Author Archives: Monica

Rum and Persimmon Punch

Rum and Persimmon Punch

If you’re like me and spend a lot of time in the fruit aisle at the grocery store, then you’ve probably noticed the arrival of Spanish persimmons, a delicious fruit with a sweet delicate flavour akin to mango. They are available from mid-October until January which makes them all the more precious, and their sweet orange flesh can provide a much welcome burst of sunshine on dark winter days.

For this reason, I decided to showcase them at my recent supperclub in a welcome cocktail featuring rum, lots of lime, and ginger ale. The result is undeniably festive and, when garnished appropriately, looks as beautiful as it tastes. Something to consider for your Christmas and New Year parties. At my party, it even inspired some artwork!

CocktailArt-1

For more information and recipe ideas for persimmons, visit spanishpersimon.co.uk.

Rum Persimmon Punch

Make it a mocktail by skipping the rum and ginger wine!

Preparation: 10 minutes | Serves: 8-10

Ingredients

  • 3 Spanish persimons
  • 3 limes, thinly sliced
  • Juice of 6 limes
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
  • 350ml dark rum
  • 150ml ginger wine
  • Ice cubes
  • 1 litre ginger ale
  • Mint sprigs, to decorate

Method

  1. Remove the leafy tops from the persimons, slice the flesh thinly and add to a large punch bowl with the sliced limes, lime juice, cinnamon sticks and muscovado sugar. Allow a few minutes for the sugar to dissolve.
  2. Pour the rum and ginger wine into the punch bowl. Add the ice cubes, then top up with the ginger ale.
  3. Serve in punch glasses or tall glasses, decorated with mint sprigs.

Cook’s tip: You could make this with light golden Barbados rum instead of dark rum – either way, it packs a punch!

Healthy Fermented Gazpacho Soup

Healthy Fermented Gazpacho Soup

The folks from Great British Chefs (for whom I occasionally write) have recently launched a new website called Great Italian Chefs featuring inspiring recipes from the chefs behind Italy’s best restaurants, most of which are admittedly outside of my price range. So it’s reassuring to have some of their recipes collated on one website so that I might try them for myself.

One such recipe was this Healthy Fermented Gazpacho Soup by Fabrizio Marino, head chef at Italy’s only Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant Joia. I’ve already been having fun experimenting with fermented foods, but my pursuits have largely been limited to sauerkraut, kefir and sourdough.

This soup, made with carrots, beets and celery fermented with umeboshi plum, gave me the opportunity to push my fermentation boundaries. And with the added bonus of smoked celeriac, I learned a bit about about home smoking, too (news flash: it’s easy).

The result? Totally delicious. I served the soup to friends who described it as “amazingly good”. You could serve either the soup on its own or the smoked celeriac on its own – both our amazing in their own right. But the two together are truly a case of the sum being more than the parts.

I definitely recommend having a browse through Great Italian Chefs for Italian inspiration beyond the usual pizza and pasta. These are recipes that will push your boundaries, impress your friends, and reward you with outstanding edible creations that are as beautiful to look at as they are delicious to eat.

Healthy Fermented Gazpacho Soup

  • 200g of carrots, grated
  • 200g of celery, grated
  • 500g of beetroot, raw and grated
  • 1/2 sprig of rosemary
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2g of salt, plus extra to season
  • 2g of sugar
  • 4g of umeboshi
  • 600g of tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped
  • white wine vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil

Celeriac croutons

  • 1kg celeriac, peeled and grated
  • 70g of extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • 50g of wood chips, cherry wood
  • 8 slices of wholemeal bread, thinly sliced

To plate

  • cress, to garnish
  • 1 stick of celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 4 strawberries, sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Place the grated vegetables into a bowl along with the herbs, salt, sugar and umeboshi. Transfer the mixture into a vegetable mill and push down to compress the vegetables. Leave to ferment in the fridge for at least two days, until the vegetables develop a slight acidity
  2. Once the fermentation process has finished, remove the vegetables from the fridge and blitz in a blender (I use my trusty Froothie Optimum 9200). Add the seedless tomatoes and blend until you obtain a smooth mix. Pass through a fine sieve and season to taste with a little vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and salt
  3. Place the celeriac in a saucepan and cook for 10 minutes with the lid on. remove from the heat and add a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and allow to cool. When cool, blend the celeriac to a smooth purée and transfer to a metal bowl
  4. Place the wood chips into the bottom of a deep metal tray, then place a wire rack over the top. Rest the bowl of celeriac puree on the wire rack and cover with another metal tray acting as a lid. Transfer this to the hob and heat until the wood chips begin to smoke, then remove from the heat and leave to cool with the bowl still covered
  5. Grease the bread with a little extra virgin olive oil and season with salt. Lightly toast on each side in a hot pan, then spread the celeriac purée onto the bread ready to serve
  6. To serve, pour the gazpacho into a bowl or deep plate. Balance the croutons on tops of the soup and garnish with cress, vegetable cubes, strawberry and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Andy K’s No Bake Protein Bars

No_Bake_Protein_Bars-1

Easy and versatile, these protein bars are perfect fodder for experimentation. Try amping up the spices or adding different dried fruits, nuts and seeds. Be creative! I like to coat mine in cacao nibs.

Andy K’s No Bake Protein Bars

  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup protein powder (I use Pulsin’s Organic Whey Protein)
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks
  • 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Add dry ingredients in a large bowl
In a medium bowl, add wet ingredients – microwave 30 seconds, stir, repeat. Add dry mixture.
Place into 8×8 container lined with clingfilm. Use your hands to press flat. Refridgerate until firm, then cut into 6-10 pieces. Keeps for a week.

No_Bake_Protein_Bars-2

The Elderflower Restaurant, New Forest

TheElderflower 2

Good things happen when…

  • You ask to see the chef
  • You go to the New Forest
  • You enthuse
  • You embrace the magic of elderflowers

And so it was. Halloween 2015. Emily and I, elderflower enthusiasts and wearers of capes, happened upon The Elderflower Restaurant in Lymington, following an epic day of mushroom foraging in the New Forest (and a humble pub crawl through this small village). We were already sold on the name, but the atmosphere and the stellar reviews convinced us that we needed to try this place. So we booked in for lunch the next day and experienced a meal that was nothing short of rock & roll.

TheElderflower_Mushrooms

The standout dish was by far the mushrooms served on celariac puree, topped with crispy kale and toasted pine nuts. And while there was some contention about the use of foam on their rhubarb dessert, I maintain that their pudding was the most inventive and delicious execution of rhubarb I’ve ever had, made all the better with fennel-infused Turkish delight.

TheElderflower_Dessert

The food is the work of chef Andrew du Bourg who runs the place with his wife Marjolaine. They are a dream team, and I am particularly grateful to them both for our grand finale: a cocktail lesson featuring their own elderflower cordial, an exchange that wouldn’t have happened were it not for our shared love of this magical perennial plant. (The cocktail later played a role in our Samhain festivities which I may get around to writing about at some point.)

And if all that weren’t enough, The Elderflower has a dessert called “British and French Cheese Journey”. Unfortunately we had a long drive ahead of us and weren’t sure if a full stomach of cheese and wine was really wise for the road. And after all, better to leave wanting more. We’ll be back soon!

The Elderflower Restaurant
4-5 Quay Street
Lymington
Hampshire
SO41 3AS
elderflowerrestaurant.co.uk

smarter fitter supperclub – winter edition

On Friday 4th December we celebrate early sunsets, candlelight, comfort food and winter produce. (Welcome to the dark side…)

Candlelit feast with pleasantly unintrusive live music

Essential information:

  • when: Friday 4th December, 7pm
  • welcome cocktail
  • vegetarian menu
  • awesome people
  • Cotswolds countryside location (near Cirencester)
  • camping optional (but recommended)
  • cost: £30 (or £50 for camping + breakfast)
  • booking: pay by PayPal to monica.shaw@gmail.com

The food

The menu is TBD but the focus will be on comforting, wholesome vegetarian food, much of which will be vegan and gluten-free, too. For a taste of the kind of food I make, check out my pictures on flickr and instagram, read the recap from my last supperclub, or read food with mustard’s review. Any dietary restrictions, just let me know.

Dinner is served

The Venue

The supperclub will be held at my cottage in the countryside, a hidden oasis in the middle of wildflower meadows with an orchard in the backyard and an awesome dog named Lucky. You can get a preview of the grounds and interior in my Airbnb listing. Like all good cottages, mine is cozy and so supperclub seating is limited. Book now to secure your place!

Camping Option

Particularly handy for those who want to get their drink on! And a great opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the Orchard Cottage way of life.

Those of you who would like to stay the night and have breakfast in the morning are welcome to bring a tent and pitch in the backyard. I am really good at breakfasts and encourage you to take advantage of this offer! There will also be a campfire and hopefully s’mores, too!

OCCamping

How to book: 

Pay by PayPal to monica.shaw@gmail.com. Upon receipt of payment I will send you all necessary info and directions on how to get here. Come for the food, stay for the company!

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright
John Wright waxing poetic about one of the 60+ mushroom varieties we found.

Last Friday, I went on a mushroom foray in the New Forest with John Wright from River Cottage. This was a day to experience and appreciate the incredible diversity of this marvellous country. The edible-ness of each variety was a mere side note, for every fungi had a story, as well as beautiful (and sometimes rude!) Latin name. Here are a few choice captures from the day.

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright

My “desert island mushroom”. Hygrocybe conica, Blackening Waxcap. Just beautiful.

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright

Forager’s nip: Épine, a boozy infusion made with blackthorn leaves.

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright

John was with us in photographing the moment. Even for a seasoned forager, the exciting finds never cease.

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright

Best part of the mushroom foray: the stories! And John Wright is an exceptional storyteller.

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright

Edible species: only 4 of the 60+ mushrooms we found were edible. Enough for a fry up at the end of the foray.

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright

Our foraging spirit guide? “Myc” the gnome. He’s a fun guy.

Recommended reading

Carrot Cake Bircher Muesli

Bircher muesli with carrots

This is a riff on my usual bircher muesli recipe, with added carrots and cinnamon. The picture shows almonds in the mix, but feel free to use whatever nuts you have on hand. Walnuts or pecans would be more carrot cakey, but I really like brazil nuts. No cream cheese frosting here, but yogurt makes a delicious and much more nutritious topping. It you want to add extra decadence, try sprinkling with some toasted pecans just before serving.

Carrot Cake Bircher Muesli

Serves 1

  • 50g oats
  • 7g flax seeds
  • 10g raisins
  • 10g nuts
  • wedge of lemon
  • 1 large crisp apple
  • 1 carrot
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Method

  1. The night before breakfast, put the oats, flax seeds, raisins and nuts in a bowl and add water until JUST covered.
  2. The next day, grate the carrot and apple. Add to the bowl with a good squeeze of lemon juice and pinch each of cinnamon and salt. Mix well.
  3. Serve with or without toppings – I like mine with yogurt, coconut flakes and sliced banana.
Carrot_Cake_Bircher_Muesli

Bircher muesli in situ… have I mentioned that this breakfast travels brilliantly? And it matches autumn!

Here are a few more creative ways to get your oat fix:

I’m submitting this to the #ExtraVeg linkup hosted by Veggie Desserts, Michelle Utterly Scrummy and Fuss Free Helen. Because mmmm, more veg!!

Green Apple Smoothie with Avocado & Lime

This is a signature smoothie of mine during autumn months when the orchard is in full swing and kale is in season. It’s easily adaptable to suit other fruits and greens (spinach, chard, etc).

I use a juicer and a blender to make this (see my favourite products for making smoothies) but don’t despair of you don’t have a juicer. Just put all the ingredients in your blender (squeeze in the lime juice and cut the ingredients into small blender-friendly pieces) and add water as needed to blend to a smooth consistency.

Green Apple Smoothie

Serves 1

  • 1 large apple (or pear!)
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • a big handful of spinach or kale
  • 1/2 lime, peeled (or lemon, rind on)
  • small slice of ginger (optional)
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 Tbsp psyllium husk (optional; makes it thicker and adds fiber)
  • 5g flax seeds
  1. Juice the apple, celery, cucumber, spinach, lime and ginger.
  2. Put the juice in your blender along with the avocado, psyllium husk and flax seeds. Blend until smooth, about 20 seconds (if using psyllium husk, I suggest waiting for a minute or two and then blending again, as it takes a few minutes for the psyllium to absorb the liquid).
  3. Serve as desired with your favourite garnishes (I like grated carrot, muesli, goji berries, and lots of spirulina!).

My recommended tools for the job: the Froothie Optimum 600 Slow Juicer and Optimum 9200 Blender

Yogurt & Berry Protein Smoothie

Yogurt_Berry_Whey_Protein_Smoothie-1

As previously mentioned, I live in a place called “Orchard Cottage”, so called because there’s an old English orchard right outside of my backyard. Right now, the orchard is in full swing. And while the apples fall, wild blackberries take over the hedgerows, which sees me staining my hands and stockpiling the freezer with fruits to last me through the winter.

Throughout all of this harvesting and autumn worship, this smoothie has become my go-to blend to follow my afternoon Crossfit sessions. The apples and blackberries make the perfect sweet base, while yogurt adds creamy probiotic deliciousness. I also include unflavoured whey protein to amp up the protein levels, though you could leave it out if you wish, and double the yogurt to make it more substantial.

For protein powder, I recommend Pulsin’s Organic Whey Protein made from rBHG hormone free milk from organically reared cows. Also, no additives, flavourings or fillers. And it blends like a dream.

Yogurt & Berry Protein Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 apple, cored and chopped (a banana also works)
  • a handful of blackberries, ideally frozen (blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, or a combination of berries, also work)
  • 150g yogurt
  • 15g unflavoured whey protein (I use Pulsin’s Organic Whey Protein)
  • 1 Tbsp psyllium husk (optional, adds fiber and makes it thicker)
  • 1 tsp flax seed (optional, also adds fiber and thickness)

Method

  1. Put everything in your blender and blend until smooth, about 20 seconds. (If you’re using psyllium husk, I usually wait a minute or two and give it another quick blender, as the psyllium husk will have absorbed some of the liquid in the smoothie, and an extra blend will make it all smoother.)
  2. Serve in a cup (or bowl!) with your favorite garnishes (I like grated apple, muesli, and a sprinkle of spirulina powder, liberally applied and then reapplied as I eat it!).

Nutrition: 234 Calories | 10g Carbs | 0.5g Fat | 22g Protein

This was made with my Optimum 9200 Power Blender which has a super-handy 20-second timer setting which I use to make this. I hit the button once, clean up, make some tea, then hit it again and out comes a perfect yogurt and berry smoothie.

Find your winter energy

Winter_Energy2

Winter can be such a sleepy season. Wouldn’t it be nice to while it away in pyjamas while drinking hot toddies and reading books in front of a roaring fire? But alas, there are bills to pay, things to do, and I think at the end of the day most of us like the feeling of being productive, active and energised to take on the world. So when it’s NOT hot toddy o’clock, how can we find this energy in the deepest darkness of winter? In this guest post, Dan Holloway from Simply Supplements offers a few suggestions. 

It’s safe to say that the summer is now officially over. The nights are drawing in, the temperature is beginning to drop and all over the country, couples are arguing about when to put the heating on. Winter can be a time when we slow down and find it difficult to muster up the energy to do anything more than go to work and switch on the TV when we get home. Equally however, winter can be a great time to be productive in your health and fitness goals, all you need to do is to find your winter energy. Here’s a handy list of how you can do just that from the food you put in your body, to the way you start your days in the morning.

#5 – Start your day in the right way

It can be really tempting to take one look outside the window when it’s cold, wet and windy and to roll over and go straight back to sleep, but alas we have to go to work! Therefore we get up cold and grumpy which definitely isn’t the ideal way to start your day. Instead, make sure the heating is timed to go on in the morning and set your alarm. Rising at the same time every day sets your circadian rhythm or sleep/wake cycle, meaning that you’ll sleep better and wake up feeling more rested in the end!

Stoke_Newington_Snow

#4 – Shower

A hot shower can be the perfect way to start your day and wake up in the morning. Research has shown that rain/snow produces negative ions which boost brain function and wake us up. Not everyone wants to go out for a walk in the rain first thing in the morning so grab your ions from the shower instead.

#3 – Think food

Stockpiling the junk food ready for winter hibernation might be a tempting option when winter strikes. After the initially sugar rush has subsided however, you’ll be left feeling sluggish and so there are better options. Food such as lean meat, oily fish, fruit and vegetables and carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes are much better for you and will give you a much longer lasting energy rush, allowing for the occasional sweet treat as a reward! Supplements such as Ginkgo Biloba and Korean Ginseng support healthy circulation and energy levels and can be a great winter addition to a healthy diet as well!

wintersmoothie

#2 – Lights

Lighting can be a major issue when it comes to energy levels. Melatonin is released by the brain when it gets dark, signalling it’s time for sleep. Being around bright lights at night can affect this and mess up your sleeping patterns, therefore try to keep the lights dim in the run up to bed time and avoid looking at things like the TV, mobile phone and computer screens.

#1 – Exercise

Wrapping up warm is a must but outdoor exercise in winter will improve your energy levels to no end! Research has suggested that just three 30 minute workouts a week will boost energy levels and reduce sluggishness. Supplements such as L-Taurine which supports energy levels and prolonged workouts can be great to give you that extra push in the winter, and a short jog on a frosty morning can be a great and refreshing way to start your day.

Winter_Energy3

Conclusion

Winter for some equals months of feeling sluggish and tired, finding it difficult to get anything done. For others who start their day right however, it can be a great and productive few months, filled with good food, great exercise and tons of energy. Follow the steps above and make this winter your most productive and energy filled yet!

This was a sponsored post by Dan Holloway from Simply Supplements. Dan is also a professional martial artist and self defence instructor and writes his own blog at www.themartialview.com. Photography by me, taking in Chicago 2014 during the Arctic Vortex.