How to Pack Your Lunch Well

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Written by Becky Alexander and Michelle Lake.

Ever arrived at work to find your soup has leaked in your bag? Or ended up buying a new lunch because you couldn’t face the squashed, “sweaty” cheese sandwich you’d wrestled to work on a crowded bus?  Does your packed salad end up less than appetizing by the time lunchtime arrives?

Here, Michelle Lake & Becky Alexander authors of Packed share their top tips on how to pack the perfect lunch.

  1. Invest in a new lunchbox (or two)
    Lunchboxes are big business these days and there are so many to choose from. In just a couple of weeks you will have saved the cost of buying a box or two by taking your own lunch. The Sistema To Go Salad lunch box has four sections with a mini dressing pot to store all ingredients separately until lunchtime, and even comes with a foldable knife and fork. We love bento-boxes for dips, chopped veggies, olives, nuts andhome-made sushi.  Aladdin and Yumboxes are great.
  1. Clever lids
    Lids that “clip and seal” tend to be more secure and long-lasting than conventional lids which can warp over time.
  1. Collapsible
    You can find collapsible boxes that make taking your box home again easy.
  1. Choose BPA-free
    There is some concern that chemicals from the plastic can seep into food (particularly if the food is heated up) and this could be harmful to our health.  BPA stands for bisphenol A, an industrial chemical used in plastics. Look for BPA-free on the labels.
  1. Salad dressing tips
    Most salads are best dressed just before eating, so pack your dressing separately. One idea is to add your dressing to your lunch box first, then put the salad on top; you just tip it before eating to dress the salad. Mini jam pots are great too.
  1. Super kale
    Kale actually benefits from being dressed in advance as it softens the leaves and becomes easier to digest. In fact, you can dress a whole bowlful of kale leaves and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days to use as a base for different salads.
  1. Keep it cool
    Keep your salads and sandwiches fresh and appetizing by keeping them cool until lunchtime. If you can’t refrigerate your lunch at work buy a couple of mini-ice packs to pop into your lunch box. The Sistema Chill it to Go lunch box comes with an ice brick you can leave in the freezer until ready to use and slot neatly into place in the morning. When the weather is really hot consider putting your lunch into a small cool bag especially if you’re packing fish, eggs or dairy products which can easily go off.
  1. Avoca-dos and don’ts
    We love to include avocado in our lunch – it’s packed with good fats, vitamin E and has a delicious creamy taste. But no one likes brown mushy avo in their salad. Buy small avocados, take one with you to work and add it at lunchtime. It takes seconds to cut in half and scoop out the flesh. If you want to prepare in advance squeeze over plenty of lemon or lime juice to stop it oxidizing and turning brown.
  1. Breakfast on the go
    Keep jam jars as they make perfect “breakfast-on-the go” pots. Fill them with overnight oats, yogurt, fruit, nuts and seeds. Just don’t forget your spoon.
  1. Liven up your lunch
    Fill small containers with nuts and seeds which you can add to your soups or salads to make them more exciting. Homemade pestos also make delicious “stir-ins” and will last several days in the fridge.
  1. Sandwich savvy
    Sandwiches do best assembled directly onto parchment paper, wrapped and then secured with an elastic band.  This allows air to circulate and stops it “sweating”. To prevent a soggy sandwich choose crusty bread or rolls. You can toast and cool your bread to eliminate some moisture before you prepare your sandwich.
  2. Keep it warm
    During the winter months we all crave something warm and nourishing at lunchtime. If you can, heat your food before work and store it in a food flask so it’s ready to eat at lunchtime and avoid queuing for the microwave. Remember to heat your flask with some boiling water before you add your food to help maintain its heat.

Becky Alexander is a food writer (The Guild of Food Writers) and food book editor for companies such as Dorling Kindersley, Penguin and Bloombsury. She writes a fortnightly food column for The Herts Advertiser newspaper focussing on seasonal, local food. Becky recently appeared on a BBC Radio programme giving commuters easy ideas for their lunches. Michelle Lake DipION CNHC mBANT is a registered Nutritional Therapist and has been running her own busy practice, Mission Nutrition in St Albans for over 10 years. She trained for four years at the Institute of Optimum Nutrition on its internationally acclaimed nutritional therapy course. She is a member of BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) and The Complementary and National Healthcare Council (CNHC).

packed

Becky Alexander, Michelle Lake
Packed
£12.99, pre-order from Amazon

Ditch the Detox for 2017

 

5 practical and accessible health tips from author of the Right Bite Jackie Lynch

If you’re really serious about trying a healthier approach in 2017, then forget about the quick fix or the infamous January detox. They’re not sustainable, they don’t work in the long run and they make for a miserable start to the year.  A more effective approach would be to pick one area for improvement and stick to that throughout the year.

Your body is likely to benefit far more from one small permanent change than a rollercoaster of feast or famine, so pick your favourite of these health-boosting ideas and give it a try for 2017.

  1. Slash the sugar.
    Associated with a range of chronic health conditions, excess sugar is clearly the bad guy of 2017. Cutting out chocolate, cakes and cookies is a great start, but it’s not easy to eliminate sugar from your diet completely. However, you can reduce it significantly by avoiding some of the main culprits. Steer clear of fruit juices and smoothies, as these contain the equivalent of 6-8 teaspoons of sugar. Snack on fresh fruit instead of dried fruit which has about 4 times as much sugar, because the dehydration process intensifies the fruit sugars. Be vigilant with food labels – 4g of sugar is about a teaspoon, which means just a small portion of many popular breakfast cereals contain 4-5 teaspoons of sugar. Anything labelled as low-fat often has added sugar (or salt) to boost the flavour, so do a quick comparison with the full-fat version to check it out. A few smart choices could make a huge difference to your sugar levels.

 

  • Review your ratios
    Change the ratio of your 5-a-day so the balance is in 4 vegetables to 1 fruit. If you’re already doing that, go for 6 vegetables and 2 fruits! Vegetables are packed full of protective antioxidants and energy and mood- boosting B vitamins, as well as being rich in fibre which promotes healthy digestion, hormone balance and sustained energy levels. Soups and casseroles are easy ways to increase your vegetable intake, without too much effort, as you can just throw them in and let them cook. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, then consider investing in a juicer, as this can be a great way to have a whole range of vegetables in one hit. Don’t forget snacks either – vegetable sticks or cherry tomatoes with some hummus or guacamole is another easy way to help reach your daily veg target.

 

 

  • Consider your caffeine
    If your cumulative daily intake exceeds 4 cups of tea, coffee or caffeinated drinks, such as Diet Coke or Red Bull, then you’re having too much. Caffeine has a very powerful influence on the body, increasing the heart rate and impacting blood pressure. Excess caffeine affects the nervous system, resulting in poor quality sleep and impacting mood and energy levels. Consider how you can reduce your intake and set yourself a realistic daily target – for example, if your morning coffee is non-negotiable, then think about avoiding it at other times instead. Find herbal or fruit tea that you like, and drink this in the afternoon. Try sparkling water with cordial as an alternative soft drink, and choose different mixers for alcohol, such as tonic or soda water. If you can manage to even halve your caffeine intake, you will start to see quite a difference to the way you feel.

 

 

  • Audit your alcohol
    You may not consider yourself a heavy drinker, but a civilised glass or two of win each night will take its toll in health terms. For 2017, plan 3 consecutive alcohol-free days per week. This will have a far more beneficial impact than going ‘dry’ in January and then partying for the rest of the year. It gives your liver time to regenerate and to focus on some of its other important jobs, such as processing hormones, metabolising fat and regulating blood sugar levels. You’ll also find that this will improve your sleep and energy levels, making you a lot more productive whether at home or at work. This will be especially beneficial if you’re overweight: according to the British Liver Trust, you’re three times more at risk of developing liver disease if you drink alcohol as well.

 

 

  • Wave goodbye to wheat.
    There’s no need to eliminate wheat altogether but high levels of refined wheat can be hard to digest, so reducing the amount of wheat in your diet could be a good move for 2017. It’s likely to be especially effective for those people who tend to suffer from stress-related bloating and wind. Wheat is an irritant to a sensitive gut, so you may find that you benefit from cutting it down in times of stress. If you’re regularly having cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner, then that’s quite a burden for your digestive system. Try eliminating wheat from one or two meals by having an oat-based cereal or porridge for breakfast, a rye bread sandwich or soup for lunch or swapping pasta for rice at dinner time. These small changes could reduce that niggling bloating you experience and make you feel far less lethargic.

 

Good luck and wishing you a happy and healthy 2017.

Jackie Lynch is a Registered Nutritional Therapist and runs the WellWellWell clinics in West London. Passionate about the importance of good nutrition for optimum health, she creates practical nutrition programmes suitable for a busy 21st century lifestyle. Jackie also Jackie Lynchprovides advice and support for a range of blue chip companies, in the form of individual consultations for staff, nutrition workshops and menu analysis and has acted as a food consultant for brands such as Tetley. She is a regular contributor to the Mail on Sunday and the Net Doctor website and her advice features in a wide range of other national media. Visit her website.

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Jackie Lynch
The Right Bite
£6.99, available from Nourish Books.
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Get 40% off Our 2016 Releases

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Don’t miss our special offer! Get 40% Off Our 2016 Releases!
This offer is available until December 31, so take advantage of these special prices!

As we are approching the end of a great year, we would like to thank our followers for their enthusiasm for our books during 2016.
We have prepared a special offer for you: from now until the end of the year, you can buy all this year’s releases at 40% off.
To take advantage of the offer, use the coupon winteroffer when you proceed to checkout on our website.

 

You can choose from the following releases:

Shop For Your Packed Lunch

packed-shopping

Written by Becky Alexander and Michelle Lake.

Most of us eat the same things each week for lunch, with cheese and ham sandwiches being the most popular. Not everyone works near a Pret or wants to spend 20 minutes of their break queuing so we have come up with lots of ideas to make taking your lunch to work more interesting and delicious.

Noone wants to shop all the time, so you need to buy ingredients that are going to last until the end of the week. Packed (by Becky Alexander and Michelle Lake, Feb 2017) is full of quick ideas for grown-up, healthy lunches. These are five of our star ingredients that we always have at home. They all last for ages and are packed with nutrition, so you can add them to whatever you are already making or throw them all together to make a hearty salad.

  1. Rocket leaves. A bag will last a week in the fridge if you don’t pile things on top and squash them. Spinach leaves are pretty good too. More delicate leaves tend to wilt after a day or two. Add rocket to your sandwiches and salads, or stir a handful into a bowl of hot soup to boost your veggie intake. You can also whizz rocket leaves with a little olive oil to make a pesto to spread in sandwiches instead of butter. Aim to include a handful of leafy greens with every lunch; they are bursting with phytochemicals which have been found to be cancer-protective.
  1. Peppers. Orange, red and yellow peppers can be sliced and eaten with a dip or as the base for a salad. You can get ahead by slicing up a few, pop in a container and keep in the fridge to add to your lunches throughout the week. Green ones are only really nice when cooked. Jars of roasted peppers are good too, so why not buy a jar for the cupboard for when you run out of fresh salad? No need to add a dressing either – just a squeeze of lemon. Aim to add some brightly coloured veggies to your lunch to get optimum amounts of carotenoids which help to keep eyes and heart healthy.
  1. Feta cheese. A pack of feta will last for ages in the fridge. Just a small amount adds lots of flavour; crumble it in to your salad or pasta. You can freeze leftover cheese if you don’t get through it in a week or two. Add some olives from a jar (cheaper than the ones in tubs) and you are on your way to a Greek salad. Feta is one of the healthiest cheeses around ­- it’s lower in saturated fat and higher in friendly bacteria that most other varieties. Made from goat’s or sheep’s milk and naturally lower in lactose, many people find feta easier to digest than other cheeses.
  1. Cooked lentils. A pouch of cooked black or Puy lentils is so easy to use. No need to rinse, just open the pouch and spoon about half into your lunch box. Add chopped pepper, feta and rocket, or whatever you have in the fridge, squeeze over some lemon, and you have an easy and very nutritious lunch. Freeze the rest or keep in a sealed container in the fridge for a few days. Protein-packed lentils are a fabulous lunch choice; they release their energy slowly to keep you full until home-time.
  1. Chickpeas. Cans of cooked chickpeas are a bargain and a great plant source of protein and iron. Look for the red or brown ones which are lovely in a salad or roast vegetables. You can also stir them into soup. I like the creamy white ones roasted: rinse, then mix with a little olive oil and a little paprika. Roast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Add to salads and soups or eat on their own as a snack. It’s easy to make your own hummus by whizzing them up with some extra virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and cumin. Feel free to throw in other ingredients like roasted peppers or olives. Hummus makes a great filling for sandwiches and wraps or spoon into a pot and bring along some veggie dippers.

Becky Alexander is a food writer (The Guild of Food Writers) and food book editor for companies such as Dorling Kindersley, Penguin and Bloombsury. She writes a fortnightly food column for The Herts Advertiser newspaper focussing on seasonal, local food. Becky recently appeared on a BBC Radio programme giving commuters easy ideas for their lunches. Michelle Lake DipION CNHC mBANT is a registered Nutritional Therapist and has been running her own busy practice, Mission Nutrition in St Albans for over 10 years. She trained for four years at the Institute of Optimum Nutrition on its internationally acclaimed nutritional therapy course. She is a member of BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) and The Complementary and National Healthcare Council (CNHC).

packed

Becky Alexander, Michelle Lake
Packed
£12.99, pre-order from Amazon

The World In My Kitchen Is On Tour

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The World In My Kitchen by Sally Brown and Kate Morris will be on a digital tour starting from November 25. Every virtual ‘stop’ will give you a sneak peek of the book, with recipes, author spotlight features, interviews and giveaways.

The World In My Kitchen is a fantastic book if you want to start cooking with your kids, it is full of easy-to-make, delicious recipes to spark their global imagination.

 

Tour Dates:

25 Novemebr: The Moomy Blog
Haajra, a 20 years old mum from India. A teacher by profession and a blogger by passion.

26 November: Skating Tomato
Tahlia was born and bred West Australian, currently living and studying in London. She is passionate about health and wellbeing, and helping others do so as well.

27 November: TTS group
TTS group will publish an exclusive interview top the authors. TTS have been talking to educators and inventing new reasons for children to love learning for over 30 years.

28 November: Kindred Spirit
Kindred Spirit will publish an exclusive Scandinavian Christmas recipe from Sally Brown and Kate Morris.

29 November: Dallas Single Mom
Heather Buen is helping re-invigorate the lives of Dallas’ single moms.

Sally Brown and Kate Morris launched The Purple Kitchen Company in 2000 to promote the power of food education for young children through schools, courses and the media. They deliver original food training to schools and local authorities supported by their educational publication, Get Cooking in the Classroom. In 2008 they beat over 1000 proposed ideas to win a commission with BBC CBeebies for the education zone with I Can Cook, which has now run to 4 series and a total of 104 episodes, and has been sold into 150 countries worldwide. They developed the I Can Cook brand, including two books, two CBeebies Special magazines, an equipment range with Lakeland Plastics and a live show with Butlins. They have also contributed to national press, including Good Food Magazine, delicious and Nursery World.

Three Spooky Halloween Recipes You Can Cook With Your Kids

It’s that time of the year again! No, not Christmas — Halloween! But instead of cooking all by yourself, you can include your kids in preparing the Halloween’s food. We have three party dishes from the book The World in My Kitchen for you.

Old Lady Chicken Fingers
Prepare the dish as explained by the book. Before serving, put a dash of ketchup on one end of the finger and place an almond on top of it. Now, they really look like fingers!

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Chicken Fingers (Africa, Mauritius)

Ingredients:

  • 3 skinned chicken breasts, about 400g/14oz total weight
  • 4 tablespoons plain/all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ready-crushed  wet garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ready-grated  wet ginger
  • 1 pinch of ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoon fine polenta Extra equipment: baking sheet and baking parchment, pastry brush

Method:

  1. Cut the chicken breasts up into finger-size pieces, using scissors. Try to make them all about the same size so they will cook in the same time. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
  2. Put the flour into a bowl. Lift the chicken pieces into the bowl and cover all over with flour.
  3. Break the eggs into a cup and tip into a second bowl. Add the crushed garlic, grated ginger and black pepper and mix together with a fork. Put the polenta into a third bowl.
  4. Lift a piece of floured chicken into the flavoured beaten egg to cover the flour, and then into the polenta. Put onto the baking sheet. Repeat this until all the chicken pieces have been covered in polenta. Now wash your hands. Lightly dab the top of the chicken fingers with a little more oil, using a pastry brush.
  5. Ask your adult to put the baking sheet in the oven, using oven gloves.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes until the chicken coating is golden and crunchy, the chicken is tender and the pieces are cooked through to the middle (not pink).

Monster Eggs
These eggs already look pretty monstrous! For variety, you can experiment with food colouring!

After you have cooked them, peel off the shells of these magical tea eggs to reveal fabulous coloured patterns. Cracking the shells lets the colours in the water make patterns on the egg whites inside the shells.

wimk_asia_chineseteaeggs_1

Chinese Tea Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 decaffeinated tea bags
  • 1 heaped tablespoon chopped glacé/candied peel

Method:

  1. Put the eggs into the saucepan and fill with cold water so that the eggs are just under the water.
  2. Ask your adult to put the pan on the hob/stovetop over a high heat and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and boil for 10 minutes. Then ask them to take the pan off the heat and put it into the sink.
  3. Run cold water into the pan for 5 minutes until the eggs are completely cold.
  4. Gently tap the eggs with a tablespoon so that the shells crack a little all over. Put the eggs back in the pan and fill it with cold water again. Add the soy sauce, tea bags and glacé/candied peel.
  5. Ask your adult to boil the eggs for another  55 minutes. You may need to ask them to top up with more boiling water. Then ask them to take the pan off the heat and put it into the sink.
  6. Run the cold water into the pan for 5 minutes until  the eggs are completely cold. Peel off the shells to see the patterns you have made. Eat the patterned eggs as a snack, just as the Chinese do.

Bloody Demon Eyes
Prepare the Buns as explained in the recipe. Look at the picture: The jelly resembles the blood, the cream/yoghurt the white eyeball – you just need to add raisins/ pieces of chocolate or some other ingredient for the pupil.

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Newfoundland Tea Buns (Canada)

Put a few grapes in the freezer when you go to school, then they’ll be frozen and ready to eat as another type of Canadian after-school snack.

A chewy, fruity little bun, children all over Canada often enjoy these buns freshly baked when they arrive home from school needing a tasty snack to keep them going until dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 300g/10oz/2½ cups plain/ all-purpose flour, plus extra for dredging
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 90g/3oz/½ cup caster/superfine sugar
  • 100g/3½oz butter, softened
  • 70g/2½oz/½ cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
  • Extra equipment: dredger, 5cm/2in cookie cutter, baking sheet and baking parchment

Method:

  1. Mix together the flour, baking powder and sugar in a mixing bowl with a fork.
  2. Cut the butter into small cubes, using a table knife. Rub the butter into the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the raisins and lemon juice and stir well.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of the milk and stir. Everything will start to stick together. Add another tablespoon of milk and stir again until you have a large, soft dough ball. If it doesn’t make a dough, slowly add the rest of the milk and keep stirring until it does.
  4. Sprinkle a little flour on the work surface with a dredger and put the dough on it. Flatten the ball with your hands so that the mixture is about 2cm/½in thick. Cut out about 12 buns with a 5cm/2in cookie cutter.
  5. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Put the buns on the sheet. 6  Ask your adult to put the baking sheet in the oven, using oven gloves. Cook for 10 minutes until slightly risen and golden. In Canada, they serve these buns with dollops of thick cream and jam. You could try it with yogurt instead.

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Sally Brown and Kate Morris
The World in My Kitchen
£12.99, available from Nourish Books

 

Meet Renee McGregor, our Guest Instagrammer!

Renee McGregor is one of the UK’s top sports nutritionists, advising athletes from amateur to Olympic levels. With years of experience and expertise in sports nutrition, she offers vital and unequalled insight into what you need to fuel your success in your given sport.
This week we publish her new books: Fast Fuel: Food for Triathlon Success and Fast Fuel: Food for Running Success.

Take a look at our Instagram account, Renee will be our guest Instagrammer from Tuesday until Friday this week.

 

https://soundcloud.com/watkins-media/training-food

Bring Autumn Colour to Your Lunchbox

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As the days get colder, sandwiches and summer salads don’t always satisfy us at lunchtime. With a little planning and preparation you can have satisfying and comforting seasonal lunches every day of the week.

  1. Pile up your veggies. Workloads often build up during the autumn months, and combined with chillier days means you need help fighting off any train and office colds. Try to make sure that at least half your lunch is made up of immune-boosting veggies. Soups are a great way to pack them in, and did you know you can just add a handful of leaves and stir in? Rocket, kale and watercress go well with lots of soups; just stir in a handful for a boost of vitamin C, beta-carotene and other antioxidants. Simply pack the leaves in a separate container and stir into your soup when you’re ready to eat.
  2.  

  3. Plan ahead. Make a big batch of soup, curry or chilli one evening or at the weekend. Freeze individual portions so you always have something you can take to work. Take a flatbread with you and you have an amazing lunch.
  4.  

  5. Squash in some nutrients. Nothing says Autumn quite like the piles of multi-shaped squash you find in farm shops and supermarkets at this time of year. Squash last for ages before you cut them open and are a really versatile ingredient. The brightly coloured orange flesh of pumpkin and butternut varieties is full of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant which plays an important role in skin and eye health. Cut your squash into chunks (skin on if you like) and toss in olive oil before roasting. When cool add leaves, feta cheese and lentils, or whatever you have in the kitchen to make a great packed lunch.
  6.  

  7. Beet yourself up. Beetroots boast an impressive nutrient content. They are rich in anthocyanin, which gives them their crimson colouring and makes them a powerful detoxifier. Wrap them in foil and roast in their skins to keep the nutrients intact. You can then peel and slice when ready to use and add to salads. Beetroot also make a rich, earthy base for dips or soups. You can also eat their iron-rich leaves in salads but only whilst they are still crisp and fresh.
  8.  

  9. Make a satisfying slaw. Red cabbage, carrots and apples all last for ages and make a very quick slaw. Slice a chunk of cabbage and an apple, mix in a grated carrot, add a few pumpkin seeds and mix with a teaspoon of Greek yoghurt for a delicious super-fresh slaw. As well as being easy on your wallet, cabbage is great for your tummy promoting lots of friendly bacteria. Red cabbage also contains plenty of disease fighting antioxidants responsible for its pigmentation.
  10.  

  11. Pack smart. Treat yourself to a funky new wide-brimmed thermos flask to take soup, stews and chillis to work. Fill it with boiling water for a minute or two before emptying, then add your hot lunch; no need to microwave at work. The money you save on takeaway soup will pay for it in a week.

3 Ways With Squash

  • Chop up your squash and roast with some olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add them to soups or stews for some fibre-rich slow-releasing energy and ditch your bread roll.
  • Store your roasted squash in the fridge as a filling base for an autumnal salad. Place a handful into a lidded jar or container, add some sliced red onion and chopped red pepper. Crumble over 50g of feta cheese and top with two handfuls of green leaves such as rocket or watercress. A dressing of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil will perfectly complement the roasted squash.
  • Blend the roasted squash with some pine nuts, butterbeans, garlic and lemon juice to make a yummy dip. Oatcakes, chicory leaves and celery sticks make tasty dippers.

Becky Alexander is a food writer (The Guild of Food Writers) and food book editor for companies such as Dorling Kindersley, Penguin and Bloombsury. She writes a fortnightly food column for The Herts Advertiser newspaper focussing on seasonal, local food. Becky recently appeared on a BBC Radio programme giving commuters easy ideas for their lunches. Michelle Lake DipION CNHC mBANT is a registered Nutritional Therapist and has been running her own busy practice, Mission Nutrition in St Albans for over 7 years. She trained for four years at the Institute of Optimum Nutrition on its internationally acclaimed nutritional therapy course. She is a member of BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy and The Nutritional Therapy Council (NTC).

packed

 

Becky Alexander, Michelle Lake
Packed
£12.99, pre-order from Amazon

 

The Great British Fake Off

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This article is adapted from Slow Dough by Chris Young.

Like the word bread itself, the terms ‘artisan’ and ‘craft’ have no legal definition. This means anyone can call themselves an artisan or craft baker and market their loaves as artisan or craft bread. The production methods used may not be obvious and, in the case of loaves that aren’t pre-packed – such as those from a supermarket in-store ‘bakery’ – you’ll have your work cut out to find whether or not artificial additives have been employed.

Though some of the differences between Real Bread and industrial loaves may be obvious, labelling and marketing regulations and the way they are policed in various countries can leave loopholes that deny shoppers the right to know exactly what they’re getting.

Knowing that many of us find a litany of chemical names or E numbers off-putting, some manufacturers are now turning to so-called processing aids. By a quirk of EU law, if an artificial additive is deemed to be a ‘processing aid’, it does not have to appear on the label, as long as any ‘residues do not present any health risk and do not have any technological effect on the finished product.’ As a consequence, suppliers often market these as ‘clean label’ or ‘label friendly’. Companies may defend the use of processing aids with comments along the lines of ‘we always comply with the law’, or ‘they get used up during manufacture’ even though despite the fact that their use may, quite legally, ‘result in the unintentional but technically unavoidable presence of residues of the substance or its derivatives in the final product’.

An allegedly ‘fresh baked’ unwrapped loaf sold by a supermarket, convenience store, petrol station or other retailer may have been manufactured a long time ago in a factory far away, then chilled or frozen. Having then been re-baked in a retailer’s ‘loaf tanning salon’ oven increases the energy consumed in production, and results in a loaf that may well stale faster than a genuinely fresh one. Not that you’d know any of that, so you could be forgiven for making a like-for-like comparison with a loaf of Real Bread from a local independent bakery, which helps to sustain more skilled jobs per loaf for local people making genuinely freshly baked bread without the use of artificial additives. Which part of this is fair on you the shopper or a genuine artisan baker?

Perhaps it’s time to BIY – bake it yourself.

Chris Young is Campaign Co-ordinator for The Real Bread Campaign, a charity project with a mission to promote additive-free bread. In addition to compiling this book, Chris edits the quarterly magazine True Loaf, and wrote Knead to Know, the campaign’s first book. His work has appeared in publications including Spear’s Magazine, The Real Food Cookbook and the London ethical food magazine, The Jellied Eel, which he also edits.

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Chris Young
Slow Dough: Real Bread
£20.00, available from Nourish Books

 

 

Clean Loaf or Just Clean Label?

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This article is adapted from Slow Dough by Chris Young.

To meet their need for speed, Big Bakers often lace their dough with so-called ‘processing aids’ and other artificial additives, which help the dough conform to the stresses of the process; to become stretchy enough to rise high and quickly, and then to have strength enough to stay risen during baking.

Other chemicals might be used to deter the growth of mould and to help the finished loaf to stay softer for longer, features marketed as ‘freshness’, though I question whether this could be thought of as the equivalent of ‘loaf Botox’…

Big Bakers may say that their loaves are fundamentally the same as Real Bread, just with tiny amounts of these performance-enhancing substances ‘to help the process along’, Isn’t but that a bit like claiming doped-up sportspeople are ‘fundamentally the same’ as honest athletes, though?

Artificial additives have only been subjected to a relatively short period of testing before being declared safe (or ‘generally recognised as safe’ as the more pragmatic US Food and Drink Administration puts it) for food manufacturers using them in their products.

No-one knows for sure, however, if there might be any adverse effects from long-term consumption of the artificial additives found in the modern industrial loaf and across many people’s diets in other heavily processed foods. Can we trust that these things, either individually or in the endless combinations they’ll turn up in a supermarket shopping basket, are truly safe? History is littered with a veritable chemistry set of substances once used by industrial millers and bakers, only to be withdrawn or banned in the UK or elsewhere. They include azodicarbonamide (banned in countries including the UK and Australia but legal in others, including the USA), benzoyl peroxide, Agene (nitrogen trichloride, banned in the 1940s) and potassium bromate.

By contrast, a few thousand years of people eating Real Bread has proved beyond any doubt that it is safe – no, actually good – for the vast majority of us.

So, high time to turn to your local, independent Real Bread bakery…or start baking your own.

Chris Young is Campaign Co-ordinator for The Real Bread Campaign, a charity project with a mission to promote additive-free bread. In addition to compiling this book, Chris edits the quarterly magazine True Loaf, and wrote Knead to Know, the campaign’s first book. His work has appeared in publications including Spear’s Magazine, The Real Food Cookbook and the London ethical food magazine, The Jellied Eel, which he also edits.

Slow-Dough-300x386

Chris Young
Slow Dough: Real Bread
£20.00, available from Nourish Books

 

 

 

The Fight For Better Bread

stilton stout and walnut main

This article is adapted from Slow Dough by Chris Young.

Until relatively recently, the future of bread in Britain looked bleak. Following World War II, the number of independent high street bakeries headed into what seemed a permanent decline, with a handful of industrial giants and multiple retailers rising to dominance and helping to speed their demise.

A particularly dark day for Real Bread historians came in July 1961, when the British Baking Industries Research Association unleashed what later became known as The Chorleywood ‘Bread’ Process (CBP), which takes a shortcut through dough’s natural fermentation and ‘ripening’ time, slashing it from hours or even days to tens of minutes.

Convinced by expensive marketing campaigns to believe that one brand of CBP loaf was in any meaningful way different from another, we began to look to our supermarkets for sandwich loaves, using the same squeeze test we might use for toilet rolls. And the manufacturers and retailers conspired in a race to the bottom, so driven by low prices that by the end of the 1990s, you could buy a sliced CBP loaf for about 7p. Nope, that’s not a typo: in 1999 at least one supermarket dropped the price of its ‘value’ range own-brand loaves far below even the cost of production, to just seven pence.

From Roman and medieval statutes; through nineteenth century wholemeal advocates including Sylvester Graham and Thomas Allinson; national newspaper campaigns in the early twentieth; and the Campaign for Real Bread that ran in Britain as the 1970s turned into the 1980s; the fight for better bread is perhaps as old as bread itself.

In 2008, the food and farming charity Sustain joined forces with baker Andrew Whitley to discuss setting up a new organisation to fight for better bread. Quickly, this attracted the interest of hundreds of people, and after a series of open meetings, the Real Bread Campaign was launched on 26 November of that year. Since then it has thousands of supporters in more than twenty countries. Behind a rallying cry of ‘not all loaves are created equal!’ together we’ve been finding and sharing ways to make bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet.

The Real Bread Campaign doesn’t wish to deny any industrial baker their job, but believes that a small, independent Real Bread bakery is of greater benefit to both its bakers and to its local community. These benefits might include:

  • Skilled, meaningful jobs for local people producing food for their neighbours.
  • More jobs-per-loaf than an industrial loaf factory.
  • Opportunities for social interaction between employees and customers.
  • Support for the local high street and economy: money spent with a local business is more likely to be re-invested locally.
  • Potential to support local producers, growers or other smaller or more ethical suppliers, by providing an outlet for their goods.
  • The chance to shop on foot, by bike or public transport, rather than having to drive to an out-of-town megamarket.

While the wrapped, sliced industrial loaf still accounts for the largest percentage of the ‘bread’ market in Britain, it is in decline. In May 2016, Kantar Worldpanel reported that industrial loaf sales had fallen by more than £130 million in just 12 months, while IRI found that supermarkets had sold 50 million loaves.

While nobody seems to count the sales of small, independent bakeries (or even how many there are), in August this year, British Baker magazine reported that sales by one of the larger independents had risen by 41.5%, who had taken on more than 360 staff to meet the demand for their Real Bread.

As for the Campaign, it now has paying supporters in more than 20 countries, around 680 bakeries have added Real Bread to its map, and has more than 25,600 followers on Twitter. Its work has helped more than 10,000 children at over 150 schools learn to bake; encourage and champion the creation of more Real Bread businesses and secured the ASA’s rulings against misleading advertising by supermarket chains.

Chris Young is Campaign Co-ordinator for The Real Bread Campaign, a charity project with a mission to promote additive-free bread. In addition to compiling this book, Chris edits the quarterly magazine True Loaf, and wrote Knead to Know, the campaign’s first book. His work has appeared in publications including Spear’s Magazine, The Real Food Cookbook and the London ethical food magazine, The Jellied Eel, which he also edits.

Slow-Dough-300x386

Chris Young
Slow Dough: Real Bread
£20.00, available from Nourish Books

 

 

 

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Pistou

This recipe of pistou from the book Top 100 Low-Carb Recipes by Nicola Graimes is a new take on the traditional soupe au pistou which is a specialty from the south of France, Provence to be exact and eaten in the summer months.

Low Carb Recipe 1

Ingredients:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 leek, sliced

1 small carrot, finely chopped

1 stick celery, finely chopped

3 green beans, thinly sliced

700ml/11⁄4 pints/3 cups vegetable stock

150ml/5fl oz/2⁄3 cup pasta

1 bay leaf

30g/1oz/1⁄2 cup whole-wheat conchigliette (small shells) pasta

30g/1oz/1⁄2 cup canned cannellini beans, rinsed

sprig of fresh rosemary

salt and freshly ground black pepper

a few shavings of Parmesan, to serve

1 tbsp pesto, to serve

Method:

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the leek. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the carrot, celery and green beans and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • Pour in the stock and pasta and add the bay leaf, stir well. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, half-covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and using a hand-blender or food processor, semi-purée the vegetables.
  • Return the bay leaf to the soup, add the pasta, cannellini beans, and rosemary and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly and cook for 10 minutes or until the pasta is tender. You may need to add some extra stock or water if the soup seems too thick. Remove the bay leaf and rosemary and season to taste.
  • Divide between 2 bowls. Serve with the Parmesan shavings and a spoonful of pesto.

Top 100 Low-Carb Recipes

Nicola Graimes

Top 100 Low-Carb Recipes

£5.99, available from Nourish Books

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