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Jo Mackenzie: How I simmered down and discovered a digestible milk

' Jasmine Hemsley’s ‘nourishing morning milks’ recipes in my birthday book have helped to break down that tricky lactose for me.'
' Jasmine Hemsley’s ‘nourishing morning milks’ recipes in my birthday book have helped to break down that tricky lactose for me.'

Eating well and home cooking were pivotal when I was growing up and, in part, shaped who I became.

Food writing is my background. Food – namely milk – is how we participate in the local community and food is essentially our livelihood.

It is also my way of connecting with farming, coming from a non-farming background. And ultimately, how we produce, source and eat our food directly impacts on the planet, the economy and our personal health.

One of my best friends gave me a beautiful and highly enlightening Ayurvedic cookbook for my birthday recently and I was surprised to see the section on the importance of milks in the diet.

You see, having had Crohns’ disease for the past decade and ulcerative colitis for most of my teenage years until a total colectomy and reversal surgery aged 21, dairy produce and milk especially has been something of a stumbling block for my troubled gut.

Not exactly ideal when you’re married to a fourth-generation dairy farmer.

I’ve tried every milk alternative available but have always fallen off the wagon as I love cow’s milk, adore thick creamy yoghurt and would be very sad without butter and cheese in my life, particularly this current lockdown life.

Jasmine Hemsley’s East by West has several recipes for what she calls ‘nourishing morning milks’, explaining that by simmering milk for at least 10 minutes, you break down the lactose enough to make it more digestible.

Ever since, I have been brewing mugs of Golden Milk (turmeric, ginger, cardamom, black pepper and cinnamon) and proper Chai tea, which are surprisingly filling first thing in the morning.

Ghee, or clarified butter, appears frequently, too, in the book. I am yet to try my hand at making fresh curd cheese but based on my body’s acceptance of the recipes tried so far, am quite keen.

I am fully embracing dairy for the first time in decades, and the swell in customer numbers here on the farm over the past several weeks shows I am behind the curve.

We are delighted and heartened, in a strange silver lining way, that people have been choosing to come here again for their dairy shopping during the latest lockdown.

What’s new this time is our vending machine. Everything we sell except for the ice cream, pork products and breads, is now housed inside the glass-fronted machine.

Until we manage to get our new shop premises constructed and put in place, both the milk vending unit and the chilled vending machine are temporarily housed in a functional container; it certainly withstands the weather we’ve been having.

There have been a few vending issues, however – with items getting stuck and folk confused about how it works – but largely customers seem happy.

What has been nice is having the opportunity to stock a bigger range of items from local producers, which we hope is adding value. We have loyal ice cream devotees but increasingly it is the daily staples (refillable milk, artisan bread, eggs, yoghurt and butter) that are attracting regulars.

Elsewhere on the farm, daily work continues albeit somewhat problematically during the subzero temperatures this month.

Recent temperatures have been unbelievable but harder to believe is that this time last year we opened our pop-up Waffle Barn for Valentine’s weekend. The top shed was packed with families and couples cosying in with bubble waffles with ice cream and hot chocolates on hay bales together.

Changed times indeed. At least some children will return to school next week – a glimmer of hope in the darkness.

  • Jo lives at Rootfield Farm in the Black Isle with Nick, daughters Daisy and Mollie, and 120 dairy cows.

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