Hey folks, we are sponsoring this awesome event this coming weekend in Southend-On-Sea. The Wellbeing Now Seminar will host 48 hours of live workshops and lectures from some of the most influential and cutting edge speakers in the health world. The weekend promises an opportunity for transformation, education and inspiration and is fantastic vale at £55 a ticket for the entire weekend.
A series of studies have begun at the University of Maryland to look at the gut and psychology link. In fact studies like this are happening in many universities globally looking at epigenetics and how we are what we eat and the results are coming in thick and fast. The first study, that the University of Maryland will be published in the journal Psychiatry Research in August, has found that social anxiety and neurosis is reduced in teens who consume fermented foods! How fantastic eh? The Science Daily article is very exciting to us here at Equinox as many customers report feeling great after regularly drinking kombucha but there's not been much hard science to support or substantiate any health claims about the drink. We welcome any scientific research that helps people to take control of their own health and we're looking forward to more groundbreaking research from the University of Maryland. In the mean time pick up a box of Equinox and get your chill on.
Last weekend the equinox team attended the Harrogate Fine Food show run by Deliciously Yorkshire and the Guild of Fine Foods.
The trade only show brought together Yorkshire's finest food producers.
Success at the show means we'll be seeing Equinox stocked in an array of farm shops and new wholesalers around the North of the country very soon as well as been available nationally in shops and cafes!
Check out our new store locator to find a store near you!
If you’re struggling to find a use for leftover Christmas nuts, how about experimenting with some divinely nutty biscuits & pastries?
Lacking the gluten found in wheat & some other grains, baking pastries & biscuits with nut flours is a whole new ball game. Gluten lends elasticity to dough, making it pliable & easy to work with. A pasty, nut-based concoction is an altogether trickier beast to tame. Treat it with the rough abandon afforded to traditional pastry & it will reward your efforts will a stalwart display of non-cooperation.
However, with a few tricks & turns, & some sensitive handling, even the stickiest customer will yield & become putty in your hands. And the big advantage to no gluten is that it’s impossible to over-work these doughs. No matter how many times you roll & pummel your pastries they will retain their soft texture.
The greatest frustration in my early attempts at pastry making with nuts was that their inability to stretch meant that the pastry tore as soon as it was lifted. Also, it is stickier than wheat flour pastry so was almost impossible to roll out. Although I’m not a fan of mixing plastics & food, the use of cling film is the magic bullet that transforms an unwieldy nut dough into a malleable one.
Chestnut flour is my all-time favourite for biscuits. It is naturally sweet & tastes similar to digestive biscuits, so I don’t find it necessary to add any sweeteners. As a baseline I use approximately double the weight the weight of chestnut flour to butter, & then use enough beaten egg to form into a firm dough. The basic mix can be spiced up with cinnamon, ginger & nutmeg, enriched with dried fruits, or seasoned with fresh herbs to accompany cheese.
To form into biscuits either roll into balls & then flatten down with the heel of your hand, or roll out between two sheets of cling film. If you have a cake tin with a removable bottom this also makes a great base for a cheesecake. Lightly grease the bottom, roughly flatten the dough with your hand, cover the flattened disc with cling film then roll it out directly onto the tin bottom. Any excess can be trimmed & the base will fit snugly into your tin.
For chestnut pastry you need to add a little more fat to the mixture to make it softer & easier to roll. On warm days chilling it in the fridge for 15 minutes can help if it’s a little too squishy. The trickiest part is transferring the pastry onto the pie dish. Roll between two sheets of cling film, carefully remove the top sheet & then place your inverted dish on the pastry. Slide your hand under the pastry & then flip into the dish. The base layer of cling film keeps the pastry from tearing, so all you now need to do is press the pastry into the dish & peel off the redundant cling film.
Other nut pastries can be made following the same basic principals, adding any sweeteners or flavourings to taste. However, their higher oil content means that you need far less fat, often only a tablespoon or so, to form a mixture that will clump into a dough. Also, as they don’t have the absorbency of chestnut flour, they will be stickier, so minimal handling works best.
If you don’t mind getting a bit sticky, biscuit dough works well rolled & roughly shaped in your hands. For pastry bases I tip the dough into the middle of the dish, wrap my fingers in cling film & gently ease it out towards the sides.
Bake in a moderate or moderately hot oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
Nut flours make surprisingly convincing baked goods. However, lacking the gluten of the more traditional grain flours, they can be a little trickier to work with, but with a bit of practice it’s easy to produce delicious, nutrient dense cakes, biscuits & pastries.
So for anybody new to baking with nut flours I’m sharing a few of the tips I’ve learned through trial & error.
By far the best nut flours are the ones made at home. Ideally nuts should be stored in a cool place in their shells, the kernels soaked prior to use to remove anti-nutrients, roasted, dried & then finally ground. But if this sounds all too labour intensive there are now specialist nut millers who sell a wide range of flours.
The oil content of most nut flours varies depending on a number of factors such as freshness, husk content & the type of nut used, so I find it better to stick to rough guidelines rather than precise recipes. Today’s blog is on cakes; biscuits & pastries to follow at a later date.
Almond flour is my all time favourite for its versatility. It has a fairly neutral flavour, is sufficiently oily not to require additional fat, & makes lovely moist cakes that stay fresh for days. As with other nut flour cakes it needs plenty of well-beaten egg to help it rise, soft fruits like ripe banana, mandarins or peaches for texture, your preferred sweetener & raising agent, & then enough almond flour to create a thick, pourable batter.
Carob & cocoa powder bend particularly well with almond to create wickedly dark, rich cakes, or if you prefer less intense flavours try adding lavender flowers, citrus zest or rose & cardamom. Almond flour can be blended with other nut flours such as pecan, hazelnut or pistachio for added flavour. Walnuts & brazils can be used, but only in moderation. Walnut flour is quite bitter, & brazil nuts are too high in selenium to be consumed in quantity.
For anybody wanting a no added sugar cake, chestnut & coconut flours are both naturally sweet & combine beautifully. Both are coarser, less oily flours, & they absorb more liquid. Kombucha soaked dried fruit, a few tablespoonfuls of oil & apple puree or ripe banana keep these cakes wonderfully succulent, & warm spices add depth of flavour. Fresh figs & grated carrots also work well. This cake is altogether chunkier, so you need to add the combined flours until the mixture has a consistency similar to porridge otherwise it will come out too wet & heavy.
As a rough guide I use about 6-7 eggs & either a couple of medium sizes bananas, 4-5 small mandarins, a cupful of apple puree or a similar volume of soft fruit as a starting point for any nut flour cake, then add other ingredients to the desired consistency. I add a teaspoon of baking powder, but also beating the eggs very thoroughly is essential to ensure sufficient aeration to keep the cakes light.
This quantity makes about 12 large muffins or two 7 inch cakes. These cakes do not rise as much as wheat flour baking so it’s safe to fill tins to within half an inch of the top. Bake in a moderate/medium oven until a knife or skewer comes out clean.
For a light, tangy frosting mix coconut milk & creamy cashew nut flour with lemon juice, or blitz with a handful of berries……..ummmmm, doubly scrumptious!
Kaptain Kombucha’s furry friend is crazy about nuts. He can’t get enough of their crunchy goodness.
Nuts are a little used ingredient in traditional British cooking, mainly having been afforded the status of pre-drink nibbles or the mainstay of home-baked vegetarian nut roasts. But the humble nut has so much more to offer. These nutrient dense morsels are full of natural oils, protein, vitamins & minerals.
Here’s a quick “ABC” of some of the amazing properties of the most common nuts:
Almond – vitamin E & calcium
Brazil – selenium
Cashew – magnesium, zinc & iron
Chestnut – vitamin B6 and fibre
Coconut – lauric acid, B vitamins & minerals
Hazelnut – folate
Pecan – oleic acid, vitamin E, B vitamins & minerals
Pistachio – potassium, vitamin K
Walnuts – omega-3, vitamin E
As well as making healthy snacks, nuts can be used as flour substitutes in baking……..perfect for anybody who needs to follow a gluten/grain free diet, or for those who want to reduce carbohydrate consumption without giving up cakes & biscuits.
The next blog will cover some tips on baking with nuts, so you can have your cake & eat it.
The benefits of consuming traditionally fermented foods are well documented. However, as they are not mass-produced, or available in mainstream stores, they can be hard to come by. Also the cost of buying a lovingly crafted, artisan product can be prohibitive if you are on a limited budget.
Fermentation is a very forgiving process so, provided you follow a few basic guidelines, you can make your own supply of deliciously nutritional fermented fruits & vegetables. The only equipment required are glass jars, a mixing bowl & a couple of plastic bags. Pretty much any fruits & vegetables will ferment, so choose flavours you enjoy & be prepared to experiment.
Make sure your utensils are clean.
Chop or grate your fruit & vegetables into a mixing bowl. The smaller you chop them, the greater the surface area & the quicker they ferment.
Add sea salt. This isn’t strictly necessary as fermentation will occur with or without salt, but I find it enhances the flavour. Usually a teaspoon per jar about right, but I increase this to anything up to a tablespoon if I want to neutralise highly acidic fruits like lemons.
Now for the fun part. Pound your mixture with a jar, the end of a rolling pin, or squish it with clean hands. The aim is to get the juices really flowing.
Once thoroughly pounded add spices & a bit of starter. Adding a starter can be omitted as there will be sufficient yeasts & bacteria to turn your mixture into a bubbly ferment, but I prefer to give them a bit of a head start. Kombucha, water kefir, whey & the contents of probiotic capsules all work well, & adding a starter also discourages any rogue bacteria that could taint your ferment.
Pack into clean jars, pressing the mix down firmly to eliminate air pockets, & wipe any excess from the jar mouth.
Seal the top to prevent air coming into contact with the mixture, but in a way that permits fermentation gases to escape. The lovely beneficial bacteria will do their work in the absence of oxygen, but if exposed to air then surface moulds can grow & cause contamination. My favourite ‘stopper’ is a small plastic bag part filled with water. It’s easy to poke into crevices so creates a perfect seal, whilst letting gas bubbles escape up the sides.
Filled jars can be left to ferment at room temperature. Mine sit on the kitchen work surface & are checked, & tasted, every few days. There is no definitive length of time for fermentation, so the key to determining readiness is your taste buds. If it tastes good, transfer it to the fridge & enjoy.
Home fermentation……….the healthier way to get pickled!