Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is one of my favourite herbs. I am drawn to its delicate scent and flavour that sings through cooking. The best soup I’ve ever made was not only a half-rotted-vegetables-in-the-bottom-of-the-fridge soup, but also one where two tablespoons of dried sage were accidently tipped in. That soup brought my then-housemate back from the dead and the long list of its properties and benefits confirms that my hyperbole isn’t far off.


Native to the Mediterranean both Greeks and then Romans saw it as a sacred plant and gathering sage leaves soon became ceremonious. Since that time, until the invention of modern refrigeration, sage was used to preserve meat and we now know its terpene antioxidants act as a natural preservative. In the 10th century, Arabian physicians believed in its immortality and Europeans associated its use with witchcraft.

Throughout the Middle Ages it was extremely popular, cultivated under instruction from Charlemagne in France, and in England it was known to be farmed from at least the 15th century. The Chinese began drinking sage tea from the 17th century, trading with the Dutch at high prices. Ever since it has been an important contributor to food, health and healing.


Nutritional Value

The ancients knew sage’s power as a heal-all and today their understanding has been proven by science. Sage is a well-known phytoestrogen, meaning it works to significantly balance hormones in women by stimulating the liver and reducing toxic oestrogens in the body. The great soother, it reduces tensions in muscles, clears airways and aids when used in steam inhalation for asthma.

For the gut it is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-septic, and anti-spasmodic. That’s a lot of “anti’s” but the release and ease on a stressed digestive system, its bacteria and any infections, means harmony may be found. An old-fashioned recipe dictates boiling water poured into a pot containing a large handful of fresh leaves, adding the juice of a lemon and steeping for fifteen minutes before sipping. This drink was used for digestive, liver and kidney troubles, fevers and colds. Proven to treat dental infections and ulcers, sage extract was used medically and in toothpastes by the Romans (this makes sense as it is a cousin of mint!).

This relaxant theme continues to the nervous system. Not only is sage capable of treating nervousness and dizziness but also it is strengthening to a frazzled and strung-out nervous system. A warm bath with sage essential oil restores and rejuvenates.


Sourcing & Storing Sage

Fresh is best but you can keep dried sage for tumbling into soups and for a fines herbes mixture (which may include sage, basil, thyme, sweet marjoram and fennel) rubbed over chicken or fish.

An evergreen, sage is very hardy and can survive cold winters and warm summers. Because it seldom flowers, most of its oils and essence are in its flavourful foliage. A young plant is much more advantageous than using dried leaves and can be easily planted outdoors from March to May. Replacing the woody plants every few years is well worth the flavour and joy of watching the herb contribute to your table. 

Fresh bunches of sage can be bundled in string and dried slowly for use in cookery or for burning to dispel odours. Burning sage has occurred for centuries and is thought to clear negative energy when its oils are released into a space. Burning either essential oil or dry leaves, sage is known to be cleansing, balancing, purifying and protecting. A peacefully purging process, sage can be burned for things like mediation or when suffering or recovering from illness.


A Final Note

The Latin Salvia is derived from salvere, to save; in the Middle Ages sage was referred to as Salvia salvatrix ‘Sage the Saviour’ and this rhyming-couplet emerged:

He that would live for aye

Must eat Sage in May.


This article was written by the lovely Jessie, you can read more of her Food for Thought articles below or follow her story on instagram.

Happy Monday Everyone! This week we have a whole article singing the praises of the glorious Lemon. Over the years we've been told that the day is best started with warm water + fresh lemon, (I'm even drinking it now!) But why? We know it's good for waking up our systems but what does that really mean? This week our lovely Jessie sets us straight about this particular citrus and all the benefits it contains! 


                                                                                                                   Image by Marte Marie Forsberg

                                                                                                                   Image by Marte Marie Forsberg


The vibrant lemon (Citrus x limon) is a small evergreen tree native to Asia. Its exact origins are unclear however evidence suggests Assam in northeast India (where beautiful Assam tea comes from), northern Burma and China seem to be where it all started.


Lemons had arrived in southern Italy by the first century AD, where they weren’t widely cultivated. Still, they spread around the southern Mediterranean to Persia, Iraq and Egypt by around 700AD. 


Christopher Columbus took this citrus to the Americas in the 15th century where their cultivation eventually took off in the 19th century in Florida and California. 

Their health benefits were first realised when James Lind added them to the diet of sailors and seamen who suffered from scurvy in the 1750s.

Like tomatoes, lemons were initially an ornamental fruit yet today knowledge of their nutritional value and long list of digestive benefits means their lovely colour will do more than brighten up a winter’s day.


Nutritional Value

Lemons are known for their tart/sweet taste juice thanks to 5-6% of which is citric acid. Nutritionally they are known for dozens of benefits but primarily for their abundance and availability of vitamin C, vitamin B6, copper, potassium, and antioxidants. Their vitamin C potency assists colds and flus, whilst its naturally occurring antimicrobial properties help shut down those persistent bugs. The potassium stimulates brain, muscle and nerve function and these citrus gems enhance our ability to absorb iron.

Digestively, some fresh lemon juice in warm water before breakfast assists in the movement of the digestive tract, calming any liver inflammation. It is a great way to gently wake up your system and give it a little detox. Add a dash of cayenne pepper to extend those benefits a little further by increasing blood flow and awaken your liver enzymes. This translates to less indigestion, bloating, heartburn and reduced bloating. 

Helping to counter the acidity in our system, lemons are extremely alkaline and work to balance our internal pH. You wouldn’t think so considering their acidity but once inside the body, they reduce inflammation and calm our systems right down.

The pectin in lemons helps create a satiated feeling, add a squeeze of lemon over a curry or a salad and it will help you recognise when you’re full and keep that feeling for longer. Heightened awareness of hunger or lack thereof is connected to weight loss and management, lemons help us stay connected to our tummy’s :) 

Even their bright and cheerful colour has meaning; it is a nod to their bioflavonoid content. These super antioxidants prevent internal haemorrhage, benefit your blood flow and reduce blood pressure whilst also supporting the creation of new, stronger cells and with an added anti-carcinogenic impact.


Sourcing Lemons

You want lemons that have a thinner skin and are yellow all over (no patchy green areas). They should be weighty in your hands, chose heavier ones, and ideally un-waxed - if they are, give them a good scrub before you use them.


Storing Lemons

Lemons should keep in a bowl at room temperature for about a week. They can keep in the fridge for longer without taking to mould so easily but they yield less juice when cold. As it is ideal to cook with room temperature ingredients let your lemons return to room temperature before using.


Cooking with Lemons

The zest of lemons adds a strong hit of lovely bitter citrus to salads, cocktails, vinaigrettes and much more. Just be careful not to add the pith, the white flesh between the skin and flesh, it’s bitter without the citrus zing.

To yield more juice from the lemon, roll it under your hand on a flat surface to soften it and break down the membranes in the flesh. 

An easy way to use these in you kitchen is by preserving them! They are a staple in most Moroccan and Middle Eastern kitchens and there's good reason for it too. By adding them to your salad dressings, salsas or grain dishes you add a whole new layer of flavour to your meal. This week Emma Galloway is helping us celebrate the lemon by sharing her own Preserved Lemon recipe with us over on the Guest Cook page, check it out here!

You may have heard of Slow Food already, or maybe you've seen the red snail sticker in restaurants and food stands that represent this movement. But do you know what it actually means? This week Food for Thought has invited Elizabeth Hewson author of the cookbook, moving out... eating in. Elizabeth has just completed a year of whole food immersion at the University of Gastronomic Science or perhaps more commonly known as the Slow Food University in Northern Italy. 

To follow Elizabeth and her story you can go to her website or follow her on Instagram!


My background is in Public Relations and Communications but I have always had an obsessive passion for food. When I told people what I was doing they couldn’t understand how I could go off and study slow food, “so you are going to learn how to cook food slowly?” or “how do you study slow food?” were the most common responses. The philosophy of Slow Food was just not clearly understood, and to be honest I didn’t know how to properly explain it. I knew that the Slow Food movement was founded by Carlo Petrini 1986 as a response to the spread of fast food and the hustle and bustle of modern life. I knew Slow Food investigates, defends and broadcasts agricultural and culinary traditions from all over the world. I liked what it stood for but I didn’t really understand how it could affect me and how it could make my world better, let alone explain to people why I was running off to study it.  What I did know was that I wanted to learn more. 

I packed my bags and moved to the small town of Bra, the birthplace of Slow Food. My master’s course consisted of lectures in food law, sustainable agriculture, food philosophy, food tourism, anthropology, food history, medieval studies, food photography, food writing, documentaries and more. We had courses in cheese, wine, beer, cured meats and chocolate. I travelled to Friuli, Valtellina, Calabria, Tuscany, Spain and Devon to meet with producers and farmers that lived and breathed Slow Food. In my master’s class alone I had 19 people from 12 different countries. We shared ideas, recipes, food and thoughts from our cultures, which gave me a deep understanding of the food systems that existed around the world. 

I have had a year full of food experiences that has changed the way I cook, eat and think about food. It has dawned on me that the best way to explain what slow food is and its benefits is to tell people about the experiences I had. 

A few months ago I found myself on a small family run farm just north of Exeter in the United Kingdom. Pipers Farm was a visit organized by the University on one of our study trips. We were standing in a paddock fenced with two-meter deep, 400-year-old hedgerows with a backdrop of rolling hills, staring at a small herd of beautiful Ruby Red cattle.  Farmer, Peter was kneeling down in the rich red Devon soil holding out a clump of old-fashioned grasses, clovers and herbs that he had just pulled from the ground.  He passionately explained the importance of working in harmony with the natural landscape around us.  How his “common sense” of traditional and sustainable methods of farming allowed his animals to have a nutrient rich diet from just the grasses he was clutching in his hands.  


The cows, a breed native to the area, peacefully surrounded Peter, with some affectionately rubbing up against him.  He told us of the importance and advantages of working with cattle breeds that were indigenous to the environment in which they were raised.  He explained, from valuable genetic traits such as disease resistance, survival, self-sufficiency, fertility, longevity, foraging ability, maternal instincts and climate adaptions, raising the right breeds in the right eco-system allowed the cattle to thrive. 

We wandered down the hill, past a flock of heritage breed sheep that were kept in line by Peter’s trusty sheep dog, Fly, and through a wild bush of mulberries that stained my hands, until we reached his butcher shop. Here the meat is prepared and packed up to be sent out to his city owned butcher shop or via online orders across the country. I asked where his animals go for slaughter, “just a five minute drive down the road, I take them myself so they don’t get scared.” That’s devotion until the end!

We followed Peter over to the house paddock. A beautiful table was set next to a fire pit cooking a chunk of beef, a bunch of sausages and brood of chicken wings. My mouth was watering. We sat down on bundles of hay around the table with Peter, his family, the farm hands and the butchers and tucked into lunch.  Salad from the garden, elderflower cordial made from his neighbour’s tree and potatoes roasted in left over goose fat graced the table. I was interrupted from this amazing meal, by the sound of pigs snorting – I turned around and noticed the pig paddock right behind us. I’ve never seen a happier herd of pigs and they squealed with delight when we walked right up to them and patted their heads. 

Lunch was spectacular and incredibly memorable and, dare I say, one of the best meals I’ve had. I valued every mouthful and I know this is because I saw the true definition of paddock to plate.  

This is what Slow Food is. 

Slow Food is all about taking pleasure in good, clean and fair food. It’s food that excites the palate, food that is produced in ways that doesn’t harm the environment, and food that is sold at a sustainable wage for the farmer.  

My goal now is to continue to cultivate a lifestyle that gives food the proper recognition and devotion I feel it needs. I hope you can all join me in embracing slow food. 

Black Pepper

Black pepper, it's a spice that you use in your kitchen everyday but one you might not know a lot about. This week we thought it might be fun to put the spotlight on pepper, once used as currency and a measure of a man's wealth, pepper has a history that dates back as early as 1000BC! 

This article was written by Jessie Bodor, to follow her story you can find her on instagram.

Image by Ariana Ruth.

A flowering climber, black pepper (Piper nigrum L.) is cultivated for its fruit, which when dried is used as a spice in all manner of cooking. The dried fruit is known as peppercorn and has been a luxury spice in many cultures since the Roman Empire. Pepper today accounts for a quarter of the trade globally. Commercially grown in equatorial countries, plantations are found in Asia, Brazil as well as India and Indonesia who cultivate half the world’s commercial pepper.



Pepper is native to southeastern India, Kerala and was traded globally from there for many centuries. Ancient Greek and Roman texts reference black pepper as early as 1000BC southern Arabian traders controlled trade and spice routes running East to West. It was through the Persian Gulf to Arabia that pepper, cinnamon, incense and oils moved under this huge monopoly. 

In ancient Greece, pepper was as a currency and a sacred offering, as well as a seasoning. Pepper was used to both honour the gods and to pay taxes and ransoms. 

By medieval times the middle leg of pepper trade routes was still firmly controlled by Muslim traders, while Italian cities like Venice and Genoa, held a monopoly on shipping lines once the spice reached the Mediterranean. Pepper was costly to ship, especially after it had already spent thousands of miles on the Silk Road, but it was so sought after that Italian traders controlled the high prices easily. Pepper therefore obtained luxury status throughout medieval Europe, triggering a generalised fascination with spices and their exotic origins. A man’s wealth was often measured by his pepper store in the Middle Ages. 

Well established trade routes popularised pepper, at one point it accounted for seventy per cent of the international spice trade. With availability, its value dropped, and the lower classes could finally access the spice. It’s assimilated into various cultures, being combined with regions’ herbs and spices. India developed garam masala, Morocco now has ras el hanout, quatre épices in France as well as the many jerk and Cajun blends throughout the Americas.


Nutritional Value

Peppercorns are highly beneficial provided they are freshly cracked and used immediately. Quality as with everything, is important here :) 

Pepper’s killer element is Piperine, an active phenolic compound that reduces inflammation, combat arthritis and is know to explode the benefits of turmeric a thousand times. Black pepper joins ginger, cinnamon, cumin and green tea as the only plant-based foods capable of inhibiting ageing and diabetes-caused degeneration. 

In stimulating the taste buds, pepper alerts the stomach into increasing its acid secretion which improves digestion. Also a diuretic, pepper works to reduce bloating through its high antioxidant levels. The outer layer of the peppercorn is known to be capable of breaking down fat cells, releasing energy and assisting weight loss/maintenance. 

It also stimulates amino-acid transporters in the intestinal lining, regulates enzymes that metabolize nutritional substances, and inhibits the removal of substances from cells. Each of these actions allows nutrients to enter and remain within their target cells for longer-than-normal periods of time.

Pepper is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin K, a very good source of copper and dietary fibre, as well as a good source of iron, chromium, and calcium.

We like black pepper even more because even off our plates it's an effective deterrent to insects. A solution of 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper to one quart of warm water sprayed on plants can be toxic to ants, potato bugs, silverfish and even moths. Sprinkling ground pepper also deters insect paths.


Sourcing Pepper

From its nutritional benefits explained above and for its zesty taste, pepper is one of the easiest and most economical additions to anyone’s diet. Black, white, red and green peppercorns can be sourced, their colouring and flavour vary depending on the fruit’s colour and its drying process.

Pepper can be found whole, crushed or ground into a powder. The intensity of flavour and heat reflect the amount of piperine in pepper. Importantly, anything pre-ground has lost much of this benefit and if you consciously purchase whole peppercorns and crush them yourself you can assure that no additives have been included. Crushing peppercorns at the last minute ensures heat, flavour and piperine are at their peak.


Storing Pepper

Ideally peppercorns are stored in a glass container in a dry, cool and dark place. Stored properly, whole peppercorns will keep for a long time. Peppercorns can be frozen to increase flavour and doing so may raise the level of piperine. 


Cooking with Pepper

Pepper is so versatile, it can be added to fresh vegetable juices as well as most cooked and raw foods. A lovely snack is homemade popcorn drizzled with butter and sprinkled with good quality salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

For the best burst of flavour add pepper at the end of the cooking process, as it loses its flavour and aroma if cooked for too long so adding towards the end will help preserve its flavour.

Extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and freshly cracked black pepper is a simple and easy dressing that is always a crowd pleaser.



Bread and Nutrition Part 3:

Thoughts from my father, the Sourdough Scientist.

My grandfather can tell you everything you need to know about Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour’s “Road To…” movies. And my father-in-law will gladly take you on a history tour of all the buildings in Hong Kong. We’re all nerdy about something. My father is a science nerd, geeking-out over hypotheses, conclusions and everything in between. Dad’s geekery (a true scientific term, I assure you) is a glorious thing because it has lead to a fascination with gastronomy.

Food experiments are (mostly) edible, and so my family has been nothing but encouraging of Dad’s endeavours. He began with mixology (which had tasty, if somewhat foggy, results) and then moved onto yeasted pizza dough in his newly constructed, outdoor woodfired oven, playing with caramelisation and other cooking-related alchemy. Lately it’s been bread. And not just any bread…sourdough.

Good sourdough is important to me as both a Dietitian and a lover of food. Many who believe bread to be "bad" (or who react poorly to mass-produced supermarket bread) can thrive on sourdough produced in the traditional method (see my previous articles on bread and nutrition for more information). As a result, bread is free to resume its rightful place as a staple in our diet. This is important. A slice of authentic sourdough bread, dipped in extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt brings an insurmountable amount of pleasure. And I know my father agrees.

Dad became a home sourdough baker two years ago, when this style of fermented bread was just beginning to rise in popularity (a fact that continues to impress me, as he is not exactly one to be at the forefront of trends). Much bread has been broken in my parents’ kitchen these past two years, more than I can ever remember as a child growing up, and watching his loaves evolve has been a joy. In the early days, soggier slices became toast at breakfast, and the very crusty supported casseroles. These days, Dad’s now perfect bread assists us in intently studying the juices of a slow-roasted lamb shoulder. It is as though his bread was explicitly baked for the very purpose of mopping up pan juices. Dad’s baking habit is important to our family and I know it’s incredibly important to him, and not solely because he gets delicious loaves out of his work. Despite Dad’s affection for pretty much all food, I know that his bread is more than a vehicle for his one true love, peanut butter. And so I asked him why. “Why do you keep coming back to your doughy craft week after week?” For Dad, it begins with a starter named Sassy.

You might be familiar with the term “starter”. It is a mix of flour, water and bacterial culture, and it is what defines sourdough bread. Dad’s starter is called “Sassy”. Sassy lives in the fridge and every Wednesday she is fed a mix of flour and water. When my parents go on holiday, I feed Sassy myself, and even when I mess up she comes through with the goods. Sassy is resilient and that is part of her charm.

“For some unknown reason, many people think making sourdough bread is harder than it is”, Dad said last weekend as we were sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for his loaves to bake and talking bread. “I was one of those people. But it’s not.” Baking sourdough is a process that encourages patience, dedication and intuition. The key, it seems, is to just start. Then watch, taste and learn, like a scientist. With instructional material available in books, classrooms or online, you can make your own starter. Alternatively, you might obtain a more seasoned starter from a generous baker. Dad received his sample from a local baker who was producing the most heavenly loaves and ran the occasional course on sourdough. Maybe I’m biased, but Dad’s bread is totally better than those parent loaves now. 

At the heart of it, Dad is a geeky scientist, and this sourdough business is just an extended experiment, as he observes, adjusts, deduces and spreads it all with butter. He finds the process interesting, challenging and rewarding. It is also comforting and calming. Caring for Sassy and selecting how many loaves to bake (“which hungry friends am I feeding this weekend?”), then forming the dough, stretching, proving and folding… it’s a meditative practice, one that is good for the soul. And this tradition, this ancient act, is important to Dad. He believes we need to keep old knowledge alive, from baking sourdough bread to saving seeds and supporting bees. Did I mention he recently bought a backyard beehive? That’s my Dad. 

Last weekend we served Dad’s sourdough bread warm from the oven with turmeric butter, cold roasted beef, sliced tomato, freshly cracked black pepper and parsley. I suggest you do the same, with a homemade loaf (try Simone’s sourdough recipe) or one from your local sourdough baker. 

Turmeric Butter

Serves 4-6

50g Quality Lightly Salted Butter
15g Fresh Turmeric
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

Let the butter soften out of the fridge for a few hours (depending on how warm it is in your corner of the world) then place it in a mixing bowl. If it’s not softening, grate the butter into the bowl. Use a fine microplane grater to grate the turmeric onto the butter. Add freshly cracked black pepper to taste and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired (more turmeric, salt, pepper).

Note: turmeric stains, so be careful what your touch and what serving vessels you use. Gloves are a good idea. 


Turmeric talk: Turmeric is a fantastically anti-inflammatory, anti-disease ingredient. Combining black pepper with turmeric enhances its potency, so be sure to do this whenever using the spice. You can use ground turmeric if you wish but I am obsessed with the mustardy flavour of fresh turmeric. Similar in appearance to fresh ginger, you should be able to hunt down turmeric root in gourmet or Asian grocers. 

Image taken by Simone

Image taken by Simone

We're so excited to share the second article from the lovely Heidi Sze from Apples Under My Bed. This week Heidi will be sharing her thoughts on sourdough and just how good it can actually be for you.


Sourdough is so hot right now. Cradling a brown paper bag containing a crusty loaf as you wait for your takeaway piccolo coffee is an obligatory Saturday morning ritual. Don’t worry, I’m not judging. Rather, I am applauding and asking whether I can come around for avocado toast? 

As a dietitian, I often have clients proclaiming to be confused, nay, afraid of bread. This is a real shame because bread, good bread, is something to be revered, not feared. As I suggested in my previous article on choosing wholegrain and considering how your grain was grown and processed, there are steps you can take towards loving your loaf again. Those crafty hipsters know their stuff, as choosing sourdough is one such step. 

Why sourdough? Well, baking bread in the traditional sourdough method ensures many of the qualms people have about bread are quietened. Baking a loaf of sourdough bread is, at its essence, a slow and thoughtful practice. It is the very antithesis of fast food. Sourdough bread is made of flour, water, salt and a starter culture. It requires a long ferment, during which the bacteria from the starter culture feast on the nutrients in the bread and partially digest it for us (how weird and rad is that?), producing acids that not only flavour the bread but help preserve it, as well as lower the glycaemic index and break down gluten bonds. This does not mean that those with Coeliac Disease (a serious gluten allergy) can eat sourdough bread, but for the increasing number of individuals who struggle with gluten sensitivities, sourdough might just be your ticket to toast town. Go for ancient grains such as spelt (which again are often better tolerated than highly refined regular wheat) and you might happily find yourself breaking bread daily. 

Though, I hear you, this sourdough habit might get expensive. My justification for a weekly $6 purchase is that a good loaf of bread is priceless. Bakers who produce sourdough bread are generally passionate folk who are intentional with their processes, honouring ingredient quality and that slooooow ferment. Hence stoneground, wholegrain, organic and unbleached flours are abundant in the sourdough world. This only further enhances the nutrition of the loaf, and makes us feel super pleased with our morning slice. And while your accompaniment to Sunday scrambled eggs may cost more than supermarket bread, this just encourages bread rationing and diet diversity, which in turn encourages good health. Instead of a sandwich made of overly processed bread every day, we can mix things up with wild rice salads and leftover vegetable curries. Only great things can come from switching to good sourdough bread. And these days, with its notable rise in popularity, you can easily get your hands on some. Though do lookout for fake “sourdoughs”, supermarket breads that have jumped on the bandwagon by adding vinegar (or a similar ingredient) for a sneaky “sour taste” without truly practicing the sourdough method. That is so not cool.

Sourdough’s popularity, I believe, comes from fact that despite being assaulted with fake food over recent decades, people know good food. They know when food tastes good and they know when food makes them feel good, and in today’s highly processed food world, these two things do not commonly co-exist. So go slow, follow your hipster heart and buy a good loaf of bread. There are more and more bakers these days producing healthful, huggable loaves. Or perhaps try making your own sourdough! In my next article I will introduce you to my Dad who does just that, and hopefully you’ll find it less intimidating and more inspiring. I mean, my Dad bakes like a rock star and he doesn’t even have tattoos or Harry Potter glasses. Though he does have a beard… Regardless, your gut is telling you it is time to sourdough. And your gut is always right.

- Heidi Sze, Apples Under My Bed


If you can't wait to get baking, head on over to our Guest Cook post this week with Simone, a Berlin based bread enthusiast. We're pretty psyched that she was willing to share her personal sourdough recipe with us and our readers, and her photos are pretty rad too! Click here to read the post!


Bread & Nutrition

To help us celebrate Bread Month at Food For Thought, we've asked Heidi, dietician and blogger from Apples Under My Bed to teach us about grains and just how good they can be!

All images taken by Marte Marie Forsberg.

Breaking bread is an ancient act, one that is both grounding and nourishing. Bread brings people together, it’s important. So why are we afraid of it? Why, as a dietitian, do I see clients professing they’ve been “good” because they’re not eating bread? I believe the answer lies in the fact that these days, most bread is a heavily processed food-like substance. It’s not really bread. At least not the type that grounds and nourishes. Food should taste good, but it should also make you feel good. Let’s feel good about bread again. 

Slow Down and Look Around

The industrial revolution and modern agricultural practices have done incredible things, feeding the world’s growing population and developing techniques to enrich and preserve foods. And some degree of processing is generally necessary to get food from the field to the table. But today’s hungry, profit-driven focus on harvesting high-yield crops at whatever cost is enough to satiate my appetite for muffins. Beyond the environmental concern as we produce, deplete, consume and waste beyond comprehension, there are nutritional considerations. People are sick. They’re sick and scared of bread because they’re loading up on highly processed convenience food that isn’t really food. 

Does this mean we should all start milling our own flour and waking at the crack of dawn to bake bread? Not necessarily. The romantic notion of churning butter and grinding flour is not feasible (or desirable) for many of us. But we can afford to do our research and learn about flour and styles of bread, and then court a baker doing rad things. Then, your biggest decision will be what to put on your toast (the answer is usually avocado).

Whole Grain Love

You’ll find that eating a variety of grains, rather than relying on one kind, will support good gut health and keep things tasty. Add nutritionally potent, ancient whole grains like wild rice, sorghum and freekeh to your diet, and go for flours like whole grain spelt. These varieties are loaded with nutrients as the vitamins, minerals, fats and fibre found in the grain are not lost or discarded during processing, which is what happens during the production of refined white flour. High fibre diets reduce our risk of disease and help us stop at one or two slices of bread instead of seven, so that’s awesome. There is a point of anti-nutrients like phytic acid that are present in whole grains, and there are practices you can do to help minimise their impact (such as selecting a long-fermented sourdough bread and soaking your grains), but if you’re eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet most of us will not lose sleep if we forget to soak and sprout (and in fact phytic acid can help in preventing disease). My advice is to go for whole grain sourdough bread and then positively stuff your sandwich with a bunch of vegetables, topped with a thick spread of hummus and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Oh, and wear a bib while you eat. If you’re keen for wholegrain baking instruction and inspiration, grab a copy of The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book or Chad Robertson’s book Tartine No. 3.

Stone Ground Grain, Sustainably Grown and a word on Spelt

Stone grinding (or stone milling) is an ancient technique that produces flour from grains. It is different from the modern, industrial, roller milling method in that it is a gentler process. Stone grinding controls the temperature and speed at which the grain is heated, which helps retain valuable nutrients. It helps the grain remain a grain, keeping the nutritious layers intact rather than isolating single nutrients, a practice all too common in modern food manufacturing and one which gives me the heebie-jeebies. As the oils from the grain are still present in stone ground flour it is less shelf-stable than roller-milled refined flour, and hence it will need to be used more quickly. But that’s cool, you can just buy flour in small batches, store it correctly (in the refrigerator is a good move) and before you know it you get to try a new flour. This ensures we eat a variety of whole grains and don’t stay in a white wheat rut. 

If you want to feel even more rosy about the bread you’re eating, go for sustainably produced grains. Organic and biodynamic farms grow food without chemical sprays, in lush, fertile soil that is abundant in nutrients. This way of farming is beneficial for everyone – the farmer, the consumer and the environment – and I feel it is most definitely something to support. The husk of the spelt grain is particularly protective, allowing you to readily find organically-grown spelt flour and allowing this ancient grain to stay relatively untouched. As Kim Boyce, author of Good to the Grain, recommends, start with spelt and see where you end up. Soon you might be grinding amaranth seeds for wholegrain waffles.


Sample and See

If you’re unsure whether all of this flour flattery is necessary, try a “sample and see” exercise. Buy a bag of fresh, sustainably grown stoneground flour from a health food shop and a bag of the highly refined white flour that dominates the supermarket shelves. Observe the colour, touch and smell the flour… taste and bake with it. Sample and see. And while some baked goods might work best with a finer, more refined white flour, it’s nice to know there is a world of nutty, nutritious and deliciously dark whole grains out there being mindfully grown and ground. These are the flours and grains that I like to buy. They make for a loaf of bread that both tastes good and makes you feel good. 

 You can follow Heidi's story through her blog or instagram.


Hatchet and Bear

Whittling away some blissful hours in the woods...

Late this summer lovely Rosie, who´s a brilliant writer friend, and I headed into the woods with a woman that was going to leave us wanting more, and inspire us with her take on life and how she became a wood spoon carver.

We brought a basket of cheese, bread, jam and wine as you do, and spread out a blanket under the trees.

The weather might have changed and the leaves are sporting rusty hues of orange, red and yellow, but a picnic with new or old friends is always a good idea.

I hope you´ll enjoy meeting EJ from Hatchet and Bear as much as I did.



Text below by Rosie Morris

We head into an ancient woodland near Frome in Somerset with spoon carver EJ Osborne of Hatchet & Bear and sit down on the forest floor for a picnic. 

Dried leaves rustle, twigs snap underfoot. EJ lugs her canvas knapsack full of tools and spoons on her back, Marie carries her camera, I have the picnic basket. Into the woods we wander.

In the clearings, knee-high ferns glow lime green in the sun’s rays. Brambles grasp at our legs. We duck under branches, although not low enough and our hair tangles. We clamber over mossy limbs and find the perfect spot deep within the ancient trunks, under a holly tree. 

‘I’m down with trees,’ says EJ. ‘They have history, biology and folklore. I’m a little bit of a spoon and tree geek. I can go on and on talking about them. I wouldn’t say I’m a tree hugger but I do give trees a little stroke now and then when I walk through them.’

The picnic blanket floats down on to the leafy ground with a swish and we unload our feast: cheeses, charcuterie, apples, bread and nettle wine. Out come EJ’s turned bowls and whittled utensils. A Camembert fits snugly in one, the jar spoons poke out of pots of quince and xxx jellies, a fork stabs some ham.

Dappled sunlight peeks through the canopy and illuminates our picnic sporadically as though someone’s turning a light switch on and off. Birdsong mingles with noises of farm machinery far off in the distance.

Twiddling an elegant wooden spoon between two fingers, EJ leans against the trunk of the young holly tree, smiles, and declares: ‘I feel blessed. Working in the woods. This is what I do. If I didn’t do this, who would I be?

It’s like breathing for me.’

She pops a grape into her mouth. She tears a piece of bread, grabs the butter spreader whittled by her hands, lops off a knob and smears it on, followed by a hunk of Stilton. 


We graze. We talk. We muse. We laugh. And then EJ carves a spoon. 

She disappears from view and, after a moment, through the trees, she calls: ‘I’ve found something really good here.’

We find her pruning a branch off a storm-damaged holly tree. She takes a foot-long round and splits it open using her hand-forged Swedish axe, resting on the mossy trunk of a fallen sycamore. She chips away at the wood until there’s a flat, smooth surface, the beginning of a spoon blank. She takes a pencil and draws on the rough outline of the spoon, uses her axe to chop off the excess wood around it. Then takes her sharp knife and begins whittling. 

We watch mesmerised as she deftly cuts away slice after slice. As she drags the knife along, slithers of fresh wood flick off and fall around her feet. Shavings long and curled collect in her lap. Slowly but surely, the block of wood transforms into a spoon before our eyes. She carves the spoon close to her chest – close to her heart. 

There’s a satisfying noise as the metal knife scrapes young wood. How can you describe it? Marie has the answer: ‘It’s like perfect snow, in Norway we call it xxxx.’

Lastly, EJ scoops out the bowl of the spoon with the crook knife, blowing out the shavings as she goes. The knife leaves a beautiful, faceted surface.

‘Once we get the bowl in, she will be alive,’ says EJ. ‘At the moment she still belongs to the tree.’

And then she’s done. This spoon will last a lifetime. Pure. Simple.

We celebrate with a glass of nettle wine. We shake leaves off the picnic blanket. We pack up and make our way home, leaving crumbs and wood shavings in our trail.

A big thanks to lovely Rosie for putting pen to paper and sharing her story from that wonderful day, and for the brilliant EJ for her time and talent.

Seriously though, she carved a spoon from a branch to an eating tool in 20 minutes flat!

Pretty amazing!

Follow Rosie on instagram here

Follow Hatchet and Bear on instagram here



The Pressery

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the lovely ladies behind

The Pressery, Chi and Natali.

We found a table in the corner of a bustling cafe in the heart of Soho where we spoke about Almonds, Paris and the experience of starting your own business

Interview and Photographs by Marte Marie Forsberg

"The Pressery was born from the love of whole foods and their health and healing benefits. A mutual interest in eating better, but not wanting to sacrifice on quality, led us to discover the delicious taste of homemade almond milk".  

Marie: I don’t know where I saw it, I believe I found out about the Pressery through someone instagraming your feature with Monocle Magazine. What drew me to it, was the holistic approach. How did this begin, where did this idea come from to start The Pressery?

Chi: We’d been friends for ages and had always wanted do something together. We talked about opening a cafe, but there are so many of them in London.

We’re both massive foodies and all we talk about is food. We’d always be talking about where we were going to have lunch, where we were going to have dinner. I think it was sort of inevitable that we went into something to do with food and lifestyle.

At the time we were also frustrated with all the “natural” products out there, and the lengthy ingredient lists. 


Marie: You started selling at Farmer’s Markets, do you have an online shop?

Chi: We do also offer an order and collection service on Wednesdays. And in the last few weeks we’ve moved into quite a few shops. We’re in Dalesford, The Grocery, Pinch.

Marie: Dalesford isn’t too shabby!:)

Natali: It´s great, and again it pushed us to get better processes in place, tick all the boxes so we could supply all these shops. A lot of form filling!


Marie: On one side you have the dream, and then theres the paperwork. Did you figure it all out yourself, or did you get help with this?

Natali: Normally, people would get in a consultant. We had to do it all ourselves, we’d be up against a wall saying, I just don’t get it, I just don’t get it. And then something will click and you’ll push through. Then you hit the next wall! That’s how it’s been for the last few months.

Chi: That wall is currently made out of cardboard boxes in our office.

Natali: Yeah, where are we going to put them all?


Natali: We still make the product by hand. three days a week we have a 5am start making the product. 

Marie: Everyday?

Natali: No, three days a week at the moment, with 5am starts.


Marie: Do you both have other jobs? Or is this the main focus for you both.

Natali: No, this is it. 

Marie: You leapt! So when was that?

Chi: We leapt, we launched March the first. We had both quit our other jobs in January.

Marie: So from the birth of the idea, to January, how much time passed?

Natali: We first came up with the idea last summer. We were into the idea of cold pressed juicing. On a whim we went on our first business meeting to Paris! Basically, there was a chap in Paris who was a trailblazer with cold press juices. We thought if someone was successful with cold press juicing in Paris, we need to speak to him. We approached him, he was very kind, and helped us refine the idea to almond milk. 

Chi: He has almond milk in his range and has a juicery, cafe and bakery. He’s doing alright. 

Natali: He really was an early mentor of ours, in a way.

Chi: We call him our mentor, but he has no idea. 

Natali: Every so often he’ll like something on Instagram.

Chi: And we’re like “Aw he’s keeping tabs on us.”


Marie: Where do you see yourself taking this?

Chi: Ideally, we’d like to have a shop. Have everything we like and produce in it.

Natali: We want to bring out other products as well. We were doing some testing yesterday in the kitchen. We also want to play around with other nuts and seeds.

Marie: What products do you have out at the moment?

Natali: Right now we have the original milk in two different sizes and then the raw chocolate shake. 

Chi: We did think of doing chai and matcha, but there are a lot of people already doing those. We want to do something different, something a bit gourmet, we’re foodies though so we want something to taste amazing.

Natali: We want to try and challenge consumers a little bit too, to try something new. We have the chocolate one, which is quite commercial but the flavours that we plan to release next are going to be a bit different.

Marie: You’re educating the consumer and sparking an interest, creating something new and exciting

Chi: It’s not just a health food thing, we have chefs cooking with our milk, which is great. We just dropped some milk off at the Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone. Which is exciting for Natali and I because we love going to restaurants and beautiful food.  

Natali: We want everyone to be involved. We are just firm believers of having balance in your life, we eat meat, we drink alcohol. Just all in moderation

Chi: Enjoy life, basically.

Marie: My father is very much into health. He’s a bit on the extreme side. I keep reminding him that you’re selling a product for the masses, and not only to the people that are as into changing their lifestyle and eating habits as you. They aren’t concerned about health necessarily, they might not be lactose intolerant, they just want to try something new and a bit healthy without necessarily going all the way. That the health products he promotes and sells through his company is for everyone. It´s important to educate the consumer too.

Chi: That’s exactly what we’re trying to tap into, and I think we’ve done that.

Natali: I think being on the market stall, its a labour of love. It’s so important to educate, because we do have competitors with the boxed almond milk. People don’t read food labels. People read, ‘its good for you’ and think it’s true. 

Chi: I think it’s surprising how many people don’t know to read the labels.

Natali: People are busy in London, and that’s why it’s important for us to keep spreading the message. We want to eventually run workshops, talks on the food industry. Why you don’t have to shun dairy but why the industry is so bad.

Marie: That´s something that I’m concerned with as well, the laws around the food industry. ‘Greek’ yogurt that’s really only inspired by greek yogurt, sourdough bread that was made in thirty minutes, completely miss guides and lures you into thinking you are buying the real deal...

Natali: America, for example has passed a law allowing the pasteurisation of almonds, but they can still be labeled as ‘raw’. It drives me crazy!

Marie: That labelling is so untruthful. Which is what gets me upset. They say ‘Oh it’s just the wording’ but that’s just being untruthful about the product. A normal consumer isn’t going to know that, and know that they are loosing out on all those nutrients that you would get in the real sourdough bread or real greek yoghurt. What can we do? How can we raise awareness?

Natali: I think it’s getting like-minded brands together to have an afternoon of informed and inspired speakers. Trying to get people involved.

Chi: It’s the only choice we have, the food we put in our mouth.

Marie: It’s the power of the consumer. When you educate people, they think twice about buying the fake, because they now know its a fake even if its labelled as the real deal.

Natali: One thing that is exciting for me, is Netflix. You would never watch Food Inc. if you had to pay for it. I actually sent Food Matters to someone, and he has completely changed his diet since watching it. I went crazy about GMO! After watching a documentary about it I started really looking into it, reading seventy page documents!

Marie: Thank you ladies, its been such a pleasure getting to know you better and learning more about you company, vision for the future and getting to know the store behind the brand. I´m so excited to follow your progress.

Keep watching this space for news about The Pressery.

What To Cook Tonight

Andrew and Sophie Learmont are a father and daughter team

with a fresh take on the food blog.

Each week they provide you with mini cookbooks containing delectable,

and most importantly, easy recipes for any fist time chef’s that are looking to try something new.

With Andrew’s passion for food and Sophie’s natural eye for photography,

they have created the newly launched blog, 

What To Cook Tonight.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Sophie and her father Andrew on the perfect poached egg, Julia Child and their approach to food.  

How did the idea for What To Cook Tonight come about?

S: It was back in 2012, it was actually dads idea, which is interesting, because Dad was never on a computer ever.

A: Yeah I hate computers. I’m aware that people struggle with figuring out what to cook for inspiration. I don't find that too hard. I thought I'd have a website that would answer that question.

S: When I finally moved back home in August of last year, that’s when we decided to start this! 

A: We've been cooking since September.

Have you taken courses in cooking?

A: Self taught, which in a way is what WTCT is all about.

All the images are so enticing, what is your photography background?

S: With photography I started my personal blog in 2010 when I was living in England but I didn't have a visa I was just there for three months and I obviously couldn't work and my boyfriend was in uni. On the plane I watched Julie & Julia and she started a blog. When I started (my own), I became obsessed with reading blogs, I realized that my favorite ones, were where they were taking their own photos.(I realized) I needed to get a good camera, my camera didn't have the ability to do what I needed it to do.

Favourite meal?

S: We're obsessed, in the family, with Dad's chicken stir fry. It is so fresh, so light.

A: A Grilled Snapper with some really fresh seasonal vegetables. And then it feels healthy too! 

So I think it has to be asked, What are you cooking tonight?

A: A seafood platter, and a snapper. We're still working on what it's going to be. 

S: (The Snapper) will be for the week ten collection. The Seafood platter will be for week seven.

What would your ‘go to’ quick meal?

A: It's got to be a simple Pasta, it can be as simple as garlic and tomato, and basil. You must have parmesan cheese though. I will leave the house if I (find) out that I made a mistake and didn't get it!

How does it work?

S: We thought, lets simplify it, lets put five (recipes) up each. They can purchase just one, or they could buy a mini cookbook. Or if they like it they can buy reoccuring (mini cookbooks). Eventually when its gone on a bit longer we will have collections, where people can buy eight recipes of one genre, seafood, pasta. We've also got guides, basic things, anyone can get an idea on how too cook things, we have a guide on how to make your own niochi, prepare your own crab. We do go into more detail too.

Have you always cooked together?

A: I was the cook at home. 

S: I remember, my brother and I used to go to the supermarket together, get all of our ingredients and then do one big dinner party dinner out on the deck and cook for mum and dad.

A: They were really good too!

S: Mum and Dad have always been into entertaing all the time, having dinner parties, just enjoying food, not just making it a convience thing we'd always have things centered around food.

A: Dont forget the wine!

S: (Laughs) Yeah! 

Who are some of the people that you get inspired by?

S: Gourmet Traveler, the layouts are so good!

A: Yeah Gourmet Traveler, Jamie Oliver, Matt Moran a Sydney Chef, Sidney is influenced by asian food, Thai Street Food. Kylie Kwong, another Sydney Chef -stir fry veg which is coming up soon was inspired by her. Neil Perry, another Sydney chef. 

S: Even when we eat out, one of our recipes coming up, is inspired from when we were in Seattle in the beginning of the year, we went to an Italian Restaurant (and tried) crab gnocchi.

Do you have a particular soundtrack for when you're in the kitchen? 

S: What we'll do when we're working is put on the cooking channel in the living room. 

A: We can't see it! Just hear it.

S: (laughs) Yeah, a lot of the time it is the food channel or Julie, Julia.

Andrew, with the influence from your father, who was a health nut and you Sophie being inspired by Julie Child what are your own philosophies on food?

A: Fresh and not too serious. You've got to be careful that you don’t eat too much protein. A good balance of vegetables and salad.

S: Portion control.

A: That shouldn't be too hard because it costs you less! On every website (there is) the obsession with how many kilojoules or  calories something has, I'm not into that but I get why everyone is, but I also think it’s going down the wrong path. You're making food not fun, almost into some medical thing its wrong. It's your whole approach so making it fun and enjoyable and there is a community aspect to it. It's so much fun to have people around. When they come round I don't mind if I get it wrong, the food doesn't have to be the main thing. Don't get too obsessed.

Any advice for first time cooks?

A: Get a really really good sharp knife!

A&S: Rule number one!A: It really makes things so much easier, and you're less likely to cut yourself.

S: And have fun!

A: Try different things, too!

Do you have any future plans for the website?

S: Eventually we also want to include desserts in our weeks. We also want to get involved in international holidays. It's lucky for us in Sydney, our seasons aren’t too extreme, our winters are very mild we can still do things that have a summery feel. 

A: (Eventually, we will have collections where people can buy eight recipes of one genre, seafood, pasta etc. We also (want to expand on our) guides, basic things, we (already) have a guide on how to make your own gnocchi, prepare your own crab. 

Well consider this my official request, please make a guide on how to poach an egg! Mine have never looked as good as the one in the Week 3 Chicken burger recipe!

A: It's on the list! I've been practising, it doesn't come naturally. Even if you think you've followed exactly what they say, practise, practise! One trick, I've noticed is having the egg at room temperature. Don't let it boil too much, vinegar in the water, try pouring the egg in gently, from a ramican. It's better to have a burnt thumb and a perfect poached egg!

Photos by Tania from Joy Felicity Jane

Interview by Ariana Ruth