My Gut Makeover

Now that I completed my Nutrition diploma I thought it about time to put some of my learnings into practise and trial out some new eating habits.

I think I generally eat pretty healthily – the vast majority of what I eat is unprocessed, homemade and nutritious however I am prone to bloating, bad skin, lack of energy and catching every cold around so after reading Jeanette Hyde’s “The Gut Makeover” I decided to give it a go.

I have completed week one of the cleanse and thought I would share my thoughts and a couple of recipe ideas with you.

Firstly, the theory behind the book centre on the gut being central to our weight and health so it sets out a 4 week cleanse plan to help repair the gut, re-populate with good bacteria and have us feeling better, happier, more energetic and healthier.

Our guts are filled with trillions of bacteria, processed foods, dairy, gluten and sugar are some key foods which act as irritants to the gut lining and cause an inbalance in the levels of bacteria in the gut. By removing these foods from our daily diet we are giving our guts a chance to recover, rebuild and rebalance. Good bacteria will flourish and we will hopefully end up feeling rejuvinated and glowing. 

The author of this book makes it clear that this isnt a diet – it is more a makeover and whilst you dont need to follow the daily plans forever this cleanse will help form better food and eating habits and can be revisited periodically to routinely give yourself a bit of an MOT!

Essentially week one has involved cutting out caffeine, alcohol, dairy, gluten, sugar, salt and processed foods. Every time I have told my friends about this they have been horrified asking what I am able to eat but, being honest, the only thing I have really missed is cappuccinos! I have followed the advice in the book by snacking on fruit, nuts and vegetables. The plan recommends trying to eat a wide variety of all fruit and vegetables – 20 a week and I think I have achieved this!

This isn’t about calorie counting, it is about 3 healthy, nutritious meals a day with healthy snacks, plenty of water and herbal tea.

When I am at work I have followed the following plan: 

Breakfast – Grapefruit with a Smoothie made with 3/4 fruits and vegetables – usually banana, kiwi, spinach and pear.

Lunch – Sweet Potato, Squash, Carrott and Chilli Soup

Snacks – a handful of nuts, an apple, melon and pineapple

Dinners this week have included Courgetti with Fresh tomatoes, chilli, garlic and anchovy

Warm Thai beef salad with Cauliflower Rice

Seabass with Chilli Greens and Mushrooms and Cauliflower Rice

Almond Crusted Chicken with Apple and Walnut Salad and Kale

Genuinely I think I am now a cauliflower rice convert – coarsley grate a quarter of a cauliflower and warm in a dry pan – I couldnt tell the difference between that and rice when it was mixed with the warm thai salad!


Again, by using ground almonds and crushed pistachios or walnuts to coat chicken instead of breadcrumbs you still retain a crispy coating – perfect for with a salad.


Weekend breakfasts have also been a treat – poached eggs, homemade guacamole made by mashing avocado, grated ginger, diced chilli with lime juice with sauteed mushrooms and spinach or salmon.


I have been drinking plenty of water, peppermint tea androoibos tea. 

So it really hasnt been too difficult at all despite sitting in the pub with my friends on water whilst they enjoy beer and wine and walking to the market near work seeing the lovely falafal stall (which i love!) and being unable to eat it!

So far i have lost 1.5kg in weight and have not felt bloated at all. My skin and sleeping patterns arent great but I am putting that down to the stress of moving house and a restructure at work.

I will blog again once I have finished week 2 which I am excited about! I am making a vegetable curry today for Elix and I to have for dinner tomorrow in fact and look forward to sharing the recipe!

Before the Cleanse…..

As I am now a qualified nutritionist, it seemed only right that I put myself on a cleanse so that I am best placed to give advice to people as and when life takes me there. 

The cleanse that I have chosen aims to nourish the tummy by repairing and rejuvinating the gut – taking out foods which are harmful to the digestive system and replacing them with foods which rebalance, replenish and nourish. My aim is not to lose weight but its to get my body to the best possible place to be fit, healthy and glowing! Anyway – more about that next week – for now I am sharing the recipe for Jamie Oliver’s Bustrengo which is a Bolognese Apple and Polenta Cake. Before the cleanse I am going out with a bang!

We ate similar cake in Bologna – its not too sweet – similar to bread and  butter pudding I suppose. Best served warm with either custard or creme freche.

Serves 10/fills a 28cm loose bottomed cake tin
Butter
100g Fine Polenta
200g Plain Flour
100g Breadcrumbs
100g Caster Sugar
500ml Milk
3 Eggs – beaten
100g Runny Honey
55ml Olive Oil
100g Dried Figs – chopped
100g Sultanas
500g (approx 2) Apples – peeled and diced
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
Zest of an Orange
Zest of a Lemon

Pre-heat oven to 180 degs and grease the cakes tin.
Mix together the polenta, flour, breadcrumbs and sugar in a large
mixing bowl. In a seperate bowl beat together the milk, eggs, honey and olive oil. Add this wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix together. Pop in the dried fruits, apples, zest and cinnamon and stir together.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 50 minutes to an
hour or until a skewer comes out clean when poked through.
As i said earlier – devour whilst still warm with creme freche or custard and a glass of Italian red wine.


See you next week when I’ll be a week into the cleanse and on my way to a new, healthier self!

Korean Salmon

As i sit on the train up to St Albans to see my bestie Zoe I am writing this blog as a reminder of the best chilli sauce i have ever tasted. Its super easy and versatile and uses one of my favourite ingredients at the moment – gochujang paste. I think I have mentioned it before in a blog – its Korean Chilli Paste – rich, spicy, and sweet all at the same time.

The inspiration for this recipe is JinJuu which is a brilliant Korean restaurant in Carnaby St London. I’ve been a few times and always get the Tofu Bibimbap and the Sticky Chicken wings – AMAZING!

Anyway, Judy Joo, the chef behind the place has a cookbook which i bought for Elix for Christmas and it is packed with tasty recipes.

This recipe is a simple grilled Salmon dish – its the Gochujang glaze which makes it so special. After making a batch of the glaze I also used it to marinade some chicken and drizzled it over some lightly fried tofu – both worked and were delicious!

For the Gochujang Glaze
3tbsp Gochujang Paste
2tsbp Mirin
2tbsp Soy Sauce
2tbsp Sugar
2 Cloves Garlic – grated
1/2 tbsp Sesame Oil
1 tsp Grated Ginger
1 tsp Black Pepper

Mix everything together! Yep – thats it, so straight forward!
To make the salmon dish, I brushed the sauce generously over the salmon fillets and grilled for 8 minutes. To serve, scatter over some spring onion slices and sesame seeds and plate alongside some brown rice and greens.

Cashew Chicken & Noodles

I loved cooking and eating this dish – it made me very happy! Prep everything beforehand and then simply add each ingredient one by one into a wok and see the tastiest noodle stir fry come together!

The recipe i have used came from a cooking class I took in Chiang Mai, Thailand so its authentic but still easy and oh so delicious!

Serves 2
1 nest of rice noodles
1tsp Soy Sauce
1 Chicken Breast – butterflied and sliced
3 Cloves Garlic
1 Chilli – sliced
1/2 Onion – diced
3 Spring Onions – sliced
60g Cashew Nuts
1 handful Mini Corn – sliced
1 handful Mangetout
1 handful Tenderstem Broccolli
1 head Pak Choi – chopped
2 tbsp Oyster Sauce
1tbsp Fish Sauce
1tbsp Soy Sauce
1/2 tbsp Palm Sugar
Water

Soak the noodles in boiling water and when al dente, drain and stir 1 teaspoon of soy sauce through – leave to one side.
Fry the cashews in rapeseed oil until golden and leave to one side.
Heat some rapeseed oil in a wok and pop the garlic in to lightly fry. As the garlic turns a golden brown colour, add the chicken, chilli and onion and stir fry for 5 minutes or until the chicken has cooked. Add the veggies in along with 50ml water. Continue to stir fry and then add the soy, fish sauce, oyster sauce and palm sugar. Mix everything together and continue to simmer. Finally add the cashews and spring onions and mix through.
Finally pop the noodles into the wok and ensure they get completely covered with the rich, tasty sauce and take off the heat.
I served with some crispy tofu on top for a little crunch (and because I love tofu!)

I want to Bake a Cake…..what can I use from the Cupboard?!

To cheer myself up today….and also start to use up some of the food in the cupboard before we move house – I baked a Marmalade, Coconut and Polenta cake. I know it sounds like a random mix of ingredients but the end result is lovely and tasty. 

The recipe makes enough for two loaf tins worth….il admit, the first batch i forgot to put sugar in (oops!) but…..I can attest to the fact that the sugar-free version tastes nice as it benefits from the sweetness of the coconut and orange juice but obviously the sugar helps to balance out the slightly bitter marmalade taste. So…..its upto you which version you make!

Makes 2 Loaf Tins
180ml Rapeseed Oil
240ml Orange Juice
Grated zest of one Orange
160g Marmalade
4 Eggs
70g Dessicated Coconut
70g Caster Sugar
100g Ground Almonds
180g Polenta (fine)
2tsp Baking Powder

For the Syrup

50g Caster Sugar
20ml Water
10ml Orange Juice

Preheat the oven to 180 degs.
Whisk the wet ingredients together including the marmalade, until it dissolves. Mix the dry ingregients together so all incorporated. Gently add them to the wet ingredients and mix together. The mix will be slightly runny – don’t panic – the oven will sort that out!
Line the loaf tins with greaseproof paper and fill them with equal measures of the cake mix.
Bake for 45minutes or until a skewer comes out clear.
To make the syrup, slowly heat the sugar, juice and water until bubbling and slightly syrup-y in texture.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven generously brush the syrup over the top so that the whole cake can soak it up for extra sweetness and moisture.
Leave the cake on a wire rack to cool and serve with some greek yoghurt.

A little Crackling

I want to share this recipe mainly as a reminder to myself of how to get great crackling! I finally achieved a deliciously golden crunchy crackle atop juicy, fragrant pork belly.

As a lighter, something different, as recommended by Ottelenghi in his Nopi cookbook I made a walnut and apple salsa to serve alongside the pork with some sauteed potatoes and kale and sprouts.

Serves 4
For the Pork

1kg Pork Belly
Half a Lemon
Coarse Sea Salt
12 Sprigs Thyme
10 Cloves Garlic – crushed, with skin on
10cm Ginger – sliced
4 tsp Lemongrass Paste
400ml Water
500ml White Wine

For the Salsa

1 Apple – diced
50g toasted walnuts – chopped
50g pickled walnuts – chopped
Small handful of chopped tarragon
2tbsp Lime Juice
1tbsp Rice Vinegar
2tbsp Mirin
2tbsp Olive Oil

Pre-heat oven to 200degs – it needs to be very hot to achieve good crackling. Get the pork and pork skin as dry as you can – I left mine out of the fridge at room temperature on a plate for an hour. Rub the lemon half all over the skin ensuring the juice covers the top – and leave for 10 minutes. Once 10 minutes had passed, rub the skin thoroughly with the salt.
Place the herbs and aromats in a roasting tray and pop the pork belly on top – skin side up. Pop in the oven for an hour.
After the hour, the skin should be hard, golden and cracked! Rub any excess salt off and shower again with a little more salt – pop back into the oven for another 30 minutes.
The next step involves carefully pouring the wine and water into the roasting tray ensuring none of it goes onto the top – we dont want to lose the crackle!
Back into the oven again (yes I know its a lot of in and out, opening and closing the oven door!) at a lower temperature of 175degs for 45 minutes.
Now its time to make the salsa – simply mix all the ingredients together. For the pickled walnuts, i warmed a mixture of white wine vinegar and sugar with some peppercorns and left the walnuts in it for 30 minutes. This little salsa is a refreshing, zingy accompanyment to the rich pork.
When the pork is ready you should be able to cut through the crackling and straight into a silky soft layer of fat on top of the moist meat. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes. Serve in beautiful slices with the salsa and some greens.
Good Luck – may the crackle be with you!

Bologna – La Grossa

After a lovely long weekend in Bologna with Elix, I now understand why one of Bologna’s nicknames is “La Grossa” meaning The Fat One. The food is incredible and I could not stop eating! 

Bolognese food is simple, authentic, delicious and oh so fresh. It is the home of tagliatelle, tortellini, mortadella and ragu (the Bolognese never have Spaghetti Bolognese!). On every street corner is the freshest, most colourful selection of fruit amd vegetables I have ever seen including bright purple raddichio, beautiful artichokes, juicy tomatoes and lovely pears.


Elix and I spent the weekend trying lots of new and traditional dishes and whilst I wont be sharing any recipes in this blog, I wanted to share the experience as it as so fantastic!

The first traditional Bolognese dish I ate was Tortellini in Brodo – simply – tiny tortellini in a broth. The first registration of a tortellini recipe was im Bologna – thin, light pasta encasing pork loin and prosciutto and a little cheese. A common dish in Bologna simply serves these tiny pillows of delight in a clear, rich chicken broth. Serving in such a way enhances the taste of the tortellini and is a perfect winter’s lunch. 

I also tried pumpkin tortelli with ragu. The tortellini were sweet and when paired with rich ragu sauce made for a very tasty meal at a restaurant called Al Voltone. I will definitely be trying this dish at home.

 

Now to talk about the ragu – this is as Bolognese as you will get – always served with tagliatelle (the Bolognese don’t eat spaghetti with ragu) – the silkier sheets of tagliatelli pasta provide a better vessel for the sauce to cling to ensuring you get a tasty mouthful with every bite. Whilst I need to try out my own recipes for traditional Bolognese ragu, the sauce generally uses just tomato paste (no chopped tomatoes), carrots, celery, onion, pancetta and minced beef along with wine, stock and olive oil. This is to be cooked very slowly – upto 3-4 hours until a rich, tasty sauce has developed. The sauce is less red than we get at home and tastes less sweet but really is delicious with some (proper)  Parmigiano-Reggiano scattered on top. The one below was the best, eaten at Osteria dell’Orsa – a tiny, very busy restaurant in the Jewish quarter.


A dish we tried and loved was Cotoletta alla Bolognese and is the Bolognese equivalent of a Chicken Milanese. Here in Bologna – a thin pork or veal cutlet is covered in breadcrumbs and lightly fried adding local parma ham and parmesan to melt on top and serving with a light creamy sauce.  We ate at Il Tinello – a friendly, cosy yet lively restaurant with delicious food and wine and lovely traditional decor.


As I always do on any trip abroad I tracked down a good market where we could eat a traditional lunch. Piadina it was! A piadina is a warm sandwich of thin Italian flatbread encasing the filling. We had ours with mortadella (a Bolognese staple – pork sausage flavoured with whole peppercorns, pistachios and nutmeg) and pecorino – a salty sheep’s cheese. At the stall in the Mercato di Mezzo there were dozens of flavours to choose from – all showcasing the best of Bolognese and Italian produce.

Finally, we ate the best gelato I have ever eaten at a small Gelataria, south west of the centre. One of Elix’s friends had recommended La Sorbetteria and when I heard their signature flavour was bitter dark chocolate I couldn’t be stopped from marching through the rain to get there. The place didnt disappoint and my two scoops of Bitter Chocolate and Espresso, Mascarpone and Cacao made me a very happy lady! 

A final bit of news about the trip is that I tried my first espresso! We spent our first day of the trip with my dear friend Laura and her huaband Johannes. They live in Florence and came to meet us and experience Bologna too. After a lovely lunch of antipasti, pasta and Sangiovese we stopped for a coffee and a cake. Johannes explained to me how the Italians treat the espresso as a quick social drink – always to be consumed in the cafe (never takeaway!) in the afternoons (no milk in coffee after lunchtime is the Italian rule) and with a little sweet on the side. And so i came to enjoy my first espresso with a little bombolino (fried choux pastry filled with custard) on the side. I think I’m a convert – the coffee was rich and silky, not at all bitter and a lovely pick me up on the chilly afternoon! 

I would highly recommend Bologna it really lives up to its nicknames – La Grossa – the fat one, La Rossa – the red one and La Dotta the learned one – so much to eat, see and do!