Pure herbal remedies are available for everyday complaints

When i was going through a tough time I really appreciated Bio-Health’s St John’s Wort and I guess I’m a bit of a fan of the brand now.

They make 100% additive free herbal medicinal products as well as other herbal remedies and vitamin supplements.

We’re extending their range at GoodnessDirect with more herbals such as cinnamon bark, said to reduce stomach spasms, flatulence and menstrual cramps; celery seed, believed to benefit by eliminating water retention, reducing inflammation and regulating blood pressure; or melissa (lemon balm) leaf, traditionally favoured for nervous disorders such as depression, anxiety and palpitations.

Herbal remedies don’t pretend to replace medicines, but they are useful for everyday self-limiting conditions. Bio-Health ensure those who prefer natural solutions get the quality, safety and efficacy they rightly deserve.

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Low fat, low sugar and gluten free cakes!

A friend of mine used to make low fat cakes which I really loved.

They were basically made of fruit and, while I can’t quite remember how she got the ingredients to bond together, the result was blissful.

A low fat Granny Loaf Cake
A low fat Granny Loaf Cake

Now, it seems there’s someone doing it professionally, two people actually, Jenkins& Hustwit, who make a Granny Loaf Fruit Cake which has less than 2% fat.

The company, started by a couple of farmer’s wives in Northumbria, promises the very best in good old-fashioned farmhouse baking. They specialise in high quality cakes and puddings, and even make Christmas puddings, so there’s something to look forward to.

It should be noted that they also make gluten free cakes and no added sugar cakes, but we’re still writing up all the details at GoodnessDirect. Exciting stuff nonetheless.

Quintessentially ‘English’ tortillas from Tyrrell’s

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better…

Tyrrell's Tortillas
Wonderfully eccentric crisps from Tyrrell’s

Tyrrell’s, makers of fine British crisps, are now making moves to conquer Mexico with their new ‘TorTyrrell’s’.

(…Subtitled “Ridiculously English Tortillas”.)

Tyrrell’s are notorious enough without me needing to add anything to their upstanding reputation. Just let the tortilla chip flavours speak for themselves…

But, curiously rural English names for a Latin American dish don’t you think?

If you want something more anglo-centric, you can still enjoy Vegetable Crisps from Tyrell’s too. A new flavour is a mix of Crinkled Beetroot, Parsnip & Carrot Crisps with Rosemary & Wild Garlic.

(“Coveted By Cord Wearers” says the small print).

Or, should you prefer a more traditional crisp, then try out their new English Summer Barbeque Crisps. Though, I have to ask, is anything really traditional about Tyrrell’s? I suppose anything with the words ‘English’, ‘summer’ and ‘barbeque’ in it sounds typically ominous in a way only an English summer could?

But then, Tyrrell’s true sense of tradition is deeply embedded with a seam of good ol’ collective British eccentricity. Who else do you know to successfully sell Sour Cream & Jalapeno Chilli Popcorn to the British? (It, ahem, tastes very good by the way.) So marketing tortilla chips to ol’ Blighty (as if we’ve always loved them) shouldn’t be too difficult after all.

Long live, I mean, viva Tyrrell’s.

PS. If you have any old photos of eccentric “English ancestors”, Tyrrell’s would love you to send them in (see www.tyrrellscrisps.co.uk/eccentrics) – they might just end up on the front of a pack of Tyrrell’s hand Cooked English Crisps.

More Christmas puddings than you can shake a stick at!

Christmas is just around the corner and I’ve got a whole pantry full of Christmas puddings to tell you about.

Christmas puddings galore!
Christmas puddings galore!

How does anyone ever find room for Christmas pudding after that big lunch? Maybe the secret is in finding something that tastes too good to miss.

Cole’s Traditional Foods have brought out some new and rather special plum puddings. Imagine a Black Cherry & Amaretto Christmas pudding for example or their English Privilege pudding which includes the finest Scotch malt Whisky, Madeira, Sherry & English ale. (Unless your driving, in which case you may have to opt for the Alcohol-free version.)

Cole’s also provide the time-honoured Clootie Dumpling – a traditional Scottish spiced fruit pudding with whiskey – it has some very cute wrapping and could be a perfect present for a friend who loves Christmas pudding! And there are many more Cole’s puddings besides including an enticing ‘Guiness’ pudding.

However, you might like to know that there are excellent vegan Christmas puds like Sunnyvale’s scrumtious plum puddings and, for the dairy-free or gluten-free, Village Bakery make wonderful Christmas cakes and puddings, with no compromise on flavour.

The Thursday Cottage and Cartmel kitchens are both connoisseurs of English taste. You can always trust Cartmel for an indulgent taste experience when it comes to puddings of any sort whatever they may be.

Thursday Cottage are famous for their use of the best ingredients in all their preserves (sample the Thursday Cottage Brandy Butter included in the Christmas In A Box gift-hamper). The traditionally flavoured cognac Christmas pudding will testify to Thursday Cottage’s ongoing commitment to quality (and the mini gift-version to their commitment to innovation).

Whether your choice be organic, gluten-free, vegetarian or nut free, you can get into the festive spirit with GoodnessDirect’s tasty range of puddings! (Just go a bit easy on yourself.)

Try this Sweet Freedom Christmas Cake recipe (and win your own bottle…)

Sweet Freedom is a great way of reducing the amount of calories you consume, because it has 25% less calories than sugar and you only need to use half as much. As it also has a low GL (Glycemic Load) it’s a good choice for diabetics and the weight conscious. Plus with a following including the likes of Raymond Blanc you can rest assured that it tastes great!

Email me with your name and address if you’d like a chance to win 1 of 20 bottles of Sweet Freedom (UK only, offer closes Thursday 2nd December 2010)

Christmas Cake with Sweet Freedom
Christmas Cake with Sweet Freedom

Try out both the Sweet Freedom Syrup and Sweetener in this recipe for a traditional fruity rich Christmas Cake.

Makes a 18cm (7”) round cake

300g Sultanas
300g Raisins
100g Currants
85ml Rich Cream Sherry
125g Butter, softened
125g Sweet Freedom Natural Syrup
125g Plain Flour (or 75g of rice flour and 50g of ground almonds for a Gluten Free version)
¼ Tsp Ground Mixed Spice
¼ Tsp Ground Nutmeg
3 Medium Eggs, beaten

To Decorate
15ml Brandy
200g Ground Almonds
100g Sweet Freedom Natural Sweetener
½ Tsp Almond Extract
5ml Lemon Juice
Red & Green Food Colouring Pastes

You will need a deep round cake tin measuring 18cm (7”) in diameter.

1) Place the dried fruit in a bowl and pour over the sherry, stir to coat all of the fruit and then cover and leave overnight.
2) The following day, preheat the oven to 160C/Fan 140C and line the base and sides of the cake tin with non stick baking parchment. Also, make a collar out of several layers of brown paper and fasten around the outside of the tin with string or a paperclip.
3) Cream the butter and Sweet Freedom until pale and fluffy. Mix together the spices and flour and mix a spoonful into the mixture, followed by a little of the beaten egg. Continue adding flour and egg little by little until they have all been mixed in. Finally mix in the soaked fruit and then spoon into the prepared cake tin. Flatten the top with a knife or spoon and bake in the preheated oven for 2 hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
4) Leave to cool in the tin for about an hour then transfer to a cooling rack. When the cake is cold wrap in baking parchment and tin foil and leave in a cool place.
5) The cake is best made several weeks in advance to allow it to mature.

To decorate
1) Remove all the wrappings from the cake and brush the top with the brandy. Leave to soak in for a few minutes.
2) Mix together the ground almonds, Sweet Freedom, almond extract and lemon juice until it forms a soft dough. Knead into a ball. As you knead the almond paste the oil is released from the almonds which makes it easier to handle.
3) Take 225g of the almond paste, place it between two sheets of baking parchment and roll out into a circle the same size as the top of the cake. Remove the top layer of parchment, slide your hand underneath the bottom layer and flip the almond paste over onto the top of the cake. Gently press it onto the top and tidy up the edges.
4) Colour two thirds of the remaining almond paste with green colouring and the rest with red colouring. Roll the green in between two layers of baking parchment and cut out holly leaves. Roll small amounts of red almond paste into balls for the berries. Decorate the top of the cake with the holly leaves and berries. They should easy stick to the almond paste topping but if not, just lightly brush the top of the cake with a little water.

“Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer ” How much do you know about traditional Wassail? (a.k.a fruit punch)

Sing carols, eat gingerbread and sip wassail punch – that was how the Victorians would celebrate Christmas. A centrepiece of the gathering would be to set the punch bowl on fire.

Yorkshire Punch - a cup of good cheer
Yorkshire Punch - a cup of good cheer

A roasting fire on a cold winter night and a richly aromatic warm drink in hand ready to toast your friends’ good health? Or a reviving stiffener for when you’re well wrapped up, strolling through a Victorian Christmas market, while the carollers sing in the background?… Most European nations still know how to make their own version of the hot punch.

The recipes vary from family to family, and nation to nation, but the central idea of Christmas punch is that it’s a hot spiced drink sipped to keep the winter chills at bay.

Yorkshire Punch
is made from an old traditional recipe. It’s herbs and natural flavours are carefully chosen for pleasure to relax and to cheer you as intended. As a non-alcoholic drink, it can be served cold to refresh or warm to relax.

Rochester’s Organic Hot Toddy is another punch that’s non-alcoholic (which means you can your own tipple if you choose). While it’s made with ginger it has a fruitier blend to the Yorkshire’s rich warming spice version.

But the main point about drinking punch (as opposed to cocktails) is all about friendship. Make sure you do it with friends, preferably with a ‘Loving Cup’, and don’t be afraid to begin a song or two.

For other seasonal drinks such as Great Uncle Cornelius Finest Spiced Ginger, check out GoogleDirect’s drinks shelf to find spicy and sparkling non-alcoholic drinks.