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I love pulses – there I’ve said it!

How will you be celebrating new year? I’ll be reaching for the lentils in the hope that they’ll bring me good luck and prosperity in the new year. Well that’s what the Italians believe. Lentils are thought to resemble coins so are eaten as part of new year celebration meals in Italy.

I’ve enjoyed a long-standing love affair with pulses (in simple terms dried beans, peas & lentils). I just can’t get enough of them. I think my love of them goes back to when I was a child. I didn’t like meat but thankfully my Mum was happy to accommodate her fussy daughter’s vegetarian needs! Our shelves were already full of cook books but new ones appeared by authors such as Rose Elliot, Sarah Brown & David Canter (Cranks) and so she set about making some fantastic vegetarian food. No one else I knew ate like we did. We loved shopping at Rainbow Wholefoods (a Norwich institution) for dried beans such as black-eyed, mung and aduki. I loved the smell of the shop – a combination of herbs, spices, fresh bread, spiced vegetable-filled pastries, sticky date oat crumbles and more. The shop still smells the same now and it brings back such happy memories.

I’m not a vegetarian or vegan. I love fish and I succumbed to meat when I was 30 but I only eat it occasionally and choose high welfare, locally reared meat. I suppose I’m a flexitarian. Some days I only eat plant-based foods, not on purpose, it just works out that way. Dairy products don’t really agree with me but I love veg, grains, beans, lentils and peas so that’s what forms the majority of my diet. When cooking meat I often add beans to make the dish go further and provide extra nutrition.

So, getting back to pulses. I’ve been reading a book called “Pulses – Nutritious Seeds For A Sustainable Future”. Pulses really are incredible – they’re naturally packed with low-fat protein and fibre, they’re rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals. They are excellent antioxidants that counteract our natural ageing processes (great news!) and we digest them slowly because they are high in complex carbohydrates and fibre. This gives us a feeling of satiety but also helps to stabilise blood sugar and insulin levels by reducing spikes after mealtimes. Pulses make an ideal choice for people with diabetes or those trying to manage their weight. On top of that they’re cheap and great for the planet. They require little water to grow and naturally improve the fertility of the soil that they’re grown in.

We use British-grown pulses in our bace products after discovering a company called Hodmedod’s who source and supply pulses from British farms. I love that Hodmedod’s offer little known pulses which aren’t readily available in supermarkets. We use red haricot beans, carlin peas, split fava beans and green split peas from their fantastic range. If you haven’t heard of carlin peas before they’re like chick peas but smaller, nuttier in flavour and I think are superior in taste and texture.

January for me is a time for change, reinvention and learning. In January I’ve set myself a challenge of eating pulses every day. I’ll be exploring different cultures and how people cook with them, I’ll be searching out new pulses and cooking them up with new found flavour combinations. Follow me on Instagram to see daily updates and witness my love affair with pulses take on new heights! I can’t wait to get started…

If you want to find out more about my bace products then take a look at our online shop

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My top 10 must have ingredients

Do you want to make mealtimes a breeze and eat a bit healthier with some plant-based protein and lots of veg? Then grab yourself some pots of bace, pop them in the fridge and fill up your store cupboard, fridge and freezer with my top 10 must haves.

1. Pearled spelt

When I’m making a risotto (see my recipe for easy peasy risotto) I often use pearled spelt instead of rice. Sometimes I might even do half and half. I buy the Sharpham Park organic pearled spelt. It has a delicious nutty taste, it’s high in protein and fibre and is a good source of slow release energy. The Roman Army apparently called it their ‘marching grain’.

2. Crème fraiche

Great for stirring into curries, soups, pasta sauces and perfect for turning down the heat in an overly-spiced chilli. My children love it spread onto tortilla wraps with avocado, baked beans with benefits and grated cheese. I make my own coleslaw with shredded red cabbage, sliced red onion, grated carrot and half crème fraiche half mayo. Using crème fraiche makes for a lighter coleslaw.

3. Frozen chopped spinach

A brilliant veg to keep in the freezer which I add to curries, soups and omelettes. They come in handy cubes and can be added directly from frozen.

4. Harissa paste & Curry paste

I love the flavours in harissa paste, the main ingredient being red pepper with chillies, garlic, cumin, paprika and more. I add it to omelettes, frittatas, soups, nut roasts and middle eastern stews. You can turn an ordinary dish into something quite exotic, warm and spicy.

I wish I had time to make my own curry pastes but sadly I’m rather busy so I buy a good quality curry paste which I always have to hand in my fridge. You can add as little or as much as you wish, depending on your heat tolerance. Try one of my easy curry recipes using aromatic peas with perks as a base. It makes a fantastic curry with very little effort. Quicker, cheaper and far healthier than ordering a takeaway!

5. Roasted seeds

The Munchy Seeds brand prepare these lovely pots of tasty savoury seven seed mixes. The seeds are perfect for sprinkling on top of salads, soups, chilli or my very special baked beans with benefits. They’re crammed full of minerals, vitamins, protein and fibre. A great little snack too.

6. Infused oils

I use Crush cold pressed rapeseed oil for making my products. It’s grown, cold pressed and bottled in Norfolk. They do some lovely infused oils. My absolute favourite is the smoked chipotle chilli infused oil. It’s a taste sensation when drizzled over popping peas with perks. I also love a slice of toasted sourdough, smothered in baked beans with benefits, topped with poached eggs and a drizzle of smoked chipotle chilli oil – absolutely delicious!

I also keep Yare Valley oils in my store-cupboard. Another great local cold pressed oil with a range of lovely infusions. The dill flavoured oil is delicate so perfect for dressing a light summery salad. I also love their madras flavoured oil for drizzling over crunchy mixed salads which I serve with my meat free Monday curry.

Rapeseed oil is low in saturated fat and contains omega 3, 6 & 9 plus vitamin E.

7. Bouillon powder (powdered stock)

This powder makes an instant stock so perfect for adding to any of my bace pots to turn them into a super quick soup. I buy the vegan, lower salt version. It’s available in all good supermarkets and is a must store-cupboard staple. You can even turn it into a delicious hot drink.

8. Chutneys

Having a jar of interesting chutney on hand will perk up a cheese sandwich and works a treat alongside a curry but it’s also great as an ingredient. Add a little chutney to curries, soups and casseroles. I swirl a dollop into yoghurt to make a spicy dip and spread it on toast under cheese and then melt under the grill. I love Candi’s Chutneys. She hand-makes every jar using local East Anglian ingredients. My favourite is spiced carrot chutney. It works beautifully with our aromatic peas with perks. Just pile the two delicious ingredients on top of naan bread and devour.

9. Tinned plum tomatoes

I add tomatoes to curries, chillies, soups, pasta sauces and baked pasta dishes. Cooked tomatoes are a great source of lycopene (an antioxidant) which has fantastic health benefits. I prefer plum tomatoes instead of the chopped ones. The chopped ones can sometimes look a little insipid. I work on the assumption that they keep the best plum tomatoes whole and chop up the rest.

10. Bread

I keep my bread in the freezer and just take out slices when I need them. More about that below. I’m always conscious of preventing food waste so I keep the ends of the bread and blitz them into breadcrumbs for coating fishcakes or topping baked pasta dishes. I also turn the bread ends into croutons. Just cut the slices up into bite sized pieces, drizzle them with oil and bake in the oven for 10-12 mins. Store them in an airtight container and use to top soups and salads or just eat them as a snack.

So, getting back to frozen bread – did you know that toast made with bread taken directly from the freezer contains more resistant starch? This means that your body gets far fewer calories from the bread as the resistant starch feeds your gut bacteria, rather than feeding you. Amazing! Check out this article The Truth About Carbs.

On top of these items I always have a well-stocked fridge full of fresh veg and salad to turn into crunchy side salads and accompaniments to my bace meals and snacks. #VegPower #LovePulses

If you want to find out more about my bace products then take a look at our online shop