Viennese mince pies

There are still nine days till Christmas and I am preemptively festively plump. I’ve drunk cocktails and sprained my ankle and danced on it anyway already. The tree is up, wrapping paper has been purchased, and still it does not feel like the season, because none of these things, in this city, are part of the traditions.

Viennese Mince Pies // The Dinner BellIt’ll be almost time for the real festivities when I catch the train home, listening to “Driving Home for Christmas”, carrying a suitcase containing far more pairs of shoes than are at all necessary.

It’ll feel like December when I get the chance to sneak-peek at the presents.

It’ll be Christmas when I’m at home, sat in front of the fire with one of my mum’s boozy mince pies, watching Miracle on 34th Street yet again.

The best mince pie I’ve ever had remains a mystery to me – it was eaten during the sweltering part of summer 2012 in a test kitchen, where I was part of a team sampling dozens of Christmas puddings and mince pies. It was tough work. The one I loved was flaky, and buttery, and had just the right amount of booze and…I have no idea who made it. It will forever remain a mystery to me.

So rather than go around every supermarket trying to find it, I thought this year I’d break with tradition just a little bit. I put my own twist on it to make a festive variation that keeps in with one of 2013’s biggest baking trends, the hybrid dessert. Bottom half mince pie, Viennese whirl top, 100% delicious. Continue reading

Blueberry & lemon clafoutis

Last weekend, my mamma suggested that I try meditating. My very first thought was, so typically, “I don’t have time for that.”

I thrive on keeping busy, and have a creative mind that doesn’t rest even when I’m sleeping. I’ve been guilty before of juggling multiple projects, writing to-do lists broken down into many different sections, and realising too late that it’s worth taking a step back every now and then to avoiding burning out. Continue reading

That zincing feeling

As far as play on words go, that was pretty bad, I know. I’m sorry. Let’s move swiftly on, shall we? This is a longish story, and perhaps contains a little too much information. I’ll probably cringe as  I hit the publish button. It’s a story about my face, inspired by this post on adult acne by the oh-so-fabulous Laura Jane Williams, who also wrote an entire ebook on acne which is pretty damn good.

Now, I wouldn’t call my face situation adult acne, mostly because at 22 I don’t class myself as an adult, despite the fact that I now have to pay council tax. Sadly, to the rest of the world that’s probably what I am.

During my teenage years, the universe, not content with making me ginger, overweight, short sighted and a brace wearer, threw a healthy dose of pizza face my way. Really, it was never that bad and I’ve not been left with any acne scars, but it was enough that I spent 8 years on the hunt for a cure.

When I approached my doctor, they prescribed me with a roll-on solution, with an aroma much like chip shop vinegar, to apply to my face every morning and night. It worked. It made me smell like a fish and chip wrapper, and gave my skin the feel of a recently wiped chalkboard, but it really did help my skin.

Sadly, the last thing an 18-year-old girl wants is vinegar face, particularly when it comes to snuggling down for the night with a fella. Nothing says “Worship me, for I am a goddess” less than snogs that taste like that anti-biting nail varnish your mum made you use when you were 7.

At university, passed between doctors that saw dozens of students every day, things improved slightly, starting with a puzzled GP asking me why I was on the pill and applied acne medication. She looked at my records and saw that at no point had my doctors at home tried to merge these 2 medications by moving me onto a pill that’s better for skin.

It was a start. But none of them – none of the dozen or so doctors I’ve seen in the past 8 years about my skin – mentioned that I might not need medication for it at all.

Let’s back up a second. That original medication. The one that worked, but made my face smell distinctly unappealing. The active ingredients in that solution had 2 main functions: inhibiting bacteria growth (ew), and getting zinc into the skin.

The recommended daily allowance for zinc is 5.5-9.5mg for men and 4-7mg for women

So I did my research and it turns out that zinc is an unsung hero. Despite being one of the lesser vitamins and minerals in terms of recommended intake, it’s linked to a wide array of bodily processes: most notably, the immune system and cell renewal. It’s also linked with fatigue, which explained being constantly tired, and stress. The puzzle pieces all came together and, without any medical professional saying so, I knew that the problem wasn’t acne that needed meds. I just needed to get more zinc.

You could say that making the following changes means a generally healthier diet which would of course lead to improved skin. But when I flicked through my mother’s well-thumbed copy of “Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal”, I raced to the shops to buy supplements, not actual food, and within days the situation got better. These days, it’s all about getting it through small changes in diet, and if I fall off the wagon a few green smoothies sort me right out. Here’s my top 5 foods for getting more zinc without faddy eating.

Spinach

Spinach isn’t just for Popeye. I can’t say it’s made me particularly strong yet, but it’s one of my favourite ways to get a quick hit of zinc and a load of other vitamins, blitzed up in a green smoothie with apple juice and ginger. Zing!

But it doesn’t have to feel like a health food, as this deliciously cheesy spinach bake at Smitten Kitchen shows. Good news there, too – 100g of cheddar cheese will give you 3.11mg of zinc. I probably wouldn’t recommend eating that much cheese, though. Nobody likes the cheese sweats.

0.53mg per 100g
Also a good source of: vitamins K, A, C, B1, B2, B6 and E, and manganese, iron, and calcium.

Seeds

Roasted pumpkin and squash seeds and dried watermelon seeds provide a whole lot of zinc in a really small space, with about 10mg of zinc per 100g, so there’s no excuse for not eating those watermelon pips. Throw seeds into your breakfast, straight into your mouth, or on top of a cake (totally counts). There are also some amazing sounding recipes for pumpkin seeds here.

Dark chocolate

I know, I know, it just keeps getting better and better. High cocoa content (70-85%) dark chocolate contains up to 9.6mg of zinc per 100g, whereas milk chocolate contains around 2.3mg.

Chickpeas

Nope, that doesn’t mean eating a lot of houmous. Chickpeas can be worked into main meals really easily, by adding them to meat dishes and curries to make the most of their 3.4mg/100g zinc levels. For a sweeter tooth, honey cinnamon roasted chickpeas may be the way forward.

Shellfish

Shellfish are among the most zinc-rich foods out there. Oysters ranking as the most laden with 3.49mg zinc per oyster, whereas crab provides 5.5mg/100g. There’s a good excuse to go to that fancy seafood restaurant, eh?

Please note this does not constitute medical advice. I’m not trained in health in any capacity – this is simply what has worked for me and it is possible to overdo zinc consumption. Visit NHS Choices for more information on zinc and consult your doctor before making any major changes to your diet! 

Main image courtesy of yannickgar/Flickr.

Triple chocolate orange cups

One of my most vivid memories from childhood is, unsurprisingly, centred around food. When we were young, my mother seemed to have frequent dinner parties with five of her friends, an affair that saw her slightly on edge the days preceding the “big night”, busy with writing lists, checking and double checking ingredients while she planned an enormous array of dishes Continue reading

Strawberry & coconut cupcakes

StrawbCoconut3

This time last year, I was in stress-central. I was just about finishing up at the student paper: kissing goodbye to long evenings of cabin fever and fussing over typefaces, trying to let go of the tiny frustrations that made up my final weeks in the insular world of student media.

Instead, I’d begun spending 9-5 in a badly lit room with grey-tinted windows, worrying about the projects that would decide what grade would be on that piece of paper I would receive in July. I thought back to being 18, sitting, terrified, in a local cupcake shop and conducting an interview for the first time as my voice wobbled with nerves. My dreams took on the form of the work I was doing during the day, and I’d wake disappointed that I’d spent all night working and yet had to do it all over again. Continue reading