I Tried It: Making Ghee

Have you ever used ghee? Ghee, a clarified butter, is known as ‘liquid gold’ in some South Asian cultures because it comes from the revered cow. The process of making ghee removes the milk solids and water and leaves you with lovely golden liquid that solidifies as it goes to room temperature.

I started using ghee a few years ago when I started eating paleo. It’s a very versatile fat with an exceptionally high smoke point, which means that it’s great for high temperature cooking – frying, grilling, searing, etc.

My bug bear with ghee is that organic, grass-fed versions can be very expensive. Last week, I was chatting with my mother and she mentioned that she wanted to try making it herself, and I thought, hmmm, why don’t I try it as well. And what do you know, it was so easy that I’ll be making my own from now on!

What you need:

2 blocks of unsalted grass-fed butter

A cast iron pan

A ladle

A ceramic bowl

Cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer

A large glass jar to store the ghee

How to make it:

1. Place your cast iron pan onto the stove and put the burner on medium heat.

2. Place the two blocks of unsalted butter into the pan.

3. As the blocks melt, the milk solids will rise to the top. When the blocks have completely melted and the liquid starts to bubble, turn the heat off. This should take about 5-7 minutes.

4. Use your ladle to pass the liquid through the strainer, with the ceramic bowl underneath to catch the ghee. If you end up using a fine mesh strainer rather than a cheesecloth, you may need to strain the mixture twice to completely remove all of the milk solids. Once this step is complete, you should be left with beautiful golden ghee.

5. Let the ghee cool for a few minutes before pouring into your glass container. Stored in the fridge, where the ghee will solidify, it should last for at least a month, if you use clean utensils when cooking with it.

freshly-made-ghee

P.S. When I was making this, I wondered what I should do with the leftover milk solids. I did some quick Googling and found that some people save them and crumble them onto their morning porridge, brown them to add a lovely buttery taste to stewed fruit, pancakes or anything else you would normally use butter in. Some people even spread the milk solids onto toast!

Eating to improve anxiety


Anxiety seems to be a growing problem these days, especially amongst young people. Various pressures – societal, economic, physical, technological, emotional, political – mean that people are being pulled in many directions, increasing their day to day anxiety and decreasing their ability to cope.

When you add in increased alcohol intake too, it’s wonder that anxiety is one of the fastest growing self-help categories.

The good news, is that there are foods you can eat that can help ease anxiety.

First a bit of science: serotonin (the happy hormone) is synthesised from an essential amino acid called tryptophan, which cannot be synthesised in the body. Eating foods abundant in tryptophan throughout the day can naturally help increase / balance serotonin levels and can have a positive effect on your mood and anxiety levels.

So what foods are high in tryptophan? With all of these foods, go organic and free-range wherever possible.

Almonds: A personal favourite, you can get the benefits through whole almonds, ground almonds, almond butter or almond milk. Buy organic and local wherever possible, as almonds are notoriously resource heavy during farming. Also, when you’re using almond milk, read the ingredients to make sure you’re not buying one with loads of fillers like carrageenan, oils and sugars. I like Plenish or Rude Health Ultimate Almond.

Poultry: Poultry is generally high in tryptophan, however the winner in this category is turkey, which has the highest amount. This explains that happy feeling after feasting on turkey during Christmas dinner, right?

Avocado: This wonder fruit (or is a vegetable?) is also high in B vitamins, which help convert tryptophan to serotonin.

Salmon: The ideal choice is wild Alaskan salmon (which is also high in vitamin D!) to avoid the antibiotics and growth hormones in farmed fish. It’s very important not to go overboard with fish (my recommendation is 2 x weekly, maximum) as its goodness must be balanced with the realities of what fish are absorbing from 0ur very polluted water.

Organic, free-range dairy products: They are also a good source of healthy fats and B vitamins.

Pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds: These seeds are also high in B vitamins and zinc.

Green tea and matcha: A new favourite of mine, they are both high in l-theanine, a calming amino acid that helps reduce stress.

To get more bang for your buck, eat these foods with a carbohydrate food (i.e. fruit and veg, gluten free grains like oatmeal, buckwheat or quinoa), as they will improve absorption of tryptophan.

Other ways to manage anxiety

Vitamin D: Make sure to get enough vitamin D, either from the sun or a supplement during the winter. If you’re not sure what your vitamin D levels are, you can get tested for £25 from http://www.vitamindtest.org.uk

Deep breathing: Taking a long deep breath, in for three breaths through your nose and out for three breaths through your mouth is a brilliant way to shift your nervous system out of sympathetic (fight or flight) mode, back to the calming parasympathetic rest and digest mode.

The Easiest Frittata Recipe

easy-frittata-hot-out-of-the-oven

Aside from their significance as a major plot point in the Harrison Ford – Rachel McAdams film, Morning Glory, frittatas are one of those recipes that everyone seems to have their own little twist on. And why not? Their versatility means that even the newest of cooks can make a lovely frittata.

What you need:

At least 10 large free-range, organic eggs (the more eggs you use, the denser the frittata will be – no bad thing!)

Vegetables of your choice – I chose 1 cup of collard greens and 1 tomato for my version

Protein of your choice – I used 1 cup of diced chorizo in this recipe, but have also liberally used shredded pork, chicken and beef, as well as many varieties of cheese in the past

Chopped herbs of your choice – I used 1 sprig each of fresh thyme and rosemary

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

Non-stick pan

Oven

How to make it:

1.  Break all the eggs into a bowl and beat them together, until all the yolks and whites have combined.

2. Add your chopped veg, protein and herbs to the egg mixture and stir until everything is combined.

3. Turn on your oven to 175C.

4. Add the olive oil to your non-stick pan, making sure that there is a light coating of oil across the pan and turn on the stove to low-medium heat.

5. Pour the frittata mixture into the pan, stirring so that all the veg and protein ingredients are evenly distributed. Use the tomatoes to create a nice pattern on the top of the frittata.

6. Leave to cook for 5 minutes or until the edges of the frittata start to crisp up.

easy-frittata-cooking-on-the-stove

7. Remove the pan from the stove (not forgetting to turn it off!) and place it into the warm oven. Let it cook for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the frittata is firm to the touch and there are no runny areas around the top.

8. Remove from the oven. Using a pallet knife or something similar, lift around the edges of the frittata so that it is easy to slide out of the pan, on to a plate.

9. Let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!

easy-frittata-ready-to-serve

Let’s drop the food guilt resolutions.

merrygoround

So it’s that time of the year again. Resolution time. Do you make resolutions? As a student nutritionist, I often hear people making resolutions to ‘do better’ with food, to eat healthier, to ‘be good’. These resolutions often come with a huge side of guilt. Guilt and shame.

Let’s stop all of this.

These boom-bust, famine-feast attitudes towards food are robbing us of the pleasure of eating.

There are no ‘bad’ foods. There are foods that are better than others, absolutely. And this will vary for each person. For every person that can eat a slice of cake in ‘moderation’, there’s another person that cannot.

The only thing that’s bad, is a guilty attitude around food that undercuts the true pleasure you can get from eating. This pleasure can come from biting into a crisp piece of celery with creamy peanut butter, to the umami taste in a steaming bowl of ramen. I love the pleasure of really savouring food, enjoying the taste, smell, look, mouthfeel and of course, that lovely warm feeling at the end of a meal when I know I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve eaten.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: the pleasure of eating should ideally last from the moment of anticipation when you first put the food into your mouth through to the lovely feeling of satiety when you’ve finished the meal. If there’s a disconnect, then the pleasure becomes bittersweet, doesn’t it? I love eating ice cream, but it’s just not worth the hours I’ll spend afterwards running back and forth to the loo.

So ditch the short-term resolutions and start thinking about a long-term change in attitude toward food and eating instead.

And get rid of the guilt. Enjoy the food you do eat and find pleasure in the making and eating of your meals.

Don’t detox, just eat better.

At this time of the year, newspapers and magazines are filled with weight loss, fitness and detox stories. And I’ll admit, I do enjoy reading them and seeing what nutrition & exercise (mis)information is being passed around.

One of my biggest gripes is seeing articles that talk about needing to detox post Christmas, with claims that a 3, 5, 7, 10 (you choose a number of days!) day detox will cure everything that ails you.

The biological reality is that your body is constantly detoxifying itself – that’s what your liver, kidneys, bowels, lungs and skin are for. And the by-products of this perpetual detoxification are stool, urine and sweat (really! they’re not just annoyances!).

The liver is the body’s waste purification plant and it is perpetually in motion, 24 hours a day. The more toxins you put in, the harder the liver has to work to remove them. By toxins, I mean products and by-products of the digestive system (excess sugar, trans-fatty acids and gut dysbiosis), alcohol, smoking by-products, environmental toxins (lead, chlorine, fluorine, insecticides, herbicides, solvents, metals, mould, pollen, algae) and oxidative stress (free radicals).

Your body really doesn’t want toxins to build up. So much so that the liver has a two stage detoxification process to make sure all the waste is removed – anything from alcohol to heavy metals to pesticides to the by-products of medication to hormones like xenoestrogens. The liver is continuously converting these substances to inactive forms for excretion in urine (via the kidneys) or stool.

How do you know whether your body’s detoxification functions are working correctly? Here are some signs and symptoms are suboptimal detoxification:

If your bowels aren’t functioning well, you’re likely to have bloating, fatty stools, constipation, diarrhoea, an intolerance to fatty foods and bad breath.

If your immune system isn’t functioning well, you’re likely to have food allergies, skin issues like eczema and psoriasis, recurring infections and potentially asthma.

If your endocrine system (hormones) isn’t functioning well, you’re like to suffer from high stress, infertility, PMS, mood swings, anxiety and potentially depression.

If your nervous system isn’t functioning well, you’re likely to have headaches, poor sleep, lethargy and poor memory and concentration.

So knowing all this, the real question (which is less of a quick fix and not as sexy a ‘detox’): how can I consistently support my liver, lungs, skin, digestive system, bowels and kidneys?

  1. Drink lots of water throughout the day. Most people are slightly dehydrated and often mistake thirst for hunger, so the bare minimum to aim for is 1.5L of water across the day.
  2. Eat green leafy vegetables. These contain the micronutrients and enzymes that support the first stage of liver detoxification and kickstart the second stage.
  3. Eat more nuts and seeds. Seeds like pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and nuts like almonds, cashews, Brazils and hazelnuts have micronutrients that help your liver work better.
  4. Eat enough protein. Red meat, nuts, eggs and fish are amongst some of the protein sources that contain the amino acids needed for the second stage of liver detoxification.
  5. Don’t drink alcohol every day. Metabolising alcohol puts pressure on the liver and diverts it from its other important functions, such as bile secretion, which is helps the body digest fats.
  6. Support your gut. A good balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut supports your immune and digestive systems and helps improve the quality of your skin.
  7. Get at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. Sleep is when your body has a chance to repair and regenerate and this supports its detoxification systems.
  8. Get sweaty at least 3 times a week. A good excuse for a run, a spin class or a shag!

Stories I loved this week.

beehive-at-kew-gardens

It’s Christmas Day! Today feels like the culmination of a lot of happy planning and it’s been great to see the day unfold, with a very happy three year old running around.

We had a very slow morning of presents, coffee and scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. Then an amble down to church for the Christmas Day service and then back home to make Christmas lunch. We’ll probably go for another walk later, to enjoy the quiet local streets and maybe nip into the local pub for a festive drink, before heading home to get cozy in front of a few Christmas films. How’s your Christmas been?

Here are a few links for you to browse in your downtime this week. Have a great Christmas!

Three types of knives for tiny chefs. I love this – J really enjoys helping me in the kitchen so this is a really good way to get him thinking about knife safety. (The Kitchn)

Who else is obsessed with Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa? This is a great profile of her. Very interesting to see her recipe testing process. (Eater)

Have you ever considered making your own tinctures or tonics? This is a lovely starting point. (Lenny)

When did you start making your own Christmas family traditions? We started our own a few years after we started going out, with a Christmas bauble tradition and it’s been really great to see our collection grow over the years.

I really want to try this cider braised pork shoulder recipe. (Carnal Dish)

This cookbook from Jessica Koslow, the owner of Sqirl, looks great.

Behind the scenes of photographing a cookbook. (Chronicle Books)

Easy Potato Latkes

This is an easy recipe for those mornings when you want something substantial and savoury, but aren’t in the mood for something with eggs or bread.

Latkes are so underrated. They should be on more menus because you can cram so much goodness into them and no one’s the wiser, especially my little three year old!

My version has a bit of apple, garlic and onion in it and you could even make it with grated sweet potato or squash too. The main component just needs to be a starchy vegetable, especially if you’re not using flour as a binding agent.

If you want to save time in the morning, you can make up the raw mixture the night before, put it into the fridge and pull it out 10 minutes before you need to start cooking to bring it to room temperature.easy-potato-latkes-with-greek-yoghurt-and-pulled-porkMakes 10

What you need: 

3 large white potatoes

1/4 onion

1/4 apple

2 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tsp salt

a sprig of fresh thyme

1 large egg

2 tbsp olive oil or duck fat

a non-stick pan

Greek yoghurt

How to make it:

Grate the potatoes, onion, apple and garlic into a bowl. I don’t bother peeling the potatoes or apple beforehand, as there’s a lot of nutrients in the skin.

Put the grated ingredients into a kitchen towel or muslin.grated-latke-mixture-ready-to-squeeze-outSqueeze out as much moisture as you can. The drier the mixture is, the better it will bind together when it cooks.squeezing-out-the-moisture-from-the-latke-mixturesqueezing-out-the-moisture-from-the-latke-mixture1latke-mixture-all-squeezed-out-with-no-moistureCrack an egg into a bowl and beat until the egg yolk and white are combined.adding-the-egg-to-the-latke-mixturePut the mixture back into the bowl with the beaten egg and add the salt and thyme leaves. Then combine until the egg mixture has covered all of the grated ingredients.latke-mixture-ready-to-fry-upPut your chosen fat into the pan and turn the stove onto medium heat. If the heat is too high, the outside will cook too quickly.

In the meantime, turn your oven on to 50-70C.

Working in batches of 3 latkes, spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the mixture per latke into the pan and then flatten then out with the back of the spoon so that each latke is even. Cook for 3 minutes per side.latke-mixture-pressed-into-the-panpotato-latkes-frying-in-the-panWhen each batch of latkes is cooked, transfer to a plate in the oven so they stay warm while you cook the others.easy-potato-latkesServe with a dollop of Greek yoghurt. I also like to eat my latkes with shredded pork or chicken, to make them even more filling. Enjoy!