Aubergine, eggplant, brinjal, melanzana, berenjena or even the mad apple; the many names of this plant represent the long history of how it spread around the world. It is the only vegetable, (well fruit really) in the nightshade family that does not come from the Americas. The aubergine was first cultivated in tropical Asia around 500 AD, from there it spread to India and was brought to the Mediterranean by the Arabs and finally reached France and England in the 16th Century. By far the most common varieties now grown in Europe are the large deep purple and black varieties but there are hundreds more and they come in all shapes, sizes and colours: black, purple, yellow, green and white. Long and thin, short and round, from massive ones weighing up to 2kg to tiny ones you can pop in your mouth whole.  The small white egg shaped variety is where they got the name ‘eggplant’ and they were often just grown for decoration.

To salt or not to salt?

Just as there are hundreds of different varieties there are hundreds of different ways to cook aubergine. To understand how to cook aubergine it is good to understand its structure. The flesh is like a sponge with thousands of pockets of air, when cooked these pockets break and the flesh collapses and shrinks and you end up with a fine silky mush. If you cook aubergines in fat they quickly soak it all up like a sponge and there are many dishes that utilise this to create a very rich flavour. If you don’t want the aubergine to soak up all the oil it is best to salt it first. Salting is done by slicing the aubergine as required, then sprinkling it with salt and leaving it for an hour. The salt draws out the liquid from the aubergine and breaks down the cell walls so there is less space for the oil to be soaked into. After an hour quickly rinse off the salt and  give the aubergine a little squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible without losing the shape. Now when you fry them they will take on a lovely brown colour on the outside without turning into an oily floppy mess. Originally salting was said to draw out the bitter juices but the aubergines grown in Europe have long since had the bitterness bred out of them, so the only reason to salt them is for the texture and is by no means essential.  Another favourite way to cook aubergines is to grill them whole, check out our recipe below for the rich smoky grilled aubergine dip baba ganoush.

Because aubergines are a tropical plant they don’t actually store that well in the refrigerator. The ideal temperature to store them is around 10ºC and out of the sunlight. But if you don’t have a cool dark place and your house is on the warm side the fridge is probably the best place for them just make sure you use them within a few days.

Organic and GM aubergines

Aubergines are one of the vegetables that often appear on the ‘don’t need to buy organic’ lists. However according to the USDA has found residues of 18 pesticides including known carcinogens, hormone disruptors, reproductive disruptors and honeybee toxins in aubergines. The plants are prone to pests and farmers use a large amount of pesticides to combat them, sometimes spraying the plants up to 80 times per growing cycle. So, as we always recommend, unless you know where they come from and how they are grown, always get organic.

In 2011 India became the first country to file a lawsuit against Monsanto for genetic piracy, claiming that Monsanto stole the genes of 16 native varieties of brinjal (as aubergines are called in India) to create it’s genetically engineered variety, Bt Brinjal. Although criminal charges were never enforced by the Indian government they did place a 10 year ban on using and testing the genetically engineered plants. In 2013 Bangladesh became the first country to approve the Bt Brinjal plants for production. The genetically modified plants are still being tested in the Philippines, where aubergines are the countries primary crop,  and they are expected to be approved for commercial production in the next few years. As you can imagine this is a highly controversial topic and the media are watching the results closely.

The Mad Apple

Aubergines are high in fibre and low in calories (unless you deep fry them of course). They are high in antioxidants and although not particularly high in any one area they have a good overall balance of vitamins and minerals. Like all the nightshade family, aubergines contain the alkaloid solanine. Solanine is one of the plants natural defences and a very small percentage of people are allergic to it. If eaten in extremely large quantities (at least 12 aubergines per person) it can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness. This is perhaps why during the Renaissance people believed aubergines could cause insanity and they were given the title ‘mad apple’. Cooking aubergines drastically reduces the solanine content and unless you are allergic to the nightshade family there really is no reason to not enjoy this wonderful bright vegetable in all it’s glorious guises.


Baba Ganoush – A classic smooth and smokey dip


1 medium aubergine
1 heaped teaspoon of tahini (sesame paste)
1 crushed clove of garlic
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of salt
sumac (optional)


It’s worth noting that grilling the aubergine this way gives the dip it’s signature rich smokiness, it could also be done on a barbecue or an open wood fire. If you don’t have a gas hob you can do it under the grill in your oven but it wont have quite the same smokey flavour.
Place a wire rack over the top of one of your gas hobbs, preferably the largest one as that will spread the heat evenly over the aubergine. Put the aubergine on the wire rack and set the flame to medium/low. Leave the aubergine there for around 8 minutes (depending on the size of your aubergine and the strength of the flame) Once it has really charred the bottom of the aubergine and it is starting to burst at the skin rotate the aubergine a quarter turn. Repeat this on all sides of the aubergine until the aubergine is completely charred and soft in the middle. Test it with a knife or skewer to make sure it is completely cooked through. This is a slightly messy process and one of the keys is to move the aubergine as little as possible, so be sure it is properly cooked on each side before rotating. Once it is cooked, set on the side to cool completely, then gently peel off all of the charred skin.
Now put the aubergine flesh into a small food processor or a jug for a stick blender, then add the tahini, garlic, the lemon juice and a good pinch of salt. Whizz it all up together until it is silky and smooth. Taste for seasoning. Remember that because of the way garlic works, the garlic flavour will keep getting stronger over the first half an hour, so be careful not to over do it. Garnish it with the a sprinkle of sumac and serve.


Harold McGee – On Food and Cooking

Links to brinjal bt case:

Links for organic/ pesticide use:



From pies, possets, and sorbets to curries, salads and soups. From ice cold, thirst quenching lemonade to hot, soothing tea. There’s air fresheners, laundry detergents, shampoo and washing up liquids. All over the world people love the flavour, acidity and aroma of lemons. For us we always have fresh lemons in our house and we use them in our cooking almost everyday. This got us thinking about what makes lemons so special and how we have fresh lemons all year around. 

One Big Old Family Tree

Citrus fruits are unique among fruit trees in their ability to cross-pollinate and genetically mutate. All the citrus fruits originated from just 3 parent plants in East and South East Asia; the citron, the mandarin and the pomelo. In the wild there are thousands of varieties of citrus and humans only cultivate a tiny percentage of what is a giant citrus family tree. The lemons we eat today were developed in the Middle East around 100 AD and arrived in the Mediterranean where they were planted by the Moors in Spain around 400 AD. They are now grown in sub tropical regions all over the world but Spain still remains the largest grower and exporter of fresh lemons.

Easy squeezy

The lemon is the most acidic of the citrus family with 5% of the juice being citric acid. In our household it is the primary source of acid in our cooking. The flavour and aroma of citrus fruits comes from oil droplets in the juice of the flesh and also the oil glands in the skin. In lemons, those two oils are quite distinct from each other and serve different purposes in cooking and flavouring foods. When you squeeze a lemon you release the juice from the flesh and at the same time the oil glands in the peel burst open sending out an aromatic and flammable spray into the air. Lemon juice loses its bright flavours when cooked and so we usually add the juice right at the end of a recipe but the oils from the skin are much more robust and can be used in cooked foods in the form of lemon zest. As soon as lemon juice comes into contact with oxygen the flavour compounds begin to break down, this is why bottled lemon juice never tastes as fresh and ‘lemony’ as freshly squeezed juice. Bottled lemon juices contain preservatives like sulphites to stop them from going rotten. After spending months and sometimes years on the shelf their nutritional benefits will have decreased dramatically so always use a freshly squeezed lemon whenever possible. Between the flesh and the skin there is the white layer of pith, which is very bitter and generally not eaten but it is a rich source of pectin so useful in making jams or marmalade.

So how do we get lemons all year round?

In Europe almost all the fresh lemons come from Spain, while Italy and Argentina are major suppliers of lemon juice in the world market. There are many different varieties of lemons and with careful planning the harvest season can be stretched from October all the way through to August. In the few months that lemons aren’t available from Spain they usually come to Europe from South Africa of Argentina. Because lemons keep well they are almost always shipped, rather than airfreighted. Italy is also famous for its lemon production, Italian lemons are said to be of a higher quality than Spanish ones but the season is shorter and a lot of them are processed and not sold fresh.

Ripe lemons from the tree have a natural wax coating that protects the skin from deterioration and the fruit from going rotten. However most lemons are picked before they are ripe and are washed, which removes any of this natural coating, so artificial wax coatings are applied to keep the fruit for longer. In non-organic lemons these are usually petrochemical based, very hard to remove and not recommended for eating. Hence you should never use the skin of non-organic lemons for zesting. Organic lemons typically use a bees wax coating to preserve their shelf life which is harmless but means the peel doesn’t taste great. You can also source un-waxed lemons and we recommend using unwaxed organic where possible.


Lemons have a wide range of health benefits and have found all manner of uses in many cultures throughout the ages. They are packed full of vitamin C which is fantastic for fighting colds and flu symptoms. They have antibacterial, antiviral, and immune-boosting powers and have been shown to improve absorption of minerals. Their bitter and sour flavours act to break down stagnant material and increase bile production in the liver.

Mu drinks half a lemon in warm water first thing every morning because it refreshes, cleanses and hydrates the body after a night sleep.  According to Chinese medicine sour foods such as lemons are useful to stimulate activity in the body and focus the mind. It is also worth noting that lemons are not good for stomach ulcers, the acid will aggravate it. In addition citric acid thins the blood so should be used with caution in those with weak blood signs. 

If you love lemons as much as we do and if you have any more information or fun facts about lemons please leave us a comment.


This is one of our favourite winter recipes where the lemons really shine through. Having the bright acidity is so important in balancing the flavour of the split peas and rich coconut.

Split Pea, Coconut and Lemon Soup

200g green split peas
2 medium leeks
400ml coconut cream (from a tin or make your own)
20g coconut oil
500ml vegetable stock
1 unwaxed lemon, zest and juice

Rinse the split peas well and leave them to soak for at least 4 hours (or overnight). We add a squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar to the water, to find out why check out our post on pulses. Trim and wash the leeks and slice into 2cm cubes. Put the leeks into the pan with the coconut oil and saute for 10-15 minutes until very tender. Add the drained split peas, coconut cream, stock, lemon zest and a generous serving of salt. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 1 hour until the split peas are completely cooked. Add half the lemon juice and then blend the soup. Check the seasoning and add more lemon juice if needed. Enjoy


Winter Squash

Winter Squash

This autumn we’ve had an abundance of squash, their large leafy vines spread out over our garden leaving colourful fruits dotted everywhere. And now, all the vegetable stalls at the local markets are overflowing with squash of all shapes, colours and sizes. We have been trying out lots of varieties and putting them into all manner of meals. Everyone knows the large orange pumpkins that get carved for Halloween but it seems a lot of people don’t appreciate the variety and versatility of winter squash in the kitchen. In this post we explore the history and some different ways of cooking squash, as well as nutritional benefits and environmental impacts of growing and eating winter squash. 


Winter squash are part of a large family that include cucumbers, melons, gourds and even the bathroom luffah. Winter squash can be distinguished by their hard skin and dense flesh, they are harvested when matured and can be stored for months. Winter squash include pumpkins, butternut and acorn squash to name a few. There are many varieties of winter squash but the names get thoroughly confusing as each variety has a different name all over the world and often even within one country.
Winter squash were domesticated 7000 years ago in Central America where they were first grown exclusively for their seeds as early squash didn’t have much flesh. By the time Christopher Columbus arrived, many varieties of squash were being cultivated all over the Americas. Today, the largest commercial producers of squash include China, Japan, Romania, Turkey, Italy, Egypt, and Argentina.

Winter squash are incredibly versatile and they play a role in cuisines all over the world. You can eat the flowers, the fruit and the seeds. The flesh is firm enough to roast or stew in chunks but once cooked it can easily be pureed to a fine consistency. Their moderate sweetness means they can be used just as well for sweet or savoury dishes. They work wonderfully in moist cakes and comforting stews. Roasted squash goes nicely with toasted nuts like hazel or walnut and the aromatics thyme, sage and fennel. It’s delicious with spices like cumin and coriander as in North African and Middle Eastern dishes and of course with cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice in the classic American pumpkin pie. Or the flavours can work well with coconut and lime for a tropical twist. Because of their tough outer skins and natural hollow interior, pumpkins are fantastic for stuffing, you can even hollow them out and serve a warm soup inside.
The seeds of all pumpkins can be eaten, you just need to separate them from the flesh, rinse them and lightly roast them with a little oil and salt. Store bought pumpkin seeds are from a certain variety that are grown exclusively for their seeds. Because the seeds of this variety develop no outer husk they are are a lot softer and easier to eat.


Winter squash is low in calories and contains large amounts of natural sugars, carbohydrates and vitamin A from Carotene. It is good for circulation and regulating blood sugar levels.
By far the most nutritious part of the squash is the seeds, which are an amazing source of zinc and omega fatty acids. The seeds are also very beneficial in removing intestinal worms. Pumpkin seed oil, which is often sold in pill form at health stores, is said to be good for reducing cholesterol, it’s anti-inflammatory, good for prostate health, urinary and even menopause. We often make our own pumpkin seed butter by simply toasting the seeds and then blending them, you then get all the benefits of the oils in a delicious spread.
The juice of squash is also proven to relieve burns. Adding sweet vegetable like pumpkin and squash to highly mucus- forming foods like milk, yoghurt, kefir, sour cream and other diary also greatly improve digestion.


Winter squash are fantastic vegetables for people that want to eat local produce through the winter months. We had a quick catch up with Joris at Sutton Community Farm, which is a community-owned farm on the outskirts of London providing fresh, local produce and a space to learn skills. Currently at the farm they grow a large selection of winter squash which get included in their vegetable box scheme and sold to local restaurants. For the farmer they are a fantastic crop that is easy to grow with a great yield per square metre. One of the best things about squash is the fact that they keep so well. Some varieties, if stored correctly, will keep up for up to six months. They are best kept in a dry environment, around 15º to 20ºC and away from light. A cupboard in a cool room in the house should work well. The flesh of pumpkins and squash will become sweeter overtime as the starch turns into sugar.
All of this makes winter squash a very environmentally friendly vegetable. However there is a one big environmental issue: the Halloween pumpkins. At Halloween last year 18,000 tons of pumpkin were sent to landfill in the UK alone just three days after Halloween. The pumpkins that are grown for carving at Halloween are grown explicitly for size and, although perfectly edible, not great to eat. The main problem is the way they are disposed because most people don’t compost anymore and very few local councils offer a composting service. Perhaps it’s time someone set up a pumpkin recycling scheme like they do for Christmas trees to turn that 18,000 tons into useful compost rather than landfill.

So although Halloween and Thanksgiving have been, it is still very much the season to be enjoying all the qualities and varieties of winter squash. It is such a diverse vegetable and there are literally thousands of recipes from all over the world that you can create with squash.


Pumpkin and Coconut Tart

This is a recipe Muriel learnt while working at Infinity Foods Cafe in Brighton, it was one of the dishes that was always guaranteed to sell out straight away and has since become a favourite in our household too. Even Arlo, who hates squash, loves these luxurious treats. In this version we have used Delicata and Acorn squash, because they are both very sweet with a lovely silky texture. please note that creamed coconut is not the same as the coconut cream you get in the tins, also if you can get hold of fresh coconut we recommend using that instead, you also get the desiccated coconut in the process. For a quick guide to make your own coconut cream have a look here.
Makes 6 small tarts (if you wish to make one big tart you will need to double all quantities)


1Kg Winter Squash
200g Creamed Coconut
Zest and Juice of one lemon
2 tblsp Maple Syrup (optional)

200g Rolled porridge oats
100g Melted coconut oil
2 tblsp Maple Syrup

Plus 50g of desiccated coconut

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Half the squash lengthways, deseed and place face down on a lightly oiled baking tray. Roast the squash for approximately 40 minutes until really tender, the cooking time will depend somewhat on which squash you use. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little. Meanwhile make the base, combine the oats, coconut oil and maple syrup in a bowl. Divide the mixture between 6 small tart cases and gently press down with the back of a spoon. NB if it feels too crumbly and you would like a smoother base then give the oats a quick whizz in a blender before putting it in to line the cases. Back the bases for 15 minutes in the oven until they have just started turning a nice brown. Remove and allow to cool.
Lay out the desiccated coconut on a baking tray and toast in the oven for a few minutes until it starts to turn brown, keep an eye on this as it will turn from lovely and toasted to black and horrible in a matter of seconds.
Now back to the filling; scoop out the flesh from the squash into a food processor, add the creamed coconut, lemon zest and juice then blend well. Taste the mixture at this point to see if you think it needs maple syrup, different squash have different sugar contents and also peoples tastes are different so use your own judgement here. Divide the mixture between the tart bases and spread it out evenly. Now sprinkle the desiccated coconut over the top and then place the tarts in the fridge for at least 3 hours to set.

If you have enjoyed this post or you have something else to add, please leave us a comment below



At our local markets here in France there are a few producers that grow a lot of unusual varieties of fruits and vegetables. A few weeks back one of the producers had a big bag of these strange looking fruits we had never seen before. She had grown them but wasn’t sure exactly what to do with them and she asked us if we’d like to do some research on them and try out some recipes. Obviously we jumped at the chance and dove into the weird world of the kiwano.
Kiwano, also known as horned melon or horned cucumber, is native to the Kalahari dessert where it is a great source of moisture and nutrition during the dry season. It is high in vitamin A and vitamin E, making it good for cognitive function ­and eyesight. It looks stunning when ripe and is often used simply for decorative purposes. The skin is spiky and tough and definitely not suitable for eating. The flesh is a bright green and tastes somewhere between a kiwi and a cucumber. It is refreshing, slightly citric and right on the line between a sweet and a savoury.

Kiwano is great to eat fresh out of the skin. You can chop the fruit in half then squeeze it, if it’s ripe the seeds and flesh will start to pop out. Some people eat the seeds but we found them too tough, it is the flesh around the seeds that tastes good. The challenge is separating the flesh from the tough seeds. If you are eating the fruit straight with your hands you can put the seed in the front of your teeth and suck the flesh from the seeds between your teeth, like you would with a seeded grape. The best way we found is to cut them in half lengthways to scoop out the flesh and the seeds, blend it all with a food blender and then put that through a sieve to remove the seed chunks. You will then be left with a delicious thick green juice.

We did try and cook the flesh to make a jam or compot, that was a mistake, it lost all of its flavor and the colour and texture was like something for a Halloween party. By far our favourite way to eat kiwano is as a sorbet. We simply took the juice of one kiwano, added two tablespoons of sugar and put it in an ice cream maker. It makes an ideal mid meal palate cleanser and would also work fantastically for a ‘trou normand’.
Another favourite way to use it is in a salad dressing, where the refreshing, slightly citrus flavor works really well. We used 1 part kiwano juice to 1 part mayonnaise, half part of natural yoghurt and a pinch of salt.
The flavours of kiwano work very well with yoghurt and it makes a pretty good cucumber substitute for a riatta (but there is a lot of liquid). It would work really well in smoothies and next on our list to try are some kiwano cocktails.

So if you come across this strange and beautiful fruit we hope you pick it up and try it out. Otherwise, maybe we can have it when you come to eat with us at La Maison Bleue.

La Vie En France

La Vie En France

We did it! We have moved to France. For a long time we have wanted to move here but we didn’t want to uproot and leave our home and friends in Brighton just for a change of scenery; we wanted a change of lifestyle. After much discussion about how it could be done, Muriel had a look online about the possibility of renting and managing a bed and breakfast. Within 15 minutes of searching down in the comments section of a similar thread, she found a post asking for people to manage their B&B. The comment had only just been placed and it felt like fate, so we got in touch right away. A few weeks and skype calls later we were flying out to meet the owners and check out the place. Although not in an area of France we knew or had ever been to, the house was lovely, the owners were really nice and of a similar mind set to us. All their produce was organic, there was a massive garden with loads of space for our boys to explore and plenty of potential to share our passion for food. We quickly realised this was a chance we couldn’t let slip. That was in May and the owners were leaving in August so we had just a few months to pack up, get ready and move our lives to France.

To make a long story short, the move has been a rollercoaster ride. The packing took a month, the transportation of our stuff was a disaster that should have taken two days but took over a month, half of our belongings are still in boxes and the list of tasks is unending (which is why we haven’t had a chance to do any blogging or even let our friends and family know what we’ve been up to). Now as things are starting to calm down we thought we’d take some time to let you all know what we’ve been up to for the last couple months. We arrived in peak season and the place was fully booked. Two days after we arrived with all of our belongings, we had our first guests. It was a mad rush to unload our stuff, unpack essentials and hide all the boxes away before the first guests arrived. From that point until late September we have had  a constant stream of guests staying and it has been a massive challenge to try to unpack our stuff while accommodating guests; but we are getting there.

As well as breakfast for our guests we run a table d’hôte. This is where the guests have dinner with us, we do a big 4 course meal and we all sit down and eat together. We absolutely love this element and it is a big part of what we wanted to do. We were a little worried because we only cook vegetarian food and the French aren’t known for their veggie ways. However we have done a lot of meals now and every single guest has loved all the food and been very impressed, we have even had a few vegan and vegetarian guests.

Along with the house came 2 nanny goats, 4 hens and a rooster. On the 3rd day after we arrived the boys ran out to collect the eggs from the hen hutch and 5 seconds later ran back in screaming. There was a buzzard in the chicken’s pen, it had eaten the cockerel and two hens. It was an awful sight and quite an introduction to life in the countryside, where wildlife is on our doorstep. Since arriving we have adopted a kitten who managed to work her way into our lives, first by sleeping with the chickens then on our doorstep and now on our sofa. The goats are awesome and  have been a constant source of troublesome entertainment, they are true escape artists and garden terrorists.

Between all of this we arrived in harvest time. So as well as everything going on inside the house with guests, boxes and animals, outside everything was calling out to be picked. The garden was overrun by squash, pumpkins and courgettes, in amongst the weeds there were plenty of green beans, carrots, beetroot, raspberries and we even uncovered some fresh turmeric plants. There are peach, apple and pear trees here that came ripe just a few weeks after we arrived so had to be picked and processed. We now have jars and jars of canned peaches, apples and pears, bottles of apple juice, jams and fruit sorbets. The garden has two walnut trees and is surrounded by hazelnut and chestnut trees. Every time we stepped outside we could hear the nuts falling onto the wooden decking and knew we had to keep picking them up before the wildlife did. This region of France is famous for its mushrooms and according to the locals this has been one of the most abundant years. Even with our poor knowledge of the area and mushrooms we have managed to pick and eat plenty of ceps, parasols and even a giant puffball.

The land here is amazingly fertile and lush green, there is plenty of woodland and all the trees are now quickly turning to their beautiful autumnal colours. On sunny days the temperature still reaches the high twenties so we are enjoying being outside as much as possible. For us the list of things to do inside and out is still endless, but we are really enjoying this new life. We have plenty of space for you all to come and stay so we look forward to seeing you all out here soon.




Rice is mankind’s most important grain. It was the domestication of rice many thousands of years ago that turned hunter gatherers into farmers, which then led to houses, communities and the civilisation we now know. Humans eat more rice than any other grain in the world. From pilaf to paella, from sushi to jambalaya, rice has proven itself to be a versatile and essential source of nourishment around the globe. We as a family rely on rice for many of our meals so this month we have been researching the origins, health benefits and environmental impact of this popular grain.



Rice originated from Southern China and was first domesticated over 9,000 years ago. It was the Arabs that introduced rice to Europe and the Spanish and Portuguese that took the grains to the Americas. A sister species of rice with a red bran was grown in West Africa at least 1,500 years ago and it was the rice growing expertise of African slaves that helped to boost the production of rice in the United States. There are now over 100,000 distinct varieties of rice worldwide but they all fall into two main categories which are the Indica rices and the Japonica rices. The Indica rices are grown in the sub tropics and they have long and firm grains. The Japonica rices are shorter and stickier like sushi and risotto rices and they are grown both in the tropics and temperate climates. The factor that distinguishes the main rices is the amount of a starch called amylose that they contain. The amylose content is important because it will determine the firmness or stickiness of the cooked rice. Rice with high amylose content (25-30%) tends to cook firm and dry, whereas rice with intermediate amylose content (20-25%) tends to be softer and stickier and rice with low amylose content (<20%) is generally quite soft and sticky.



All rice is primarily a carbohydrate in the form of starches. Brown rice is a wholegrain, it is the unrefined seed that contains all the nutrients needed to grow into a plant. It has fibre, fats, vitamins, minerals and proteins. The starch in the grain is protected by the outer bran layer so it is slowly absorbed by the body and doesn’t have a large impact on blood sugar levels. Like most whole grains, brown rice is good for the heart and lowers cardio-vascular risks. It has a lot of fibre which helps to feed and promote the growth of good bacteria in the lower intestines. But like all whole grains it also contains the enzyme phytic acid, which inhibits the absorption of certain minerals (for more information about this check our post on oats). White rice is far more common than brown rice. It is quicker to cook, easier to chew and lasts longer on the shelf.  It is made by refining and ‘polishing’ the wholegrain to remove the bran, most of the germ and the outer layer. This removes pretty much all of the nutritional value leaving almost nothing but starch. White rice is easily absorbed by the body and turned into glucose, this puts it high on the glycemic index and should be avoided by diabetics. Black and purple rice are a wholegrain but have higher amounts of antioxidants, protein and twice the amount of fibre than brown rice. Red rice is rich in antioxidant pigment called anthocyanin and has pretty much the same nutritional benefits as brown rice.  So which type of rice? Always choose organic and preferably wholegrain but for certain dishes or when time is tight, choose a good quality white rice.
Rice contains more dangerous heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic than any other grain. All plants absorb some amount of these dangerous heavy metals but rice is one of the few plants that actually stores it in the seed rather than the leaves. Furthermore because rice is grown in standing water it has a tendency to absorb more of these elements, particularly if they are heavily covered with pesticides (another reason to always choose organic rice).  It’s worth mentioning that these metals are present in all the foods and water we consume and actually the vast majority is found in vegetables, so don’t stop eating rice because of a fear of arsenic poisoning. A good way to remove these unwanted elements is to rinse and soak the rice before cooking. This has the added benefit of removing extra starch, phytic acid and also reducing the cooking time.


Global Impacts

Although rice is the main grain grown for human consumption, only 7% of what is grown makes it on to the global market. In Asia 90% of the rice is grown and consumed on small family farms and a high proportion of the rice never leaves that farm or it is sold in nearby towns and villages. It’s only when there is surplus that rice is then exported. This means that the local people are mostly immune to international prices and the global price of rice is very much dependant on the weather and the yield of particular regions. West African countries have recently shifted away from their traditional staples of millet and cassava to eating rice and these countries now account for 30% of global rice imports.
Rice production takes up approximately 11% of the arable land worldwide and a whopping 50% of all diverted water in Asia is used just to grow rice. In the 60’s the Phillipines began breeding varieties of rice that gave massive yields but were heavily reliant on pesticides and fertilizers. These varieties quickly spread and now most common varieties of rice grown in Asia are reliant on pesticides and fertilizers. All these pesticides are fed directly into the water system. Rice requires 3 times more water to grow than other grains. So as water scarcity becomes more of a global issue we can expect to see a drop in rice production in the future.
Rice paddies are one of the largest human sources of the powerful greenhouse gas methane. It is estimated that rice production accounts for 10% of methane pollution globally and recent research has shown that as carbon dioxide levels increase so does the amount of methane that rice produces. However there are ways that these levels can be dramatically reduced through good growing practices such as alternate wetting and drying.


Cooking tips

It seems there are almost as many different ways to cook rice, as there are types of rice. Each culture seems to have its own way to cook the perfect rice. Here are a few universal truths we have learned over the years of cooking all types of rice in all manner of ways.

  • Cheap, low quality rice will never cook well no matter what your technique.
  • Avoid techniques that require you to discard the cooking water, as you will also be discarding nutrients and flavour.
  • Do not stir long grain rice at all. Once the lid is on, leave it.
  • Since researching for this post we have begun to soak our rice in advance. As well as the health reasons, it halves the cooking time and produces lighter fluffier grains. Note that you will need approximately half the amount of water you would normally use without soaking.
  • Be careful when reheating rice. Raw rice naturally contains the spores of Bacillus Cereus, a bacterium that causes serious (it’s in the name) food poisoning. The spores can survive the cooking process and if the cooked rice is left out at room temperature the bacteria will grow. For this reason it is best to cool cooked rice down as quick as possible if you aren’t going to eat it and store it in the fridge. When you reheat it, make sure that the rice reaches boiling temperatures to be certain to kill off the bacteria.
  • A little pinch of salt goes a long way to increase the flavour of your rice.

Vegan Jambalaya

The first thing to mention is this is as much a guide as a recipe. You can replace the vegetables with whatever you have around, and if you don’t have red rice just use brown rice. The nuts are important as they provide a good source of protein and fats.


1 cup (170g)  long grain brown rice
1 cup (170g)  Long grain red rice
1 x medium white onion
1 x carrot
1 x red pepper
2 x cloves of garlic
2 x diced fresh tomatoes
50g xfresh peas
50g sweetcorn
150g brasil nuts
3 cups (700ml) of quality vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
Fresh coriander to garnish


If you have time, soak the rice for at least an hour in plenty of filtered water. Finely dice the onion, carrot and pepper and sauté in olive oil for 15 minutes until soft. Meanwhile peel and finely chop the garlic then add to the pan along with the salt, cumin and paprika. Drain and rinse the rice and add it to the pan. Cover with the vegetable stock, place a lid on it and simmer slowly for 35 minutes. Meanwhile roughly chop the brazil nuts and lightly toast them either in a pan or in the oven. Once the rice is cooked add the peas, sweetcorn and diced fresh tomatoes and gently stir. Garnish with fresh coriander and the brazil nuts and serve immediately. We like to add a healthy splash of hot sauce for us but not for the kids. Enjoy

If you’ve enjoyed this post or you have any questions please leave us a comment here.

Some useful links we found in our research:



There is something very unique and exotic about the flavour of cinnamon that can lift the most mundane of ingredients to new heights.  As a family we eat a fair amount of cinnamon, we have it sprinkled on our breakfast oats everyday and our boys have it on their apple compote every night. We use it in Indian dhals, Mexican moles and Moroccan tagines. All over the world cinnamon is one of the most popular spices and an essential ingredient in so many dishes. Cinnamon has been around for thousands of years, there are traces dating back from the Egyptians who used it in embalming. It was the Arabs who introduced it to the West and dominated the trade for Centuries.



There are four different types of cinnamon but it is loosely split into two distinct categories. There is Ceylon cinnamon, sometimes called ‘true’ cinnamon and there is cassia cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon, as the name suggests originates from Sri Lanka, where 85% of ‘true’ cinnamon is still grown. Ceylon cinnamon comes in thin papery quills that will break easily; it has a much softer and floral flavour and is often referred to as sweet. Almost all other cinnamon is known as cassia and originates from Southeast Asia and is primarily grown in Indonesia, Vietnam, and China. Cassia comes in thick and very hard large quills; it is very strong in flavour and has a bitterness and real spice to it. The word cassia originates from the Hebrew word qtsiah, which comes from the verb meaning “to strip off bark,” which nicely describes how cinnamon is harvested. 


The Harvest

Harvesting and processing cinnamon is still done by hand, on small-scale plantations and with very little mechanization. It is a long process, which consists of allowing the cinnamon trees to grow for 2 to 3 years before cutting them back a few inches from the ground. From here multiple stems shoot up which are allowed to grow for a further one to two years before the cinnamon can be harvested. The outer bark is scrapped off and then the branch is beaten evenly with a hammer to loosen the inner bark. It is this inner bark that carries all the oils in the tree and where the flavour off cinnamon is held. The inner bark is separated in long rolls whilst still wet and then dried. All cinnamon is then fumigated to remove fungal diseases and pests. Traditionally and still now this is done with sulphur dioxide. Sulphur dioxide is one of the oldest fumigant and even though it’s a harmful substance it does disappear over time. How long will depend on the environment the cinnamon it’s been stored in. Grapes are the main crop that gets fumigated with sulphur dioxide and the EU and WHO have very strict rules and regulations on the amount of sulphur dioxide that can remain in a food product. Sri Lanka recently got into trouble with the EU because of its cinnamon having too high levels of sulphur dioxide content. There are alternatives to sulphur, primarily a steam process, but it is a lot more costly and so most cinnamon producers cannot afford the additional expense in the already competitive market. We did try to find out if organic cinnamon uses sulphur dioxide for fumigation or not but we were unable to find evidence one way or the other.



Nutritionally cinnamon is a powerful source of antioxidants, of all the foods in the world it is ranked number seven for antioxidant concentration. The antioxidants in cinnamon have been shown to improve cognitive brain function and reduce brain degeneration. They also have been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes, reduce inflammation and reduce high blood pressure. The oils in cinnamon are a natural anti fungal, anti viral and anti microbial, which is why it was used for embalming in ancient Egypt and is used in many traditional cuisines to help preserve foods. These properties also make it good for preventing illnesses like the common cold.

One of the main flavours of cinnamon is a substance called coumarin, which for people who are sensitive to it can be very damaging to the liver.  For this reason coumarin is no longer allowed as a food flavouring unless it is naturally occurring in the cinnamon.  Cassia has been shown to contain 63 times more coumarin than the Ceylon cinnamon and people who take cinnamon supplements should be aware that they are generally made using cassia. Also, most ground cinnamon is made using cassia rather than the Ceylon cinnamon so if you consume a lot of cinnamon and have liver issues make sure you try to use Ceylon cinnamon.  For us we use Ceylon for sweets and on our breakfast and we use cassia for savoury dishes where it needs to blend with other spices and it needs that extra punch. Like all spices, if you buy them whole and grind them yourself you will get much better flavour than buying pre-ground spices from the shops.

Below is our recipe for a garam masala. The word masala means mix and the word garam means hot, which refers to the heating properties of these spices according to the Ayurvedic diet. A good garam masala is the backbone of many Indian dishes and each household and restaurant has their own unique balance of spices and techniques for getting the most out of each flavour. Without a doubt making your own is a lot better than any shop bought garam masala and will elevate your curries dramatically. Once you’ve made it, it will keep in an air tight container away from sunlight for at least a month, after which the flavour begins to degrade.

Garam Masala


1 tbsp cumin seed

½ tbsp. black pepper

2 x 2 inch sticks of cassia cinnamon

1tsp mace

1tsp cloves

1tsp cardamom


Slow roast the whole spices at 110ºC for at least 1 hour, (some people leave the spices to roast overnight), just make sure they do not burn. Place the whole roasted spices in an electric coffee grinder or a food blender like a NutriBullet. Blend the spices into a fine powder and then store in an air tight container. Sprinkle it in right at the end of your curry or dhal to maintain the full vibrancy of the garam masala flavours.

If you have enjoyed this post and found it interesting or if you have any more information on cinnamon that you would like to share with us please leave us a comment.

Some useful links relating to cinnamon:



Beetroot is one of those vegetables that really seem to divide opinions, you either love it or you hate it. In our house we eat a lot of different soups but a bright purple beetroot soup is the only one we all love, so it gets made a lot. Beetroot is an incredibly versatile vegetable that works both as a savoury and as a sweet, it works raw in salads, roasted whole, fried to crisps, juiced and pickled in kimchi. However you use it, beetroot always adds a massive dose of colour to any plate. It’s available year round and we get through a lot of beetroot. So this month we have spent some time researching the health benefits, environmental issues and best way of using this amazingly colourful root.


The Food Of Love

Beetroot is part of the chard, spinach and samphire family. It was first cultivated over 2,000 years ago but people only ate the leafy tops. The ancient Greeks began using the roots for medicinal purposes and the ancient Romans considered the beetroot an aphrodisiac. This has recently been proven by modern science as beetroot contains large amounts of the mineral boron, which is thought to play a key role in the production of human sex hormones. It wasn’t until the 16th century that beetroot was bred to be the sweet bulbous root we now know. Beetroots come in different colours from white, golden, stripy to the most common deep purple. In the 18th Century during the Napoleonic war, the British enforced a trade embargo on to the French so they could no longer buy sugar canes from the Caribbean colonies. In response the French bred beetroot to maximise sugar content and developed a method of turning the ‘sugar beet’ into sugar granules. Today sugar beets account for 30% of all sugar production.


The Nutrition

A typical beetroot is 9% sucrose, the highest sugar content of all vegetables. However the sugars release slowly into the bloodstream so beetroot has a high glycemic index but a very low glycemic load. Eating sweet vegetables like beetroot lower sugar cravings without the negative effects of refined sugars so it’s a good idea to add them to desserts and your diet in general.

Beetroot is high in fibre, vitamin C and minerals, particularly manganese. Manganese is an essential trace mineral which helps in blood sugar control, energy metabolism, and thyroid hormone function. The pigment that gives beetroot its rich deep colour is called Betalain, it is a powerful anti oxidant and anti-inflammatory.  Beetroot also contains high levels of the essential macronutrient Choline that is part of the B complex vitamin. Choline helps with liver and brain functions, muscle movement and supporting energy levels.

Recent studies show that the high levels of nitrate in beetroot lower blood pressure and may also help to fight heart disease. The nitrates have also been shown to increase blood circulation to the brain, limiting the risks of dementia in old age. The nitrates also improve muscle oxygenation during exercise, which helps with muscle soreness and recovery. So treat yourself to a fresh beetroot juice after cardio exercise.


The Greenest of Vegetables 

Beetroot is one of the most tolerant vegetables that requires very little fertilisers and pesticides making it one of the most environmentally friendly vegetables you can buy.  It is planted from seeds from March onwards and can be harvested from June to November. If stored well in the ground, beetroot will keep until spring. Once it is out of the ground it keeps for 2 to 3 weeks before turning soft. It’s best to store in the cold dark place or in the fridge. In season, fresh beetroot tops are delicious and can be used exactly like chard and spinach, however if you are not going to eat the green tops it is best to cut them off from the roots as they absorb the moisture from the root and make them go soft.

The beetroot plants thrive in a wide variety of climates and soils, making it particularly popular in the cold climates of Eastern Europe, Russia and Scandinavia. Badj has just been on a music tour of Eastern Europe and Russia and everywhere he went they had the beetroot soup called ‘borscht’.  There are as many variations on the borscht recipe as there are families in Eastern Europe. Our favourite and the one we make most often is based on a traditional recipe from our Romanian friend Nicoleta.  The acidity of the fresh tomatoes counters the sweetness and the lemon zest elevates the earthy flavours of the beetroot. A dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche to serve is a must and in Russia and the Ukraine it would always get a sprinkle of dill. 

We hope you have enjoyed the article and try the recipe, please leave a comment we really appreciate your feedback.

Borscht Soup


Borscht recipe


4 x Beetroots (approx 600g)
2 x Carrots (approx 300g)
3 x Fresh Tomatoes
1 x Medium White Onion
2 x Celery Sticks
1 x tsp Lemon Zest
Creme Fraiche
Fresh dill to garnish


Peel and chop all the vegetables and place them all in a pan with the lemon zest. Cover with homemade vegetable stock and season well. Cover the pan and simmer for 45 min or until all the vegetables are cooked. Blend and check for seasoning. Serve hot with a dollop of creme fraiche and the Russians and Ukrainians would definitely put a healthy sprinkle of fresh dill..






A family staple

Mu grew up with a large walnut tree in her garden and she has many memories of eating raw walnuts as snacks or sprinkled on top of salads from a very young age. ‘‘Eat seven walnuts a day to keep the doctor away’ is a French saying she would often hear. Each year Mu’s family brings us a large bag of walnuts from that same family tree. So this year when we received our bag from France it seemed logical for us to spend the month researching this tasty nut.


The original nut

Walnuts have been around for thousands of years and are one of the very first tree foods known to man. They are believed to have originated in Persia from where they have spread all over the world to become one of the most common nuts globally. In France and many other European countries the generic term for nuts is also the word for walnuts (in French une noix). The unique sweet nutty flavor of walnuts is immensely versatile, it’s used all over the world in so many different ways from rich chocolate brownies to pumpkin ravioli to the traditional Mexican dish ‘chiles en nogada’. Walnuts grow well in temperate climates, the largest producer these days is China followed by the US. In Europe the main producers are Ukraine, Romania, France and Italy. English walnut production has been in steady decline since the 18th Century and is now only present in a few counties like Devon, Somerset and Yorkshire. An interesting fact we found was that walnut trees produce a growth inhibitor that has a detrimental effect on other species of plant growing nearby particularly fruit trees. For this reason it is best to plant walnut trees in relative isolation.


Walnut Nutrition

Being a vegetarian family, nuts are a very important part of our diet; they make a highly nutritious snack and add a unique flavor to many dishes. Like all nuts, walnuts are loaded with protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Research has shown that walnuts contain twice as many antioxidants, in fact in a study of over 1,000 commonly eaten food items, walnuts measured the second highest for their antioxidant levels. It is thought that 90% of the antioxidants are found in the outer skin of the walnut; it’s very fiddly to remove the skin anyway so unless you really need them to be sweet and white for a particular dish, leave the skin on.
Unlike most nuts that are full of monounsaturated fats, walnuts are very rich in polyunsaturated fats, the majority of which is an Omega 6 fatty acid called linoleic acid. They also contain a relatively high amount of the healthy Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acid – Alpha Linoliec Acid (ALA) which is very good for heart health and reducing inflammation. Findings from an ongoing study presented in April at the Experimental Biology 2016 meeting in San Diego, CA, indicates that the daily consumption of walnuts has a positive effect on cholesterol levels, without increasing body weight. So there really is something in the old saying “Eat seven walnuts a day…”
Like with all nuts and seeds, raw walnuts contain enzyme inhibitors that make it difficult to digest. If you want to get the most out of your nuts it is best to soak them over night to release the nutrients and also to reduce the phytic acid. You can also remove the enzyme inhibitor by lightly roasting them but this also destroys many of the nutrients. Just like with almonds we recommend you find organic and raw walnuts that have not been pasteurised by irradiation. Because of the abundance of rich oils in walnuts they can turn rancid relatively quickly so they should be stored in airtight containers in a cold dark place. Unshelled walnuts should be shelled only as and when you are going to use them, once shelled they can be stored in the fridge or freezer for up to 1 year.


Walnut Oil

Walnut oil is primarily polyunsaturated fats and is loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants. It is usually expensive and something of a luxury item but while we were in France this summer we picked up a 1 litre bottle of walnut oil from a local farmer at a flee market for 12€. Like all nut oils it doesn’t keep very long (typically 6-12 months) so we have been pouring it onto salads and adding it to all sorts of dishes, it has a glorious flavour that can really boost the most mundane of dishes. There are two different ways of making walnut oil, the more traditional is to toast the nuts first which gives the oil a rich, deep nutty flavour but this also destroys the antioxidants. The other is cold pressed virgin oil which has a lighter, more floral taste and also maintains all the nutrients found in raw walnuts. Typically 35g of cold pressed virgin walnut oil provides the same nutritional benefits as 50g of fresh walnuts. Walnut oil is not really suitable for cooking at high temperatures as it quickly looses it’s flavour, can become quite bitter and looses most of it’s nutritional value. We found it really shines on salads and drizzled on dishes right at the end of cooking.
Below is our recipe for a walnut, cauliflower and watercress soup perfect for this time of year. If you have any thoughts, questions or you have simply enjoyed this post please leave us a comment in the box below.

Walnut, Cauliflower and Watercress Soup

1 Medium white onion
1 Cauliflower
1 Bunch of watercress
40g Walnut pieces
Splash of white wine
Good quality light vegetable stock
Walnut Oil
Salt and Pepper

Dice the onion and fry over a medium heat until they are soft and taken a little colour. Add the cauliflower, walnut pieces, white wine and then cover with teh stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for approximately 20 minutes until the cauliflower is tender. Meanwhile puree the watercress, (you will may need to add a splash of water or stock to blend the watercress). Once the cauliflower is cooked season the soup well and blend it.
Serve the soup in a bowl with a good drop of the watercress puree and a healthy drizzle of walnut oil. If you like blue sheeses a sprinkle of stilton would work very well with this soup as well.

Useful links:

Vegetarian Cobnut Sausages

As autumn approaches fast and the evenings get colder we find ourselves longing for comfort food and there is little more comforting than bangers and mash. Most shop bought vegetarian sausages are full of all sorts of strange and unpleasant ingredients even the organic ones. Have you ever considered the ingredients list? So whenever possible we make our own from scratch. Here we share a quick easy recipe for homemade vegetarian sausages using fresh natural ingredients. This time we’ve used cobnuts because they are in season at the moment and they are absolutely divine, but out of season, hazelnuts will work absolutely fine as well.


500g fresh cobnuts, (this is around 150g once shelled or if you use hazelnuts)
1 small red onion
1/2 red pepper
3 chestnut mushrooms
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs


Shell the cobnuts and roast in the oven at 175ºC for 30 minutes. Blend the nuts in the food processor to a fine powder and place in a bowl. Roughly chop the onion, pepper, mushroom and thyme and blend in the food processor. Combine the ingredients, add a good splash of tamari, the breadcrumbs and season well.  Shape the mixture into sausages and then shallow fry them until they are golden brown.



Our kitchen is always filled with a large array of spices and the vivid golden colour of turmeric is always present on our spice rack. In the last five years turmeric has seen an amazing explosion in popularity. From trendy coffee shops offering ‘golden milk’ to turmeric supplements and the availability of fresh turmeric in almost all our local health food shops; turmeric seems to be everywhere. The Internet is overflowing with websites making incredible claims about its healing powers. We have been filtering through the noise to see if we can peel back the truths and the implications of the turmeric explosion.


Some background information

Turmeric was first domesticated in Indonesia and Southern India almost 5,000 years ago. In India where it makes up 50% of all curry powders it is also used for it’s powerful yellow pigment as a symbol of purity in religious ceremonies. In the Ayurvedic medicine it has been used to treat all manner of ailments for thousands of years. India is the largest producer and also the largest consumer of turmeric. In the West the primary use of turmeric has been as a natural food colourant. In the US most turmeric is imported and used to colour mustard.
Turmeric is the underground stem or rhizome of an herbaceous plant in the ginger family, Curcuma longa. In it’s fresh form it looks like small fingers, very similar to ginger. Fresh turmeric has become widely available in this country, as the demand has increased. It has a much stronger, earthier pungency than in it’s dried form. Freshly harvested turmeric is ‘cured’ before being dried and powdered. The curing process involves boiling the turmeric in water for 45 minutes, which gives it a more even colour, removes unwanted microbes and the earthy aroma. It is then dried either in the sun or under heaters until it turns brittle so it can be ground into a powder. It is worth noting that many of the active ingredients and flavours of turmeric are UV sensitive so it is one of the spices that it is better dried under artificial heat.



The recent upsurge in turmeric is not so much to do with its use in cooking but as a health food. A quick online search will provide you with a huge amount of health claims for turmeric. This isn’t news to anyone who grew up with an Indian heritage where ‘yellow milk’ has long been the cure for almost all ailments. However in recent years these age old ‘mothers cures’ have been backed up by a lot of solid scientific evidence. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric and it has demonstrated a remarkable variety of beneficial healing activities. These include antioxidant, anti-arthritic, anti-mutagenic, anti-tumor promotion, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral activities. No wonder it has been the ‘cure all’ remedy for so long. Curcumin has been the main focus in scientific studies but there are over 200 other active ingredients in turmeric and the way they all interact together is very important. Most turmeric supplements only give you the curcumin and eliminate all the other active ingredients and oils that exist in the fresh turmeric root. Companies also use a lot of nasty chemicals (like acetone, ethyl acetate, methanol, ethanol) to extract the curcuma for supplements and colourings in non-organic products. If you are going to use turmeric supplements, always get organic and with make sure it has a high percentage of curcumin. It is also worth noting that curcumin can be difficult for your body to assimilate. Turmeric dissolves in fat so eating it with milk or in curries is best where ghee is used. Also eating turmeric with black pepper will enhance the absorption capacity of the intestines and will make it a lot easier for your body to digest and get the maximum out of the turmeric. Pukka herbs have a great turmeric supplement that is organic and naturally extracted; they even put in some pepper.


Keep it Fresh

The best way to eat turmeric and benefit from its wonderful qualities is to eat it fresh. Fresh turmeric can be found in health food stores and Indian and Asian markets. Like with fresh ginger, choose firm rhizomes and avoid soft and dried ones. Once the turmeric has been cut, it’s best to store it in the fridge in a airtight container, it will keep for a week or two. Although India is the world’s largest producer, in recent years the fresh turmeric we found in our organic shop comes from Peru. This is because Peru used to grow a lot of ginger but recently China has flooded the market with cheap ginger driving the price down, so the Peruvian farmers have now begun to grow high quality turmeric for the Western market.


The main reason we eat turmeric is for its flavour, it’s a key ingredient for our Indian, Moroccan and Caribbean dishes, but we also increase its intake if we are unwell. Turmeric  milk is wonderful if you have a cold and Muriel took turmeric supplements when she was suffering from back pain to reduce the inflammation. It is a wonderful spice with deep earthy flavours and some quite remarkable health properties, there is no doubt it will always play a key role in our kitchen.

Red Lentil Dhal

This is our favourite dhal recipe, we use fresh turmeric whenever possible and always use plenty of ghee and black pepper.


1  1/2 Cups of Red lentils

2 inch piece of fresh turneric

2 inch piece of fresh ginger

2 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp ghee (or processed coconut oil)

2 tsp black mustard seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 cinnamon sticks

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

2 tsp garam masala


Thoroughly rinse the red lentils by covering them in water and stirring them around with your hands then draining them, repeat this 4-5 times until the water is no longer really cloudy. Now peel and chop the fresh turmeric, ginger and garlic and blend together in a pestle and mortar to get the oils and flavours working. Next melt the ghee in a pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds and the cinnamon sticks and fry. Once they begin to pop add the fresh ground spice paste and cook for a further 10 seconds, making sure they don’t catch and burn. Quickly add the lentils and cover with 500ml of water, then add the salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and then leave to simmer for approximately 15 minutes. Now remove from the heat, add the garam masala and then cover and leave for the flavours to infuse for 10 minutes before serving.

If you’ve enjoyed this post or this recipe please leave us a comment.

Here are some useful links that we used in our research if you wish to explore turmeric further.

Holiday food for families

It’s 35 degrees, we’ve just spent the last 4 hours dragging our kids around the museums and ancient ruins of Rome. It’s way past lunchtime and everyone is hot, hungry and on the edge of a breakdown. So the inevitable question comes up, ‘what shall we eat and where can we get it? Quickly!!!’

Anyone with kids will have had many similar eating experiences while trying to enjoy their summer holidays. We are not experts but we wanted to share with you our experiences and tips we’ve learnt to make holiday eating fun, and not too stressful.


Cook It Yourself

The first and most important choice for us when going on holiday is to have self-catering accommodation. Eating out three meals a day with a family of four is very expensive. With self-catering we can buy quality ingredients and choose what to cook. When we eat out it is very rare we find somewhere that everyone really likes, so with self-catering we can cook meals that we know the whole family will enjoy. We can prepare meals at a time that suits us and it will be a fraction of the cost of eating out at a restaurant.
All year round what we eat is a primary focus for our family and that doesn’t change when we go abroad. We love to go to food markets and discover new, local and seasonal produce, this encourages us to use new ingredients and develop new dishes. For example this year while in Rome we discovered a little know pulse called roveja, which is an ancient pulse grown almost exclusively in the high altitudes of the Umbria region of Italy. They were almost extinct until in recent years they have been reintroduced by the Slow Cuisine culture in Italy. They have the flavor of a puy lentil with the texture of a fresh green pea. We cooked them in a light tomato sauce and everyone loved them. You can watch the video of our recipe at the bottom of this post.


One thing we have learned from self-catering accommodation is that more often than not the kitchen isn’t well equipped. Once there was no oven or wooden spoons, and another time there wasn’t a cutting knife. Nevertheless we improvise or if it comes to it we buy a utensil or two and it still works out much cheaper than going to eat out every mealtime. It’s rarely practical to bring your kitchen utensils with you.

Eating Out

Of course we don’t spend all our holiday time cooking and we love going to eat out but finding a place that pleases us all is challenging. We want to try the local cuisine and not just eat whatever we know the boys will enjoy. While on holidays it’s very easy to end up in very touristy places eating very disappointing food at extravagant prices. The best way to avoid this is to do a little research before you go out. Find the best local restaurants and have a look at the menu online to get an idea if there is something suitable for everyone. In Rome we found an amazing pizzeria, it was in an inconspicuous place that we would never have known about without doing our research, yet it was by far one of the best pizzas we’ve ever eaten. Always avoid restaurants with waiters standing outside calling you in and more often than not the best restaurants are off the beaten path.
Plan a little as to what time you need to get there to avoid everyone getting to the ‘hangry‘ stage. An important thing to remember is that restaurants in most of Southern Europe and hot climates will not start serving until 8pm.


Don’t Stress It

At home we eat a large variety of different cuisines and we always make our boys try new dishes and ingredients. This makes it a lot easier while we are abroad as they have a broad palate and are willing to taste foreign foods, sometimes it’s a winner, sometimes it’s not.
Of course no family wants to spend their holidays arguing and bartering with their kids about what they can or have to eat. Once whilst on holiday in Greece, we had found this amazing restaurant where they made gorgeous traditional dishes daily, they even went up into the mountains to pick wild greens and herbs for the dishes. Our first son Otis was one and a half at the time and he simply refused to eat anything except avocados, bread and kiwis for the entire holiday. It was stressful as we were concerned he wasn’t getting enough nutrition, but we decided to not let it ruin our holiday and we kept offering him parts of each dish and trusted that if his body needed something desperately he would take it. As soon as we got back to England his eating habits returned to normal. Stress and food never go well together, that’s for sure!

Treat Yourselves

One of the great things about going on holiday for us is treating ourselves with pastries and desserts. In France we love hunting down the best patisseries with the best croissants and amandines. While in Italy this year we spent several days exploring Rome, where the monuments were little more than an excuse to go from one gelato to the next. It was tough.


Be Prepared

We have two boys aged 6 and 8 and they are eternally hungry, so whenever we go out we need to be prepared. First of all we always start the day with a good breakfast, usually oat based as oats really keep us going for longer (Oats). When we go out we always take a good supply of snacks. We always have a tin of almonds or brazil nuts as they are a good rich source of fats and protein and keep the kids going. We also usually have some plain crackers or biscuits for carbohydrates, nothing too sweet or sugary. We always include some fresh fruit and always plenty of drinking water. If we are out for the day we usually make our own sandwiches as again it is something that is cheap and we know everyone will enjoy because you can choose what to put in it.


We often bring specialty products with us if we think they are going to be hard to find abroad, such as chia seeds, mixed nuts, herb teas and nutritious snacks for the boys like spelt crackers or protein bars. These can be a life saviour when you’re travelling or arrive late at your destination.

Let Us Know

These are some of our experiences and tips that work well for us while traveling. We find they save us money, keep us healthy and allow us to enjoy a restful holiday. We are sure that every family has ways of dealing with children, eating habits and routines while on holiday, we would love to hear your top tips and experiences as well.

Here is our video recipe of a summer stew we made using the roveja peas while we were on Holiday in Italy.  You can replace the roveja peas with small white beans like canellini or even puy lentils

Roveja summer stew


1 1/2 cups of dried Roveja peas

1 red onion

1 red pepper

12 ripe tomatoes (peeled)

4 cloves of garlic

olive oil



Soak the peas in plenty water with a slice of lemon or kombu seaweed for at least 6 hours. Drain and rinse the peas, put in a pan with water, bring to the boil and leave to simmer. Dice the onion, pepper and garlic and gently saute in olive oil. Meanwhile peel and deseed the tomatoes and roughly chop.  Once the onion and pepper have softened add the tomatoes, season well and leave it all to simmer for 20 minutes or until the tomatoes have broken down completely. The peas will be ready by now, drain off any excess water and add them to the tomato sauce, cook everything for a further 20 minutes to let the flavours infuse. Serve with rice and focaccia and garnish with basil.