The best chestnuts in the world? St Dalfour think so…

Hmm, Christmas… it’s not here yet, so maybe I shouldn’t get my bah humbug on yet either…

The thing is when you think of chestnuts you tend to think of Christmas and, as amazing as they are for many other meals besides, it’s difficult not to mention one without referring to the other.

St Dalfour Whole Chestnuts
Totally natural chesnuts from St Dalfour

And if you’re looking for quality chestnuts St Dalfour are the height of reliability. St Dalfour’s packaging means the chestnuts are kept tender, plump and succulent with no preservatives whatsoever.

“They are the best chestnuts in the world.”

It’s a big boast, but St Dalfour dare to say it. Hand picked, all natural, low in fat and cholesterol, straight from France. That’s St Dalfour.

Christine’s Cashew and Pear Millet Porridge (gluten free recipe)

gluten free porridge

This is a wonderful creamy porridge, designed by nutritionist Christine Bailey, using the whole millet grain rather than flakes.

It’s perfect as a gluten free option and the addition of the nuts provides protein to help stabilise blood sugar levels. You can even make this the night before and heat it up in the morning if rushed for time.  Top with additional fruit, nuts and seeds and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon if wished.

Serves 4

125g (4½oz) ¾ cup millet
750ml (26floz) 3 cups water
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and diced
150ml milk or milk alternative
50g/1¾ oz/ 1/3 cup cashew nuts
4 dried apricots
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp raw honey
1tbsp ground flaxseed

1. Put the millet and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.  Add the pear and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Set aside.
2. Put the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
3. Pour the nut mixture into the millet and mix well. Serve hot or cold. Top with additional fruit, nuts, seeds and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon if wished.

Storage: This can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 day. To reheat, place in a saucepan with some extra milk and simmer, stirring, until warmed through.

Christine is a qualified nutritionist and chef and author of numerous healthy recipe books.  One of her specialisms is digestive health and cooking for people with allergies including those sensitive to gluten and dairy.  When she’s not writing recipes she advises clients and companies. For additional gluten free recipes why not book on to one of Christine’s cookery days or purchase one of her e-books online (See www.advancenutrition.co.uk)

Snacks with style (and smotherings of chocolate…)

We all know we should be eating more berries for health, but it’s so much easier when they’re coated in chocolate.

Landgarten are an organic company producing stylish and tasty snacks which just happen to be gluten free and fairtrade too.

Landgarten
Love berreis? You’ll love Landgarten

Whether its cherries, raspberries, hazelnuts or ginger there is something here for everyone to try… there’s goji berries, cranberries and berries mixed together They taste delicious, and are great for sharing whether it’s over a dinner party or watching a movie.

Landgarten also smother chocolate all over other snacks too like pumpkin seeds and soy beans (they do non chocolate versions too but er.. why would anyone want a non chocolate version?)

Landgarten
When did fairtrade & organic get so stylish?

Dark chocolate you can spread – utterly delightful

Spreadable dark chocolate
Spreadable dark chocolate

With the popularity of dark chocolate increasing, it’s not surprising that we should now start to see dark chocolate spreads appearing on supermarket shelves.

If you want organic chocolate spread, then a good place to start is Biona who make a dark chocolate spread without hazelnuts but with a little vanilla flavouring instead.

There are hazelnuts in Biona’s milk chocolate spread though, so if you are a hazelnut freak you need not miss out.

The wholefoods revolution

Fifty years ago healthy eating consisted of milk, eggs, fruit and veg with a lot more carbs on the plate too. There was no such thing as a health food shop.

Then the social revolution of the 1960s affected everything, even the way we ate. People began to think about consuming a more natural, healthier diet than spam and chips. Nutritious food like brown rice and chick peas became apparent, and now there are countless varieties of food and styles of food such as wholefoods, organic, raw, macrobiotic, superfoods, the list goes on.

Eat Goodness wholefoods
Eat Goodness wholefoods

But there is still a desire to make healthy food more enjoyable, something which looks after our bodies and the planet, all the while keeping it as natural as possible without any artificial flavours or aditives.

At GoodnessDirect we sell an enormous selection of good foods: dried fruits, savoury snacks, seeds, nuts, muesli, spices; you name it, we probably stock it. And we’re always looking to increase our range of basic wholefoods, consider trying wasabi or satay broad beans for example or gaining a nutritional boost from dried blueberries.

Has the revolution been successful? Well, who eats spam anymore?

Time to move on from peanut butter

I hadn’t heard of Carley’s  before, but the way some people talk about them makes me wish I had.

You know when something is quality because it comes recommended by the people you talk to.

Carley's - a well earned reputation
Carley’s – a well earned reputation

In this case Carley’s have a reputation for producing the highest quality organic nut and seed spreads.

If you’ve been stuck on peanut butter most of your life, now it’s time to expand your taste buds because an increasing range of nut butters are coming onto the market and they are quite delicious. Try, for example:

You’ll notice that of Carley’s products are also “Raw” which means they can be enjoyed by people who want to eat the most nutrient rich foods possible.

Carley’s make many other nut and seeds butters, as well as a super range of pestos, vegetable spreads, creamy organic hummuses and nutty chocolate spreads. Let’s hope their success spreads from their home in Cornwall to the rest of the UK.

Love the fresh taste of Mediterranean fruit in these organic preserves

It’s not surprising that this is Italy’s favourite pure fruit spread.

Fiordifrutta is a delicious taste of fresh organic Mediterranean fruit with no added sugar.

Each jar is filled with one-and-a-half kilos of sun ripened fruit, which is cooked at a low temperature to preserve the fruit’s nutrients and taste. Plus no extra sugar means lower calories and a lower GI rating.

And now an Italian chocolate spread too
What is more, the company behind the brand, Rigoni di Asiago, have produced an organic chocolate hazelnut spread called Nocciolata. It’s creamier and more flowing than your average chocolate spread with a richer hazelnut flavour. Warm it up and drizzle it over your evening dessert.

For Fiordifrutta flavours to try see below:

Enjoy the sweet taste of Mediterranean fruit
Enjoy the sweet taste of Mediterranean fruit

■ Organic Mediterranean Pink Grapefruit Fruit Spread
■ Organic Sicilian Citrus Fruits & Bergamot Fruit Spread
■ Organic Sicilian Lemon Fruit Spread
■ Organic Adriatic Peaches Fruit Spread
■ Organic Wild Highland Blueberries Fruit Spread
■ Organic Wild Summer Berries Fruit Spread
■ Organic Wild Summer Raspberries Fruit Spread
■ Organic Sunkissed & Wild Strawberries Fruit Spread
■ Organic Mediterranean Figs Fruit Spread
■ Organic Italian Riviera Apricots Fruit Spread

Hooray for wholenut smooth peanut butter

I’m not sure why I’m so chuffed about Meridian’s smooth natural peanut butter. I’ve long been a fan of the wholenut crunchy version but, I guess, not everyone can take all that nuttiness.

Good wholesome peanut butter
Good wholesome peanut butter

So it’s a good thing there’s a smooth version out there in both the 280g jar and the whopping kilo bucket. Meridian’s natural peanut butter with no added sugar tastes so much better than those more sickly sweet versions.

Incidentally to show Meridian’s sense of humour I came across this article from their news page and I thought I’d share it here.

HOW TO CLEAN OUT JARS OF PEANUT BUTTER
If you love nut butters as much as the team here at Meridian Foods, you’ll regularly face the challenge of cleaning out the jars before recycling.

Determined to provide a credible solution, we’ve been conducting experiments, researching ideas and consulting our friendly experts. Before we pass on our answer to one of the stickiest of questions in the kitchen, take a look at some of the other considerations below.

Don’t bother – Some recycling experts believe it is futile to spend energy and waste water trying to thoroughly clean nut butter jars. When glass jars are recycled they are subjected to a heat treatment process that exceeds 2700 degrees. Not even Meridian’s organic whole nut butters can withstand such an attack.

Get saucy – A popular way to use up the last of the nut butter is to combine it with other ingredients in the jar as a final act of delicious thriftiness. If you love to use peanut butter to make a savoury sauce or dressing, try this approach from the Paid in Full blog. It’s packed full of frugal ideas.

Pooch power (do not try this at home) – Apparently dogs love nut butters, though we can’t imagine that it should be a regular feature of their diet. Several contributors to online forums report that they give their dogs the empty peanut butter jars to clean up before a final wash out with soapy water. This may give satisfaction to a dog with a generous snout but imagine the frustration it would cause a pug! Not recommended.

OK, enough of the doggie-style fun. Here’s our recipe for success to clean out your peanut butter jars.

Step 1.          Pour in around 4 tablespoons (60ml) of spirit/white vinegar into the empty jar

Step 2.          Add water from a freshly boiled kettle and top up the jar so it’s two thirds full

Step 3.          Replace the lid, shake vigorously, then leave to stand for a few minutes

Step 4.          Repeat step 3 a few times while the water/vinegar solution is still hot

Step 5.          Rinse and recycle the jar

If this solution has worked for you or if you’ve got other great nut butter, recycling or domestics tips to share, email us and we’ll post up the best ones for others to see.

Parsnip Cranberry Bake – A veggie centrepiece for any Christmas dinner

I’ve got an amazing vegetarian recipe for you to try, perfect for Christmas. I first sampled this at my friend’s house and everyone was coming back for more. It could easily make the centrepiece of a meal and can be adapted for a vegan palate. I asked her to give me the recipe to share with you all. The good news is it’s not only tastes great, it’s easy to make too and is a great way to use up left over cranberry sauce.

Parsnip cranberry bake

Makes 6 servings

1.5lbs parsnips, peeled and diced
1oz butter (or margarine)
4tbs double cream (or vegan cream)
3oz cheddar (or vegan cheddar) grated
3oz roasted peanuts chopped
1 oz wholemeal beadcrumbs
7 oz cranberry sauce
a handful of parsley, roughly chopped
a handful of cranberries
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 7
2. Boil or steam the parsnips until they are soft (about 10 minutes), then mash them.
3. Stir in the parsley, butter, cream and 2oz of cheese. Season to taste.
4. Spoon half of mash a into greased oven proof dish.
5. Scatter half of the peanuts over the top and then add a thin layer of cranberry sauce.
6. Cover this with the remaining parsnip mash.
7. Mix the remaining peanuts, cheese and breadcrumbs together and sprinkle over top. Add a sprinkling of cranberries too, for effect.
8. Bake in the oven for 15 mins or until golden.

This recipe is so easy it really is worth trying but, alternately, you might want to try a vegan sausage pie or vegan haggis as a non-meat option.

Walnuts not only look brainy, they are brainy

A handful of walnuts may not only be a healthy snack...

They’ve been found to boost brainpower.

Take 64 students and feed them a diet of bananas and walnuts for 2 months, then run tests on them.

The results?

The walnut is one brainy nut
The walnut is one brainy nut

Well, some of their reasoning proved better, but their memory and mood was as bad as ever.

Actually the improvement was quite significant. The students improved their inferential reasoning by 11.2%. A big advance over students who just ate bananas.

It’s just the beginning of research into how walnuts benefit brainpower – there’s not enough proof yet. But adding walnuts to your diet isn’t going to hurt. In fact, even though walnuts are high in calories, studies also show that people who eat nuts are better at controlling their diet.