V B 6 - Dried Fruit Oomph

Fad diets. They arrive, we scoff and without any active participation, take account of their strange rules and guidelines. Is it really possible to loose weight whilst eating Camembert? Can we be energised by not eating for 2 days and then indulging for 5? Well here is the latest take, a diet set to hit the headlines in 2014. Are you ready? V B 6. Vegan Before Six. 

This isn't a quick solution, we are talking about a change in lifestyle. The idea is that you eat exclusively vegan meals for breakfast and lunch and are as flexible as you need to be for dinner. So that is no milk, no eggs, no bacon and no cheese before tea. 

Developed by Mark Bittman, this diet has taken off in the States. Bittman has written a book (obviously) outlining the major reasons that eating vegan can make your feel van-tastic. He writes, 'You can live healthier, not just eat healthier, when you eat with your eyes wide open'.

I get it. I can understand how this might make one think harder, pause and actually get cooking but personally I'd be nervous about the breakfast bit. No cereal, no buttered toast and not a dippy egg in sight.  Breakfast would be my achilles heal so I thought of a solution that might work for me, a working mum on the run. May I present dried fruit oomphs.

These were gorgeous energy rockets that I (and my little boy) will enjoy, whether I'm feeling vegan or not. 

Dried Fruit Oomphs 

650g Dried Fruit, the juicer the better
Juice of 1 orange 
1 tbsp golden syrup 
100g rolled porridge oats 

1 Preheat the oven to 160C, fan 140G. 
2 Empty the dried fruit into the bowl of a processor and pulse until they are roughly chopped. Add the golden syrup, orange juice and porridge oats and pulse again until the mixture just comes together. 
3 Divide into 12 and lie on a baking sheet, lined with parchment. 
4 Bake for 20 minutes and leave to cool on a wire rack overnight. 


My favourite detox tea

I wanted to flag up one of my favourite finds of the year: Pukka detox tea. So often herbal tea can be disappointing and despite the promise of raspberries, rosehip or hibiscus, we are given weak, wee coloured nonsense that smells appealing. Here though we have a tea worlds away from the usual fare that has real body and a most beautiful, delicate liquorice flavour.   

We like it so much I've been taking it as gifts for friends and spreading the light blue liquorice love. I would go as far as saying I feel just a little more healthy after a cup (at this point I should say I have not be paid to write this!), it has become a tea cupboard staple.

The ingredients read aniseed, fennel, cardamom, liquorice, coriander and celery, not a combination that I would have been brave enough to try but those people behind Pukka really knew their stuff. 


Parsnip, Pecan & Cinnamon Cake

A commission has prompted me to think all things vegetable. And yes, that includes a cake. 

We know carrot cake and we love carrot cake but throw another root into the mix and people seem cautious. It's that subtle turn of the nose that I've seen before with herbal tea, savoury scones and vegetarian sausages. 

I'd ask that your guard be let down, no removed, and your opinions be open. Parsnip has an earthy smell that I only ever track down if rain, disturbed soil and woodland all meet and for me, it's heaven. 

So you see it's the ideal backdrop to a cake. Think of a cake like a painting; in this case the parsnip being the canvas. We add layers of flavour, some sweet, some spicy and wind up with an old master. Cinnamon, syrup, eggs and dark brown sugar framed with cream cheese and pecans.  We eat enormous slabs with cups of tea. 

I promise, you will forget the presence of parsnip and just enjoy the colour. 

The recipe will be available at some point soon, just as soon as it is published. I'll let you know then. 


BBQ On Ice, London

Two six year olds, one Saturday afternoon and an exhausted uncle didn’t seem a very promising combination. However a tip off from a friend pointed us towards Exchange square ice rink, still flying high in the January chill. 

And what a tip off! We skated until our noses were running and didn’t want to risk another tumble and head inside to refuel. If the skating was good, the refueling restaurant was sublime and it is this that I thought was worth the mention…

We discovered BBQ On Ice has been designed especially for the location, popping up for 6 months to get the lay of the land and it’s been a hit.  The food was wicked; uncompromising American style BBQ. 14 hr hickory smoked pulled pork shoulder, BBQ pulled beef in a warm brioche bun and wood roast half chicken (All for under a tenner). Or if drink is more the thing after an hour or two balancing on blades, enormous pitchers of Dark & Stormy or a mug of hot buttered rum might be the answer.

We ate ribs and I was reminded of something Jennifer McLagan frankly puts it in her book, Cooking on the bone – ‘ribs satisfy a deep primal urge to eat with our fingers’; I suspect that gnawing on bones is one of the few purely textural pleasures left to us in western cuisine, perhaps that is why I enjoy it so?

I should say at this point that the waiters were also excellent. Not good, excellent. They said all the right things to the under tens and empathized at the right moment with the over tens. As it so often does, this helped make our day.

Here are all the details - http://www.barbbqonice.com/#home


Masala Chai Tea

My parents and their out laws have just spent two weeks in India, double dating as it were! The saddest thing? We weren't with them. In a stark role reversal we've poured through photos of sparkly markets, ageing houseboats and candlelit dinners for four while we, the children, stayed at home surviving dark December. 

However, there were perks. December 25th was brimming with Indian bounty ranging from monkey wallhangings to green tea, fresh from the plantations. Though it was sheets of Indian newspaper, tied tightly with blue string that housed my spice treasure.  Cinnamon sticks like I'd never seen; each as fat a stick of Brighton Rock but with an organic, sweet scent that had survived the long haul flight.  

I made a pot Masala Chai tea in celebration of my hoard to remind me of the past trips and the relentless, clanging Chai Wallahs that parade the train carriages persuading one that tea is needed.

Masala Chai Tea

1 tbsp Loose leaf assam tea
4cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled & grated
2 sticks cinnamon
a few black peppercorns
6 cloves
5 pods of green Cardamom, bashed
2 whole star anise,
300ml milk
Brown sugar or honey to taste,


Bring 300ml water to boil. Add the assam tea and boil for 5 minutes. Add the spices and gently simmer for about 12-15 minutes, add milk and simmer for a further 10 minutes.  Sweeten with brown sugar or honey to taste. Strain tea and serve hot. 


Marmalade Cafe, Brighton

Rain continues to batter both Brighton and our general enthusiasm for January;  it seems increasingly difficult to summon the energy to wash my hair let alone venture out through the front door. But hark! Marmalade cafe has opened and recommendations were persuasion enough to venture to a new side of town. 

Marmalade is not Bills of Brighton but it does have a sense of their worn beauty and quiet confidence (the keen eyed amongst us will recognise the stylish hand writing). The food isn't complicated but it does what it does with aplomb. Eggs, quiches, beautiful bread and peachy looking salads. The price is bang on and makes eating out do-able even in the financial deadlock of a new year. 

We ate eggs & soldiers, honeyed granola and cheese on toast. We drank flat whites. We read the newspaper. The staff did no rushing and smiled at all the right moments. 

We will absolutely go again, maybe tomorrow? 



Festivities are finished.

And breathe. Ten nights of toasts (not in the wholegrain way), more board games than necessary and a damn quiz twice a day - still, I do know now the fastest selling auto biography of '13 and all of Prince George's middle names.  Gluttonous roasts with venison, pheasant, turkey and pork. One Faroese celebration and one English. A sparkly new toaster and hot pink lipstick. A glorious holiday of family festivities but my liver tells me it's ended just in time.