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When we moved into our new house in February just been, there was a run-down little veggie patch by the front door. I looked at it in dismay – I had just left behind the gorgeous wooden planter box that Ev built for me the year before at our last rental – and then proceeded to ignore it every time I walked by it. The box was cheap plastic, the soil full of weeds and the dried out remnants of what was once a zucchini plant were splayed out on a trellis.
After a couple of weeks, I looked at the “garden” tab of the house folder the previous owners had left us and got a little shock. Apparently, the veggie patch was full of leeks, chives and kale. Yum. I checked the garden again and there were the leeks and chives, hidden among the weeds; no kale, though, it obviously hadn’t made it through the winter. There was one problem, though. There was grass growing up throughout the chives and the leeks were apparently planted next to some small agapanthus, whose leaves look a lot like a leek but are not edible. Why on earth? Anyway, it was still February, so these hardy little plants hadn’t begun to flower yet. I was reasonably confident that I could tell them apart from the bulb/lack of bulb (agapanthus vs leek) but, to be sure, I wanted to see the flowers.
Finally, the leeks and agapanthus flowered a week ago and last weekend we decided it was time to get rid of the sad little veggie patch and replace it with a lawn, instead. Unfortunately, our backyard is surrounded by pine trees and gets very little sunlight, so I understand why they chose the front yard for the veggie garden – I just wouldn’t have done it in quite the same way. Also, because our backyard gets basically no sunlight, the “lawn” is about 95% weeds, so we’re going for a forest/path/hidden surprise backyard with shade loving plants and we want to get as much lawn out of the front yard as possible. But I digress. Even after ditching the leeks that were growing so close to the agapanthus that they were intertwined (and all the chives, because they were thoroughly knotted together with grass and nobody had time to sort that mess out), we had a sink-full of leeks. I’m not even kidding, our extra deep, double-sized kitchen sink was overflowing.
This wasn’t even half of what we kept, which was half of what was there. Please excuse the weeds, the garden is a work in progress.
What on earth could we do with so many leeks? It’s warming up, so it’s no longer really soup weather and simply processing the leeks and freezing them seemed like a cop out. A few weeks ago we had watched an episode of No Reservations (Anthony Bourdain’s show) and they had dipped leeks into chimichurri. Why not make leeks into chimichurri, instead?
Chimichurri is a very versatile sauce. It’s primary use is for grilling meats but you can use it as a dipping sauce, a condiment, a sandwich spread (mixed with mayo – yum!), a pasta sauce, a salad dressing, to spice up omelettes and add flavour to mashed potatoes. You can also use it as a base from which to build an entirely new sauce. It’s definitely handy to have around, as it allows you to cut some corners during dinner prep – I won’t say no to that!
Makes about 600 ml of sauce, depending on how firmly packed the leeks are.
Place the garlic oil (or actual garlic if you can tolerate it), roughly chopped leek tips and red wine vinegar into the bowl of your food processor and blitz until combined. Add some salt and pepper (and the optional herbs if you like) and keep blitzing until smooth. Taste the chimichurri, then add in more salt and pepper (or garlic oil or red wine vinegar) to get the exact taste and consistency that you like. We like ours a little thicker, so feel free to add more oil if you see fit.
That’s it. It’s very simple. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks, or freeze for up to two months. It’s especially important to practise safe food handling if you’ve used an homemade infused oil, due to the risks of botulism that rise when infused oils are stored incorrectly/for too long. Store bought infused oils have been prepared in such a way that they have a much longer shelf life.
But please don’t let that put you off making chimichurri! The simple measure of freezing extra jars right away will keep the sauce safe for a couple of months. I know our batch won’t last longer than that, and it made 10 jars. It’s that good.
Here is our leek chimichurri, served with a yolk porn-worthy poached egg on top of polenta and wilted spinach. Simple, delicious and nourishing. The perfect meal.
About a month ago, Jesse and Kate Watson of Nicer Foods contacted me and asked me if I’d like to test drive their newest product. Given how much I liked their last effort (chocolate peanut butter flavoured protein bars, mmmmmmmm…….) I of course said yes. Please realise, though, that the opinions here are my own; even though they very generously sent me a full-sized version of each of the four flavours, I was not bound to give them a good review.
Firstly, 10 points to Gryffindor – I mean Nicer Foods – for great customer service; they have always replied promptly to my enquiries and these little beauties reached me just two days after I agreed to review them, in a well padded parcel.
For the uninitiated, the low FODMAP diet restricts garlic and onion, among other foods, based on their high quantities of fermentable carbohydrates, known as fructans (or fructooligosaccharides/FOS, part of the O group), which aren’t absorbed in the small intestine, so travel on into the colon, where your resident gut flora digest them, leading to gas production, bloating, cramps and altered bowel movements. You know, exactly what you want to read about in the review of a gourmet food product. Sorry.
For the less than savoury reasons mentioned above, those following the low FODMAP diet for relief of digestive complaints will eliminate garlic and onion varieties, which for some might seem like the end of the world for their taste buds. However, luckily for us, FODMAPs are water soluble, so foods like garlic and onion can be sauteed in oil until their flavours have seeped in, leaving the fructans behind. This means that oils infused with the essences of higher FODMAP foods can impart the flavour into your meals, without the FODMAPs. Sounds great and easy enough, right? Well, the down side to this is that you really shouldn’t store your homemade infused oils; you can make them but only if you plan to use them right there and then. Botulism, a potentially fatal bacterial infection, is caused by the food-borne bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which thrives in low oxygen, alkaline, warm environments – just like infused oils.
Personally, I’m not happy to risk a case of Botulism to have the convenience of homemade infused oils lying around and, while I’m happy to throw a couple of garlic cloves into simmering oil when I’m cooking, I most likely won’t be bothered when I am making a heat-free-prep meal, like dips or salad dressings.
So, what to do? Supermarkets and websites sell varieties of infused olive oils that we can take advantage of. But what makes Nicer Foods’ infused oils stand out from the crowd? Firstly (and most importantly), they are made with the intention of being completely FODMAP friendly, so you don’t have to worry about garlic or onion “juice” getting into the oils, like you do with others. Have you ever seen the garlic infused oils on the supermarket shelves that have bits of garlic sitting at the bottom? Chances are you may react to that particular oil – depending on how sensitive your gut is. Secondly, they taste great – more on that later – and thirdly, I’d happily support a family owned start up company over a chain-brand that probably doesn’t care as much about quality control and its customers.
So, to the oils!… Which are available online for purchase at Nicer Foods’ website for a reasonable price.
Great taste, a little strong but pleasant. It works wonders as a simple salad dressing with a pinch of sea salt or as part of a cooked meal. Just beware, though, that as it’s an “extra virgin olive oil,” (EVOO) I’d keep your heat low, so don’t use it while stir frying, or simply add it in at the end of the cooking process.
I like the shallot oil so much that it has earnt it’s own pouring spout. If I had to pick, it’d be my favourite.
A pleasant and mild garlic flavour. I’ve tried store bought garlic oils before and some have had an obnoxious garlic taste but this one, thankfully, does not.
Pictured here in a green leek chimichurri sauce.
Refreshingly zingy. I like the other oils a lot, too, as the steadily emptying bottles can attest – but this one speaks to my inner baker and dessert-aholic. The flavour reminds me of a lemon biscuit (cookie) that my Gran used to buy and that I now want to replicate. I wish it came in a bigger bottle!
Herby! I love the versatility of this oil. Good quality oil – as are all the others – that can be used in a variety of ways.
All in all I can safely say that I recommend these oils. The team at Nicer Foods has done a great job. The fresh flavours, combined with no ill reactions on my behalf, and a friend’s rave review of my shallot oil/sea salt salad dressing (“That’s all that was in the dressing?!”) makes this a win-win product in my books.
Hi guys, I’m really excited to announce that I was asked to write an article about fructose malabsorption for Suggestic, a website that deals with nutrition, food intolerances and restaurant suggestions. Well, apparently I was a little enthusiastic – I didn’t want to miss anything – so I needed to split the article in two. I have already shared part one, so here goes part two:
“Last week I talked about fructose malabsorption, its link to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the similarities it shares with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). This week, I will expand on the “fructose friendly” dietary management strategy for fructose malabsorption – the complete low FODMAP diet – that is gaining traction as the frontline dietary method for combating IBS symptoms.
IBS is generally understood as a long-term or recurrent disorder involving the function of your gastrointestinal system, usually due to imbalances of intestinal motility, function and sensation, leading to symptoms of digestive distress. It is a common occurrence in Western countries, with up to 30% of the population being affected at some point in their lives, women generally more-so than men.
What are FODMAPs?
“FODMAPs” is an acronym that stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols and describes a group of readily fermentable carbohydrates that are not well absorbed in the small intestines of some people; if these carbohydrates are not broken down and/or transported through the intestinal wall and into your blood stream, they continue down into your colon, where the resident gut bacteria digest them, leading to a build-up of certain gases and short chain fatty acids, which can alter the water content of your large intestine. These products of fermentation are the causes for the wind, bloating, abdominal cramps/pain and altered bowel movements that you associate with your fructose malabsorption, lactose intolerance or IBS.
The list of FODMAPs includes:
There are hydrogen/methane breath tests that can check whether you malabsorb fructose, lactose and/or sorbitol but the other FODMAPs must be properly eliminated and then tested with a reintroduction trial (outlined below) to know whether they are causing your symptoms…”
Once again, let me know what you guys think! I sincerely hope I didn’t miss anything out – I’m planning on writing more about the links between carbohydrate malabsorption and nutrient deficiencies soon, when I have some time over the holidays.
Thank you for taking the time to read it! Have a great weekend guys – and stay tuned for the easy to make chocolate peanut butter cookie ball recipe that’s very coming soon.
Hi guys, I’m really excited to announce that I was asked to write an article about fructose malabsorption for Suggestic, a website that deals with nutrition, food intolerances and restaurant suggestions. Well, apparently I was a little enthusiastic – I didn’t want to miss anything – so I needed to split the article in two. Here goes part one:
“So you’ve gone gluten free. You had coeliac disease ruled out first – as you should – but you still felt that wheat was a big trigger for your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). You feel better off wheat – less bloated, more energy – but you’re not quite 100 %. What could it be?
I’m sure that many of you have by now heard of the study behind the media storm that apparently refutes the existence of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Gluten is a protein that is common to the grains wheat, barley and rye. Contrary to what many of those journalists would have you believe, the researchers did not say that people who identify with NCGS are imagining it; rather, that it might actually be a different component of wheat, other than gluten, or in combination with it, that is causing them to experience IBS-like symptoms, including digestive distress, bloating and others, such as fatigue.
What then could be the culprit behind your wheat-triggered IBS? The answer: it might be fructans (also known as fructooligosaccharides or FOS). Fructans coincidentally happen to be found in large enough amounts to cause symptoms in the gluten containing grains, which includes all varieties of wheat, barley and rye; and they, along with fructose, made my first year of university… let us just say, “interesting.”
Growing up, I always had a fussy gut. When I was going through the last two years of secondary school, it got a little worse but not bad enough for me to really take notice, other than joke about it with friends. It was not until I was in my first year of university that it really got going, dictating not only the parties I could go to but things as seemingly insignificant as which seat I would take in the lecture theatres and what I could wear (think room for bloating). Luckily, my mum had an eye on me and about half way through the year (after end of semester exams really took their toll on my IBS) she read an article about coeliac disease. Digestive distress, nausea, fatigue, brain fog… I ticked most of the boxes, however, I did not have active coeliac disease. My gastroenterologist (since retired) had a game plan though and the next thing I knew I was being sent off to have hydrogen/methane breath tests to check for both lactose and fructose malabsorption*.
I had heard of lactose intolerance before, but fructose malabsorption? Well, fructose malabsorption was my answer and explained why the gluten free diet that my GP had advised me to trial earlier had helped significantly – but not completely…”
Let me know what you guys think and please share – as awareness of fructose malabsorption spreads, it is more likely that people will be correctly diagnosed and the variety of food choices for us will increase, both at restaurants and in supermarkets.
Read part two here.
Have a great night!
I thank my lucky stars quite often that polyols don’t seem to affect me. Avocados, blackberries, peaches… I can still eat them all in reasonable amounts without making myself sick. I think I’ve had to give up enough, without resorting to cutting out those, as well. Of course, I realise that others have had to cut out much more than I – one of the reasons that I am so thankful. No matter how bad you or I may have it, someone else is always worse off.
This peach crumble came about because it’s summer, peaches are in season, I needed a dessert that I could make ahead of time and forget about, and peaches are delicious! A little prep work the day before you need this dessert and you can keep it in the fridge until 45 minutes before you need to bake it (your baking dish, if glass or ceramic, will need time to get back to room temperature before baking or you’ll most likely have a shattered crumble on your hands).
Also, I apologise for the grainy photos, I was using my phone camera.
To peel the peaches, score four evenly spaced lines from top to bottom and place them in boiling water for 60 seconds, then strain them and dunk them into an ice bath for a further 60 seconds; the skins should peel right off. If all else fails, use a peeler.
Dice the peaches into bite-sized chunks (approx. 1.5-2 cm) and mix through the rest of the fruit filling ingredients, until well combined; dump the lot into a pie dish.
To make the crumble topping, mix all the ingredients together, either by hand or in your food processor, until they begin to clump together. Easy! Cover the fruit evenly with the crumble mix and you’re ready to bake or store the pie before baking.
When you are ready to bake it, pre-heat your oven to 180 C/350 F and bake the crumble for 55-60 minutes, when the peaches should have cooked until soft and the topping browned nicely. If you notice that the crumble is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a sheet of foil to prevent further browning.
If I am serving this as a hot dessert at a dinner party, I put it in the oven as dinner is served, so we have an hour to eat dinner and digest/chat before the crumble is ready to eat. Serve with vanilla ice cream (vegan or lactose free if required), vanilla bean custard, coconut yoghurt (vegan) or plain Greek yoghurt. Enjoy!
I’m not a huge fan of flying. I’m not scared of it but I don’t find it enjoyable, either; long hours (15 hours between Melbourne and LAX) in cramped seating, recirculated air, mostly unsuitable foods and the bathrooms, if you can call them that, all add up to me not having a good time. I stress about connections until we make them and about whether our luggage will make it when we do.
We have had enough mishaps with changed departure gates, delayed planes and missing luggage (LAX is a disorganised hellhole) that Ev and I have become very adept at travelling light. The last time we went home to Australia, we got everything we needed for two weeks, including things for other people, in two carry on bags… and by “carry on” I mean the real carry on bags, not the giant suitcases that American based airlines let people take on and try in vain to cram into the overhead compartments, taking up space meant for everyone. Yes, that annoys me. If I’ve been responsible and packed my belongings into a small suitcase intended for overhead bins, perhaps with valuables in there, I am not impressed when I am told it HAS to be checked, because a 3/4 full plane has already run out of overhead storage. But I digress.
Some people truly do enjoy flying but for the rest of us, here’s how I manage eating with FM and dealing with potential symptoms while flying. It’s pretty appropriate timing, because Ev and I are going to spend the next week in Cabo, Mexico! We’ve been waiting for this holiday since we got back from Cabo last summer. As much as I prefer road trips and exploring different towns, not staying in the one place for too long, sometimes it’s nice to just go and veg out somewhere that is completely relaxing and not have to worry (so much) about the food. As I have said previously, for me, Mexico/Mexican food seems to be a safe bet if I eat plainly and avoid tropical fruits.
The other posts in the travel series can be found here.
I’m sure I’ll be posting photos of tropical paradise on my Instagram account, if you’d like to follow along.
Step 1: Plan ahead, Stress less
Most people don’t need to be told that stress can increase their IBS symptoms; I know I don’t. It’s not all in our heads, though. Research also demonstrates that the two coexist (see here and here), as the autonomic nervous system and certain hormones, which are triggered during times of stress, also act upon the gut.
To avoid stress related IBS and ensure as smooth a travel/flight experience as possible, plan ahead. Some things to consider are:
Step 2: Make some safe food flash cards
If you don’t speak the language, flash cards listing the ingredients you can and cannot consume in the language spoken by the airline/at the airport will help prevent a lot of confusion, if you decide to brave the food.
In fact, even if you do speak the local language, flash cards might still be a good idea as the idea of fructose malabsorption is still so novel that the apparently random list of ingredients that you cannot consume might overwhelm the staff and create an unwanted fuss.
Make sure the lists are clear and concise as to what you can and absolutely cannot consume.
Step 3: Eat plain before the plane
Each time I fly, I will eat plainly in the preceding week, for a few reasons:
Step 4: Pack your own food
This will not always be possible, due to customs regulations and such but if you are able, I highly recommend taking FODMAP friendly snack foods to tide you over during flights and layovers while you’re away.
Some ideas include:
Examples of what I might pack:
Step 5: Be prepared for the worst
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, shit happens. Literally. While it’s not ideal, you can lessen its impact on your travel by planning for it. If you have an FM-ergency kit, your life will be a lot easier. (See what I did there? You can use it). Keep this in your carry on, you may need it on your flight as well as at your destination.
I hope these guidelines help you fly and travel successfully, as they have me. If you think of anything that I should add, please let me know.