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DIY Sourdough Starter + Zero Waste Crackers

Making a sourdough starter from scratch is one of the easiest things you can do, and it doesn’t need any special ingredients. Literally all that is required is flour, water, a bowl, a spoon, and a little bit of patience. Even if you’re not sure you want to start baking sourdough every week (although I assure you, once you start, you won’t want to stop!) the sourdough starter can be used to make sourdough crackers.

Crackers are far quicker and simpler to make than sourdough bread, but equally delicious… plus crackers are one of those things that are impossible to find zero waste or plastic-free in my experience. Homemade, simple, delicious, waste-free… what’s not to love?!

To make a sourdough starter from scratch, we utilize the natural yeasts and lactic acid bacteria present on the flour. Another term for it is wild fermentation – how cool does that sound?! That’s how people made bread and other fermented products for thousands of years, before commercial yeasts were available. They harnessed the power of nature.

If we’re going to use the natural yeasts and bacteria present on the flour, then I recommend buying the best flour that you can find. Once your sourdough culture is established you can relax a little, although I’d always recommend buying the best ingredients that you can afford. If your tap water is chlorinated, fill a bottle and leave at room temperature or in a sunny place for a few hours to let the chlorine gas dissipate – you don’t want to kill the starter before it’s started!

How to Start your Sourdough Starter

Mix together 50g flour with 50g water in a bowl (1 gram of water is the same as 1 ml water). You can use more but don’t use too much less as it will be much harder to work with. However much you use, you want the flour:water ratio to be 1:1.

At this point it will look like a dough, and it will smell like wet flour. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave on the side at room temperature (if you’re home is cold or it is winter, a warmer place will help get it going faster). Stir every few hours. If a skin forms on top, simply stir it in.

It may not seem like much is happening at the start, but if you pay attention to the smell you will notice that it starts to smell less like flour and has developed a sour smell. This is a sign that it is working. Hurrah! Look out for bubbles forming in the dough. In the beginning there will only be a couple, but it’s another sign that your starter is beginning to do its thing.

After a couple of days of stirring, you will need to feed your starter. Even if you’re only noticing a couple of bubbles, the starter will dry out over time, and as it sticks to the side of the bowl and hardens the volume tends to decrease, so feeding helps refresh it. Take another bowl, add 10g of your starter to it, and then add 50g flour and 50g water to this (you can use other volumes, but the ratio should be 1:5:5 starter:flour:water). Stir thoroughly, and cover with the tea towel.

Leave the remaining leftover starter in the original bowl, cover with a plate and store in the fridge. This will be used for making the sourdough crackers later.

Keep stirring the new starter every few hours (this doesn’t need to be exact, just whenever you remember). You should notice that the bubbles are becoming more frequent (you may not see a lot, but more than you saw at the start). Depending on how active your starter is getting, you can either feed again in 24 hours, or leave for a couple of days.

To feed, repeat as before. Take 10g of your active starter and add to a new bowl with 50g flour and 50g water, and stir well. Any leftover starter can be poured into that bowl sitting in the fridge with the original starter.

Each time you feed, you should notice your starter getting a little more active. You’ll want to feed it at least 5 times, once a day (timing is not that important) before it’s ready – and by ready, I mean active.

Sourdough Starter from Scratch Treading My Own Path

The four stages of starting your own sourdough starter from scratch. Stage 1: mix flour with water. Stage 2: cover with a tea towel or gauze – you want air to get in, but nothing nasty! You will need to stir every few hours. Stage 3: you will notice bubbles begin to appear. Your starter will begin to dry out a little. Stir the drier parts in, but as it gets drier you’ll need to feed it. That means taking a small part of this and mixing with fresh water and fresh flour (save the discard to make crackers). Step 4: after a week and a few feeds, your starter should be bubbling away quite happily.

Maintaining Your Sourdough Starter

Once your sourdough starter is ready, you can either store on the kitchen counter, or in the fridge. Store in a jar with a loose-fitting lid, or with a fabric circle secured with an elastic band. You want air to get in, but no creepy-crawlies. If you keep it on the kitchen counter you’ll need to feed it every day. If you keep it in the fridge you can feed every 1-3 weeks (once a week is best, but it will be fine if you feed it every three or so). I keep mine in the fridge.

When you want to feed your starter,  allow to return to room temperature if it has been in the fridge. Keep the ratio the same 1:5:5. Keep the discard in the fridge until you are ready to make crackers.

Zero Waste Sourdough Crackers

Sourdough Crackers Treading My Own Path

Homemade sourdough crackers – simple to make, zero waste, plastic-free and no nasty additives. What’s not to love?!

Once you’ve made your sourdough starter you should have a bowl of discarded starter sitting in your fridge, waiting to be made into crackers. I have to thank the Zero Waste Chef for this idea, as previously when I had excess sourdough starter I’d throw it away. It felt so wrong, but that’s what all the recipes tell you to do. Turns out, they are all wrong! Throw nothing away, and make crackers instead. Thanks Anne-Marie!

This recipe is a combination of the one by the Zero Waste Chef, and also some notes I have from a Plastic Free July workshop back in 2012 which has no references except a comment that the writer was called Katie.

Ingredients:

215g discarded sourdough starter
3 tbsp olive oil (30g)
100g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp bicarb soda

Extra olive oil and salt to top.

I found that when I made a starter from scratch, feeding every day for 5 days left me with 215g starter. But you change change the quantities of flour to starter, they don’t need to be exact – just remember it’s approximately twice the starter to flour. You want to make a dough, so if it is too sticky add more flour.

The moisture in the starter also varies depending on how fresh it is. If you need to add more flour, do so!

Method:

Mix the olive oil with the starter and stir until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the starter / oil mix and combine first with a spoon, and then with your hands. If it is still sticky, add flour in small quantities until you have a dough. Knead to ensure it is smooth.

Place in a glass bowl, cover with a tea towel or a plate (or both!) and leave to rest at room temperature for 8 hours (or overnight). This allows the dough to sour and develop flavour.

After 8 hours, divide the dough into 4. One at a time, roll the ball out onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper using a rolling pin (yes, my zero waste kitchen contains baking paper. I re-use each piece several times. You can read more here). The reason for the paper? After waiting 8 hours, I don’t want to take the risk that my crackers will stick to the metal tray and burn.

Roll the dough out to between 3 – 5mm thickness, trying to ensure it is even. Trim the edges, and cut into rectangles with  sharp knife.

Brush with olive oil, and then sprinkle salt on the top.

Bake in an oven at 150°C (350°F) for 8 minutes, then turn over and bake for another 8 minutes. You will find that the crackers on the edge cook a lot faster than those in the middle, so if you want to remove those sooner you’ll avoid them over-cooking. You want them to look golden but not too brown.

Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

TIPS:

  • 8 hours in the ideal, but this recipe is really flexible. You can make the crackers after only leaving the dough for 30 minutes (but longer is better). If you forget and leave them longer, you will still have good crackers.
  • The dough can be frozen or refrigerated if you want to make a big batch of dough and keep some for later.
  • I would guess they would last a week, but I’ve never been able to find out as they all get eaten long before! They don’t lose their crunch after storing so they are definitely something that can be made ahead.
Sourdough Zero Waste Crackers FINAL

Zero Waste Sourdough Crackers

As always, I’d love to hear from you! Do you make your own sourdough, and have I tempted you to give it a go? Do you already make your own crackers? Do you have any recipes and tips you’d like to share? What toppings and flavours do you think would work best? Please tell me your thought in the comments below!

Why I Choose a Plant-Based Diet (but no, I’m not a vegan)

The food choices we make have an impact on the planet. There’s 7 billion of us, and we all need to eat, so we’re talking a huge impact. When I quit plastic in 2012, I stopped buying food products in plastic packaging, which meant processed and mass produced food. Initially I was motivated by waste, but then I began to think about how sustainable my food choices were in other ways.

I started shopping locally and buying whole foods and the environmental impact of my diet reduced as a result.

Recently I’ve started hearing more and more about choosing to go vegan to fight climate change, and “eating for the planet” and it got me thinking about my own diet and whether being vegan was the most sustainable choice for me. I’m 99% meat free and this year I committed to aiming for fish-free too. I avoid dairy.

I guess you’d describe my diet as plant-based, but I’m not a vegan. Here’s why:

Why I Choose a Plant-Based Diet

Plant Based Diet Not a Vegan Treading My Own Path

I love vegetables.

I mean I really truly absolutely love vegetables. They are friggin’ delicious. Give me all the vegetables any day! I love the fact they are so varied, so versatile – you can eat them boldly, or you can sneak them into anything.

I love making vegetable-based desserts (it’s far more possible – and delicious – than it sounds).

Did I always love vegetables? Not particularly. But when you step away from the supermarket and go to the Farmers’ Markets and grow your own you discover a whole other world of taste and satisfaction.

Creativity in the kitchen.

Experimenting in the kitchen is my creative outlet. I love mixing things together and trying new combinations, or new ways of doing things…and vegan cooking is a world of opportunity.

Vegan food in the 21st century is super creative, with raw desserts that rival conventional desserts, dairy style products made of nuts that are a million miles away from those processed-fake-cheese-vacuum-packed-blobs and clever ideas like making meringues from leftover chickpea brine that make my mind run overtime.

Fish and plastic in the ocean.

I stopped eating meat a long time ago, but my husband and I have always eaten fish. More and more though, when I see the reports of how much plastic is in the ocean, and in our fish, it makes it seem less appetizing.

If you’ve taken part in a beach or river clean up then you’ll know exactly what I mean! That plastic is being ingested by fish (a study showed 25% of fish contain plastic) and what that means for human health is still being researched.

Plastic aside, the other question is whether there really is sustainable seafood. There’s plenty of issues with fishing – like overfishing, using indiscriminate nets and bycatch.

I’m happier sticking with my vegetables.

Bottle Return Schemes are a pain.

Until recently, my husband still bought dairy milk for his coffee. We bought the milk in glass bottles and returned the containers. Simple – except without a car, returning the bottles was difficult, and we’d end up storing several months worth before we could return them.

Cue a cluttered kitchen and much grumbling. We did it because we cared.

Eventually he decided to switch to nut milk (we use cashew nut milk for coffee, or a blend of 50/50 almond milk:cashew milk if I make both at once). The clutter-free kitchen, the fact it is much harder to run out of cashews than milk and the general ease means he won’t be going back.

The Ethics of the Dairy Industry.

If I’m completely honest with myself, I always knew that the dairy industry wasn’t all happy cows and green grass. But I ate so much dairy (milk and cheese) and liked it so much that I never thought I’d be able to give it up – and so I didn’t think about the ethics. (There’s a term for that. It’s called cognitive dissonance.)

I didn’t want to think about it.

What changed my mind was Plastic Free July. It changed the way I shopped and the types of meals I cooked, and I started buying less dairy and experimenting with nut milks and other alternatives without really intending to.

Once I realised I really wasn’t consuming that much dairy any more, I finally opened my eyes to the dairy industry. Cows produce milk after having a calf, but the farmer doesn’t want the baby drinking the milk, he wants to sell it to us. So the calf is removed (sometimes only hours after birth) – and if it’s a male calf it will often be destroyed (and we’re talking millions per year worldwide). Mothers get no time to bond with their young.

To keep a cow producing milk she needs to give birth every year, as milk production declines over time. So 305 days after calving, she is taken off milk production to gestate another calf (she is given 60 days to rest prior), and the cycle begins again.

It’s industrial agriculture.

Cow Angelina Litvin

There’s plenty more I could say, but I’ll just say this: personally, supporting the dairy industry doesn’t make me feel good, and I don’t think (in its current form) it’s a sustainable industry in the 21st century. I try to consume as little dairy as possible, and we no longer buy dairy for home.

Out and about, it’s hard to avoid completely and we do what we can.

Why I’m not a Vegan

I’m motivated by sustainability principles.

I’m also motivated by ethics and health, but my guiding value is sustainability. Living in a city in a country with an abundance of fruit and vegetables, it’s very easy for me to choose to eat a plant-based diet.

Were I to live somewhere else where vegetables weren’t so prevalent, my diet would probably be different. I value local and seasonal over big business agriculture and industrial food systems, and that means I won’t rule out non-vegan alternatives. I’m always open to new ideas.

I still eat eggs.

It’s not possible to get B12 from a plant-based diet without eating fortified foods (mass-produced chemical laden cereal and bread? No thanks) and I’d rather get the nutrients I need from food than take supplements.

That said, I’m pretty fussy with my eggs. There is no way I’d eat a battery egg (despite being banned in the EU since 2012, they are still available to buy in Australia) and after the controversial press surrounding labelling of free-range eggs I stick to super local, organic, clearly labelled eggs – or get them from friends.

Eggs Autumn Mott

I still eat honey.

Bees are amazing, and honey is a superfood – full of nutrients and thought to be immunity-boosting. I love that it can be produced locally, whereas other minimally processed sugars like coconut sugar are imported. The other alternative? Big business sugar cane sugar with all the nutrients stripped out. No thanks.

I still buy non-vegan fabrics.

As I’ve mentioned before, my goal is to have a wardrobe comprised of almost entirely natural fibres. This means silk and wool (both no-nos for true vegans) will be a part of that. I’ve bought leather in the past but since I’ve learned more about how polluting the leather industry is and the toxic effects of chromium poisoning, I’m avoiding this until I learn more.

I’m a ‘freegan’ more than a vegan.

I’m definitely not into labels or trying to pigeon-hole myself into any kind of category, but I can’t bear waste, and this includes food waste. I’m not bothered so much with the waste of food-like substances like pre-packaged, processed junk food (well, I hate the waste of course, but I’m not gonna eat that stuff!), but if I had the choice between eating a grass-fed organic steak or watching it go in the bin and going hungry, I’d probably opt for the former. Fortunately that kind of dilemma doesn’t happen very often.

To sum up, I’d say that negotiating ethics and morals is a minefield, and there’s almost always compromise somewhere. I’m comfortable with the choices I’ve made. Eating locally produced food as much as possible, seasonal always and small-scale and independent as an ideal, a plant-based diet works for me. But no, I’m not a vegan.

Now it’s your turn to give me your thoughts on this! How would you describe your diet? Do you eat a plant-based diet? Would you call yourself a vegan? Whether yes or no, tell me your reasons! Why have you made the choices you made? Have you changed your diet due to environmental, ethical or sustainability reasons, or is food an area that you’re not willing to compromise with? Is it something you want to change in the future, but you haven’t begun yet? Does the place you live restrict the choices you make? This is such an interesting and juicy topic and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below!

A Recipe: Plant-Based Banana Chocolate Muffins (Gluten-Free)

These muffins may look plain on the outside, but there’s a decadent rich chocolatey centre hiding inconspicuously inside each one. Because chocolate makes everything better, don’t you think?!

They’re great for people with allergies, being vegan and dairy-free, paleo-friendly and gluten-free. They are also full of nutritional goodness; rather than flour and dairy they’re packed with bananas, almonds and flax seeds. Bananas are packed with potassium, magnesium and manganese, and B vitamins including B6 and folate. Almonds are a great source of magnesium, calcium and zinc (as well as many other minerals) and are also high in vitamin E. Flax seeds are super high in omega-3s, B vitamins and minerals including magnesium and selenium.

Did I mention that they’re super tasty too?

pic4 pic9 pic8 pic7 pic11

Recipe: Chocolate Surprise Banana Muffins

Makes 10 muffins.

Ingredients

3 bananas (about 300g)
1/4 cup nut milk (I use cashew nut milk – you can make it yourself; it’s super simple)
2 tbsp maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
50g macadamia oil (or other high quality flavourless oil)
175g ground almonds
30g ground flax seeds
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp chia seeds

For the chocolate filling:
30g macadamia oil
20g cacao powder
20g maple syrup

What To Do

Preheat your oven to 170ºC.

Blend bananas, maple syrup, cashew nut milk and oil together until smooth. Add the ground almonds, ground flaxseeds and baking powder and mix well.

Put the 1 tbsp chia seeds in a bowl and add 3 tbsp water, stirring well. Leave for 10 minutes or so until the chia has formed a gel.

Separate 1/4 of the cake mixure and place in a separate bowl. If you want to be accurate, use scales. Otherwise guesswork is fine! Stir the chia gel into the larger cake mix portion.

To the 1/4 mixture in the separate bowl add 20g cacao powder, 20g maple syrup and 30g oil and stir until combined.

Put a heaped dessertspoon of cake mix into 10 muffin cases. You should be left with a small amount of cake mix. Using a teaspoon, make a well in the centre of each muffin.

Divide the chocolate mix between the 10 muffins, carefully filling the well in the centre using a teaspoon.

Top each muffin with a thin layer of the remaining cake mix, using a spoon to seal the gaps. You shouldn’t be able to see any of the chocolate mix.
pic12premuffin1 premuffin2 premuffin3 premuffin4 premuffin6Place in a pre-heated oven and bake for 25 minutes until golden.

Enjoy!

pic2

Tips:

  • I used chia seeds to help bind them together as these muffins don’t contain egg. Flax seeds and bananas are also great binders though, so if you can’t find chia seeds just leave this step out.
  • If you think the assembly sounds like too much hassle, don’t stress. Just fill the cake cases with half of the plain mix, add a spoonful of the chocolate one and then top with remaining plain mix. They might not look quite so neat but they’ll still taste amazing!

Oven-Roasted Chickpea Recipe – a plastic free alternative to potato chips?

When we gave up buying food that came packaged in plastic, one of the hardest things for my boyfriend to give up was potato chips. He’d wander down the crisps aisle forlornly, rustling each packet and declaring I’m pretty sure this one is plastic-free! It feels like paper! See?

Sadly though, potato chips do not come in paper. They are all wrapped in plastic, even though the plastic is often cunningly disguised as paper, or foil (you can do the scrunch test to figure out if something is wrapped in plastic or foil. Scrunch it up; if it springs back into its un-scrunched position, it’s plastic).

Because of this we’ve had to find alternatives. I’ve not tried making my own from real potatoes yet, although I haven’t ruled it out for the future.

We found a bulk bin store that sells sweet potato chips, but they are very expensive and not something we buy often.

I’ve recently experimented with making kale chips (not as weird as they sound, although yes, they are made with kale), which are actually quite tasty, but you need a lot of kale for not that many chips, which makes them another costly option, and you can’t fit that many in the oven at once, so it’s quite a laborious process.

Our staple replacement is popcorn, made with popping corn kernels bought at the bulk bin store. It’s cheap, super easy/quick to make, and satisfying. Of course it tastes nothing like potato chips (it tastes like popcorn, obviously) but it meets that need for a savoury, salty snack that can be delivered by the handful.

Popcorn may be the current favourite, but there is now a new contender on the block – roasted chickpeas. I got the inspiration for this from a couple of places. I’ve seen them for sale in the bulk food stores, and if you’ve ever eaten Bombay mix or similar Indian-style snacks you’ve probably had them yourself.

Secondly, I always buy dry chickpeas and cook my own, usually 1kg at a time, as they freeze amazingly well and I try to avoid cans where possible to save waste. This always seems like a great idea, but when I’m storing the resulting 3kg of cooked chickpeas I’m thinking of novel ways to try to use them up so I don’t feel quite so intimidated every time I open the freezer door.

I’m not going to tell you that they taste like potatoes. Of course they don’t. I am going to tell you that if you want a salty, crunchy alternative that you can munch away by the handful, plastic-free, then roasted chickpeas are seriously worth considering.

They’re cheap and simple to make. Have them plain, or flavour them. I’m still experimenting with what flavours I like best, so I’ve given you a couple of ideas to get started.

chickpeasfinal

Recipe – Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked chickpeas (380g approx)
2 tbsp macadamia oil
Spice mix: 3/4 tsp turmeric, 3/4 tsp ground cumin, 1 1/2 tsp paprika (or omit altogether for plain chickpeas)
Salt and pepper

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 180°C.

Rinse chickpeas and spread onto a clean dry tea towel to remove excess water. Remove any loose skins and discard.

Put into bowl, add oil, spices (if using) and salt and pepper, and mix well until all the chickpeas are coated.

Line a roasting tin with greaseproof paper and empty chickpeas into tin, spreading out as much as possible. Place in oven and cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and to ensure they cook evenly.

Remove and allow to cool completely. They will continue to harden as they cool (don’t be alarmed if they still feel soft when you take them out of the oven). Store in a glass jar if not eating immediately.

Chickpeas2 Spicemix1 Chickpeaspices1 chickpeas3 roastedchickpeas roastedchickpeas2 Enjoy! If you have a go at making them, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!

The Irony of the “Treat”

Why is it, that when we think of treats, we often think of the over-processed, over-packaged, sugary, additive-filled, preservative-pumped, nutritionally-devoid excuses for food that we can buy at the supermarkets? I used to think that way, and I’d head to the supermarket to pick up a sugar-laden, calorie-filled, preservative-packed “treat” whenever I felt like I deserved a reward, wanted to celebrate, or was feeling sorry for myself.

Thing is, after that initial euphoria that came with eating said “treat”, I’d end up feeling less than special. All that refined sugar and refined carbohydrates would make me feel tired and lethargic.

I’d often end up bloated and with stomach ache.

I’d feel guilty – for having filled my body with junk, for having wasted my money, for not having the willpower to eschew junk food altogether and treat myself to a relaxing bath instead. The kind of guilt that could possibly be placated by the soothing comfort of a chocolate bar – and so it would continue.

I used to think like that, but I’ve changed. I haven’t stopped enjoying treats though – I still love chocolate and cake and all of those things. What’s happened is I’ve discovered that it’s possible to enjoy treats that still taste amazing and are made ingredients that are actually good for us. More on that later.

profiteroles and ingredients

Custard-filled profiteroles. But seriously, have you seen the ingredients?! How is filling your body with rubbish like that any way to treat yourself?

This change wasn’t a quick process. A combination of a few things – increasing interest in my health, a desire to stop buying things in plastic packaging and a passion for sustainable food – led me down this path, but it took time to learn and adjust. Once I was on the path though, I knew there was no going back.

I can’t tell you how much better I feel. When I eat something packed with nutrients, there’s no way I feel guilty! Food made with real ingredients fills me up, tastes far better, and the flavours linger… which helps stop me eating 100 cookies all at once.

If I served you a banana, an avocado and some walnuts for breakfast you’d probably think that was pretty healthy. And possibly also a little boring. But chuck it in a blender and add some cacao powder and a few other bits and pieces and you have chocolate mousse. For breakfast. How awesome is that?!

chocmouseebreakfast

Yep, this was breakfast! Chocolate mousse topped with walnuts and cacao nibs, with oatbran and cashew nut milk. What a way to start the day!

The point of a treat is just that. It is a treat. A treat should be something that makes us feel good. But this feeling shouldn’t just come simply from the knowledge that we are indulging ourselves. It should also come from the fact that we are indulging in something that will nourish us, that will provide our bodies with what it needs to feel good, to repair itself, to restore us.

With food, this means something that will continue to benefit our bodies long after the taste has left our lips. What is the point in “treating ourselves” to something that tastes sugary and satisfying but as soon as it is gone we are plagued with regret, because we know it is actually bad for us – full of preservatives and fillers but devoid of any nutritional benefit?

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m super passionate about food! So this year, one major focus on the blog is going to be to try to inspire you in the ways of clean eating, by making and sharing simple recipes (with probably far too much focus on desserts and sweet treats!) that are packed with things that are good for us and make us feel great. You don’t need to be a great cook. For some of them you won’t even need an oven! Simplicity is best.

Here’s to a year of deliciousness : )

A Recipe for Coconut Milk Yoghurt (Dairy Free + Plant Based)

I did something this month that I haven’t done for over a year. I deliberately bought something in a plastic container.

Oh, the scandal!

The product in question is a dairy-free yoghurt alternative called CoYo, made from coconut milk and full of probiotic cultures. I’d seen the name pop up in various places and was intrigued. Since being advised to cut out dairy from my diet as much as possible, yoghurt is something I miss, and I particularly believe in the benefits of probiotic foods for maintaining a healthy gut. This product seems like a win-win… apart from the packaging. Of course, I questioned whether I would be able to make it at home. When I saw it in stock in my local health food shop, I was intrigued enough to buy it.

coyo

I have to say, CoYo tastes amazing. If I was to describe the flavour, I would say it has the yoghurty-ness of yoghurt, and the coconuty-ness of coconut milk. (Does that make it any clearer?!) I guess what that means is, it has the tangy, slightly acidic taste of yoghurt, but the creamy smooth richness of coconut milk, with that exotic coconut flavour. It is also super smooth and literally melts in my mouth. It is also a stunning bright white colour – like coconut.

It also has a pretty amazing price tag. One small 400g tub cost me over $13! Indeed, I have suffered for my sin.

For reasons of both price and plastic packaging, I can’t justify buying this again. However, now I know how good it is I can try to make my own (and I have a benchmark to measure against), and I can use the CoYo as my starter culture. Its deliciousness has only made my resolve to make my own stronger! I want this in my life!

After a couple of attempts at recreating it, I’m now pretty happy with the recipe I’ve come up with. This recipe makes 1 litre, and should keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.

How to Make Coconut Yoghurt

Ingredients:
2 x 400ml tins of organic coconut milk/cream
200ml water (to make up to 1 litre)
8 tbsp arrowroot powder (also called tapioca)
20 drops stevia
1 tbsp CoYo (or other starter culture)

Method:
Blend the arrowroot, coconut milk and water together briefly to remove any lumps.

Heat to above 80ºC for several minutes to allow the mixture to thicken, stirring with a spoon.

Cool to 45ºC.

Add stevia and stir.

Add a spoonful of Coyo to pre-warmed thermos flask. Add a cup of the coconut milk mix to the flask and stir well. Fill the flask halfway and stir again. Add the rest of the mix, stir a final time and seal the lid.

Leave for a minimum of 12 hours but preferably 24 hours.

Pour into a glass jar and store in the fridge.

coyo3 coyo2

Notes:

I use Woolworths (Australian) organic coconut cream which comes in a BPA-free tin. It’s one of the few items I still buy at the supermarket and it’s one of the better organic brands that I’ve tried… although I’d love to find a independent brand or make my own in the future.

I used arrowroot and stevia as these were what CoYo lists as its ingredients. It may be possible to use other thickeners. The stevia is to give the friendly bacteria a food source. Other sugars might work too, I just haven’t tried them yet.

I used CoYo as the starter culture as I already had it but if you’re not lactose-intolerant or vegan you could use ordinary live yoghurt. Another option is to use a vegan probiotic capsule.

Coconut yoghurt takes a lot longer to culture than cow’s milk yoghurt. I find that leaving it for 24 hours gets better results.

I have also found that the yoghurt thickens over time, something that doesn’t happen with dairy yoghurt. I don’t know why this happens, but if your yoghurt is a bit thin, you should find it thickens up after a few days.

Obviously, once you’ve made your first batch you can use this as a culture for future batches – no need to keep buying things in plastic containers!

My take on supplementing your diet

For a long time I’ve thought that vitamins and supplements were a complete waste of money. When I was a student, I remember going for several days without consuming a single fruit or vegetable (I shudder at the very idea now). Once I remember deciding I should supplement my diet with a multivitamin. (I want to shout at myself WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST GO AND BUY SOME VEGETABLES?!!!, but fresh produce can seem expensive when you’re on a student budget, and in those days it wasn’t a priority.) So I went to the chemist and bought the multivitamin that had the most amount of things in it for the least amount of money. At the time, I felt no different, and concluded I should have saved my pennies. Read more

My weekend baking extravaganza

I set myself a challenge this weekend. I decided to try three new recipes of things that I’ve never made before. I love food and I love cooking (which if you read this blog you’ll probably have noticed) but I often feel like I’m making the same things over and over again. That’s partly true because I get a seasonal veg box delivered, and the contents don’t vary much week to week – especially in winter. I consider myself pretty good at knocking something nutritious and tasty up out of whatever is in the fridge and in the pantry, and I love making recipes up, but when I have the same ingredients I tend to make the same kinds of things.

I was feeling a bit stifled, creatively speaking. I don’t tend to use cookbooks and recipes much apart from special occasions, but I decided maybe this was what I needed to re-spark my culinary inspiration. I decided I’d find three recipes that looked great and that I’d never made before, go shopping for any new ingredients that weren’t already hanging about, and get baking.

I had such a fun time! It was great to make things with new ingredients, and follow other people’s recipes rather than tinkering for hours with my own. I used spelt flour for the first time, made raw vegan chocolate brownies and learned about wakame gomasio. It’s definitely re-sparked my creativity again; I’ve been thinking up new ideas and I’m already planning some variations and new recipes.

Here’s a mini showcase of my weekend (I’m so proud of my efforts I thought I’d take the opportunity to show off!):

rawpasty cookedpasty pasty rawbrowniejpg brownie2 brownie3 brownie4 bars2 slicej bars3 So I have a challenge for you. This weekend, make a recipe that you’ve never made before. Maybe something you’ve been meaning to make for a while. Maybe just flick through some cook books for inspiration. You’ve got a week to find a recipe and make sure you’ve got all the ingredients to hand. Good luck!

In addition to my renewed passion for cooking, the other great thing about the challenge was that I started my week with a fridge full of delicious things to eat. How awesome is that?!

Experimenting with Seed Milks

Seed milk. If the name ‘nut milk’ sounds bad, seed milk sounds far worse. But don’t let the feeble name put you off… they are surprisingly tasty!

Nut milks are a great substitute for cow’s milk in smoothies (and whatever else your heart desires), and I often make cashew nut milk as a base for my smoothies (see recipe here). But nuts can be expensive, and seeds are often cheaper. Plus pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are delicious, which got me thinking…

I decided to experiment with making some different seed milks. So far I’ve made sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seed milk.

Recipe: How to Make Seed Milks

To make these, the procedure is the same. Soak one cup of seeds in water for a few hours, or preferably overnight. Drain and put in a blender with 3 cups of chilled water. Blend until smooth.

Next you need to strain. I used one of my produce bags made with a fine netting type material. You could also use muslin, or improvise with some other material. A fine sieve should work. I’m sure old tights would work too – but do make sure they’re clean first!

Drain the liquid into a bowl. Once the pulp is dry (squeeze any excess moisture out) pour the liquid into a glass bottle or jar and store in the fridge. It will keep for up to 5 days.

Sesame Seed Milk

This milk has quite a distinctive and strong flavour. If you love tahini and sesame then you’ll love it; if not you may find it a bit strong. I used it to make my cacao banana smoothie and even with all the rich chocolatey-ness I could still slightly detect the sesame flavour.

I also tried this with (plunger) coffee and was really impressed with the result. It didn’t curdle (hurrah!) and I thought the flavours really complemented each other.

Pumpkin Seed Milk

I love pumpkin seeds and I loved this. The flavour is quite subtle and nutty. It has a slight green tinge, which amuses me slightly too.

PumpkinseedmilkSunflower Seed Milk

Sunflower seeds are the hands-down cheapest option I’ve tried so far. The milk tasted great, but had the unfortunate side-effect of separating into a milky layer at the bottom and a strange red liquid layer on top. It is easy to shake and mix the two layers together again, but none of the other seed or nut milks I’ve made have done this before.

I tried this in coffee and it worked really well too; it didn’t separate or do anything strange.

Other seed milks

I tried these three because that’s what I had in my cupboard. Also, they are all fairly cheap seeds. There’s plenty of others out there though. I want to make hemp and flax seed milk at some point too; both of these seeds are really good for you and have a great nutty taste that I think will work really well. Plus I love experimenting in the kitchen!

Recipe: Raw Chocolate Mousse (With a Secret Ingredient)

Chocolate mousse doesn’t have to be all about dairy products and refined sugar. You can actually make a much healthier alternative that tastes just as good – no, better! There’s a secret ingredient that gives it the creamy, smooth texture and is really good for you. Avocado!

I say secret, because it’s probably best that you don’t tell anyone eating it that you used avocado until afterwards, lest it put them off. People don’t always like to know that healthy green produce has sneaked into their dessert.

If you don’t like avocados, I promise you that you won’t even know it’s in there. The cacao completely masks the flavour, and by blending it the texture is altered too. (To my sister, who doesn’t like bananas or milk and whom I once many years ago persuaded to try a banana smoothie on the premise that it didn’t taste like bananas or milk…she was nearly sick…this time I ASSURE you that you’d never know.)

In fact, if you know someone who loves chocolate mousse but won’t eat avocados, don’t tell them what’s in it, make it for them and see if they notice. If they do, you’ll just have to eat it all yourself, which is hardly a hardship! (Obviously, if they’re allergic, it’s best you find another recipe!)

This is super simple to make, and tastes amazing. I made mine in my food processor but handheld blender should work, and if you’ve got the patience you could try mashing it all by hand with a fork, although I doubt it will be as smooth.

This makes enough for two people.

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients:
1 large avocado
2 tbsp raw almond butter
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp raw cacao powder
2 tbsp melted coconut oil

Method:
Blend avocado, raw almond butter and maple syrup in a food processor until smooth. Add cacao powder and blend until incorporated. Add melted coconut oil and whizz briefly until combined.

Serve straightaway or store in a glass jar in the fridge for up to 3 days.

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