STOP DOING KEGELS.

This week I’m bringing you a very important post. We’re going to be talking about pelvic floor dysfunction and the part it could be playing in your IBS-C, specifically.

Here I’m mainly talking to the ladies. We have a big problem with women’s posture in our society. It’s deemed correct to stand tall, chest out, stomach pulled in and bum tucked. Even if none of us remember being taught this as such, a lot of us are guilty of positioning our bodies in this way without even thinking. This isn’t good – it has the capacity to seriously mess with your pelvic floor.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the pelvic floor is the muscles, the ligaments and the connective tissue in the ‘floor’ of your pelvis. Guess what these muscles are responsible for? They support your downstairs organs! That’s your bowel, your bladder and, ladies, your uterus and vagina. As IBS sufferers, we need to know about these muscles and ensure they’re functioning properly as if not, this could be a big contributor to your IBS related symptoms.

We’ve all been told to do kegels for one reason or another. I read the first instruction to adopt these exercises in a teen magazine when I was about 14 (which awful in itself – but that’s a different battle altogether). I was told more explicitly about the importance of kegels when I took my first pilates class, age 17. It seemed the entire practice of pilates centred around ‘activating the core’ – which begins by pulling up on the pelvic floor and maintaining this at about 30% (at least the way I was taught, anyway). When I become pregnant, I will be told again I’m sure, of the importance of pelvic floor exercises to strengthen those down-there muscles. It’s absolutely true of course that you need strong pelvic floor muscles when you’re pregnant and indeed in all stages of life.  It’s just that tight, toned muscles can often be confused with strong ones.

Tight muscles doesn’t necessarily mean strong muscles.

Picture the pelvic floor muscles as a perfect tightrope; running from below your belly button to your tailbone. It has a little elastic to it, and all your lovely organs are arranged on this perfectly.  When you pull up on your pelvic floor repeatedly (as in kegels) and tuck your bum in as part of  this posture many women have adopted habitually, over time this tightrope is pushed inward from both sides, drawing tighter and tighter, creating slack in the middle.  Instead of being a strong, supportive tightrope with a healthy amount of give, the pelvic floor becomes more like a hammock and is in a state of dysfunction. Combine this with weak glutes that can’t support the back of your pelvis, and you’re even more susceptible to associated symptoms, which can be:

  • bloating
  • constipation
  • urinary symptoms including: frequency, hesitancy, urgency, dysuria and bladder pain
  • pelvic pain
  • lower back pain or pain in the thighs and groin
  • pain during sex / vulvodynia

Here’s a baby donkey in a hammock to make this all a little less distressing.

donkey hammock

hammocks aren’t always bad

 

For anyone who suffers from IBS-C, like me, I’d urge you to consider your pelvic posture. Do you tense up and tuck your bottom in when you stand, or is your tightrope a thing of beauty? It doesn’t matter what headway you might be making on the low FODMAP diet – if a pelvic floor disorder is causing your symptoms, nothing will change until your muscles are supporting your organs in the right way. The steps below, more than anything else, have helped cure my IBS.

Step 1: listen to katy

Watch Katy Bowman speak on the subject in this short video. She explains it far better than me and is an expert on the subject. She includes some exercises here on how you can lengthen those pelvic floor muscles.

STEP 2: see your doctor

Although this might lead you to seek a more specialist opinion down the line, you should see your GP as soon as possible if you have any of the above symptoms, or if you think you might have a pelvic floor disorder.

step 3: stop doing kegels

Stop it. Today. Unless your pelvic floor muscles are in great shape, these will not help you – they will just shorten the muscles further!

Stop the kegels

Stop the kegels.

Step 4: squat

In addition to those lengthening exercises Katy Bowman shows us, you need to start squatting. Squats will strengthen your glutes, supporting the back of your pelvis (helping it to stay untucked) and help lengthen those tight pelvic floor muscles in the process, creating proper support and strength for your organs where it’s needed.

step 5: and remember …

TIGHT MUSCLES DO NOT EQUAL STRONG MUSCLES.

Read some more helpful insights from Katy Bowman, queen of perfect alignment, here:

– ‘Real pelvic floor advice for women‘ – particularly helpful advice for those in pregnancy

– ‘1, 2, 3, 4. We like our pelvic floor‘ – a very good illustration of the problem with kegels and the butt tuck when it comes to pelvic floor dysfunction

 

 

My favourite low FODMAP pasta sauce

 

My favourite low FODMAP pasta sauce

Today I’m sharing my favourite low FODMAP pasta sauce. This really is a mid-week marvel; something you can knock up in ten minutes if you have to – but I like to let the sauce reduce for a good twenty minutes at least, to let all of the flavours really come through.

It doesn’t need much introduction … it’s a tomato pasta sauce with butterbeans, kale and anchovy – if you don’t like anchovies of course you can leave them out, or swap in with some quality pancetta. For those who can’t tolerate the GOS found in the butterbeans, you can leave these out – for me they add more texture than they do flavour. This sauce would be delicious with onion (which I can’t eat, but please do add at the start if you can), and garlic too, which I added here via infused oil, of course.

you will need (makes 2-3 portions)

a good lug of garlic oil
3 x bay leaves
1 x tin of anchovies in olive oil (if you tolerate garlic, buy the ones in herbs and garlic for a bit of extra flavour)
1 x can of butterbeans
3 x big handfuls of kale
1 x tin of chopped tomatoes
a good quality parmesan cheese

… and pasta of course – be it gluten free, wholegrain, or the delicious regular kind that I now feel blessed to be eating again. While we’re on the topic, I found a VERY delicious gluten free pasta last month – my favourite yet. You can buy it from some supermarkets in the UK, or from Dove’s Farm directly. Don’t be put off if you don’t like wholegrain pasta, I don’t either. I can vouch that this silky, brown rice fusilli doesn’t taste grainy, or dull. I’d actually opt for it over the regular kind, in many instances – like when paired with this sauce.

method:

Heat the garlic oil in a pan. If you laugh in the face of fructans, you can add garlic and onion here and fry until soft and golden. I can tolerate garlic, and not onions (more on the science behind this soon) – so I just grated a clove into some regular olive oil. Roughly crush the bay leaves in your hand and add to the pan, stirring constantly.

Chop the anchovies really roughly (they’re just going to melt away into the sauce) and add to the pan. Fry lightly for a couple of minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, along with the drained butterbeans and stir through. If you have some to hand, you can add some chicken stock here, to add a bit more depth to the sauce.

Stir well and turn down to a low heat. Simmer for around 15 minutes, until the sauce reduces and thickens slightly. Put your pasta on to boil. At this point you can add the kale, stirring through until it goes limp. Season the sauce well, once it has thickened to your liking.

Once your pasta is cooked, drain all but a tablespoon of water from the pan, then coat the pasta with a good olive oil and stir through. Add half the sauce to the pasta (if you’re serving just yourself) and coat with lashings of parmesan cheese.

If you manage to keep hold of it, the remaining portion(s) make a very tasty lunchbox treat, which you can add to pasta again, giant couscous, extra helpings of kale… it’s pretty versatile. Tasty, too.

Yoghurt and turmeric lamb meatballs

Yoghurt and turmeric lamb meatballs

I often contemplate today’s lifestyle bloggers-turned chefs and think what their CVs might look like. I think  on the page would there would be emboldened sentences like :

‘created vast demand for the spiralizer: an expensive and oppressive kitchen gadget that creates noodles from previously unappealing vegetables such as courgettes’

and

‘contributed heavily to a staggering increase of the price of cauliflower during 2015’

Because do you know that that’s what has happened? Avocados and cauliflowers have become a lot more expensive lately, and it’s partly down to skyrocketing demand generated by the current health food wave driven by these wellness warriors. And that’s cauliflower guys, a vegetable previously associated only with cheese and farting; not glamorous glowing beings writing to you from their yoga mats.

I’m being cynical – however many of these glowing beings have provided a huge amount of grain free and low-lactose inspiration, which is hugely helpful to anyone on a low FODMAP diet. So it’s down to them, and indeed a real sign of the times, that I bring you cauliflower rice in my latest recipe.

We can all poke fun at it, but cauliflower rice is actually really good. You pulse up half a cauli and fry it – it takes less that five minutes and it does provide a lighter and more fresh carb alternative when you just don’t feel like rice. Cauliflower however is high in the polyol mannitol, so watch out for that. If you know you malabsorb mannitol or you’re still in the elimination phase, swap this out with the regular rice of your choice.

you will need:

For the cauliflower rice:
1/2 x head cauliflower
1/2 x lemon
garlic oil (for frying)

For the yoghurt and turmeric meatballs:
1 x packet of lamb meatballs (I used 12. You could also easily make yourself from lamb mince, but I was feeling lazy)
garlic oil / 1 x garlic clove (depending on your tolerance)
1/2 teaspoon x fennel seeds
1 x teaspoon turmeric
250ml x plain yoghurt (remember we are allowed 2 x tbsp in one serving, so this is ok)

method:

Mix turmeric powder, fennel seeds and yoghurt in a bowl. Add a dash of garlic oil, or one crushed garlic clove if you tolerate fructans. Add the meatballs to the mix, being careful not to crush them. Coat them in the mixture and leave in the fridge for about an hour.

While this is marinating you can make your cauliflower rice (or pop some regular on to boil). To make the cauli rice, just pulse it up in sections and add to a hot pan with some garlic oil. Add the zest of half a lemon, squeezing the juice in afterwards. Fry on a low heat for a few minutes until it has a fluffy texture. Empty the cauliflower out of the pan and into a bowl.

Add some more garlic oil to the frying pan, and remove your lamb from the fridge. I find it best to just fry these all up in one go and tuck into them throughout the week (if they last that long!)

Simply fry in the pan, turning gently as the coating hardens to form a sunshine-yellow crust on each side. A lot of liquid will enter the pan at first, just keep stirring this up and I really recommend eating any excess marinade as it cooks; it’s the tastiest treat and has a texture a bit like halloumi.

Once your meatballs have cooked to your liking, add to your rice and enjoy.

Life after the FODMAP diet: Part 1

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After almost two years, I’ve come out the other side of the low FODMAP diet infinitely more aware and in touch with my body’s responses to food. Like you I’m sure, I’ve kept food diaries, scoured hundreds of product labels, read countless articles and opinions and learnt entirely new limits to live within since embracing a low FODMAP diet.

In reintroducing FODMAPs into my daily life, I’ve concluded a few things from this gruelling test. The main thing I’ve learnt, thank God, is which foods I tolerate well and which foods I really don’t. Frustratingly, it also seems that some foods might seem fine one day, and totally screw me over another day. In this respect the test hasn’t been all that conclusive.

confused gif

Most annoyingly, a plate full of delicious, high FODMAP foods in groups that I have found I tolerate through reintroductions, can result in a lot of pain. This is because FODMAPs always build up in your stomach; so it doesn’t matter that I can tolerate glucose, lactose and GOS. If I wolf down a big bowl of lentils followed by some delicious chopped mango and a load of yoghurt – I’ll probably suffer due to the combination.

So my approach is to begin eating as normally as possible again, incorporating the FODMAPs that I can eat into my diet, while being conscious of my overall intake. Alongside this, something I’m trying to do now that I’ve completed my reintroductions is embrace a more balanced, gut friendly diet. This means making a conscious effort to eat FODMAP containing foods that are known to aid digestion and heal the gut. This means eating garlic for instance, and it means eating probiotics.

So today I thought I’d share a recipe for easy homemade kimchi. For those who don’t know, kimchi is a Korean dish, made from fermented cabbage with chilli, garlic, ginger and spring onions. Since trying it for the first time, I’ve been keen to try making it. It’s dead easy and will last a really long time. A tasty addition to salads and rice bowls, this probiotic miracle is rich in A and C vitamins and boosts the immune system generally by healing your gut.

Easy Homemade Kimchi

you will need:

A sealable 1 litre jar (e.g. Kilner)
Some food safe gloves (optional)
1/2 head of white cabbage, cut into chunks (this recipe is only suitable for those who tolerate GOS)
handful of radishes, sliced
1/2 cup sea salt
2 x chillis
3 x cloves of garlic (leave out if you don’t tolerate)
1 thumb of ginger
4 x green parts of spring onions (add the whole thing if you tolerate)
2 x tbsp fish sauce

method:

Slice your cabbage roughly into large-ish chunks and your radishes into thin slices. Pop in a big mixing bowl. Add the salt and massage into the veggies for a few minutes (do this with gloves on if you like). Salting the cabbage starts the fermentation process.

Next, add just enough cold water to cover the veggies. Pop a plate over them and weigh down with something heavy e.g. a bag of beans. Leave for 1-2 hours.

Make the paste easily by whizzing up the spring onions, garlic, chilli and ginger in a food processor (you can also chop by hand if you like). I love the smell of these ingredients together! I genuinely don’t remember the last time I cooked with fresh garlic, so this part was really exciting. If you don’t tolerate the fructans in garlic, do not substitute with garlic oil here, but rather just leave out of the recipe.

Add the fish sauce to the paste. Drain the cabbage and radishes and return to the bowl. Add the sauce to the cabbage and radishes and mix well with your hands. I really advise wearing some gloves here if you can, or using spoons instead to be sure the smell doesn’t stick to you!

You can now transfer to your sealable jar! Pack in tightly, allowing 2cm of breathing room at the top. Seal the jar and leave at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 1 – 5 days. Once you start to see bubbles, the kimchi is ready and can be refrigerated.

It’s so easy, tastes totally delicious, and looks as though it might do us a lot of good! Fingers crossed… bring on the probiotics…

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Low FODMAP pecan pie

low fodmap pecan pie

Pecan pie is one of my all-time favourite puds. With a teeth-achingly sweet filling and dense, crunchy crust … one piece is never enough. That’s why this raw, natural version has made its way into my fridge lately. I guarantee it will satisfy your craving for something sweet in a more lasting way, without the crash. Stash a couple of squares in your lunchbox for the 4pm slump.

This recipe is adapted from Madeleine Shaw’s Pecan Pie Bites in her first book, Get The Glow. I really like Madeleine Shaw’s food philosophy. Her approach is a sensible, fuss-free one in a world of overly-health conscious superfood-worshippers. Her books are fab for anyone who has made it beyond the reintroduction stage of the low FODMAP diet, with countless nuggets of relevant advice. She writes with an acute awareness of digestion issues having suffered with IBS herself, and her recipes are nutritious and light without leaving you feeling deprived. If you have a few alternative stapes such as buckwheat flour and ground almonds, which, let’s face it, if you’ve been following the low FODMAP diet for any amount of time you probably have acquired, most of her recipes will be accessible to you. She’s just released her second book, Ready, Set, Glow – which arrived at my door yesterday, and I can’t wait to test out some more of her inspiring recipes.

Having been a fan of these raw ‘cheesecake’ style desserts for a little while, I couldn’t resist adapting her Pecan Pie Bites into a low FODMAP, mini cake version. Whether you bring the dish to a party in pie form or slice it into mini slabs to take to work – this pie is one to try. Swap out honey and dates for maple syrup (agave would work too) if you malabsorb fructose.

low fodmap pecan pie

you will need:

For the crust:
2 x tbsp maple syrup / agave syrup / golden syrup (or 150g x pitted dates if you don’t malabsorb fructose, soaked in a bowl of just-boiled water)
100g x pecans
50g x almonds
50g x desiccated coconut
5 x tbsp coconut oil
pinch of salt

For the filling:
250g x pecans
1 x tsp cinnamon
50ml x almond milk
2 x tbsp maple syrup (or honey, or 1 x tbsp of agave)

method:

If you don’t malabsorb fructose, you can use honey and dates in this recipe – making it more nutritious. Begin by soaking 300g of dates in just-boiled water, then taking half of your soaking dates and chopping roughly into small bits. Blitz these, plus 100g of pecans,  the almonds, the desiccated coconut, 1 tbsp of coconut oil and a pinch of salt together to form a crust. If you’re not using dates, simply substitute for maple, agave or golden syrup. You just need a sweet ingredient that binds the rest of the crust ingredients together.

Once you have a consistency that will hold when pressed, push into a round springform cake tin or shallow dish with your fingers. Pop in the freezer for five minutes to set.

To make the filling, blitz the remaining dates (or your chosen syrup) with the filling ingredients, reserving a few roughly chopped pecans. Pour over the crust and scatter the pecans over the top. Pop in the fridge to set, and then slice as you fancy or chop into squares for a tasty treat on the go.

low fodmap pecan pie

The Natural Food Show 2016

The Natural Food Show 2016

As hard and inconvenient as the low FODMAP diet can be, at least we live in a fairly exciting time for free from food. With so many people across the globe taking more interest and care in what they’re putting in their bodies, endeavouring to learn more about and take control of their health, a huge range of organic, raw and free from products have materialised.

Part of the Natural & Organics Products Europe exhibition, the Natural Food Show in London is the culmination of this movement, housing hundreds of stands from brands just starting out to products that most of us now know and love. I was excited to head over there this morning to see these brands in a new light… it was a really great opportunity to chat with representatives from some of my favourite free from brands (and discover a whole load more!)

Some of the brands on show included…

Rude health
Biona
Pukka
Suma
Bioglan
Nakd
Lucy Bee
Pukka Tea
Yogi Tea
Suma
Meridian
Nairns
Planet Organic
Raw Health
Amisa
Biona Organics
Bounce

There was no shortage of sweet options (many, many delicious variations on the bliss ball and raw cacao theme!) … but what I was really after was some helpful savoury options.

There were a couple of standouts. I tried some really delicious noodles made from soy bean from a brand who disappointingly aren’t yet stocked in the UK, and spoke to a lovely guy from Really Healthy Pasta. Their pastas caught my eye – no maize ingredients in sight! All their pastas are made from really inspiring and inventive ingredients such as red lentil, chickpea, mung bean and black bean. And although these will be high in GOS – it might be an answer for some of us!

I’ll be reviewing a couple of flavours soon – but until then, have a gander at the photos below and consider getting over there next year. It’s sure to be even bigger and better as this market continues to grow.

Long may it continue!

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The Natural Food Show 2016

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Low FODMAP Thai Red Chicken Broth

Low FODMAP Thai Red Chicken Broth

There’s a little place at the end of the street I work on in Bermondsey that sells really, really good soup. I never usually buy soup for lunch because it doesn’t really move me, but I didn’t get to do my usual lunch prep last Sunday which led me to a soup that really stayed with me. I couldn’t wait to try and recreate a low FODMAP version (not least because the shallots in it gave me cramps for three whole days… I never learn).

With my weekend ritual of buying some fresh veg, roasting a chicken and making stock completed a day late, by Tuesday night stocks were replenished and I was REDDY for action.

Now, there are two very good reasons for making your own low FODMAP Thai curry pastes at home:

  1. Shop bought varieties contain garlic and usually shallots or other onion varieties, and
  2. Making it at home (unless of course you’re buying the real McCoy from a Thai supermarket or similar) yields a tastier, more authentic paste that you can use again and again. Supermarket jars are watery and far less powerful usually.

low fodmap red thai curry paste

Get your mini chopper / food processor ready! You can store any leftover paste in an airtight jar in the fridge for about a week.

you will need:

1 x stalk of fresh lemongrass
1 x red chilli (stalk removed. Leave the seeds if you like an extra kick)
1 x thumb of ginger (chopped roughly, skin removed)
2 x tbsp tomato puree
1 x pinch asafoetida powder
1 x tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp chilli powder
2 x tbsp fish sauce
1 x tsp sugar
3 x tbsp coconut milk (reserve the rest of the can for the broth recipe below)
2 x tbsp fresh lime juice

method:

Add all your ingredients to a food processor and whizz up. You can add / take away chilli powder depending on your preference for heat / which chillies you’re using.

Once you have the paste, you can of course go on to make a curry, but this was a lighter and more refreshing option for me this week. Recipe below …

low fodmap thai red chicken broth

(pictured above)

you will need:

1 x tbsp coconut oil, for frying
3 x tbsp low FODMAP red curry paste
2 x cans coconut milk (you can use the remainder of the milk used to loosen the paste above)
2 x cups of chicken stock
2 handfuls of cooked chicken, roughly chopped
2 x peppers, sliced finely (sweeter ones like red and yellow work best)
2 handfuls of fresh coriander, chopped finely
pinch of salt

method:

Begin by adding coconut oil to a hot pan. Add the curry paste and fry until fragrant. Chuck in the sliced peppers and fry until soft.

Add the coconut milk, followed by the chicken stock. Then add your cooked chicken and a good heap of fresh coriander. Season with some salt and allow to simmer gently for about 15 minutes so that the flavours infuse nicely.

If you tolerate GOS, you can chuck in some cooked lentils, too. This made a whole load of soup that will keep well in the fridge; don’t be put off by the coconut milk curdling, just stir and re-heat the soup to its former glory.

Miss onion? Time to try asafoetida powder!

asafoetida

Just a quick post this week to sing the praises of something I’ve only recently welcomed to my kitchen. You might have heard of asafoetida powder, hailed by many as a low FODMAP onion substitute. I gave it a go recently and am pleased to confirm the rumours; this stuff really does give your recipes that  onion-y kick that the small amount of celery we’re permitted in one serving doesn’t quite achieve.

Popular in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, asafoetida powder is related to fennel. It’s potent stuff though, you’ll only really need a pinch of it in most cases. And don’t be put off by the smell; it disappears when cooking and will give your meals a lot more depth, I promise. So far I’ve tried it in stock, cooking up lentils, risotto, soup and stews; I’m definitely a convert.

So good.

Oh and P.S. If anyone has tried garlic leaves, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you felt – I’m looking into them as a garlic alternative but can’t find any concrete info yet on whether they’re low FODMAP. I’ll keep you all posted!

Low FODMAP Meatballs

low fodmap meatballs

For the last few weeks I’ve been roasting a chicken every Sunday, so that I have a good base to work from for my lunches during the week. It means I can make some chicken stock up the same evening, which I use for all sorts of meals during the week: soup, stews … or even just cooking ‘grains’ like rice or quinoa in to add some extra flavour.

Last week though, I got a little sick of chicken. I often do this with food; find an ingredient I love and eat it, and eat it, and eat it until I’ve totally ODd. But unlike Sesame Snaps, which I haven’t been able to eat since year 9 following an 8-week lunchbox obsession, a roast chicken can’t really be replaced in my eyes.

Acting quickly following this realisation, I decided to try a new kind of meat-feast. I like meat in my lunches, and I l-o-v-e meatballs. Meatballs with rice … with slaw … with salad … I repurposed these guys each day last week with joy.

you will need:

1 x 250g pack of lean beef mince
a big handful of fresh basil
a not so big handful of fennel seeds
1 x egg
1 x pinch of asofatedia powder (optional)
garlic oil (for frying)

method:

Start by beating an egg in a large mixing bowl. Roughly chop up your mince on a board so that it is a little easier to work with. Finely chop up your basil, and crush the fennel seeds (either roughly with the base of your knife or with a pestel and mortar if you have the energy). Add all the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix together with your hands. If you want to get an oniony flavour coming through in these, you can add a pinch of asofatedia powder to the mix. But be warned – it’s strong stuff! You only need a pinch.

Roll into balls, frying in garlic oil when you’re ready. I like to cook the whole lot (3 mins on each side should do it) in one pan and then just either freeze or keep in the fridge for the week, eating as I need them.

These really do take hardly any time at all – and when you consider that most off-the-shelf meatballs contain onion, it might be worth giving them a go!

low fodmap meatballs

Comforting sausage cassoulet

Comforting sausage cassoulet

I love making this dish. It’s so simple but the flavours are everything you want in a big bowl of mid-winter comfort food. And although it’s almost Spring in England … it’s still coat and glove weather, which means cassoulet remains firmly on my mid-week menu.

My version contains a high amount of GOS thanks to the white beans here, however I’ll pop a few suggestions in the recipe for those who are going through eliminations / can’t tolerate the beans.

you will need:

(makes enough for two people)
2 cups white beans (e.g. cannellini), soaked and cooked*
half a packet of good quality pancetta
4-6 good quality sausages
1 x tin of tomatoes
4 cups low FODMAP bone broth / chicken stock
splash of red wine
a few bay leaves, sprigs of thyme and rosemary
garlic oil

* substitute for white beans: use a few potatoes (boil first) or two finely diced carrots, to be fried in the pan with the sausages.

method:

If you aren’t using canned beans, the first step is to soak the beans, and cook them. If you are cooking them, do so in a good amount of chicken stock – about 2 or 3 cups. This will make sure they start out full of flavour. Cook them in a big enough pot – you’ll be adding other bits to this later.

Take the leaves off a few spriggs of rosemary and thyme, reserving the stalks. Pop the stalks into a frying pan with the pancetta. Once the pancetta is crisp, remove it from the pan and reserve.

*If not using white beans, ensure that a) your potatoes are cooked or b) that your diced carrots have been fried in the pancetta fat and reserved before the sausages have gone in.

Chop the sausages into meatball sized chunks; it’s up to you whether or not  you leave the skin on. I like to take it off and just use the sausage meat. Pop these into the pan (still with the herb stalks), adding a little garlic oil if you need. You’re just browning the sausages here, but I would advise cooking them most of the way through.

When your beans are cooked, or have been cooking in chicken stock for at least a little bit if they were from a can, you can start to add the other elements to your cassoulet.

The way I like to do it is this; add a tin of tomatoes, followed by a splash of red wine and the remaining cup of stock, and all the leaves and stalks of the herbs (chop the rosemary really finely and crack the bay leaves to help release their oils). Let this bubble and reduce a bit.

Once you’ve got a slightly thickened, gorgeous smelling base for your cassoulet, add the sausages. I like to add the pancetta here too because I think the longer it has to kind of melt into the stew the better, but if you like it crispy you can add this at the end too. Give it a taste, it may want some pepper.

This is comfort food …if you’re anything like me, hugging a bowl of this close to you as you eat it will always make your day a little bit better.