When Maggie suggested, 'Foods That Heal' as her theme for Go Ahead Honey this month , I could hardly wait for January to arrive! Food as medicine is my mantra, so I spend much of my life exhorting people to embrace butter and eggs, add a little more liver to their lives, make bone broth, beet kvass, kefir and enjoy the amazing vegetables that emerge from the ground season after season.
But where to start? A recipe for probiotic ginger beer? My very special caramelised onion and chicken liver paté? A superfood melee of broccoli, ginger, flax oil, miso and sesame? What with the busyness of house building, teaching and work - time just ran out on these grand schemes and nothing got photographed or recorded - although we ate healing foods every single day.
So I give you a recipe that I wrote for my River Cottage Gluten Free Day . A grain free carrot muffin, filled with ingredients that heal. A cinch to make and very easy to gobble up too! I'll tell you a little bit about all the ingredients so that when you sink your teeth into the moist carroty, almond crumb and nibble on a little morsel of walnut or flax seed - you can feel that lovely warm smugness that comes from eating something that is 100% good for you.
1. Almond flour (ground almonds UK) Whilst many gluten free muffins rely on grains, almond flour can be used as a grain free alternative. Anyone with yeast issues, IBD, coeliac disease, or autism would do well to eat as little grain carbohydrate as possible as it can remain undigested in the gut and cause inflammation and dysbiosis. Almonds are a low carb source of fibre, vitamin E, monounsaturated fats and some B vitamins.
2. Carrots Of course we all know that carrots are good for us, but why? Well that old wives tale about helping you see in the dark is not so far fetched, as carrots contain betacarotene - converted in the body into vitamin A (which helps eyesight amongst other crucial functions). Like most brightly coloured vegetables, carrots are rich in antioxidants - which help fight free radical damage and keep us young. They're also a great source of fibre.
3. Butter or Coconut Oil Butter and coconut oil both contain short and medium chain fatty acids, which have been shown to offer an antimicrobal, immune supporting effect. Both fats are digested in the stomach and therefore easy to assimilate and use for energy - just what you want from your breakfast muffin! Coconut oil is reputed to stimulate metabolism and butter has a perfect ratio of omega 3 to 6 and reasonable quantities of vitamins A and D. Both contain a good amount of dietary cholesterol, which is believed to support adrenal function - often needed by anyone with allergies, diabetes, thyroid disorder, asthma, yeast overgrowth and chronic fatigue syndrome.
4. Eggs Eggs are one of nature's miracle foods. A perfect balance of proteins, fats, essential fatty acids, amino acids, trace elements, cholesterol and those all important vitamins A, D and some Bs. Eggs are an ideal food to start the day with - slowing down the digestion of carbohydrate and thus ensuring a steady stream of glucose to the brain and muscles. Eat as many as you like - they will not give you high cholesterol!
5. Date Syrup Now this is not what I'd call a health food, but dates are a preferred sweetener for me because they come complete with many of the elements that are used in digestion of carbohydrates - magnesium and B vitamins especially. They also provide manganese, phosphorus, potassium and iron. In Ayurvedic/Eastern medicine, dates are said to support the spleen, or warm the body. This is especially important in winter when we can become spleen deficient due to the lack of sun and social/physical contact that cold weather brings. A few dates, or a little date syrup can be medicinal - a lot of it will spike your blood sugar and exhaust your adrenals and pancreas. Treat with respect!
6. Flax Seeds High in omega 3 fatty acids and dietary fibre, flax seeds are reputed to help lower (LDL) cholesterol and keep your bowels moving in a pleasingly regular way.
7. Cinnamon Even without any health benefits, cinnamon brings a comforting scented warmth to any baking - sweetening the flavour without adding more sugar. The extra wonder of it, is that it has been shown to help lower blood sugar by slowing down the rate at which carbohydrate is digested and increasing the receptiveness of insulin receptors. It has been shown to have antiviral properties and warms the body in Ayurvedic/Eastern Medicine.
8. Walnuts Although consuming walnuts raw is the best way to take advantage of their high omega 3 and antioxidant benefits - they still pack a great nutritional punch when baked into a muffin.
9. Clementines Whilst indulging in too much citrus fruit is not a great idea - as it can be mucous forming - a little citrus can do wonders. Clementines (or oranges) are a good source of vitamin C - although this is heat sensitive, so don't eat these muffins hoping to get your vitamin C quota! The best part of the clementine in these muffins is the zest, which contains bioflavanoids such as Quercetin and Rutin that are believed to have antioxidant qualities, help blood flow, vein strength and increase the body's ability to use vitamin C. It also brings a little summery citrus scent into your winter kitchen, lifting your heart on the greyest of days.
So what are you waiting for? Bake up a batch of these muffins, comforted by the knowledge that they are a treat that nourishes, both the body and spirit. Simple enough for a child to throw together - your kitchen will radiate homeliness whilst they bake.
Grain Free Carrot-Cake Muffins Makes 12-14
120g Salted Organic Butter (or coconut oil and large pinch sea salt)
4 Large Free Range Eggs
Zest and Juice of 2 Clementines (or small oranges)
¾ cup (185ml) of Date Syrup
2 Heaped tsp Cinnamon
1 ½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
200g Grated Carrot (peeled weight)
350g Ground Almonds (or coconut flour)
4 tsp flax seeds ground in a pestle and mortar/spice grinder
Optional – large handful of chopped walnuts and a few raisins or chopped dried apricots/dates
Set the oven to 160ºC and fill a muffin tray with 12 paper cases.
Melt butter and set aside to cool.
Peel and grate carrot finely. Zest and juice clementines.
Beat together; eggs, clementine zest and juice, syrup, cinnamon and bicarb.
Beat in butter – scraping pan with a spatula to get everything in - fill to about 6mm (1/4 inch) from the top of the case. (Any left over can be baked after the first batch come out of the tray)
Beat in carrot, flax seed and ground almonds (coconut). Add optional walnuts.
Spoon evenly into the cases and bake for 30- 35 mins – until they are golden brown, risen and firm.
Cool for 5 mins in the tins and then remove to a rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight box and eat within two days or freeze and defrost for 8 hours.