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Using natural ingredients to get beautiful hues on your food may be time consuming, but it certainly beats reaching for that bottle of food colouring. The natural colours from nature lets you indulge in the most colourful foods without any of those harmful additives. So rather than using colour-laden chemicals, why not go Au naturale by using ingredients that double up as dyes? Here’s how you can do just that.

1. Beetroot or raspberries for reds

Beetroot offers a natural way to get your foods a striking red, and they are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, iron and magnesium.

 

Start by boiling bite-sized chunks of beets and cover them with water, bringing it to a boil over medium heat. Simmer until they are tender, and the residual stained water will be your food colouring.

Blend in the desired amount of beetroot juice to your own frosting, and you’ll get a perfectly pinkish hue to top your favourite cupcake.

The best part about using beets is that you can save the chunks for a salad lunch later.

You can also use raspberries. Bring those luscious red berries to a boil, then use a food processor to puree them.

2. Turmeric, paprika, or carrots for yellows and oranges

Turmeric is one of the few natural food dyes you can use if you’re looking for that vibrant yellow hue.

Bring some turmeric, sugar, and water to a boil over medium-low heat, swirling occasionally, so that it doesn’t become lumpy. Let it cool completely before mixing it with frosting or icing.

Selected paprika can also offer orange tints. Heating the spice can also release a stronger flavour to improve the taste of your food. You can also try juicing carrots if you’re making sweet treats.

3. Matcha or spinach for greens

Not only does matcha turn foods green, but it is rich in nutrients, antioxidants and fibre. It also increases your metabolism and helps the body burn fat. Depending on how dark of a green you want, vary the amount of matcha powder you’re using.

Besides matcha, you can also use spinach. Just grind a large handful of them in a food processor and strain the juice through a cheesecloth. Remember not to throw away the leftover remnants of spinach pulp; you can use it a soup or throw it into an omelette for a nice touch.

4. Butterfly pea flowers for blues

 

A rich source of antioxidants, butterfly pea flowers are the perfect option to replace blue food colouring. Its mild taste also ensures the natural flavour of your dish shines.

Commonly used in sticky rice desserts like pulut inti (a sweet glutinous rice dessert with coconut) and puddings, the flower, when added to a liquid, changes color based on the pH level of the substance added to it. So if you add lemon juice, the food "magically" turns into a bright purple.

5. Red cabbage, baking soda, and vinegar for purples

 

Cover some red cabbage with water in a cooking pot and simmer for about 10 minutes, before draining it. If you want the residual purple solution to become lighter, add vinegar. And if you want to get a blue from there, add baking soda instead. You may want to start with small amounts until you get the desired colour. Keep in mind that both vinegar and baking soda can change the taste profile of your food, so don’t use too much.

You can also use blackberries but they are an expensive fruit to juice.

If you are opting for these natural dyes, do note that the result tends to be less vivid than artificial colouring. Also, they can possibly add an extra flavour to whatever you’re making. But it’ll definitely be fun experimenting with the different shades you can get!

If you want a naturally coloured tea to accompany your foods, try Nilufer Tea's Rose Paradise. The dried strawberry gives the tea a beautiful pink hue and a light sweet flavour, a treat for both your eyes and mouth. Get it here!

Otherwise, you can also opt for Blue Ocean and indulge in the light refreshing flavour while admiring the teal tint of the tea. Get it here!


Written by: Anna Fernandez

The tree is impeccably decorated – you have achieved a look that is equal parts festive and sophisticated. The lights around the house are giving off the exact shade of golden for optimum cosiness. Even your holiday music playlist is handpicked for maximum enjoyment; after all if Michael Bublé isn’t crooning softly in the background, is it truly Christmas? It looks as if all is perfect for a night of joy and laughter. But the crowning glory to a memorable party is still missing – the food.

While some of us are truly gods among men and have the know-how to whip up an entire four-course meal, the rest of us simply make do with the inspiration we get from the internet and our mothers. If digging through old cookbooks or your mother/grandmother’s ancient recipes does not sound appealing to you, we have just the thing. Here are 3 main courses you can take inspiration from and put your own twist on:

1. Cumin Scented Oven Baked Ribs

When you think of Christmas mains, one of the first things that come to mind are holiday movies where the grandma brings out a great hunk of meat out from the oven, still sizzling in its juices. Why not try a variation of that? This particular recipe makes use of cumin – a spice that is native to South Asia – as well as some homemade sweet and tangy BBQ sauce. This is perfect for those looking for a short preparation time. The active preparation time for this main is a mere 30 minutes and then you can take leave it to cook for two hours while you prepare the other dishes of your Christmas dinner. It’s a win-win situation!

Image cred: pixabay

2. Spaghetti with Lobster

If you have had enough of cooking meat and would like to try your hand at something different, don’t worry; we’ve brought something different – seafood. For your crustacean loving relatives, perhaps this recipe with spaghetti and lobster might do just the trick. With a base of tomato sauce and enhanced by the flavour of chiles like habanero, jalapeno and serrano, this main is comfort food with a twist. On a budget? Swap it out with your loved one’s favourite shell fish instead.

Image cred: Brooke Lark on Unsplash

3. Ricotta Goat Cheese Polenta Bake

Okay look — we love the indulgent, giving nature of Christmas as much as the next person but sometimes light and fresh is the way to go. In the flurry of Christmas dinners all serving heavy dishes, this might be a respite for your digestive system. It is chock full of the delicious freshness of green vegetables with the addition of the creaminess of ricotta and goat’s cheese. If your family and friends prefer the vegetarian way of life, this is a must try.

Image cred: pixabay

Whether your Christmas dinner is a grand sit-down affair with all your extended family or a small cosy get-together with friends, these recipes will be sure to enhance your dinner party and impress your beloved loved ones. But in case you do mess up and the meat doesn’t melt in your mouth as you imagined, don’t be too miffed. The truth is, while the food and the decorations do help the festivities, nothing can beat the goodness of a home filled with the laughter and joy of people you care deeply about.

And if your meal becomes too heavy, it is always great to wash down the heavy feeling with a cup of light herbal tea. You can purchase our organic herbal teas here!

Merry Christmas!

A number of things come to mind when one thinks of wine: a romantic evening, a relaxing day, a great accessory for a bath and a lovely drink for a much needed light buzz after a long day at work. It is the ultimate 'adult drink', the grape-based drink that goes well with virtually anything! Personally, I enjoy a light fruity moscato over red wines because I like sweeter flavours so herbal wine is definitely on the other spectrum of my taste scale. There has to be a logical reason behind the very existence of this subset of wine. And I am nothing if not adventurous so I gave it a chance and did my research (of course), and to make it more fun, I wanted to look into DIY wines. It won't be the easiest process but it is certainly highly rewarding! It isn't everyday you get to serve DIY wine at your cocktail parties, no?

Getting the poor elephant out of that tiny room, herbal wine is definitely far less common than the traditional grape wines and they are simply herb-based wines. Herbal wines are either a dry-herb infusion or a fresh-herb infusion. The former infuses at room temperature and for a longer period of time, while the latter infuses in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

On the archaeological record, the earliest wine-making activities go back to as far back 6,000 years ago across the globe. It has been used as a populist medicine that stimulates the nervous and circulatory systems and offers a strong boost to digestion. All types of herbs are used to achieve these results, as well as offering other health benefits such as improving one's mood, promoting internal movement, cleansing the organs and supporting various bodily system functions. Apart from the numerous health benefits, did I mention it actually tastes fragrant, floral and light? Much like a spring/summer breeze on a nice sunny day by the ocean. You're welcome for that spark in your imaginary dreamscape.

Now, moving on, I will share the process of making DIY wine or home-brewed wine and a recipe for you to kickstart at home. Your resulting wine should taste like a cup of quality tea with a slight alcoholic taste; basically the wine version of herbal fruit tea.

The Fermentation Process

Simply put, the fermentation equation for an aspiring winemaker is as follows:

Sugary liquid + yeast (and the occasional friendly bacteria) + time = delicious fermented beverage (Christensen, 2013)

Fermentation is what turns a regular fruit like grapes into an alcoholic beverage. Yeast is required to transform the sugars in the juice/liquid into ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide (a by-product).  The total duration for complete fermentation can take up to 3 weeks. Deliciousness and perfection takes time and cannot be rushed!

What equipment you will need

What ingredients you will need

Lets start brewing!

Note: every recipe follows this basic procedure:

  1. Prepare a sweet liquid
  2. Add yeast and stir the mixture frequently and well
  3. Allow to ferment
  4. Bottle
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Once you have your equipment and ingredients ready, the creative process is relatively fun and easy. When you become more confident in mixing fruits and herbs, you can wean off known recipes and experiment on your own to find your very own creation. Here is a recipe to get you started on your wine-making journey:

Image cred: photo-nic.co.uk nic on Unsplash

Blackberry-Hibiscus Wine

Ingredients
14 cups water
900g granulated sugar
1360g fresh blackberries
113g dried hibiscus
2 Campden tablets
1 packet dry wine yeast
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
A pinch of tannin
Instructions

  • Sanitize your bucket, lid, airlock and spoon.
  • In a stockpot, boil water and add and stir sugar until it dissolves in the water, then add the dried hibiscus and remove the pot from heat. Let it cool, then pour the mixture through a sterilized strainer into a bucket.
  • Place the fresh blackberries in a mesh bag in the bucket. With clean hands, mash the bag so that the blackberry juice is extracted into the mixture.
  • Crush 1 Campden tablet and stir into the liquid. Place the lid and attach the airlock, and let it sit for a day.
  • Prepare the yeast starter by scooping out one cup of the liquid with a sterilized measuring cup into a canning jar. Add the yeast and cover the jar with plastic wrap secured with a rubber band. Shake it well and let it stand for about three hours.
  • Add yeast starter, tannin, and yeast nutrient and stir vigorously, then replace the lid and airlock. Repeat the stirring for seven days using a sterilized spoon. (you can tell the mixture is fermenting because you will start to see bubbles appear in the airlock. Fun fact: the bubbles are carbon dioxide that are produced by the respiring yeast cells!)
  • In a week, sanitize a gallon jar (and its lid and airlock), cheesecloth or muslin, funnel, and spoon. Line your funnel with the cheesecloth, then slowly pour the mixture from the bucket into the jar. Close the lid tightly.
  • Let the mixture sit in a cool, dark, dry area for at least 4 weeks (you can age it for up to 6 months or more if you like!). If you age it for longer than 4 weeks, you’ll want to occasionally siphon it off from lees, or the sediment that collects at the bottom of the jar. To do this, sanitize a stockpot, racking cane and tip, and hose and siphon the mead from the jar to the pot. Then repeat the funneling step above, transferring the mead back into the jar from the pot.
  • When you’re ready to bottle the mead, crush a Campden tablet into the jar, stir, and let sit for at least 24 hours, then siphon the mead into sanitized bottles and cap (or cork).
  • Tip: Label your bottles with the dates they were made to keep track of the age!

If made right, this home brewed wine should taste almost like an herbal fruit tea and you'll be the talk of the party no doubt! Watch out wine stores, DIY wine just might be the next big thing.

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