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Caffeine and Tea

plant-based cooking course jay halford

Guide:

Caffeine and Tea

Few things can compare to the feeling you get when you drink a good hot coffee or tea. I like to say that whenever you drink something warm it’s like you’re having a hot shower on the inside. It’s just lush!

Coffee plays a major role in my life. I love it! I love how it smells, I love its bitterness, I love that it’s my first thing to have in the morning. However, I got to the point where I was drinking coffee at 5pm without even thinking about it. Because I had to practice what I preached, after a while of dismissing the fact that I had turned coffee into my go-to energy booster, I started drinking more juices and all was good. However, more recently, I learned about the Ayurvedic Teas and it made me pay attention.

Ayurvedic Teas are traditional herbal teas that are meant to help people attain health, wellness and vitality. They are something else, really! I tried blending different herbs myself, following Ayurvedic recipes and a couple of them stuck with me and are my go-to whenever I need a little boost. Kadha is my favourite one, it’s an ayurvedic immune-boosting drink which is made of Cardamom, Cinnamon, Ginger and Black pepper boiled in water for several minutes. It’s a strong delicious kick to the body, so good! And you can enjoy it from morning to evening, too.  The other one is a bit more pungent, but incredibly comforting. It’s the Ayurvedic Tea for Body Detox, great for digestion and best consumed before nighttime. All you need to do to enjoy a cup of this one is to add dry roasted fennel seeds, cumin seeds and coriander seeds to hot boiling water and let it brew for 10min. Carefully strain the tea afterwards and enjoy it while it’s warm.

Coffee plays a major role in my life. I love it! I love how it smells, I love its bitterness, I love that it’s my first thing to do in the morning. However, I got to the point where I was drinking coffee at 5pm without even thinking about it. Around the same time I learned about the Ayurvedic Teas and it made me pay attention to what I was doing.

plant-based cooking course jay halford

Ayurvedic Teas are traditional herbal teas that are meant to help people attain health, wellness and vitality. They are something else, really! I tried blending different herbs myself, following Ayurvedic recipes and a couple of them stuck with me and are my go-to whenever I need a little boost. Kadha is my favourite one, it’s an ayurvedic immune-boosting drink which is made of Cardamom, Cinnamon, Ginger and Black pepper boiled in water for several minutes. It’s a strong delicious kick to the body, so good! And you can enjoy it from morning to evening, too.  The other one is a bit more pungent, but incredibly comforting. It’s the Ayurvedic Tea for Body Detox, great for digestion and best consumed before nighttime. All you need to do to enjoy a cup of this one is to add dry roasted fennel seeds, cumin seeds and coriander seeds to hot boiling water and let it brew for 10min. Carefully strain the tea afterwards and enjoy it while it’s warm.

Gluten-free

Guide:

Gluten-free

Gluten sensitivity is a real thing. Gluten and wheat are fine for some people, but not for others. And just to be on the safe side, why not choose all the white flour alternatives out there?

With so many different kinds of grains there are on this planet, we have plenty of types of non-wheat flours to choose from, to make sure we are feeding our bodies the best possible nourishment there is. When it comes to baking or desserts, I gave up using white flour quite some time now. I simply found it easier to use flours that allowed me to create recipes for everyone, dietary restrictions and food allergies included, just to make sure that anyone can enjoy a good healthy dessert whenever they feel like it. 

Now I know how so many people advise against white flour nowadays and especially refined one, just because of all the preservatives added to the mix, but I am not a real expert on the subject. When it comes to choosing what flour is best for my recipes, I go with logic. If there are alternatives to white flour that allow me to cater to all needs in one go, and also play around with different textures and unique flavours that enrich the end result – why the heaven not?

plant based cooking course

I must say I can’t really decide on one single type of flour, mainly because each one of them brings something different to the recipe, so I go back and forth between coconut, almond, quinoa, or buckwheat flour. I used these flours to create the recipes in this course as well, so if you want to give it a go and see how you find them, this is your chance 🙂

Dairy Alternatives

plant-based cooking course jay halford

Guide:

Dairy Alternatives

With so many plant and nut milk options nowadays, people are starting to turn away from dairy slowly, but surely. It’s getting more and more difficult to ignore the science backing up the fact that dairy products (especially processed dairy) have negative effects on the human body.

Remember the saying, “Drink a pint of milk before you go out drinking?”

It is absolutely true as it completely lines your stomach so that nothing can be absorbed by your body. This includes the good stuff that we want to absorb too, so drinking and eating dairy can block your bodies from receiving the goodness from the food you eat.

In all the fancy restaurants that I have worked in over the years, there is a CRAZY amount of dairy used and it has become second nature to cook with bottles of cream and blocks of butter. That needs to change in your cooking from home if you want to improve your health and the quality of food that YOU are eating.

Dairy is also extremely over-processed and can contain loads of unwanted ingredients and hormones from the animals that it comes from. Natural is always best with as little processing as possible.

In most of my recipes in this course, you will notice that I skip out dairy. This is a personal choice I made trying to test what other healthier options there are – as I found plenty, I decided to stick with it. 

More often than not I go with oat milk or coconut milk (unsweetened versions) but feel free to try them out and choose the one that best suits your taste buds. There are plenty of plant/nut milk recipes very easy to make at home, too. All the nut milk recipes are more or less the same, the only thing that differs is the kind of nuts you use. You can find a recipe for homemade almond milk on my website, to get yourself started.

Kitchen Essentials

plant-based cooking course jay halford

Guide:

Kitchen Essentials

Over the years, I’ve found these next items extremely useful and reliable. Even they do make your life easier, they are not 100% necessary for the recipes in this course. You can very well use the tools you already have in your kitchen that serve the same designated purpose.

A blender

Most blenders will do a good job of mixing ingredients. However, there are huge differences in how thoroughly blenders break down and how finely they grind ingredients. Those designed to break through even the smallest and hardest kind of produce will turn out the smoothest results. These blenders also help unlock vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids (such as Omega-3s) that have been trapped within the cell walls of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.

The Vitamix Explorian Blender*

The Vitamix, one of the most established blender brands out there, has become famous for its high-powered motor and laser-cut blades that can turn even the most fibrous ingredients into a healthy concoction with an exceptionally smooth, velvety texture.

The Vitamix is one of those products that I use pretty much each and every day because it’s so versatile! It’s perfect for smoothies, soups, purees, cheesecakes, power-ball mixes, nut butters – you name it.

Price-wise, although I agree it’s easy to consider the Vitamix blender a luxury purchase, I prefer to think of it as an investment, rather than an expense.

A healthy plant-based diet includes consuming lots of nuts and heavier ingredients that, when grinding, can cause the blender a lot of wear and tear quite quickly. The Vitamix is perfect if you know you’ll use it for a variety of recipes regularly. It may be more expensive, but for more complex plant-based recipes, if you buy cheap, you’ll buy twice, sorry.

If, however, you’re interested to use your blender for easier tasks, less grinding and basic mixing,  there are plenty of more affordable alternatives on the market.

The NutriBullet Blender*

While NutriBullet’s 900-watt motor is smaller, compared to the motors of most Vitamix blenders, it still does a pretty good job when it comes to your daily smoothie. The smoothness of the end results varies depending on the kind of ingredients you’re trying to blend. As I said, things might get tricky when blending harder types of frozen fruits, leafy greens or nuts, but it all depends on your preference. Still, for how compact and small they are, NutriBullet blenders are pretty amazing.

A good set of knives that are sharp and comfortable to use

Victorinox Chef’s Knives*

Some home chefs can get really into knives and go really overboard with them. You don’t need to go crazy and spend an absolute fortune to get a good set of high-quality, sharp chefs knives.

I highly recommend a great brand called Victorinox*. They are cheap and really really amazing. I have actually still got my first ever Victorinox chef’s knife and it’s still going strong 13 years on. They are great, they stay sharp for a long time, are very easy to sharpen, comfortable to use and long-lasting. Couldn’t ask for more.

A peeler

The Y Peeler*

The Julienne Peeler*

There are so many uses for the simple vegetable peeler. Apart from peeling veg, I also use it for salad ribboning. Come to think about it, so much of my salad prep is done with a peeler! For a finer cut, I use the Julienne peeler.

Chopping board

Bamboo Chopping Board*

A decent thick chopping board is a must-have. Material-wise, I try going with bamboo as much as possible, being a more eco-friendly material, more durable and natural antibacterial too.

Grater

6-Sides Grater*

This is a must for those rostis and fritters that you are going to be making very soon. It’s a real good way of speeding up your food prep.

 

*Kindly bear in mind that some of these links are affiliate links and if you make a purchase through them, I may earn a commission. Please rest assured that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and nothing else. Feel free to do your own research, compare as many products as you can, and make your final purchase based on your conclusions. Thank you!

How to consume less processed fats and sugars

plant based cooking course jay halford

Guide:

How to reduce processed fats and sugars

The average adult eats too much. Way too much! And it’s all because processed foods are turning cravings into a deciding factor when it comes to choosing what to eat. The body’s need of proper nourishment has been taken over by the mind’s addiction to emotional eating, to instant gratification and short-term pleasures. This is happening because almost all convenience foods nowadays contain additives, artificial sweeteners and all kinds of chemicals, which the more you eat, to more you want.

A healthier diet means making a habit out of avoiding foods high in processed, saturated and trans fats like fried foods, fatty meats, margarines and butters, snacks and oils. Saturated and trans fats are two big dietary culprits found responsible for a considerable amount of health issues.

Watch out for hidden fats and sugars too. Sweet foods like muffins, doughnuts, cookies, cakes and pies will contain high amounts of fat and sugar calories. Similarly, crackers, crisps and other junk foods are high in bad fats and sugars. If in doubt, read the food labels properly and do your research. I stick to and live by the rule that if you haven’t heard of the ingredient or can’t pronounce it, then don’t eat it. Super simple.

 

healthier eating habits

Gravy, salad dressing, sour cream, butter, margarine, mayonnaise and whipped cream are almost all bad fats and sugar. Even small amounts of these foods can boost the bad in your diet.

Try to buy low-sugar or low saturated fat and dairy-free products as much as you can. You will be grateful for it in the long run. More so, if you can avoid highly processed sugars completely, you would do yourself an even greater favour! Research has shown that sugar is worse than fat. Sugar is actually what makes us fat. Sugar is a toxin to our body and when trapped inside us it cannot be digested so it’s then wrapped in fat to protect our bodies from it. Zoinks! 

Personally, I find nature to be the best and healthiest way there is. Natural is what our bodies are designed to be and what they are designed to eat and digest. People go on about fruit being bad for you because of all the sugars in it… How can this be possible?! I’ve heard some people even compare a fresh apple juice to a can of coke. Ridiculous! Our bodies know how to deal with and digest natural sugars. It’s only natural.

Another thing I live by is something I’ve learnt in school: EAT MORE FRUIT AND VEG. That is perfect advice and it cannot be wrong, the more the better.

More on how to cut out refined sugar from your diet

Replacing sugary foods with healthier alternatives can help your body receive its essential vitamins and minerals, to be healthier overall.

  • Take it slow

One of the most important things to consider when changing your diet is to do so gradually. Going from a diet full of sugar to one containing no sugar should be a slow process.

It may help to start by eliminating the most obvious sources of sugar. Baked goods, such as cakes, muffins, and brownies, can easily be avoided. Eliminating candy and sugary beverages is an excellent place to start, also.

You can try reducing the amount of sugar and cream you put in your coffee or tea, gradually omitting it completely. Working up to a no-sugar diet can help retrain the palate and you’ll eventually stop craving sugary sweets.

  • Read labels

Once you have managed to cut out the most obvious sugars from your diet, you can turn your attention to other products that contain sugar. Reading labels can help identify the types of sugars you should avoid.

Sugar has many names and is in many different syrups and concentrates. In fact, there are at least 61 different names for sugar on food labels. A simple trick is to become familiar with the products and nutritional information on the products. 

  • Avoid simple carbs

Many no-sugar diets also recommend that people avoid simple carbohydrates. Simple carbs include white flour, white pasta, and white rice.

The carbohydrates in these foods can be quickly broken down into sugar in the body, which may cause the blood sugar levels to spike. You can replace simple carbs with wholegrain options.

  • Avoid artificial sugars

Artificial sugars are a subject of controversy in the diet industry. They are much sweeter than sugar but contain little or no calories.

However, eating artificial sugars can trick the body into thinking it is actually eating sugar. This can exacerbate your sugar cravings, making it more difficult to stick to a no-sugar diet.

plant based cooking course

  • Do not drink sugar

Sugar may be fairly easy to avoid in processed foods but sugar-sweetened drinks such as soda, speciality coffees, sweetened teas and fruit juices are some of the most significant sources of added sugars in the diet.

Replacing these drinks with unsweetened herbal tea, coffee without sugar, sparkling mineral water, fresh juices or just plain water can help you reduce your sugar intake and stay hydrated.

  • Focus on plant and whole foods

If you want to stay away from sugar as much as possible, you can centre your diet around plants and whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, etc.

  • Plan the meals

When you plan your meals, it forces you to think about what you are making and the ingredients you will be using. When hunger strikes, you may be more likely to reach for that unhealthy snack if you don’t have nutritious meals and snacks at hand or are hungry when shopping. Bulk making and freezing your food is a great way to avoid this.

Many people take a day to do both their shopping and meal preparation for the entire week. With food at the ready, they are less tempted to reach for a sweet snack or drink.

  • Spice it up

The palate often misses sugar because it has no other flavours to replace it with. Many sweet-tasting herbs and spices can easily be added to your foods and drinks to replace sugar.

Common replacements include cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and vanilla. These can be added to coffee or sprinkled on top of oats or yoghurt.

Remember to be moderate!

Eliminating sugar from your diet should not be seen as a complete solution for weight loss, for instance. It is a part of a lifestyle change that includes regular exercise and a nutritious diet.

As mentioned earlier, those embarking on a no-sugar diet plan should do so gradually. However, another way of reducing sugar could be to have sugar only on special occasions, which may help some people cope with the loss of sweetness in their diet.

Overall, cutting back on sugar is a good idea for everyone, as it helps reduce the risk of numerous conditions and can improve a person’s overall health and wellbeing.

Seasoning

plant based cooking course jay halford

Guide:

Seasoning

Seasoning enhances the flavours in food and adds complementary tastes to enhance the eating experience.

I’m all about the natural flavour of food, it’s what I try to focus most when creating my dishes. I like my food to taste how it is supposed to, so when it comes to seasoning, I keep things at a minimum.

The two most fundamental and widely used spices are salt and pepper. Typically, what people think of when speaking of salt and pepper is white, granulated salt and pre-ground black pepper, but these are far from the only kinds of salt and pepper that exist.

 

plant-based cooking course jay halford

Salt:

Rock salt is a great salt variation, the larger crystals carry a punch. Sea salt is cherished by many as a more natural, culinary salt. There’s also Kosher, iodised, pickling and black salt, amongst many more.

My absolute favourite is pink Himalayan salt. It’s a far better alternative to processed salt, and you are making an excellent call when you’re using just the right amount, enough to keep your food healthy.

Pink Himalayan sea salt contains over 84 minerals and trace elements, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper and iron. So, it definitely does more than just enhancing the flavour of your food. You can also add it to hot baths to ease sore tired muscles!

Salt is a very important part of what our bodies need, so use it but use it right.

Pepper:

There is a vast assortment of peppers to explore ranging from your basic black pepper to chilli, jalapeño, habanero, cayenne to white pepper, each with its own degree of spiciness and subtle flavour distinctions.

Spices:

Let’s look a bit closer at other seasonings. Most individual seasonings are classed as herbs or spices. Herbs are usually the fresh or dried leaves of succulent plants that grow in particularly temperate climates. Spices tend to refer to any seasoning derived from the other parts of the plant beside the leaves, including the roots, stems, bark, seeds, fruit or buds.

Just to add a ‘sprinkle’ of confusion, chefs will use these two terms differently; spices can be used to describe all seasonings, including herbs.

Whereas herbs will have a somewhat milder flavour, spices are likely to be more pronounced. The most common cooking herbs will include basil, oregano, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, thyme and dill. Common culinary spices include cinnamon, paprika (another pepper), turmeric, ginger, saffron and cumin. Ginger and garlic are both considered spices as well.

plant-based cooking course jay halford

 

Interesting fact:

Did you know that some herbs and spices can come from different parts of the same plant? Dill seed and dill weed. Two other herbs, cilantro and coriander – both come from the same plant, but at two different stages in its growth cycle.

Also, many herbs and spices come from different varieties of the same plant, such as the mind-boggling array of types of basil, including Thai basil, Lemon basil, Cinnamon basil and Royal basil. What’s more, basil is just one kind of mint, of which there’s an even greater variety. Interestingly, although many herbs and spices, like liquorice, fennel and star anise, have a very similar flavour but are actually not linked to one another at all!

Here’s an experiment for you! – Different seasonings and blends applied to similar dishes may take you on an entirely different culinary journey. I encourage you to explore them! You’ll be fascinated with the flavour they add to your food!

Raw food tip: When creating raw dishes, I have a strong focus on seasonings as this really enhances the flavour of dishes. Raw food is obviously not cooked and therefore you are not cooking flavour into the food so you use things to enhance the flavour instead!

Other favourite ingredients that I try to always have in the kitchen:

Apple Cider Vinegar

This is amazing stuff, I use it in all sorts of savoury food. It’s great for salad dressings, marinades and sauces.

It’s also great for enhancing other flavours too. When making raw cakes, for instance, I will sometimes just add a drop of it (literally just a drop) to enhance the flavour of a chocolate orange cake.

Apple cider vinegar also has great health benefits and is an alkaline vinegar, meaning it’s also fermented.

Cinnamon

Amazing for enhancing sweet dishes and adding flavour to things like cakes, chocolates and nut creams. It’s also great for your blood sugar levels and cardiovascular health.

My homemade almond milk recipe is heavily flavoured with cinnamon, and is one of my favourite recipes.

Fresh Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is a great way to draw out the flavour of foods and is a very good source of vitamin C and potassium. Lemon juice is perfect for sprucing up a salad or dressings.

Liquid Aminos

Liquid aminos is basically a GMO and wheat-free version of a soy sauce, yet has a very similar flavour. I use it a lot in Asian cooking – it’s especially great for marinades and as an Asian flavouring with the right herbs and spices. Tamari is also great, but is a bit on the pricey side.

High-Quality Salts

Everyday table salt is highly refined and full of rubbish. Always aim to stick to high-quality organic sea salt, as it provides us with good minerals and vitamins. A favourite of mine is Pink Himalayan rock salt. You will really notice the difference in taste in your food.

Good high-quality organic rock salt is good too, a favourite of mine is Maldon Sea Salt.

Smoked paprika

This a spice that you’ll see me using all the time! It’s my all-time favourite. I mainly use it in dressing or sauces, but it is also great for roasting nuts and to give them an awesome flavour. They go really well blended with things like my tacos filling. It’s crazy how much this spice can transform a dish.

Vanilla in desserts

This is a great one to use for a sweet treat as it adds a whole level of different flavour! Try it in nut milk that you make from scratch and smoothies too, along with desserts.

Nutritional yeast

It’s amazing for salad dressings and evening just sprinkled over the tops of salads – it will make a massive difference. I also use this to replace any cheese flavours. Just blend it with some cashews, lemon juice and water for an amazing cheesy sauce. It’s hard to even tell the difference.

Cooking Oils

plant-based cooking course jay halford

Guide:

Cooking Oils

Cooking oils are one of the secrets of good cooking, and although choosing the best one can turn into quite the hassle these days, there are only a few things you should remember before making your pick.

Always choose extra-virgin oils, these are made from the first pressing, so nothing refined here. Cold-pressed is even better, as it means the olives or avocados or coconuts were stored in low temperatures and simply pressed until they released oil, with no extra heat or chemical additives used in the extraction process.

Reducing bad fats and oils

Cooking with excess oils and butters has become so standardised that we don’t even realise how much damage it can do to our bodies. Choosing to use good fats like coconut oil, over vegetable oil and butter, is a great first step in reducing all the unnecessary intake of bad fats in our bodies.

  • Facts and tips about heating oils:

Fact: When oils are heated, their color completely changes, as well as their taste and nutritional properties. Many oils become very toxic when you take them above certain temperatures and when they reach smoke-point, all nutritional value is lost and can become toxic. However, every oil is different. For example, olive oil has a smoke-point of 200oc. Once it reaches this temperature it begins to release toxic smoke and fumes that we then inhale and continue to cook into our food.

Tip: Avoid deep frying and pan frying with refined oils. Try to cook by steaming, boiling and grilling where you can, or simply use coconut oil for any type of hot cooking you want. It behaves very well at high temperatures and retains its structure and nutritional properties to a very Very Very! high temperature. I couldn’t recommend coconut oil highly enough.

Extra: If your diet includes meat of any kind, always opt for the leanest cuts where possible and avoid any skins from fish, poultry and meats. There is no need to cook them in huge amounts of refined oils. As above, coconut oil is great for cooking meat and fish, too. It gives a great nuttiness to everything and is much better when you want non-stick, too.

  • Using cold oils:

When used cold, oils can be great in so many ways. For example, cold extra virgin olive oil is pressed straight from olives and is full of antioxidants as well as polyphenols, which are both considered great for heart health. I use extra virgin olive oil frequently in salad dressings and marinades. It also adds an amazing flavour to cold dishes.

plant based cooking course jay halford