A variety of news, creations and tales from the staff of Missenden Abbey, a 12th Century venue set in the heart of the Chilterns offering exceptional conference facilities, wedding services and social events.

More news from the Kitchen!

This post is dedicated to my recent visit to the Natural & Organic show at London ExCel on the 19th and 20th of April. This was my second trip to London this year to review some interesting products and gather some inspiration, and this time it was totally dedicated to healthy, 'Free From' and organic food produce.

From my point of view as a Chef,  I think it's so important to visit exhibitions like this as it's where you can learn what products have become trendy and which organic and 'Free From' products are being injected into the market, especially these days where people are  paying  more attention to their food and lifestyles.That was one of the main reasons why I was looking forward to visiting the Natural & Organic show, to gain important knowledge, educate myself and to implement some new ideas into our kitchen here at the Abbey.
We are all aware that healthy lifestyles and health-benefiting food have biggest impact on our well-being and day to day existence. Without this kind of  approach in our minds we would not be able to function to our full potentials mentally and physically. Hopefully after reading this blog post you will get an idea of what's out there food wise to support that idea and get inspired by.

During my visit to the Natural & Organic show, I noticed that coconut products were absolutely everywhere and decided to see what the fuss was all about. I stopped to talk with the representatives from a company called "Mighty Bee" from Thailand.

Their 100% organic Nam Hom coconut waters and virgin coconut meat were both so amazingly delicious that you couldn't not fall in love with them, just like I did! They use a cold and high pressured process to allow their delicately sweet coconut waters to retain their raw goodness for longer. They had some limited edition organic virgin coconut waters available,  that arrived freshly frozen and absolutely untouched. All you had to do was defrost and enjoy with no additives, no preservatives, and no added sugar and never heated. As impressive as the coconut water was. the product that I would really like to highlight is Mighty Bee’s coconut meat, that I enjoyed a great deal as my mid-morning snack. The 'meat' was so delicate and smooth,completely melting in my mouth... "happy days" I thought!

Might Bee's virgin coconut meat is hand scooped from young green Nam Hom coconuts, and has a unique texture and subtle flavour. From tree to bag in 24 hours, the coconut meat is high in essential medium chain fatty acids and minerals such as Manganese, Potassium and Copper. It contains living enzymes to improve metabolism, high in essential fat burning energy sources and helps to boost the immune and nervous systems as well as circulation. You can use it as a dairy alternative in numerous baking recipes, or turn it into puree and add to baby food to increase nutritional value and to protect from infections. It is a really great 'superfood' and if you'd like to find out more, please visit their website: www.mightybee.com.

The next company that I have spoke to that were also showcasing coconuts products (as well as some very interesting cacao products) was Atreea. Atreea’s farm company called 'Big Tree Farms' is the largest certified organic company in Indonesia, working directly with over 14.000 farmers throughout the largest and most bio-diverse archipelago in the world.Their main and best-selling product is coconut sugar and nectar. Their palm sweetener is made from the flower blossom nectar of palm trees, and are perhaps the world’s oldest sweeteners with a 6.000 year old history.Their coconut sugar is made from the flower blossom nectar of the coconut palm tree, cocos nucifera (not to be confused with the oil palm tree). Harvested multiple times a day (up to 3 litters per tree per day) the fresh organic nectar is then boiled into a thick delicious caramel syrup and ground into granulated sugar. The simplicity of this traditional process leaves the tree unharmed. In fact, a tree can continue to produce both nectar and coconuts for its entire life, which is up to 100 years ! It's worth mentioning the key benefits of coconut sugar, which is how low on the glycemic index (ideal for individuals watching their blood-sugar levels) it is. It is perfect for any sweetening need: baking; drinking; cereals and more as well as great alternative for athletes due to the electrolytes  as well as containing calcium, potassium, zinc and magnesium.

I also tried some hand-peeled cacao beans from Big Tree and I must say that I really enjoyed them. Of course cacao is super rich in antioxidants, but their cacao beans aren't roasted, they're whole, easy to eat, magnesium –loaded, and can be snacked on like any other kind of nut. The flavour was pleasantly mild and nutty. I also talked to the representatives about their cocoa butter and they said that their cocoa butter is pure and cold-pressed while extremely important and beneficial for healthy skin and diet as it allows for essential fatty acids to flourish.  The cocoa butter was clean and light in colour and I was very impressed. It can be used anywhere you would use high quality oils: drizzled on salads; use to make popcorn; smoothies; baked goods and you can even apply it onto your skin.
More info can be found at www.atreea.co.uk.

Another delicious product that I have always loved and drink every day on holiday is Acai Juice. I was lucky enough to speak to the representatives of the company from Brazil -  ‘Organique'.
They arrived  to London with their premium ACAI blend. The Acai berry superfood is naturally grown in the Brazilian Amazon and is considered to be one of the most powerful and heathy fruits on earth! Loaded with antioxidants, omega fatty acids and other nutrients, the locals consider it a source of natural energy and is heavily associated with healthy lifestyles. Founders of Organique Acai wanted to make a product that is not only healthy but also great tasting; the healthiest berry available from mother nature . However, the Acai berry is not easy for consumption because of its bitter taste. Organique started mixing in other juices that would compliment the Acai berry juice and eventually came up with great tasting and potent Acai berry juice concentrate. Adding apple juice, acerola juice, guarana extract, green tea extract to their acai berry juice made it taste amazingly delicious and I personally loved it! You can check for more info on www.organique.asia

That was it for me regarding drinking experiences during my visit to the Natural & Organic expo and I decided to move onto some different products. My next stop was Zingology, a company that produces whole food fruit and vegetable powders. They offer a very unique product made with only 100% pure vegetable or fruit ingredients (not diluted like juice) without any additives , fillers, binders or extracts.  Zingology uses patented technology where fresh fruits and vegetables are turned into sparkling powders, keeping their nutritional content as near to the original fruit and veg as possible.
You can add some into the blender for a fruity twist to your morning smoothie, mix with water or juice for a nutritious afternoon refresher or simply sprinkle as a healthy garnish over salad, oats or toast. You could also fold into ice cream, yogurt, baked goods, soups, sauces and more for added colour, flavour and nutrition, and of course straight from the spoon because it tastes so good. This is definitely  something to look up in my opinion, as their products are such a great value too. For example, one pot of raspberry powder has the equivalent of 660 fresh  raspberries; that’s a lot of punnets with no wastage and no throwing away rotten berries. I got to taste some very interesting vegetable and fruit powders like beetroot (my personal favourite)carrot, coconut, mango, and strawberry. More fruit and vegatable flavours and information about Zingology can be found on their website www.zingology.co.uk.

The next company that is really important to be mentioned is Rawchi Blends. This company has created bespoke blends containing  the world’s most nutritious superfoods and superherbs to improve health and well-being. Each blend is designed to reach all aspects of busy lifestyles and are all vegan, raw, gluten free, lactose free, GM free with no added sugar or stabilisers and no synthetic  vitamins or preservatives. Rawchi’s main focus is to create and provide high quality, organic superfoods that are not only high in protein but also offer a complement of natural raw vitamins , minerals and phytonutrients that provide a natural energy boost and to support the immune system. By increasing the amount of superfoods and adding more raw food recipes to your diet on regular basis, you could eliminate your comfort eating urges which could result in natural weight loss that is easy to maintain as well as experiencing increased energy levels.They offer around 9 bespoke blends such as #Vitality which increases energy, immune building and assists with weight management. #Longevity which is an anti aging blend that helps to reduce blood pressure,  #Physicality that assists muscle repair, increases strength and stamina, and #Tranquillity which promotes peaceful sleep, soothes anxiety and calms mood.You can find out more on very interesting approach to nutrition on www.rawchifood.com.

While I was investigating all of these fascinating and tempting stalls, I was stopped by a fellow chef who noticed my 'chef' badge asked me whether I would have spare 5 minutes to go over to his companies section in the international produce area. I instantly said yes, of course! During our short walk towards his stall, he mentioned that he comes from Peru and arrived to the UK to exhibit some native products of his country like Maca, Camu Camu or Yakon syrup and some other products that I have never heard of before. I thought to myself, remembering that my favourite food, the potato, arrived to Europe more than 400 years ago actually from Peru. I knew at that moment that I was about to explore something very very interesting and important for my future in cooking.

The first product that he so passionately talked to me about was Cacao. Cacao due to its high nutritional content and exceptional benefits which was also believed to be the food of the Gods by the Ancient Incas. Peruvians harvest Cacao powder made from selected certified organic Criollo Cacao beans, a unique variety native to Peru. It is made using unique fermentation and a slow drying process to obtain the special flavour and aroma. I snacked on some great tasting Raw Criollo Cacao Bean , Raw Cacao Nibs, little drop of cacao Butter (perfect for stir frying mushrooms he suggested), and Cacao instant powder with Maca. The next superfood that he gave me for  degustation and talked about was Camu Camu powder. Peruvian Camu Camu powder is made from berries while still green which is when its nutrients are at their peak. Pulp and skin are carefully selected and both parts are processed separately to get the most out of the fruit. Their exclusive cold drying process ensures that the whole fruit including all of its nutrients and co-factors remain in the finished product (an excellent source of vitamin C, antioxidants and bioflavonoids). Another interesting Peruvian product that I was lucky to try that day was 'Maca XPresso'.He said that Peruvians harvest Maca for a perfect coffee alternative which is made from 100% certified organic dried black Maca roots. Apparently it brings the energy you look for in coffee without the crash afterwards. There is absolutely no caffeine  in Maca. Next product from Maca roots that I tried was raw Gelatinized Maca Powder. Peruvian  Maca powder is made from selected organic dried Maca roots (80% black, 15% purple and 5% yellow) using their own unique raw gelatinizing process, a cold process that removes the starches from the root to obtain more concentrated powder  so that it is easier to absorb and digest.

I also tried some dried Sacha Inchi Seeds, a plant that grows in the Amazon Rainforest of Peru. Its seed is rich in nutrients and fatty acids (omega3,6 and 9). They are simply delightful on their own or accompanied by berries and nuts, or as an addition to cold desserts and pastries. The last superfood product from Peru I tried and really loved was Lucuma Fruit powder. Lucuma is a fruit native to the Andean region of Peru, commonly categorized as an ‘egg fruit’ in English, due to its dry yellow yolk-like appearance and texture. Lucuma is considered to be Peru’s number one and national flavour, due to its rich maple/vanilla like taste and sweet aroma. All of these amazing food tastings lasted much longer than the planned 5 minutes (not that I minded), probably because  like myself, he was a very passionate chef, which sparked a good 30 minutes of conversation. I learnt so much from this very kind Peruvian gentleman and I will be forever grateful that he invited me to his little world for 5 minutes...or 30! You can visit their website for more info and some ideas too at www.uhtco.com.

Unfortunately my time at the show was almost over and I could  only make  one more very short stop. I decided to visit Booja-Booja,  a company that makes delicious, melt-in–your-mouth chocolate truffles. I have to confess here that once I stopped at their stall and tried some Champagne Chocolate truffles, I didn't want to leave at all and I don’t think I have ever eaten so many Chocolate Truffles in one go in my entire life! So I asked the representatives what their secret was for such amazingly smooth and delicious chocolate truffles and why I couldn't stop from eating them.  They smiled and said that this was their secret and can only reveal that their chocolate truffles are completely organic, dairy free, gluten free and soya free. Since founded in 1999 Booja Booja have won more than 65 awards including 2 Gold award for their Almond Caramel Truffles and Cherry Cognac Truflles (my all time favourite from that point onwards!) at the Great Taste Awards 2014.

That's it from me this week and I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience and have managed to gain some exciting inspiration for your next cooking project! Unill the next occasion, i'll leave you with some photos of the show.




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