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The perfect Easter wines to pair with food, selected by Fiona Beckett

22nd March 2018

Whether guzzling chocolate eggs or feasting on sumptuous roast lamb, food and wine writer Fiona Beckett has the perfect selection of Easter wines to match.

Just as the sort of food we fancy changes at this time of year and so the wines we want to drink with them also moves on. We instinctively crave lighter, brighter flavours in both (in theory), so it’s bye bye rich porty reds like amarone and hello fresh crisp whites, rosés and light juicy reds.

Who knows what Easter will bring weather-wise though? We could be sunning ourselves on the patio or huddling round the fire so I’d keep your options open.

Here are the pairings I’d suggest with some seasonal favourites:

Roast lamb and wild garlic

Roast lamb: paired with fresh and fragrant wild garlic oil, it’s the best of spring on a plate. Photo: Natale Towell.

Wild garlic’s rampant right now and adds a punchy flavour to any ingredient you put with it – in fact it’s more important a factor than the lamb in this pairing. I’d choose a rustic red like a Côtes du Rhône or other grenache, syrah and mourvedre blend (often known as GSM in the wine trade!). Try our roast lamb and wild garlic recipe.

Roast chicken

Try Thomasina Miers’ ultimate roast chicken with a white or red.

Who doesn’t love a simple, homely roast chicken and the good news is that you can equally happily drink a white or a red wine with it. If you’re going for a white I’d pick a smooth white burgundy or other chardonnay, for a red I’d fancy a fruity red burgundy or other pinot noir. Try Thomasina Miers’ Ultimate Roast Chicken recipe.


The most delicious Italian way of cooking pork that I personally reckon goes better with a white wine than a red. You could keep the Italian vibe going with an Italian white like a pinot grigio or verdicchio or, if you’re a red wine only sort of a guy (or gal) go for a Tuscan red. Any cold leftovers will go really well with a rosé too. Try our Porchetta recipe.

Fish pie

Pair a sustainably-caught fie pie with a range of whites. Photo: Natale Towell.

Fish pie is all about the gorgeous creamy sauce so again that tends to suggest chardonnay which loves cream and butter. If you want more of a contrast try a sauvignon blanc like a Pouilly Fumé which will act like a squeeze of lemon or a crisp English white like a Bacchus. Try our Perfect Fish Pie recipe.

Beetroot risotto

Go for Beaujolais with beetroot. Photo: Natale Towell.

Beetroot has a really sweet earthy flavour so I’d go for a fruity red like a pinot noir or Beaujolais rather than a white. Try our Beetroot Risotto recipe.

Hot cross buns

Tea trumps wine when it comes to freshly toasted hot cross buns. Photo: Natale Towell.

Fan though I am of wine I really don’t think you can beat a good cuppa with a hot cross bun. Personally I’d go for Earl Grey but you could go for Rooibosch if you prefer to avoid caffeine.

Rhubarb frangipane

Celebrating the best of British rhubarb. Photo: Natale Towell.

The perfect recipe to complement a luscious dessert wine like a Sauternes or similar sweet wine from the Bordeaux region. Late harvest riesling would also work well. Try our Rhubarb Frangipane recipe.

Easter chocolate

One egg or two? Photo: Natale Towell.

So what do you drink with the kids’ leftover Easter eggs which tend to be milky and super-sweet? A glass of Prosecco would go down nicely when you finally get to put your feet up as would – you may not believe it! – a pale cream sherry. Trust me!

Fiona Beckett is drinks columnist for The Guardian and restaurant critic for Decanter magazine. Visit her website for expert food and wine pairing tips at

Shop the full range of Easter wines, seasonal recipes and chocolate treats. 

Going out? Head to 10 of London’s best wine bars. Staying in? Sign up to our new wine club Winedrop to be the first hear of exclusive offers and new wines.

Find out why ‘new season’ spring lamb is a myth, swot up on 10 common wine myths and meet award-winning sustainable English winemakers.

Farming Thinking

How supermarkets ruined pork

21st March 2018
  • New campaign positions pork as healthy a chicken but a staggering 90% of all pork sold in the UK is intensively farmed.
  • Lizzie Rivera reveals the truth behind the pork we eat, the murky world of food labelling, and how supermarket dominance is at fault.  

Free-range pigs at Fernhill-Farm. This type of high-welfare farming is far removed from the reality of how much of British pork is made.

Pork is making a comeback. Its decline in popularity has been so slow you may not have noticed it – but farmers and supermarkets have. So a new campaign has been launched to rekindle our love of the majestic-sounding pork medallion, firstly by taking on chicken (whose popularity has soared) and secondly by taking on the Oxford English Dictionary.

Yep, a pig farmer hit headlines last week by formally requesting the phrases ‘pig-out’, ‘eat like a pig’ and ‘porker’ are removed from the dictionary because they are offensive to the animals that are, in reality, no greedier than any others.

In fact, British pigs are now 44% leaner than they were in the 1970s, while us greedy-hogs – oops! humans – are 30% fatter, according to the latest data from the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board.

Pork drops: how we fell out of love with pork

The new Love Pork campaign encourages people to eat more pork but 90% of all pork sold in the UK is intensively farmed.

Sales of pork fell by 8% between 2013 and last year, with around one million fewer households buying pork. Meanwhile sales of chicken, touted as the healthy white meat, soared by 18%.

A significant factor of this decline may have been the World Health Organisation’s warning in 2015 that processed and cured meat ranked alongside cigarettes as a cause of cancer.

The evidence that links a high intake of red and processed meat to poor health is growing according to the British Dietetic Association (BDA). It is not yet clear why this is, but one theory is the higher saturated fat or salt intake in foods such as burgers and sausages, and the typically un-healthier lifestyles of the people who regularly consume these foods.

The key point here is “high intake”. Dr Frankie Phillips, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the BDA, says the official recommendation is to eat less than 70g of red meat per day – about the amount in a pork medallion.

She also highlights how pork is also rich in protein and provides a source of a range of essential vitamins and minerals.

Hence the new “Love Porkmarketing campaign, which presents pork as healthy as chicken by highlighting that a pork medallion contains a whole 0.03g less saturated fat than a skinless chicken breast.

So, we can eat pork as often as we do chicken. Right? Well, not quite…

Telling porkies: health claims and intensive farming

As our last report on chicken investigated, there’s a lot more to the arguments for how “healthy” a meat is for you than the simplistic fat and protein content marketing message. And there’s a huge range of pork to choose from – from intensively reared to free-range and organic.

So, while “Love Pork”  is not telling outright porkies, they’re not telling the whole truth either because the way a pig is farmed has a significant impact on its nutritional value.

And that is another reason we’re seeing a decline of meat sales generally – consumer concern for animal welfare.

A report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism last year revealed that the number of intensive farms (housing 2,000 pigs for grown meat) in the UK has risen by a quarter since 2011. “Mega Farms”, which hold at least 2,500 pigs, are also increasing at a concerning pace with the largest UK pig farm able to hold a staggering 23,000 pigs.

Piglets suckling their mother on an intensive pig farm.

Intensive farming now accounts for an incredible 90% of all pork sold in the UK, according to Philip Lymbery, chief executive Compassion in World Farming (CIWF).

When it comes to pigs, what passes as acceptable is pretty horrifying. Piglets are born to sows in farrowing crates, which are so small the sows can’t even turn around.

The piglets compete with one another for teats that aren’t providing enough milk for them all, so they have their teeth painfully clipped to minimise damage when fighting to suckle.

“That’s not a pig, that’s a genetic monster who’s lived in a shed all its life.”

Unstimulated, their tails will have been docked by the time they are transferred to pens at three weeks old (without anaesthetic if they were under seven days old) to stop them causing serious damage when they bite each other as their boredom turns to aggression. The growing pigs live on hard slatted floors so the excrement they live in can conveniently be washed away.

Fed growth hormones to grow quickly, commercially reared pigs are ready for slaughter from five months old, twice as fast as higher welfare breeds which grow at a more natural pace.

They are fattened up on cereals and are fed routine antibiotics because diseases spread quickly in tightly packed conditions and they haven’t fed from their mother for long enough to build up immunity. In September 2016, a study by organic certification body Soil Association revealed 63% of pork samples contained antibiotic-resistant E. coli.

Farms Not Factories have campaigned against the intensive farming of pigs – a farming system which is heavily reliant on antibiotics.

“In Britain, a nation of animal lovers, most of our pigs are in factory farms in conditions that in my view can only be described as utter deprivation,” says Lymbery, who believes it’s supermarkets who have benefited from this centralisation of supply.

Intense competition between the supermarkets and their tiny margins mean that meat has become cheaper than ever. The farmers themselves have been forced into levels of efficiency that have never been seen before – and that includes pushing animals to grow at unnatural rates. As one farmer explains it: “That’s not a pig, that’s a genetic monster who’s lived in a shed all its life.”

But over the last decade supermarkets have also realised consumers want their animals to be treated better. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have to treat the animals better – just market them to suggest this is the case.

The word ‘fresh’ leads to 30% of consumers to believe products are more free-range than they are

Lymbery says: “Packaging on animal products can be designed to make consumers feel better about what they are buying. Pictures of animals happily grazing in rolling fields do nothing to inform people of the truth about how farm animals are actually raised.”

He points to research that shows simply adding the word ‘fresh’ leads to about 30% of consumers believing products are more free-range than they actually are.

Even worse, when I asked David Clarke, CEO of Red Tractor, which certifies 85% of pig farms, what are the advantages of “outdoor bred pork” (which means the pigs are born outdoors and raised indoors) his reply is: “The advantages are some people are prepared to pay more money for it because they think it’s better welfare.”

Happy as a pig…outdoors

A free-range, organic pig at Purton House Organics farm in Wiltshire.

At the other end of the spectrum a luckier 10% of pigs are raised in truly higher-welfare, free-range and organic conditions.

Pigs are very sociable animals and when given the chance they will happily spend their days grazing or rooting the ground with their sensitive snouts – or wallowing in the mud to cool down. If it’s cold, shelter with plenty of straw is their perfect hideaway.

Given the opportunity to behave naturally, pigs on these farms will automatically designate themselves a toilet area – away from where they live and eat.

This style of farming goes hand-in-hand with passionate and enthusiastic farmers fighting to keep the rarest pig breeds in existence – such as the Gloucester Old Spot, The British Saddleback and The Tamworth.

At Fernhill Farm, there are just two Saddleback sister sows, who each have the potential to produce about 24 piglets a year. These animals get to live as a family unit in eight acres of land and rotate around the woodlands and gardens to cultivate, fertilise, clear scrub and help to reclaim unmanaged woodlands.

One of Fernhill Farm’s two saddleback sows with one of her piglets.

“We consider them as part of the team, clearing up windfall apples, garden and vegetable waste, weeds and consuming large quantities of fodder beet throughout winter,” says owner Jennifer Hunter.

“To us they form part of our holistic approach to farming rather than a stand alone business. Pigs were my first love after studying animal behaviour and they sure do deliver on bringing a bit of joy into our lives.”

The Saddleback is one of the original British breeds of pig and is gentle and quiet perfectly suited to life outdoors, with great bacon potential.

Rare breeds have been phased out of commercial farms because they don’t grow quickly enough, but unsurprisingly the quality of the meat is incomparable. It will have depth of colour and be full of flavour, fry beautifully in its own fat and it won’t release grungy water.

Some British farmers are even turning rare breed meat into charcuterie – with impressive results. British Salami from Marsh Pig, for example, typically has a third less fat so you get all of the flavour without the greasy after taste.

Of course, meat from these pigs is more expensive – and some cuts can cost the same price as a steak. It’s a tough sell to re-educate consumers who have lost touch with how their food is really produced. But, somewhat ironically, these pigs need to be eaten so they can continue to be farmed and ensure the survival of the breeds.

Going the whole hog

The rise in popularity of nose-to-tail eating means even a pig’s head now comes with a price tag of about £15, whereas butchers were literally giving them away a few years ago.

Yet, the head is still the most undervalued part of the pig, according to chef James Golding, who uses it to make Bath-chaps (cured and smoked pork cheeks), braised cheeks and crispy ears.

As chef director of The Pig ‘restaurant with rooms’, who rear their own pigs, you’d expect Golding to be a big fan of pork.

“It is so versatile and tasty, whether you’re roasting a shoulder for dinner or making a paté, every product is packed full of flavour,” he says. But there’s one condition.

“As long as it’s responsibly reared, it’s a beautiful meat.” To Golding, the difference between a quality piece of pork and a cheap one is huge.

“The depth of flavour is the biggest difference and the smell is intense. We finish our pigs on apples and it does transfer into the meat, it’s delicious.”

The message to eat less but higher welfare meat is no longer just about animal welfare but human health as well.

The difference between low-welfare and high-welfare farming also impacts the nutritional value. For example, the biggest nutritional difference between organic meat and non-organic is that organic meat contains around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, according to a report published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Plus, organic meat was found to have slightly lower concentrations of two saturated fats linked to heart disease.

Organic and truly free-range pigs are reared without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers common in intensive farming. This is especially important in light of reports highlighting how the overuse of antibiotics in farming is undermining the treatment of infections in humans.

Suddenly the advice to eat meat less often so we can afford to eat better quality doesn’t seem so unreasonable, it seems necessary.

This is where buying cheaper, less common cuts can provide the best of both worlds. The meaty chump, from the rump, is easy to cook in a pan or under the grill. The cheek, from the other end of the pig, is fatty and great in a stew. Deboning, stuffing and rolling the loin can make it go further – and removing the skin to make a tasty crackling makes this go further still. Of course, the shoulder can be slow-roasted until tasty and tender, but it can also be minced for a delicious, slow-grown and slow-cooked ragu.

Lizzie Rivera is a journalist and founder of BICBIM, London’s ethical food and fashion guide, covering the eco-friendly and ethical brands that produce top-quality food, fashion and experiences. 

Shop for high-welfare and organic pork at

Discover more about the effects of factory farming on our food:


Cook once, eat all week: A lamb shank leftover dish with a difference by Skye Gyngell

20th March 2018

Spring supremo Skye Gyngell cooks up a clever lamb shank dish that uses up the week’s leftovers and tastes no less delicious as a result.

This week also sees the launch of the One Planet Plate campaign – a restaurant movement that puts sustainability the menu via top chefs such as Skye.

Spring chef Skye Gyngell. Photo: Carol Sachs.

The original premise for Cook Once, Eat All Week was to provide one hero recipe and three resourceful ideas for using up the leftovers. This month, though, we have something a little different for you, as chef Skye Gyngell twists the idea to provide one hero recipe conjured from three traditionally leftover ingredients. We hope you agree that it is an exception worth making.

Originally from Australia and having trained in kitchens across Europe, Skye Gyngell came to prominence at Petersham Nurseries, where against all odds she won a Michelin star for the irresistibly dishevelled Richmond cafe (wooden floors and wobbly tables and all). Around the same time, Skye also served as The Independent on Sunday’s food columnist and has subsequently released four cookbooks.

Since 2014, she has been at the pass of her Somerset House restaurant, Spring, set inside a 19th Century drawing room in the venue’s New Wing. Here she has free reign to develop daily-changing dishes straight from the Skye Gyngell playbook of seasonal, wholesome, homespun cooking.

The dining room of Skye’s restaurant Spring at Somerset House. Photo: Amber Rowlands.

As well as earning great reviews for the food, Spring has won plaudits for its commitment to sustainability, too. The restaurant’s ‘Scratch Menu’ — available between 5 and 6pm daily — features dishes comprised entirely of offcuts and scraps and at £20 for three courses is priced accordingly.

Which brings us nicely to this month’s recipe; a gorgeous lamb shank dish seen frequently on Spring’s Scratch Menu and perfect for whipping up over a cold Sunday afternoon.

As for how you get the leftover potato skins, broccoli stems and lamb shank in the first place, we’ll leave that up to your own culinary imaginations.

Slow cooked lamb shank, potato skin mash and broccoli tops

Step into spring with Skye's lamb shank leftover dish. Photo: Natale Towell.

Step into spring with Skye’s lamb shank leftover dish. Photo: Natale Towell.

Skye Gyngell: “At Spring, we often grill beautiful legs of lamb from Daphne at Elwee Valley farm. Once we have broken down the lamb legs we always have the shank left over which is difficult grill. It’s such a beautiful succulent tender part of the leg that rather than discarding it, we slow cook it and serve it on the Scratch menu.”

Serves 4


4 lamb shanks

1 dried chilli crumbled

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

5 stalks of oregano or marjoram

1 teaspoon of toasted, ground fennel seeds

3 glasses of dry white wine


1. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. Place a pan, large enough to hold all the shanks, over a medium heat. Add a little olive oil to the pan. Season the shanks generously all over with sea salt and a little freshly milled black pepper.

3.Once the pan is hot, add the shanks and brown well all over. Once brown, remove from the pan and transfer to a roasting tray.

4. Pour off the fat from the pan, turn the heat down slightly and deglaze the plan with the wine.

5. Pour the wine and pan juices over the lamb ensuring it is submerged. Scatter over the fennel seeds, marjoram, chilli and garlic and cover with foil.

6. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and cook for 20 minutes then turn down the heat to 160C and cook for a further 1.5 hours by which time the meat should be sticky, very tender and deeply flavoured. Cook uncovered for a final 20 minutes. Remove from the oven.

Slow cooked broccoli tops

I find the most delicious part of the broccoli is its stems. Sometimes the ends can be a little woody but cooking for a good amount of time tenderises them.


A couple of handfuls of broccoli stems

A little dried chilli

2 anchovies

A knob of butter

1 x clove of garlic, crushed


1. Place a pot of well salted water on to boil. Once boiling, drop in the broccoli stems and blanch for 2 minutes. Strain and once cool enough to handle chop into little pieces.

2. Place a pan large enough to hold the broccoli over medium heat, add the butter and a glug of extra virgin olive oil – then add the anchovy, chilli and garlic and stir well to combine. Add the broccoli stems and stir together.

3. Turn the heat to low, place a lid on the pan and cook for 35-40 mins, stirring occasionally.

Potato skin mash

Skye Gyngell: “I tend to use a little paring knife to peel potatoes rather than a peeler, being left handed I find it easier and it is a habit I’ve gotten into over the years that I haven’t changed. Peeling potatoes this way takes off more flesh than using a peeler. I love the flavour in potato skins and we often turn them into this mash. We make butter at work so we always have left over buttermilk to hand but you can use regular milk if you don’t have buttermilk.”


300g potato skins

80ml mild buttermilk

Small knob of butter

Sea salt

Plenty of freshly ground black pepper


1. Make sure you have scrubbed the potato skins well before peeling. Peel using a small sharp knife allowing a little flesh to remain attached to the skins.

2. Place in a pan and add enough water just to cover. Season with a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down slightly and simmer until tender (approx 20 minutes). Strain.

3. Gently warm the buttermilk and butter together in a small saucepan. Once the milk is warm and the butter melted pour over the strained potatoes and mash until smooth. Season with a little salt and plenty of pepper.

Skyes extra tips for using up leftovers: 

Use leftover porridge oats as the base for a sourdough.

Juice the pods of peas for a refreshing morning drink.

Pickle leftover vegetables.

Slow-cook the tops and stalks of veg.

Skye is one of many top chefs supporting the One Planet Plate campaign – a restaurant movement that puts sustainability and zero-waste on the menu via chefs worldwide showing how food can help us live better. Check our their website or Instagram for more sustainable recipe inspiration and to find a plate near you.

Discover more top chef food waste fighting recipes by Massimo Bottura of the three Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana, Chantelle Nicholson of Tredwells and Freddie Bird of Lido Bristol.

Meet the cult chefs taking Instagram by storm and slow-cooker perfect recipes from London’s top chefs.


Easy eco-friendly swaps for a plastic-free kitchen

15th March 2018

Top chef-inspired hacks for a plastic-free kitchen, courtesy of Luke Holder and his pioneering Chefs Against Plastics movement.

No plastic bags here.

After decades of warnings and campaigning from environmentalists, the (heavily-polluted) tide is finally turning on plastic. Bars are turning to paper straws; chefs are banning it from their kitchens; even the government is starting to take action; slowly.

The size of the problem is now seemingly too big to ignore: plastic blights our oceans, rivers and lakes; infects our animals and litters our planet.

The good news is that there are more ways than ever for consumers to say no to the ubiquitous synthetic. By making a few simple changes and substitutions, you too can join the good fight and become part of the solution instead of the problem.

In order to do so, we’ve compiled some simple tips and plastic-free hacks with the help of chef Luke Holder, who recently launched the Chefs Against Plastics movement, which has already garnered significant support within the hospitality community and forced suppliers to switch to more sustainable methods.

Luke has first-hand experience of trying to reduce plastic usage in the kitchen (albeit a commercial one) having done so at his New Forest restaurant, Hartnett, Holder and Co.

“We have looked in detail at what working practices we use, and have asked all involved to really consider how we can reduce our plastic footprint,” he explains to Farmdrop. “If there is any unnecessary single use plastic anywhere, then we have removed it.”

Change-up your shopping habits

The first step to establishing a more sustainable kitchen, Luke says, is to reconsider your shopping habits.

Chef Luke Holder is on mission to drive plastic out of the kitchen.

“Try to be aware of what you bring into your home in plastic, and, if you’re a fortunate enough to be able to afford to, try to purchase alternative items or shop in alternative places where they don’t use plastic to the same levels.”

This could mean shopping at your local greengrocers or farmers’ market instead of supermarkets, or — self-promotion alert — trying out an ethical grocer such as Farmdrop, who use crates to pack food and recently announced further packaging improvements.

If you do continue to shop at supermarkets, then avoid produce with unnecessary packaging. Bananas in a bag, for example. Oh, and take a tote bag.

Read the small print 

Following on from the last point, it’s also important to decipher which packaging you can and can’t recycle – as it’s not always clear. Make sure to scan labels for the recycling logo, keeping in mind that plastic cannot be recycled ad infinitum, and avoid things made from composite materials. And if you’re still not sure, Google is your friend.

Did you know that most tea bags aren’t entirely biodegradeable?

Also, don’t be complacent about things that you feel are unlikely to contain synthetics. It might surprise you to learn, for example, that most tea bags contain polyproprylene which means they are not entirely biodegradeable. Sadly, the same is true of many milk cartons.

Find alternative ways to store and preserve food

Let’s face it, plastic is great at keeping food fresh (though it can lend a slightly plasticky flavour) but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other means.

Tiffin boxes and stainless steel containers make an ideal alternative to tupperware, though as Luke says “tupperware needn’t necessarily be shunned as it can be used multiple times”, while don’t discount the old trick of covering a plate of food with another plate, which works less well for things that can be squashed – a souffle, for example.

Try pepping up your kitchen with a traditional Thai tiffin carrier.

Finding a sustainable replacement for cling film is slightly trickier, especially if you tend to use a lot of it, but Luke recommends consumers try wrap made from beeswax, which can be bought online from Beeswax Wraps UK among other companies.

Instead of sandwich bags, try varieties made from cloth or simply use glass resealable jars.

More simple, sustainable plastic-free swaps 

Made those changes and think you’re close to achieving a plastic-free kitchen? A quick audit of your cupboards may make you think again. Luckily, the market for plastic-free alternatives is growing at a rapid rate and there are now sustainable alternatives for many of the things likely to be lining your shelves. Here are just a few of them:

Straws: Join the legions of restaurants and bars ditching plastic straws. With paper, metal and bamboo-made varieties now available, it’s easier than ever.

Coffee cups: Carry your favourite reusable cup round with you and you’ll never have to use a plactic takeaway one again. You might save yourself some cash in the process, with many cafes now offering a discount for those using their own cups.

Bin liners: Not the most glamorous of discussion points, granted, but bin liners are almost always made out of plastic. Opt for biodegradeable alternatives.

Handwash: Wash your hands of single-use soap dispensers and opt for bars of soap instead.

Milk Bottles: Milk rounds are making a serious comeback – go back to glass.

Talking of milk…discover Mylkman’s nut milks which are supplied in reusable glass bottles and can be collected by Farmdroppers for reuse.

Meet the ethical innovators changing how we eat, drink and shop and meet the food initiatives fixing communities.

Go behind the scenes at Cub, arguably London’s most sustainable bar and restaurant.

Keep your eyes peeled at for some very special reusable coffee cups hitting the shop soon.

Cooking DIY Pantry

A DIY guide to dairy-free milk

14th March 2018

Oat and sesame, almond and coconut – dairy-free milk is fast becoming a fridge staple. But how tasty are they really? And how easy are they to make yourself at home? Food writer and DIY pantry regular, Malou Herkes, reveals all.

A DIY guide to making dairy-free milk at home

Which one will be your new go-to alt milk? Photo: Natale Towell.

Dairy-free milk: a real alternative to cow’s milk?

Cow’s milk alternatives are evermore popular these days. A rise in lactose intolerance and vegan diets probably has a lot to do with it, they can be cheap to make and they offer something new by way of flavour (coconut-milk pancakes or pistachio-milk smoothies are arguably much tastier than dairy milk!). There’s also something to say for the ease of turning a pantry staple into something resembling cow’s milk, which you can use in much the same way in the kitchen – think pancakes or smoothies, soups or curries, even lattes (although I wouldn’t recommend builder’s tea).

On the other hand, alternatives they are. If you’re looking for something that will taste just like cow’s milk, you might find yourself hard done by. Nutritionists stress, too, that dairy alternatives are often packed with sugar, and can fail to provide the calcium and essential fats that kids need as they grow. Still, as an adult and as part of a balanced diet, non-dairy milks have their place.  

Additive and sweetener-free

Mylkman make rich, creamy almond, cashew, pistachio and oat blends from their kitchen in London, without all the additives and sweeteners you might find in the usual shop-bought versions. Making them yourself at home is also very simple, and you don’t need a cupboard-full of fancy equipment to do it – just a high-speed blender and a piece of muslin or cheesecloth will do. When it comes to nut, sesame and oat, you’ll need to soak them beforehand, but otherwise the formula is always the same – add your basic ingredient to a blender, add water, blitz well, then strain. Easy!

The water ratios here are given as a guide. The more water you add, the more diluted your milk will be, and the less you add, the more concentrated, so play around and see what you prefer. Most milks will keep for a good few days in the fridge, and don’t worry if they separate – just give them a good shake before use.

How to make alternative, dairy-free milk

Oat Milk

A DIY guide to making dairy-free milk at home

Photo: Natale Towell.

Oat milk has a smooth, mild taste, not as sweet as almond or as creamy as coconut milk, making the latter better for making pancakes. Oat milk is probably the nicest to drink straight up, without the bitterness of sesame or the starchy taste of rice, and needs little in the way of sweetner or flavourings, and works well in smoothies, too. Try Mylkman’s chocolatey version, combined with cocoa, agave and coconut.

How to make oat milk

Soak 1 cup of rolled oats in cold water for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Drain and rinse, discarding the soaking water. Blend the oats on high with 3 cups of cold water until smooth, then pour into a muslin or cheesecloth-lined bowl (you can use a nut-bag if you have one), bunch up the cloth and squeeze to strain out the milk. Decant into a clean bottle and store in the fridge for up to about five days.

Sesame Milk

A DIY guide to making dairy-free milk at home

Photo: Natale Towell.

Sesame milk has a sharper, slightly bitter taste in comparison to other dairy-free milks. Imagine the taste of tahini and you’re not far off. Straight up, sesame milk is an acquired taste (although not terrible!), but blitzed with nut butter and dates into a smoothie, it works well. Unhulled sesame seeds have a higher calcium content, but they’re more bitter than hulled seeds – experiment and see which you prefer.

How to make sesame milk. Soak 1 cup of white sesame seeds in cold water for 2 to 4 hours. Drain and discard the soaking water. Blend the seeds on high with 3 cups of cold water until smooth, then pour into a muslin or cheesecloth-lined bowl (you can use a nut-bag if you have one), bunch up the cloth and squeeze to strain out the milk. Decant into a clean bottle and store in the fridge for up to about five days.

Coconut Milk

A DIY guide to making dairy-free milk at home

Photo: Natale Towell.

Naturally sweet, rich and creamy, this milk is a great one to make at home. No soaking necessary, making coconut milk is simply a matter of blitzing dessicated coconut with hot water, and straining it afterwards. Coconut milk adds delicious depth and flavour to smoothies, pancakes, curries and soups. Keep a stock of dessicated coconut in your storecupboard ready to turn into milk in just 5 minutes.

How to make coconut milk

Place 1 cup of desiccated coconut and 3 cups of hot water into a blender. Leave to soak for 5 minutes or so, then blend on high until smooth. Pour into a muslin or cheesecloth-lined bowl (you can use a nut-bag if you have one), bunch up the cloth and squeeze to strain out the milk. Decant into a clean bottle and store in the fridge for up to about three days.

How to make nut milks

A DIY guide to making dairy-free milk at home

Photo: Natale Towell.

Nut milks are the most popular of dairy-free milks out there, and there’s good reason. You can use pretty much any nut, each offering slightly different flavours and creaminess, depending on what you like. Mylkman’s pistachio version is thick and creamy, mixed with a delicious chai blend of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, black pepper, allspice and cardamom. My experiments set almond milk as a favourite (see my step-by-step guide here), but the same rule applies to any nut. You can also try blending different nuts together – the only difference is in the soaking time.

Rice Milk

A DIY guide to making dairy-free milk at home

Photo: Natale Towell.

Alongside oats, this is the cheapest of milks to make. You have two options: blend either cooked rice or soaked uncooked rice with water. The former is a good way to use up leftover rice, but the results taste like starchy rice water – not great. The latter is a little tastier, especially if you toast the rice grains before soaking them. Some prefer to use brown over white rice, and you can use either – brown rice gives a slightly nuttier, more complex flavour to the end result. Try sweetening with vanilla extract, maple syrup or honey.

How to make rice milk

Toast ½ cup of rice in a dry frying pan for about 4 minutes, or until smelling fragrant, then soak in cold water for 10 hours. Drain and discard the soaking water. Blend the rice on high with 1½ to 2 cups of cold water until smooth, then pour into a muslin or cheesecloth-lined bowl (you can use a nut-bag if you have one), bunch up the cloth and squeeze to strain out the milk. Decant into a clean bottle and store in the fridge for up to about five days.

Check out our guide to homemade almond milk as well how to make apple cider vinegar, an easy mayonnaise, gut-friendly kombucha, a go-to paneer cheese or creamy yoghurt and tahini at home in our DIY Pantry series.

Discover Mylkman’s range of alternative milk at


7 effortless all-natural kitchen spring cleaning hacks 

12th March 2018

Chemical-free spring cleaning tips and tricks made so easy, you wish you’d done them sooner.

Kitchen lovers, it’s that time of year again. Get ready to savour the spotless happy place that will be your kitchen after these cost-effective, all-natural spring cleaning tips.

1. Stainless steel: Put a bit of vinegar on it

7 effortlessly easy all-natural kitchen spring cleaning tips and tricks

Vinegar is acidic so it’s perfect to use anywhere where you want to get rid of smears and stains. Clean stainless steel by spraying distilled white vinegar mixed with equal parts of water. It’ll wipe out greasy surfaces, fingerprints and reduce limescale in no time, leaving you with shiny taps and mirrors.

You can also use it to get rid of the damp smell on clothes from your washing machine. With no clothes in the machine, pour half a mug of distilled white vinegar where fabric conditioner goes in, set it on a run at 90°C and follow up with a rinse. Just don’t reach for the balsamic .

2. Burnt pans: Cake them in bicarb

spring cleaning made easy

…or use lemon halves to brighten up copper pans. Photo: Natale Towell.

Sodium bicarbonate is a mild alkali and that can cause dirt and grease to dissolve easily in water. Save the outside of burned pans by covering the offending area with a thick layer of bicarbonate of soda and leaving it overnight. The brown bits should wipe off and use a scourer if there’s a bit of resistance.

For the inside of pans, try adding some water to the bicarb, heating the pan briefly with the solution in it and leaving it for 24 hours. Whilst suitable for stainless steel, cast-iron and non-stick pans, don’t do this on aluminium. For aluminium pans you can remove water tide marks by boiling water with sliced apple, rhubarb or lemon peel. For tough stains, boil three parts vinegar to one part water. To brighten up copper pan, use lemon halves dipped in salt or baking powder.

3. Ovens: Don’t reach for oven cleaner…

7 effortlessly easy all-natural kitchen spring cleaning tips and tricks

Who knew oven envy was a thing…

Reach for the bicarb (again) to degrease your oven. Not only will you avoid harsh chemicals, but you’ll also resist the need to invest in a biohazard suit.

Spread a paste of bicarb and water all over the inside surfaces of your oven, being careful to avoid the heating elements. Leave it overnight and wipe it all off with a damp cloth. You’ll probably need to give it a little elbow grease and spray some distilled white vinegar onto any soda residues. This will get it to gently foam up and make it easy to wipe away anything left.

4. High surfaces: Do the cloth trick

Baffled by how the top of cupboards get so dusty? Even more baffled by how to clean them? Lay a piece of cloth over the surface and when it comes to cleaning time, just carefully remove it, give it a shake outside and a wash.

Gone are the perilous days of scrubbing an area that you can’t really see properly and no one else will ever see, making the whole escapade feel like a total waste of time…

5. Larder: Fall in love with jars

7 effortlessly easy all-natural kitchen spring cleaning tips and tricks

Go on, give good kilner. Photo: Helen Cathcart.

Storing dry goods such as rice, pasta and lentils needn’t be a matter of shoving bags into an already jam-packed giant Tupperware. Show off your staples by investing in a few large kilner jars and artfully displaying them on a shelf.

No, this is not just a thing for other people with fancy kitchens. Not only will you be able to easily see what you’ve got in your larder, it’ll urge you to actually use it.

Pop a label on with the before before date and basic cooking instructions. Remember to do a little stock rotation too, i.e. decant what’s already in there first before adding the new stuff.

6. Crockery: If it’s chipped, chuck it

7 effortlessly easy all-natural kitchen spring cleaning tips and tricks

Chipped? Chuck it. It’s the crockery rule.

Unless you have a real attachment to something  – we’re talking about the mug that got you through university – get rid of any chipped crockery (and invest in some super-tough Duralex glasses).

They’re both a breeding ground for unwanted bacteria and a weak point that could lead to breakage mid-slurp. Sort through your cupboards and remove them from your kitchen. Go on, you can do it.

7. Spices and frozen foods: Be ruthless

7 effortlessly easy all-natural kitchen spring cleaning tips and tricks

If you haven’t seen it in a year, it’s time to get rid.

Spices lose their flavour over time. If you bought a giant pack of garam masala when travelling around Kerala in 2012 and it’s still in your kitchen, now’s the time to bin it.

Same goes for old mystery meats, stews and bread in your freezer over a year old. Sounds tough, but if you haven’t used by now, chances are you never will. Keep frozen ground meats for up to four months and frozen cooked meat up for to three months.

Don’t forget: after you’ve taken a lazy afternoon to give these all-natural spring cleaning ideas a go, pour yourself a much deserved cup of tea / coffee / negroni and enjoy the fruits of your low-labour efforts.

Replenish your larder and pick up essential eco cleaning products at

Treat your shelf to some DIY pantry goodies such homemade kombucha, tahini, mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar.

Treat yourself post-spring cleaning to one of these beautifully simple gin cocktails with a twist.