The Foraging Fox Beetroot Ketchup – A Review

As I’ve recently lost a lot of weight and have adopted a much healthier way of eating, I started to reminisce about what I ate as a child. I am of an age where I can remember when “Findus Crispy Pancakes” were the latest in convenience food, not to mention Vesta Chow Mein, fish fingers and Fray Bentos pies that came in a tin!

I do recall that the one constant thing in my 1970s diet was tomato ketchup. I had it with everything and my mother reminds me (too often!) that I once embarrassed her in a restaurant when I was about 8 or 9 years old by asking the waiter for some. But then, was that so bad when you consider that my parents were probably drinking a bottle of “Blue Nun” at the time?

Anyway, since those stodgy days of my youth my tastes – thank goodness – have changed for the better. When you’re on a diet, you have to do away with rich, creamy or buttery sauces so instead I like to use a variety of condiments and sauces to accompany meals but they mustn’t be too boring and they have to taste exceptional. These days, I find that tomato ketchup can taste a little sickly and over sweet, even the ones that have a reduced sugar content. It was therefore rather timely that the producers of “The Foraging Fox” range of beetroot ketchups asked me to try their brand and write a review.

As a company, “The Foraging Fox” was launched at the Speciality and Fine Foods Fair in 2014 and the range currently consists of three flavours of beetroot ketchup: Original; Hot and Smoked. On the bottles, it confidently states, “good with everything” and so I was keen to put that claim to the test.

Before I try anything, I like to check the ingredients as I’ve become more conscious of too much sugar or salt in food products. Reassuringly, all three beetroot ketchups are 100% natural and there are no artificial colours, sweeteners or flavourings. The ketchups are sweetened with apple juice and the gloriously vibrant pinky purple colour comes, of course, from the beetroot itself.

I kicked off with the “original” beetroot ketchup so I knew what I was dealing with. I tasted it on a teaspoon first so I could really get a feel for the texture and taste. I was expecting the ketchup to be quite grainy, as beetroot has such an earthy flavour but in fact it was pretty smooth and flowed well out of the bottle. (I didn’t have to whack it on the base to get any out!)

I put a large dollop of the “Original” beetroot ketchup in a ramekin to accompany my light lunch of cheese on toast. These days I eat reduced fat cheese which can sometimes be a little bland but the ketchup gave it a real boot up the backside. My taste buds joyously welcomed a flavoursome combination of beetroot and apple plus a subtle hint of acidity from the red grape vinegar. The ketchup is not excessively sweet and paired well with the salty tang of the cheddar. You don’t see many people of my age dipping toasted cheese fingers in a little pot of bright pink sauce but I highly recommend it.

Next I tried the “hot” beetroot ketchup. This combines chilli-infused beetroot with horseradish and my initial teaspoon taster was a little deceptive. At first I thought there was a little hint of horseradish, not too peppery, and so I put some on my plate when we had steak for dinner. Well, after a couple of mouthfuls, I could definitely feel some heat and the horseradish flavour became more pronounced. However, it wasn’t too strong and really complemented the steak.

I find horseradish sauce on its own can be rather overpowering although I love the flavour so the “hot” beetroot ketchup is an excellent choice if you can’t take too much heat in your horseradish! My husband has Polish heritage and he has a “thing” about beetroot – he absolutely loves it. He’s not usually a sauce man (ooh Matron!) but he tried this and gave it a two thumbs up verdict.

Finally, I opened the “smoked” beetroot ketchup. Back in the day when my deprived taste buds existed largely on the wrong sort of food, I never thought I’d like smoked sauces. The idea seemed odd to me – why would you want to add a smokey taste to something that was perfectly good already? But….. once I’d discovered smoked paprika I was hooked and it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do after all.

In my opinion, the “smoked” beetroot ketchup has the balance of flavours spot on. It’s a subtle taste due to the beetroot being smoked rather than a liquid smoke being added to the product. This smoked beetroot ketchup would go well with barbecued food in the summer but as I was testing this on a dull day in March, I made chicken and vegetable skewers and stuck them under my grill. I thought I’d be a bit creative and as well as some ketchup in a little ramekin, I also made a dip by adding some of the ketchup to some Greek yoghurt and mixing it together with a sprinkle of dill. Oh yum! This was really delicious and again received my husband’s approval

I’d highly recommend all three of the beetroot ketchups made by “The Foraging Fox”. They go well with a variety of foods e.g. meat, cheese, eggs, vegetables and can be used with other ingredients to make dips and dressings. I have to say, I do like a food product that can be used in different ways – you feel you’re getting more bang for your buck!

All of the beetroot ketchups are gluten free and suitable for vegans and vegetarians (they have been approved by the Vegetarian Society).

Here are the nutritional panels so you can see that there are no nastiest in these ketchup:

 

 

 

Finally, I always like to highlight how any foodie products I review can be incorporated into the Slimming World eating plan, so here are the amounts of – reassuringly low – Syns in each flavour:

Original            – 1 level tablespoon                 1 Syn

Smoked           – 1 level tablespoon                 1 Syn

Hot                  – 1 level tablespoon                 ½ Syn

 

For more information or to order on line, go to www.foragingfox.com

Twitter: @theforagingfox

 

Disclaimer: the above represents my honest opinion of the beetroot ketchups made by “The Foraging Fox”, who kindly sent me samples to try. From time to time I am sent products to review and the fact they are free does not influence my reviews in any way. My reviews are always fair, unbiased and genuine and I have not been paid to write them.

 

A Brief History Of The Perfect Pork Pie

If you live in Norfolk, when anyone mentions pork pies you know they’re likely to be talking about those made by Bray’s Cottage. In 2017, Bray’s celebrates 10 years of trading and so it was an ideal time for me to meet the founder and owner Sarah Pettegree and chat to her about the porky deliciousness of her pies and sausage rolls and also find out a little more about the woman behind the brand.

After a degree at the University of East Anglia, Sarah found employment as a civil servant at the Ministry of Agriculture, working as a humble clerical assistant because “I needed a job”. The job didn’t pay particularly well and there were no career prospects but luckily Sarah later passed a Civil Service promotion board and was offered a role at HMSO (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office) which surprised her seeing as she wasn’t very good at maths: a management accounting job! There was no other offer on the horizon and so Sarah bit the bullet, learned to do the job well and eventually became a qualified Chartered Accountant.

When HMSO was privatised in 1996, Sarah was made redundant and worked in various contract positions for organisations such as Norwich Union and CITB. Thanks to experience gained in her previous job, she was able to train managers on various in-house business management systems. While this meant she was moving away from accountancy, it was also giving her an opportunity to learn how people ran their businesses. At the same time, the television programme “Dragons’ Den” was in its early days and Sarah was interested to watch the start-up process surrounding new business and whether they succeeded or failed.

Sarah had always felt the pull of the countryside and once she realised she no longer wanted to work in Norwich or London, she moved to the Norfolk countryside in 2001 and took time to think about what sort of business would be sustainable. One of her early ideas was to do something using her arty skills – Sarah had studied painting and sculpture at the Open College of Arts – but realised although it would be enjoyable, she would be unlikely to earn a living from it.

Then she thought of something food-related. A friend had a couple of saddleback pigs and the idea of making pork pies was born. Sarah felt that the traditional pork pies that were generally available in supermarkets or even butchers’ shops were all quite “samey”, with no unusual or interesting flavour combinations available.

Sarah’s pies took off and her initial sales – via a website with a mail order facility -resulted in an article being written by the Food Editor of The Sunday Times. Sarah’s first big customer was “The Green Grocer” in Norwich and in 2006, they told Sarah that her pies were their best-selling product (after potatoes). They are still a valued customer today.

 

Here’s Sarah at one of the many Norfolk foodie events she attends – doing what she does best!

 

These days, you can buy Bray’s Cottage “Pies by Post” via the website otherwise you’ll find them only at independent retailers and pubs. During any given week, Brays could be making between 1,000 and 3,000 pork pies and there are seasonal spikes at times like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. You can even buy a pork pie “wedding cake”. A small range of sausage rolls was added to the Brays repertoire when one of Sarah’s retailers mentioned that the ones available elsewhere weren’t particularly good. There are now two sizes of Brays sausage rolls and two flavours: plain and with onion marmalade. Interestingly, the onion marmalade pork pie is Sarah’s best seller. Having tasted it, I can see why!

 

 

Apart from Sarah and her partner Derek (who gave up his music career a few years ago to help with the business), there are 8 members of staff at Brays who are the “bakers and makers” of the pies and sausage rolls. Derek mostly deals with administration, book-keeping and the local deliveries although Sarah pointed out that he can also bake! Sarah now focuses on growing the business, marketing, PR and maintaining a lively presence on social media.

I asked her if there had been any low points in her pork pie career and she said the early days of setting up a small business are very challenging. You have to work really hard and it takes over your life. Now, 10 years on, Sarah said it’s more manageable now there are people to whom she can delegate and she has time to appreciate the rewards: working in a great environment, supplying a product that people love and also having fun along the way.

I asked what the future holds for the Bray’s Cottage brand and Sarah said “more of the same”. She wants to grow the mail order side of the business and link up with more Norfolk and UK wide retailers. At the moment, some of the places in Norfolk where you can buy Brays pork pies are Picnic Fayre in Cley, Back to the Garden in Letheringsett, Walsingham Farm Shop, Henry’s Coffee Store in Cromer and Blakeney Deli.

There are other stockists of Bray’s further afield too e.g. London, the Midlands, Wales and the North of England. A full list of stockists is on the website.

You can find Sarah at Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market on the first Saturday of every month (during the season) and at bigger local Norfolk events including the Aylsham Show and the North Norfolk Food Festival.

And if you want to learn how to make outstanding pork pies yourself, Sarah runs classes in Norwich. Details are on the website but spaces sell out fast.

 

 

Sarah said her life now is so different from when she used to be an accountant and she thrives on the positive comments she receives about Brays’ products. “After all”, she said, “nobody ever told me I’d produced the best spreadsheet they’d ever seen”!

 

http://www.perfectpie.co.uk

 

This article originally appeared on the Norfolk Places website.

Oodles of Healthy Noodles

One of the great things about writing a food blog is having the opportunity to review new products, kitchen equipment or food. I was recently asked to try “Mr Lee’s Noodles” which are marketed as “Gourmet Oriental Noodles in a Cup”. They are gluten-free, and contain freeze-dried ingredients which retain flavours better once reconstituted  – as opposed to dehydrated – with “absolutely no nasties”. And there’s more – they’re low in salt, low in sugar, low in saturated fats and low in calories. All well and good but would they also be low in taste?

I was keen to put them to the test as I’m always on the lookout for healthy options for food on the go but first I thought I’d better see what the competition was like so I trotted along to the supermarket to see what I could find. It seemed that a popular and not too expensive variety was “Pot Noodle” and there are apparently at least a dozen different flavours to choose from. I selected the Chicken & Mushroom – here it is:

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And here’s the nutritional information on the back of the pot:

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It’s disappointing for someone who’s trying to eat more healthily to see palm fat and monosodium glutamate in a list of ingredients and what exactly do things like potassium carbonate and disodium inosinate add to these noodles? If I don’t know what it is, I’m certainly not going to eat it.

So onto the noodles provided by the team at Mr Lee’s.

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I spent a week trying out the six available flavours (noodles almost every day!) and you can see below what I thought of them. It’s worth bearing in mind that I’ve never tasted any other brand of instant cup noodle (I only photographed the chicken and mushroom Pot Noodle – it then went back on the supermarket shelf because the ingredients really put me off) so I couldn’t do a direct taste comparison with other noodles on the market. I took photos of the nutritional information panels of each Mr Lee’s flavour and there are indeed no “nasties” such as monosodium glutamate or palm fat. I’ve also calculated – for any Slimming World members who may be reading this review – the amount of Syns per pot and Mr Lee’s Noodles are reassuringly low Syn.

As I’m a bit of a chilli wimp, I thought I’d start with a flavour that was classed as ‘mild’ ( one chilli rating) – Hong Kong Street Beef. Mr Lee’s consist of rice noodles which I find are a lighter option than wheat noodles.

Here’s the nutritional panel:

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Here’s what they looked like when I’d made them up:

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You can see the decent sized pieces of beef (which actually tasted of beef and not some indeterminate meaty substance) , broccoli and red pepper and the noodles softened very well but weren’t soggy. There was more than a subtle hint of chilli – I’d say 5/10 in the heat stakes – and the flavours of ginger and five spice were evident in the light, savoury sauce. The sauce had a clean, fresh taste and wasn’t over salty. Slimming World Syn value – 2 Syns per pot

Next I tried the Shaolin Monk Vegetable noodles.

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This flavour is suitable for vegetarians but not vegans as it contains honey. This flavour has no chilli rating. It had a good selection of vegetable pieces with cauliflower, green beans, red pepper and sweetcorn being particularly evident.

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Although five spice, garlic granules and yeast extract were listed as ingredients, they didn’t come through that well. Overall, this pot was quite bland and while not unpleasant, it was a little disappointing as I thought the variety of vegetables – including usually more robust porcini mushrooms – would add more flavour. Perhaps a little chilli would have livened it up. Slimming World Syn value – 1 ½ per pot

Next came the Warrior Fighting Shrimp flavour.

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Now this flavour was rated “3 chillis” so I was prepared for quite a whack of heat.

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What came through very strongly at first was the five spice and the fish sauce and the hit from the chilli came soon after and numbed my taste buds somewhat – so much so that I couldn’t really distinguish any other flavours. The prawns were quite plump and you could see spring onion and seaweed flakes but for me, the chilli overwhelmed them. I think a “medium / two chilli rating” would have allowed the other elements to shine a little more. I found the chilli levels in this pot a little too challenging – perhaps a 9/10 heat factor – and would recommend having a large glass of water nearby. Due to the amount of chilli in this and the very fishy taste (as opposed to a more delicate seafood flavour), this was my least favourite of the noodles I tried and I didn’t finish the pot. Slimming World Syn value – 1 ½ per pot

The first of two chicken varieties I tried was the Tail Chi Chicken.

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Once made up, this pot had quite a strong smell of chicken (not artificial) and the pieces of meat were clearly visible along with sweetcorn and green beans.

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There was a noticeable hint of ginger which balanced the overall flavour and it reminded me – in a good way – of chicken and sweetcorn soup that I used to eat in Chinese restaurants, back in the day. This had no chilli in it but there was a gentle warmth from the ginger and plenty of flavour without it. Slimming World Syn value – 2 per pot

Next I chose the Dragon Fire Mushroom pot.

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This had a rating of three chillis like the Warrior Fighting Shrimps and so I prepared myself with a glass of water and an electric fan – just in case. (Actually, I’m joking about the fan!) Reassuringly there were a lot of mushrooms in this pot along with red pepper pieces.

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When made up, the vegetables looked very substantial and the mushrooms weren’t slimy once reconstituted. The liquid was very well absorbed so it was less “soupy” than the other varieties I tried. This pot had a mild savoury taste with a hint of wild garlic and surprisingly, given the three chilli rating, wasn’t as hot as I’d anticipated. I’d say it had an 8/10 chilli factor and as a result I managed to finish all of it. Slimming World Syn value – 1 ½ per pot.

The final pot of Mr Lee’s Noodles was Penang Chicken Curry Laksa which had a two chilli rating so I expected a manageable medium heat.

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When prepared, this pot had a good mix of chicken pieces, cauliflower and red pepper.

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The ingredients included coconut cream but I couldn’t really taste is as the predominant flavour was curry powder – which was fine but I’d hoped the coconut would have had more of a presence. I’d give the heat from the chilli a 6/10 rating. I felt this pot had a good ‘clean’ flavour and the curry taste didn’t linger on my tongue afterwards. Slimming World Syn value – 2 per pot

 

Having sampled all six varieties of Mr Lee’s Noodles, I would recommend them for occasions when you have to grab lunch on the go. Of course, I’ve given my honest opinion on each of the flavours based on what I like and the fact that I can’t eat food with too much chilli.

Mr Lee’s Noodles would be a good cupboard standby for times when you can’t always cook from scratch e.g. when you’re at work as all you need is a kettle. All varieties are gluten-free and some flavours are suitable for vegetarians.

Slimming World members – Mr Lee’s Noodles are only 1 ½ or 2 Syns per pot whereas standard pot noodles (any brand) are at least 5 Syns – and may contain several unhealthy ingredients and fillers too. As far as ‘fast food’ goes, Mr Lee’s Noodles are a healthy option that you can easily incorporate into the food optimising lifestyle.

 

Mr Lee’s Noodles (and there is a real Mr Lee behind them) are not currently available in supermarkets but you can buy them online at: www.mrleesnoodles.com.

 

 

Disclaimer: I was sent a box of Mr Lee’s Noodles in return for an honest review. The above reflects my genuine opinion of the product.

 

JosephJoseph Spiro Spiraliser – Product Review

People who follow ‘The Little Pink Kitchen’ on social media are aware that in the last year I’ve lost a lot of weight at Slimming World – over 5 stone. As a result, I’ve recently changed the focus of my blog from baking (which I love but it isn’t good for my waistline) to healthy eating – although this doesn’t mean that I’ll never eat cake again!

When I say ‘healthy eating’, I don’t mean anything faddy just fresh food that is prepared from scratch in a healthy way (low fat / low sugar etc) but without compromising on flavour.

It was therefore very timely that I was contacted by JosephJoseph who asked if I’d like to try their new 3 in 1 hand-held spiraliser – called Spiro – and write a review. As I’m already a fan of the brand, I had no hesitation in saying yes and yesterday I spent some time playing around with the spiraliser and a selection of vegetables. Oh, and some cheese was involved too.

When you purchase the spiraliser, it looks like this:

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Out of the packaging, there are 5 components which include 3 different blades: a coarse and a fine spiralising blade and a grating blade. The soft grip lid is easy to turn and it has 2 guide arms that keep the food straight when you twist it.

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The spiralised or grated food is then collected in the clear container which means you don’t get bits of vegetables over the worktop. What’s really handy is how compact the gadget is: when not in use the three blades stack on top of each other and the whole thing takes up hardly any space in a cupboard or a drawer.

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I selected vegetables with different textures (courgette, peeled carrot and peeled butternut squash), washed them and trimmed them into straight pieces. JosephJoseph recommends that for the best results, the vegetables should measure roughly 3 inches x 1 ½ inches (8 x 4 cms).

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JosephJoseph provides clear instructions on how to use the spiraliser:

  1. Cut food into straight pieces with flat ends
  2. Select blade type – take care as they are sharp!
  3. Place food in the centre of the blade disc and push down onto the spindle in the centre
  4. Place the lid on top and insert the guide arms into the slots
  5. Twist the lid clockwise and push downwards to spiralise. (Try and keep a constant pressure as you twist.)

I started with the courgette and used the fine spiralising blade. While the courgette went through easily enough, the resulting spirals were very small and quite watery so I changed to the coarser blade and this gave thicker and very long courgette spirals. You can see the difference in the photograph below. I patted the spirals dry with kitchen towel afterwards as they have a high water content and I didn’t want them to go soggy.

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Next, I tried carrot on the fine blade and again, it worked well although I didn’t get very long spirals. On reflection, this was due to the fact that my carrot was a bit too skinny and once on the spindle, didn’t reach all of the blade. Note to self: next time buy fatter carrots! You can see the result of using a carrot that was too thin in the photograph below although of course it’s still edible.

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After this, I used the butternut squash with the coarse blade and given that my pieces were not round, the resulting spirals were good. There were one or two shorter ones but on the whole, the butternut squash ‘spaghetti’ came out very well as you can see in then photograph.

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I had intended to try beetroot as well but I couldn’t find any in the supermarket but as in its raw state it is quite hard, I’m sure it would have spiralised well. I’m not sure if it would stain the gadget though so that’s something to be mindful about. Sweet potatoes would also be a suitable vegetable to spiralise.

I’ve eaten a lot of vegetables during my weight loss journey with Slimming World and it’s always good to find new ways to serve them. I really like raw veggies in salads and when they’re spiralised they look so pretty and are easier to eat and digest. Here’s a photograph of my beautiful spiralised vegetables just before I put them in the fridge.fullsizerender-19-copy

We had spiralised raw vegetable salad with our dinner last night with a little lemon juice and a sprinkle of herbs and red jalapeno flakes. My husband added some olive oil to his portion and I have to say, the glistening veggies looked extremely appetising. They would have been equally as good lightly stir-fried with some garlic and perhaps a dash of soy and / or sweet chilli sauce.

One of the latest food trends is to have spiralised vegetables instead of traditional pasta (giving a low carbohydrate option) and in this case, they just need a quick steam for about a minute. Any longer and they will turn to mush so don’t overcook them.

Finally, I tried the grating blade with a chunk of hard cheddar. The cheese went through the grater like butter – very smoothly indeed. You really don’t have to apply a lot of pressure at all on the lid to get good results which makes it ideal for people who don’t have a lot of strength in their wrists or hands.

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Overall, I was impressed with the JosephJoseph Spiro spiraliser and I’d rate it as follows:

 

Ease of use:                5/5

Easy to clean:              5/5

Easy to assemble:       5/5

Easy to store:              5/5

 

I have previously used another brand’s hand-held spiraliser – one that is described as being operated with a ‘pencil-sharpening’ motion. That one didn’t have its own container and I actually found it quite hard work turning it so it’s currently languishing in the back of a drawer.

I’ve also seen the somewhat clunky spiralisers that you have to assemble that then sit on a worktop, taking up a lot of space. While these might be quite useful for large households, they aren’t particularly attractive and they are quite cumbersome especially as you have to crank a handle to work them. These tend to be recommended by some of the high profile but not always nutritionally qualified ‘clean-eating’ brigade and are quite expensive compared to the Spiro.

In my opinion, the Spiro would be an ideal addition to your kitchen if you have young children as it would certainly encourage them to eat more vegetables. For a two person household like mine, I found it quick and easy to spiralise a few vegetables for us and the clean-up was also fast. The Spiro can be put in a dishwasher although it’s easy to wash it in the sink. I love the fact that all the parts stack up together into a compact little unit which can be easily stored. The Spiro will not be languishing in the back of my cupboards, that’s for sure.

 

You can find the Spiro spiraliser in good cook shops and online at: www.josephjoseph.com. The retail price is £16.

 

A note for Slimming World members (like me) – the Spiro will really encourage you to eat more speed vegetables so do think about buying one.

 

Disclaimer: JosephJoseph sent me a Spiro Spiraliser in return for an honest review. After thoroughly testing it, I was genuinely impressed with it and I will continue to use it. If you’re thinking of purchasing one, I’m happy to discuss my review in more detail with you via email: littlepinkkitchen@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Juicing – A Product Review

When I was asked to review the L’Equip XL Juicer I was rather excited as I have spent silly money in the past buying bottled or commercially made ‘fresh’ juices (I get suckered in at places like Planet Organic or Wholefood Market) so I thought it was an ideal opportunity to have a go myself. My only concern was that the juicer in question might be really high tech because I’m a simple soul and like kitchen equipment to be straightforward and easy to use. (You have to remember that I started work back in the days when telex machines were all the rage, we had no computers and used carbon paper to make copies of typed letters!)

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With that in mind, I was pleased to find that when I took the juicer out of the box, it was already put together and I only had to remove some packing paper. I was also very happy to see that the only ‘control’ was the on-off switch – nothing complicated at all. The essential components are also dishwater friendly which is a bonus.

The L’Equip XL Juicer comes with quite a large container for the pulp which is extracted but you provide your own glass or jug to collect the juice from the small spout. It also comes with a ‘pusher’ with which you press down on the fruit and vegetables to facilitate their progression through the juicer. The juicer as a whole is rather compact which makes it suitable for kitchens where space is at a premium.

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Having rummaged in the fridge and my fruit bowl, I decided to make two juices: carrot, orange and ginger and then apple, courgette and spinach. While I do like freshly squeezed fruit juices, I find that adding greens and other vegetables makes them more robust and filling and of course, we are always being reminded that we should be consuming more vegetables. To give my juices a bit more ‘ooomph’, I also selected some other ingredients, namely turmeric powder and nutmeg. (I found a courgette after I’d taken the photo!)

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My next step was to wash, peel and cut the fruit and vegetables into big chunks. The L’Equip juicer has a wide feeding tube but it’s easier to push items through if they are even sizes. I didn’t bother about removing pips or cores from the fruit as I knew they would be removed during the juicing process and end up in the pulp container. I peeled the oranges though as the skin and pith can be quite bitter and could have potentially challenged the juicer a bit too much.

Then I was ready to go! With the fruit and vegetables on a chopping board next to the juicer, I switched it on and started feeding through the carrots, orange chunks and a 2cm piece of unpeeled ginger. I also added ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder because I like the subtle taste and warmth it gives. I pressed down on the pusher to ensure everything went through smoothly and added more oranges and carrots and repeated the action. It only took a few seconds and the bright orange juice started coming out of the spout straight into the waiting glass. It’s worth mentioning that I felt the juicer wasn’t too noisy although obviously I’ve never had one before to compare it to.

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I then made a second juice with the apples, courgette (well it was sitting in the fridge with no other purpose in mind!) and spinach plus a dash of nutmeg powder. The instructions for the juicer advise that if you use leafy greens, you should roll them up into a more solid ball so I made the effort to squash the spinach up as tightly as I could. This juice was a beautiful vivid green and it’s sad that a lot of people won’t even try a green juice purely because of the colour. You really don’t taste the spinach – or the courgette for that matter – so I’d suggest trying it.

I had wanted to try a juice with kale – as it’s such an up and coming vegetable – but unfortunately my local supermarkets didn’t have any apart from the chopped curly variety but the chunks of stalk aren’t good for juicing – too bitter & really hard.

Once I’d made the juices, it was time to wash the juicer. Dismantling it was really simple and I easily washed the parts in the sink, dried them and quickly reassembled the machine ready for next time. I’m keen to try other juices with ingredients like beetroot (good quality ready-made beetroot juice is really expensive to buy in the shops), blueberries and mangoes which I’ve had in home-made smoothies before. Smoothies are very filling – especially if they are so thick you almost have to chew them – but over spring and summer it’ll be good to have the lighter option of juices.

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The pulp that resulted from the two juices that I made was pretty dry which indicates that the juicer does a very good job of extracting as much juice as possible. Rather than waste the pulp I’ll use it to make vegetable soup or vegetable patties, which is a benefit you don’t get from shop-bought juices.

Overall and bearing in mind I’m a juicing novice with nothing to compare this model to, I’d rate the L’Equip XL Juicer with pulp extraction as follows:

Easy to use:            5/5

Easy to clean:         5/5

Easy to assemble:   5/5

A note for any followers of ‘Slimming World’ (like me) – when you make fresh juice it does contain Syns. I’ve checked these on the Slimming World app and generally you have to calculate 1.5 – 2 Syns per 100mls of fresh fruit or vegetable juice which isn’t excessive in my opinion so you could treat yourselves to an occasional fresh fruit or green juice every once in a while without affecting weight loss. Making your own juice is so much better than buying it from a shop because there are no added preservatives or bulking ingredients.

One final point – I’d recommend drinking the juices within 15 minutes of making them as they can discolour if you leave them too long (green juices have a tendency to look a bit ‘muddy’ if left although the flavour is unaffected). If you decide to make a juice and keep it in the fridge overnight, it may separate but will be fine once you stir it.

 

Disclaimer: Steamer Trading provided me with the L’Equip Juicer in return for an honest and objective review. The above represents my genuine opinion of this product and I’d be happy to discuss my first juicing experience further with anyone who is considering buying one. I can be contacted via email: littlepinkkitchen@hotmail.com.

 

The juicer is available to purchase here:  https://www.steamer.co.uk/electricals/juicers-blenders/l-equip-215-xl-juicer.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 -A Review

As we rapidly approach 2017, I thought I’d take some time to review my significant moments of the past year and consider what I learned from them.

As many of you know, we relocated to North Norfolk in December 2015 so for us, 2016 promised to be an exciting year. We bought a house in March and moved in just after Easter. After living in south London for almost 20 years and inhaling relentless diesel fumes, encountering the ‘angry brigade’ with alarming regularity – you know, the road ragers, the commuter ragers, the supermarket queue moaners – and being bombarded by constant noise, it has been a joy to live in a small, quiet village in the country.

We wake up to glorious silence, only broken by the occasional squawk of the pheasants or the singing of the gentler dawn chorus. What a change from our previous house which being on a rat run meant traffic noises started early, drowning out the sounds of any wildlife which dared to rear its head. Our Norfolk neighbours are friendly and always stop for a chat. Very different from say, Croydon, where if you caught anyone’s eye they’d look at you as if you were an axe murderer. Or maybe they were afraid you’d identified them as one. We support local shops and farm producers where possible and I’m sure things like potatoes taste more ‘potato-ey’ than if you buy them in a supermarket. I’ve attended various Farmers’ Markets in the area and have made contact with small, local food producers, deli owners, cafe and restaurant owners and others who are putting Norfolk on the foodie map of Great Britain. While we’re not quite leading the ‘Good Life’ (no goat called Geraldine in our garden), it’s certainly a vast improvement on our previous one.

We’re fortunate that following the move and the down-sizing involved, I’m able to work on a part-time basis while my husband stays at home as the ‘Domestic, Garden and Cocker Spaniel Manager’. In our early 50s, we’ve finally discovered the meaning of ‘work-life balance’ and it’s an excellent feeling. We bring home less money but we’re so much happier. So many well-known people have passed away in 2016 with some not that much older than us. Who really wants to work until they drop or drop before they’ve even had a chance to enjoy life? Hubby and I both had near death experiences in the last few years: he had an undiagnosed heart problem in 2012 that was almost fatal and in 2013 I was involved in a road traffic accident that nearly polished me off. As a result we decided that the time was right to take life by the horns and enjoy whatever time we have left. That’s why we’re now in Norfolk and loving it.

Once we’d settled in to our new house, I thought I’d better find a job which wasn’t as easy as it would have been in London given that my area of HR is a bit specialised, but I persevered. After a couple of false starts in jobs that weren’t right for me (memo to self – never take the first offer or the second if it’s worse than the first), I found my ideal position working as an HR Manager for a local animal sanctuary. It’s a big change from my previous HR roles in corporate type organisations: I’m based in a shed on a farm, there’s a lot of mud, and I have to walk 200 yards to a portacabin loo which can be a challenge when it’s minus 4 degrees outside or bucketing down with rain! As I write this during my lunch break, I’m wearing a woolly hat, fingerless gloves, a thermal vest, a thin fleece, a thicker fleece over the top, tights under my trousers, thick socks and walking boots. This is ‘office chic’ Norfolk country style. No more early morning decisions about what shirt to wear or whether I need to iron a suit for meetings. I may look like a bag lady – the grey hair probably doesn’t help – but I’m warm (mostly) and still getting the work done. And, even better, I have an outstanding view across the fields: I see happy cows; horses; sheep; pigs; goats and I get frequent cuddles and licks from puppies in the dog rescue centre. Unlike when I worked for a well-known telecommunications company or an equally prominent clothes, food and home goods retailer (not just any retailer, you know the one), I feel I’m doing something worthwhile and not just increasing share-holders’ profits.

The other significant change in my life is ending 2016 almost 5 ½ stone lighter than I was in January. After 30 years of yoyo dieting, the odd cranky eating regime (I don’t recommend the grapefruit and hardboiled egg diet) and even the very low calorie liquid diet that knocked off 7 stone in 6 months (regained within 18 months), I found Slimming World and it has completely changed my life.

People who have never been overweight, fat, morbidly obese, or even slightly porky will never be able to understand quite how it affects the lives of people who are. I’m generally seen as an outgoing, lively person but underneath the formerly fat, seemingly jolly exterior was a desperately unhappy individual with low self-esteem and a high level of self-loathing. If I couldn’t love myself, how could I expect anyone else to? I was very fat, extremely miserable and a compulsive eater. All this psychobabble about ‘comfort eating’ is a load of tripe in my experience. I’d eat when I was happy (to ‘celebrate’), upset (to ‘compensate’) or stressed (to ‘calm down’). I’d eat when I was hungry and when I wasn’t. Eating didn’t cheer me up or comfort me – it made me feel even worse but I was caught in a never-ending cycle and genuinely believed it would never change. While I did lose weight on the ‘good’ diets I tried such as WeightWatchers and Rosemary Conley, I was always hungry. Calculating ‘points’ was time-consuming and you had to buy all the WeightWatchers paraphernalia in order to do it. I lost a stone in 2015 having attended WW for about 8 weeks but lost the will to live at that point and gave up.

When I joined Slimming World in Norfolk on 5th January 2016, I didn’t expect to have the success I’ve achieved. I thought I’d probably last a couple of months and then it would go the way of other fruitless weight loss attempts. How wrong I was. Once I’d got to grips with the plan I was off – and so were the unwanted pounds. I attended the group every week and made lots of new friends, all fighting the same battle as me. With Slimming World, there is minimal weighing and measuring of food and you can eat satisfyingly large amounts and still lose weight. Of course, over 30 years of bad habits don’t disappear overnight and I’ve had the occasional wobble when chocolate or cake has called to me very loudly but I’ve always got back on track very quickly and continued to lose weight. At the time of writing this, I’ve lost a total of 6 stone 4 ½ lbs since March 2015. By the end of March 2017, I’m certain I will have reached my target (1 and a half stone to go) and I know that I won’t ever be the fat, fiftyish, frumpy friend again because I have changed my eating habits for life thanks to Slimming World. If I can do it, anybody can. My only regret is that I wasted time and money on all those other diets over many years and ended up chunkier than ever.

One thing I’m disappointed about was not keeping up with my blog in 2016 as much as I’d planned. The house move, job hunting and the diet took up most of my time and the blog – which largely featured cakes and baking when I started it – took a back seat. I’m hoping to change that for 2017 as I enjoy writing and have quite a few ideas for new posts. I need to learn a few more technical things about WordPress and may need to upgrade so that I can do things with widgets and plug-ins (finding out what they are will be my first priority!). The focus will still be food – obviously – but geared towards healthier eating while not compromising on flavour. I plan to continue interviewing local Norfolk food producers for the blog and a Norfolk travel website, undertake product reviews and lots more.

So what did I learn in 2016? Firstly, that there is life after London and that moving to the country has benefitted my health, well-being and self-esteem enormously. Secondly, looking for a job can be challenging especially when one is over 50 (ahem!) but with some positive thinking and creative approaches, the right job is out there so never lose heart. Finally, you can change your life for the better, whether it’s a new house, a new job or a new body. In one short year, my life has improved beyond my expectations and I will be eternally grateful to every single person who has helped me along the way.

I wish you all an adventurous 2017 and hope that you achieve your dreams – they are within reach. They really are.

 

Review: Purition Wholefood Shakes

I’m definitely not a ‘gym bunny’ and exercise – apart from occasional bracing walks with the dog – has never played a major part in my life despite having a husband and son who rave about the joys of keeping fit. You may therefore be surprised to hear that I was recently sent some samples of ‘wholefood protein shakes’ to try by the people behind the “Purition” brand.

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Purition claims three uses for its wholefood shakes: 1) for gym, cardio & training support; 2) for healthy eating purposes and 3) for diet & fat loss. Well, that last category is what interested me as when I reflect on my past, I seem to have been one of life’s permanent dieters. And yes, I’m aware that being on a ‘permanent’ diet means that whatever I’ve been doing for the last few years hasn’t been working. I’ve tried a lot of ‘weight reduction’ programmes in my time including WeightWatchers (all those points to calculate and I was still hungry), Atkins (who wouldn’t love a diet where you could eat bacon every day?) and LighterLife (I lost almost 7 stone in 6 months but then went back to my poor eating habits and piled it back on within 2 years).

I’m currently attending a well-known diet club and I’m doing well on it (almost 4 stone gone since January) but I’m finding that sometimes my meal planning goes a bit haywire or I have to dash off to a job interview and don’t have time for breakfast or lunch. Now when you are easily tempted by food that tastes nice (usually involving fat, carbs and lots of sugar) but has absolutely no nutritional value, missing a meal is not the way to go. So what to do?

That’s where I’ve found Purition shakes invaluable. Unlike some brands that contain fillers and things with unpronounceable names (acetylated oxidised starch anyone?), Purition contains ‘real’ ingredients such as nuts, seeds, nutritional yeast and vanilla. Because the shakes contain fibre, you stay full for at least 4 hours which meant that once I’d had a shake for breakfast, I didn’t experience any  “mid-morning munchie moments”. This is a very significant thing for someone like me as feeling hungry when on a diet is usually what derails me.

Here are the ingredients found in Purition shakes:

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And here are the ingredients found in one range of ‘diet’ shakes (where you have 3 shakes a day, tons of water and no other food at all):

exante ingredients

I think you’ll agree there’s quite a difference in the respective contents and from a nutritional point of view, Purition definitely has the edge!  (Apologies for the poor photographs.)

I liked all the Purition varieties I tried especially the macadamia and vanilla. The flavours are subtle and the shakes are made from genuine ingredients and don’t contain cheap fillers and artificial flavourings. The texture is somewhat coarser than a basic protein powder and for some people this may take a little getting used to but it’s good because once you’ve blended it – I used my Nutribullet – with the milk of your choice (cow / soya /almond etc), it thickens up due to the fibre content so each shake is really substantial. If you leave the shake for a while, you may need to eat it with a spoon as it will continue to thicken but that’s not a bad thing.

For anyone wanting to try out Purition for weight loss, on the website there is a 7 day meal plan whereby you’d have two shakes a day plus a snack as well as an evening meal. Information about the shakes for people who exercise is also on the website, of course.

For more information and how to acquire a sample pack of the protein shakes, have a look at the website: www.purition.co.uk

 

 

Disclaimer: I received some free samples of Purition shakes in return for an honest review. This post reflects my genuine opinion of the Purition products and I would definitely recommend them to anyone who, like me, has struggled with their weight. Purition offers a healthy and convenient meal replacement option and a website that gives lots of advice and support.