As you know from last week’s post, I’m on a mission to show that British food can be beautiful and tasty. So during my second and final week of celebrating British Food Fortnight I wanted to show off what food culture in this country is really all about and tackle a national favourite: The British pud!

Just like last week, I used cookbooks from the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s as my starting point. This time around, the thing that struck me was how much space each cookbook dedicated to desserts. In fact, about 50% of each cookbook was solely and completely about the art of preparing a good pudding that would make your fellow middle class female friends grind their teeth with envy and blush in awe. Fascinating stuff this thing of stepping back in time.

Looking through those cookbooks also showed me how the Brits’ obsession with a good old pud goes wayyyyyy back. It’s practically in their DNA. So the pressure of coming up with the goods was on.

Earlier this year, my 4-year-old son and I (my husband joined us later) took an epic journey to the Americas. We’d talked about the trip for weeks and were both beyond excited as we boarded our plane on a Thursday evening and set off to the first of many destinations: Miami, Florida.

To be frank, I had been quite nervous about travelling and especially about visiting the States (You know, I always feel rather overwhelmed and saddened by the excessive availability of cheap, unhealthy convenience foods on offer when I enter the US  and I was worried about how my son would manage this new and surely tempting experience. (He was fine by the way)).

I knew that cooking and eating healthily far away from the comforts of my own kitchen wouldn’t be straight forward, so I needed to do lots of pre-planning and thinking about how best to make it all work. Sure, I didn’t want to obsess about food either, but I certainly wanted to be cautious and avoid any processed, (factory farmed) animal-based foods, if at all possible.

The flight went well. I brought a lot of healthy food with me and bought some water at the airport, meaning we ate really well and stayed hydrated for the whole of the plane journey. What I hadn’t expected was what happened at passport control…

I have been really keen to use this blog as a space to experiment and to explore what I am capable of in the kitchen. I feel The Little Plantation is the perfect excuse to step out of my comfort zone and just go for it. If I can’t be a daredevil in real life, I better be one in cyberspace, right?

My biggest fear has always been baking bread. I know it’s a bit ridiculous but I just never knew how or where to start and frankly I thought all that kneading business looked rather complicated. Plus I believed that you needed lots of patience (something I lack) and heaps of time (something I never have enough of) (SPOILER ALERT: I was right, you need both but it’s totally worth it and it ain't as bad as it sounds).

pitta ingredients 1

So, instead of making my own bread I’ve just popped into the supermarket and bought the best loaf I could find. But deep down inside of me I’ve always known that there is so much I am missing out on by going down that easy route. One of my yoga students put it really poignantly, she said: ‘We all originate from a place where we use our hands, sit around a fire, chat, share stories and make beautiful things.’

In life you sometimes get really lucky and meet a person whose energy is so engaging, whose knowledge about nutrition is utterly awe inspiring and whose way with others completely exemplifies the meaning of the word ‘kindness’. I got to meet such a person this year and her name is Orley Moyal. The best thing of all - I got to interview her for the Little Plantation and I am chuffed to bits she is sharing her knowledge and insight with all of you too!

Orley was one of my lecturers during my year 1, biomedicine/nutrition course. Apart from teaching the biomedicine module at the College of Naturopathic Medicine, Orley is also a nutritional consultant trainer and naturopathic doctor with a deep-rooted knowledge and passion for nutrition, herbal medicine and research.

In today’s interview Orley talks us through the benefits and possible drawbacks of a vegan diet and shares dietary tips everyone should know about!

TLP: Orley, what was your path into nutrition and wellness?
OM: It was actually a bit of a coincidence; my intention had always been to work with children, ideally as a speech and language therapist. In my pursuit of this career I ended up volunteering in a children’s home in South Africa, helping children with special health needs such as autism, eczema and asthma to name but a few.

The children were seen by a local doctor who was very interested in the effects of food on the body. He wondered about the origins of allergies and hypothesised that food could also be linked to mood, behaviour and physical well-being. His ideas reached far beyond what was known and accepted about the food-body connection at the time.

The only way he knew how to test his theory was through a food elimination diet; by eliminating certain food groups he studied what changes this brought about in the children. The results were staggering – I saw children with diagnosed autism change their behaviour significantly and those with skin conditions eradicate their problem fully. It was fascinating!

Seeing the profound impact of food on the human body completely altered my career path and I decided to become a naturopathic doctor instead of a speech and language therapist.

TLP: From a medical/research perspective, how healthy do you feel a vegan diet is?
OM: Great question! It’s so interesting because veganism has come under quite a lot of attack over the years. The loudest critics always raise three key points. Firstly, they say that vegans can’t obtain enough B12 from plant based foods. And although meat is a great source of B12, it is inaccurate to claim that plant based foods cannot provide B12 in sufficient amounts. Chlorella for example has lots of B12 and now scientists have started to wonder whether other sea plants and vegetables can provide us with B12 too. Research in this area is still in its infancy, but it’s so exciting to see where this is going to take us.

Secondly, there have been concerns as to whether vegans get enough vitamin D. Vitamin D is actually more like a hormone and we need it to perform lots of functions in the body. Ample research has now gone into exploring plant based vitamin D and the results have been very positive, highlighting that vegans can easily obtain vitamin D from various plant based foods!

Thirdly, they claim vegans can’t get enough protein. But protein is everywhere – in grains, vegetables and especially fermented vegetables. In fact there seems to be lots of research which now suggests that protein from fermented vegetables are actually more bioavailable to the body and hence easier and better absorbed than other sources of protein. Consequently this argument against a vegan diet has long been successfully refuted.

TLP: Orley I am so interested to hear about new finding around the positive impact of eating fermented food. Can you tell me a little bit more about that please?
OM: Of course! I find it rather intriguing too especially if you think about the fact that every culture across the world has a tradition of eating fermented foods – sauerkraut in Northern Europe, kimchi in Korea and fermented tofu in the Far East. With their complete amino acids, fermented foods are true superfoods!

TLP: So are you suggesting that a vegan diet is actually really healthy?
OM: It has the potential to be great for your health. Eating a colourful diet ensures that vegans get an array of vitamins and anti-oxidants into their body. The important thing though is to avoid a common mistake some vegans make: eating too many carbohydrates.

TLP: Orley, can you say a little bit more what exactly you mean by that?
OM: I appreciate that this does not apply to all vegans, but I am aware that there are some who eat diets with a high concentration of carbs. For example, some have low- fibre smoothies packed with exotic fresh and dried fruit and then drink fibre-free fruit juices throughout the day. Eating and drinking so many fruits throughout the year is so far removed from the way our ancestors would have eaten. In my view this is neither normal nor healthy and something that can be particularly detrimental for women’s health as our bodies do not respond well to excessive fructose.

TLP: Orley, can you please explain why too much fructose is harmful?
OM: Whilst small, natural amounts of fibre-rich fructose, does not appear to acutely increase insulin levels, chronic exposure to excessive amounts of fibre-free fructose, seems to indirectly raise blood insulin levels and so cause insulin-resistance & obesity as well as liver problems, because the liver is the only organ that can really deal with fructose. I must stress that it’s quite easy to overdose on sweet and starchy carbs as our body is drawn to sweet things and we can quickly develop a craving for sweet foods, which then exacerbates the issue.

TLP: Thanks so much Orley for your time and for sharing your knowledge.
OM: My pleasure!

Note: I will feature another interview with Orley later in the year, so please do keep checking the blog or follow me on facebook or instagram to remain in the loop ;).

Sometimes all your stars align, destiny firmly grabs hold of the steering wheel and you are lead in one direction and one direction alone. Guess what? That’s exactly what happened with me and this pistachio yoghurt. Personally, I even think the pistachio yoghurt fairies were calling my name super loudly cuz this yoghurt just had to happen and this is the story of how everything came about:

pistachio 1

Event 1: A few months ago I had been told about this magnificent book called The Art of Fermentation. And ever since that day I had been lusting over it. And then, after weeks of contemplating, I took the plunge and bought it! (I contemplated because I buy WAY too many books and do need to reign myself in, you see).