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  • FENUGREEK: PART 2 08 September 2014 | Comments (0)

     Blossom has bloomed and fallen, Summer reached dizzy hazy heights, but the unpredictable and inclement conditions of late may have brought about a certain over-familiarity with galoshes, wellingtons, and mackintoshes.
    Curling up with a steaming cup of herbal health certainly promotes an inner glow, and in addition, some tasty warming comfort from the kitchen never goes amiss!
    So, this instalment sees the continuing exploration of all things fenugreek taking a home-spun turn. How to get a flavoursome and fulfilling forkful of fenugreek fandango?
    Look no further, as we bring you a delicious dhal, and a delectable dessert.
    The helter-skelter hubbub of holidays and excursions often call for a combination of quick and easy, and pre-prepared suppers. A dhal seemed just the thing.



    Dhal
    200g Yellow Split Peas
    100g Red Lentils
    Medium onion
    Garlic 6-8 cloves
    4 further cloves sliced.
    1 teaspoon each of fenugreek seeds, cumin - some seeds, some ground, ditto for coriander, madras curry powder, ground turmeric.
    1 unwaxed lemon, cut into wedges
    Around 12 frozen spinach bricks, or one bag of fresh spinach leaves.
    Bunch of Fresh Coriander.
    Begin by simmering both varieties of lentils in water until soft. Set aside.
    Then, sautée onions, lots of crushed garlic, and add fenugreek, cumin, coriander seeds.
    Add the lentils, a little water, some chopped lemon pieces, washed spinach leaves or frozen
    bricks and simmer until the lemon and spinach have cooked and all of the flavours have combined.
    In another pan put the ground spices - coriander, cumin, curry powder, turmeric, and warm under a small flame until toasted very gently,
    and stir the now enticingly aromatic spices into the dhal.
    Then, heat a small amount of oil in a pan, carefully add the garlic slices, and fry until it starting to brown.
    At this point, one can stir in a splash of vinegar, and a teaspoon of spiced mango chutney into the cooked pulse mix, if a hint of sweetness is desired.
    The dhal can be served scattered with the fried garlic pieces, drizzled with the garlic-infused oil, and then topped with roughly chopped coriander leaf.
    This dish is so terribly versatile; it can either be a hearty main weekday meal accompanied by a flatbread to tear, or fluffy aromatic rice, complemented
    by a small refreshing cucumber salad, or it can be set amongst an assortment of dishes for a more celebratory affair.
    The last scrapings of dhal also make a handy and nutritious sandwich filling or toast spread.
    Fenugreek isn't only for use in savoury cuisine, of course, for it finds a place in sweet baking, too. A cake flavoured with fenugreek,
    along with other toasted seeds is a traditional postpartum gift to the mother in some Middle Eastern countries. Of course, given the health benefits of fenugreek,
    along with its galactogogue status, this makes perfect sense!
    There are variations for this cake, as with every traditional culinary creation, some complex and contrived, while others are earthy and unctuous.
    As I have explored the culinary meanderings and ornamental elaborations about this fenugreek cake, I have imagined cooks, neighbours, mothers and daughters,
    and those in haute cuisine disagreeing vehemently upon whether the seeds should be soaked, boiled, or toasted, and whether they should be ground or whole....
    Or, whether one should stick to semolina, or waver with wheat flour. Or indeed, whether yeast will suffice, or if flower water is a kerfuffle too far?
    There appears to be many a filigree and fancy flung at fenugreek cake, and I arrived upon a seedy little number, and threw myself headlong into the flirtatious fenugreek fandango that yielded cake in the afternoon.



    Fenugreek Cake
    Dough -
    1 cup of semolina
    2 cups of plain flour
    3 tablespoons fenugreek seeds
    2 tablespoons anise seeds
    2 tablespoons sesame seeds
    1 tablespoon fennel seed
    1 tablespoon nigella seed
    1 tablespoon caraway seed
    3 tablespoons light brown sugar
    1.5 teaspoons dried instant yeast
    Pinch of salt
    3/4 cup olive oil
    1 cup milk - dairy, soya, or as you like.
    For the syrup -
    1.5 cups of white or light brown sugar
    1/2 cup dark brown or molasses sugar
    2 cups water
    Juice of half a lemon.
    Firstly, take all of the seeds and gently toast them on a low heat, moving and turning them to prevent them from burning.
    Set aside.
    Warm the milk gently and pour the toasted seeds into the milk.
    Blitz milk and seeds with a hand blender or mixer.
    Put the yeast, salt, flour, sugar, and semolina all together in a bowl.
    Add the olive oil and combine well.
    Add the warm seeded milk, and stir until a sticky dough is formed.
    In a shallow dish or tray, spread out the dough and cover for one hour.
    While the dough rests, the sugar syrup can be made.
    Put the sugar and water together in a pan, bring to the boil, and then simmer gently for around 15 minutes.
    Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice.
    Leave to cool.
    Preheat the oven to 180 Degrees.
    Bake the dough for 20-25 minutes until golden.
    Straight away drizzle the cooled sugar syrup over the cake until it is covered.
    Leave to cool.
    Traditionally, the cake must be left overnight, and eaten the next day, once all of the flavours have developed and the syrup has
    seeped down and soaked into the cake below. While baking, the aromas that waft and encircle are mouthwatering, indeed!
    The cake is incredibly enticing, and ought to be whisked away for its overnight sojourn, once cooled.
    However, impatience gained the upper hand here, and slices were devoured gleefully and greedily, which leads me to report that the
    cake is delicious eaten hot or cold. On cutting, this cake was like a moist seeded focaccia, with piqued pillows of airy
    semolina punctuated by the aromatic crunch of seeds, and the sweet soaked delectation of sticky syrup.
    There are quite a few traditional variations to consider when making this cake, and more complex and refined versions call for rose water,
    pine nuts, almonds, or orange blossom water.
    I think I had better bake them all, in the guise of research.

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    Bonnets, Bungee, Bicycles, and Yarn-Bombing - Happy Holidays!

    July has already started, and with high summer comes the proverbial bonnets cast asunder as the school holidays commence.

    Many parents feel an ever-changing mix of emotions, between missing the school run, and the mild adrenalin-fuelled sense of panic with the weeks stretching out in front, September's far horizon being a good way off.

    We all love spending quality time with our children, but parental burn-out can hit after only a few weeks of summer holiday. A little inspiration can be a welcome resource when the repertoire of ideas is all but used up.

    Everyone's children are different, in terms of temperament and moods, and children differ in their abilities to entertain themselves, or concentrate for longer periods on projects or tasks. Some children can immerse themselves in intricate drawing or colouring for an hour or more, whereas others barely wish to sit, no matter the weather.

    Thus, it is a good idea to plan ahead and have plan B's, along with C's and D's in place before the holidays actually begin. And, in today's fiscal climes, we unfortunately must keep a weather-eye on the purse strings, too.

    So..... What to do for those six-ish weeks? Well, for a start, parents have differing views on whether they should be "occupying" their children at all; some consider that from boredom springs creativity and self-sufficiency, while others scurry to fill every moment of their child's imaginary "diary", without prior consultation. And, circumstances vary widely, from having acres to spare, to city dwellers with but a balcony ledge. No matter, as on days of sunny skies, parks and gardens are free and sometimes offer fairs, bazaars and festivals, too.

    Make the most of long days by packing drinks, snacks, and a picnic, using shade and remembering hats and sunscreen for the zenith of the day. Some playground areas even offer water play, where swimming gear and towels are de rigeur, and keeping cool thus effected. Don't forget to hone park and yard gaming skills - take along frisbees, jump rope, and chalk for hopscotch.

    If wheels are the thing, don't forget roller skates/blades, skateboards, and scooters - unicycles for the more adventurous! Stilts and Pogos aren't in vogue, particularly, but may offer a modicum of amusement. Once bored of swings and slides, there are museums, galleries and libraries to discover, and many of those have free entry, unless you want to see something specific.

    With time on your side, you may wish to go further afield and walk the countryside highways and byways, even taking in a child-friendly B&B. Your children may enjoy such things as working historical farms, stately homes and their surrounding gardens, or larger monuments like Stonehenge or Hadrian's Wall? Beaches are not only for sunbathing. You can hunt for fossils, collect shells, stones, and bits of fascinating flotsam.

    While you are out and about, don't forget your camera, and pencils, pens, and paper. Outdoor sketching is great fun, and can provide a springboard for later artistic creations. When the storm clouds roll in and the heavens open, one needs to be prepared. Paper and scissors can provide simple fun, just by folding and cutting concertina-ed people and animals for decoration, and for older children there are specialised paper cutting kits for purchase online. Coloured paper can be folded, sculpted, and decorated.

    Why not prepare a box of fabric remnants cut to size in small squares for the budding little mosaicist. Bright colours and patterned or shiny pieces can be further decorated with foil wrappers, old buttons, glitter and sequins. Plenty of colouring pencils and fibre pens are a must, along with sharpeners, rulers, rubbers.

    If a metaphorical hand up is needed there are now beautiful colouring books for children; Dover and Buster are two that come to mind. If your darlings can play nicely together, there are plenty of board games that offer hours of fun, and there is always an opportunity to teach Chess or Draughts, or have a family Monopoly or Scrabble tournament. Then, there's the likes of Twister or Wii.

    Picnics and Camps can always be relocated to the veranda or front room, guaranteed to foment frivolity and giggles. Something for parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles is the imparting of traditional skills such as knitting, sewing, crochet, embroidery, or more obscure crafts such as macramé.

    Tapestries are absorbing, and available in simpler designs for beginners. If you have the facilities, pottery is exciting - why not visit your local potter or glass blower? Movies are a great diversion, and often seal memories of association. If the cinema isn't possible, make popcorn in a pan and bring the cinema atmosphere to your lounge! Movie Sleepovers muster major excitement, whispering, and glee into the small hours. If your gang need a gentle bit of encouragement to be bookish, libraries have their annual Reading Challenges that are often themed, and come with prizes, certificates, and the pomp and excitement of ceremony in September. Stack the shelves with chapter books, but also comics, magazines, and anything else that might snatch their attention - all reading is good.

    Where there's space and time aplenty, why not build a tree house, or turn your loft, basement, or spare room into a model railway extravaganza. And if you don't, there's always bounding out with rock climbing and outdoor specialist camps. If abseiling and canoeing isn't their bag, other summer school offerings abound; there's everything from musicals and dance schools, to languages, BMX tricks, art and craft, parkour, and a myriad choices waiting to be discovered.

    Past Summer holidays are evocative and halcyon, indeed. I have fond memories of my grandparent's cottage with marigold bedecked borders, a heady sunny greenhouse filled with the intoxicating aroma of tomatoes, and the sound of buzzing aphids, rainy afternoons with a Spirograph and a button box, jelly and icecream and cheese spread on toast for supper, and laying in bed watching the town lights twinkling far off to the sound of drop forges in the distance. Grans, aunts, and uncles are often keen to have time with their smaller relatives, and parents can do well to accept offers and use the time to recharge batteries.

    Children often love time away testing their independence; they delight in the similarities and differences of others' homes, and enjoy expanding and enriching their parameters of experience.

    If forging experience is a goal, why not foster political and citizen awareness with active engagement or protest - put newly acquired craftiness to good use with a spot of yarn-bombing, or just get on the march!

    Find a cause and campaign for it. Share the load with play dates and stopovers, and return favours; a good network is crucial. Remember to relax and have a good time - holidays are for recuperation and kicking back (and not just for the kids, hopefully....) Whatever's your bag, be it bivouacing, bicycling, or bungeeing - Happy Holidays!

     

     

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    Fabulous Fenugreek

     

    Fenugreek, or 'trigonella foenum graecum' is, for our purposes, a fabulous galactagogue - that is, it boosts breastmilk production!

    And, humanity appears to have been harnessing the benefits of this spicy legume for some time. Charred fenugreek seeds have been unearthed in ancient Iraq dated to circa 4000 B.C., and desiccated seeds found in the tomb of Tutankhamen. Cultivation of fenugreek began in the Near East, with all parts of the plant being used - the leaves as a herb, the seeds as a spice, and the sprouts and micro-greens constituting a vegetable. Our fascination with fenugreek need not stop at tisanes.

     

    For, fenugreek has featured as the key ingredient in many cultural dishes throughout history, and herbal medicines have lauded its various benefits, claiming to aid a myriad ills from digestion to diabetes.

    Remedies using fenugreek included those for bronchial ailments, tuberculosis, swollen glands, cuts, and sores, and fenugreek was added to unguents for its role as skin softener.

    The ancient Greeks knew the herb as 'telis'. Hippocrates, Cato and Pliny all list fenugreek as an ingredient in varying prescriptions and remedies intended for everything from dyspepsia to cattle fodder. Roman garum, the much-beloved pungent fish sauce, was laced with fenugreek pulp as it was believed to be effective against headaches, and potent as an aphrodisiac!

    When its herbaceous elements are not being employed within a farrago of far-flung cuisine, fenugreek seed wields its ribald allure flavouring sauces, condiments, and relish.

    But, the farthermost fenugreek delight is bestowed upon us in the form of something called 'hilbe'. Hilbe is made by soaking, rinsing, and processing fenugreek in various stages for several days - protracted, but worthwhile.

    Once achieved, hilbe is incredibly versatile, and can be used as a spread, a flavouring in soups, or as a base within which to make a fiery sauce. Hilbe ubiquitously bedecks flatbreads, falafel, and any fried vegetables or fish, and is used with 'zhug', a Yemeni hot sauce to make countless dishes. This fabulous fenugreek concoction can also be used in sweet baking to flavour cakes, pastries, and biscuits.

    Making Hilbe

    If you would like to make hilbe you need to soak around three or four tablespoons of fenugreek for three days in a jar or bottle, and change the water several times a day.

    Twice daily, rinse and refresh the seeds under running water in a colander or sieve, and return to soaking. At the end of the three days, the fenugreek seeds puff up and lose much of their darker colour and raw bitterness.

    To the swelled seeds then add approximately one cup of water and blitz the soaked fenugreek for a couple of minutes in a food processor, to produce a thick paste, and follow by sitting in the fridge for three hours.

    This process needs repeating once or twice more, before the fenugreek becomes frothy and consistent with egg-white.

    Store your hilbe in a jar, chilled, or freeze it until you need it.

    Ancient lore is borne out by modern science - fenugreek is indeed fantastic!

    A nutritional breakdown shows the remarkable nutritional content of this legume, which boasts a rich store of minerals including iron, calcium, copper, selenium, and is incredibly vitamin-dense, containing a host of B vitamins, folic acid, A and C.

     

    Fenugreek's polysaccharides, saponins, tannin and pectin all work together to keep our cholesterol levels where we would like them, and amino acid 4-hydroxy isoleucine benefits those with diabetes; mucilage aids digestion, and Not stopping at that, the choline in fenugreek will keep your mind sharp, and ease symptoms of PMS and menopause, and the compound diosgenin increases milk flow. Wilder rumours claim fenugreek can promote breast growth.

    It is a good job that fenugreek features in recipes, sweet and savoury, in teas, spreads. And spice mixes. For now, I think I will have a cup of tea.

     

     

     

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    Neuner's Organic Nursing Tea Joins Forces With 'Peak Health Food' Store To Show Support For Breastfeeding Mothers in Rugeley

     

    Neuner's UK have joined forces with an independent health food shop, in support of a campaign to raise awareness and acceptance of breastfeeding.

    Recent controversy erupted after an unknowing breastfeeding mum was blasted with derogatory comments after being secretly photographed breastfeeding her 8 months old baby in public. The image went viral after being published on social media website, facebook, yet received a deluge of support which became the catalyst for a pro-breastfeeding campaign in Rugeley.

    To show their support for the rights of breastfeeding mums, 'Neuner's' are showing a united front with one of their stockists, Peak Health Food, by supplying the Rugeley store with hundreds of free samples of their award winning tea. 'Neuner's Organic Nursing tea' is the UK's most popular breastfeeding tea with mums of all ages and are looking to positively support the rights of mums.

    Marie Longman, owner of 'Peak Health Food' commented " We're thrilled to be showing our full support for breastfeeding and would like to invite all breastfeeding mums to drop in, take the weight of their feet and enjoy a complimentary cup of Neuner's Organic Nursing Tea, courtesy of the company! There's no catches, customer or not, all breastfeeding women are very welcome."

     

     

     

     

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