Homemade Elderberry+ Anti-Viral Syrup

Last year I got to pick some Blackberries to make jam and this year my foraging activities have gone up another notch.  Foraging is not something you can put on the long finger as the collection of this ‘free food’ is seasonal and a little time consuming.  Late August/September and possibly into October is Blackberry season in Ireland, as well as many other wild berries.  This year I also managed to locate some Elderberry trees/shrubs right alongside the Blackberry bushes.  Elderberry is increasingly used in nutritional supplements, syrups and teas for it’s anti-viral, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  A newish branch of the health industry ‘Nutraceuticals’ (functional food), explores and isolates the healing properties of individual foods.  New by name but not really a new concept, it is the wheel reinvented.  ‘Curcumin’ a healing property found in turmeric is a good example of this.  Even some of our pharmaceutical drugs have their roots in nature.  Aspirin, for example, has its origins in the Weeping Willow tree.  The pain relieving property called ‘salicylic acid’ is present in willow bark and was used as far back as 3500 years ago for pain relief.  Other foods that contain ‘salicylates’ include clover, beans, peas, tomatoes and cruciferous greens like broccoli.   Back then, of course, it wasn’t isolated in a lab or available in the form of an over-the-counter pill.  Still, it is useful to be reminded that most of our modern day medicines can be found in their natural form in food.   Why??  Well, so that you can take health and wellness into your own hands as much as possible and regain some trust in the power of nature!  The added bonus is you can get it from nature ‘at little or no cost’ except for your time and effort.

It is advisable, of course, to research whatever wild berries you decide to pick and eat.  No excuse, YouTube and the internet are awash with information.  Don’t spend money on expensive courses, set yourself the task of doing your own research.  I have never picked or used elderberry before this year so I needed to do some research and here’s what I found out:

Elderberry

It can be called by many other names including Black elder.  Known as ‘the medicine chest of the country people’.   Traditionally grown in gardens for protection from the ‘Elder Mother or Spirit of the Elder’.   It was believed that if you stood underneath it at midnight on midsummer night you would see the King of the Elves go by and if you planted one near the house it would guard the inhabitants from the evil spells of witchcraft and thunder.

With just one Elderberry tree you won’t be able to have both the flowers that appear in June/July and the berries that grow in the Autumn.  If the flowers are all harvested there will be no berries. The wood of the tree has been used to make musical instruments.  The leaves are not edible but they have insecticide properties and can be used around other plants to ward off pests.  The berries should not be eaten raw.  They are odourless, sour and astringent.  They can be harvested when they have turned dark purple, almost black.  Interestingly, the berries have been used in the distant past to dye cloth and as a hair dye by the Greeks and Romans.

Medicinally, elderberries are used to support immune health, to treat colds and flu, relieve digestive issues, induce perspiration and are anti-viral.  It has a beneficial effect on chronic catarrh of the respiratory passage.  It is a stimulant for the immune system.** [See safety note below]

I picked up a very useful hint about picking the berries off the stem, but only AFTER I had already made my syrup!!   Next time 🙂   This tip could save you a lot of time.  Elderberries are picked by the stem with its cluster of berries attached.  ‘Put these in a bag and into the freezer.  When frozen the berries can just be pulled off effortlessly’.  Could be cold on the ol’ hands though!

My Recipe For Elderberry Syrup

I reckon I had about 200-300 grams of berries all thoroughly washed.  I put these directly into a pot. To them I added the juice of one lemon and a teaspoon of dried ginger.  I could have added cinnamon or a cinnamon stick but decided not to.  I brought it to boiling point for about 5 minutes stirring it regularly and turned the heat down to a simmer for about 45 more minutes.  I also washed and cooked some rosehips separately.  To that I added lemon and some brown sugar.  Rosehips have a beautifully sweet taste and I though they would compliment the elderberries but they are optional.  Rosehips are packed with Vitamin C.  When cooked sufficiently I sieved both the elderberry and the small rosehip mix into a clean bowl.  It took a while to extract as much of the syrupy juice as possible.  The kitchen looked like a murder scene with all the RED stained dish cloths, pots and bowls.  Still, I ended up with a bottle of syrup.  When it had cooled down sufficiently I added two teaspoons of Manuka honey.  Once bottled it needs to be stored in the fridge.  Oh and it passed the taste test, it’s really delicious!!

This syrup is mostly made of elderberries and the + (plus ingredients) included lemon juice, ginger, rosehips and manuka honey, all of which are also used to fight colds and flu.

Use and Safety

The syrup can be used as a preventative measure heading into the winter months (2-3 teaspoons per day).  And at the first sign of a sore throat or cold, the anti-viral syrup acts as an immune booster (1-3 tablespoons per day three times per day).  The syrup can be added to hot water for a medicinal hydrating drink.

Elderberry is generally considered safe.  There are no known drug interactions with Elderberry at the writing of this blog.  However, as previously stated, it should not be eaten raw and anyone with an autoimmune condition may want to be cautious with elderberry.  Why??  **Autoimmune conditions are caused by a hyper-vigilant / hyper-active immune system and this syrup is an immune ‘booster’.  Its purpose is to activate the army of natural killers cells, T and B cells etc. to fight those invading pathogens.  In this respect Elderberry is similar to Echinacea in that it is best used at the onset of a cold or flu to knock it on the head and reduce recovery time.  But unlike Echinacea, Elderberry in a smaller dose (above) can also be used as preventative medicine.  It may serve someone with an autoimmune condition to opt for immune ‘modulating’ food medicine to treat colds and flu.

Why make it yourself?

Obviously if you don’t have access to the great outdoors then you always have the option of buying elderberries and all the plus ingredients.  Alternatively you can buy Elderberry Syrup.  I looked it up on-line and the price varies.  I’ve seen 195ml for €26 reduced from €34.  Another site had 237ml for €27.  These would not include postage etc.   I managed to get 270ml almost free or at very little cost.

Apart from the money saving, it was an opportunity to have a slow but productive day out in nature with an appreciation of just what I have access to close by and which can provide abundant health properties.  It is kinda cliche to talk about ‘connecting to nature’ and far be it from me to go all ‘woo woo’, however, I did feel a sense of identifying with ‘the land’ I live in.  Also, when I was picking off the berries (it took a while) I was wondering if I just bought them in a shop or ordered them online, would I be connecting with my environment – meaning “these have grown in my locality, I eat them, they become part of me”. Circle of life type of thing!  Somehow it made sense!!

Above all else, for me it is just about taking another step towards building ‘trust’ in natural remedies.  In my experience as a Nutritional Therapist I have found the biggest block for people seeking health solutions through alternative means, is ‘trust’.  When it comes to ‘trusting’ food as medicine people, and I include myself in this, are a long way off recovering that trust.  Collectively, we have very little awareness of how our minds have been educated to fear anything that the doctor doesn’t prescribe, whilst everyone and everything else is subject to intense scrutiny and suspicion.   The mindset perceives the different modalities as opposed but in reality they are not.  Why not use both?   Do what works for you.  The only way to break through those fears that have been imposed on us is to try natural health solutions for yourself.   Research it, try it, taste it (trust your body) find out what works for you.  Ultimately your health is ”your’ responsibility this is the truth.

Just like the pharmaceutical industry seeks to find a pill for every ill, the health industry can also follow a similar pattern by matching a nutraceutical to a condition, and unfortunately the health practitioner can be treated in a similar manner to a GP (but perhaps viewed as a healthier version).  It is a step forward in most cases but the wellness industry is still an ‘industry’ beyond the knowledge and control of the individual.  Also, most people are unable to get their heads around the concept of an ‘holistic’ approach to health.  We seem to need proof with qualifications, statistics and approval from on-high before we can ‘trust’.  The old adage “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” no longer seems relevant.  Example, the cure for your digestive issues MAY be in ‘chewing your food slowly’ but a client might feel cheated by this as a prescription instead of a tub of digestive enzymes!

You won’t have to follow anyone else’s advice if you have the benefit of your own experience.  Empower yourself!  Eat well, sleep well, stress less, exercise to moderation, get out in the daylight early in the day, take time out in nature.  You know this makes sense, no one needs to tell you… .maybe just a little reminder? 🙂

References:
  • Herbs – a Concise Guide in Colour: Stary, Dr.  F, Jirasek Dr. V :Hamlyn [Middlesex] 1973
  • Herbal – The Country Diary:  Sarah Hollis : Bloomsbury Books [London] 1994
  • YouTube : Search ‘Elderberry Syrup’
  • The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion:  Amy K. Fewell : Guilford, Connecticut 2018

Guilt Free Snickers

My first taste of healthy snickers came about when I was doing my nutritional therapy clinical practice.   One of the students in our practice group brought them in for our practice clients to sample during their break between the first and second part of their consultation.  Everyone in our group of four brought some ‘healthy’ treats.  They were all delicious and I have used these recipes often.  At the time I believe the recipe for the snickers came from ‘The Happy Pear’ David and Stephen Flynn.  I couldn’t believe these were actually healthy, they simply tasted too good!!  That particular recipe is not in the ‘The Happy Pear’ book that I have on my shelf (Yellow cover) but it might be in the later publication (which I think has a blue cover).  In any case, I have seen their recipe on a YouTube video which I will link below.   You can try their recipe too and decide what suits you best.  The recipe I use here is slightly different but equally as delicious and healthy.  I will also link this video below.  Generally, I will have these ingredients to hand which is why I use this recipe and why I make them regularly.

Ingredients
  • 170g pitted dates
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • A pinch of salt
  • 100g Oat flour
  • 60g peanuts
  • 100g 70% dark chocolate
Method

Remove the stones (pits) from the dates.   [I use vacuum packed dates which I buy in the ethnic stores].  Soak them in a medium sized bowl of warm water for 2-4 minutes to soften them.  Drain off the water and mix the peanut butter and pinch of salt to the bowl or blender.  Blend them or mix them really well until you have a smooth paste consistency.  Divide the mixture into a 60 / 40 ratio, placing the smaller portion into a separate bowl.  Add the oat flour.  [I use porridge oats and just blend them into a flour.  You can use a Nutribullet, a hand blender or food processor for this]. Add the oats to the bigger portion of the date/butter mix.  This forms the base of the bars.  Cover a baking tray or chopping board with a baking sheet and roll the mixture flat with a rolling pin.  Do your best to form a square or rectangular base

At this point you can place it in the fridge to harden or you can continue with making the bars.   If you decide not to let it harden just be a little more careful when spreading the remaining butter/date mix onto the base.  Cover it completely.

For the next layer you add the peanuts.  [It is easier to buy salted peanuts so this is what I use].  Weigh out the 60g and place them in a sieve under the tap to wash the salt off.  [You can also use unsalted or any other raw nuts].   Dry them with a paper towel and place them evenly on top of the previous two layers.

Now place this in the freezer to harden for up to 30 minutes.  Melt 100g of dark chocolate before removing the bars from the freezer.  Here you have an option.  You can either cut the bars to size and pour the chocolate over each bar [as seen in the video] or, what I tend to do is just cover the whole square with the melted chocolate, place it back in the fridge and cut it into smaller squares later.  In this way the chocolate is just on the top – more like a tray bake and less like a bar!

A full size bar is very filling and if you are very hungry its perfect, but I tend to make smaller portions for a satisfying snack.

Extra notes:  I usually double the ingredients and make more.  They keep very well in the fridge in a sealed container.  I would love to say that they last for ages in the fridge but I couldn’t stand over that statement since they don’t stay there for very long!! 🙂

These bars are nutrient dense.  The dates, oats, peanuts and dark chocolate are all bursting with healthy nutrition.  I would say the bars might be ‘medium’ on the glycaemic load (GL) scale.  Oats, peanuts and dark chocolate are low GL.  The dates will push this up to a higher GL, however, dates are natural sugar and are nutrient dense.

I have noticed a very big difference between a bar like this and a purchased ‘normal’ bar made on simple sugars.  The very first thing I have observed when it comes to eating simple sugars is that ‘one’ is never enough.  Simple sugars tend to ‘fire up’ the addiction centers in your brain the minute it hits your taste buds and you immediately think ‘I want more’, or ‘I need more’.  Watch for this – you’ll be amazed.  By comparison, I seldom find myself running back for more straight away when I eat a homemade bar like this one.   It seems to satisfy both the sweet tooth and the hungry tummy at the same time, without triggering addiction.

I hope you will give them a try and see for yourself.

Anne ♥

Here is the link to the YouTube ‘The Happy Pear’ recipe – click here   4.52 mins

Here is the link to the YouTube recipe I use above – click here   6.04 mins

Savoury Lentil Cake

This post is an update / addition to the previous blog entitled ‘Red Split Lentil Bread’.  As promised I tried the second recipe suggestion given in the video link provided in the previous blog.   The ingredients to make the lentil bread are the same as this savoury cake but with the addition of a few more ingredients namely cheese, onion and herbs.  The rest of the instructions given for the lentil bread are the same for this recipe.  For the additions I used Greek Feta (200g) diced, a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley (because I have it growing in my back yard), a couple of tablespoons of finely chopped onion and a 1/4 teaspoon of coarse black pepper. 

Other varieties of cheese you can use include Halloumi, Mozzarella or basically any soft cheese.   Other suggested herbs are Dill or Basil.  I used finely chopped red onion but you could also use fresh spring onion, dried onion or chives.  

When I previously made the lentil bread I just greased the tin with olive oil as suggested in the video but I found it difficult to get the bread out of the baking tray without breaking it.  This time I used a baking tin liner.  I cooked this one in a round baking tin.  When the cake cooled down completely I was able to peel the liner off carefully without breaking the cake.

As I suspected, the savoury cake is really delicious and I am glad to be able to add it to my favourite recipes for regular use.  I had a slice of the cake this morning for breakfast served cold with some fresh cherry tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing (on the tomatoes).   The cheese and herbs combine harmoniously with the rest of the ingredients.   It would make a great lunch dish combined with a mixed salad.   Again, it holds together very well and so it could be added to your picnic basket for a filling and nutritious meal on the go.

 

You may be aware that there are concerns worldwide about shortages of wheat and other food products.  You will know how quickly we were plunged into fuel shortages and rising fuel prices.  I anticipate that more flexibility may be called for when it comes to our food choices in order to get the best nutrition into your diet.  ‘Bread’ is a real staple in our diet in Ireland.  We are slow to abandon bread even when it has a deleterious effect on our health.  Upon being told that her starving peasant subjects had no bread to eat, Marie-Antoinette, the queen of France during the French revolution, apparently responded “Let them eat cake”!  OK, so we’re not quite there.  We still have a wide variety of foods available to us, but changes could be coming down the line.  Save this cake recipe as it is very nutrition dense, not to mention delicious.   Marie-Antoinette’s subjects would have been well fed on this cake.  Of course, I get that the point of the story is not really ‘the bread/cake’ but the fact that she had no awareness of the real experience of her ‘peasants’ lives, their experience of life being so completely removed from her own.  Hmmm….. sound familiar??  Have we closed the gap between the rich and the poor 3-4 centuries later??  ‘Food for thought’!   If we did have to resort to using other flours to make bread or bread substitutes, lentils are a really good choice.  Apart from being relatively inexpensive, they have a long shelf life so you could buy in bulk now and be prepared.   It’s culinary uses are many and varied.  Lentils are ‘gluten free’ and are therefore unlikely to cause an immune reaction or digestive issues unlike wheat products.

Try it folks, you won’t be disappointed.  

🙂

Anne

Red Split Lentil Bread

I came across this recipe on YouTube.  I’ll provide the link below.  There are many versions of it online so you can check them out.

This one is basic and within the video the presenter gives a second option which includes the addition of cheese, herbs and spices to make a more savoury bread.  I hope to try that for my next bake.

The ingredients are simple and accessible.  It is ‘gluten free’ but not dairy free.  The presenter does mention ways around that, so you could check that out.  For bread I usually buy sourdough from Lidl and have noticed a recent price increase which is quite a leap from €1.95 to €2.15 for a cob.  I’m aware that I can make bread from oat flour and I do use this for crumbles and other bakes but for me personally I tend not to digest grains very well, especially early in the day when I’m most likely to eat bread.  The fermenting process with sourdough makes digestion easier for me, but I’m always looking for other healthy alternatives.  Also, in case my ‘go to’ bread becomes even more expensive, in these ‘uncertain times’, I will have some tried and tested options to fall back on.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of red split lentils
  • 1 cup natural yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 20g baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 60 mls of Olive Oil
Method:

Wash the red split lentils in a bowl until the water runs clear.  Leave the lentils to soak overnight in water.  Drain off the water through a sieve.  With a food processor (blade attachment) liquidize the lentils.  Remove half the mixture into a separate bowl.  To half the mixture still in the food processor, add the eggs, yogurt, olive oil, salt and baking powder.  Run until completely blended opening the lid to scrap down the side a couple of times.   Pour this mixture into the bowl with the rest of the lentils and mix well.  Pour into a greased tin.  Spread some seeds on top.  The video presenter used Sesame and Nigella seeds.  I did not have these to hand so I used sunflower seeds.  Place in a preheated oven at 180°C for 35-40 minutes.

To the left is a picture of the bread.  It turned out well.  I made the mistake of turning the oven dial to 280°C and only noticed it at about 15 minutes in, so this may have affected the bake? I’ll know the next time I bake it if there is a difference!  When I am making this again I think it might be better to line the baking tin, as I found it difficult to get the bread out.  The video had suggested using olive oil to grease the tin.

My thoughts on the bread

It’s texture is more ‘cake like’ than standard ‘bread like’ and the taste is more savoury than floury.  It is a little bit crumbly at first but when it is completely cooled down it holds together quite well.  It has a richer taste than standard bread.  It goes well with savoury food like nut butter and with a salad.  I have tried toasting some under the grill and in a toaster for a heated up version. It does not brown like standard bread, but it still works well toasted.   It goes down very well (digestion wise) I have had no acid or digestive discomfort after eating it.  It also goes well with sweet foods like banana or jam, however, the more ‘cake like’ texture may not stand up to a lot of handling.  For example, it might be better to slice some banana onto the bread rather than mash it on which could cause the bread to break up under the pressure.  Not ideal if you want to lift a slice up to your mouth!

In terms of nutritional value and value for money I will definitely be adding this to my ‘go to recipes’.  Lentils are a very good source of beneficial carbohydrates, protein, fibre, B vitamins and a variety of minerals including iron.  They are ‘gluten free’ and inexpensive.  I always use Free Range or Organic eggs.  Thankfully these are easily available to me.  Extra Virgin Olive oil is full of monounsaturated fatty acids which are very healthy fats to consume.   So lots of good nutrition there!!

I am storing this bread in an airtight container and because temperatures are quite warm at the moment, I’m keeping this in the fridge.  If you are of the mindset that bread should only present and taste a certain way, then this may be a bit of a stretch for you, but I have to say I’m very happy with the outcome.

 

 

←  Click this icon to view the video entitled:

Lentil Bread Recipe’ by Refika’s Kitchen

[Video is approximately 9 mins]

 

Enjoy 🙂

Anne

 

Pomegranate Flavour Fizzy Drink

This post is an update on a previous post entitled ‘Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade’.  You can check that out under Blog / Recipes.  Since then I have tried new flavours for this homemade drink.  I often use fresh pomegranate in my breakfast bowl but I came to try pomegranate as a fizzy drink flavour after my sister was clearing her kitchen of fresh produce to travel abroad and gave me a spare one.  In that first batch I made I also added some fresh lime juice (as I just happen to have a left over lime).  It turned out to be a delicious flavour combination.  I’ve since made a little video of how to use a pomegranate to make probiotic fizzy drinks.  [Click YouTube Icon below – it is 5 mins 31 seconds long]

Next time around I might add ‘star anise’ to the fermenting bottle of pomegranate to see how that flavour combination works.  I have used star anise in Kombucha in the past.  I really like the flavour it adds to the drink.  Finding flavour combinations that appeal to you is a matter of experimenting, but no matter what the outcome, the drink remains a really healthy option!

I just need to NOTE here that every time you use a pomegranate the flavour outcome will depend on the quality and ripeness of the fruit.  If you open a pomegranate and the seeds are a dark red and the juice rushes out as you cut into the fruit, this is likely to ultimately produce a richer, sweeter flavoured drink.  Unfortunately, when buying a pomegranate it can be pot luck as to whether it is ideal for juicing.  I have often purchased pomegranate that had quite dry and opaque looking seeds which are ok for sprinkling on your breakfast bowl or salad, but I wouldn’t recommend it for juicing.  It’s hard to tell before you open the fruit what you are going to find inside!

If you have watched the video I hope you enjoyed it and realize I am not a professional video maker by far.  I just produced it on my phone with an app called ‘Film Maker’ as a handy visual to follow.  If you are like me, I tend to follow a visual better than reading down through written text.  However, as previously stated, you will find the written instructions on how to make the ‘ginger bug’ starter and fizzy drink in my previous blog entitled ‘Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade’.

Enjoy 🙂

Anne

How to make Sauerkraut

I have to admit that even since childhood I have NOT been a fan of cooked cabbage or any cooked cruciferous vegetables for that matter.  In retrospect, when I consider how it was offered ‘plain cooked, perhaps even overcooked, smelly veg’ 😦 , I’m not surprised it didn’t appeal.  ‘No offence mother’!!  I could not be swayed, and I mean, AT ALL!!

Turns out cruciferous vegetables (cabbage in all its forms, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, radishes etc.) are one of the most nutritionally valuable and health beneficial foods you can consume.  The phytonutrients (phyto = plant) in crucifers protect our health by working as antioxidants to disarm free radicals before they can damage DNA, cell membranes and fat-containing molecules such as cholesterol.  These compounds actually signal our genes to increase production of enzymes involved in detoxification, the cleansing process through which our bodies eliminate harmful compounds.

In any case, I won’t be too hard on myself for having rejected crucifers for so long, since boiling drastically reduces the nutritional benefits which is lost through heat and into the water that went down the plug hole 😊.  In later years however, I happily consume various forms of raw cabbage e.g. coleslaw and other cruciferous containing salad dishes and of course, sauerkraut.   Some lightly steamed Broccoli drenched in butter with a sprinkle of pepper is also very pleasing to my taste buds, whereas to eat it overcooked is still a chore ☹  Here it is worth noting for anyone with Thyroid issues, it is best to cook crucifers even a little to deactivate the goitrogens contained in these vegetables.

You can read more about the benefits of cruciferous vegetables here.

Finally, with regard to the benefit of cruciferous vegetable in general, most nutritional therapists will be familiar with these benefits in relation to hormonal balance for both male and female hormones.  An increase in consumption of cruciferous vegetables is usually recommended and/or supplementation with diindolylmethane or DIM for short.

Classic Sauerkraut Recipe
(Dry salting method)     [To make one – 2 Litre Jar]
  • Head of Red or White Cabbage or mix
  • Sea Salt (800g of cabbage to 1 tablespoon of salt)
  • Juniper berries (1 ½ tblsp)
  • Caraway seeds (1 tblsp)
Method:
  1. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and cut out the core, then shred the cabbage. You can use a sharp kitchen knife or the shredder blade on a food processor.
  2. Place the cabbage in a large bowl and add the salt. Massage the salt through the cabbage and leave to stand for 30-60 minutes.  Mix in the berries and seeds.  (These add flavour but are optional).
  3. With washed hands massage the mixture until it is wet and limp.
  4. Fill a sterilized jar with handfuls of the mixture, making sure to press it firmly down with your fist. You will see more liquid seeping out.
  5. Fill the jar to within 2.5cm of the top. For successful fermentation it is crucial to keep the cabbage submerged, so place a weight on it.  [You can use the outer leaves at the top of the kraut and place a weight in the middle.  I have some heavy glass t-light holders which I have found to work well].
  6. Close the lid. Leave it sit for anything from 1 to 6 weeks.
  7. If you are using an airtight jar you may need to burp (release the build-up of carbon dioxide gas) by opening the lid once in a while. [Personally, I have never had to do this and have left my Sauerkraut ferments for 21 days unopened on most occasions.   Just keep an eye on it.  Local temperature is a key factor and in Ireland anyway, temperatures are generally not that high so it slows the process down.  Fermenting is definitely a learning process and you’ll get to know what to expect the more you experiment].
  8. When you are happy with the flavour and texture you can store the jar in the fridge. [I tend to make a bigger amount than I can use so I usually transfer it to smaller jars in the fridge].

Note:  The longer you leave your sauerkraut to ferment the more of a probiotic punch it will contain.

Sauerkraut benefits:

The process of fermentation increases the bio-availability of the plants nutrients making it even more nutritious than the original cabbage.  It is high in Vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium and a very good source of dietary fibre.  Other minerals it contains are iron, potassium, copper and manganese.

If you happen to find yourself in love with sauerkraut, please note that moderation is advised.  It is best to eat fermented cruciferous vegetables as condiments, not as large components of the diet.

You can do a deeper dive into the benefits of Sauerkraut here.

For me, as I’ve said, it provides a tasty, easily made and stored source of vegetable and at the same time a source of natural probiotic.  The strains of live friendly bacteria are diverse.  Probiotics in supplement form are great but you could cut out this expense by regularly including fermented foods into your diet.  It is comparatively way less expensive.  It may cost you a little more time in the kitchen but even this is minimal as it becomes just part of your routine.

I started my fermenting journey with Kefir.  I’m not a big fan of milk so I didn’t continue making this for very long.  Then I moved on to making Kombucha.  This is really nice and I tried many and varied types of tea and added flavours.  But, to date my favourite ferment besides Sauerkraut, is ‘Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade’.  It doesn’t have to be lemon. You can find my instructions on this website here. I have most recently tried pomegranate and this turned out to be really, really tasty.

Though my fermenting journey started with my Nutritional Therapy training where we learned to make kefir and water kefir, I currently rely on ‘The Cultured Club’ book by Dearbhla Reynolds to expand my knowledge and experience with ferments.

References

The Cultured Club’ ….subtitle ‘Fabulous Funky Fermentation Recipes’  by Derbhla Reynolds.

World’s Healthiest Foods [On-line] – ‘Optimizing Your Cells’ Detoxification/Cleansing Ability by Eating Cabbage and Other Cruciferous Veg’

Dr. Axe [On-line] – ‘5 Health Benefits of Sauerkraut and How to Make Your Own’

Oven cake – Oat, Cocoa, Banana

I would be more inclined to classify this as a pudding because it is moist and a little dense without being too sweet. All the ingredients are healthy. There is no added sugar, you just have the natural sweetness of the ripe bananas. I’ve taken this recipe from YouTube, I’ll share the link below so you have a good visual to follow.

In the original recipe the oven cake is topped with nuts and melted chocolate. I’ve changed it up a bit and topped it with chopped dried fruit and nuts, by taking a short cut and skipping the melting of the chocolate. I have to say it needs the sweetness of the dried fruit, otherwise you may find it lacking that sweet hit!!  So, either top with chopped dried fruit (I used apricots and almonds chopped) or use dark chocolate melted as in the original recipe.

Ingredients
  • 120g  Oats
  • 250 ml hot milk
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 30g Cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5g Baking Powder
  • Butter to line oven dish

Topping:

  • Chopped Nuts of choice or dried fruit of choice
  • 50g Dark Chocolate melted

Note: You can buy ‘Gluten free’ Oats if you have issues with wheat sensitivity or Coeliac, otherwise Oats are considered gluten free.  You can use nut milk in place of dairy milk and chia seeds instead of the eggs if you want the recipe to be dairy free.

Method

Separately soak the oats in the hot milk and leave to stand from 10 minutes.

Mash bananas.  Add 2 eggs and mix well.  Add 30g cocoa, pinch of salt, baking powder and mix well.

Combine the oats when cooled off completely.  Mix well.

Place the mixture in a buttered oven dish.  Sprinkle topping of choice (the melted chocolate should only be added after the cake is removed from the oven)

Oven 180°C  for 40-50 mins.

Eating and Serving

I find this so easy to make and it lasts for days in the fridge.  If it makes it past the front door it would travel very well in a container for a hill walk or picnic.  It is filling and sweet without being too sweet.   I take mine with some whipped up coconut cream and sometimes even a drizzle of maple syrup.  Yum!!    🙂 

YouTube link to Video 

Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade

I follow @theculturedclub on Instagram.  Not… by the way … ‘The Culture Club’.  Am I giving my age away by mentioning that band?? 🙂 🙂  I also have the book entitled ‘The Cultured Club’ ….subtitle ‘Fabulous Funky Fermentation Recipes’  by Derbhla Reynolds.  To make my first batch of probiotic fizzy lemonade I just followed Derbhla’s video instructions on Instagram.  There are a couple of video posts dated around end of March 2021 on how to make Lemonade from ‘Ginger Bug’.  There is also a recipe in the book but it is so much easier to follow a visual when you are starting something new.  The ginger bug is like a little production factory of beneficial yeasts and bacteria.  When the fermentation process is established it provides a starter culture added to other ingredients to make a fizzy probiotic drink.  The ginger bug liquid acts in a similar way to a ‘starter dough’ or ‘yeast’ that is added to a bread recipe.

I have to say I am in love with making my own summer fizzy drinks now.  I have tried lemon flavour on its own.  Love it!  I have tried orange flavour on its own.  I’m not so keen on this, it just doesn’t have the same kick [thirst quenching bite] that the lemon has.  However, my favourite combination so far is lemon and lime.  It is simply delicious.  I can hardly stop myself drinking the whole lot once I start.

There are two components to making your probiotic fizzy drink.  The first is making the ‘Ginger Bug’ and the second is making the fizzy drink, we’ll say lemonade, but you can experiment with any flavour you like.

Making the ‘Ginger Bug’

Please note that you only need to make this once after which you just keep it alive.  I’ll explain how further down.

You will need:

  • Organic root ginger and root turmeric  –  1 or 2 stems of each
  • Sugar
  • Filtered water
  • A big enough glass jar with a lid [that would hold approx. 1 litre]

Why organic?  I haven’t tried non-organic so I can’t say for sure, but many of the commenters on the related Instagram post said their attempts using supermarket root ginger and turmeric didn’t produce results and the advice was to use organic.  Perhaps the chemicals used in non-organic doesn’t allow for the same beneficial microflora to grown on the food and subsequently in your ‘ginger bug’ mix.  I bought mine at ‘The Green Door Pantry’ a farmers market in Dublin which sells fresh organic produce.

What to do:

Step 1:  Cut the root ginger and turmeric into small chunks and place them in the glass jar.  Make sure that the jar has been thoroughly cleaned and sterilized (especially if it is a food jar that is being re-used).  Next add the filtered water leaving a good inch or two of space at the top.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.  The sugar can be white or brown.  I tend to use brown because that is what I usually buy.  Stir it well.

Step 2:  For the first 24 hours leave the lid off the jar.  In order for the mixture to interact with the microorganisms in the atmosphere you will need to place it outdoors, if possible.  I covered mine with a Lidl mesh bag to keep out anything that wasn’t ‘micro’ e.g. flies etc.   [After this initial ‘lid off’ 24 hours, the lid will always be closed on the jar, except when you are feeding or burping the mixture].

Step 3:  Feeding the ‘ginger bug’ initially.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Empty a little of the liquid off and add a little bit of fresh water.   Repeat this for the next 3 days.  The fermentation process is underway.  On the 4th day your ginger bug should be ready for use to make lemonade.

Making the Lemonade

You will need:

  • A separate glass bottle [you can use an old wine bottle with a screw top]
  • Ginger bug starter liquid 
  • Sugar
  • Lemons / Limes  (I find the juice of 3 in total is enough to add to make a pint of liquid)
  • Filtered water

I use measuring spoons for the ginger bug liquid and sugar, but the amount of juice from the fruit doesn’t have to be exact.  You could add 100ml or more.  You can adjust this to suit your own taste.  Derbhla’s instructions says to add 200ml but it’s up to you!!

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons of the ginger bug solution
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 100-200ml  of fresh squeezed lemon/lime (or other flavour)
  • Filtered water [Enough to fill the rest of the bottle to about 1 to 1½ inches below the neck]

What to do:

You can directly use the glass bottle to mix.  If so, you may need a plastic funnel otherwise it might get messy.  I use a separate plastic pouring jug to mix and then add the mixture to the bottle, before adding the water.

Scoop out 4 tablespoons of the ginger bug syrup from the jar (the ginger and turmeric solids remains in the jar).  Add 4 tablespoons of sugar.  Add your 100-200ml of freshly squeezed juice.  Mix.  (Add this mix to the bottle now if you are using the jug).  Now fill the bottle up to no more than 1 to 1½ inches from the neck with filtered water.  Put the cap on and give it a good shake up and down to mix it well.

Leave your lemonade to stand for 3 days at room temperature.  The warmer the temperature the quicker it will ferment.  More fermentation equals more fizz.   After 3 days have a little taste to sample it.  If it is fizzy enough for your liking you can now put it in the fridge to chill.  Once chilled it is ready to use and enjoy.  Otherwise, you can leave it to ferment for another couple of days and then refrigerate it.

‘Ginger bug’ maintenance

Okay …. don’t panic, it really is NO big deal.   Feeding and temperature are key factors in keeping your ‘ginger bug factory’ alive and ready for lemonade production.

Now that your ginger bug is established,  feeding it is just a simple matter of adding one spoon of sugar, emptying off a little of the liquid and replacing it with a little fresh filtered water.  That’s it!!

You will notice when you add the sugar the ginger bug fizzes up before your eyes.

If your ‘ginger bug’ is sitting with it’s lid on at room temperature 20°C, or warmer,  fermentation will happen.  If that is the case you may need to ‘pop’ or ‘burp’ it once a day.  My ‘ginger bug’ is in a flip top jar [photo above].  I just flip the lid open to release the gas.  It makes a sort of popping sound, similar to when you open a bottle of fizzy drink.  Close it again straight away.  Warning:  Due to carbonation, pressure can build up in the closed jar over a few days and result in an almighty pop when you open the lid or, worse case scenario if you have left it much longer, the jar may explode!!!  So, if in doubt place the jar in the fridge until you plan on using it again.  The cold temperature slows down the fermentation process completely.

For example…. if you only want to make one bottle of lemonade per week and you fear you might not remember to ‘burp’ the ginger bug, OR, if you are going away for a few days or weeks, the best thing to do is to simply place the jar of ‘ginger bug’ in the fridge.

To start up fermentation again, take the ginger bug out of the fridge the night before or early on the day you want to use it again, letting it reach room temperature for at least a few hours before using it.  When you have taken out your starter liquid to make the next bottle(s) of lemonade, remember to feed it again (one spoon of sugar, remove some liquid and top up with fresh water).

Why bother making your own?

For one thing it is just so delicious.  It is made with natural fresh healthy ingredients.  What about the sugar??  The sugar is NOT for you it is what feeds the friendly yeasts and bacteria.  They get the sugar and we get to enjoy the by-product – a probiotic drink!!  That means it is full of beneficial, gut friendly bacteria.  Without going into too much detail, it contains many and varied strains of friendly bacteria including lactobacillus which has many health benefits.

Comparing this drink to a shop bought fizzy lemonade which contains all sort of sugars and chemicals and which might at best be ‘thirst quenching’, but is definitely not health promoting.

More than 2000 years ago the father of modern medicine ‘Hippocrates’ suggested that all diseases begin in the gut.  We now know that 70-80% of our immune system lies directly behind the gut wall.  Increasing the amount of friendly microbes you consume in your diet is key to crowding out pathogens (harmful, disease producing microbes) and is one of the best ways to support your gut, brain and immune health.

It is now widely accepted that adequate beneficial bacteria act as immune modulators.  This means that they are instrumental in regulating how our immune system responds when it encounters harmful (pathogenic) bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites (microbes).  A modulated immune system responds appropriately, neither over or under reacting to a threat.  This ‘appropriate’ balanced response is when the immune system is working at its best.

Not to mention that this is a really, really cheap and tasty way to enjoy homemade lemonade while at the same time benefiting from the probiotics it contains.

I hope you will give it a go and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Reference:

Instagram @theculturedclub

The Cultured Club’ ….subtitle ‘Fabulous Funky Fermentation Recipes’  by Derbhla Reynolds.

Shamrock Guac!

Holy Guacamole! 

Its green and it’s packed full of goodness, so its the perfect dish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!  Guacamole has its origins with the Aztec’s of Mexico.  By most accounts, the ancient version of the dish was originally made with mashed avocados, chili peppers, tomatoes, white onions and salt.  Not that much has changed but there are more versions available today.  My recipe for guacamole is at the bottom of this post.

Guacamole is comprised mainly of avocados which are ranked as one of the top five healthiest foods in the world.  Although avocado is actually a fruit, it is great in both sweet and savoury dishes.  Its ‘superfood’ status has been cast into the shadows for years while low fat diets have been promoted in the media as a healthier option.  But, avocados are high in monounsaturated fatty acids [MUFA] that are critical for health and deliver many health benefits.

A food qualifies as a ‘superfood’ based on the amount of beneficial nutrients it contains and avocados are packed full of nutrients that promote many health benefits.  Even the perceived downside of it being a ‘high fat’ food does not warrant leaving it on the supermarket shelf.  These are healthy fats that actually help you absorb the other nutrients the fruit contains.

100g of avocado contains between 10-26% RDA [recommended daily allowance] of Vitamin E, B6, B5, Potassium [more than bananas], Vitamin C, Folate and Vitamin K.  It contains smaller amounts of magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, Vitamin B1, B2 and B3.  160 calories, 2 grams of protein, 15 grams of healthy fat, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 7 of which is fibre.  No cholesterol or sodium.   The fatty acids are oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat like that in olive oil.  These fats help with absorption of fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants.  Speaking of antioxidants, avocados contain carotenoids including lutein and zeaxanthin.

Here are just some of the health benefits of consuming nutrient dense avocados:

Improved heart health:  By balancing blood lipids with high monounsaturated fatty acids [oleic acids].  Vitamin K helps with circulation and fibre, magnesium and potassium are shown to reduce blood pressure.

Healthy skin and eyes:  Again the healthy fats lubricate and nourish the skin from the inside out.  The carotenoids including lutein and zeaxanthin are very beneficial for eye health.  Avocados are anti-aging.

Helps weight loss: Yes, you heard it right!  Diets that are lower in carbohydrates (especially glycaemic loaded foods like refined carbs) and higher in healthy fats, are known to accelerate weight loss.  So, if you are looking to lose weight fast, eat more avocados and less white refined carbs. Also, fats are more filling and increase satiety hormones that help you eat less overall.

Improved digestive health: Avocados are rich in fibre that feed your beneficial gut bacteria and bulk up the stool.  This makes for easier transit through the colon helping the body remove waste and toxins.

Protection from diabetes: Avocados are rich in MUFAs that promote healthy blood lipid profiles, improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood glucose levels.   MUFA dense foods can help decrease glucose and insulin concentrations for hours compared with carbohydrate rich foods.

Better mood and balanced hormones: Because various neurotransmitters and hormones are made in the body from fatty acids in the diet, you will automatically benefit these systems when you eat enough healthy fats.  Considering 60% of our brain is made up of fat, it is not surprising that healthy fats are good for brain function, mood and memory.

The following guacamole recipe serves 4 and is gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian.  It’s just like they serve it in Mexico.  It works well as a side dish or with crudities or oat cakes.  Once made it will keep in the fridge in an airtight jar or container.  Just pour a thin layer of water over the top, then put the lid on and pop it in the fridge – this will stop it browning.  When serving, drain off as much of the water as you can, give it a good mix and it will be as good as new.

Guacamole

Source: Google Images

Ingredients:

  • 2 large ripe avocados
  • ¼ large red onion, diced
  • 10g (¼ oz) fresh coriander finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Coarse salt and pepper

Method:

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit, scoop the flesh from the skin and add it to a large bowl.  Add in the onion, coriander, garlic, lime juice and a good pinch of coarse salt and pepper.

Mash everything together with a fork so it is chunky / smooth to your liking.  You can also use a blender.  Taste and add more salt, pepper or lime to your liking.

Serve straight away or store as suggested above.

Have a Happy and Healthy St. Patrick’s Day 🙂

© Limelight Nutrtion 2019

Perfectly Fluffy Basmati Rice

I pull these instructions out every time I need to make Basmati Rice.  I have it many years.  It’s printed and stored with some other old reliables.  In December I posted a recipe for Turkey Curry to use up the left overs.  I had friends over Stephen’s Day and made Turkey Curry, and Cashew Curry for my vegetarian guest.  What could be better with any curry than fluffy Basmati rice.  I haven’t mastered the art of making Naan bread…. yet, so that had to be bought.  I just added heaps more garlic and butter.  All in all it was a very tasty meal, (says I) 🙂 ….. well no one complained!  I even had a request for the instructions on how to make the rice fluffy, so here it is for one and all.   I just made the plain version but you can jazz it up.

But First Some Nutrition Facts

Source: Google Images

Just so that you can enjoy it even more, here are a few nutritional positives about Basmati rice.  Brown Basmati has about 150 calories per 60g uncooked.  It contain 2g fibre and 1.5 of healthy fats (oil).  Brown Basmati has a small amount of iron and B vitamins.   The white version has 160 calories per 60g uncooked but with the fibre and oil removed this makes it less nutritious.  Both provide 3-4g of protein.  Combined with eggs or other animal protein this provides a complete amino acids profile.  Brown Basmati rice is lowest on the glycaemic index of all types of rice.  With the removal of the fibre and oil white Basmati is higher but is still on a glycaemic par with long grain brown rice and rates lower than ordinary white rice, making it a better choice for diabetics or anyone trying to control blood sugar levels.

Here’s what to do:
  • Rinse the rice in fresh cold water until the water runs clear
  • Put 750ml of water in a pot and bring to the boil
  • Add the rice and simmer rapidly, uncovered for 8 minutes
  • Stir occasionally to stop the rice from sticking
  • After 8 minutes drain the rice in a colander or sieve
  • Pour a half inch of boiling water (from the kettle) into the pot and place the sieve on the pot, ensuring that it isn’t in contact with the water (this would result in soggy bottomed rice).
  • Cover the pot and rice with aluminium foil, return to the heat and simmer for 10 minutes after which time, you’ve got it…… perfectly fluffy rice.

Note:  I just used a stacking pot with a steaming section and the lid on for steaming.

Options to Jazz it up:  
  1. At the stage the rice is added to the pot of boiling water – add 4 cloves and 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.  The cloves add an lovely aromatic flavour while the turmeric gives white Basmati a vibrant yellow appearance.
  2. Add 1 cinnamon stick and 3 bay leaves.
  3. At the steaming stage add some finely chopped already sautéed onion and toasted almonds.
References:

Original instructions came from a website called Suite101.com   The website is still there but I can’t find these instructions.  Its been a while 🙂

You can download my pdf of the instructions here.

You can download my pdf of Turkey Bone Broth and Turkey Curry in previous post ‘Gobble Gobble’