Cider Poached pears with spices and toasted almonds

At the July residential yoga weekend, I wanted a dessert that would be light, yet full of flavour and would round off a fairly substantial meal without leaving guests with that “heavy” feeling. This was a huge hit, and I’m delighted that this recipe will be featured in the December issue of Bee Green Magazine, but just for subscribers. In the meantime, here’s a sneaky peek:

This is such an easy recipe to make. It would be a lovely way to end a meal with friends and it doubles (or triples!) up easily too. The orchard on the farm is full of pears, plums and apples right now, and I can’t wait to make the most of the season’s bounty at our next Yoga weekend in October. There are still places left, so if a weekend of yoga and delicious food in the depths of the Dorset countryside sound good, do get in touch.

Ingredients (serves 4)
4 firm ripe pears (Conference pears work well)
500ml bottle cider (medium/dry)
50g demerara OR golden granulated/caster sugar OR Honey/Maple Syrup/Agave
1 cinnamon stick or 1tsp ground cinnamon
6 cardamom pods (swap for cloves, all spice or ground nutmeg for a more “festive” vibe)
1-2 tsp pink peppercorns
60g toasted, flaked almonds
Extra thick cream, greek yogurt or coconut yogurt, to serve.

Method
Peel the pears, leaving the stalks on and set aside. Place the cider, sugar and spices into a large saucepan with a lid, give it a good stir, then place the pears in and put the lid on. Simmer over a medium heat for around 20-30 minutes, or until a round bladed knife passes easily through the thickest part of the pear. Carefully, remove the pears from the poaching liquid using a slotted spoon, set aside and keep warm. Turn the heat up under the poaching liquid, and with the lid off, reduce until thickened and syrupy. Remove the cardamom pods and the cinnamon stick but keep the peppercorns in. Put the pears into individual serving dishes, spoon over the syrup and sprinkle with toasted almonds then serve with a dollop of cream or your favourite yogurt or dairy-free alternative on the side.

 

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Summer Refresher

The weather this summer is very thirsty work, and with Wimbledon and the World Cup looming, we all need a thirst quencher to slake our thirst before we start the celebrations.

Whenever friends and family are around, I make this big Jug of Summer from the herbs outside the back door. I make it a few hours beforehand, or leave it overnight in the fridge, so the taste of the lemon balm and mint really does come through.

Put a large sprig of lemon balm and mint in a jug. (You could also use lemon grass.)

Fill two thirds with water.

Add 6-10 thin slices of cucumber, half a lemon (thinly sliced) and squeeze in the rest of the juice.

If you like a little sweetness add a dash of elderflower cordial.

Leave to steep for a few hours.

Top up with ice before serving.

And if you haven’t heard about the magical effects of cucumber water, may I present Macka B: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVfNrNcvlto

Creamy Porcini Mushroom Pasta

Last week we tried out our pasta machine (purchased from a charity shop over a year ago) for the first time, and made buckwheat pasta. It was a great success, and it was much easier than I thought it would be. We used two eggs, buckwheat flour and a little bit of water, then rolled it through the pasta machine in the usual way. After this, we left it to dry for about 5 mins, then rolled again through the spaghetti cutter, and blanched in boiling salted water for maybe 5-6 minutes. Then we rinsed it in cold water and drizzled olive oil over it and set aside to be heated in the pasta sauce, which I will get onto now. You can obviously just use normal dried pasta, as you probably have better things to do, especially on a weeknight. Also shop-bought dried egg-free pasta makes the dish vegan.

I’m not vegan, but I don’t eat meat or dairy, and I can’t eat wheat. I had been eating a lot of shirataki noodles and pasta, in order to keep my carb intake down, but because they come shrink-wrapped in plastic, we have decided to stop buying them and try to also reduce our plastic consumption. This sauce idea came to me after craving a creamy-tasting risotto. I thought I would experiment with trying to create a vegan version of a rich, Italian dish.

Ingredients:

Dried Porcini Mushrooms (I got these from Lidl), soaked in hot water for 40 mins

Chestnut Mushrooms, sliced

One Onion, finely chopped

Three garlic cloves, finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

Sea Salt

Olive Oil (or similar)

Splash of White Wine (optional)

The Mushroom Water (from the dried mushrooms)

200ml (ish) unsweetened Soya Milk

2 Tablespoons of Vegan Protein Powder

One Teaspoon of Gluten Free Flour (or similar)

 

Method:

Gently fry the onions until they are soft, and then add the garlic and fry for a further 3 minutes. Cook them on a medium heat and make sure you don’t let the garlic catch or burn. Once they have softened, remove them from the pan and put them to one side.

Using the same pan, fry the chestnut mushrooms in a little more oil or vegan butter, with the salt and pepper (to taste) until they have a nice golden brown colour to them. Set these aside with the onion and garlic while you prepare the rest of the sauce.

In a jug, mix together the soya milk, protein powder, flour, white wine and some of mushroom water (about 100ml but make sure it’s not hot). Beat the mixture until it’ is smooth with no lumps, then heat the mixture in the frying pan and whisk it gently as it heats. It should start to thicken into a creamy-looking sauce. Once it has started to thicken, add in the cooked mushrooms, the softened porcini mushrooms, and the onion and garlic mixture, and continue to heat the sauce. Once you are happy with the texture (it will continue to thicken the more you heat it) then you can remove it from the heat and stir in the cooked pasta. Allow the pasta to heat up in the sauce before you serve it, and be sure to check the seasoning.

Serve on warm plates, with freshly chopped basil, more black pepper and truffle oil for extra flavour and richness.

 

HDB xx

 

Breathing for a better immune system

Over many years as a Yoga teacher, I’m often surprised by how little we know about our breathing and how closely connected it is to the way our brains and bodies function.

When our bodies respond to danger and stress through the ‘fight or flight response’, the release of adrenaline triggers changes in our bodies which speed up the heart rate and breathing. This sudden burst of adrenaline gives our bodies increased abilities and heightens sensory perception. However, it’s not a pleasant state to be in – we feel stressed, frightened and anxious – some people can ‘freeze’ under these circumstances, like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

Deep breathing is also vital to the correct functioning of our lymphatic system, which in turn has a powerful effect on our immunity. As your body moves from the inhalation to the exhalation, the diaphragm acts like a pump to move fluid in the lymph system back into the blood through the heart. Stress tightens all our muscles, including the diaphragm, and so it inhibits the natural flow of lymph around the body.

Studies have shown that we humans can encourage our bodies to release chemicals and brain signals that make our muscles and organs slow down, relax our muscles and increase blood flow to the brain, the opposite of ‘fight or flight’.  And we know that meditation and breathing can bring down our stress levels, release tension and so help all kinds of health problems that are caused or exacerbated by chronic stress.

What’s so marvelous about this, apart from the fact that it’s incredibly simple, is that it has the effect of changing the way we look at our problems and at the situations causing us the stress in the first place.

In order to learn this, you need to find a quiet place and time to focus on your breathing. The best time to practice is first thing in the morning for ten to twenty minutes. By practicing just once or twice a day you can learn to access relaxation and a more peaceful state of mind, which in turn reduces the heart rate so you will feel more relaxed and comfortable in potentially stressful situations.

  1. Sit quietly in a comfortable position. Close your eyes.
  2. Allow your body to relax, soften your muscles, starting with your feet and progressing up to your head.
  3. Relax your tongue. Take it away from the roof of your mouth. Your thoughts become quieter and you are more aware of your breathing. Breathe through your nose: mouth closed, jaw relaxed.
  4. Let the breathing become slow, soft and steady. Each time you breathe out, say the word “one”* silently to yourself.
  5. Continue for 5 minutes, eventually building up to 15 with practice**. When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes, at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened. Do not stand up for a few minutes.
  6. Try to ignore your thoughts – they will come and go – you can see them as clouds across a sky, not attaching to them, just letting them drift away. Return to repeating “one”* with each exhalation.
  7. Practice the technique once or twice daily, on an empty stomach. (Digestion interferes with the process.) Soon, the response will come with little effort and you won’t feel quite so sleepy!

*Choose any soothing, mellifluous sounding word, preferably with no meaning or association, in order to avoid stimulation of unnecessary thoughts. I often use “Soooo” for the inhalation and “Haaaa” for the exhalation.

** If you use a phone alarm, choose a soothing sound to ‘wake up’ to.

Hannah & Hayley’s FAQ

How long has Lovegrove Essentials been up and running, and why did you decide to set up the business?

HDB: The brand had been an idea we had discussed for a number of years, but the company as you see it now is about 3 years old. We wanted to create a beautiful range of skincare that harnessed the natural therapeutic properties of essential oils, but still looked stunning and felt luxurious to use. Something that would sit alongside the big-dogs of skincare quite easily.

HML: After many years as a body and facial therapist, I wanted to create a range of natural products for professional therapists to use, products that support the body’s own capability for healing and regeneration.

 

Why did you decide to focus on luxury and natural products?

HDB: For me, having worked with many luxury brands, I felt there was a huge gap between luxury and natural. So many luxury customers associate natural with something not “backed by science” and that might not work as well as a more chemical-based product, and that’s simply not the case with Lovegrove Essentials. I think we fill this gap.

HML: I agree – I have seen much better results on the skin from naturally active ingredients, and of course their aromas can benefit the psyche through the olfactory system.

What was the first product you made and how did you set about selling it?

HDB: The initial selection of products we had made was huge! Such a big range. We actually didn’t sell any of these, but mum used them for her treatments.

HML: I think the first were the massage balms and an after-wax soothing lotion.

 

How did the range of products grow from there?

HDB: We looked at each product and worked out which ones we liked best. I wanted to start with a much smaller range, like a ‘core-line’ and expand from there.

HML: We realised that we were both happily using the same four key products, but because of the difference in our age and our skin, we were using them in slightly different ways. This proved to us that the intelligent use of good-quality natural ingredients is the key to long-term skin care.

 

Why did you also decide to produce a professional range? What’s the difference between this and your main line of products?

HDB: Hannah? I think this is your area of expertise!

HML: The key products are the same, but there are therapeutic techniques that I incorporate into my treatments, and active natural ingredients that you can’t produce and sell in a pot because they have to be used immediately, things like strawberries, cucumber, papaya and oatmeal.

 

Do you actually make the products yourselves? Where are the products made and packaged?

HDB: Yes – we actually make the products ourselves. We have a small team to help with manufacture, and everything is made at our HQ in Thorncombe. We have a production lab which has been hygiene and safety checked where we make and package everything.

HML: We’re very particular about quality and like to check each product before it goes out. We can also keep an eye on each batch of ingredients, which being naturally produced can vary in smell or colour.

 

Are you constantly coming up with new ideas for products?

HDB: I definitely am, I love blending new things and trying them on myself. I love finding a new ingredient and working out how we might incorporate it into our next product. We try to listen to our customers when it comes to New Product Development.

HML: It’s perhaps not obvious how much has to go into product development, the rules and regulations involved in getting it formally certified and onto the shelves. But we enjoy the trial and error, refining the texture and smell to get just the right effect for the whole body.

 

What has been your best-selling/signature product and why?

HDB: It’s difficult to say – perhaps the Cleansing Balm or the Moisture Cream. They are the two best-selling individual products. Also the Mini Essentials is great, our starter kit.

HML: Yes, certainly the Cleansing Balm, but people beginning to realise how fabulous the Moisture Cream is too!

 

How has it been working as a mother/daughter team? Do you have the same visions or is there sometimes a clash?!

HDB: Hahaha! Well, of course its been hard. Our relationship is very strong, luckily, so we always work things out eventually. My main thing is to be really vigilant about separating work and play, as otherwise we just end up talking business all the time and we forget to have fun as mum and daughter.

HML: And I missed her so much when she was up in London! I’m really pleased we can finally work together now, instead of at a distance.

 

What’s next for Lovegrove Essentials?

HDB: Lots more events next year, and new product launches. We will be bringing out our fabulous Aromatic Face Mask as a retail product, after some amazing feedback from our most recent round of user surveys.

HML: And I’m refining the body massage and facial treatment courses for therapists, and of course running the Yoga and Wellness Retreats.

 

Anything else you particularly want to mention?

HDB: We are looking for super-star therapists, massage therapists, boutiques and salons that might like to offer our treatments or retail range as of 2018. If this is you, or if you know of anyone who might be interested, send an email to info@lovegroveessenials.com

 

Quinoa Bread – low carb/high protein

Quinoa Bread – super quick to make and delicious drizzled with olive oil.

If you’re low-carb AND wheat-free, you might be missing your bread, so this is a welcome addition to your staple diet.

Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl:
100g Oat Bran
150g cooked quinoa (cover grains with water/boil ten mins. Always keep some cooked in the fridge as a stand by.)
50g seeds – any of sunflower/sesame/pumpkin
Pinch of sea salt
Half a tsp of Baking Powder

Whisk up the wet ingredients separately:
1 Egg whisked up with 2 Tablespoons of almond milk (or equivalent) and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Method:
Pre-Heat your oven to about 180 degrees C.
Line a loaf tin with baking paper.
Mix the dry ingredients together.
Whisk the wet ingredients, then mix well into the dry.
Pour into loaf tin and press gently down.
Drizzle some olive oil on top.
Bake at 180 degrees C. Check after 15 mins and see if you want the top to colour more.  Once it’s golden brown, remove it from the oven and leave in the tin to cool a little then onto a wire rack (in the paper) to cool completely. It doesn’t slice very well when it’s still warm, so you’ll have to be patient before you eat it!

 

Hayley’s Oat Bran Bread

IMG_2873-1As a wheat-free foodie, I love this ‘bread’ and I make this probably twice a week. It’s become a big part of our diet, which is really saying something when you live the man who literally wrote the book on bread! What Daniel Stevens doesn’t know about baking isn’t worth knowing, so the fact that he’s adopted this recipe into his repertoire is a pretty big deal for me. It’s super high protein and wheat free, packed with fibre and can be topped with sweet or savoury things. It has a dense texture, similar to rye or pumpernickel bread, and also makes great crostini or bruschetta.

Ingredients:

200g Oat Bran (you can get this in most supermarkets now, in the cereal aisle, or Holland & Barrett do a fine cut one which is my favourite)

2-3 Eggs, or vegan equivalent

2 Tablespoons of Greek Yoghurt or vegan equivalent

Pinch of sea salt

Baking Powder

1 Table spoon of Olive Oil (or similar)

Seeds, nuts or dried berries (optional)

Method:

Pre-Heat your oven to about 180*C and line a tin with baking paper. I usually use a round 8 inch cake tin, and line the bottom with a circle of baking parchment.

Use two large or three medium eggs, egg replacer or aqua faba (chick pea or bean water) of an equivalent amount and beat with a fork or whisk.

Add the oat bran in table spoons, starting with about six. Keep adding until you have a thick paste.

Then add the greek yoghurt, or vegan alternative (almond or Soya milk is fine) and mix in, loosening the paste. Beat in half a teaspoon of baking powder at this stage also, and add some salt and a drizzle of olive oil.

Once you have the basic mixture, you can add seeds (I use sunflower, linseeds and pumpkin seeds), nuts or dried berries to create different flavours of bread. Goji berries would work really nicely and would add a delicious sweetness.

Once you’ve added your extras, scrape the mix into your baking tin. You can add more seeds to decorate the top before you pop it in the oven if you like.

Bake at 180*C for about 30 mins. I have yet to burn a loaf of this bread – it seems you can cook it for quite some time before it even begins to colour! You may a get a little rise from the baking powder and eggs, but not much.

Check after 20 mins and see if you want the top to colour more. Once it’s golden brown, remove it from the oven and tip the bread out onto a wire rack to cool. It doesn’t slice very well when it’s still warm, so you’ll have to be patient before you try it!

 

Top with organic grass-fed butter or avocados and tomato salsa, smoked salmon, peanut butter and homemade jam, marmalade… The list is endless!! I’ve yet to find something it doesn’t go with 😀

 

Hayley x