There is a lot of talk around about gut health, the microbiome, microbiota, the second brain, diet for immunity, gut health and immunity etc.etc. Because Velvet Cloud is a live fermented product, these topics are obviously of interest to us. This post in an attempt to summarise in layman’s language some of the most recent thinking and developments in the area.
There is nothing like the feeling your get, when someone takes the time to post a photo of the products you’ve produced, and to see the creations they’ve made using our sheep’s yogurt or cheese. The two dishes below are both delicious and easy to create.
1) Chorizo Pasta - for midweek comfort and a speedy meal that doesn’t sacrifice on taste, finished with a grating of Rockfield by Velvet Cloud sheep’s cheese. This recipe is by Cathal McBride – Food & Wine writer and contributor to The Sunday Business Post. Catha has loads delicious recipes on his blog https://www.aglassofredwine.com/chorizo-pasta/
2) Slow Cooker Whole Spiced Cauliflower by Caroline Henessy AKA Bibliocook Author, food writer & broadcaster. Again some fab creations by Caroline here here http://bibliocook.com/
Ingredients (Serve 4-6)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 x 250g chorizo peeled and sliced into ½ centimetre slices
3 x garlic cloves peeled and chopped
A large handful of rocket
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 x 30g packet of flat leaf parsley, large stalks removed and chopped
Grated Rockfield sheep’s cheese
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Go the extra mile
100ml red wine
A splash, approx. 1 tsp sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar if not)
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- In a cold frying pan add the olive oil and the chorizo and turn on the heat to high. This will slowly render out the wonderful paprika flavoured oils in the chorizo. Cook on a high heat for a couple of minutes and add the garlic, cooking for a further minute until the garlic starts to turn golden
- Add the sherry vinegar if using and toss around the chorizo and garlic, followed by the tins of tomatoes to the pan, followed by the red wine (again if using)
- Bring to a boil and cook on a high heat for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking.
- Cook the pasta according to packet instructions) and retain some of the cooking water before draining when cooked
- Transfer the pasta back to the pot and combine with the chorizo tomato sauce. Add the rocket, chopped parsley and half the grated Rockfield sheep’s cheese. Season with salt and a little freshly ground black pepper. Remember the rocket is peppery so use the black pepper sparingly. Add some of the pasta water if the sauce is too thick and needs loosening.
- Spoon into bowls, add some more Rockfield sheep’s cheese to the individual plates and top with some more rocket if you have it. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.
Slow cooker whole spiced cauliflower
Serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a side dish.
1 medium-sized cauliflower
2 tablespoons madras spice blend
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
100ml Velvet Cloud natural yogurt
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
Trim the base of the cauliflower so that it sits comfortably in the bowl of the slow cooker. If it still has fresh-looking leaves, keep them on. Mix the spice blend, vegetable oil and Velvet Cloud sheep’s yogurt together in a small bowl, season well with salt and pepper, then smear this mixture all over the cauliflower.
Sit the cauliflower into the slow cooker, cover with the lid and cook on high for approximately 3 hours (or low for approximately 5 hours) or until tender to the centre when tested with the point of a knife.
Break into pieces and serve with homemade tomato sauce, extra dollops of Velvet Cloud sheep’s yoghurt and toasted nuts.
How PR coverage can really help small local Irish businesses, and it certainly helped Velvet Cloud this weekend.
So as anyone who has been following our journey will know, these have been hard times for us as a small food producer. In March at lockdown we lost 50% of our business when our poor restaurant customers were forced to close. But with not a lot of options, we decided we would try selling online, and within 24 hours set up an online shop and started to sell our sheep’s yogurt online. This has gone surprisingly well, although it hasn’t in anyway replaced the sales, we have lost to restaurants.
So we’ve been doing two things: 1) Working on trying to improve the website every week and 2) Thinking about how else we could make revenue from the site, and that’s where the idea of the cheese board was born.
I began to search online for Irish wooden cheese boards and was really surprised at how difficult it was to find something that wasn’t mass produced.
Just by chance I happened upon the site of the lovely Fiona Scott who makes wooden and resin boards. I got in touch to see if she would be interested in making us a bespoke batch of boards and the rest is history. Fiona was in her words “shocked and delighted” to hear from us. Now she is so busy making boards for Velvet Cloud that she cant take on any more work between now and Christmas!. So hopefully if the boards sell well there will be a good news story for two small businesses.
If you purchasing one of our boards you know you are not only receiving a piece of simple, unique yet beautiful Irish craftmanship, but you are also supporting not one but two micro businesses in this very challenging times.
A bit about Irish Beech Wood
Irish beech has unique properties, although hard it will not blunt knives. Unlike oak, beech leeches no tannins to taint food, especially cheese. It has natural anti-bacterial properties unlike mass produced cheese boards that are treated with chemicals to stop bacteria growth. All boards are finished with a food grade mineral oil that is tasteless and odourless.
The beech wood used in our boards, comes from sustainable sources, we only use wood from storm felled trees or dangerous trees that must be felled.
Looking After Your Cheese Board
Boards should be washed in hot soapy water, never put in dishwasher. Naturally wood becomes dry with use so condition with a food grade oil such as grape seed or tung oil or beeswax. Don’t use walnut oil as it can go rancid. Condition approximately once a month.
What exactly is gut health?
Gut health refers to the balance of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. Looking after the health of the gut and maintaining the right balance of these microorganisms is vital for physical and mental health, immunity, and more. (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325293#probiotics-and-fermented-foods)
The community of microbes that live in your gut are called your microbiota.
The opposite of gut health is called Gut dysbiosis and is an imbalance of these gut microbiota.
What can affect gut health?
There are thousands of articles written about the relationship between diet and gut health, and while this is a slight oversimplification there tends to be agreement that a healthy diet which does not contain processed foods or refined sugars is the way to go.
What we eat, especially foods that contain chemical additives and ultra-processed foods, affects our gut environment and increases our risk of diseases. Ultra-processed foods contain substances extracted from food (such as sugar and starch), added from food constituents (hydrogenated fats), or made in a laboratory (flavor enhancers, food colourings) https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/gut-feelings-how-food-affects-your-mood-2018120715548
Managing stress is important for many aspects of health, including gut health. Animal have suggested that psychological stressors can disrupt the microorganisms in the intestines, even if the stress is only short-lived. (Galley JD, Nelson MC, Yu Z, et al. Exposure to a social stressor disrupts the community structure of the colonic mucosa-associated microbiota. BMC Microbiol. 2014;14:189. Published 2014 Jul 15. doi:10.1186/1471-2180-14-189) https://bmcmicrobiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2180-14-189
Overuse of antibiotics
Although it is often necessary to take antibiotics to combat bacterial infections, overuse is a significant public health concern that can lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are also damaging to the gut microbiota and immunity, with some research reporting that even 6 months after their use, the gut still lacks several species of beneficial bacteria. (Palleja, A., Mikkelsen, K.H., Forslund, S.K. et al. Recovery of gut microbiota of healthy adults following antibiotic exposure. Nat Microbiol 3, 1255–1265 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41564-018-0257-9)
Can gut health affect anxiety or can gut heath lead to depression?
Two leading medical researchers (who happen to be Irish based in University College Cork) have done much work on the association between gut health and mental health, in fact they have come up with a new word to name the microbes that can improve your mood psychoboitoics. These microbes are major players in the gut-brain axis: the communication between your gut and your mind. If you are interested in this topic I would highly recommend a book The Psychobiotic Revolution: Mood, Food, and the New Science of the Gut-Brain Connection by John F. Cryan, Scott C. Anderson, and Ted Dina.https://www.ucc.ie/en/research/spotlight/thepsychobioticrevolution/
I will post future blogs with some of the insights from the book, which are fascinating. If you are interested in how a healthy gut can drive psychological well-being, improve your mood, and combat an array of diseases including depression, anxiety, obesity and heart disease this book is for you.
Are gut health tests worth it?
Patients are often told “Its all in your mind” because there is a limit to what doctors can test for. But the reality being revealed by pyschobiotic research is that many issues we think of as purely mental are actually directly related to gut dysbiosis. ( John F. Cryan, Scott C. Anderson, and Ted Dina )
Unfortunately there are still very few tools to prove the health of your microbiota, so it can be difficult to analyze the health of your microbiota, therefore it’s hard to proove that something real is at work and that it’s not just your imagination. Recent work done at the University of California, San Diego, has shown that a computer can discriminate healthy from dysbiotic guts, so help may soon be on the way. (M. Yazdani, B. C. Taylor, J. W. Debelius, W. Li, R. Knight and L. Smarr, "Using machine learning to identify major shifts in human gut microbiome protein family abundance in disease," 2016 IEEE International Conference on Big Data (Big Data), Washington, DC, 2016) https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7840731?part=1
But for now understanding the importance of a healthy gut and how it can be responsible for our physical and mental well-being is crucial.
Because we are asked so often, why is sheep’s milk good for you? Or what are the benefits of sheep’s milk? Or the more direct of people ask what’s so good about sheep’s milk? We thought it might be useful to give a brief introduction here to some of the more recent scientific studies which look at the benefits of sheep’s milk and of yogurts. Because these are all from published scientific sources, they can be heavy on the scientific lingo, but we have summarised the gist of each, giving you a link to the research papers so you can explore them further and find out more about the benefits of sheep’s milk and sheep’s milk yogurt if you wish.
Note Ovine = sheep.
THE EFFECT OF OVINE MILK FERMENTATION ON THE ANTITHROMBOTIC PROPERTIES OF POLAR LIPIDS – MARCH 2019
Recent research indicates that dairy products may be neutral or even beneficial for cardiovascular health. Further evidence indicates that fermented dairy products may be more beneficial for health than non-fermentable dairy products especially against a number of cardiometabolic risk factors such as, hypertension, cholesterol levels and impaired glucose intolerance. Yogurt consumption is associated with numerous health benefits, including preventing type II diabetes mellitus, obesity metabolic syndrome and CVD. Bovine milk accounts for 85% of total milk consumption, however ovine milk alternatives provide a superior nutritional alternative. Ovine milk owes its nutritional superiority , due to the higher levels of protein, lipids and minerals and vitamins essential to human health The most predominant fatty acid in ewes milk are oleic acid (18:1) palmitic acid (16:1) and myristic acid (14:0). Diets high in oleic acid decrease low density lipo (LDL) protein cholesterol levels, whereas high density lipo protein HDL cholesterol levels are not significantly affected. Ovine dairy products also possess potent antithrombotic properties that are indicated in several physiological processes and are beneficial for health. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1756464619300295
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF LACTIC ACID BACTERIA (LAB) FERMENTATES APRIL 2020
Consuming fermented foods has been reported to result in improvements in a range of health parameters. These positive effects can be exerted by a combination of the live microorganisms that the fermented foods contain, as well as the bioactive components released into the foods as by-products of the fermentation process. In many instances, and particularly in dairy fermented foods, the microorganisms involved in the fermentation process belong to the lactic acid group of bacteria (LAB). https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/6/1679
Note: Velvet Cloud yogurt contains live Lactic Acid Bacterial
SHEEP’S MILK MORE EASILY DIGESTED THAN COW’S MILK – DECEMBER 2018
Sheep milk’s protein is more readily digested and its fats are more readily converted into energy compared to cow milk, a New Zealand study has shown. The milk’s unique composition could make it a good option for the very young and the elderly, sports nutrition, and people who are looking for alternatives to cow’s milk, researchers say.
Scientists from the University of Auckland-based Liggins Institute and the Crown Research Institute AgResearch ran the clinical trial.
SHEEP MILK: PHYSICOCHEMICAL CHARACTERISTICS AND RELEVANCE FOR FUNCTIONAL FOOD DEVELOPMENT JANUARY 2017
Sheep milk has a high nutritional value and high concentrations of proteins, fats, minerals, and vitamins, as compared to the milks of other domestic species. The physicochemical and nutritional characteristics of sheep milk can be advantageous for the manufacture of products containing prebiotic ingredients and/or probiotic bacteria, which are major categories in the functional food market. January 2017https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1541-4337.12250
There are so many reasons to make Tzatziki now. Its so easy to make, goes with all sorts of meat, as a dip with anything, with a salad or on some warm sourdough bread. Tzatziki or Cacik as it is also called, is a type of Turkish dip or meze served widely in the Mediterranean and Middle East because it works so well with spicy food. It is basically a cold yogurt dish with chopped-up cucumber or other vegetables.
When you do a search for Tzatziki recipes one of the most commonly searched recipes is Slimming World Tzatziki recipes, which I cant imagine taste that good, because they recommend fat free Greek yogurt and say that the Tzatziki is syn free!
Our sheep’s milk yogurt, unlike today’s Greek yogurt (which is now made from cow’s milk) has nothing added or nothing strained away. So Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk yogurt has undergone no processing, but it is is still high in protein (5.3 g / 100g), so it is officially a high protein yogurt, and it makes the most wonderful creamy Tzatziki. I got the idea for this blog post from the well known nutritionist Gaye Godkin https://www.gayegodkin.ie/ . Gaye recommends Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk yogurt to many of her clients. She herself says she is cow dairy intolerant but eats Velvet Cloud every day, these are her words not ours “The great news is…if you cannot tolerate dairy from cow and goat, chances are you’ll be fine with this sheep’s product. I haven’t eaten cow’s or goats produce for over 30 years, but I can tolerate this. This product is the only yogurt that is not homogenised. IT CONTAINS ONLY SHEEP’S MILK AND LIVE CULTURES. No other yogurt in Ireland is like it.”
Gaye’s Sheep’s Yogurt Tzatziki Recipe
1 Pot of Velvet Cloud, 1 peeled and grated cucumber leave to rest then squeeze the water out of it before mixing with the yogurt add a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper and an optional 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
The Flanagan Family’s Sheep’s Yogurt Tzatziki Recipe
We do as above but add two cloves of crushed garlic, and if we are serving with fish we also add chopped dill or the finely tops of fennel.