Now, more than ever, it feels important to add a little happiness into your day whenever you can.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to eat food you love and makes you feel good. And to eat it in a way that makes you feel good.
With the warmer weather and even the occasional bit of sunshine, it’s an excuse to linger a little longer, stop and smell your coffee, and savour small mouthfuls of delicious food.
My personal happy eating selection for June includes seasonal fruit, brilliant green broad beans, a touch of tahini and delicious ‘food waste’ granola.
What I’m eating joyfully this month…
I’m a proud Australian and feel it’s my patriotic duty to champion the quality of the delicious food of my homeland, even if I haven’t lived there for quite a number of years. BUT I have to concede the superiority of British strawberries.
The juicy globules that leave sticky trails down my chin are pure delight, especially when picked and eaten a little warm from the plant. I love the slight fuzziness of the outside that bursts into sweet jamminess in my mouth. I have many happy childhood memories of my mum’s layered strawberry shortcake and strawberries remain one of my favourite summer fruits.
This goes with that
Strawberries and cream are definitely a match made in heaven. Go for the thickest, creamiest and organic-ist (okay, so I made that word up) that you can; a little goes a long way as you don’t want to overwhelm the strawberries. Anything else creamy also works nicely. Thick natural Greek yoghurt, ricotta cheese or soft goat’s cheese are all good options.
A little sprinkle of coconut sugar or a touch of maple syrup enhances the natural sweetness of strawberries, but it you want to add a different edge, a splash of balsamic vinegar or a little freshly ground black pepper are delicious. Strawberries and lighter fresh herbs also go well together: mint, basil and even a little flat leaf parsley are worth a try.
And for crunch? Throw a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs or chopped toasted almonds in your strawberry bowl.
2. Juice Pulp Granola from nibs etc.
I think it’s really exciting to see how different people are tackling our appalling levels of food waste. Chloe of nibs etc. spoke at my event, The Joy Of Sustainable Eating, last month and described her personal approach to making the most of leftovers.
One of my favourite nibs etc creations is Chloe’s Juice Pulp Granola. Fruit pulp is the fibre that’s leftover from all those lovely juices you might be treating yourself to when you tuck into your favourite fruit or veggie combo. The good news is that this pulp is completely usable (and still full of good stuff).
Each batch is ever so slightly different as it depends on the juice pulp Chloe has sourced. It’s all mixed up with oats, sultanas, honey, almonds, seeds – and more. Most of the other ingredients used in the granola are also organic. I love it as it’s not too sweet and comes in big crunchy chunks.
Solo Granola and beyond
Of course you can just eat granola in a bowl with your milk of choice, but it’s also delicious with yoghurt and seasonal fruit, sprinkled on top of porridge or mixed in with other cereal. I’ll happily admit to eating it as a snack, straight from the bag. If you’re baking, you could also use the granola to top muffins and cakes (it would be particularly delicious on banana bread).
I breathe a small sigh of joy when stone fruit starts to appear, even though for years I couldn’t eat nectarines after over-dosing on back garden ones when I was growing up.
I love a fuzzy peach that’s full of the sweetness of sunshine and the requisite sticky fingers that mean eating outside or carefully over a plate are a must. Seek out some different varieties, from large, sweet and juicy, to small, a little harder and more intense. Flat peaches and white peaches are a couple that I like to go on the hunt for.
This goes with that
The pleasure of eating unadulterated fruit shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s why Alice Waters took the bold step at Chez Panisse in California of serving a single peach, on a plate, on its own. Nothing else.
However peaches are also a great foil for other flavours. My favourite pinch of black pepper, which I seem to be adding to everything at the moment, a little freshly ground cardamom or even a discrete sprinkle of toasted cumin seeds are interesting additions.
Peaches tolerate roasting well, so drizzle with a little oil or butter and pop in the oven or under a grill for a few minutes to bring out the sweetness. Top with savoury shards of parmesan, or perhaps some freshly ripped basil, or even a sprinkle of pistachios and a drizzle of honey.
Nut butters are still all the rage at the moment, but the one thing I always like to have in my store cupboard is tahini. This blend of sesame seeds actually tends to be a bit cheaper than nut butters (unless you’re going for cheaper peanut butter with lots of sugar and vegetable oil – which I would personally rather avoid). And a little goes a long way.
I really like the earthiness and creaminess of tahini, with the faintest hint of sesame seed crunch. There are some different types, but I find the light one is the most usable as it has a slightly less intense flavour. And of course, do go organic if you can afford to. I tend to buy the Meridian or Sunita brand.
Tahini is a secret superpower ingredient for salad dressings; a tablespoon mixed with a little olive oil, lemon juice and zest, chilli flakes and sea salt is delicious. I add it neat into and over porridge (just as you would nut butter). Or roasted vegetables. I’ve also been mixing it with melted chocolate, seeds, dried fruit and cacao powder in one of my recipes for my summer The Joy Of Chocolate workshops.
5. Broad Beans
The simple pleasure of podding broad beans and peas is a great route to feeling a little more grounded. A whirring mind can be easily soothed by the repetitive strip, pop and plunk of picking broad beans out of their furry casings.
These little guys have a light natural sweetness and don’t like being overcooked. The outside white case of the bean is not normally so edible, unless the beans are very young. The best way to get this off is to blanch the beans (i.e. drop in boiling water) for a couple of minutes, drain and then gently push the glistening green bit out. Careful though, as they do have a tendency to shoot across the kitchen if you’re being a bit enthusiastic.
A lesser known fact is that you can eat the outer skins if cooked the right way. A couple of suggestions from Victoria Glass’ excellent new book, Too Good To Waste, include bean pod, coconut & lime soup or deep-fried crispy bean pod fritters.
This goes with that
Keep it simple with broad beans. A drizzle of olive oil, a little fresh mint, some freshly ground black pepper and a few flakes of sea salt make for a tasty dish – or toast topping. Mash lightly to turn this into a dip (and you might even want to add a few spoonfuls of natural yoghurt). You can also throw a handful of podded beans through salads or scatter over an omelette. The brilliant flash of broad bean green is sure to make you smile.
What are you eating joyfully this month?