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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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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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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