Fig and honey smoothie

fig and honey smoothie

Since making the Cheeky Monkey smoothie, we’ve been experimenting with all kinds of fresh juices and smoothies at Chez Bangers. This one is currently one of our favourites.

I wasn’t sure my children would like the idea of a smoothie made from dried figs, so I told them it was a honey smoothie. They gulped it down in seconds and demanded another. They also asked whether there was chocolate in it. I guess that’s partly due to the colour, but the fig does give it a lovely richness which isn’t all that dissimilar to a chocolate smoothie.

So if you’re trying to encourage your children to consume a little extra fruit and fibre, this smoothie could be a good way to go…

fig and honey smoothie

Fig and honey smoothie

Serves 2

50g dried figs, roughly chopped
250ml milk
1 tbsp rolled oats
1 tbsp runny honey

Place the figs in a glass and cover with milk, around 50ml. Leave in the fridge for 2-3 hours, or even better overnight, to allow the figs to become all plump and squidgy.

Simply pour the figs, along with the milk in which they have been soaking, together with the rest of the milk, oats and honey into a liquidiser and blend well until smooth.

fig and honey smoothie

As my fig and honey smoothie is a great way to sneak some extra goodies into your children’s diets (and your own while you’re at it), I’m entering it into January’s Family Foodies challenge, where the theme is Hidden Goodies.

family-foodies

The cheeky monkey smoothie

cheeky monkey smoothie

A delicious smoothie packed full of goodness – plus your chance to win one of eight Passion 4 Juice recipe books

If one of your New Year resolutions was to take a healthier approach to food, then starting the day with a delicious juice or smoothie is surely one of the easiest way to pack in a whole heap of goodies. For the last couple of weeks, this is what I’ve been doing and I feel fantastic. I’m gradually working my way through the Passion 4 Juice recipe book, created by my good friend Trish Tucker-May, which features some brilliant recipes for juices and smoothies made from both fruit and vegetables.

Together with her husband Joe and two young sons, Trish spends half the year in the UK taking their mobile juice bar from one festival to another, and then the other half of the year she does the same but back in her homeland of Australia. Now doesn’t that sound like an amazing way to live? Before she headed off to warmer climes down under, she gave me some of her fabulous recipe books to give away to readers of Bangers & Mash. I’ll tell you how you can get hold of a copy at the end of the post, but first over to Trish to tell you a bit more about why she loves juicing…

“I feel really lucky as we leave the UK and head Down Under for the summer of festival fun. Spending six months in the UK and six months in Australia, keeping people healthy at festivals, is an unusual but rewarding way to live my passion. But it seems right to me as I get to go home and see family and friends. Also escaping the UK winter has its benefits!

“I have been juicing and making smoothies for 30 years now and I love introducing people to new taste sensations. Here are some other great reasons to make juices and smoothies every day:

  • Best way to fulfil daily recommended fruits and vegetables
  • Rapid intake and assimilation of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, enzymes and antioxidants in the body
  • Very cleansing/detoxifying – assists in the removal of toxins
  • Weight loss
  • Very alkalizing – diseases thrive in acidic conditions
  • Clears the mind and balances moods and blood sugars
  • Improves your complexion
  • Increased energy
  • Improves your hair, skin and nails
  • Improves your overall health.

“Why not kick-start each day with a taste sensation that will revitalise, inspire and rejuvenate you? With our on-the-move lifestyles and chaotic schedules, it is difficult to find the time to prepare and consume a meal that has sufficient energy and nutrients to sustain a balanced and healthy way of life. Quick and wholesome refreshments, rich in vital nutrients, are in high demand. This is the kind of daily boost we need.

“If it’s a tangy wake-up call, a smooth pacifier or a zesty jump-start you’re after, your personalised fresh pressed juice will do the trick.

“In the Passion 4 Juice book,  I have collected some of our bestselling recipes, plus some of my favourite juices and smoothies from around the world. This handy little book is in a wipe clean format, so it doesn’t matter if it gets splashed with juice. Keep it next to your juicer or blender and have a bit of fun trying some of my favourites.”

As I mentioned, I’m enjoying working my way through the Passion 4 Juice book. My favourite juice concoctions so far have been The Morning After featuring ginger, carrots and pineapple and Buzz Juice with apples, celery and beetroot.

And the whole family loved this gorgeous smoothie recipe from Trish called The Cheeky Monkey, made with almond milk, banana, raw cacao, dates and spices. We served ours cold over ice, but Trish recommends this served warm as a lovely winter warmer. We also left out the chilli from the children’s helping.

cheeky monkey smoothie

The Cheeky Monkey Smoothie

1 banana
1 cup of freshly made almond milk
a pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon and chilli – the stronger for me the better
1 heaped tbsp raw cacao
1 tbsp peanut butter
3 dates

Blend all the ingredients in a liquidiser, and then warm in a pan on the stove top – don’t overheat but give it just a bit of warmth so it stays raw and delicious. This should warm you up on the coldest of winter days.

Win the Passion 4 Juice recipe book

All you have to do to win one of eight Passion 4 Juice recipe books is leave me a comment below, providing your ideas for new smoothie or fresh juice combinations. Trish will select her eight favourites to receive a prize.

The closing date for entries is Sunday 2 February 2014 and please note that books can only be shipped to UK addresses.

I can’t wait to hear your suggestions!

Mulled cider with a spicy chilli kick

mulled cider

This post first appeared in the Wells Journal on Thursday 19 December 2013.

Perhaps it’s a sign my roots are now well and truly planted in the West Country but I much prefer mulled cider these days to mulled wine. Red wine, in my opinion, is best drunk as it is. Cider though is just lovely served warm with festive spices. In my version, I add chilli, peppercorns and star anise for an extra spicy kick.

I encourage you to use a traditional farmhouse cider and not some of that cheap, fizzy stuff, which Julian Temperley of the Somerset Cider Brandy Company recently described to me as “industrial cider”.

According to Temperley, the cider world has become divided between the craft ciders, where up to 20 varieties of local grown apples are pressed and blended, and these ‘industrial’ newcomers, essentially apple-flavoured alcohol, rapidly replacing the gap left by alcopops on the drinks market.

Cider has been pressed on Temperley’s farm at Burrow Hill for the past 150 years, amidst 160 acres of cider apple orchards.

More discerning cider drinkers do care about the provenance and integrity of the product. Andrew Quinlan of Orchard Pig reports a growing demand for cider “that not only tastes good but also tells a story, with strong heritage and character.” Nearly all Orchard Pig’s apples are grown locally, although Quinlan says they do “allow a few foreign ones from Dorset and Devon that make the grade.”

It’s not just us Brits who appreciate a glass of farmhouse cider. “We are truffling out new fans in far off corners of the world,” says Quinlan, “as Orchard Pig plants its trotters in places such as Finland, Australia, Holland and Singapore. All this from making my first barrel in my garden shed as a hobby in 2004!”

The Hecks family have been making farmhouse cider in Street since 1840 and they continue to use the old traditional methods of cider making to this day. This is the local cider sold in our village shop and it was one of their vintage ciders I used for this recipe.

Last week saw the funeral at Pilton Church of Frank Naish, who at 89 was Britain’s oldest cider maker, using what is thought to be the oldest cider press in the country. Temperley describes him as a fine example of a true cider maker and a wonderful ambassador for Somerset cider. Please raise a toast to Naish as you drink a cup of warming mulled cider this Christmas.

mulled cider

Mulled cider

Makes 6 to 8 cups

1 litre Somerset cider
500ml apple juice
2 tbsp honey
3 star anise
4 cloves
A few peppercorns (I used Indonesian long pepper)
1 tsp dried Ancho chilli (or any dried chilli you prefer – I like the smoky flavour of Ancho)
2 cinnamon sticks (I used cinnamon and cassia bark)

Simply place all the ingredients in a large pan and heat gently for about quarter of an hour. Do not let it come to the boil. You may need to strain it through a small sieve as you serve.

Cheers and merry Christmas!

spice trail badge square

Cinnamon is one of the spices used in this mulled cider, and so I’m entering it into December’s Spice Trail challenge.

Sloe gin – because good things come to those who wait

sloe gin Collage

Patience is a virtue they say. Good things come to those who wait. But I happen to be a rather last-minute kind of girl and a little on the forgetful side. Forward-planning doesn’t come naturally to me. This sloe gin is a case in point.

I had every good intention to make friends and family bottles of sloe gin for Christmas presents this year. We have a large blackthorn in the garden, which has been bursting with berries this autumn. I thought I had plenty of time. However, here we are, already in mid-November and my sloe berries are still sat in the freezer having been picked at the weekend, and of course sloe gin takes at least two months (preferably three months) to make.

So then I thought, well I can cheat. There’s always a shortcut to everything these days, isn’t there? I Googled ‘quick sloe gin’ and found a couple of posts suggesting you could bake the sloes for a little while in the oven to get the maceration going. But when I looked through the reader comments, I wasn’t impressed to see remarks about “ending up with jam rather than gin” and “what a waste of good sloes”.

sloes

It would seem there are no shortcuts. Sloe gin is slow gin for a reason. And I’m prepared to wait for it. I just need to figure out what to make for Christmas presents instead…

sloe gin

Here is the sloe gin we bottled last autumn. It really is beautiful stuff. Sweet and syrupy, almost medicinal-tasting, it must surely be good for you? I love to drink mine neat, or in a gin and tonic.

And here is how I made it last autumn. You can picture me making it again this weekend, giving us something to look forward to come the New Year, once all the festivities are over. There’s really not that much to it. It’s simply a waiting game.

Sloe gin

450g sloes
225g caster sugar
1 litre gin

Prick the skin of the sloes with a needle and pop them in a large sterilised jar or bottle. Pour in the gin and sugar, seal tightly and give it a really good shake.

Hide it away in a cool cupboard and shake every couple of days for the first week. Then shake it on a weekly basis for the next two to three months – the longer you leave it the better.

Finally, use muslin to strain the sloe gin into sterilised bottles.

Cheers!

sloe gin and tonic

Strawberry and honey super smoothies

Strawberry super smoothie

We slurp our way through a fair few smoothies in our house. They’re the perfect way to use up ripe bananas, especially when it’s way too hot to consider baking banana bread, and they are a brilliantly healthy start to the day. Although saying that, quite often our smoothies are rather indulgent, especially when my husband makes them with lots of vanilla ice cream.

This strawberry and honey super smoothie is of the healthy variety. It features a couple of spoonfuls of rolled oats, making it extra thick and creamy and perfect for a fuel-filled breakfast.

And of course they’re ridiculously easy to make, which is essential first thing in the morning.

strawberry super smoothie

Strawberry and honey super smoothies

2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
400g strawberries, hulled and chopped
4 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp rolled oats
1 pint ice cold milk

Simply pop all the ingredients into your food blender and whizz until smooth and frothy. That’s it.

Serve alongside your bowl of cereal or dippy eggs and soldiers for a top brekkie.

strawberry super smoothie

Because these super smoothies are so easy to rustle up and contain this month’s trio of ingredients (honey, oats and berries), I’m entering them into the Recipes for Life challenge, which I also happen to be hosting.

wpid-swallow-recipes-for-life.jpeg

July is the penultimate month for Recipes for Life. Each month we challenge food bloggers to create tasty, healthy and easy-to-make dishes using three key ingredients.

I’m running the challenge on behalf of a brilliant charity called SWALLOW, which supports adults with learning difficulties. Their cookery club will have a go at making the recipes themselves and the best ones will be included in a new cookbook later in the year.

Perhaps you’d like to get involved in the challenge? Find out more here.

 

Simple banana smoothie

Normally my children have pretty healthy appetites, so when they tell me they’re not hungry that’s a sure-fire sign they must be poorly.

Over the past couple of weeks both my girls have been a bit ill – and my husband too – and so I’ve turned to the good old smoothie to make sure I get some sustenance into them. Even when they’re feeling pretty grotty, they can generally manage a glass or two of smoothie.

Of course these smoothies are too good only to have when illness strikes and they’re a brilliant way to use up those over-ripe bananas. You can also add any soft fruit you happen to have in. We keep a bag of berries in the freezer and I like to chuck in a handful or two of those. But here’s the basic banana recipe.

Simple banana smoothie

Serves 4

3 or 4 bananas
4 tbsp plain or Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp runny honey
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 pints of cold milk

Chop the banana into a blender or smoothie maker and add the rest of the ingredients. Simply whizz up until smooth and serve to your patients.

Peanut butter and jelly super smoothie

I adore smoothies. They’re so easy to make and, for me, they constitute the perfect breakfast on those days when I don’t really fancy eating all that much. They’re great for kids when they’re feeling poorly and off their food. And this particular super smoothie, with the addition of oats, is an ideal post-run drink to give me a much-needed energy boost when I’m absolutely exhausted.

Peanut butter and jelly (jam to us Brits) is the most wonderful combination. I think I could probably live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches if I could get away with it. It also works really well in this super smoothie. With the oats and banana it makes for quite a substantial smoothie; pretty much a meal in a glass.

While I’d usually use milk and yoghurt in my smoothies, I’ve come up with this recipe for Blue Diamond using their unsweetened Almond Breeze almond milk. It’s free of sugars and has less than half the calories of skimmed dairy milk and half the calories of soya milk, which makes it a great alternative for those wanting to avoid dairy and/or live a healthier lifestyle.

Peanut butter and jelly super smoothies

Makes two glasses

1 banana, peeled and roughly chopped
200g strawberries, hulled
60g rolled oats
3tbsp peanut butter
3tbsp strawberry jam
275ml Almond Breeze almond milk

Simply place all the ingredients in a liquidiser or smoothie maker and blend until smooth. Pour into two glasses and enjoy as a super healthy start to your day.

Disclosure: I was provided with a free sample of Almond Breeze so that I could develop a recipe for their competition.

Homemade lemonade

This afternoon the girls and I made our own lemonade after school, as I happened to have some extra lemons that needed using up.

Yes I know it’s December, but lemonade doesn’t have to be the preserve of hot summer days.

I actually think all that vitamin C makes it a very sensible winter drink.

You don’t need much and it couldn’t be easier to make, especially if you’ve got children around who love to squeeze the lemons for you.

Lemonade

750 ml hot boiled water
4 lemons
100g caster sugar
Ice

Peel the zest from all the lemons in wide strips and put in a heatproof jug with the caster sugar.

Pour in the hot water and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Add lots of ice and then the juice of the four lemons.

Strain into a separate jug to remove the pips and zest and when fully cooled serve over ice. Lovely served with some chopped mint.

Mulled fruit punch

It was the Christmas Fair today at my daughter’s primary school and as a devoted PTA committee member I was tasked with organising a non-alcoholic version of mulled wine to serve with mince pies.

This was a bit of a tall order as for me the whole point of a mulled drink is that it’s warming and boozy. But eventually I came up with this little number and you know what, it’s really rather good. It turns out you can have a Christmas drink that’s warming and non-boozy after all. Which is probably a good idea when you’re in charge of hundreds of children under the age of eleven.

Non-alcoholic mulled fruit punch

3 litres apple juice
3 litres cranberry juice
3 oranges, sliced
4 cinnamon sticks
5cm ginger, peel and chopped
Handful of cloves
Handful of star anise

This couldn’t be simpler. Into a large pan, pour in the apple juice and cranberry juice. Add the orange slices and spices and bring to simmering point. Keep just under boiling for about ten minutes before serving. People will come running when they smell those spices that just sing out “It’s Christmas!!!”

family-foodies

 

This non-alcoholic mulled punch is perfect for children at Christmas time, so I’m entering it into the Family Foodies Kids Christmas challenge over at Eat Your Veg.