Easy Paleo Mayonnaise

imageThis really is the easiest mayo ever, no mucking about making sure all ingredients are at the same temperature, or adding oil one drop at a time. I got this from thehealthyfoodie.com

All you need are a jar and stick blender and a few ingredients:- one large egg, one cup of oil, Juice of half a lemon, generous pinch of salt. The website recommends using extra light olive oil, but I used half good quality strong olive oil and half walnut oil, I also added half a teaspoon of mustard powder and it has a great flavour.

Put all the ingredients in a jar that is just wide enough to accommodate the stick blender, but tall enough that the mayo doesn’t leak over the sides- it’ll double in size. Blend for 20 seconds with the blender on the bottom of the jar. Slowly lift the blender while still blending to incorporate the oil that has risen to the top, blend for another 10 seconds, and that’s it. Put the lid on the jar and store in the fridge for up to a week. It really is that easy! This recipe made about 200mls.

Update – it is important to use the correct size jar to mix this in. For my second batch I used a short fat kilner jar, same capacity as the one in the photo, and it didn’t thicken at all. Had the consistency of runny beaten eggs:(

Paleo Diet and black seed oil for Psoriasis

I’ve been eating a Paleo diet for the last 6 weeks in an attempt to control my psoriasis. I know mine isn’t severe, but the patches on my legs make it impossible for me to wear dresses or skirts, so my business wardrobe is halved right now 😦 and I have a patch on my foot which is visible when I wear certain trousers. I also have no fingernails on several fingers due to the psoriasis, which fortunately I’m able to cover with false nails.

I was prescribed methotrexate last year to control the psoriatic arthritis in my finger joints, associated with the psoriatic fingernails, and it did the trick, but after a couple of months I decided the risks outweighed the benefits of chemotherapy and topical corticosteroids. Since then I’ve found that taking fish oil supplements keeps the inflammation at bay, as does limiting the amount of sugar, including fruit.

So I’d been reading up on the relationship between diet and auto-immune diseases, and thought I’d go one step further than just gluten free. I have to say, I find the diet easy to follow, I don’t eat any grains, including sweetcorn, dairy (although have  ‘cheated’ twice with cheese), sugar or sweeteners (although occasionally use honey/agave syrup in recipes) and obviously no processed foods. I’m also limiting nightshades, as I’m convinced that my over use of aubergines earlier this year triggered psoriatic arthritis again, but fortunately I got it under control without medication. I do still eat tomatoes, because I love them, but never more than 1 per day.

So, after 4 weeks of eating strictly paleo and limiting nightshades, my psoriasis had reduced by about 40%, which as pretty good, I’d also lost about 3kgs in weight, and didn’t feet deprived at all. I feel generally healthier and less tired. I’ve made some really interesting dishes so will post some recipes.

Just over a week ago I read an article about the benefits of black seed oil (Nigella Sativa, also called black cumin oil)  for psoriasis, and as it’s abundant here in the Middle East, thought I’d give it a try. I’ve been taking one teaspoon twice a day for 9 days now and I’m amazed at the difference in such a short space of time. The worst plaque on my leg, which measures approx 7cmc x 3cms is now 80% healed! it’s more like a graze than a scab, and all the plaques on my torso have gone, just a faint pink mark where they used to be. I still have about a dozen small plaques on my legs, but they are much better than before and healing rather than erupting. It’s such a shame I didn’t take before and after photos.

I’ve also been experimenting with black seed oil as a topical. I’ve been using homemade body butter as a general moisturiser for months, but have been applying black seed oil for the last 9 days to the biggest plaque (mentioned above) plus the one on my foot and another one on my leg. 2 of these have healed quickly, the third one, no more so than the others on my legs – whilst the plaques on my torso, where I hadn’t used the oil, have gone completely – which would suggest to me that it’s as a dietary supplement that the oil is of most benefit. I’m also very aware that psoriasis can come and go over the space of a few weeks for no apparent reason, so will monitor the progress and update again in a few weeks.

Roma Tomatoes

The Roma tomatoes have done really well. They grew quickly and ripened quickly, each bunch weighing over a kilo. Even though it’s 40 degrees here now, we still have some flowering although it’s probably too hot for them to pollinate now. Last week I picked 7 kgs of various tomatoes. As well as using them in sauces or cooking them for breakfast, I’ve made ketchup and canned several jars ( with my new pressure canner that my friend Karen got for me in the US)Image

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The raw ingredients for my ketchup in a big saucepan. I didn’t have any fennel bulbs so used fennel seed, tasted fine.

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Tomato ketchup reducing. I’d used 2kgs of Roma tomatoes plus at least a couple of Kgs of other veg, and ended up with just 750mls of sauce. It took about 3 hours to reduce after sieving, but was definitely worth the effort. All natural ingredients, no preservatives and I used agave nectar instead of sugar. Tom loved it so much he’s eaten half of it already!

I also have 6 x 500gm jars of home grown and canned tomatoes

 

Candied/crystallised Peel

February is the season for oranges in the UAE – 7 dirhams for 3 kgs at the farmer’s market, that’s just under EUR 0.5 per kg. So today I made marmalade. Although technically marmalade should be made with bitter Seville oranges, any citrus fruit will do. I leave the pith on my fruit, essentially because I don’t have the time or patience to de-pith kilos of fruit, but also because it imparts a slightly bitter flavour. I used 2 kgs of oranges (8 fruits), I thinly sliced 4 and peeled and chopped the other 4, adding just the flesh to the marmalade. I squeezed the juice from 2 lemons and added that to the pan, marmalade underway- but what to dowith the leftover peel……?

I’d read that crystallised peel was easy to make, so thought I’d give it a try, and easy it was! Being lazy I threw the peels into a pan of water as they were and brought to the boil for 10 minutes. I drained, refilled and did the same again, so total of 20 minutes boiling ( I poured the 2nd lot of water into the marmalade for extra flavour!) and then drained in a colander. When they were cool enough to handle I scraped the leftover flesh and pith off the lemon peels and then sliced all the peels into thinnish strips. Much easier to do when soft.

I made a syrup of 4 cups of water and 2 cups of raw sugar and boiled for a couple of minutes before adding the peels ( see photo below) and boiled for 45 minutes.

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45 minutes later the peel was translucent and the syrup had almost been absorbed. The peels were drained, rolled in sugar and put on a rack to dry. Some recipes recommend drying in the oven at 200F but my oven doesn’t go that low, so my peels are drying overnight at room temperature, and they taste amazing. However next time I won’t bother with the additional suger coating, they are already sweet enough. These should keep for about a month in an airtight container, or several months in the freezer.

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Update 8th May

the peel had mould growing on it after 3 weeks of being in an airtight jar on the kitchen shelf, so will definitely keep them in the freezer in future

Recycling

Well, we finally got recycling bins in our street. The municipal trucks came one morning in early January and loaded the huge metal dumpster bins onto a van ( still full of rubbish of course) and took them down to the wasteland next to the beach and left them there 😦

One black wheelie bin and one green recycling bin was provided per 2 houses. The green recycling bin gives very clear instructions on what can and cannot be put into them, so it should all go well right?

Wrong!

The bins were not emptied for almost 2 weeks and the black bins filled up within days, so then the green bins got filled up with black bags of rubbish and then the street was littered with black bags and loose recyclable items. The Municipality were called several times and eventually came and cleared up the mess.

Since then they’ve collected every day, so not an issue, now we just have to educate the neighbours that goat manure and dead chickens are not recyclable items………

Grow your own – update

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The raised beds are doing well, we have Roma and beef tomatoes, peppers, chillis, butternut squash, pumpkins, courgettes, sweetcorn, sweet potatoes, garlic and various herbs (I’m not even mentioning aubergines although they continue to grow profusely!). The big disappointment this year has been beans – they just won’t grow, get to about 12 inches then keel over and die. We have 2 broad bean plants that have survived and flowered, but haven’t produced any beans.

The figs and pomegranates are ripe and we’re harvesting them almost daily, bananas are ripening and the citrus trees have tiny oranges and lemons just starting. The mangos didn’t flower after all the shocking we gave then, so looks like we’ll have to wait another year to eat fresh homegrown mangos. The photo above is a small clump of sugar cane which is almost ready to harvest, we don’t use a lot of sugar, but it’s nice to be able to produce our own cane juice, which I’ll be using for the next batch of fermented ginger beer.

 

Update:-

One of the mango trees finally flowered and we had about 5 fronds of blossoms, each eventually had approx 10 fruit buds, unfortunately a storm in April blew most of those off and we are left with 2 fruits. Let’s hope they survive to ripen.

Aubergine Update

I’m sick to the back teeth of aubergines, we have half a dozen jars of brinjal in the fridge, and have given as many away. We have 3 kilos of ratatouille and 3 kilos of aubergine curry in the freezer, and have eaten as much again. There is also only so much moussaka one can eat, ditto grilled aubergine! I give away approximately 4 kilos of aubergine a week, and only the not-so-nice ones are retained for the above home processing.

Lesson learned, I shall only retain a few plants at the end of this season, along with some peppers, tomatoes, chillies and a courgette plant.

And a note on courgettes…..in the uk our courgettes grew so prolifically we couldn’t give enough of them away, here I have one tiny courgette just ripening from 3 plants!

Food Forest in the Desert

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Not only do vegetables grow quickly here, so do trees. The banana plants in the photo above were planted a year ago and have doubled in size since. They’ve only produced one bunch of very small bananas on one plant so far, which means their energy has been concentrated into vegetative growth.

We have 5 mango trees in the garden that were planted 4 years ago, so they should be flowering this year. We’ve cut them right back to ‘shock’ them into flowering, and also to let some sunlight reach the plants growing below them, fingers crossed we get some mangos. They don’t look so great (aesthetically) right now because of the hard pruning, so I’ll post a photo when they are in full bloom.

The orange and lemon trees flowered well last winter, their first year after planting, and then had severe bud fall due to 3 days of unprecedented bad weather in April. We eventually picked one lemon, someone else helped themselves to the single surviving orange! Let’s hope we have better luck this year.

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The pomegranate tree above was planted last year and has about 50 small fruits already, so looking forward to eating some of those.

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The fig tree that was planted last winter is laden with fruit, literally hundreds. This isn’t the best photo but I was trying to also capture the papaya tree in the background, it can just be seen in the top middle section of the photo. We’ve had little success with papaya trees so far, they wilt and die after a few months, they are either too shaded or too exposed, so this one, planted in the middle of the fig and palm trees, and shaded from the mid day sun by the damas trees in the background, is doing really well. We need to plant some others near by and in similar conditions as they are not self pollinating.

The plan is to under-plant all of these trees with edible shrubs, perennials and herbs, hence the title of the post. We planted aubergines around the base of some of the palm trees last year and they survived the intense summer sun, we’re doing the same with peppers and tomatoes this year. I’d like to plant some berry bushes and strawberries in the next month or so, and some self seeding plants such as amaranth.

Growing things in the desert – veggies

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I love winter in Abu Dhabi, the days are warm and sunny and the evenings cool, enough to need a sweater ( for me, at least -Tom is still in short sleeved T shirts).

But what I love most about winter is that we can grow our own food, without any chemicals. We have raised beds, pots and vegetables growing under trees. We have lots of trees!

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These are 3 of our raised beds, and we are experimenting. Our neighbour claims that the soil here ( um, what soil?) is really good for growing vegetables, all it needs is some natural fertiliser now and again. So we have one bed that is just local soil with the addition of farmyard ( goat) manure. We have another bed which is filled with our homemade compost mixed with some locally bought compost. We’ve mulched around the plants to retain moisture in this bed.  We’ve planted the same plants (almost) in each bed so that we can compare. and so far the local bed is lagging far behind.  The only thing that is growing well is garlic, whereas in the ‘western’ bed, everything is at least 3 times the size of the local bed one month after planting. Now, it maybe that the slower growth will lead to a longer growing season, who knows – we’ll report back in a few months.

The third bed also has our compost and a frame for  growing vertically.   We planted runner beans, French beans, pumpkins, butternut squash,  and sweet potato vines. All of the beans have died, both transplants and seeds sown directly into the ground. I’ve replanted time and again and they all die at about 12 inches tall 😦  I’ve decided to give up trying as it’s obviously too dry for them and have now been replaced with cucumbers and honeydew melons, which are just about an inch tall so far, so you can’t really see them in the photo. We’ll update on progress.

 

 

Lemongrass and Ginger Soap

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I love this soap, it’s really easy to make, lathers well and really gentle on my skin. The bar sets hard so it lasts well and smells great. Ginger is so good for the skin. I have to say, my poor photography skills don’t do it justice!

I used a basic soap recipe.

olive oil 400g

palm oil 300g

coconut oil 200g

castor oil 100g

water 380g

lye 148g

Lemon grass essential oil 15g

This recipe works well with a number of additions At thin trace I added the EO and about 30g of fresh ginger juice. It poured really well and set up after only 12 hours.