Almond, Coconut & Chia Seed Butter

Now who likes peanut butter? I used to hate it. Growing up I disliked nuts generally. I remember family buffets, sitting at the table with my sister and picking all the dried fruit out of the fruit and nut mix. However, I did used to like walnuts. Both of us at ours Grandma’s, cracking open walnuts in front of the fire. It’s funny how I wouldn’t eat them in a nut mix but I would out of their shells. Peanuts were another no go. My dad loved (and still does) salted peanuts and my friend would always buy peanut M&Ms when we would go to the cinema. But me, I just couldn’t stand the smell of them. I would sit as far away as possible.

But now, I love them. I’d quite happily snack on a handful of unsalted nuts (my favourites being cashew and almonds) and peanut butter has a multitude of uses. Mixed into chocolate brownies, cookies, with banana on toast, stirred into porridge or spread on a rice cake. Then I tried other nut butters, like almond, and these were even better than your bog standard peanut butters. When you start to look into the ingredients on some of the nut butters on the market, it’s crazy some of the extra things that are added like sugar and palm oil. So it got me thinking, is it difficult to make your own?

My first attempt was following Jamie Oliver’s basic recipe in his Everyday Superfood book. I toasted a mixture of cashew and almond nuts and then blitzed them in a mini chopper. Now, a lesson I learnt from making this batch was that I didn’t blitz them for long enough. If you think you have, add on an extra five minutes. The texture of mine was quite thick and although it tasted nice, it was difficult to spread onto toast or stir into my morning porridge. A second attempt was needed.

Then, my sister gave me some almond and coconut butter to try. I’m not a big fan of coconut, in particular desiccated coconut because of the texture. Bounty’s are always left at Christmas when the Celebrations tub comes out. But this nut butter was amazing and I was gutted when I finished it.

So, imagine my delight when I came across a recipe book by Pip & Nut. In the book was a recipe for Almond, Coconut and Chia Nut Butter. There was also a detailed guide on how to make your own standard nut butter. For this process, they advised that it would take at least 10 minutes to blitz the nuts into a butter (depending on the power of your food processor) and that it should be smooth and glossy. I use a mini processor as it is a small quantity being blitzed. I also stop every two minutes to let the motor cool down so I don’t overheat (lesson learnt when using a hand mixer to make a Christmas Cake one year). So, would take me longer than 10 minutes but at least it’s an idea (more than I had with my first attempt). If you are a fan of nut butters, you need to give this recipe a go. There are even more recipes in the book and suggestions for use (an excuse to go buy a copy). Below is how I made the nut butter. This was different to how the recipe stated due to me misreading it (whoops). Chia seeds aren’t a must to the recipe so don’t worry if you don’t want to include them. However, they are not difficult or expensive to buy. Home bargains sell bags of these a lot cheaper than anywhere else I’ve seen. Tesco also sell ‘shot packs’ which would be enough to make this butter. By the way, the recipe makes enough for one jar. I’ve been keeping mine in the cupboard.

nut-butter

200g whole almonds (skin on)

1 tbsp chia seeds (white or black)

75g creamed coconut (buy from supermarket, packed in individual sachets)

pinch of sea salt

1/2 tbsp agave nectar (or honey or maple syrup)

To roast the almonds:

Pre-heat oven to 150C. Spread the almonds onto a baking sheet in a single layer and roast until golden brown. This will take around 10-15 minutes but keep an eye on them as they can quickly burn. Once roasted, cool for 5 minutes.

To make them into butter:

Tip the nuts into a food processor. I find that my mini food processor is more powerful when chopping nuts compared to my standard one. Blitz for two minutes. The nuts will turn into a crumble texture and will need scraping down with a spatula. I left my processor to cool for two minutes. I blitz for two minutes and left to cool for two minutes throughout the process. After six minutes of blitzing, a ball formed. After another four minutes of blitzing the nuts were smooth but looked to still have a rough texture (this was when I stopped when making Jamie’s nut butter). After another four minutes, the nut butter started to look smooth and glossy. If you want a basic almond butter, stop at this stage.

Add the creamed coconut and sea salt and blitz until smooth. I found that this made the texture appear runnier and glossier than before. Add the chia seeds and agave nectar and blitz until well combined. Pour the nut butter into an airtight container. When pouring into a jar, I found the texture quite runny but it has thickened over time.

The result, a lip smacking delicious nut butter. Although it feels like a long process when you blitzing (especially when taking the rest periods like me) the final product is definitely worth it. Now I know the basic method of making it, I am going to be trying my own combinations.

 

 

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Live A Little

As much as I enjoy my meat free days, healthier recipes and exercise, I also love afternoon tea and meals out with friends and family. It’s not something I do all the time (although meals out are becoming a regular feature, I do try and make healthier choices as much as possible) but I do have those times where I want to indulge. This week has been one of those weeks.

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First up was a visit to a garden centre in the middle of nowhere with Mr W. A Facebook friend put up a picture of an afternoon tea here (near Clitheroe). It looked so cute, all presented on a mini picnic bench with flowerpot cakes and wellington boot milkshakes. Who couldn’t resist it? The menu changes on a regular basis (an excuse to go more than once) and has a theme. Mr W and I visited when they were doing there ‘Winter Wonderland Picnic’ menu. Although there were a couple of things that Mr W wanted to trade (cheese scone and chocolate milk) I said he needed to try them all as I wasn’t willing to part with any of mine. The funny thing being he enjoyed the cheese scone and I didn’t (FYI Mr W dislikes cheese and scones). Although when you looked at the menu, it sounded like a lot of food, they were miniature and wasn’t as over-facing as some afternoon teas can be. On offer was butternut squash and sage soup, cheese scone with red onion chutney, mini sausages and mash, chicken and stuffing sandwich, chocolate and marshmallow milkshake, mini blueberry muffin, Victoria sandwich cake, Bakewell slice and apple crumble with custard. Yum yum. Although we were a bit disappointed by the ‘garden centre’ the winter picnic and little food shop more than made up for it. Mr W has suggested we go back again in the summer when hopefully they will have more plants and a different afternoon tea menu. For anyone interested, Holden Clough Nursey.

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Next up was a catch up with the girls. It has become a bit of a tradition that we go out for food after work and take advantage of the January food offers in Manchester. We normally go to a restaurant that has 50% off but we decided this year we tried somewhere different. We decided on Bakerie, a small restaurant near Stevenson Square that prides itself on its selection of homemade breads. We shared food boards, numerous bread baskets and some bottles of wine. The bread baskets were difficult to resist and we all nearly ended up in carb induced comas, but it was worth it. We would love to go back and try some of the main meals (majority of these come with your choice of bread. BONUS!). We took advantage of their January offer of two food boards and a bottle wine for £25 and tried the fish, vegan and cheese boards. Not only do they do goof food and wine, they also offer bread making courses which we thought sounded interesting.

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Finally, a January Manchester event that Mr W has started to take a liking to is the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival. This is our third year of going and this year has probably been my favourite so far. 2015 was held at the Manchester Velodrome. Although it was a unique location, you were able to watch the cyclists training whilst enjoying the festival, it was poorly laid out and was a bit of a trek to get to. This year and last year have been at Manchester Central which, as the name suggests, is central located and all the areas are easy to access. Mr W and I normally take the afternoon off work and head over at lunchtime, staying until 5-6pm. This gives us time to get some food and try a number of the beers (or ciders in my case). We like the Friday afternoon as it is a little quieter and more of the beers/ciders are still available. It is a case of when its gone, its gone (which happened with three of Mr Ws beer choices). An improvement on this year was the food options. They had different street food vendors as opposed to the standard venue catering last year.This was one of the reasons that I decided to go again, the prospect of a fancy cheese toastie (mmm…Viva La Toastie was there and the recommendation of the chicken and pesto toastie gets a thumbs up from me). I sampled four different ciders and two stood out as favourites for me; Red Bank Autumn Orchard and Kent Spiced cider. I did try a gin spiced Perry but it got a bit sickly after a while, although it wasn’t as bad as a chilli cider I tried last year (serves me right for trying to be adventurous).

 

Polish Meat Free

Happy New Year!!!! Has anybody made any New Year resolutions? Has anyone broke any New Year resolutions?

This year me and Mr W are continuing with our meat free Mondays. We managed it last year (not always a Monday but a meat free day each week) and quite enjoyed it. I’ll admit, we did have quite few meals that we kept falling back on (veggie chilli….pasta….gnocchi). This year I’m hoping that we can try and vary it a little.

Thankfully, my sister bought me a subscription for a meat free recipe spice box which is a good start. The first recipe and spices were for some Polish dishes. Not something I would have thought to have made when thinking of meal inspiration but I’m up for trying new recipes.

meal

So, the first meat free Monday of 2017 consisted of Mr W’s favourite veggie sandwich (veggie club) for lunch and for tea, borscht and mushroom pierogi with fried cabbage. For those new to Polish cuisine (which I was) borscht is a beetroot based stew and pierogi are dumplings. I was slightly worried that Mr W would hate this meal as it included mushrooms and lots of vinegar. Two things Mr W has on his dislike list. But he really enjoyed it (going back for extra mushroom pierogi!!!)

The spice kit came with different spice mixes to use for the different  components. On the back of the recipe is a list of the ingredients needed (there were quite a few). They also provide a list of spices that can be used in substitute of their spice mixes if you want to make them again.

The borscht consisted of onion, grated beetroot, grated carrot, grated cabbage, some vinegar and a spice mix. This was served with horseradish soured cream (soured cream mixed with a horseradish spice blend) and pickled cucumber (finely sliced cucumber pickled in a pickling mix, vinegar and sugar). The pierogi was made using flour, water and oil which is mixed together to form a dough. The filling was finely chopped mushrooms, onions and a spice mix. The dough is cut into circles and filled with the mushroom mix before folding into half moons and sealing. The dumplings are then cooked in boiling water for around three minutes. The fried cabbage consisted of onions and cabbage fried in in oil and another spice mix. The end result, a Polish feast.

The recipe served four so the leftovers came into work to share with my sister. Cue funny looks from colleagues as I pulled out the equivalent of a Polish smorgasbord. But it still tasted as good as the night I made it. Her favourite was the mushroom pierogi (which is something that I will be making again).

The best thing is, me, my mum and sister are going to Poland in a couple of months so I can compare it against an authentic version.

For those that don’t really like cooking, this wouldn’t be the meal/recipe choice for you. It took me two and a half hours to prepare the ingredients and cook the dishes. I thought it was worth it and don’t mind spending that amount of time in the kitchen (it happens at least once a week). A lesson learnt is to try and prepare the ingredients the night before. Unless I want to be eating at 9 pm, its not something I want to be doing after work. Thankfully, last Monday was a bank holiday.

If anyone is interested in the recipe spice box kits, they are from a company called The Spicery and they do different types of boxes. I will keep you updated with future recipe kits.