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the highs and lows…

I was absolutely thrilled when, on Monday, I received an email congratulating me on becoming a finalist in the Muddy Stilletos award for best Norfolk Food & Drink producer. This news followed a fantastic day on Sunday at the Big Norfolk Sausage Bash in Aylsham. The sun shone, we had loads of fun and sold out of our pots. Don’t be fooled; not every day is so filled with joy. The life of a small scale food producer is fraught with disappointment, burns, endless washing up and not to mention the chilblains from standing outside at events in freezing cold, driving rain and wind. Then there’s the occasions when you spend all week cooking your fresh products to discover that your only event of the week has been cancelled due to bad weather. I persevere with grit and determination all because I’m on a mission to spread the bace love!

I never imagined how hard it would be to get a product launched and then actually sell it. I’ve made it even harder for myself by launching something that is totally unique. Maybe I’m crazy! The hours I spend explaining the merits of my versatile products. It’s a challenging marketplace, healthy eating isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some people screw their face up when you mention peas and beans. Fortunately others are open to a new way of eating and embrace the idea that plant-based protein could help the future of our planet. I do feel like the tide of change is coming. Peas, beans and lentils are a sustainable option. They use little of the planet’s resources and are a great source of protein, fibre and nutrients.

I’m trying to do the right thing – bringing wholesome convenience to busy people, not adding sugar, keeping salt content very low, using British-grown peas and beans and not adding any nasties. My pots are recyclable and I use WoolCool insulated packaging for my online orders which is also fully recyclable. I receive loads of really great feedback all the time. My customers tell me that my plant-based protein pots offer them convenience, endless meal options and encourage them to eat healthily. They love the recipes that I share on social media, via my website and the recipe cards that I hand out at events.

I’m making steady progress all the time. I feel proud of my achievements and feel positive about the future of bace. It’s a difficult balancing act though. I’ve got two small children so family life is really busy. I feel guilty about the time I spend away from them at weekends when I’m at events. I’m constantly cooking and then I have to fit in all the other work that comes with running a business. On the plus side they’ve seen me starting a business from scratch so I really hope that I’ve inspired them.

Of course I’d love to win. Who wouldn’t? Though I feel privileged just to be a finalist alongside Candi’s Chutney, Crush Foods, Old Hall Farm and All Fudged Up. I know the first three businesses very well and they’ve been a huge support to me; offering advice, guidance and stocking my products. We’re all doing our bit to bring the people of Norfolk (and beyond) top quality food and drink. We’re all Proudly Norfolk members; an organisation led by a group of passionate foodies. It’s great to feel part of that family.

If you think that I’m a deserved winner please vote for me here. I’m really grateful for your ongoing support and custom. Happy voting!

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chilli ‘non’ carne

VEGAN

“This protein and veg-packed chilli has real depth of flavour. It’s a winner with any chilli lover whether they’re plant-based or making a conscious decision to reduce meat in their diet”

SERVES: 4   PREP TIME: 10 MINS   COOKING TIME: 1HR

Ingredients

1 pot of baked beans with benefits

1 tblsp oil

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 pepper, chopped

125g mushrooms, chopped

265g tin cooked lentils

½ tsp ground cumin

1 level tsp smoked paprika

1 level tsp chilli powder

400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 tblsp tamari soya sauce

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion, garlic, peppers and mushrooms. Saute gently for 5 mins.
  2. Add the cumin, paprika and chilli powder. Cook for a further 1-2 mins.
  3. Add the pot of baked beans with benefits, lentils, tomatoes and soya sauce.
  4. Bring to a simmer then cover with a lid. Reduce the heat and cook gently for 1 hour (longer if you have the time).
  5. Serve with rice and a salad.
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minestrone soup



VEGAN

“This soup is super tasty! It’s so easy to make. I use aromatic peas with perks as a base. You just add a load of other veg and let it slowly simmer away while you get on with something else. Add whatever vegetables you like and use frozen veg to make it even speedier. My children love this and always ask for seconds. Serve with hunks of good bread and dive in.”

SERVES: 6-8   PREP TIME: 15 MINS   COOKING TIME: 1 HOUR

Ingredients

pot of aromatic peas with perks

1 tblsp oil

1 leek, cut into quarters and finely sliced

1 onion, chopped

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 carrots, cut into small cubes

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2 tsp dried italian herbs

1 litre veg stock (I use vegan and gluten free)

1 courgette, cut into small cubes

50g spaghetti, broken into small pieces

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan.
  2. Add the onion, leek, carrots, celery and garlic. Saute gently for 5 mins.
  3. Add tomatoes, aromatic peas, herbs & stock. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 45 mins.
  4. Add the courgette and broken spaghetti. Cook for a further 15 mins.



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Feeding time at the zoo…

I love being a Mum. I came to parenthood relatively late in life but it wasn’t without trying. The whole process involved lots of heartache so I’m truly thankful every day for my boys’ existence. It’s not easy though; being a parent or carer comes with its challenges. Feeding my children is one of those parental responsibilities that I take very seriously. Sometimes it’s a joy and at other times (when I’m busy and my children are tired and irritable) it feels like feeding time at the zoo. However busy I am the priority is to give them something tasty and nourishing to fuel their little bodies and minds. That’s how bace began because I don’t always have the time to cook from scratch but want to ensure that my children are getting plenty of veg in their diet.

When you think about 5-A-Day experts say that balance should be more in favour of vegetables. 5 is the minimum guideline so we aim higher! These are my tips for smashing your 5-A-Day and making mealtimes an enjoyable experience.

I always serve some chopped raw veg and salad with dinner. Children tend to love batons of carrot, cucumber and celery plus avocado and tomatoes. You could even serve this before their main meal while they’re waiting for it to come to the table. Get them involved in the kitchen chopping the veg if they’re old enough and capable. They’ll need supervision! Take them to your local farm shop so they can choose their own vegetables.

Go for sharing-style meals. It’s much more convivial and less daunting for children. They don’t like their plates piled high with food. Being allowed the freedom to choose what they want to put on their plate gives them some responsibility. You may need to direct them slightly! My children love Mexican style meals with tortilla wraps, beans, cooked chicken or halloumi cheese, salads, rice etc. They love the whole theatre of it! I tend to serve most of my meals in this way. I’ll even take a pot of chilli to the table with the rice so that I can dish up small amounts of chilli and they help themselves to rice and salad. You can always have seconds.

Serve sides in small individual ramekin dishes. This might sounds crazy but bear with me. I serve coleslaw in this way to my children and they gobble it up. Guarantee that if I put a spoonful of coleslaw on their plate they’d leave it or just push it around. You could do the same with portions of peas and sweetcorn and give them a teaspoon. We call this Norwich City veg due to the colour combo. Children can be mysterious little creatures at times.

I remember Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s speaking some years ago about encouraging children to eat vegetables. He said that children will eat any veg if it’s coated in garlic butter. It’s got to be worth a try and much healthier than a pile of dough balls and garlic butter. Chat about where the vegetables were grown and show them on a map if the veg have come from more exotic climes.

My children love any kind of soup. It’s a great way of getting them to eat a pile of veg in one sitting. I either chop the veg really small or puree it once it’s cooked. Sometimes I puree half of the soup and leave the other half chunky. Either way they’ll devour soup and really enjoy dipping hunks of bread into it. The secret to a tasty soup is a good stock and always start it off with some onion, carrot and garlic in oil. Saute gently for 10 mins before adding more veg such as sweet potato, butternut squash, leeks, swede etc. Lentils and beans bulk it out and make it into more of a meal. Remember that pulses count as one of your 5-A-Day.

And finally, I aim to make meal times an occasion; it should be an opportunity to sit down at a table, without any distractions of TV or tech. Eating together as a family isn’t always possible but we make the effort to do it as much as possible. We play our favourite music and everyone has a chance to chat about their day. It’s a good way to check in with everyone. Pure bliss.

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Keeping it simple

Did you know that you can just heat and serve bace as a topping? It’s so perfectly simple! What could be easier? Just pile on top of toast, sourdough, muffins, crumpets, flat breads, pancakes, rice, quinoa and more. One of our favourite family meals is baked beans with benefits on toasted sourdough with poached eggs on top. The kids love it. Add some avocado or spinach and it’s a full on super-food bonanza!

I adore bread and in particular sourdough. Why not search out some fabulous artisan sourdough such as that made by the Pye Baker? As well as having a bakery in Norwich he pops up at different farmer’s markets throughout the county. This is my favourite way of eating sourdough. Cut a large slice. Toast or griddle lightly on both sides. Cut a clove of garlic and rub over the warmed toast. I then add popping peas with perks and some crumbled local blue cheese. Simple and delicious.

I lead a busy life so I don’t always have the time to prepare meals from scratch. When I’m in a hurry I grab a pot of aromatic peas with perks and a pouch of mixed grains. Heat the two and add a side of sliced red onion, chopped coriander, a drizzle of oil and a splash of red wine vinegar. This will easily feed two hungry adults (or hangry in my case as I’m grumpy if not fed quickly!

Now let’s talk garnishes – once you’ve piled on your favourite bace topping how about adding a drizzle of flavoured oil? There’s some great Norfolk rapeseed oil producers infusing with anything from smoked chipotle chilli to garlic & rosemary & dill. How about some toasted seeds from Suffolk based Munchy Seeds? The seeds have got a really tasty savoury flavour and they’re a fab source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Maybe you could crumble on some local cheese or crisp up some good quality bacon and sprinkle on. Then there’s chilli sauce – my Husband is a big fan of chilli. It’s not an understatement to say he puts it on everything (except his morning porridge). Check out Rocket Ship sauces and Chillis Galore.

If I’m going to add a side salad I like something crunchy. Half moons of red onion, finely sliced red cabbage, grated carrot, chopped celery and maybe some herbs – mint, parsley, coriander and dressed with a simple combo of good oil and cider apple vinegar. My children love a salad I call sunshine salad – chopped tomato, cucumber, red onion, yellow pepper and avocado. Now we’re packing in even more of our 5-A-Day.

I love cooking with grains. If I’m cooking rice or bulgar wheat I like to add a handful of quinoa to the mix. Quinoa is gluten-free, high in protein and one of the few plant foods that contain all nine essential amino acids. It is also high in fibre, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus,vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants.

Make your life a little easier, just keep it simple. Meals don’t have to be complicated. All you need is a pot of bace and a few store cupboard staples and you too can make mealtimes a breeze!

If you want to find out more about my bace products then take a look at our online shop and get 10% of your first order using the discount code INTRO10%.

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January – how was it for you?

Well, we’ve done it! We’ve reached the end of January. The nights are pulling out and I can see bulb shoots poking their heads through the frosty ground.

How did you get through January? Did you abstain from alcohol or try Veganuary? I took my own route and committed to eating pulses (that’s dried beans, peas and lentils) every day of the month. I completed the challenge. Check out my Instagram account @bacefoods to see 31 different meals using pulses (recipes included).

I used my own products on some days to make quick and tasty meals and on other days I searched out new recipes using different pulses. I’ve eaten curries, salads, tortillas, soups, dals, quesadillas and more. I’ve really enjoyed the variety! At no point did I feel hungry because pulses really do fill you up! How do I feel? Pretty good for this time of year. I’m full of energy in fact. My skin is clear, my digestion is in good order (I’m regular as clockwork if you catch my drift!) and I’m not sporting a post-Christmas muffin top. This is a total relief because I’ll be squeezing myself into a little black number next Tuesday evening for an awards night. bace has been shortlisted for an “innovation in food & drink” award. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

I’ve barely eaten any meat this month. I didn’t set out to avoid meat but it’s just worked out that way. My plates have been piled high with veg, beans, peas and lentils. The whole family have joined it too. I like to think that we’re all doing our bit for the planet. Pulses are a sustainable crop. They can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they’re a water-efficient crop and improve soil health. They’re also good for our health as an affordable source of protein, fibre and other essential nutrients and can help with the maintenance and prevention of diet-related diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

If you can’t quite embrace a full-on “pulse feast” why not throw some lentils (along with meat) into your next chilli con carne or ragu sauce? They’re cheap and a great source of protein and fibre. Better still, buy some bace pots and get cooking up some easy-to-follow recipes. Check out our recipes tab. I’ve done the hard work for you! That leaves you with little chopping or prepping to do. Our pea and bean pots are not just time saving; they add great depth of flavour and extra veg to lots of your regular recipes.

So what will February bring? I’m going to be focusing on quick & easy family-friendly meals. Given the new #vegpower campaign I’ll be showing you how to pack those veg in at meal times. Please share how you’ve been cooking with bace – post your photos and tell us what you think! I love to hear about what you’re doing with your pots of bace.

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carlin pea & kale fritters

VEGETARIAN

“These easy fritters make delicious little snacks, great for lunch or part of a sharing platter. Serve with yoghurt for dipping, a crunchy side salad and some spicy chutney.”

SERVES: 4   PREP TIME: 10 MINS   COOKING TIME: 15 MINS

Ingredients

pot of aromatic peas with perks

1 dessertspoon curry paste

2 eggs, beaten

100g wholemeal flour

100g kale, shredded

Oil for shallow frying

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients together (except the oil).
  2. Heat 2 tblsp oil in a frying pan. Scoop dessert spoonfuls of the mixture and drop into the frying pan.
  3. Flatten them out slightly. Cook undisturbed for 2 mins and then flip over.
  4. Cook for a further 2 mins.
  5. Drain the fritters on kitchen roll and repeat with the remaining mixture. You’ll need to add more oil to the pan.

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bean, lentil & veg lasagne

VEGETARIAN

“This is a massive hit with my young family. My children don’t even realise that it doesn’t have meat in it! The ragu sauce is deliciously rich and comforting. Packed full of health giving veg, lentils and beans. It’s a winner.”

SERVES: 4   PREP TIME: 30 MINS   COOKING TIME: 1 HOUR + 30 MINS

Ingredients

For the ragu:

1 pot of baked beans with benefits

1 tblsp oil

1 onion, chopped

1 stick celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped into small chunks

1 clove garlic, sliced

120g lentils, rinsed

100g mushrooms, very finely chopped

400g tin plum tomatoes

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tblsp soy sauce

For the white sauce:

50g butter

50g flour

550ml milk

50g parmesan, grated

For the lasagne:

75g mature cheddar cheese

12 sheets lasagne

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Saute gently for 10 mins.
  2. Add the rest of the ragu ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 1 hour.
  3. For the white sauce melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir to cook for a minute. Gradually add the milk and whisk until thickened. Stir in the parmesan and season.
  4. Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas Mark 6. Layer up the lasagne in a baking dish, starting with half of the ragu, pasta and then white sauce. Repeat. Top with the grated cheese and bake in the oven for 30-40 mins until bubbling and slightly brown on top.