Cooking with the moon

Cooking with the moon

TODAY IS A GREAT TO TO COOK IN BATCHES FOR FREEZING, MAKE  BREAD AND BAKE CAKE AND COOKIES

I read that Mauro Colagreco, owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Mirazur, situated on the French Riviera, has changed his menu post-COVID lockdown.  That would not be surprising for a place listed on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list. But why is it news-worthy? Because he will tailor his offerings in accordance with what the moon is doing.

I am sure many readers thought ‘Ridiculous new fad- what next?’. Well, this ‘fad’ is actually not so new, it is in fact a few thousand years old.

Here is the article 

Mr. Colagreco reasons that he is already using biodynamically grown produce and so he might as well not stop there but carry this method over to the kitchen. Ah, now it makes sense. 

In the Biodynamic garden, one aspect is that the gardener is plants, sows, and carries out any work in accordance with the biodynamic calendar. This has given Biodynamic farming always a ‘woohoo’ appeal, fit for a few crazy souls, but nothing for the sensible masses. But what many don’t realize is that for centuries this was actually THE normal way of farming, nothing ‘woohoo’ about this.

Generations of observations have led to practices which ‘just worked’ – olives picked on certain days had more oil and apples more juice. Spinach sown on this day was less susceptible to disease or grew quicker. The ‘why’ was less questioned, it just was called ‘tradition’ and it worked.  

I assume the menu choices you will see in the near future at Mirazur, will be guided by the change of the moon phases and the elements.  When you take a look at our online calendar The Month Ahead   you will see that each day shows a moon phase (Waxing Moon, Full Moon, Waning Moon or New Moon) and an element (Water, Air, Earth & Fire) and activity symbols that are connected.

These symbols represent the observations that led to the creation of these calendars. But their widespread appeal was (and still is) that they are such great tools to structure time and life.

So what is cooking with the moon?

If you grew up with this ‘way of eating’, then your body is sort of programmed to fancy certain foods at certain times.
I guess this is nature’s way to make sure you get a well-balanced diet. If you have never heard or experienced it, then it does need a bit of time to get used to it. Firstly, you have to ‘detach’ from your current eating habits and ‘re-teach’ your body to develop what I call ‘healthy cravings’ and food management. I am currently working on a program that will teach these steps in more details.

But here is quick intro if you are completly new to this way of cooking and eating.

Eating with the moon cycle:

The Waxing Moon: As the moon grows, so do we. People seem hungrier and gain weight easier. It is a great time for those who find it hard to put weight on (say after an operation) or anorexic.

If you struggle with too much weight, it is crucial that you watch this time. Don’t lose weight, rather stabilize your weight and aim not to gain. Prepare meals that are filling and full of nutrients (fresh, healthy, organic produce is, of course, best) and that contains very little sugar and empty calories, such as white flour.

The Full Moon: Again, it is easier to put weight on, but as it is just a short time, you may as well enjoy it and go for a slap-up meal. Traditionally diets started at Full Moon.

The Waning Moon: Losing weight tends to be easier now.  We are also more active and as a result may eat less, as we are too busy with other things.

If you have no weight issues, just focus on moving more and keep eating a normal, healthy diet. If you need to lose weight, now is your perfect time. These 2 weeks go for it – there are numerous strategies depending on lifestyle habits and body types.

New Moon: Traditionally a rest and fast day. 

Another area are the elements. Each day has a special quality and again you can see this on the calendar which ‘day quality’ is dominant.

Fire – dedicated to fruit – this could be picking, pruning fruit bushes and trees or making jam 

Earth – anything to do with root vegetable and the earth. Digging, weeding harvesting potatoes, sowing carrots, etc.

Air: Anything to do with flowers and oils. Sunflower would be a top example. This is a great time to pick olives and press their oil, incorporate flowers into salads and dishes and eat ‘flowery’ vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.

Water: Leafy vegetables like spinach, all kind of salads and in the garden a great day for planting, fertilising and extra watering.

The reason I combined the gardening and eating is that until very recently you would grow your vegetable, harvest and eat them – usually all on the same day. There were no chest freezer or fridges available. When your trees had an abundance of fruit, you made jams, compotes, cider or stored them in a way that it lasted for a long time.

Root vegetables got pickled or fermented. Freezing is not a bad habit, but it works best if you pick and freeze, so the nutrients stay as fresh as can be. If you take only one thing away – try to eat less, but better and shop for food that is ‘alive’ – ideally grown near you, by an organic or even better biodynamic farmer or grow your own, making sure the soil is a nutritous as possible.

Make your own delicious strawberry jam

Make your own delicious strawberry jam

Strawberry jam

  Early July is a great time to pick strawberries and make jam.  Here is a  delicious recipe for making your own jam. It is quick, easy and home-made jams just taste so good, especially with scones or toast.

Fire Days, in particular when you see the symbol above work really well. This will make sure your jam won’t get mouldy, providing of course you sterilized your equipment correctly!

What do you need to make your own delicious strawberry jam?

A general rule for making jams: Fill your jam glasses with boiling water before use or even better sterilize them in a pressure cooker. If you like making your own jam, then I suggest you keep a pot and cooking spoon just dedicated to this task and make sure that they are both REALLY clean. Done on the right day and with the right method/equipment, you can rest assured that your jam will last and you can make a  good supply for the next couple of month. Home-made jam is to do and makes great presents.

Recipe for simple Strawberry jam:

Equipment needed: 1 large cooking pot and wooden spoon (both very clean), 8-9 medium-sized jam jars (sterilized) or 4-5 large jam jars (sterilized), all jars must have tight-fitting lids. I tea towel. 

Ingredients: 1kg strawberries (washed and stalks removed, 1kg jam sugar, 1 small unwaxed lemon, a small pinch of pepper

  • Sterilize 8 to 9 medium jam jars (or 4-5 larger ones). Put them on a tea towel, so they are ready to receive the hot jam mixture. Make sure you also sterilize the lids as this is often a spot where mould forms.
  • Cut the washed strawberries into small pieces. Then rinse the lemon and grate the rind finely. Finally put the strawberries, grated rind, pepper and sugar in a clean pot and boil for about 4-5 minutes.
  • Pour the jam mixture straightaway into the sterilized jars and cover them tightly with cling film. Then close the lid on top of the cling film. This will give it extra protection.

If there is time you can also bake your scones and enjoy both with a great cup of tea.

Recipe for scones: 

Equipment needed: 2 plastic cake mixing bowls, pastry brush, whisk, baking tray, round pastry cutter

Ingredients:  225g self-raising flour (or 225g of plain flour and 1tsp of baking powder) and a bit extra for dusting, a pinch of salt, 2tbsp caster sugar, 55g butter (bit extra for greasing), 150ml buttermilk, 1 egg (beaten), 50 g of mixed sultanas, raisins or other dried fruit (optional) 

  • Preheat oven to about 200/220 degrees centigrade and grease a baking tray with butter.
  • Pour the flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter using your fingers. You will get a crumbly mixture. Then add the sultanas or other dried fruit.
  • Beat the egg into the buttermilk and add the sugar,  so it becomes a golden coloured mixture.
  • Make a well in the middle of your flour mixture and add the egg/buttermilk/sugar mixture. Work quickly, as speed here is important. You should now have a soft dough.
  • Dust your surface with some flour and shape the dough into an even thickness of about 1cm. With a round pastry cutter, cut out the round scones and place them next to each other on the greased baking sheet. Repeat until the dough is gone.
  • Glaze the scones with a little milk using your pastry brush and bake them for around 10-12 minutes until they have risen and are golden brown.
  • Leave them to cool on a plate and serve with cream, strawberry jam and a good cup of tea. This is a very English way to spend a summer afternoon.

 

7 Tips for staying at home

7 Tips for staying at home

It is currently a strange time. Practically overnight we turned from people with busy lifestyles to sitting at home wondering how to declutter the home, start home-schooling, and wondering how to cut our own hair. I can of course only recount my own experience here. If you are a key worker or medical staff then your life will have been busier than ever. 

In London, it all started in mid-March 2020.  At first, my friends and I felt a bit uneasy and anxious about what this new situation will mean for all of us.  How could we avoid catching this dreaded virus?  A few days in, we secretly admitted that the quarantine was not too bad and we started to enjoy these ‘enforced, guiltless pyjama days’. 

But there is so long you can sit around in your pjs. After a bit of rest came a rush of decluttering the loft and some obscure bathroom cupboards that had remained untouched for a while. Life felt good and productive. 

Week 3 of lockdown. The enforced ‘holiday’ started to wear thin. One of my friends created a WhatsApp meditation group- very enjoyable experience.  I started writing ‘Gardening With The Moon’ (An Introduction to Biodynamic Gardening – which I hope to finish soon) and of course did a fair bit in the garden. We all confessed yo-yo-ing between good and bad days, some faring better than others. 

Your experience may, of course, be entirely different. You may not be affected at all or you have lost someone close, in which case accept my sincere condolences. 

May was going to be a month full of life, parties and get-toghers. Well, it does not look this way now. But let’s stay positive and use this time constructively. Here are some tasks that we all can do – and they are easy and cheap. 

  Tip 1 – Planting herbs

Dig over a  small patch in your garden and plant some herbs. For all those without an outside space, find a window sill that gets some sunshine during the day. There you can grow chives, parsley, basil, mint, or oregano in small pots. 

For the garden or slightly bigger pots,  grow dill, rosemary, fennel, or sage.

 If you want to have immediate access to herbs I suggest you buy already established herbs in pots. These can be replanted into bigger pot by adding some good quality compost soil or replanted into your herb patch. Make sure you loosen the roots before planting and add some good quality compost (home-made is of course best). 

Herbs are very thirsty and will need watering on a daily basis (except of course when it rains).  Make sure you keep the compost moist but not wet – otherwise your plants will drown.  It is wonderful to have an endless supply of fresh herbs for salads,  cooking, and garnishing dishes. Fresh mint or sage make wonderful herbal teas. 

My top tip: cut some herbs and put them into an ice-cube tray and add a bit of water. These ‘herb-cubes’ will keep up to 6 months. 

Here are some related articles from the LWTM blog series ‘ Cooking with herbs’. 

Cooking with Oregano

Cooking With Tarragon

Cooking With Dill

  Tip 2 – Make your own bread   

It has recently become really popular to make your own artisan bread. I have had breadmakers for years and been doing my own sourdoughs. But here is a quick and easy recipe for all those who want to give it the first try. The recipe below is for a simple and tasty mixed loaf that can be done in any conventional oven. No breadmaker or sourdough needed.

 You will need kitchen scales, the ingredients below, a ceramic dish with a lid (ideally round), a bowl, and a mixing spoon.
Ingredients:  560g wheat flour, 190g rye flour, 550g hot water, 16g salt, some cumin seeds (1/2 a teaspoon should be enough), 3gram of active yeast. You could add some linseeds or other seeds if you like. 

1) weigh all the ingredients and put them together into a big kitchen bowl.  I use a big mixing spoon to blend them together. Then add some flour to your hands and knead the dough.  (please use enough plain flour on your hands, otherwise, the dough will stick to you). After a few minutes of kneading, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and leave it to rest. I suggest a minimum of 3 hours. You could also prepare the dough in the evening and let it rise overnight. Then it will be ready for baking the next day. 

Tip: To see if the dough is ready for baking. Pull some upwards.  If it rips easily it needs to rise a little longer.  A dough that is ready for baking should glide out and not rip straight away. 

2) Once the dough is ready,  preheat oven to 250degree C (480F) and put the empty ovenproof dish with lid into the oven. Yes, that is right – empty to heat it up!

3) Take it out when it is very hot (be careful handling it!) and add some sprinkles of plain flour to cover the bottom of the pan. This is important as otherwise the bread will stick to the pan and it will be hard for it to come out.
Then add the dough. With the mixing spoon create a line in the top of the dough – that is where the crust can rise and sprinkle some plain flour on the top.  Put the lid on and bake the bread (middle shelf) for about 35 minutes.
My Tip: Pour water into an oven dish and put it on the bottom shelf, so the bread bakes it in moist air.

For all my members, I will share with you my grandmother’s sourdough starter in the LWTM May newsletter.

  3. Do some exercise every day

It is amazing how just a few minutes a day can make a big difference. I have started running and do on average 5-6 miles (8k)most mornings. If you think about starting from zero exercises to running a regular 8k then my top tip is to get a Fitbit or device that can monitor your heart rate.  I honestly can say that this was my secret to success.  Start very gently and check your heart rate regularly.  Never go over 160, even if that means walking for a bit until your heart rate has down again to 120/130.  If you keep this under control, you will eventually get better and better. Soon you will run the first few miles and enjoy the experience. Once you made it to 5k (3 miles) and you can enjoy the experience – you are on your way.

You can find a few good apps to help you along. One of them is  5k runner. 

Most evenings I do some yoga exercises.  There are so many great videos on YouTube or find a good yoga/pilates app/book.  It does not have to be super advanced. Make sure you warm up with a gentle stretching program and always include some breathing exercises. Over just a few weeks, a stiff body can transform into a body that is more toned and flexible. Try to keep this up for (ideally) the rest of your life.

Other alternatives are brisk walks or a cycle trip. My teenage son does good oldfashioned plank and sit-ups every day. So find what works for you. But do at least 30min per day. There has never been a better time to start exercising. 

  4. Learn a new skill and develop a new hobby 

With more time on your hands, try to clear 20 minutes each day to learn something new. This could be a language, a skill like knitting, an online course in finance or computing, etc. It does not matter, but make a date with yourself and keep to it. Then set an alarm where you stay (ideally) 20minutes undisturbed. No phone checking, etc. If you look after children, give them something to do (depending of course on the age – otherwise do it when they are in bed). Every day you will advance just a tiny bit further and once you emerge from lock-down, you will feel you have achieved something new with the time you stayed indoors. 

     5. Have a DIY manicure and pedicure 

This month is all about exercise and well-being. A big part is pampering yourself. Show some extra kindness to your body with a home-made pedicure, manicure, face masks, body peeling, or body brushing regime. Look them up on  The Month Ahead 

Look after your feet 

Nail strengthening manicure 

   6. Plan your finances

Now times are uncertain and most of us will suffer a downturn in our finances. This true for everyone – whether your work has stopped or you are lucky enough to be still fully employed working from home. The chance that your disposable income will be squeezed is very likely. Here are a few things to keep you financially safe and sound. 

  • check your income over the last few months and work out your monthly disposable income. This is especially important if you work freelance or have more than one employer. Let’s call this figure 1.
  • add together all your monthly liabilities, rent, electricity, gym membership, etc. Ideally, this should be less than figure 1. If it is not, then you need to take action now.  What can you cut?  
  • check over all the financial products that you have. Life insurance, medical care, mortgage, credit cards, etc. Are you still on track, is this product still fit for purpose? It never harms to shop  around for a better deal. Remember, a lot has changed over the last month, so now is a good time for assessing your current situation. If you find yourself in financial troubles, don’t hide, but get in touch with your bank as soon as possible. They may be able to help you by arranging a payment holiday.
  • When money does come in (and try to keep to this formula from now onwards) divide all your income into 4 pots.
    50% expenses (living costs) – 20% to put aside for investments –  20% goes straight into a savings account that is easily accessible (for tax, unforeseen costs, extra necessary purchases)  and 10% for charity/good causes. This is a good formula. However, you can adjust it to your own needs, but make sure that there is always an element of saving and investing there, even if it is 5%. As over time these small sums will add up. 

  7. Meditate and rest for a few minutes each evening/morning

As I mentioned above, about 3 weeks ago I started to participate in a meditation group. Every evening before going to bed – I  took out 15minutes. This is the ultimate me-time.  Banishing all thoughts, just concentrating on my breath and ‘rest’. 

At first, I participated only as a goodwill gesture to my friend who took the time to create this group. But after a few days, I really started to enjoy the process and looked forward to these precious 15minutes of productive rest.

I think this is especially useful if you have anxious thoughts and find it hard to get a good night’s sleep. If that is you, I really recommend drinking a cup of chamomile tea before going to bed and then listen to very calming music or a meditation app.

If you are a morning person, you may prefer to follow a meditation program just before getting up.  This will prepare you mentally for the day ahead. 

If you have never tried meditation before, check out some good apps like Headspace – they usually have trial periods, so you don’t have to pay to give it a go.

You will see that anxiety levels will drop and some problems all of a sudden seem to solve themselves. Your unconscious mind is very powerful. 

Back in January, I wrote this article The importance of resting. Of course, I did not have the faintest idea that ‘resting’ would take on such a new meaning. Especially for people employed in the travel and hospitality industry. However, there is a difference between ‘slouching on the sofa’ and ‘conscious resting’. If you have not read it before, please have a look.

 

So I hope one or the other tips will enrich your ‘lock-down life’.  If you have any other good lock-down tips – please get in touch and I am happy to mention them (with or without your mention – up to you).  Please stay all safe and well – and look after yourself!

Spices of Life – nutmeg

Spices of Life – nutmeg

Nutmeg is the ground pip of the nutmeg fruit growing on the evergreen nutmeg tree. When you open the fruit you will find the dark brown seed and woven around a bright red material called mace. This is also used in baking and other dishes, as it is less spicy than the actual seed, which is gourn into the wellknown nutmeg powder.

The nutmeg fruit, mace and nutmeg seed

The ground nutmeg spice is predominantly used as kitchen spice and it is rich in magnesium, vitamin B6, calcium and iron.

Today nutmeg is grown in Indonesia, Malaysia, Grenada and India where it flavours a lot of their traditional dishes. Nutmeg came to Europe when the Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish started to travel the world and brought exotic spices back from far away land.
During Elizabeth’s I reign nutmeg was said to ward off the plague and the price skyrocketed.

Nutmeg should be used sparingly, as excess intake can cause allergic reactions.

Recipes:

  • Carluccio’s Spinach ball pasta  
  • You will need:
  • 500g/1lb 2oz spinach washed thoroughly, tough stalks removed
  • 2 free-range eggs, beaten
  • pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 garlic clove, blended to a purée with ½ tsp water
  • 110g/4oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 50g/2oz parmesan or similar vegetarian hard cheese, freshly grated
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil

For the courgette pasta sauce

  • 8 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 chili finely chopped
  • 2 courgettes, trimmed, finely grated
  • 60g/2¼oz parmesan or similar vegetarian hard cheese, freshly grated
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 400g/14oz rigatoni or similar pasta cooked according to packet instructions, drained (reserve a few spoonfuls of the cooking water)
  • How to cut your vegetables 

Method

  1. For the spinach balls, blanch the spinach leaves in a pan of salted, boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then drain well and refresh in cold water.
  2. Using your hands, squeeze out as much water from the blanched spinach leaves as possible, then finely chop the spinach.
  3. Transfer the blanched, drained spinach to a bowl, then stir in the beaten eggs, nutmeg, garlic purée, breadcrumbs and parmesan. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well until the mixture binds together, adding more breadcrumbs or more water, as necessary, to bind the mixture.
  4. Roll the spinach mixture into walnut-sized balls and place onto a baking tray.
  5. Cover the base of a frying pan in a thin film of olive oil. Heat gently over a low to medium heat.
  6. When the oil is hot, add the spinach balls, in batches if necessary, and fry for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until crisp and golden-brown all over. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on kitchen paper. Keep warm. Repeat the process with the remaining spinach balls.
  7. Meanwhile, for the pasta sauce, heat the oil in a separate frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and chilli and fry for 1-2 minutes, or until softened but not coloured.
  8. Add the courgettes and continue to fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the courgettes have started to soften.
  9. Add the parmesan and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix until well combined, then stir in the reserved cooking water from the pasta and the cooked, drained rigatoni.
  10. To serve, divide the pasta and sauce equally among four serving plates. Place the fried spinach balls on top.

Home-made skincare using nutmeg

  • Reduces pigmentation and dark spots
  • Lightens skin
  • Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, fights spots and acne
  • Stimulates hair growth

and these are just a few

Recipe to lighten your skin:
Combine 1/4 tsp of nutmeg powder with 1 tsp of fresh lemon juibe and 1 tbsp of yoghurt in a bowl. Apply this mask to your skin (avoid the eye area and mouth) and rinse off with lukewarm water. Then apply a good moisturiser. If you have sensitive skin I would recommend a patch test, where you put a small amount onto your arm to see if it provokes a reaction. Do this 24 hours before applying the mask. Once you know you are fine, use this mask consistently 3-4 times per week to notice a difference.

Nutmeg Spot Treatment:
Add a pinch of cinnemon powder and a pinch of nutmeg powder into a small bowl. Add a few drops of fresh lemon juice to it and add 1/2 tsp of honey. Put this mixture onto your spots and leave on them for about 20minutes before rinsing this mixture off.

Youthful nutmeg skin mask:
Mix 1 tsp of honey, 1/2 tsp of nutmeg powder, 1 tsp of Greek yogurt to form a paste. Apply to your face and leave for about 10 min( as always avoid the face and mouth and do a patch test 24 hours before applying for the first time). Wash it off with lukewarm water and make sure it does not get into your eyes as nutmeg does sting!

Nutmeg toner:  
Use 1 tbsp of coconut milk and a pinch of nutmeg. Stir well and put into a small bottle, then apply on a cotton ball on a clean face.

Spices of Life – Cayenne Pepper

Spices of Life – Cayenne Pepper

Spices of Life – Cayenne Pepper

By Jutta Russell

Founder of Living with the Moon

Cayenne Pepper is an ideal spice for weight loss and that is why I have chosen it for January. It is a medium hot chili pepper, mostly red in colour. Like most chili pepper it grows on a bush and the ripe fruit is then harvested, dried and ground to a cayenne powder, which is used to flavour dishes. It originates from South America and was brought to Europe by the Spanish in the 16th century. Here are the main benefits of cayenne pepper:

The capsaicin in cayenne peppers may help boost your metabolism. This can help people who suffer from a sluggish metabolism, but unfortunately, the body gets used to this effect. So this method is only to be used as a short-term boost rather than an everyday effect.

Cayenne Pepper/lemon and maple syrup cleanse: 

DAY1

I would say it is rather a cleanse than a diet. Start on the first morning (you need to start on an empty stomach) with the salt cleanse. 1 tablespoon of high-quality salt (like Himalayan salt) dissolved in a 1litre of warm water. Sip this and make sure you stay near a toilet for the next few hours, as you will have strong bowel movements.
Next-  prepare the Cleansing lemonade consisting of: 

  • 2 tbsp of organic lemon juice that must be freshly squeezed, no substitutes
  • 2 tbsp organic maple syrup, again strive for the best quality here
  • 1/10 tsp (so very small amount) of cayenne pepper (powdered)
  • 300ml (10 oz.) of filter water.

Drink as much you want over the course of the remaining day.

Just a word of warning: Choose a weekend or holiday for this, as many people are feeling headachy, light headed and you really want to stay in bed, relax, read and should not have a hectic day. Besides, you will need to visit the toilet on a fairly regular bases, so I advice you to call any social engagements off for the day.

DAY 2

If you still feel bloated repeat DAY 1 as above otherwise start with eating soups (home-made broth with vegetables) and drinking home-made smoothies or home-made fruit juices. Avoid anything commercially made as it invariably contains sugar and some form of preservatives.

DAY 3

Introduce solid food again. Today have some steamed green vegetables with a poached white fish or pieces of fruit.

Summary

Over these 3 days the only food intake allowed is 

DAY 1: The cleansing lemonade (drink as much as you want),

DAY 2: homemade soups and juices (broth with vegetables) – or just repeat Day 1.

DAY3: Steamed green vegetables and carrots, no potatoes and steamed white fish. No meat, dairies, sugar, anything preprepared, all juices and soups have to be home-made. If you opted for a 2 day cleanse, then start you liquid day on day 3 and go back to solids on DAY 4.

After you have finished the cleanse add some probiotic to you diet and start to eat as healthy as you can for as long as possible, but definitely stay off alcohol, tea, coffee, meat, dairies and anything process for at least a week to get optimum results.

Spices of Life – Cinnamon

Spices of Life – Cinnamon

In Europe cinnamon is the spice of Christmas and mostly used in Christmas decorations and for baking. The evergreen cinnamon tree grows predominantly in Indonesia and China and its fragrant bark is rolled up and left to dry. Then it is cut up into pieces known as...

read more

Access your free calendar and guide

When you subscribe you’ll receive:

The Month Ahead Lifestyle Calendar a calendar of practical tips, recipes and life-style advice on living with the moon. E-book ‘LWTM goal planner’, a vital tool for setting and achieving goals.  Free introductory e-book ‘Living With The Moon’.

Spices of Life – Cinnamon

Spices of Life – Cinnamon

In Europe cinnamon is the spice of Christmas and mostly used in Christmas decorations and for baking. The evergreen cinnamon tree grows predominantly in Indonesia and China and its fragrant bark is rolled up and left to dry. Then it is cut up into pieces known as cinnamon sticks. Alternatively, it is available as a ground down mid-brown cinnamon powder.

Nowadays it is a must for every kitchen cupboard, but when it first entered the history books around 2500 B.C. it was so expensive that it was only used as an offering to kings and gods.  The Egyptian used it as part of the concoction in the mummification process and Pliny the Elder wrote that a Roman pound of cinnamon (roughly 320 pounds or 11.5 oz.) was worth the wages of fifty months’ of labour and therefore unimaginable for daily use.

From 1600 onwards the Dutch started to import cinnamon to Europe and later the British took over Ceylon from the Dutch and with it the cinnamon plantation. Then the East India company imported cinnamon together with tea and made it more accessible for the European taste.

Health benefits: It has anti-inflammatory properties and has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Adding a small amount of cinnamon into your daily diet can help people with type 2 diabetes. 

Cinnamon also helps to fight fungal and bacterial infections, helps with insulin resistance. So, all in all, it has many vital health benefits.

Cinnamon in the kitchen:

Cinnamon rolls: 

This a recipe from Sweden and makes wonderful pre-Christmas treats.

Here is what you need: 3/4 cup milk – 1/4 cup margarine or butter, softened – 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour  – 1 (.25 ounce) package instant yeast – 1/4 cup white sugar – 1/2 teaspoon salt – 1/4 cup water – 1 egg – 1 cup brown sugar, packed – 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon – 1/2 cup margarine, softened,  1/2 cup raisins (optional) 

How to do it: 

  1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Mix in margarine/butter and stir until melted. Let cool the mixture until it is lukewarm.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 1/4 cup flour, yeast, sugar and salt; mix well. Add water, egg and the milk mixture; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has just pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.
  3. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, softened margarine.
  4. Roll out dough into a 12×9 inch rectangle. Spread dough with margarine/butter/sugar mixture. Sprinkle with raisins if desired. Roll up dough and pinch seam to seal. Cut into 12 equal size rolls and place cut side up in 12 lightly greased muffin cups. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until browned. Remove from muffin cups to cool. 

Cinnamon and apple tea cakes

Ingredients: 75g/2¾oz butter, melted, plus extra for greasing – 100g/3½oz self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting – 100g/3½oz caster sugar – 1 free-range egg, beaten – ½ tsp almond extract – 60g/2¼oz Bramley apples, peeled and thinly sliced – 15g/½oz flaked almonds – 1 tsp of ground cinnamon – crème fraîche, to serve (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.

  2. Grease a cupcake tin or add muffin paper into each tin

  3. Pour the melted butter into a large bowl. Add the sugar, flour, egg, cinnamon and almond extract and mix together until combined.

  4. Spoon a little bit of the mixture into each paper and cover a layer of thinnly chopped apple pieces, then add some more batter and repeat the process finishing with a small layer of batter.  So batter – apples – batter – apples- batter

  5. Scatter each cake with flaked almonds. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until well risen and golden-brown.

  6. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.  Serve warm with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Plum and cinnamon compote: 
500g of sweets plums, washed, cut in halves and stones taken out, juice of half a lemon, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.
Place the plums into a saucepan and cook until they have dissolved into a compote/jam-like consistency. Then fill into sterilized glass jars and add to your breakfast cereals or use neat with bread or croissants. This is a sugar-free recipe. If you want it a bit sweeter add a touch of Algave honey to it.

Cinnamon recipe for health and beauty: 

Cinnamon & sugar lip balm/scrub: 

This is a great recipe for the cold winter month. I found it in an old book the other day  and thought I use it on myself and absolutely loved it. It tastes nice, the sugar gently scrubs off any flakey bits and the olive oil and honey nourish the lips. If your lips are very chapped you can keep it on for a little while until it has soaked in.

Here is the recipe which takes a few minutes to make:

1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of raw honey, a small pinch of cinnamon.

Mix all ingredients into a paste and let it all settle a bit. Then rub it gently onto your lips. If your lips are very dry and cracked,  please make sure you don’t rub too much, instead let it this mixture soak in and then gently take off with a damp cotton.  If your lips are not cracked, then you can rub this mixture over them to achieve a peeling effect. Blot dry with a tissue.  The rest of the mixture you can fill into an empty pot or jar and repeat the appliation when required.