Here’s one of the very first posts I wrote, one of the very first recipes and bad pictures when I first started Eat Allergy safe back in 2014. This post got deleted somehow when I completely revamped the website but I had a backup on my hard drive so I’ve decided to repost it. This lockdown has been the time to spring clean and tidy up. I’ve also realised that I have a ridiculous amount of content I’ve written, photographed, but never posted…I’m still stumped as to how and why…Enjoy the recipe, it’s pretty delicious, (and the rambling story of a much young Nina!).
January 5th-11th 2014
Sweet Potato Soup: Something hot and steamy to cure all ills
To begin again…
I am sure I am not the only person who planned to start 2015 with a flourish. I thought “a new year, a new and better me. I want to make 2015 better than 2014”. Now that I am older, I find there is such a rejuvenating anticipation and excitement about a new year. As if the slate has been wiped clean and an expectant confidence for the future quietly fuels one’s mood. The future is exciting and scary but the only way we can go is forwards, so why not make the most of it?!
2015 started well for me. I had made my new year’s resolution that I was going to get stronger and more flexible. Day 1, January 1st, I started as I had meant to go on. A leisurely 20 minute stretch and then a New Year’s Day walk up a big hill with friends. “There,” I thought, “a little bit of exercise and stretching achieved for day one”. The continuation of said resolutions, however, at least for the first week of the year was thwarted by the flu from the afternoon of day one – what a right nuisance! As I felt my body begin to ache and my temperature begin to rise, my will power ebbed away too. I blame this on the illness: no energy = no will power. I am now, two weeks into the year, regaining my will power and reclaiming my resolutions.
The best laid schemes of mice and men…
Being ill is so inconvenient and it certainly wasn’t in my plan for 2015. The worst thing about being ill is not being able to eat and being too tired to prepare food, which often means the food you’re eating may not be as nutritious as you need it to be. While thinking about thwarted plans (isn’t ‘thwarted’ such a great word! It makes a really pleasant shape of your mouth while saying it. Have a go! TH-WAR-TED. See, so fun! ☺), I realised plans which do not go as expected are usually because I have not prepared enough or because of something unexpected, like illness. Although, better care of myself in the preceding weeks would have stopped the illness…But you live and you learn.
While I was writing this post “The best laid plans of mice and men…” popped into my head, and I thought I would share it with you. This phrase is actually a mis-quote from the Robert Burns Poem To a Mouse. It’s an apology from Robert Burns to a mouse whose nest he had turned over while ploughing a field. I wanted to share it with you because I felt it was uplifting. Sometimes you might be turfed out of where you are comfortable, but you might actually have a better situation than the other person. You can’t see into the future, all you can do is go forward into it. Here are the last two verses:
But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!
(Robert Burns, To a Mouse, 1786, http://www.robertburns.org.uk/Assets/Poems_Songs/toamouse.htm)
And on I went, but not far, to the kitchen…
As soon as my brain had de-fuzzed itself, I was figuring out what I could cook that would make me and my boyfriend, who was also ill, feel better. What immediately came to mind was soup! A hot steaming bowl of soup tucked up on the sofa with a blanket and a movie. Doesn’t it sound just so warm and cosy! (Of course with lots of tissue for your runny nose and aspirin for your headache, but for a moment you can feel better.)
Store cupboards medicines…
So into the kitchen I went. I wanted ingredients that would provide health benefits as well as tasting great. Ginger and garlic have been used in Chinese and alternative medicine for decades, they have anti-inflammatory properties, good for making teas to help soother headaches and sore throats – perfect! Bone broth is coming back into fashion now, but it has always been a good for you. It contains minerals in a form your body can digest such as calcium, magnesium, it fights colds and flu, and has anti-inflammatory amino acids! How fantastic is that?! These were my base ingredients and some of the things I had lying around the kitchen. Other ingredients were chosen, partly because they were in the kitchen and because they are yummy!
I was still feeling rubbish when making this soup so I came up with this yummy and easy to prepare recipe. It also gives you time to have a sit down between operations if you are sick or just having a very long day.
I hope you enjoy!
Roasted Sweet Potato and Red Onion Soup Recipe
- 4 small red onions, cut into sixths
- 400g sweet potato, cut to roughly the same size as the onions
- Glug of olive oil
- ½ a leek, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, diced finely
- 10g finely diced fresh ginger root
- Beef fat/duck fat/goose fat/ coconut oil/olive oil/butter
- 800ml beef stock
- 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Cut the onions and the sweet potato then put on a baking tray. Liberally sprinkle with olive oil and stir until all the pieces are covered evenly. Now place the tray in your preheated oven. They will need to cook for 30-40mins until the onions are glistening and caramelised and the potatoes are an orangey-brown on the outside and soft on the inside.
- While the onions and sweet potato are roasting, cut the leek and dice the garlic and ginger.
- Take out a deep, heavy bottomed saucepan or stock pot and put it on the stove. Add your choice of fat to the pan and put on a medium heat. (I used beef fat because I had just slow cooked a brisket joint and some of the fat had settled at the top of the stock. No point in wasting such good quality and incredible tasting ingredient! I believe using animal fat when cooking, especially when its grass fed and free range, makes such a difference. It adds a depth to the flavour of the dish that is irreplaceable.)
- Add the chopped leek, garlic and ginger to the pan and stir until it is coated in fat.
- Turn on to a low heat and let it slowly cook until the onion and potatoes are done, stirring occasionally making sure they don’t burn.
- Now is also the time to take out your food processor and get it ready to use and measure out your beef stock.
- Once the onions and potato are cooked, take them out of the oven and put them to the side. Reserve a few of the roasted onions for decoration.
- Put your beef stock in the sauce pan and simmer gently on low.
- While the stock is simmering, put all the sweet potato and remaining onions in the food processor. Blend until a paste. I like my soup to be a bit chunky so I didn’t blend until pureed, but that’s my personal preference. You keep blending until you’re happy! You may need some liquid to help with the process. Take a few table spoons from the saucepan to help.
- Once blended to your satisfaction, add the onion and potato mix to the saucepan and mix. The stock should look more like soup now. Now stir in 1 teaspoon of wholegrain mustard and salt and pepper to taste.
Et voilà, a hearty, warming bowl of soup! May it make you feel warm and cosy!
We don’t choose our parents, we don’t choose the circumstances we are born into, we don’t choose our bodies. These are a combination of other peoples choices and genetics, but once we are born, it is our parents, it is our environment, it is our body and we have not only the responsibility for our own lives but the choice to live it how we choose.
For those of us with allergies, we didn’t choose them, we don’t even know why our body has them or can’t tolerate certain foods and proteins. But how we manage them, how we approach the obstacles which are laid in our path are what will define who we are as people. Who we are as a person is far more important than our an allergy. An allergy is manageable because the beauty of it is that we know exactly what can make us sick. Who we are as people and how we manage the obstacles that come toward us has a far greater and deeper lasting on us and those around us.
I find that stress is a great way to test our personal strength, do you crumble or do you rally? but like everything in life, you always have a choice. To forget you have a choice, to ignore the choices you have, that you can create is to forget and ignore your own strength. Deciding to ignore your ability to choose is to ignore your own potential to grow and to become better.
I always say that “allergies aren’t about missing out, they are about doing things differently.” I have made the choice that I am not going to miss out, to not miss out I am going to take actions and choices to make this so. That is my choice, my decision. I see a potential obstacle of ‘I can’t eat this cake because it has nuts in’ or ‘most cakes have nuts in’ so I learned to make my own. When I found gluten wasn’t good for me, my boyfriend and I were following a paleo diet but I really wanted something sweet. Unfortunately for me, most paleo recipes use nuts as a substitute – big no no for me for obvious reasons. This was an obstacle. Do I give up at this moment and say – well I can’t have cake anymore/forever? No! (My sweet tooth really wanted cake.) I made the choice to experiment! and experiment I did. It took at least 6-8 months to come up with a cake that actually tasted good and had a good texture. Each time something wasn’t quite right, it could be thought of an obstacle to a good cake. But I thought of it as a “that’s interesting, why did that happen?” I used it like a science experiment. The more things went wrong with my baking the more knowledge I acquired as to how different flours, oils, butters, and other ingredients interested together. I learned WHY some recipes were written in a certain way, I learned about the different qualities and characteristics of different gluten and nut free flours. I wouldn’t have learned this if it had all gone right fro the start. If it had, to truly and fully understand why things worked, to be able to teach other people, I would have had to back engineer the baking of my cakes and other creations, to deliberately make it go wrong to find out why it worked. I would have had to create “obstacles” in order to learn.
In business I used to get really upset when someone didn’t like my food. It would really cut me to the core and make me incredibly upset. In hindsight, some of these people had no idea what they were talking about, others did have some constructive criticism but it hurt. The hurt was my ego getting bruised. But these little obstacles, these little bumps to my ego helped me to learn about myself to make my food creations even better. After a bit of “oh woe is me” time, (Ali White podcast episode4/5 has a great technique, have a 5 minute blubber then carry on), I decided that I was going to develop recipes that no one could fault, I was going to make them so good that no one would be able to realise they were free from allergens. The obstacle in this instance was more my ego, my feelings and I needed to get over them because they stopped me from moving forward.
Later, with some more hurdles to scale (mostly my own brain), I created a recipe book full of chocolate treats and desserts free from the top 14 allergens, which actually sold to people who weren’t just my family and friends.
I think this gets to the heart of it. Obstacles help us to learn what we are made of. It helps us to learn where and how we need to grow more in order to achieve our goals. Our emotions are our own obstacles, our fears are our own obstacles. But thank goodness they are ours and therefore we have control over them!
Lockdown has been an opportune time to tidy, to organise and clear up direction. Some of that has meant cleaning up the files on my Dropbox. This was originally written 19th April 2017, with a few edits today (31st May 2020), and in this current Covid thing that’s going on, I believe the sentiments I wrote about still ring true.
Jacqui MacPeake’s interest in food allergies became a particular passion when her own daughter began to struggle with multi food allergies and intolerances at the age of 14. Jacqui’s unique position as a professional caterer and a parent of someone who needs to pay particular attention to her choice of foods enables her to provide valuable advice and a personal insight into this particular field.
Jacqui has also been awarded “Free From Hero Award 2018” for the work she has already undertaken to raise awareness of allergens in the University Sector.
In this episode, Jacqui shares her personal story and how business can become more allergy aware and most importantly allergy safe.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Over the last 6 months I was unsure where I have been taking the blog and podcast. It got to the point where I was falling out of love with it.
The purpose and driving force behind Eat Allergy Safe has always been that allergies aren’t about missing out, they are about doing things differently. Since starting the blog in 2015 and the podcast in 2016, I have found there are SO many inspirational allergy bloggers and people out there.
Unfortunately, these inspirational people can often get drowned out by a few negative vocal voices and newspaper stories. (I have definitely felt pressure from these negative voices and haven’t always known how to respond…) The fear mongering encourages others to believe they are victims and that the world owes them something because they have a food allergy. I believe this is wrong and destructive and does not allow each person to find their innate strengths.
Food allergy deaths have become popular topics for newspaper articles. Although the frequency of allergies being in the news is great for awareness, they serve also to fuel fear, anxiety and stress about living with allergies everyday. They have forced people to pay attention out of fear. This serves an initial purpose, but I believe only in the short term. If allergy education and awareness is to be a long term plan, we can’t go at it from fear because that just builds resentment. Not to mention, being an allergy sufferer I don’t want to depress myself by reading about a death that could have so easily have been me. For my own mental well being, I want to take action.
Through learning about my allergy I know I feel more in control of my life and ability to manage on a day to day basis. The more knowledge I have acquire I find I can understand more than just my own views, and that gives me perspective on the actions of others and helps me manage my emotional response to negative news articles or opinions.
Things Are Changing…
This said, things are changing on the blog and podcast. As some of you may have noticed if you follow me on social media, I’ve been posting very sporadically. This is going to continue and I have made the decision to log out of many of the accounts. I have an auto-poster app that I will use to share blog posts, but I will no longer be active on the accounts. This is for my own well being and also because I have come to dislike some of the bad human traits that social media encourages in general. (I’ve found over the last year that negative and angry posts get the most interaction and are promoted the most by social platforms – that is not what I want to promote at Eat Allergy Safe and it is not what Eat Allergy Safe is about.)
Instead I encourage you to comment on a blog post or, even better, send me an email through the contact form! I want to encourage actual communication rather than the fleeting comments or ‘likes’ on social media that we often make and forget so quickly.
Proactive, not Reactive: Information & Education
Content in 2019 is going to be focused on information and education about all aspects of living with food allergies so that we can make informed decisions.
If you are an allergy parent, your time will come when allergies won’t be a big part of your life. That is good and the natural order of things, but your allergy child will always have allergies. Allergies won’t go away, and the best protection you can give them is to arm your child with knowledge and confidence so they can own their allergy.
I will look for your input over 2019. What information do you wish you could find? What practical information do you want? What are you curious about? The science and psychology of allergies? or food manufacturing?
I want the content to be proactive rather than reactive, so that living with allergies is proactive rather than reactive.
What do you think?
Leave a comment below or send me an email, I’d love to hear from you.
Q: Our daughter was recently diagnosed with a nut allergy. My wife and I are used to eating a lot of nuts in our diet. We of course want to keep our daughter safe but wanted to find out could we keep nuts in our home or should get rid of them all? What should we do?
If you want to ask a question, send an email using the contact form here.
If you are interested in having 1-on-1 coaching, find out more on my Allergy Coaching page.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download