Who doesn’t love garlic? We certainly do. It flavors pretty much all the meals we cook and our house often is filled with the smell of garlic simmering in butter, much to our neighbors delight. We eat it raw, cooked, roasted and we love it so much that a few years ago our small vegetable patch was given exclusively to growing garlic. Fresh garlic is now back in season and selling at farmer’s markets. There’s never been a better time to talk about this little vegetable pearl. Garlic is really a little miracle in itself and this is why.


Humans have been cultivating garlic for over 7,000 years, both for food and for medicinal purposes. It originated in China and is part of the Allium family that includes onions, shallots and leeks. The average European consumes 1 and a half cloves of garlic every day, which is nothing, compared to the Chinese who consume a whopping 8 cloves a day. The garlic plant is easy to grow and can be grown year-round in mild climates, however different strains have been bred to suit different climates and may not do so well dependent upon soil type, moisture, latitude and altitude. There are 70 different varieties of garlic found worldwide that can be split into two groups, softneck and hardneck. Softneck varieties (Artichokes, Silverskins, Creoles)  have no flower and a semi hard stalk, they produces many more cloves with a softer grassier taste, they can be planted mechanically and can be stored for longer than the hardneck varieties. This makes them very popular with supermarkets and mass producers.  Hardneck garlic (Porcelain, Rocamboles, Purple Stripe) produces a stiff flower stalk and spicy and well-flavoured cloves. However it doesn’t keep as long as the softneck varieties and requires more care to grow so is typically found at farmers markets and small-scale growers. Generally mass produced garlic varieties are chosen for their productivity rather than their flavor.


Here is the science bit, but we recommend you continue to read on as it could change the way you cook and eat garlic. Garlic is the most pungent of the allium family. Each garlic clove has a high concentration of the enzyme alliinase locked away in little compartments. As soon as you cut or crush garlic the alliinase is released and comes into contact with oxygen and water. This creates a chemical reaction that turns the alliinase into allicin and other pungent types of sulfur. It is the allicin that gives garlic the pungent fiery taste on the tongue. The chemical transformation from alliinase to allicin happens in spurts every 6.5 minutes. It takes a total of 90 minutes for all the alliinase to turn into allicin. So if you are using raw garlic in a dish it will take 90 minutes for the full strength of allicin’s punchy flavour to be reached. When garlic is put into an acidic environment like vinegar, also when it is ingested or cooked, the alliinase enzyme is permanently deactivated so it cannot turn into the pungent sulfur allicin. This is why when you roast whole garlic it doesn’t produce any allicin and hence it has none of that fiery garlic punch. If you want that garlic punch in a cooked dish, you must crushed or chopped the garlic and leave it for 90 minutes to get the most allicin before cooking. However allicin is not a stable compound and will begin to brake down into its component parts. It takes around 45 minutes when cooked and around 5 days at room temperature for it to break down into it’s oil soluble and water soluble compounds. When you eat raw garlic the body breaks down the allicin and it is these compounds that give garlic the majority of its healing properties.


Garlic has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years and is still by far one of the best ways of getting rid of a common cold. More than 160 of the elements that make a bulb of garlic are bioactive, meaning they can affect our body. Garlic has exceptional anti-viral and anti fungal properties and it does not damage the healthful intestinal flora. It is very rich in Vitamin C, which give the immune system a boost but also in Vitamin B6 and Manganese.
Garlic is rich in selenium, which aids the thyroid gland, supports the health of the immune system and prevents DNA damage by limiting the activity of free radicals.
The allicin formed from crushing raw garlic is a very powerful antibiotic that kills bacteria including certain bacteria that have become immune to modern antibiotics such as MRSA staph. It can be used to treat snake bites, get rid of E. coli, kill bacteria on foods and keep cuts and abrasion free of infections but it only works when applied directly to the wound or infection. This is because as soon as you ingest the raw garlic the saliva and stomach break down the allicin into its oil soluble and water soluble compounds. The oil soluble compounds are what gives you garlicky breath. They are a powerful antibacterial that can enter the lymphatic system and they strengthen the immune system by stimulating the body to build antibodies. The oil soluble compounds have also been shown to have success in inhibiting lung, skin and breast cancer. The water soluble compounds of allicin have no antibacterial properties and no smell but have excellent circulatory system benefits including lowering blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides and total cholesterol and inhibits clotting.
Scientists have synthesized these compounds but found they simply did not affect the body in the same way as natural garlic. This is because it is not just the individual elements of the garlic compounds but the way all of them interact together with the body that makes garlic such a powerful medicinal food.


Now, as we already said, China produces at least 75% of all the garlic worldwide. Almost all the garlic in supermarkets comes from China. In the last 15-20 years they have cornered nearly the entire market by producing garlic at incredibly low prices often below the actual cost of growing it, so that no local producers can compete.  The Chinese agricultural industry has taken a lot of flack over the years for it’s poor health standards, wages and dangerous use of banned pesticides. There is very little regulation on organic standards in China and pretty much anyone can put an organic label on their garlic to turn a profit. Furthermore the Chinese garlic is often bleached to make it look nice and white and more often than not it is irradiated to give it a long shelf life and kill off bacteria. Irradiation distorts the DNA structure so it will no longer be able to sprout. The irradiation also prevents the healthful compounds in garlic from forming so it has practically no discernible health benefits. Ouch! So make sure you don’t buy garlic from China. Look for local and organic garlic, particularly the hard stem varieties. Fresh (or wet) garlic is in season at the moment and is a joy for the palate and your health.

Here is a really quick recipe we use all the time for making stir fries. We use plenty of garlic and add the sauce right at the end of cooking the stir fry so the garlic doesn’t burn and it has the full allicin flavour punch. It also makes a wonderful marinade for tofu, that you can slow roast in the oven.

1 bunch fresh coriander
1 red chilli
3 cloves of fresh garlic
1 inch nob of peeled fresh ginger
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp of sesame seed oil
2 tblsp of dark tamari

Put all the ingredients together in a blender and whizz them to a smooth paste, you may need to add a splash of water sometimes. Add it to your stir fry right at the end and cook for a further 5-10 seconds before serving.



What is all the fuss about coconut?
Nowadays, coconut products can be found everywhere. Consumers are eating more coconut products than ever; coconut water, coconut butter, coconut milk, coconut yoghurt and coconut sugar are filling the shelves of supermarkets and health stores. If you don’t want to eat it then rub it on your skin, chew it or feed it to your dog.
In our house we do consume a fair amount of coconut. We use coconut water in our smoothies, coconut oil for cooking and baking and we just love using freshly made coconut milk to prepare an authentic South Indian curry.
But is it actually that good for you? What are the healthiest forms? Are there any limits on how much you should have? And what about the farmers, do they get a fair share too? We wanted to know more so here’s what we found.


The word coconut comes from the Portuguese ‘coco’ which means goblin or monkey because the marks on the stem resemble a monkey or human head.
Coconuts are thought to have originated from the western Pacific and were spread by humans and ocean currents all over the tropics.  Now coconut trees are grown in more than 90 countries throughout the world and about 20 billion nuts are produced each year in the Philippines, India and Indonesia. India is the third largest coconut producer in the world, Kerala being its most fertile state for growing young coconuts.
A recent DNA analysis of over 1300 coconuts from all over the world revealed that the coconut was first cultivated in two separate locations, one in the Pacific and the other in the Indian Ocean. Also through the coconut DNA they were able to trace human cultivation, voyages of exploration, trade and colonization; which we thought is pretty astonishing for a coconut!
The coconut has nourished populations around the world for generations. It is a unique and immensely versatile nut that provides a nutritious source of fats, it has a unique potable water, it can be used to make a rich cream, flour, sugar, alcohol, moisturizer, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, sunburn lotion and even furnishings and rope. It is little wonder that it has deep cultural and religious significance in the societies where it is grown. Nearly one third of the world’s population depends on coconut to some degree for their food and their economy.

A photo we took in Karnataka, India of women weaving rope from the husks of coconuts


Coconut Water
Over 10 years ago, the only way to enjoy a drink of fresh coconut water was to get on a flight to an exotic location. Nowadays coconut water has filled the shelves of every store and is a billion dollar industry. Coconut water is sold as a health drink due to a high content of potassium, magnesium, Vitamin B and Vitamin C. It is low in sugar but high in micro nutrients and electrolytes which keep the body hydrated and make it a perfect drink for athletes and hang overs.
However unless you are buying fresh green coconuts and getting the water directly from them, the chances are that your coconut water is nowhere near as healthy as people claim; here’s why.
– Fresh, raw coconut water is very delicate and only keeps for a couple of days in the fridge so in order for companies to sell prepacked coconut water they have to find a way to preserve it. There are two main ways they can do this. The first is UHT (Ultra High Temperature), which kills off any bacteria and also the majority of the nutrients, the vitamins and the natural enzymes which make coconut water so good for you. The second method is HPP (High Pressure Processing), which is a heat-less process which inhibits the bacteria while keeping the nutrients in tact. Pretty much all coconut water sold as ‘raw’ uses this process.
– A lot of companies use water from mature coconuts (not the young green ones) because it’s a cheap byproduct of the coconut oil industry. The problem with this is that all the nutrients have gone into the flesh of the coconut so the coconut water you are drinking has very little nutritional value. It also tastes acidic so they have to add sugar or flavourings to mask the acidity. Pretty much any coconut water with added sugar is sure to be from mature coconuts.
– A lot of it is made from concentrate which, like fruit juice from concentrate, has practically no nutritional benefits whatsoever.
– Also be aware that these days coconut water is big business, ONE is owned by Pepsi Co and Zico by Coca Cola. However there are small companies that provide high quality, organic, raw coconut water but you have to search for them, here are some we found in the UK (Coco Juice, Unoco and CocoFina). There are also several shops now selling whole fresh, young coconuts which you just take the top off and stick a straw in for a guaranteed super healthy refreshing tropical drink.
There is a fantastic article here by Vani Hari detailing the best and worst coconut water manufacturers.


Coconut oil
During the 50’s and 60’s, coconut was the most important vegetable oil in the world. Then in the 70’s and 80’s there was the big scare about saturated fats. So manufacturers of processed foods replaced coconut oil with less saturated fats, which now turn out to contain undesirable trans fatty acids (which may contribute to heart disease). In recent times coconut oil has seen an incredible upturn in popularity in the West with sales doubling every year since 2011. Coconut oil is now being described as “the healthiest oil on earth.”
Natural coconut oil is made of 90 percent saturated fat (butter only contains 64 percent saturated fat), but the type of saturated fat matters just as much as the amount. Coconut oil is composed predominately of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), also known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which are much easier for our bodies to digest and turn into energy than the long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) typically found in meat, dairy and eggs.
Furthermore 50% of virgin coconut oil’s saturated fat is lauric acid, which is a MCFA that turns out to have a number of health-promoting properties, including the ability to improve levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which is claimed to have high anti-viral, anti-bacterial properties and coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on Earth!
The smoke point of coconut oil is quite low, similar to butter or lard, so it is not good for frying at high temperatures. You can get unscented coconut oil but this goes through heavy refining and is often bleached so is best avoided. Like all oils the best and most nutritious forms are virgin, cold pressed and organic.
Generally because it’s so high in saturated fat, even the purest, most natural coconut oil could be problematic for long term heart health. Coconut oil is not a miracle food and should be eaten as part of a well balanced diet. If you have a meat heavy diet go easy on the coconut oil, however it is a fantastic source of good saturated fats for someone on a vegan diet.

Coconut cream and milk, which are so popular in Thai and Carribean cooking have all the MCFA saturated fats found in coconut oil along with the fibre, vitamins and nutrients. It is important to remember that not all coconut products are the same and many of them are highly processed and contain added sugar. If you want to get the maximum nutrients and a fantastic taste we recommend you make your own coconut milk. It is really easy and it tastes so much better than anything off the shelf. Here is a video we made to show you how.

Coconut nectar and sugar
The other main product from the coconut tree is the nectar. This has nothing to do with the nut but is the sap of the palm that is tapped from the coconut blossom. It has been traditionally tapped for centuries throughout the tropics. It is then heated to evaporate the moisture content. You can either leave it in this state for the runny nectar or it can be further reduced to reach a crystalline sugar form. It is claimed by the Phillipines Coconut Associated that it has an incredibly low glycemic rating, almost half that of brown sugar. It does contain some minerals and vitamins, but much like honey the amount you have to eat to get any meaningful nutrition out of it would practically kill you. Primarily it has the same amount of calories as brown sugar and should be eaten with moderation. If you want a sugar alternative we recommend you use locally sourced, raw honey rather than shipping in coconut nectar from the other side of the world.
We do love coconuts and the many marvelous products you can make from it but at the end of the day it is a tropical product that takes a lot of time and work to grow and has to be shipped a long way so should be treated as a luxury product. Over the last decade coconut producers have seen a massive increase in demand from the Western world. But this has not helped the livelihoods of the farmers. Most coconuts are still grown on small and medium plantations. The labour of coconut farming is hard and there is very little mechanization involved. The farmers only receive a small portion of the revenues from selling coconut. As Frederick Schilling mentioned in the Times (“Why the Coconut Craze Isn’t Helping Farmers”) ‘a farmer will sell his coconut to the general market for $0.15 to $0.25 per coconut. A tree will produce anywhere from 30 to 70 coconuts per year.  So, in one year, a tree will give a farmer a maximum income of around $17.50. Think about how many trees a farmer must have in order to make a decent living.’ There are many farms now that grow another product, very often cacao in the shade of the coconut trees which allow them to double the yield of their plot of land.

Like all these things it is best to do a little research on the companies you are buying from, always buy organic and look for Fair Trade or transparent ethics. You will be supporting a sustainable future for the growers and the environment and you will inevitably end up with a higher quality product that is better for you.



As a vegetarian family we eat a lot of pulses, our store cupboard always has a large selection of dried beans, peas and lentils. We love to eat warming stews, chillies, dhal and slow cooked baked beans particularly during the colder winter months. Which is why this month we have decided to research more and find out if all these beans are really good for us and what we can do to improve the way we buy and eat them.

Pulses are part of the legume family, which is the second most important family of flowering plants after the grasses. It is most likely that humans have eaten pulses, like beans and peas, in their green state since the dawn of mankind when we were still hunter-gatherers. However it wasn’t until we learned how to cook that we were able to unleash the power of pulses in their dried state. Dried pulses maintain their nutrients and can be stored for a very long time and are also easily transported. Empires have been built on the strength of their beans. In Ancient Rome, for example, four of the most famous families were named after legumes: Fabius from the fava bean, Lentulus from the lentil, Piso from the pea and Cicero from the chickpea.
The ‘common’ types of bean (such as black, pinto, navy and kidney) all originated in Central and South America and were introduced to Europe by the Spanish explorers in the 15th Century and subsequently spread to Africa and Asia through trade routes, just like chocolate and chillies. Pulses have spread to every corner of the globe because they are easy to grow in a large variety of climates. They are versatile, they store well, travel well and they are highly nutritious. These days there are about 20 different species of legumes cultivated on a large scale, here is a table of some of the most popular and where they originated from.

Table of popular pulses and their origins
Soybean is by far the most grown legume crop, but the vast majority is grown for oil and to feed livestock. Because soybeans are very different in their structure and uses to the majority of pulses, we will not be discussing them in this article, but will save them for another.
Today, the largest commercial producers of dried common beans are India and Brazil. Nearly 18 million metric tons of dried beans are produced in these two countries alone.
Pulses are so successful because they are a cheap source of protein as opposed to expensive meats. The proteins from pulses help our bodies regulate sugar, water and other aspects of our metabolism. They are a rich source of fat and carbohydrates, potassium, calcium and several B vitamins. The pink, red and black pulses are also rich in antioxidants. The proteins are also said to promote proper growth of the body including the brain, which is good for children. However with infants under 18 months old it is best to introduce sprouted pulses before moving onto just soaked and cooked. This is because sprouted pulses are easier to assimilate and metabolise and children under 18 months (or whenever they develop molars) are unable to chew and also don’t have the right enzymes to digest the legumes properly.

We generally always keep a few tins of beans around for emergencies but we much prefer to use dried. Tinned beans very often have lots of added salt and a slimy texture so need to be rinsed thoroughly, which does reduce the salt content but it also removes a lot of the nutrients. Tinned beans are essentially cooked inside the can and there is very little control over the texture and taste, plus they are way more expensive than dried beans.
Some people do not digest beans well and experience flatulence and poor digestion; normally this is because of poor preparation and cooking methods.
The best way we’ve found to prepare dried pulses is to pre-soak overnight and then cook the next day. Beans should be rinsed and soaked in acidulated water using a squeeze of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (2 tablespoons for each cup of dried beans) to reduce the phytic acid.

After 8 hours, drain and rinse the beans and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil and remove any foam or scum that rises to the surface of the water. Then cook on a low simmer until the beans are tender and to your liking. Only use as much water as necessary (typically around 5cm above the legumes) so that when the beans have finished cooking there will be no excess water which contains a lot of the nutrients and flavour. A lot of people recommend adding a piece of kombu seaweed to the pot, which will improve the digestion and reduce flatulence.
You can add salt to the boiling water which will decrease the cooking time by breaking down the hard exterior of the beans and allowing the moisture to penetrate, however it also means they loose their structure and go mushy. If you do it with bicarbonate of soda it is even more effective. On the other hand adding acids such as tomatoes and molasses during long cooking will help the beans maintain their structure.
Lentils and split peas don’t need pre soaking but it is a good idea to do so, if you can, as it will reduce the phytic acid and improve digestion. Even if you don’t pre soak them it is a good idea to rinse them thoroughly in a bowl of warm water to remove any dirt and dust before cooking.
These days there are lots of varieties of beans and lentils available in most shops and supermarkets, don’t be afraid to try new ones and explore new recipes. As with all food produce, always choose organic where possible. It may cost a few pence more but the quality and nutritional value will certainly make it worth it. If you have storage space in your house a good way is to buy dried pulses in bulk from a wholefood supplier. This makes them super cheap (even organic) and because they are always on hand it is easy to plan and prepare a delicious meal.

Here is our recipe for Homemade Baked Beans This will serve approximately 4 people but you can easily double the quantities and keep some to eat later as they will certainly taste even better the next day


2 x cups dried beans (pinto, borlotti, haricot or cannallini are ideal)
A squeeze of lemon
1 x onion
2 x small carrots
1 x stick of celery
1 x tin of chopped tomatoes
1 dried ancho chilli
2 x cloves garlic
6 x dried prunes
1 x bayleaf
1 x a few sprigs of thyme
1 tblsp  of blackstrap molasses
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp all spice
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
a good splash of tamari
salt and pepper

First you will need to soak the beans for at least 6 hours, (normally we soak ours overnight). You will need to give them enough water to allow them to double in size. We also add a squeeze of lemon to the water to reduce the phytic acid.
Once they have soaked, drain and rinse the beans, put them in a pan and cover with fresh water, approximately 5cm above the level of the beans. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Finely dice the onion, carrot and celery (this is caled a mirepoix or a sofrito). Now put them in the oven proof dish that you are going to bake the beans in. Something like a cast iron casserole dish, or a terracotta pot with a good lid are ideal. Lightly saute the vegetables in a little olive oil over a low heat for approx 10-15 minutes. You can put the lid on the pot and let the vegetables cook in their own liquid, just stir them from time to time.
Meanwhile split and deseed the Ancho chilli and then put it in a hot and dry frying pan. Lightly toast the chilli until it begins to change colour and become fragrant, but make sure you don’t burn it. The Ancho chilli doesn’t add any heat to the beans but will bring a rich depth of flavour. Once toasted roughly chop the chilli and put into a heatproof jug and cover with 150ml of boiling water then leave to soak for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile finely chop the garlic and prunes and add to the mirepoix in the pot. You can now also add the spices, molasses, thyme and chopped tomatoes. By now the beans should be tender and you can add them and their liquid into the mixture. You may need to add a splash more water at this point to make sure there’s enough liquid.
Blend the chilli and water together then put the paste through a sieve into the pot. Add salt, pepper, tamari and the vinegar. Give it a good stir, put the lid on and then place in the middle of the oven at 110ºC.
Depending on your pot and your oven you can cook the beans from anywhere between 4 to 8 hours. The first time you make them we’d recommend keeping an eye on the beans to make sure they don’t dry out. Once you’ve done it once or twice and you know the heat of your oven and the times you can go out and leave the beans cooking. There is nothing nicer than coming back from a cold walk to a house filled with the rich smell of homemade baked beans.

Do you have your own favourite baked bean recipe? What do you do differently? If you try out ours please let us know what you think.

Here is a link to another great article about rediscovering British pulses by the Sustainable Food Trust along with a video about Hodmedods which is a British producer working exceedingly hard to revive pulse farming in the UK.




As the festive season is fast approaching, we are all planning and preparing to cook, eat and share the most wonderful foods. So what could be a more appropriate time to talk about one of the most eaten delicacies, the food everybody loves, the ‘food of gods’ : chocolate. We English are the biggest consumers of chocolate per capita, eating an average of 11.5kg a year each.
From the fine dark chocolates to the mass produced confectionaries, chocolate is very much taken for granted in the western world and there is little appreciation for the lengthy process and complexities involved in creating a bar of chocolate.

The cacao beans come from the cacao trees ‘Theobroma cacao’ which is Greek for ‘food of the gods’. The cacao trees originate from South America where they were first cultivated by the Mayans around 600 BC. They then traded them with the Aztecs who roasted and ground the beans to make it into a drink used for religious ceremonies. The Aztecs valued the cacao beans enough to use them as a form of currency.
Nowadays most cacao is grown by the 2.5 million cacao farmers on smallholdings in West Africa (Ivory Coast being the largest producer).
The cacao trees need to be planted in hot and damp climates next to tall trees in order to protect them from direct sunlight often amongst papaya and mango trees. It takes 3 to 5 years before the cacao tree bears fruits and once mature each tree produces around 1,000 beans a year, which may seem like a lot but it is only enough to make 1kg of chocolate.
The trees bear large fruit pods from its trunk each containing 20 to 40 seeds or cacao beans which are embedded in a white pulp. When the fruits are ripe the farmers break open the pods and put the pulp and the beans in a large pile to ferment in the tropical heat for anything between 2 to 8 days. During this period the sugars in the pulp ferment and the bacteria penetrates into the beans breaking down the astringent particles and creating a wide variety of desirable flavours and flavour precursors that will be developed in roasting. This is one of the least controlled parts of the chocolate making process but it has a massive impact on the taste of the final product. Poorly fermented beans will give the final chocolate unpleasant aromas. Sometimes if the beans are left too long they will go mouldy and sometimes the fermentation process is skipped entirely. It is up to the buyer to determine which beans have been well fermented and select them for their flavour potential.
Once the beans have fermented they will be dried to preserve them. The main method of drying is still to lay out the beans in the sunshine for several days, although sometimes they are dried over stoves or heaters to speed up the process. At this stage the beans are still very far from being anything like the chocolate we know and love, they are bitter, dry and astringent. The transformation from these beans into a chocolate bar is complex and very rarely happens in the same place as the beans are grown, instead they are shipped to Europe and America where the beans are made into chocolate in large factories. To get an idea of how far removed the growers are from the end product watch this video showing cacao growers in the Ivory Coast trying chocolate for the first time.

On arrival at the chocolate manufacturer the cacao beans will be gently roasted to develop their flavours further. The beans are then cracked open and the ‘nibs’ are extracted and the husks are discarded. To transform the nibs into a solid bar of chocolate which is glossy, smooth and with a good ‘snap’, they have to be put through various stages of milling, refining and tempering. The reason chocolate is so appealing to us is that it is one of the few food products that melts at body temperature so it literally melts in your mouth. Also after the roasting and refining it has an extraordinary 550 flavonoids (a carrot typically has 96), it is literally a flavour explosion. The industrial processing of cacao was first developed by a Dutchman called Conrad van Houten in 1828. The chocolate manufacturers Fry and Sons in Bristol then made the very first chocolate bar in 1848. By the end of the 19th Century the Swiss company Nestle had developed methods for creating ultra smooth chocolate and incorporating powdered milk. The milk chocolate bar as we know it was born.


A fine quality dark chocolate will contain around 70% cocoa solids the remaining 30% is sugar. Mass produced chocolate is made with a minimum amount of cocoa solids and the maximum amount of sugar and milk, in fact most ‘chocolate’ in the UK contains less than 1% cocoa solids. The reason chocolate gets such a bad reputation for health is simply because of the large amounts of added sugars. In fact cocoa itself is really exceptionally good for you. Although it is high in saturated fats it is a specific fat that does not raise your cholesterol. It is high in potassium and is number one for magnesium after seaweed. It also contains phosphorus and calcium, which build bones, tissues and nerves in the body. If you eat cocoa in it’s raw form (ie not roasted) the nutritional benefits are massively increased. Like all seeds cacao beans contain all the nutrients and fatty acids for the seed to germinate and grow into a tree. Cocoa has an incredibly high amount of antioxidants it has been linked with anti ageing and it has at least seven phenathalamines, which are the ‘love chemicals’ or aphrodisiacs. However these get destroyed in the roasting process and then if you add milk in, it binds itself to the antioxidants and prevents us from absorbing them. It is getting easier to buy raw chocolate from health food stores, Mu has recently been on a workshop learning how to make our very own raw chocolate with The Raw Health Bar in Brighton.


A friend of ours recently moved to Ecuador and has been working directly with the cacao farmers there and he has kindly shared some of his knowledge and experience of the industry with us.

Growing cacao does not require huge amounts of space and most of it is done on small scale farms but the farmers are not paid enough for their beans so more often than not they use logging of the rainforest to subsidise their income. Unless it is a protected reserve, if you own the land you can log as much as you like on the property. The logging companies know that cacao producers earn very little and they put pressure on them to sell the trees and the land.
The second main problem is that the buyers and intermediaries will not discern between good and poor quality beans and they will offer the same price for them. This has a knock on affect where there is no incentive for farmers to grow a high quality product. For organic producers in particular, the certification is often tedious and long with many trainings and a lot of paperwork. To then have to sell the beans at the same price as non organic means it is often simply not worthwhile for the farmers. But times are changing with the US and some parts of Europe (mainly in the UK) consuming more organic chocolate. Hopefully if the market for organic chocolate keeps growing, it will then encourage the producers to turn to organic certification.
Fair Trade chocolate also faces similar issues. Even though small producers have benefited from Fairtrade International’s support: gender equality, training on the organic certification, knowledge on climate change, better livelihoods, offering educational opportunities to children in the communities, access to health, etc, the impact is still too little and the Fairtade minimum price is often not much higher than the market price. As of 2014, less than 1 % of the chocolate market was Fair trade.
It is us as consumers that can change this, by buying organic and Fairtrade, it will boost the market and encourage a more sustainable industry where farmers can provide for themselves and their families.
Our friend Martin is working on a new project in Ecuador in the Choco rainforest where the cacao producers are making a very high quality cacao and asking for a high price. The extra money is then re invested in conservation and research and also saving one of the most endangered species on our planet, the brown headed spider monkeys. Here’s a little video that Badj helped to create that explains the project and a link to the fundraiser, please support it.

 By spending a little extra on your chocolate you will not only get a much better tasting chocolate but you will be helping the farmers that grow the cacao to make a sustainable living, so they don’t have to destroy the environment and hopefully they too can enjoy the delights of the ‘food of the gods’.

Raw Chocolate Recipe

Ingredients (makes around 16 chocolates):

    • 40g of organic raw cocoa butter
    • 20g of organic raw cacao powder
    • 20g of carob powder
    • 20g of lucuma powder
    • 1 to 2 tbsp of organic coconut oil melted
    • 1 to 1.5 tsp of maple syrup or raw honey or coconut sugar
    • Toppings: goji berries, almonds, seeds, vanilla powder, orange oil, cayenne pepper or anything you fancy


  1. Melt the cacao butter over a bain-marie. The water needs to be no higher that 50C
  2. Once melted add the cacao powder and stir. Then add the carob and lucuma still stirring over the bain-marie.The chocolate mixture should reach a temperature of no more than 31C. If it gets too cold and stiff, discard some of the cold water in the bain-marie and replace with hot.
  3. Add some of the coconut oil to the mixture so you have a silky and shiny chocolate. Keep stirring. When the chocolate looses its shine you will know that the chocolate has gone out of temper. You could then add more hot water to the
  4. When you have reached a shiny and runny consistency, you are then ready to pour the chocolate into the silicone molds.
    You can then add your favourite ingredients either in the chocolate or directly in the molds.
  5. Place in the fridge until the chocolate have set.
    When ready take out of the molds and store in the fridge.


Badj grew up in California and one of his first vivid memories was a game he used to play with his siblings. The family grew chillies in the garden and the kids used to challenge each other to eat as much raw chilli as possible before running back to the house to down glasses of milk to soothe their pain. Meanwhile, Mu grew up in rural France where spicy food was as scarce as hen’s teeth. By the time she met Badj she had only had a few hot, ‘oh my god my mouth is a volcano’ chilli experiences, and generally chilli was to be avoided at all costs. Over the years Badj has slowly introduced and upped the chilli doses and now even though we will cook a mild dish for our young boys, more often than not chillies find their way into our meals.


Chillies originated in Central and South America, where they have been eaten for at least 8,000 years. They were introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus who mistook them for black pepper and called them peppers (he also thought he had landed in India, hence the natives were called Indians). The Spanish and the Portuguese then took the chilli plant to the rest of the world where it was embraced by local cultures and cuisines. Different varieties of chilli plants were cultivated and now there are over 450 different varieties of chillies of all shapes, sizes, flavours and pungencies, from the bell pepper to the Carolina Reaper. India is currently the largest producer, exporter and also consumer of chillies worldwide.


Chilli is not a taste in the same way that sweet, sour, salty etc is, it comes from the substance capsaicin which is produced by chilli plants. Capsaicin is most concentrated on the seeds and the white pith in the chilli. When we put capsaicin into our mouths it tricks the brain into thinking it has eaten something hot, so the body reacts accordingly by increasing the heart rate, releasing endorphins and sweating. In 1912, Dr Scoville developed a scale to measure the pungency of a chilli which is based on the amount of times the chilli has to be diluted before it no longer has any heat. The bell pepper measures 0 on the Scoville scale all the way up to the Carolina Reaper which has to be diluted up to 2.2 million times before it no longer has any pungency.


Chillies have been used for all sorts of medicinal purposes, from alleviating pain to clearing headaches, psoriasys and stomach ulcers. For modern nutritionists there seems to be a lot of conflicting thoughts and little hard evidence surrounding the health benefits or harms of chillies. It is our personal view however, that if so many cultures worldwide have been eating chillies for so long, they must have something going for them. Chillies are high in vitamin C and vitamin A and have a substantial amount of minerals, particularly when they are red and at their ripest.
One very interesting study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006 showed that chillies are very good for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. The research showed that having chilli with your meal dramatically reduced the amount of insulin required by your body to balance out your blood sugar levels. After eating a chilli rich meal, the insulin levels were between 15 and 24% lower than those with a bland meal.
Chillies are grown and eaten primarily in hot climates for several reasons. Chillies act to cool the body down by making you sweat. Chillies are also often used to mask the taste of food and meats that are just on the turn, which is pretty often if you live in a hot country without refrigeration. Capsaicin is a proven appetite stimulant, so in hot weather when your appetite is suppressed, adding chilli to your diet could be a good way of making sure you eat enough.


Over the last decade the English have really taken a shine to this fiery little condiment. In England chilli farms are popping up everywhere, there are chilli festivals, you can buy chillies from your local shop either fresh or dried. In Brighton, where we live, there is even a designated chilli shop (Chilli Shop). Like all fruit and vegetables it’s important to get the freshest products, locally sourced and organic where possible. Fresh chillies are in season in the UK from mid July till December, we found that this is the best time to enjoy chillies, you can buy them out of season but they are imported and never quite as good. You should look for a good firm texture, they should be nice and shiney and with good rich colours. In recent years, we have been buying fresh chillies from The South Devon Chilli Farm where they are grown without pesticides by a passionate chilli farmer who grows chillies for their flavour as much as their heat. This year we visited the farm and had a tour around the polly tunnels tasting raw chillies grown and bred there from seeds. If you happen to be in the area, we strongly recommend the detour, it’s a chilli heaven!
Out of season, a good way to get your chilli fix is with dried chillies. When dried, chillies can take on completely new flavours, they become much earthier and are great in wintery stews and curries. You can also pick up smoked chillies like chipotle. If you are drying your own it is advisable to use thin skinned chillies and dry them whole until they are very firm then store in an air tight container.


Last year we made a this Trinidad style hot sauce and it won first prize in the Sidewinder chilli festival hot sauce competition so this year we bought 2.5 kg of mixed habanero chillies and made 30 bottles to give to our friends and family. It was such a hit that we had to make another batch a few weeks later and so now we thought we’d share the recipe with you. This is a really tasty and super spicy hot sauce that is much much better than anything you can buy in the shop and is a great way of preserving your chillies so you can have that chilli kick all year round. Watch the video here.

Trinidad Style Hot Pepper Sauce Recipe

This is enough quantity to make 15 x 150ml bottles, you can adjust it according to how much chillies you have and are likely to get through. The key to this recipe is using good quality ingredients, choose organic local vegetables whenever possible and make sure the chillies are really fresh..


  • 1.5 kg of mixed habaneros (scotch bonnets)
  • 100g coconut oil
  • half bulb of garlic
  • large chunk of fresh ginger
  • 2 white onions
  • 4 carrots
  • 200g Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tblsp raw honey
  • approx 450ml white wine vinegar
  • sea salt


Dice onions and carrots and saute in coconut oil in the biggest pan you can find. Cover and leave to sweat on a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile peel and finely dice the ginger and garlic and set aside. Now roughly chop all the chillies including seeds. We really recommend you put on some latex gloves for this, we didn’t do this once and our hands really burned for a couple of days! Add the garlic and ginger to the carrot and onion mixture and cook for another couple of minutes before adding all the chillies. Then add enough white wine vinegar to generously cover the chillies. Add all the remaining ingredients (mustard, sugar, honey and salt). Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. You probably want to open all your windows and turn on the extractor fan at this point. Using a blender, a stick blender or a food processor, blend the whole mixture thoroughly. Now taste it to make sure you have a good balance between the sugar and the vinegar and also taste for seasoning. Once you are happy, return to the heat for a couple of minutes to get the temperature back up. Transfer the mixture into sterilised bottles or jars. Make sure the lids are on tight. This hot sauce will keep on for at least six months. Once opened keep refrigerated. Et voila! You have just made your own kick-ass chilli sauce that will blow all the other shop bought hot sauces out the water!


References and useful links:

The Chilli King

South Devon Chilli Farm

The Chilli Shop Brighton  

Chilli World



Honey is one of the staples we always have around the kitchen. We use it frequently in our baking and our boys really enjoy the sweetness and the many flavours honey has to offer. It is part of our lives as friends and family have hives and often treat us with this sweet natural syrup. The harvest season is in full effect and local markets and autumnal festivals show an abundance of colours, flavours and textures. It has been a pleasure sampling all the different local raw honeys and we thought this was the perfect time to learn and find out more about this delicious natural treat.

A few interesting facts show that people have been eating and collecting honey for at least 10,000 years and we have been domesticating honey bees for at least 4,000, according to ancient hieroglyphs. Honey has had countless mentions in literature and songs throughout the years. It was one of the first sweet and luxurious foods before the discovery of sugar cane so it is not surprising that it was referred to as ‘a little piece of heaven fallen to earth’.

honey pots

To understand what honey is we first had to learn a little bit about sugars. There are 3 main types of sugars: glucose, fructose and sucrose. Glucose is one of the simplest and most common sugars and it is what plants use to make starch chains. Fructose is also found in plants, particularly fruits, it is almost exactly the same as glucose in terms of chemical make up but the atoms are just arranged differently. Fructose is the sweetest of all sugars. Sucrose is what we commonly call sugar, it is one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose joined together. Plants naturally produce sucrose in photosynthesis.

Honey is made from sucrose in the form of nectar that the bees collect, they then use enzymes to separate the sucrose into its component glucose and fructose elements. This is what is known as an invert sugar and can be highly concentrated without crystallizing, which is why honey is runny in it’s natural state. Once they have split up the sugars, the bees will spend several weeks fanning the honey with their wings to reduce the water content and get it as concentrated as possible before storing it away in the waxy comb.

honey comb

From a nutritional point of view, honey is really not very different from standard table sugar, it has the same amount of calories as sugar and so if you are dieting or diabetic it shouldn’t be used as an alternative. Raw unfiltered honey does have some vitamins, minerals and enzymes but these are negligible compared to the amount of sugar you would need to eat. Mass produced honey is pasteurized and filtered which kills any enzymes and strips it of its minerals, so buying unfiltered raw honey is a must. For us one of the best things about honey is it’s flavour, each honey is unique to it’s location and the flowers and fruits that are grown in the area. The colour of the honey is determined by the source of the nectar and the mineral content of the flowers. Generally the lighter the colour the milder the flavour.

honey types2

There is however another food made by bees which is very nutritious; bee pollen. Bee pollen is commonly referred to as nature’s most complete food. It has everything a human needs for survival. It is high in complete proteins, half of which are in the form of amino acids which can be absorbed directly into the body. In addition, bee pollen provides more than a dozen vitamins, 28 minerals, 11 enzymes or co-enzymes, 14 beneficial fatty acids, 11 carbohydrates and it is low in calories. This is truly a superfood, but it is also food for the bees so, like with honey, beekeepers must be very careful as to how much pollen they take. Eating bee pollen regularly has many benefits, it aids digestion, boosts energy and can also stimulates ovarian function thus can help with infertility problems. Bee pollen is best eaten at mealtimes especially with fruit as it helps to cleanse the intestinal flora.

bee pollen

Royal jelly is another food found in the hive which is also very nutritious. Royal Jelly is released from the top of a bee’s head and is used in the nutrition of larva as well as adult queens. In fact, queen larvae are put into these special queen cells and are surrounded by royal jelly. This is what helps them to develop their “queen morphology”, including the fully developed ovaries needed to lay eggs.  A queen bee lays over 1,000 eggs a day.  Like bee pollen, royal jelly contains a rich variety of nutrients and essential amino acids. Royal jelly has been proven to lower cholesterol, is good for blood pressure and like bee pollen has been proven to increase fertility among many other things.

All these products made by bees can also reduce seasonal allergies like hay fever. In laboratory tests, honey has been proven to have strong antibacterial properties particularly Manuka honey. It is one of the best thing in treating wounds because of its ability to absorb water. Honey also has anti-inflammatory qualities and is known to soothe coughs and sore throats (especially buckwheat honey).

Honey is truly an amazing food and it is even more marvelous when we consider the way it’s made. While its sugar content is high and should be used in moderation, the minerals, vitamins and amino acids make honey a unique produce. It is a treat and a joy, ‘a little slice of heaven.’

Slice of gold2

In the UK, we only produce 15% of the honey we consume, so most commercial honeys are imported. However, there is a thriving community of small scale beekeepers in the UK. There are 24,000 registered members of the British Beekeeping Society with most of them just owning one or two hives. Organic honey is very hard to certify as the bees can get their nectar from such a large area. With most commercial honeys, it’s highly likely the bees are feeding off flowers with pesticides on them and the hives are being given veterinary medications. This is another reason why you should find locally produced honey and get to know your local beekeeper .

Have a look at this video we made of our friend Darren Hougham and his son Leo collecting their first honey harvest.

Also here is a video we made of us making Dutch honey cake while visiting Badj’s mum in Devon using honey she collected from the bee hives in her garden



  • 1 1/2 cups plain white flour
  • 1 1/2 cups rye flour
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup runny honey
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tbl yoghurt


Set the oven to 170º C. Combine all the dry ingredients on a large mixing bowl. The spices are just guides and you can really add whatever spices you like and have to hand. Add all the wet ingredients and beat well. Line a 5″ x 9″ bread loaf tin with baking parchment. Pour in the batter and bake in the oven for 1 hour. You may want to check it before the hour depending on your oven. If you can put a knife in and it comes out clean, your cake is ready. It will keep fine for several days but by far is best while warm from the oven with lashings of butter.  Enjoy


RESOURCES: Here’s where we got our information from and some useful links:

McGee on Food & Cooking – Harold McGee

Healing With Whole Foods – Paul Pitchford




Our oldest son is called Otis and often around the house he gets called Oatman; this wasn’t a conscious thing but when we think about it oats are a massive part of who he is. We eat oats every single morning for breakfast in one shape or another and Otis doesn’t like cows milk so he has oat milk on his oats, he has oatcakes for his snacks and when he had chicken pox he even had oat milk baths.

It turns out that oats are something of a superhero food, so it seems crazy that only 5% are grown for human consumption, the rest we feed to animals. It grows incredibly well in temperate regions and needs plenty of rain to ripen, which is why Scotland and Wales are the UK’s biggest oat growers.

Although oats are sold in 6 different forms with even more different titles; groats, Scottish, Irish, steel-cut, rolled, flakes, jumbo, oatmeal, porridge etc they are all a highly nutritious whole grain. In fact oats are one of the few whole grains everybody eats.


Like all whole grains, oats have high fiber content but specifically oats contain a type of fiber called Beta-Glucan. Beta Glucan lowers the speed at which our bodies absorb carbohydrates into our bloodstream thus stabilizing blood sugar levels and making us feel fuller for longer. On top of this Beta Glucan has been proven to stimulate the immune system to fight bacterial infections. Countless studies have shown that oats are good for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels. It has high magnesium levels, which along with the slow sugar release makes it good for people with diabetes. For hundreds of years people have been using oats for their anti-inflammatory properties in curing digestive problems and also for their soothing quality to reduce itching and sore skin, which is why Otis found himself having oat milk baths.

We often use oat milk as a dairy substitute, but be careful most dairy alternative products contain additives and preservatives that should be avoided: carragean, synthetized vitamins, sugar and vegetable oils are the ones to look out for. Saying that, if we do buy oat milk we use Oatly organic which contains only oats, water and salt. But again the best option here is to make your own, oat milk like our almond milk recipe is incredibly easy and quick to make, the only problem with homemade oat milk is it doesn’t really keep well.

We also found out that it is very hard to find truly raw oats because once processed the grains will go rancid within 3 days unless they are heat treated to over 100ºF. Therefore all oats are heat treated to varying degrees, generally the finer the oat the more it’s been heated (normally they get roasted and then steamed). However this may not be such a bad thing as we found out there is downside to oats, particularly raw oats.


While researching for this post Mu was diagnosed as being anemic (iron deficiency) so the first thing we did was to look at our diet and see how we can change it to get her iron levels back to normal. We found that all whole grains and oats in particular can stop your body absorbing iron because they are high in Phytic acid and low in Phytase.

Phytic acid is something that is contained within all whole grains, nuts and legumes, it is known as an anti nutrient because it will bind itself to important minerals in our body such as calcium, zinc and iron making them unavailable to our body. It is believed by many that a diet high in whole grains and hence phytic acid is a big cause of many dietary deficiencies.

Phytase on the other hand is an enzyme also contained within the grain or nut to varying degrees and once activated serves to neutralize the phytic acid.

Heating or cooking the oats reduces the phytic acid to some extent but it also kills off the phytase. Another way to reduce the phytic acid is to soak your oats in something slightly acidic overnight, just water and lemon juice is fine (but you must discard the soak water) or some people prefer to use live yoghurt or kefir . Many traditional cuisines soak their whole grains in this manner or they use sprouting or fermentation such as in miso and sourdough breads to neutralize the phytic acid.

All this has meant we have cut back on the amount of whole grains we eat and we soak them whenever possible and suitable. But like all things it is a question of not eating too much of anyone thing but rather having a varied and balanced diet. There is no silver bullet that will solve any one dietary problem or need.

Granola and fruit

One of our favourite things to do with oats is granola, we make a batch of this almost every week and our boys love it for their breakfast. It is so much better than any shop bought cereals, a lot cheaper and with some fresh fruits scattered over the top it really feels like a treat.

Granola Recipe

The recipe shown here is more of a guide and we suggest you make it your own according to your tastes and what you have in the house, many people like to add different grains such as wheat germ, barley flakes etc. You could add dried fruits like raisins and apricots and you could use pretty much any selection of seeds and nuts you have lying around. Often people add a pinch of salt which can really add to the flavour and make it even more moreish, just be careful not to over do it.

The important thing we’ve found is to get the right proportion of coconut oil to honey to stop it from becoming too sweet or slightly oily. Also the long slow cooking time helps to cook it evenly and form nice crunchy clusters.

  • 500g –  Oats (preferably jumbo but rolled will do fine)
  • 200g –  mixed nuts
  • 100g –  sunflower seeds
  • 75g    –  desiccated coconut
  • 3tsp  – cinnamon
  • 50g   – coconut oil
  • 200ml – runny honey
  • A pinch of salt (optional)


Set the oven to 140º C. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Melt the coconut oil and the honey in a pan then mix in with the dry ingredients.  Lay out the mixture on a large baking sheet and put in the oven for at least 1 hour. After an hour the house will smell amazing and your granola will be turning golden brown, you may need to give it a little more time but be careful not to let it go too brown or the nuts will turn bitter. Once cooked, take out and leave to cool in the tray for 10 minutes, this is where it will all cluster together. Once cool store in an air tight container. Enjoy with your homemade almond milk and some fresh fruit.

Oat and Mixed Berry Smoothie Bowl Recipe

Here is a short video guide on how to make your own delicious smoothie bowl.


  • 1/2 cup – Oat groats (soaked overnight in water with a squeeze of lemon)
  • 3/4 cup – frozen berries
  • 1/2 cup – raw almond milk
  • 2 tblsp – hemp seeds
  • 1 banana
  • Fresh fruit, granola, seeds and whatever tickles your fancy to go on the top.



It couldn’t be simpler really, just put all the ingredients in a blender and whizz them until they form a thick smoothie. Put your smoothie mixture into a bowl and top with fresh fruit, granola and pretty much anything else that you think you’ll enjoy. You can add super food powders in the smoothie mix too and a little maple syrup or honey if it’s not quite sweet enough for your taste.



We eat a lot of almonds, well not just almonds but nuts in general. The interest in almonds grew when Badj’s sister Joss brought over fresh almonds, in the shell, that she had hand picked while living in the South of Spain at Las Neuvas. The first thing we did was crack them and make a jar full of beautiful fresh almond butter, everyone joined in with the process including the kids.  Finding ourselves surrounded by these raw almonds, we decided to research more about their health benefits, nutritional value, where they come from and what to do with them.

Raw Almonds from Joss

Almonds are very healthy and versatile. They get used in thousands of ways all over the world, from the marzipan on your Christmas cake to Indian curries, from Italian amaretto to Chinese almond tea; almonds are a globally loved food source. Because they have a dietary fibre content of 12% they can be ground into flour making it perfect for people with a gluten intolerance. Almonds are a very good source of vitamin E and vitamin B, as well as being rich in essential minerals such as magnesium, copper, manganese, calcium, potassium and monounsaturated fats.

BUT one of the most interesting things we found out in our research was the importance of using raw almonds and soaking them. Almonds are amazing, they have everything they need in them to start the growth of an entire new tree, however these nutrients and vitamins are locked up by an enzyme inhibitor to protect them until the conditions are right for the seed to start growing, (isn’t nature clever). By soaking almonds, or any nuts and seeds, you trick them into thinking it’s time to start growing, this removes the enzyme inhibitor and releases all the nutrients, making them readily available. If you don’t soak nuts it means your body has to work extra hard to get through the enzyme inhibitor to get the nutrients out of the nut or seed. The other way to remove the enzyme inhibitor is to lightly roast the nuts, which does make them taste extra good but also damages the nutrients and vitamins inside. It’s also worth mentioning that most of the ‘roasted’ nuts you can buy in the shops are actually deep fried and heavily salted. Check the ingredients list and you might be surprised as to what’s also in with your nuts.


The vast majority of almonds are grown in the US and in particular California, in fact it was estimated that in 2013 80% of the worlds almonds were grown in the US. The pollination of the almond trees in California is one of the largest managed pollination operations in the world, over 1 million bee hives are brought in from all over the US to pollinate the almond blossom. Also 10% of all the water used in California is used to grow almonds. With California in the middle of a 4 year drought these thirsty little trees are causing something of a controversy.

What we found really interesting though is that in 2007 there were a couple of salmonella outbreaks that got traced back to almonds from California. Straight away legislation was passed that all almonds grown and sold in the US have to be pasteurized. Why is pasteurization bad I hear you say? Well first off there are several methods of pasteurization. The primary one used for organic almonds is steam, which heats the almonds up to 93 degrees C which as well as killing off any potential bad bacteria also kills off all the good enzymes and vitamins inside the almond. The second and most common method is fumigation treatment and this is used for all almonds that are marketed as ‘raw’ because they haven’t been heated. The fumigation is done with propylene oxide, which is a chemical that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has declared a carcinogen responsible for neurological, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and immune system dysfunctions, as well as liver disease. NOT GOOD. The Almond Board of California claims “PPO residue dissipates after treatment”. However the EPA have found traces of PPO in almonds on the shop floors.

I don’t know about you but we’d rather try and avoid that please. Californian almond farmers are allowed to sell unpasteurised almonds in small quantities ie. at farmers markets or small stalls etc. and also they can export unpasteurized almonds outside of the US, but as a consumer outside of the US it is very difficult to know if they’ve been pasteurized or not.

So the best option if you want raw untreated almonds is to get certified organic almonds grown outside of the U.S.

It turns out that Spain is the second largest grower of almonds worldwide, so when we can’t get Badj’s sister to pick us some we always make sure the ones we buy are organic and usually they come from Spain.


Now we understand a little more about this fantastic nut check our 2 minute video on how to make your own almond milk, it is so easy to make and so delicious that you won’t ever want to buy it in the shop again.


Measure 1/2 cup of organic almonds, put in a large bowl and cover with filtered water. Leave the almonds to soak for 8 hours, overnight is perfect.

Once soaked rinse the almonds thoroughly and place in a blender, food processor or a tall measuring jug if you’re using a hand blender. Add 2 cups of filtered water and blend really well until all the almonds have been crushed and you are left with a creamy white mixture.

Place a nut bag or muslin over a jug and pour the milk through the muslin. Squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible. You can now add a little sweetener and flavour of your choice to the milk. We like to add a little maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla or you can blend it with fresh fruit to make a wonderful smoothie.

Keep hold of the almond pulp that is left after you make the milk, you can store it in the fridge for a couple days or you can dehydrate it. There is still lots of flavour and good fibre which makes it perfect for cakes, muffins and our very own granola recipe which we’ll tell you all about in our next post….


Here is another video we made on how to make your own almond butter. This really is the simplest and best recipe and it makes such fantastic tasting butter, perfect for warm toast in the morning. No additives or anything just pure almonds.

Roast 2 cups of organic almonds in the oven on a low heat, (around 120 degrees) for 1/2 an hour or until you’re kitchen begins to fill with the scent of toasted almonds.

Put them in a food processor (not a blender) and process for 10 minutes. If you’re processor begins to heat up too much then give it a rest but you do need to give the almonds 10 minutes in total. There’s no need to add any oil or salt or liquid. After about 3 minutes something magic begins to happen as the oils are released and the chopped nuts turn into a butter.

Once finished place in a jar and store in the fridge. This is amazing on toast! It won’t go off quickly but you won’t be able to keep it long as it’s so delicious.


Green Almonds

If you are lucky enough to live in a place where they grow almonds, in the spring time you can pick and eat the fresh green buds that eventually turn into almonds. They have a zingy tartness similar to sorrel. This is a recipe from my sister Joss in Spain for a pesto that she only makes once or twice a year as a special treat. It is perfect for a light pasta lunch or mixed in with rice.


1/2  cup of freshly picked green almond buds

2 cloves of garlic

1 1/2 cups of fresh parsley

1/2 cup of parmesan

squeeze of lemon

a good pinch of salt

1/2 cup of olive oil.

Place all the dry ingredients in a food processor, add a little olive oil and begin to process. Keep adding oil until you get a consistency you like. Check the seasoning. You can store it in the fridge, but is best eaten straight away.


If you have more information about almonds or if you have any questions or you’ve just enjoyed this post please leave a comment for us.


RESOURCES Where we got our information from and where you can find out more:

One of our favourite blogs takes you through almond health with some great recipes:

A great piece on the pasteurization of almonds:

Good piece about shop bought almond milk:

Good piece about bee pollination and pesticides in almond farming: