil and salt usually) and then the pudding.

almost always made me feel slightly unwell, because i ate way too much. but i did enjoy the snacks i took with me during the day, which kept me balanced. i had chocolate covered almonds, dried mango, and cereal bars. pretty good.

we went out to buy cakes at one point too. frangipane, marzipan and sugary fruit = the main basis of these cakes. biscotti are delicious, especially the really nutty ones. but the rest of my family aren't health freaks like myself, so had many, rather than one. and i was the person to initiate the buying of fresh apples, bananas, cherries and pears. oh, and yogurt too.

every morning i brought down a green tea bag to have with breakfast, which my whole family thought was strange. but, the only other thing to drink was coffee or UHT milk. ew. it did help clear my salty head though, so rock on green tea!

anyways, should you ever go to Italy, definitely try a gelato if you allow yourself. i had a small tub of strawberry and coconut icecream. delicious! it was well worth the sugar headache that followed!

the views are amazing... can you spot the creepy italian tree (aka the tall thin one)?

and when we went into town, we decided that each of us would be taking part in a challenge to find the best wine. we all had to buy a bottle for under 10euros and then we would do a blind taste testing to see which one was the nicest. and later on that evening, my bottle won!! haha, i have the least vino experience of all my fellow travellers, so maybe it was just beginners luck?

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

perfect porridge

Porridge is one of the most nutritious breakfasts you can have in the morning. But so often we just can't be bothered to make it...I know I can't anyway.

BUT, I have recently rediscovered my love for oatmeal before 9am. I have found the perfect food to keep me going all really does. I can tell the difference in my energy levels when I have porridge, so it is worth making it. I promise.

Its important to get the right kind of oats to start with, otherwise your mission will fail. I have found that the cheapest oats are usually the best, a huge back of Tesco's Scottish Porridge Oats suits me just fine. Its important that its flaked oats, rather than rolled or large oats. The smaller the particles, the better the porridge; believe me on this one.

Oatmeal should only be reserved for the more hardcore of porridge eaters, as it has a more distinct texture and flavour. Oatmeal is great in baking though; I wouldn't pass up an oatmeal raisin cookie if it was offered to me!

Ok, so you have your bag of value porridge oats. Full of fibre and so easy to use. Next you will have to decide on what you will cook it with.

In my opinion, I have come to enjoy porridge with half water, half soya milk. But half water, half goats milk is delicious too. Of course you can just add regular cows milk, but half and half is healthier, isn't it? The great thing about porridge oats, is that the natural milk in the oats is released quicker, so you get a much creamier porridge. I sometimes just use water to cook my porridge, and am always astounded by how delicious it is.

Ok, now, rather than tell you exactly how much water to oats you should have, I will tell you what I do each morning. As I never measure exactly.

I will put a LARGE handful of oats in the pan (but it does depend on how hungry I am), and then cover it in water, so it just goes over the top of the oats, so you can't see them any more. I might add more liquid at a later stage, depending on how it looks as it cooks.

Then I put it on the heat, a very medium temperature, as boiling it will cook it too fast, and the oat milk won't have time to be let out and it will taste really bland. I stir continuously whilst it cooks so that the flavours enfuse, and it really is a nice even texture.

What you are looking for is a nice creamy consistency. So you can't see any oat particles any more, and there isn't any separation in the ingredients. I usually think its ready, tell myself to wait a bit longer, until it is actually ready. The heat really needs to sink in.

People all have a preference for how they like their porridge. Some people enjoy having it really runny, some prefer it to be standing up on the plate its so hard. But, you will come to learn exactly how you like it.

Whatever you do, try to avoid cooking it in the microwave. Although, having said that, my grandmother does make excellent microwave porridge. But she takes it out every minute to beat it with a spoon, so that the texture is right and its thoroughly cooked all the way through.

Now for the toppings. This is the most fun part of making porridge.

My personal preference is to add some sultanas to the porridge a couple of minutes before the end of cooking time, so they are all swollen, juicy and delicious. Then when its in my bowl, I drench it in honey, and sprinkle it with sunflower seeds. The textures and flavours are incredible.

Another good porridge topping is dried blueberries and linseeds. Yummy! I can't recommend that enough.

Some people enjoy putting milk on top, but I personally have never understood that. It is tradition though.

Other ideas for toppings: dried fruit, seeds, dark chocolate chips (indulgence!), banana, tinned fruit - drained, maple syrup, jam. Please leave a comment to let me know what your favourite topping is! I am always up for trying out different ideas, no matter how bizarre they might seem.

Ok. So that is your quick tips on making porridge. And making it taste good too!

Check out these tasty and healthy breakfast recipes at

UPDATE: The most beautiful porridge is made by mixing 1/2 cup porridge oats, 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup water together and putting it on a low heat until cooked. This is how I am currently making my porridge anyway