Refined Sugar Free Chutney | Paleo | Vegan | Very Low Natural Sugar | Three Ingredients

Need a silly easy recipe for refined sugar free chutney? Look no further…

refined sugar free chutney
When I returned from a year of living in Cambodia in 2006, it was with a very heavy heart. I was down and out and ridiculously vulnerable. I worked briefly for my friend’s (now ex) husband which did not end well. Then I worked for a year for a man who was essentially the male version of Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada.

Yes. He was that bad!

He’d come into the office the morning after watching The Apprentice thinking he was Lord Al. Firing people left, right and centre over the silliest things. I was one of his right hand wo/men, and stood on the correct side of him. Until I dared to disagree with him that is, then he turned on me quicker than milk left in the blazing sun. We were on a jolly up in a foreign country. It was the catalyst for my second mental breakdown, hitting rock bottom and turning my life around. I guess in a way I have a lot to thank him for.

refined sugar free chutneyYou might be wondering what all this has to do with refined sugar free chutney?

After I was eventually freed from that particular toxic environment I couldn’t face getting another job. So I set up my own business making dips and chutneys from my little kitchen in Streatham. Having recently gone refined sugar free (this was 2007) I wanted to create food that would appeal to people eating like I was. Alas, it was way ahead of it’s time, and ended up bankrupting me. You live and you learn though, and I genuinely would not change a thing.

Life lessons like that sometimes take, well, a lifetime to gather. In the year that followed they were plentiful and shaped the way I now think. Especially when it comes to money. This might sound silly to some, but if you aren’t taught financial well being at a young age it can have devastating consequences. More on that topic another time.

Just like all my other recipes, this is also low in natural sugar. Regular readers will know by now that nothing winds me up more than someone calling a recipe sugar free only for it to be loaded to the hilt with sugars and sweeteners. Most food in it’s natural state (fruit, veg, grains, nuts…) contains some form of sugar. If you aren’t adding any to your recipe you wouldn’t call it sugar free you would say no added sugar.

I’m sharing a small batch recipe here, but it lends itself marvellously to being made in a bigger batch. I once turned 200kg of onions into 500 jars for a trade show. My friend said the house smelled like pickled onion monster munch and refused to sleep on our couch in case the scent never came out of his clothes. Oh how different things are now, eleven years later with three children to keep me busy.

refined sugar free chutney

What you’ll need to make a small jar of my refined sugar free chutney

A clean 350g jar, you can sterilise it if you wish
Small lidded saucepan
Spatula
Sharp knife
Chopping board

refined sugar free chutney500g onions
1/2cup or 120ml vinegar
(I’ve used raw organic cider vinegar here but balsamic also works wonderfully)
1/4cup or 35g sugar
(I’ve used organic coconut blossom, but muscovado works great too. You could use honey, but I feel that cooking honey for this long would be a waste of all the gorgeous nutrients. You could also use maple syrup or coconut nectar)

Method

– chop your onions any way you wish and place them in your saucepan

– sprinkle over the sugar

– pour over the vinegar

– place on the highest heat for about 30 seconds, then turn down low and put the lid on your saucepan

– simmer for one hour, checking in every 10 minutes or so and stirring to ensure it’s not getting burnt

– add a small drop of water to loosen the chutney if it does start getting a little bit stuck to the pan

– allow to cool and decant into your glass jar, keep in the fridge

– wow all your friends at barbecues with your home made condiments

– this is a perfect accompaniment for burgers. Check out my trio of easy home made burgers

 

 

The Trouble with Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a tricky one for me

It reminds me of the obvious lack of mother in my own life. It’s now been so long since I saw her face, I can’t even properly remember what it looks like. It poses a mixed bag of emotions every time a so-called special day presents itself.

Mother’s Day. Birthdays. Anniversaries. The last time I saw her. The last time we communicated.

I estranged myself from my mother several years before I started having children. I coped with a full on mental breakdown, and hit rock bottom with no family support whatsoever. I have been through so much without her by my side. I’ve essentially become a different person to the one she raised. A better person. I have taught myself how to function in the world, and how to be nice. To not immediately assume the worst in everyone, and think they’re all out to get me.

 

I grew up in a world where Jimmy Saville would fix all your problems, and Gary Glitter wanted you to be part of his gang. Where primary school kids had access to porn films and 8yo girls had their innocence stolen on a daily basis. 😔 I grew up in a world where comparison wasn’t always the thief of joy, and in fact sometimes knowing that others had it so much harder was a good thing for me. 😔 I grew up in a world where the WORST happened, and I got to the point where I could no longer forgive and forget. I made the hardest decision I’ve ever made (to date) when I was 26 years old (I’m now 38). 😔 Motherhood without a mum is more heartbreaking than I could ever articulate. On any given day I’ll flit between knowing I’ve made the right decision to desperately hoping I was wrong and wanting her to beat my door down. To say “I’m here now, and everything will be ok!” The words I know without doubt my dear grandma would have said, given half the chance. 😔 So if you’re struggling with similar issues please email me and I’ll send you a copy of Become the Best You. Had I read the book I wrote when I was on the edge, maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have fallen down a deep, dark hole.

A post shared by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on

I know her hands were tied a lot of the time. She was young and inexperienced when she brought me in the world at eighteen. She was still reeling from her own tragic childhood of loss and abuse. No-one helped her conquer her demons. She got webbed up with men who treated her terribly, and the rest is history.

There was my biological father – who had an affair with my mother while he was engaged to the woman who he calls his wife to this day. A woman who does not know I even exist (but that is a different story for another day). Then there was my step-father who was beyond messed up from his own horrific childhood. Who prided himself on never beating his woman, but failed to see the emotional torment he put her through. She was absolutely terrified of him.

The day he punched me in the face and almost broke my nose freed me from that world

It was my chance to get out, and even though I was only fifteen, I knew I had to grab it with both my bloody hands. I was literally covered in blood, looked like I had been shot.

She was in pieces. Didn’t want me to leave but knew that I had to. You see that punch in the face was the mere icing on the top of a huge, multi layered cake made exclusively of shit. The constant moving which had screwed up my education. The boys who abused me as a small child. The boy from my school who molested me at a sleepover and bragged about it to his mates (the shame of which led to an overdose). The chronically stressful life that had been put upon me by the grown ups who acted like anything but.

She knew I had to leave, but can you imagine the pain of allowing your teenage daughter to walk out the door? With no schooling behind her. With hardly any money in her pocket. Just the hope that she would be safe at your sisters house, even though her husband at the time was a predator you did not trust?

Trouble is, even after I left home I was perpetually called upon to be her saviour. When the electricity had been cut off for the umpteenth time, I would send money. When she was at her wits’ end with my half brother, I would rush back. When my half-sister was suicidal because she was bullied at school, I would be there for them all. And in the end those relationships became beyond toxic. They saw me as good old Reneé. I’d always be there for them, no matter how badly they treated me.

mother's dayI don’t hold grudges these days. I used to, but writing Become the Best You helped me let go of the last of those feelings

I don’t look back upon those days in anger, I just feel sad about them (and mostly for her). There is no doubt in my mind that the decision to not have them in my life was (and is) a good one. Now that I have challenging children of my own I have more empathy for her and those days than ever before. 

And that’s the trouble with Mother’s Day. It brings it all to the surface, like the disgusting pus filled, hormone driven spot on my chin that just won’t be popped and do one. It keeps coming back, redder, with more pus than before.

So this is for all the mums out there coping with their silent battles.

Who look at the social media version of Mother’s Day and want to cry a river, even if they manage not to.

Especially the ones who are mothering without a mama, and although they have made peace with their situation, have days when it hurts like hell. 

Deep Thoughts: To the People Who Make Us Who We Are

Word of warning: this article contains some deep thoughts, if you aren’t that deep it’s probably best to stop reading

At the grand old age of thirty eight, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am (see, deep thoughts, right there). I knew very early on that I wasn’t like my family, which isn’t a bad thing now but was hard growing up. Nowadays, I often find myself feeling like I’m on the outside of society looking in. I’m opinionated, but happy to discuss my opinions and be challenged on them. I enjoy having meaningful conversations and provoking debate, always have. I’m authentic which I’ve sadly come to see is a rarity. The things that float most people’s boats just don’t do it for me. I can’t stand small talk and I cringe at so many things everyone else finds funny. 

I refuse to pretend that I’m fine when I’m clearly not.

How did this version of me come to be? Grab yourself a cuppa, and take a read. You never know, you might learn something about how you came to be too. This article is longer than my usual 500-1000 words, and should take around ten minutes to read.

The early days

When I was working in my first city job, my old boss used to say I had true tenacity. This was almost twenty years ago, long before tenacity became an over-used buzz word and promptly went out of fashion. I’ve been wondering what it was that made me so tenacious, and have concluded it was down to being so hungry to succeed. Not in ball breaking, career ladder climbing way either. I was simply desperate to keep the best job I’d ever had and knew I would have at that point. It was vital for me, because I didn’t have parents funding my existence.

Up until then I’d only made a small handful of proper friends. Two lovely ladies I lived with in my first house share, and my BFF that I met when I was eight years old.

I don’t think it’s an over exaggeration to say that the job, and people I met in the three years I worked there, shaped my entire life. Some of my very best friends, including my gorgeous girls who I went to Ibiza with last year, came from that era. I didn’t realise it then but it was a gloriously simple time. My biggest problem was usually wondering how I’d keep my eyes open on a few hours sleep and a brutal hangover. Or face palming myself for ending up in bed with the friend-with-benefits. Again.

During this time I lived in a party house with a fabulous bunch of mostly antipodean travellers

deep thoughts It was one of those huge old houses in deep dark East London, that hadn’t been chopped up into flats. At one point there were sixteen of us in five bedrooms, and we brought new meaning to the word fun. We went clubbing most weekends, played silly drinking games until the sun came up and went back down, and were well known for throwing the best parties. One of my close friends describes me during those days as being carefree, and I really was.

Until I wasn’t anymore.

A silly decision that I made when blind drunk led to a fall out with a bunch of housemates. It was the catalyst for my first mental breakdown, and the thing that finally propelled me to sit in front of a counsellor. It was amazing. She was amazing. In fact for me, it was life changing, because she opened my eyes to how toxic my family relationships had become. It was the beginning of the end for my mother and I.

While all this was going on I shared a house with a platonic male friend

He helped me through the darkness of 2002 and back on to my feet emotionally. He become more like family to me than all my blood relatives put together. He properly understood who I was, and we had a similar outlook on life. Although it’s hard to remain super close to a person who lives on the other side of the world, he’ll always have a special place in my heart.

As will so many others. The now faraway friends, who went home eventually. The not so faraway ones, who have lived turbulent lives. I am convinced that our paths will once again cross when the time is right. Thank goodness for Facebook to keep in touch.

There were only a few men who left a lasting impression

Not because I’m a man hater, but because they weren’t very memorable. There was my first ever boyfriend who I met a few months after leaving home. He broke my heart so I slept with his best mate. Oh dear. Then there was my second boyfriend, whose love for the booze over-shadowed everything else he did. Then there was the gay one, and understandably after that, I was very cautious with my heart. I knew it was too fragile, and too precious to dish out quite as willy nilly as I had been doing.

deep thoughts Going back to my deep thoughts, I knew from a very young age that most of my family had squandered their youth on having kids when they were teenagers and shacking up with the wrong men. Horrible men who battered them, physically, mentally or both. Rather than even dip my toe into that kind of water, I steered clear of the ocean altogether. I dedicated my time to enjoying myself rather than looking for Mr. Right.

But a girl’s gotta eat, hasn’t she? So, there was the aforementioned friend-with-benefits, who I worked at the same company with. He and I were never a couple, but had a semi-relationship that lasted more than two years. We were both more than aware that it would never be serious, and that suited us just fine.

Then there was the one before the one, who certainly helped shape me. He was living in a house share with a dear friend of mine, and we clicked immediately. He was on a gap year, and ridiculously intelligent, both academically and emotionally. He made me realise that I wasn’t unlovable or as fucked up as I’d managed to convince myself I was. He enabled me the confidence I was lacking to meet my husband, and for that I’ll always be grateful to him.

The trip to Asia in 2004 was the stuff of big screen blockbusters

Very early one late January morning, armed with a backpack of clothes and bottle of Thai whiskey, I found myself boarding a bus that would travel from the Khao San Road to Siem Reap. I was nervous, and still drunk from a very debauched night in Bangkok with friends from home who were on their way to the southern islands. I didn’t know what to expect, and all those years ago Cambodia wasn’t nearly as touristy or safe to travel to as it is now.

I totally lucked out though, because on that bus were some bloody awesome people. We didn’t just hit it off for the duration of the road trip, we ended up staying at the same guest house and sharing rooms with each other once we reached our destination. It was a non-stop party, and such incredible amounts of enjoyment were being had that I very nearly left the country without visiting the infamous temples of Angkor.deep thoughts

From Siem Reap we headed to Phnom Penh, where we met a true diamond of a lady. She had been living by the coast in Sihanoukville for a few months, working in a beach bar, and she introduced us to her crew when we headed down south the following week.

Ahhh the glorious memories that were made partying at Eden, which sadly doesn’t exist anymore, but that’s a whole other story. When my Cambodian visa was almost up, I planned to head out of the country via boat, back into Thailand, then go to Laos.

Laos had been on my bucket list since first visiting Thailand two years previous (I went back three times in two years). I felt ready to conquer the next part of my trip – if slightly terrified to be going it alone again. It wasn’t meant to be though, because on my supposed last night in Sihanoukville I met my husband.

A fairytale start    

We had the most amazing start to a relationship imaginable. We talked for hours daily, swapping every single detail of our life stories. We excitedly discussed plans for the future the way that only the young and truly carefree can. We partied, and travelled, and filled our minds with exciting adventures and interesting memories. We left each other after six weeks, and were back together a fortnight later. (You can read more about that here if you like). We had a glorious seven months on the road, before heading home, and lasted five month before going back to Cambodia.

We set up a music shop and vodka bar, and lived there for a year. It was during this time that I cut ties with my mother and family. I was in a shocking place mentally, and being in such a lawless environment, having access to anything I wanted, was not a good thing for me. I returned to the UK with a wrecked head weighing seven stone, my relationship in pieces.

It was in this state that I started working for my best mate’s now ex-husband, which screwed me up even more. I don’t think I was capable of having deep thoughts at that point, I was merely surviving from one bender to the next. I left his company and started working for a man who can only be described as a money-obsessed megalomaniac. He was a truly awful person, but life lessons come in all shapes and sizes, and I can see now that I learnt a lot from him.

Deep thoughtsRock bottom

Whilst on a work jolly in Reykjavik in late November, I truly broke. Smashed into teeny tiny pieces I properly hit rock bottom, and realised that I needed to sort my shit out. Deep thoughts do not come close to describing where my head was at, but in a good way for the first time in too long. I was buzzing with ideas about which direction I wanted my life to start heading in.

For the full details of how I got myself from mental breakdown to firing on all cylinders, you’ll have to read my book, Become the Best You.

I stopped working for the male devil-wears-prada, and set up a little food business. Unfortunately it coincided with the worst economic crisis of our lifetime, and led to bankruptcy. Again I learnt some incredibly valuable lessons and would not change that part of my history for anything. Mine and Hubby’s engagement in early 2008 signified the beginning of a new chapter.

The wife and mama years

After being told I was infertile following a PCOS diagnosis, you can imagine our surprise at seeing two lines on a stick four months before the wedding! Getting married with a five month bump obviously wasn’t what we’d planned, but we were both more than ready to embrace our new circumstances.

Then it was birth plans and NCT classes and Bugaboos. It was feeding every two hours and becoming best friends with coffee. It was worries about eczema and allergies and autism. More than anything else though, it was my heart being filled with endless amounts of unconditional love. 

Eight and half years into motherhood, with three home educated children, life can be tough. The last few years have been a huge battle, but recent changes are paying off. Giving up the booze is working wonders for my mental health and I’m much calmer and less in crisis mode. Don’t get me wrong, collectively we’re still having plenty of moments, but there have also been lots of ups on this roller coaster of ours. And that has to be worth celebrating. 

It’s been good to reflect on all the wonderful people who have helped make me who I am. I’ve not named names, but anyone mentioned here will know who they are.        

I’ve also filmed a little vlog to show my appreciation to all the people who helped get me through this year! 

Happy holidays everyone, here’s looking at an awesome 2018 ❤

Contempt for the Poor is Not New: Trust Me I Know All About It

As the plot thickens around the Grenfell tragedy, my thoughts have been glancing backwards. I grew up breathing the poverty line, and I can tell you from my first hand experience, contempt for the poor is not a new thing.

The biggest problem with having nothing, is that predators can smell your desperation. They are ready to exploit you, purely because they can.

My very first job, after leaving home education-less at fifteen, was working as a waitress in a greasy spoon market caff. I worked my arse off, running around for ten hours a day, and earned £2 an hour for my troubles. In fairness, my bosses were respectful and didn’t scar me for life. Unlike those in my next job.

I moved on to a home wares shop, still in that East London market. I was still earning a meagre £2 an hour, which was the going rate for illegal workers back in the day. I was classed as underage for over a year, so had very few options when it came to my employment.

The men who ran the shop were not nice people

contempt for the poorThey were in their late thirties, early forties, and most of their workforce were teenage girls. Every opportunity they got, they would try their luck – get us drunk and take advantage. Vile, dirty old men, dressed up as business owners. Flash gits with fancy cars, and more money than sense. Always ready to pounce when you least expected it.

When I finally got my national insurance number, and could legally work, I got a job in a department store. I was still only sixteen though, and exceptionally naive.

I’d go to parties with my my much older colleagues in deep dark London. They’d tell me they thought I was twenty five, and say how mature I was. That they couldn’t believe I had left school at fifteen, what a survivor I was. They lulled me into a false sense of security.

I once had to run from a car at the traffic lights because a ‘dear friend’ of a lady I thought was a friend was being over zealous with his affections. He must have been at least fifty years old, and he put his hands on me as if it was his right to do so. Just because he was loaded to the hilt, and had flashed his money in a bar that evening, meant that I owed him more than a few pounds.

Even now, thinking of the way he touched me, makes me shudder

I wish this was the only story I have to tell, but sadly I encountered too many predators in those days. Rich men who treated me like I was a hooker because I did low level jobs for minimum wage.

Then there were the nicer people I met along the way. At the crux of it though, I would only ever be a common girl to them. I’d never be taken home to meet the family. Even if I had entered into what I considered a genuine friendship or relationship.

That’s the thing about contempt for the poor, it’s passed down through the generations. Just as financial literacy is a given for the middle and upper classes, but almost non existent to those who have very little. Kindness costs nothing though.

Especially in the wake of what happened at Grenfell Tower, it would be good if everyone could remember that these are real people that have lost everything.

They might be poor, they might be desperate, but they are human beings. They do not deserve your contempt.

contempt for the poor

On Being a Bleeding Heart Liberal

On Being a Bleeding Heart LiberalThe Wikipedia definition of bleeding heart liberal describes me pretty well.

I eat organically, and ethically. I make purchases (or don’t make them) based on whether or not it’s kind to the environment to do so. I am one of the least materialistic people you are likely to meet, and couldn’t care less how much money someone has. If I’m talking to you at a party, I won’t be looking over your shoulder seeing who else I might be able to chat to instead.

I’m open minded, non-judgemental and always try and consider the impact of my words and actions on others. I hate seeing people suffer, and if I can find a way of helping someone less fortunate than myself I will.

Overall I consider myself to be a decent human being. I don’t think that’s aiming too high.

Here’s the thing though.

My moral compass wasn’t set through having an early life of privilege. I wasn’t handed anything on a platter nor was I fed with a silver spoon.

Quite the opposite.

I grew up in a house where ignorance was rife, racism par for the course, and words like F*** and C*** every day language. I couldn’t tell you how many times our phone and electricity was cut off when I was a kid, and my mother had some choice friends. One woman sticks in my mind – she openly bragged about ‘keeping’ her downs syndrome child for the extra benefits, and regularly told one of her other sons that he should have been an abortion.

After a (thankfully) rare punch in the face one morning from my step-father, I left home. Education-less and with £50 in my pocket, I emerged into adulthood at fifteen. I struggled for many years to come to terms with the hand that I had been dealt, and spent no less than a full decade in self-destruct mode. I drank and partied my sorrows away, and at one point wrote myself off as too messed up.

on being a bleeding heart liberalI now see it all as a gift, because that punch gave me a way out early enough for my opinions not to get completely clouded by right wing venom. 

I had almost a year to wait until I was legally able to work, and spent that time sleeping on floors, doing £2 an hour cash in hand jobs. Mostly I worked for men three times my age, who routinely encouraged getting ‘their girls’ absolutely plastered to try and shag them.

Thankfully I foresaw where it was going early enough for it to not end up being a complete tragedy. Once my national insurance number came through I applied to work for a department store, and my aspirations started to grow.

Don’t get me wrong, I still had to dodge unwanted advances from older people. I was always the youngest, and there were many who tried to take advantage in some way or other. I had more near-misses than I care to recall during those years.

I’m thankful that nothing awful happened to me. Even though I know how absurd that sounds saying it out loud.

After working in retail for several years I got a job locally in a small office to get some computer experience. Those six months gave me the confidence to take myself, and my over-inflated CV off to the City where I knocked on doors of recruitment agencies until someone gave me a temp job.

The two week position led to a permanent placement, and I stayed at the firm for three years. After that, until I stopped working just last year, I worked in decent companies and got paid well for my efforts.

I joked with a friend on Facebook recently that I was glad I grew up in the days before background checks.

I wasn’t even joking. You’d need a degree nowadays just to man the reception desk of the companies I’ve worked at, let alone do some of my previous jobs. If fifteen year old me was emerging in today’s world, she wouldn’t stand a chance. Social mobility is almost non-existent already, and that is surely only going to get worse.

It bothers me.

Not for me, because at thirty seven I’m now okay. I married up, I have a lovely middle class life. My kids will be okay, and their kids will no doubt also be okay.

I’m a success story apparently. My friend said that I’m one of those rare people you meet who makes you stop in your tracks and think ‘how did she get from there to here?’

on being a bleeding heart liberalI’m fine now. But what about the millions of people who aren’t and won’t be okay?

We are living through some seriously dark times, and ultimately the best thing we can do is behave like decent human beings.

That means walking away from pointless Facebook fights, and not tearing ourselves into shreds worrying over the state of the world at the detriment of what’s going on inside our own four walls.

Check out this post for ways to help others who are needier than us, without it taking over our own lives. It might not seem like much, but doing something is always better than doing nothing.

I’ve come to the conclusion that if caring about others makes me a bleeding heart liberal, then I’ll own the title with pride.

Don’t assume that we’re all completely out of touch, and don’t have a clue how the other half have to live though.

The reason some of us care so much is because we’ve lived it ourselves.

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