Banana Flapjacks

This is a simple plant-based flapjack recipe, that holds together really nicely. Using bananas, dried fruit and maple syrup means you don’t need to add crazy amounts of refined sugar.


Ingredients:

  • 3 bananas
  • 250g organic oats
  • 75g mixed seeds (sunflower/ pumpkin/ chia)
  • 75g dried cranberries
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C
  2. Take a large bowl and mash the bananas up with a fork
  3. Melt the coconut oil gently in a saucepan until it becomes liquid
  4. Add the coconut oil, maple syrup, coconut, seeds, dried fruit and oats to the banana mash
  5. Mix together thoroughly
  6. Transfer the mixture into a shallow baking tin lined with baking paper and use your fingers to spread the mixture evenly into the tin
  7. Bake for 30 minutes and then place onto a wire rack to cool

 

 

Bonfire Night Parkin

I was a bit unsure whether to post this recipe, as it’s not exactly healthy. To make it more in keeping with the Natural Born Fitness ethos, I’ve modified the traditional Northern English recipe quite a bit, omitting the muscavado sugar completely, and substituting the butter and cow’s milk for olive oil and rice milk respectively. Best to use it as a delicious seasonal treat or as comforting hill food.


Ingredients:

  • Olive oil – 100g
  • Treacle (or molasses) – 100g
  • Golden Syrup – 100g
  • Self raising flour – 200g
  • Ground ginger – 3 tsp
  • Ground cinnamon – 1 tsp
  • Bicarbonate of soda – 1 tsp
  • Pinhead oatmeal – 100g
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Oat milk – 120ml
  • Stem ginger – 1 tablespoon – chopped
  • Optional: apple puree – 1 tablespoon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 150 °C
  2. Line a square cake tin with baking paper
  3. Place the oil, treacle and syrup in a small saucepan and heat gently until completely mixed together
  4. Remove and allow to cool
  5. Add the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda, oatmeal and stem ginger to a large bowl and mix together
  6. Gradually stir in the cooled treacle/syrup/oil mixture
  7. Next stir in the beaten egg, oat milk (and apple puree if using) until you get a smooth mixture
  8. Pour the batter you’ve created into the cake tin
  9. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 30 mins
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool
  11. Ideally you should store the Parkin for a few days before eating (good luck with that)

 

Masala Chai

Masala chai is a milky, spiced Indian tea. It’s delicious on a cold, rainy autumn or winter’s day, and also as a warming drink for your flask when out in the hills.

A variety of spices can be used and the ratios are really down to personal preference, but the mainstays are usually cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom and fennel or star anise.


Ingredients:

Makes 4 cups

  • Almond/ rice/ soy milk – 2 cups
  • Water – 2 cups
  • 10 cardamom pods
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 1 star anise
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cloves
  • 4 large slivers of fresh ginger
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pinch of rose petals
  • 2 teabags
  • 1 teaspoon honey per serving – optional

Instructions:

  1. Add the milk, water and spices to a large saucepan
  2. Bring to a gentle simmer over a low heat
  3. Add the teabags and allow to infuse for a few minutes
  4. Strain the tea into mugs
  5. Add a small amount (teaspoon or less) of honey to sweeten
  6. If you use non-dairy milks such as almond or rice (which are naturally sweet) you don’t really need to add much, if any, sweetener

 

 

Eating for the Planet

Image: www.eatforum.org

Are you confused by all the contradictory dietary advice out there?

Should you go low fat or low carb? Vegan or paleo? Ketogenic? Mediterranean? Pescatarian?

The truth is, it’s extremely difficult to prove that there’s one universal diet that’s superior to all others, certainly in terms of its effects on health and peak performance.

One thing is clear, we shouldn’t be eating the prevailing low quality Western diet, which is high in refined sugar, processed and red meat and saturated fat. This pattern of eating has resulted in 2 billion people being overweight or obese, and has fuelled the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer (1,2).

In reality, many people will derive significant health benefits if they stick to a few simple, evidence based food principles.

However, if we really want to answer the question of “what should we eat?” then we must also consider planetary health, as this is inextricably linked to our own health and survival.

And when we take the planet into consideration, the answer is very clear: we should eat a plant-based diet.

This is the conclusion of a number large-scale, mainstream scientific studies (3,4,5), including the recently published literature review by the EAT-Lancet Commission (1).

So why is a plant-based diet best for the planet?

To answer this we need to look at our current system of food production, which we now understand to be the single largest contributor to environmental degradation.

Food systems account for up to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions(1,3,5). However, climate change is only part of the story. Food systems drive a range of serious environmental issues that now threaten human health and survival, including biodiversity loss, eutrophication and depletion of fresh water supplies.

Food production is the largest cause of global land-use change, with 40% of terrestrial land used for crops and grazing. This has resulted in massive biodiversity loss, to the extent that we are witnessing the Earth’s 6th Mass Extinction Event. Species are being lost 100-1000 times faster than the natural background rate. 80% of extinction threats to birds and mammals are due to agriculture (1).

The impact of humans and our agriculture is now so great that it has drastically altered the make-up of global biomass (the total weight of living matter in a given area).

Humans comprise just 0.01% of Earth’s total biomass, but our impact is disproportionately large; 96% of all mammals are either humans (36%) or our livestock (60%) – mainly cattle and pigs. Only 4% of mammals are wild. 70% of all birds on the planet are farmed poultry. Only 30% are wild (6).

Food production is responsible for 78% of eutrophication (1,5). This refers to the excessive application of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilisers, which are washed off into streams and rivers, causing algal blooms and hypoxic conditions in freshwater and marine ecosystems, which results in widespread coastal “dead zones,” devoid of aquatic life.

In areas where fish still exist, 60% of the world’s fish stocks are now fully fished, and 30% are overfished. Catches by global marine fisheries have been declining since 1996 (1).

The overall negative impacts of our food systems are very clear, but we still need to eat. So what we really want to know is: which food products are ecologically sustainable, and which are harmful.

To answer this, Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek performed the largest study to date of the impacts of agriculture on the environment, and their results were published in Science in 2018 (5).

They undertook a global analysis of data from 38,700 farms in 119 countries, looking at 40 food products, in terms of their effects on five key environmental indicators: greenhouse gas emissions, land use, acidification, eutrophication and freshwater withdrawals.

They found that even the most sustainable animal products exceed the average impacts of plant protein. As a result, if we were to switch to a plant based diet, it would reduce land use by 76%, greenhouse gas emissions by 49%, acidification by 50%, eutrophication by 49% and freshwater use by 19%.

In countries such as the UK, Australia and the USA, where meat consumption is 3 times the global average, the effects would be even greater.

The authors concluded that moving from a meat-based to plant-based diet has “transformative potential” and that avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way we can reduce our ecological impact.

But what exactly should we eat? What does a diet that is both healthy and ecologically sustainable look like?

This key question was finally addressed by EAT-Lancet Commission (a joint project by the Norway based NGO EAT and the Lancet Medical Journal), which undertook an extensive literature review and published its results earlier this year (1).

They came up with a universal healthy reference diet, or Planetary Diet, which is predominantly plant-based, provides 2500 kcal per day, and consists largely of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and unsaturated oils. It specifies a low to moderate amount of seafood and poultry, and no or low amounts of red meat, processed meat, added sugar, refined grains and starchy vegetables.

In practice, the Planetary Diet is similar to a Mediterranean or Okinawan Diet, which for many Europeans represents quite a shift in the way they eat. It would involve a 77% reduction in red meat consumption (by allowing only 1 beef burger per week), 15 times more intake of nuts and seeds, 2 servings of fish per week, 1-2 eggs per week, and 1 glass of milk per day (or 250g of full fat milk products).

So, having read this, are you now going to adopt the Planetary Diet, or perhaps go completely vegan? Maybe not…

Behavioural change is notoriously difficult. Even if there was widespread acceptance of the problems associated with our current level of consumption of animal products, awareness of an issue is no guarantee that people will adopt a more sensible path, as most health practitioners will attest.

This is certainly true for plant-based dietary change, probably because for many societies, eating animal products is the traditional, dominant eating pattern. A rejection of meat represents a rejection of social norms. It’s also important to appreciate that food confers much more than nutritional needs. It’s a source of pleasure, personal identity and economic status. In many developing countries eating meat is aspirational and symbolic of wealth. For some people, meat is associated with masculinity.

This is borne out by studies of public perceptions surrounding food impacts and dietary change, which suggest that there can be scepticism of the scientific evidence, resistance to the concept of reducing meat intake, and that non-food related behaviour change is deemed more acceptable (7).

However, eventually a threshold is usually reached, beyond which our resistance to change is overpowered by the realisation of the gravity of a situation, accompanied by a sense of urgency; such as when a patient receives a diagnosis of a life-threatening condition and finally feels compelled to make radical lifestyle changes. Perhaps as a society we are approaching that point with environmental degradation and non-communicable diseases.

Recently it feels as if the tide may be turning, with the global support for Greta Thunberg and the climate strikes, the Extinction Rebellion protests, and the increasing cultural acceptability of plant-based eating.

Make no mistake, we have very little time left to limit climate change to a survivable level and prevent further irreversible biodiversity loss. We urgently need to make transformative changes if we hope to do this, and there is no doubt that a global shift towards healthy, plant-based diets represents a very powerful tool.


If you still need some convincing, or are finding it difficult to make the leap to a more plant-based lifestyle, here are a few tips and suggestions:

First, watch the movie “Cowspiracy” (you can find it on Netflix).

Start experimenting with plant-based eating. There are now tonnes of resources out there (even confirmed omnivorous chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver are jumping on the bandwagon). The key is to find a tribe that suits you.

Personal favourites:

  • River Cottage Veg Everyday and Much More Veg
  • The Happy Pear
  • Thug Kitchen (Eat like you give a f*ck)

Get inspired and check out some incredible plant based athletes, for example:

  • Rich Roll
    • Ultra-endurance athlete
    • Author of Finding Ultra
    • Host of The Rich Roll Podcast
  • Scott Jurek
    • Elite US ultrarunner
    • Author of Eat and Run

References:

  1. Willett W, Rockström J, Loken B, Springmann M, Lang T, Vermeulen S, et al. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Lancet. 2019 2019/02/02/;393(10170):447-92.
  2. Afshin A, Sur PJ, Fay KA, Cornaby L, Ferrara G, Salama JS, et al. Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. The Lancet. 2019;393(10184):1958-72.
  3. Aleksandrowicz L, Green R, Joy EJM, Smith P, Haines A. The Impacts of Dietary Change on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Land Use, Water Use, and Health: A Systematic Review. PLOS ONE. 2016;11(11):e0165797.
  4. Clark M, Tilman D. Comparative analysis of environmental impacts of agricultural production systems, agricultural input efficiency, and food choice. Environmental Research Letters. 2017 2017/06/01;12(6):064016.
  5. Poore J, Nemecek T. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science. 2018;360(6392):987.
  6. Bar-On YM, Phillips R, Milo R. The biomass distribution on Earth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2018;115(25):6506.
  7. Macdiarmid JI, Douglas F, Campbell J. Eating like there’s no tomorrow: Public awareness of the environmental impact of food and reluctance to eat less meat as part of a sustainable diet. Appetite. 2016 2016/01/01/;96:487-93.

 

Buddha Bowl – roasted vegetables, chickpeas, satay sauce

I think I could eat a Buddha Bowl every night of the week. Endless variations on a simple theme: one third grains, one third veggies and one third protein. Then top it off with a delicious sauce.


Serves 4

Ingredients:

Carbs/ Grains

  • Brown rice – 1 cup
  • Quinoa – 1 cup

Veggies and protein

  • Medium broccoli – half
  • Medium cauliflower – half
  • Medium carrots – 2
  • Red capsicum – 1
  • Chickpeas – 1 tin (approx 230g)
  • Cumin – 2 teaspoons
  • Coriander – 1 teaspoon
  • Smoked paprika – 1 teaspoon
  • Cayenne pepper – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Tamari/ soy sauce – 1-2 tablespoons
  • Garlic – 2 cloves
  • Lime -1 squeezed
  • Avocado – 1 chopped

Satay sauce

  • Almond/ peanut butter – 1/2 cup
  • Warm water – 1/2 cup
  • Japanese rice vinegar – 1/4 cup
  • Tamari (or soy) sauce – 2 teaspoons
  • Sesame oil – 2 teaspoons
  • Honey – 1 teaspoon
  • Lime juice – 2 teaspoons

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the rice and quinoa and place in a saucepan
  2. Cover with water and bring to the boil
  3. Once boiling, reduce the heat to minimal, place a lid on the saucepan, allow to cook for approximately 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the grains to absorb for another 10 minutes or so.
  4. Meanwhile, roughly chop up the brocolli, cauliflower, carrots and capsicum and place in a baking dish
  5. Add the drained chickpeas, spices and tamari to the veggies and mix together well
  6. Place in the oven (at 180°C) and cook for 20 minutes
  7. Meanwhile, make the satay sauce…
  8. Mix together the nut butter and warm water until it has a smooth consistency
  9. Then add the tamari, sesame oil, rice vinegar, honey and lime juice and mix together
  10. After 20 minutes in the oven remove the veggies, add the garlic and mix together
  11. Bake for another 10-15 minutes
  12. Remove the veggies and make your Buddha Bowl…
  13. Place the rice and quinoa mix at the bottom of the bowl and cover with plenty of the baked veggies
  14. Top with a few table spoons of the satay sauce and some chopped avocado
  15. Finally add a few teaspoons of lime juice

 

Avocado Chocolate Mousse


If the tofu based chocolate mousse doesn’t do it for you, try this avocado based version. Most people seem to credit Laura Coxeter as the inspiration for this recipe and I would certainly agree. I first saw her when she appeared on River Cottage a few years ago and made a raw chocolate ganache tart. This is just a simplified version.

Serves 4


Ingredients:

Mousse:

  • 2 large ripe avocados
  • Coconut oil – 50g
  • Cacao (or cocoa) powder – 70g
  • Maple syrup (or honey) – 2 tablespoons

Optional base:

  • Pecans (or almonds or walnuts or just use a mixture!) – 1/2 cup
  • Dates – 1/2 cup

Instructions:

  1. If you’re making the biscuity base, place the nuts and dates in a blender and blend until finely chopped
  2. Scrape out the mixture and put aside
  3. Gently heat the coconut oil in a pan so it melts. Allow to cool.
  4. Now place the avocados, coconut oil, maple syrup and cocoa powder in the blender
  5. Blend until smooth. This may take a few minutes.
  6. Place a large spoonful of the base mixture at the bottom of a glass (or bowl) and press it down firmly
  7. Add a few spoonfuls of the mousse mixture on top
  8. If you wish, you can add a third layer of berry compote – just heat a few handfuls of frozen berries in a pan until soft and mushy
  9. Repeat steps 6-8 for the remaining 3 portions
  10. Place the 4 glasses in the fridge for an hour or two and then serve

 

 

 

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Avocado Chocolate Mousse
Servings
Servings

Chocolate Mousse

A rich, nutty, chocolate mousse. There are other takes on the plant-based chocolate mousse but this one is a favourite, and uses silken tofu as the secret ingredient. Don’t let this put you off! (but check out this recipe for avocado chocolate mousse as well)


Ingredients:

(Serves 4)

Mousse

  • Silken tofu – 300g (drained)
  • Smooth nut butter – 100g
  • Maple Syrup – 1 tablespoon (substitution – honey)
  • Dark Chocolate –  100g (melted)
  • Chia seeds – 1 tablespoon (optional)
  • Fine sea salt – pinch

Berry Compote

  • Mixed frozen berries – 1 cup
  • Honey – 1 tablespoon (optional)

Instructions:

  • Place the tofu, nut butter, maple syrup, melted dark chocolate, chia seeds and salt in a food processor and blend until smooth
  • Spoon the mousse into individual bowls, cups or glasses (spatula also required)
  • For the compote, heat the frozen berries (+/- honey) gently in a  saucepan
  • Stir gently to prevent sticking
  • Allow to cool
  • Place a few spoonfuls of compote on top of the mousse
  • Leave in the fridge for a couple of hours before eating

 

 

 

 

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Nutty Chocolate Mousse
Servings
Servings

Tofu and veggie scramble

This is a great plant-based alternative to the usual go-to option of eggs on toast for breakfast or lunch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of scrambled or poached eggs, just not all the time. We also need to get over our preconceptions about tofu – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it provides an extremely useful source of healthy protein, and is very tasty when cooked properly, especially with an asian style sauce.  Stir-frying tofu works well; marinading and baking it is even better.


Ingredients:

  • Olive oil – 1 tablespoon
  • 1 small red or brown onion -finely diced
  • 1 small cauliflower – chopped into small floret
  • 1 red capsicum – diced
  • 2 handfuls of kale – roughly chopped
  • 225g block of extra-firm tofu – roughly chopped into walnut size pieces
  • Garlic – 2 cloves
  • Fresh ginger – 1 inch block – grated
  • Tamari  or soy sauce- 1 tablespoon
  • 1 carrot – shredded
  • Fresh coriander – 1 handful – roughly chopped

Directions:

  1. First drain the tofu, wrap it in kitchen roll and place between two plates or small chopping boards. Now place a weight on top to help compress the water out. Allow 30 minutes for this if possible.
  2. Get a large frying pan or wok and cook the onion in the olive oil for a few minutes
  3. Now add the cauliflower, red capsicum and kale and stir fry for 5 minutes or so (try not to overcook the veggies)
  4. Then add the garlic, tofu, tamari and ginger, and cook for another few minutes
  5. Finally stir through the shredded carrot and coriander 
  6. Serve wrapped in flatbreads or on toast

 

 

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Tofu Scramble
Servings
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Christmas Stollen

Stollen is a rich, stodgy, fruit bread, laced with spices and marzipan, traditionally baked at Christmas-time in Germany.  This version is very loosely adapted from a Bake Off recipe, but with significantly less caster sugar and uses extra virgin olive oil instead of butter.

Ingredients:

(Makes 2 Stollen)

  • Dried instant yeast – 1½ teaspoons
  • Caster sugar – 1½ teaspoons
  • Plain flour – 200g
  • Strong malted flour – 300g
  • Salt – 1½ teaspoons
  • Extra virgin olive oil – 75g
  • Milk (any sort) – 300mls
  • Currants – 100g
  • Raisins – 100g
  • Dried cranberries – 50g
  • Dried apricots – 50g
  • Ground all spice – ¼ teaspoon
  • Cinnamon – ¼ teaspoon
  • Nutmeg – ¼ teaspoon
  • Ground star anise – 1 pinch
  • Ground cloves – 1 pinch
  • Ground green cardamom pod seeds – 1 pinch
  • Marzipan – 200g
  • Icing sugar – 2 teaspoons

Instructions:

  1. Place the yeast, sugar, flour, salt, olive oil and  milk together in a large bowl
  2. Mix and knead for about 5 minutes
  3. Now mix the dried fruit and spices together in a large bowl and then add the dough
  4. Continue to mix and knead until the fruit and spices are integrated and the  dough is nice and supple
  5. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1-2 hours, until the dough has roughly doubled in size
  6. Then take your dough and divide into two equal portions
  7. Take one portion and roll it out into a rectangular shape approximately 20cm x 40cm
  8. Now take the half the marzipan (100g), and roll this out as well, so that it is also rectangular but slightly shorter; about 20cm x 35cm
  9. Place the rolled out marzipan on top of the rolled out dough, matching the 20cm sides
  10. Now roll up the dough/marzipan mix in the direction of the longest side to make a fairly compact log
  11. Repeat steps 7-10 with the remaining dough and marzipan
  12. Place the logs on a baking tray, cover and allow to rise in a warm area for another 45-60 mins
  13. Preheat your oven to 160°C
  14. Bake the stollen logs in the oven for approximately 1 hour (check they don’t burn)
  15. Once cooked, remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool
  16. When the stollen is cool, brush the top and sides with olive oil and dust with icing sugar
  17. Leave until completely cool before cutting and eating

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas Stollen
Servings
Servings

Pecan and cranberry cereal bars


Ingredients:

  • Puffed rice – 2½ cups
  • Pecan nuts (chopped) – ¼ cup
  • Cranberries (dried) – ½ cup
  • Honey – 1/3 cup
  • Tahini – ½ cup
  • Coconut oil – 3 tablespoons

Instructions:

  • Mix puffed rice, nuts and berries together in a large bowl
  • Place the honey, tahini, coconut oil in a saucepan and heat gently until just boiling
  • Remove from the heat and carefully pour over the dry mixture
  • Mix together and transfer to a slice tray
  • Compact the mixture down
  • Allow to cool, then place in the fridge for a couple of hours
  • It’s then ready to be sliced into cereal bars

Substitutions:

  • Puffed millet and puffed oats can be used instead of rice
  • Try different combinations of fruit and nuts eg. chopped dried apricots, dates, dried banana, almonds, walnuts, pistachios etc