Chia Seeds - The new diet pill?

There has been some buzz about tiny black chia seeds. They are the brand new superfood don’t you know?! We’re told that whilst providing hardly any calories they contain stacks of health benefits (high in fibre, omega-3 and protein and also contain antioxidants, potassium and calcium).
A dietary staple of the Aztec and Mayan people, chia seeds were originally ground into a flour and used to make flatbread, or soaked in water for a drink. When soaked the seeds expand in size and take on a strange gel-like, frog’s spawny appearance. The drink, which is high in fibre, is also very filling and it has been suggested could dramatically help with loosing dress size or two. Alternatively you could sprinkle over your breakfast cereal and the seeds will expand in the stomach, keeping one feeling fuller for longer.
Weight loss aside these seeds are without doubt an incredible source of fibre and omega 3 so absolutely worth having a bag or two in your cupboard. 


This one is easy. Simply whiz up ripe banana’s and mix with a tablespoon or so of Greek yoghurt and 1 tbsp chia seeds. Dollop the mixture into lolly moulds and place sticks in the center. Freeze overnight. Mine made 6 little lollies. 


Makes 16 cakes

200g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoon chia seeds
3 medium eggs
200g caster sugar
200ml vegetable oil
2 teaspoons good-quality vanilla extract
250g grated fresh celeriac
For the lemon buttercream
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g sifted icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons milk, or enough for the frosting to reach a piping consistency
Fresh lemon zest, for decoration

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4. Line a muffin tin with paper cases. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and ginger into a large bowl and set aside.

2. Using a mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla on medium speed until fully combined. Reduce to low speed and add in the grated celeriac. Now slowly add the flour mixture until well combined.

3. Fill each muffin case quite high, about two thirds full. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then take each muffin out and cool completely before icing.

4. Beat the butter until light and fluffy and slowly add the icing sugar. Once combined, and with the food-processor on low, add in the vanilla extract, lemon zest, chia seeds, salt and milk. The consistency should be creamy but still thick. Beat the mixture on medium high for a further 2–3 minutes. The icing should become very light and fluffy.

5. Pipe the buttercream onto your cooled muffins and top with lemon zest and chia seeds.


French Greengage Crumble

 My family have just enjoyed a proper, old school, traditional holiday en France. We ate excessively, visited vineyards and man made lacs, tried to swim every day and even completed a puzzle. We drove, both successfully and unsuccessfully to villages hoping there might be stalls and on the day before the last happened upon the most gorgeous morning market.  

I bought 2 kilo of raine claude and once we'd exhausted just snacking on them, decided to make a crumble. Supper that evening was a celebration indeed. 


Grandpa's Grape Jelly

I've developed a habit of seeking sanctuary in Norfolk when my husband is working nights at the hospital. Home seems strange when there is a sleeping lion recovering from a previous shift the night before. We ran away, Jasper and I, to my parents home. 

Mum & Dad spend lots of time in the garden, getting everything just so and over the years anyone can, quite literally, see the fruits of their labour. One of their greatest successes is a vine growing just by the kitchen, planted a few years back with little expectation.  With each summer it seems to gather momentum and this year the branches are dripping with purple fruit.   

We talked of the options. Grape tart, grape salad or grape cheesecake were top of the list but none of these would dent the enormous crop. No, it was grape Jelly seemed to be the only answer. Three hours of simmering later and nine jars were sitting neatly on the table.

Grape Jelly

1 litre of grape juice 
1 kilo granulated sugar 
Juice of one large lemon
200ml Certo (or pectin)

Make the grape juice by however means you can. I steamed the small bunches and gently waited until they released their litre of nectar. 

Heat the grape juice in a large pan with the sugar and lemon juice. Bring to boiling point and bubble for 15 minutes or so, until the syrup has thickened. Remove from the heat and stir through the certo. Allow to cool slightly before pouring into jars. Allow to set. 


Flat Peach, Pomegranate and Maple Yoghurt

 A very generous aunt stopped by a week or two ago bringing an enormous can of maple syrup, all the way from Canada. 
I've sat on my pot, so to speak, waiting for the right moment to unhinge the lid.

Breakfast with my friend seemed apt, she had travelled from London in searing sunshine and for that she deserved a treat. The  unlikely named 'Tropical Turkish Shop' always has piles of the season's best wares and this morning was no disappointment. A pomegranate the size of a croquet ball, peachy flat peaches and their very good yogurt were my maple canvas. 

I didn't do too much, chopped and tore and piled my ingredients into glasses. I poured more maple syrup over than was strictly necessary. 

My pots were a fine use of my nectar but with half a pot still to go, my heart is saying there is more cooking to do.


A brief pause...

Shooting for the book has been completed and holidays were needed. Eating, sleeping and stopping. 

Now it's back to work and I'm thinking about what lies ahead for late 2014. 


Spinach, Blueberry & Cucumber Cous Cous with Lemon Hummus

 Today the sun shone, sun cream was rife and the ice tray in the freezer is empty. Tonight I craved a summer salad, something that didn't take more than twenty minutes to put together and had a sweet, fresh edge. May I present my discovery. 


Serves 2-3

150g Cous Cous
250ml hot vegetable stock
100g blueberries
½ cucumber, peeled and cut into rounds
50g young leaf spinach
1 tbsp. olive oil
Zest of 2 lemons
1 tin chick peas, drained
4 tbsp. tahini
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Juice of 2 lemons
2-3 tbsp. cold water


1 / Drain the chickpeas and rinse under cold water. Empty into a food processor with the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt and water. Whiz to a smooth paste, adding a little water until you reach your desired consistency. Set aside while you make the salad.

2/ Toast the cous cous by simply putting a heavy based frying pan on the heat and add the cous cous. Toss them around the pan until they start to turn golden, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the hot stock. There will be steam and fury. Leave the cous cous to soak up the liquid off the heat for a few minutes, stirring once or twice to ensure the stock is evenly distributed.

3/ Empty the cous cous into a bowl and the spinach leaves, cucumber, lemon zest and blueberries (keeping back a few blueberries and lemon zest for garnish). Add the olive oil and combine well. Empty onto a plate and top with the reserved blueberries and lemon zest.

4/ Serve your fresh salad with a bowlful of hummus.