Umami Baked Tomatoes

Monday, September 5th, 2016

These go very well with white fish – we have them with grilled sea bass.

Serves 2


  • 3 large tomatoes
  • Granulated stevia sweetener
  • Good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • Dried oregano
  • Salt & pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°
  2. Cut the tomatoes in half. With a sharp knife, remove the two sides of the seedy core, (but try and leave the central piece of harder material as this helps the tomato to hold its shape).
  3. Place the tomato halves cut side up in a small baking tray, together, so that they help to support each other.
  4. Sprinkle each with a pinch of sweetener and a pinch of oregano. Drizzle each with balsamic.
  5. Crush the garlic onto a board, and the drop a little of the garlic pulp into each tomato.
  6. Cut each anchovy fillet in two lengthways, and drape across the top of each tomato.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes

Chicken Caesar Salad Dressing

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

I thought the idea of making a Caesar dressing without oil was going to be a pretty thankless task, but I was wrong. It turns out that this recipe results in a delicious salad that doesn’t taste like diet food.

Serves 2


  • 2 tbsp fat free fromage frais
  • 2 anchovy fillets (from a tin)
  • half a garlic clove
  • 10g Parmesan
  • A packet of char-grilled chicken breast
  • Lots of salad stuff (e.g. lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, mini peppers, spring onions, etc)


  1. Put the fromage frais in a small bowl. Crush the garlic clove into the bowl. Chop the anchovy fillets finely and add them too. Grate the Parmesan into the bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Let the mixture down with water until it has a pouring consistency.
  2. Dress your salad!

For Slimming World, count 2 Syns if the Parmesan isn’t part of your A choice


Tasty 150 cal ham & bean omelette

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

This is an exercise in portion control; you don’t have to eat something dull and ‘virtuous’ if you don’t mind scaling down the quantities. A tasty little breakfast that, at only 150 calories, gets you ahead of the game early in the day. With a black coffee and a glass of sparkling water chaser, I find this is ample to keep me fueled until lunch.

Serves 1


  • 1 large egg (90cal)
  • 1 thin slice of ham, fat removed (20cal)
  • 2 dstspn of baked beans (20cal)
  • 3 gratings of Parmesan – about 5g (20cal)
  • tsp whole-grain mustard
  • salt & pepper
  • spray oil


  1. Put the beans in the smallest pan you have, along with the mustard. Give it a stir and tear in the slice of ham. Put a lid on it and gently warm it through.
  2. Coat a small non-stick frying pan with spray oil and put on a high heat.
  3. Whisk the egg in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour the egg into the frying pan. With a one egg omelette, there isn’t much opportunity to to do the pulling back of the egg mixture to create folds, so I just let it set, like a pancake. When it starts to set, grate your Parmesan over the top. Now it should be almost cooked through. I prefer to keep the top of my omelettes slightly wet, so I don’t wait for it to be totally cooked. Add the bean mixture to one side of the omelette, and fold the other half over the top.
  5. Serve and eat! The beans should make it juicy enough, so no need to resort to ketchup.

For slimming World, count one Syn if the Parmesan isn’t part of your A choice.

Salmon, Peas & Bacon

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

This is a great, simple recipe which results in something far tastier than you’d expect from its mere 20 minutes cooking time. It’s free on Slimming World, provided you remove all the fat from the bacon and omit the butter.

Serves 2


  • Spray oil
  • New potatoes cut into bite size pieces
  • 4 Rashers of smoked back bacon (fat removed)
  • 150g Frozen peas
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh mint (or to taste) chopped
  • 2 small or 1 large little gem lettuce
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 2 Salmon fillets
  • Knob of butter (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 220°. Put a non-stick frying pan on the heat and spray with oil. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the potatoes for 12 minutes.
  2. With scissors, chop the bacon into small pieces and fry until well browned.
  3. Shred the lettuce and add to the bacon along with the peas and half the mint. Pour in the stock and deglaze all the bacony goodness from the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat.
  4. Heat a small frying pan on a medium/high heat, and spray with oil, or melt your butter if using. Add the salmon fillets, skin side down and cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Place the fillets in a small roasting tray, skin side up, and pour the pea and lettuce mixture all around them. Put them in the oven and cook for 7-8 minutes.
  6. Serve in a shallow bowl with the potatoes on the side. Sprinkle the remaining mint over everything.

Parsnips, Chorizo, Kale & Lentils

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

  • 350g Parsnips (about 3)
  • 1tbsp oil for cooking
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
  • 100g cured chorizo sliced into 5mm rounds
  • A bag of Kalettes
  • 100g pre cooked puy lentils

Or to cook lentils from dry;

  • 60g puy lentils (dry weight)
  • Bay leaf
  • Half a small onion

If cooking your lentils from dry, place the lentils in a pan with plenty of cold water, the bay leaf and half onion. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 12 – 15 minutes. Drain, retaining some of the cooking liquid. Remove the bay leaf and onion and set aside.
Peel the parsnips and cut into 3mm rounds
Put a large frying pan on a medium heat and add the chorizo and cooking oil. Once some of the fat has rendered out of the sausage, remove it from the pan and set aside.
Add the parsnips and cook, tossing occasionally,for 6 minutes.
Return the chorizo and add the Rosemary to the pan.
Cook for a further 6 minutes
Add the lentils and kalettes with a splash of the retained cooking liquid, (or a few tablespoons of chicken stock if you used pre-cooked lentils). Cover and turn up the heat, so that the kalettes steam for the last 3 or 4 minutes. They should be softened but still bright.
Season well with salt and pepper.
Serve in bowls with some or all of your day’s raw olive oil allowance drizzled on top.

Grilled Vegetables & Mixed Herb Pesto

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015



  • 2 large courgettes
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 aubergine
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 block of haloumi
  • Salad potatoes to serve

For the Pesto

  • 50g flat leaf parsley
  • 30g basil
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbs parmesan, grated.
  • 1.5 tbs lemon juice


  1. Set the oven to 190º and get a heavy griddle pan on a high heat.
  2. Cut the aubergine lengthways into 1 cm thick slices. Cut the courgettes into rounds at a diagonal angle, 1 cm think. Quarter the pepper. Quarter the onion keeping the root end so that the pieces hold together.
  3. Place all the vegetables in a tray. Drizzle with olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Mix the vegetables so that they all recieve a coating of the oil.
  4. Get the potatoes on; cook them in salted water, at a simmer, for 15 minutes.
  5. Cook the vegetables, in batches, on the hot griddle. Don’t move or turn them until you have good seared grill lines on them; about 5 minutes. Once a pan-full of vegetables are done, transfer them to the baking tray and put in the hot oven to fisnish – this way, the ones you do first will get longer in the oven – Grill the vegetables in this order:
    • onion
    • aubergine
    • peppers
    • courgette
  6. Meanwhile, briefly toast the pinenuts in a hot, dry pan.
  7. To make the pesto, combine the parsely, basil, oil, pinenuts, garlic, lemon juice and parmesan in a blender. Season with salt and pepperand whizz until well blended.
  8. Once all the vegetables are cooked, transfer to a serving platter, and spread generously with about half of the pesto. Save the other half to have with pasta, another day.
  9. Heat a teaspoon of oil in a small, nonstick frying pan. Cut the haloumi into 5mm slices and add to the pan. The cheese will sizzle. Wait until you have a good golden colour, then flip the slices. The second side will colour much quicker than the first.
  10. Plate everything up, and eat it before the cheese cools and goes squeaky!





Porcini Prep

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

8-P9048708 A forager friend of ours tells us that it’s a great year for porcini. I’m always on the look out for them; partly because they are delicious, but also because the idea of finding them in the wild is a little bit magical. Despite my enthusiasm however, I’ve yet to find any.
The foraging friend messaged Hannah on Facebook and made the extremely generous offer of a share in her haul. Of course, without any further discussion, we downed tools and drove at speed to meet her. She handed over a canvas shopping bag stuffed with the chesnut coloured, bulbous beauties. We thanked her for her benevolence, and promptly went on a fungus forage of our own – but that’s another story.


Part of the draw of wild porcini for me is my hankering to recreate an omelette we had in Beynac on the Dordogne which featured fresh ones, (ceps in this case, of course). However, our foraging friend advised that the flavour is intensified by drying; and thinking about it, I  think she’s right. So – we elected one mushroom to be cooked from fresh in a mushroom pasta dish, and the rest were to be dried.


You shouldn’t wash mushrooms, as they will absorb the water and spoil their texture. Instead, I found it best to use a sharp knife as a scraping tool to remove all the moss, soil and so on – rather like the way you would scrape the skin off ginger. The stalk (or stipe as it’s called in the field guides) has a dense texture that makes this process very satisfying, like whittling a stick with a penknife.


Once they were sufficiently cleaned up, I cut them into 3mm slices – which was also very pleasing! After dissection, I noticed evidence of some maggot/larva occupation in one of the caps, but the holes were tiny and I remembered seeing one of those ‘gross facts’ type things on the internet somewhere – the fact that the FDA deems it acceptable to have “five or more maggots two millimeters or longer per 100 grams of drained mushrooms and proportionate liquid” – so that’s normal anyway. And as John Wright (of River Cottage) says in his book,

I work hard to find my ceps and never waste any part of them – cap, tubes, stem, maggots – eat the lot, I say“.


The slices were arranged first on Hannah’s wire cooling rack, then the (3) racks out of the oven, and finally the grill had to be commandeered due to the marvelous quantity of sliced fungus. I’d read that people dry them just like that, but after 12 hours, they didn’t seem much drier, and we certainly didn’t want to risk them spoiling. So – we put the racks on the heated clothes horse and turned it on. 24 hours later, they were dry as a bone, and the guest bedroom smelled heavenly! I was also gratified to see that the drying process had caused any resident maggots to abandon ship, as there were a number of tiny desiccated specimins underneath the racks. So we won’t need to eat our FDA regulation maggot quota afterall!


Now it only remained to evict the Orzo pasta from its jar to make room for the far more important porcini. I should say – the jar was full, but we’ve eaten some of them!




Fungus Foraging

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

Inspired by the successes of others and their stories of a bumper crop this year, we went out fungus foraging. We did a bit of work on determining where the correct mushroom habitat might be in our area, then headed off, equiped with bag, field guide and camera. On the way, Hannah spotted a large white mushroom by the roadside. We had a look at it, and thought it might be a parasol mushroom. ‘If nothing else, we can probably eat that‘ we said.

We came across lots of fungus, but despite lots of likely looking spots, sadly no porcini. Here’s some of the things we saw:


In a field, we spotted lots more of the maybe Parasols, so on our way back to the car, I decided to collect some.


We got them home, and set about the task of positively identifying them with the internet and our field guides. John Wright says, in his book, that the thing one might confuse with a Parasol is a Dapperling – which is deadly poisonous. (!) However, they are never bigger than 7cm across, so John suggests that you don’t touch anything smaller than 12cm across. Most of ours were pretty massive, but a couple were about 12cm ish – so we ditched those. Parasols should aslo have a ring around the stem, which can be moved up and down. One specimen was missing it’s ring – it’s history.


The rest, we were confident to say, were definately Parasols. So now we just needed to pluck up the courage to eat them! Which we did. We made a delicious mushroom linguine with these, and one of our precious fresh Porcini.

Considering the fact that poisoning from Dapperlings can take up to 12 hours to manifest, despite having identified the mushrooms, I was still very pleased to wake up the next day!



Wild Mushroom Linguine

Friday, October 3rd, 2014



  • Parasol mushrooms (stems removed and sliced)
  • Porcini (sliced)
  • Knob of butter
  • dash of oil
  • Spring of thyme
  • Maderia
  • Creme fraiche
  • Linguine pasta
  • Fresh parsley
  • Hazlenuts


  1. Get a big pan of salted water on for the pasta and put the oven on medium.
  2. Put the hazlenuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 8 or 9 minutes.
  3. Cook the linguine as per instructions.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and add the mushrooms and thyme. Cook for 6-8 minutes until much of the moisture has gone.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the madeira. Let it reduce a little, then turn down the heat.
  6. Add the creme fraiche and allow to warm through.
  7. Chop the hazlenuts
  8. Combine the mushroomy sauce with the cooked pasta and serve topped with the chopped nuts and fresh parsley.



Chocolate Tiffin

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

chocolate tiffin

Ok, before I start, let me warn you, this has nothing to do with healthy eating or losing weight.

I used to make this for the pop-up cafe we ran last year, and it was always one of our top sellers, (especially if the weather was overcast, we noticed). A year after we closed the cafe, I made it again as a treat for a big family get together; camping in a field beneath the Uffington White Horse. True to form, it was well recieved. How could it not be when it is composed of nothing but ‘syns’?

NB: I use Aldi belgian chocolate for this



  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 200-250g digestive biscuits
  • 200g dried fruit (Sultanas or Raisins)
  • 50-100g glace cherries
  • 2 handfuls of rice crispies (optionl)

For the topping

  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp golden syrup


  1. Line a 20cm square baking tin with baking parchment – or, if you use a silicone tray, there’s no need to line it.
  2. Place the 200g of chocolate, (milk and dark) butter and syrup in a heat-proof bowl and melt over a pan of barely simmering water or in the microwave. Once almost melted, remove from the heat and gently stir until any tiny bits chocolate have melted. Be careful not to overheat the mixture, as it will go grainy. Allow to cool a little.
  3. Place the biscuits in a freezer bag, seal and crush with a rolling pin. You want mainly crumbs but a few small chunks of biscuit is fine.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the melted chocolate mixture with the biscuit crumb, the fruit and cherries and stir until everything is coated. If you like, you can add in a couple of handfuls of rice cripies at this stage. These will add a bit of volume for better depth of tiffin. Press into the prepared tin and make the topping.
  5. For the topping, melt the chocolate, butter and syrup as before and spread over the biscuit base.
  6. Cover the tin with cling film or foil and refrigerate for 1-2 hours (or overnight) before cutting into squares – not too big – it’s rich!
  7. Get someone else to eat most of it, so you don’t ruin your diet!