How to eat with mindfulness

You could say my breakfast on Tuesday morning was unconventional. I had one single blueberry, and it took me approximately five minutes to eat.

The process went somewhat like this: First, I held it in my hand, then I stroked it. Then, I smelt it. I listened to it (though I didn’t hear much), I rubbed it against my lips, I held it on my tongue, and then finally… anticipation at its peak, I took a bite. It was a lengthly way to eat a blueberry, but that’s mindfulness for you.

Mindfulness is a form of Buddhist meditation where you slow down your brain, and concentrate on being, rather than any of the stresses around you. Rather aptly in the whirlwind that is 2016, it’s all about living in the moment, heightening your senses and focusing on the there and then instead of what’s going on tomorrow.

Many avid devotees of mindfulness claim that it can be used to improve your mindset whilst doing just about anything, from walking to exercise, to having sex

But what about mindful eating? 

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If you’re a foodie, then intuitive eating may actually change your dinner times forever. It’s all about slowing down the tastes and sensations, and seeing food as something to enjoy rather than something to scoff.

Heston Blumenthal once said that “taste is inexorably linked to all other sense and memory”, and for mindful eaters, this is key. They think of food as an art, they critique it, and they lose themselves in each bite. When they eat, they’re not thinking about their work deadlines, or their plans for the day, they’re making a memory out of their meal.

When eating mindfully, there’s no right or wrong foods, but instead you are encouraged to listen to your body. You can eat what you’re driven to – but you consume your food slowly, and consciously.

The old saying goes, “eat slowly and you won’t eat as much”, and believe it or not, there’s actually scientific proof. Theres a growing body of mindful eaters who claim they’ve lost weight from their lifestyle. In one study, 1,400 mindful eaters were found to have lower body weights, more positive attitudes and a greater sense of wellbeing!

Whilst it may all sound ridiculous, there’s actually more sense in mindfulness than you might think. When I was sat holding a blueberry to my ear, I wanted nothing more than to walk off and scoff, but it really works. I bet you can think of more than one occasion where you’ve wolfed down a whole pizza without really tasting the oregano and basil on top. I know for sure that a blueberry has never tasted half as flavoursome as it did after I delayed biting into it for five minutes.

So much of food, and our enjoyment of it, comes down to taste. Often we eat so robotically that we forget to think about what we’re doing. Think about where your food has come from. Who grew it? Who picked it? Who packaged it? Whose recipe was it? These are all thoughts we rarely take the time to have, but encouraging them only makes the food were eating infinitely more special.

If you want to fall in love with food all over again, then throw away your pride, grab a tub a blueberries and try your hand at mindful eating.

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The best homemade vegetarian burger

This sweet potato, beetroot, red onion and coriander burger with halloumi is a remedy to uninspired restaurant veggie offerings.

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For vegetarians, there are few things more dejecting than venturing out for a meal with designs on sinking your teeth into some gargantuan monolith of a burger. You cast your gleeful eyes down the menu, taking in the towering carnivorous offerings, with their myriad auxiliary fillings, their multi-species collaborations, before landing on the limp, tokenistic vegetarian effort at the bottom of the pile.

Whilst, mercifully, bean-based atrocities are much less widespread than they once were, there is still a major mismatch when it comes to the burgery wares of restaurants and pubs. This sweet potato, beetroot and red onion burger, which we wholeheartedly advocate serving in a bun alongside a slab of halloumi, some gem lettuce and a dollop of burger relish seeks to offer something for the vegetarian pattyphile to make at home.

To make two, this is what you’ll need:

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 100g pre-prepared beetroot, the sort that have been marinated in vinegar, cut into half-centimetre cubes. If you can get your hands on sweetfire-marinated beetroot, even better.
  • 1 smallish red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 handful of fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • flour, to coat the patties
  • 100g halloumi, grilled or fried
  • 2 leaves of gem lettuce
  • 2 rolls or buns of your choice
  • philistinic burger relish (ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard)

Having preheated your oven to around 180°C, bake the sweet potatoes, skins on, for 30-40 minutes, or until the middle is soft enough to mash up. Meanwhile, gently sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil.

Once the potatoes are cooked, wait until they’re cool enough to handle, slice them in half, and scoop out the flesh. Place it in a mixing bowl, and add the onions, garlic and coriander, beetroot and season fairly liberally with salt and pepper. If you feel so inclined, the addition of a touch of cayenne pepper at this juncture could be a virtuoso move.

Mix all of the above well, and shape into patties, making sure to compact them thoroughly. It pays not to make them too thick – no-body likes an interminable expanse of softness in the middle of a burger. Next, coat the exterior of each with a dusting of flour.

Fry the patties over a medium heat in olive oil, flipping occasionally, until each side is golden brown.

To assemble the burgers, slice the rolls in half, and introduce the patties, halloumi, grilled or fried, lettuce, and relish in whichever order you believe to be most alchemical.

My Great Grandmother’s Christmas Pudding Recipe

The strongest memory I have of my great grandma is of Werther’s Original toffees. She used to sneak them to me and my brother when we thought mum wasn’t looking.

I also remember there always being a plate of custard creams being always on her kitchen table, and a clock shaped like the sun on the wall in her living room. However the thing that has stayed with me the most is her christmas pudding recipe.

This is a recipe that she learnt from her mother in the 1940’s, and that has been used every year since by her, my grandma, my mum, and now me. The only written form we have of it are these hilariously complicated notes on the back of three envelopes:

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great gran's christmas cake recipe

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When I decided to write this article and pulled out these cake-stained envelopes, it became instantly clear that a fair amount of detective work was going to be necessary in order to work out what the hell was going on. The entire first envelope (the brown one) and the second up to the red ‘Heat in Water’, was written by my great gran, Una Davies. The bottom of that envelope was written by my grandma, Janet Vincent, and the third by my mum, Abigail Bromell. It’s also now very clear to me why my handwriting is so bad.

This year I went through the motions of making the pudding with my mum. From what we can decipher, these are the ingredients for the christmas pudding:

  • Cherries – 14 and a half halves (?!)
  • Nuts – 1 flat tbsp of flaked almonds
  • Black Treacle (quantity unspecified and thus unknown. Mum guesses at a tablespoon)
  • Brown bread crumbs – 6 heaped tbsp (please note from the third envelope that they should be stale. Otherwise mum will be cross.)
  • Flour – 2 tbsp (mum guesses plain)
  • Suet – 4 flat tbsp (found in the home baking section. Great gran was a butchers daughter, so we’re talking proper beef suet. Nowadays you can find a perhaps more palatable vegetarian option)
  • Dates – 4 tbsp
  • Mixed fruit – 3 tbsp (currants, sultanas, peel etc)
  • 2 eggs (large)
  • apple – one quarter, chopped
  • lemon – one quarter lemon rind, chopped
  • Mixed spice – 1 flat tsp
  • Cinnamon – 1 flat tsp
  • Nutmeg – 1 flat tsp
  • Water – no instruction given. Mum says put enough in so it’s “a slightly sloppy mixture”. If you scoop some up on a spoon and tap it on the bowl, it should all fall off the spoon immediately. Is that clear enough? I don’t even know at this point.
  • Seedless Raisins – 4 H.T.B.S. (Mum and I have no clue what this means. Emergency phone call to grandma, neither does she. At this point mum picks up a handful of raisins and just chucks it in)

Now that we’ve got the ingredients as down as they’re going to get, it actually gets more complicated. For example, my mum uses brandy instead of water, and my grandma confessed she’s put everything in it from sherry to port to vodka over the years. So many of my life choices are being validated right now.

These are the probable instructions for this unlikely pud. If you have a go, please actually let me know how it turns out because I’d love to know if anyone else is able to turn this into something vaguely resembling a pudding!

  1. Pour water onto the breadcrumbs (no idea how much), leave it for about 2 minutes and then squeeze all the water out so you’ve just got a handful of soggy breadcrumbs. Yes really.
  2. Now chuck everything in!
  3. Mix it into a paste. If it needs more moisture, “put more brandy in”. Janet Vincent everybody.
  4. Grease up a pudding-shaped bowl with some butter, and put the mixture in.
  5. Wrap the top of the bowl in grease-proof paper and tie string around it. Then make a little string handle (see the photo at the bottom) so you can hold it when it gets hot.
  6. As per my grandma’s instructions on the second envelope, gently place the covered bowl into a saucepan of boiling water. It’s best to put an upturned saucer in the pan first to rest the bowl on so it doesn’t burn. You want the water to come up the side of the bowl by about four inches.
  7. Once it’s settled in the pan, cook it for about 3 hours. Make sure the water stays at about that level, you will need to top it up every 20 minutes or so.
  8. Then you can wrap it and fridge it, and store it until christmas day. If you’re using booze in the mixture, it will keep for over a month before christmas, and if not you can freeze it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this whistle-stop tour into the fabulous chaos of my family. Hopefully you will be able to decipher enough of it to cook something. That’s what four generations of us have been doing and it’s honestly delicious every year. Happy mixing!

 

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(L-R) My great gran, Una Davies, my grandma, Janet Vincent, and my mum, Abigail Bromell, at my parents’ wedding

 

Great gran holding me
Great gran holding me

 

How to steam your pudding
How to wrap your pudding

The Best Slow Cooker Chilli Recipe

Slow Cooker Chilli. Are there any words that spark more delight into the soul of anyone who’s even heard of Pinterest?

Perhaps Mason Jar Meal Prep may be on the same scale, but Slow Cooker Chilli gets the top spot every time. It tastes divine, is nice and cheap, and perhaps most importantly makes a mean instagram.

This recipe is a combination of a few different ideas taken from pins that I’ve long since forgotten, and is carried by a philosophy I learned from my mum that I like to call ‘cupboard cooking’ – i.e., if you don’t have the right beans, a different tin will do. Sweet potato can be swapped for a regular potato (although sweet potatoes really do give it the edge if you ask me), and peppers in this case can be swapped in for just about any veg you’ve got lying around.

As long as you’ve got the right spices and seasoning, there’s not really a lot you can do wrong with a slow cooker. I love this recipe because you can cook it up on a sunday night, and you’re sorted for dinner throughout the week – all for about five pounds if you’re a savvy shopper. It is however worth shelling out for the sour cream and avocado topping if possible, as that and a bit of grated cheese and you’ve got yourself a real winner. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 sweet potato, roughly chopped. Peel if you want, but I keep the skins on.
  • 1 sliced pepper (or 1 cup chopped other veg if you don’t have a pepper)
  • 1 cup of mince, optional (I normally use quorn as it’s cheap and healthy but beef or lamb is fine too)
  • 1 can of beans, drained (whatever takes your fancy!)
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • a good dollop of tomato paste
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • a pinch each of salt and pepper

Now here’s the tricky bit: carefully chuck it all in the slow cooker, stir it up, and cook on low for about 4 hours.

Hard, right? Once it’s cooled, whack any you can stop yourself eating right there and then in the fridge, it will keep for about 6 days. When serving up, go with some couscous or rice, a blob of sour cream, half a sliced avocado and some grated cheese. It’s a little bowl of happiness on cold winter days!

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The Best Foodie Gifts in London

e ThWhere to find that perfect Christmas gift for the food-lover in your life

Your mum, your dad, your boyfriend your best friend… There’s a lot of presents to buy between now and December 25th. Easy answer: food. Everyone loves food, so we’ve rounded up what we’d most like to unwrap this Christmas.

  1. Dark Sugars, Brick Lane 

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While it’s pretty much compulsory to eat your own bodyweight in chocolate over the festive period, a gift from Dark Sugars will leave much more of a lasting impression than another Tobelrone bar. (Escaially now that they’re smaller). You can choose an assortment tailored to your loved one’s taste from a wide selcetion of treats such as cardamom and orange truffles, cinnamon cider chocolates, and pink champagne pearls. They even have vegan options. While you’re there, make sure to pick up a hot chocolate for yourself…

Dark Sugars, 124-126 Brick Lane https://www.darksugars.co.uk

2. Mons Cheesemongers 

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Again, cheese is everywhere at Christmas, but it’s so much better done properly. We all know someone who loves cheese more than life itself, so make thier Christmas by getting them a little something from this family cheesemongers. They have a shop in Borough Market and are at Brockley Food Market every Saturday, and will help you pick out something from their huge selection.

Borough Market, ‘Three Crown Square’ Section, SE1 1TL, http://www.mons-cheese.co.uk/

3. Biscuiteers 

These biscuit fanatics go all-out for Christmas, with loads of different designs to get you in the festive mood. From individual biscuits to whole tins, there’s something to bring a smile to anyone’s face. And really, who can honestly say they wouldn’t love to receive a whole tin of The Snowman themed biscuits this Christmas? I cannot.

194 Kensignton Park Road, Notting Hill, and 13 Northcote Road, Battersea  www.biscuiteers.com

4. World of Zing Craft Cocktail Collection 

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Booze at Christmas. You get it, we’re not reinventing the wheel here. But if you know someone who loves a good cocktail, let them enjoy award-winning cocktails at home. Cocktails while wearing pyjamas? Now that’s a gift they’ll thank you for. World of Zing produce top-quality cocktails, some classic, some with unusual twists, so there’s something to please your granny as well as your best friend.

Go to their online shop http://www.worldofzing.com/, or look out for them in Whole Foods or at London Food Markets

5. Fortnum and Mason 

Perhaps an obvious one, but impossible not to mention, Fortnum and Mason has it all for the foodie at Christmas, from festive coffee and biscuits to nuts and preserves. Always beautifully packaged and delicious, a fail-safe gift for pretty much anyone can be found here.

181, Picadilly, or with a smaller selection at St. Pancreas International Station  www.fortnumandmason.com

6. T2

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One for the tea lovers. With walls and walls of different teas, there’s an abundance of choice when it comes to choosing a gift.They even have a special Christmas blend. They don’t just do great tea though, they also do beautiful, quirky teapots and cups, as well as flasks specifically designed for loose tea.

Shops at 292 Regent Street, 48-50 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, and 25 Tottenham Court Road. http://www.t2tea.com

https://www.instagram.com/t2tea/

The Great British Game Food Festival at Borough Market

The very first Great British Game Food Festival arrived at Borough Market yesterday, bringing rurally sourced food from all over the country to the capital.

Market traders travelled from southern Cornwall, the Scottish highlands, and just about everywhere in between to sell food, drink, and game-themed accessories in the capital.

The first of what organisers hope to be an annual festival, the market kicked off Great British Game Week in style, with 12 stalls taking over a sizeable corner of Borough Market. Great British Game Week celebrates game of all kinds, and has other events such as a cookery day at the Michel Roux Jr cookery school, and a special tasting menu at the Galgorm Resort and Spa.

Game covers any animal killed in the wild to be made into food. It includes partridge, venison, pigeon, rabbit, and pheasant, among many others. One of the strongest appeals of eating game, emphasised at the event, is that the meat will have had no antibiotics, preservatives, or chemicals of any kind fed to it in food production. This is a trend that mainstream meat is following more and more, with as yet unknown effects on our health.

In addition, the carbon footprint of eating game is much lower than most poultry, beef, lamb and pork, and the animals are free to lead a life in the wild with total free will, up to the point when they are shot or caught.

In the video below, we spoke to some of the vendors at the event to establish why they think game is such an important part of food culture in Britain. Let us know what you think, or if you went to the event!

Jackfruit: the ‘vegan pulled pork’, and where you can try it in London.

Recently, more and more meat alternatives are cropping up in restaurants and street food markets throughout London – and newest on the scene is the Jackfruit.

Haled the “ultra-adaptable wünder ingredient” by The Evening Standard, Jackfruit is fast becoming the trendiest new staple in all the edgy London eateries, but what exactly is it, and why all the hype?

Well, don’t let its name deceive you. Much like plantain, which has taken the world by storm over the past few years, Jackfruit tastes tropical and fruity, but also strangely savoury. Often found in dishes such as burgers, tacos and curries, it has a chewy, fleshy texture, which makes it the ideal meat substitute. In fact, its such a convincing alternative that some people even mistake it for pulled pork when they eat it.

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But it would be doing this super-fruit an injustice to say that its purely a veggie alternative. In fact, it’s one of the most versatile ingredients on the market, changing with whatever spices you cook it with. This means that you can find it in just about any cuisine nowadays, from Mexican (covered in chilli), to American (slathered in BBQ sauce).

In London, you can barely go a week without seeing this pop up on a menu, and it’s often not the veggies that pick it out, but the adventurous foodies who fancy trying something new and different.

Originating in the Indian rainforest, it is now found in South-America and Asia too, and can grow up to a whopping 35 pounds (aka the weight of a small child!) Plus, it has even been dubbed a possible cure for world hunger by many – seeing as it’s often able to survive droughts, and climates with very little water.

Far more than just a new food fad, it seems like the Jackfruit isn’t going away any time soon.

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Jackfruit gyros. Photo: @zestyvegetarian
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Jackfruit burger. Photo: The Jackfruit Company -@TheJackfruitco
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Jackfruit burrito. Photo: Annie Morris

So what are you waiting for? Find Jackfruit right on your doorstep. Here are the best places to grab it in central London:

The Blacksmith and the Toffee Maker – Angel, Islington. This pub does a magnificent BBQ pulled Jackfruit burger with dill pickle and slaw.

Club Mexicana – Found at: Kerb market (Camden, The Gherkin, Paddington and Kings Cross), and at Hawker House (Canada Water). They serve pulled jackfruit tacos that will blow your mind.

Vegbar – Brixton. At this fully vegan restaurant in South London, you can feast on a Jackfruit sandwich with all the trimmings.

Spicebox – Found at Kerb market (Camden, The Gherkin, Paddington, Kings Cross) Grab yourself a rather unusual (but super delicious Jackfruit Jalfrezi… we told you it was versatile!

Vegan Hippo – Soho. This vegan restaurant is renowned for its Jackfruit burger, with avocado, red pepper and kale chips. Yum.

The 4 best festive restaurants in the City

Have the flurry of Christmas adverts got you craving the holidays? Read our definitive list of the trendiest new openings this festive season.

  1. Forest on the Roof

Glittering disco balls, silver and gold forestry and an abundance of fairy lights decorate new pop up Forest on the Roof. Situated on the top floor of the Selfridges on Oxford Street, the restaurant has a chalet-themed menu including warming dishes like wild mushroom spelt risotto with raclette and rocket and highland venison fillet with bashed neeps and sour cherry sauce. The rooftop boasts a cabin bar perfect for curling up under blankets to cocktails with a view. Try the Candy Cane, made with koko kanu and pumpkin puree, or the Winter Wish, a crisp mix of diplomatico, creme de myrtille, and rosemary.

Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London W1A 1AB
www.forest-restaurant.co.uk

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Forest on the Roof’s roasted butternut squash, spicy lentils, pesto and rocket.

2. Igloos at Coppa Club

Yes, you read that right. Coppa Club have opened eight magical igloos on the South side of the Thames. Kitted out with sheepskin blankets, candles and heaters, you can enjoy a surprisingly reasonably priced Christmas menu- three courses and nibbles for £29.95- and a few festive drink delights with a spectacular view of the Thames. The menu includes truffled creamy celeriac soup with crispy shallots, and roasted sea bass with parsley and fennel. Cocktail specials include the Maple Old Fashioned or Spiced Berry Caiprissima. Walk ins are still available until the New Year.

3 Three Quays Walk, Lower Thames Street, London EC3R 6AH
www.coppaclub.co.uk

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The Coppa Club Igoos. Photo credit: Coppa Club

3. Skye Halla at the Queen of Hoxton

Think crackling fires, foraged cocktails and decadent feasting as the Queen of Hoxton brings Nordic nights to London with their rooftop wigwam. Experience a Nordic Viking transportation back through history, with the pop up decorated with long boat tables, fire pits and driftwood sculptures. Their themed menu offers a number of hearty Nordic inspired dishes, including Hodhr’s hotpot – pork belly hotpot with apples, potatoes, herb, wild and smoked garlic – and Solveig’s stew – root vegetables, golden beets, horseradish & barley stew. Their cocktail menu is also fabulous, with Skye’s hot buttered rum, made with a secret hot buttered mixture, driving tourists and locals alike mad.

1 Curtain Rd, London EC2A 3JX
www.queenofhoxton.com

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Skye Halla. Photo credit: Cath Marmendoza

4. The Gingerbread Cabin

Gordon Ramsey’s York & Albany hotel brings back it’s renowned Gingerbread Cabin this Christmas, offering a true fairytale setting for friends and family alike. The cookie-decorated cabin is available for private hire and serves up a selection of gingerbread inspired canapés and cocktails.Try the butternut squash soup with gingerbread man croutons, or the I Am Hot and Ginger, So What? cocktail to warm the cockles. The cabin is the perfect holiday treat for the sweet toothed among you.

127-129 Parkway, London NW1 7PS
https://www.gordonramsayrestaurants.com/york-and-albany/

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