Aug 2012



Some people get excited by the latest gadgets on the market or the latest Twilight saga movie. I get excited by food. I have been known to jump with excitement in ethnic food shops when I stumbled upon a tin of full medames or a pack of green tea noodles. I know my husband is dreading that my meeting with a friend tomorrow is in a cafe adjacent to a health food shop. He knows I shall return with yet another interesting ingredient (or two or three...).

No surprise that I nearly bursted with excitement when I found out Riverford was now offering a tomatillo salsa kit with their veg box delivery. The first time I had tomatillo salsa was in a restaurant in the USA and fell in love with it. Some tastes are hard to forget. Couple years ago I discovered a fantastic local Mexican shop Otomi where I buy my jars of tomatillo salsa. They do taste great but tend to contain a bit too much salt. Now armed with fresh tomatillos I finally have the opportunity to make my own.


My tomatillo kit arrived yesterday, there were tomatillos (of course), fresh coriander, red onions, garlic, green chillies and a lovely juicy lime. There is nothing more satisfying than having a bowl of beautiful tangy spiciness ready to be used as a dip or sauce after just minutes of preparation. Tonight we used the salsa on top of some refried bean tacos and I am already excited about finishing the rest tomorrow. Avocado wrap with tomatillo salsa sounds just divine. Or dip for some homemade tortilla chips? Black bean burgers? How about tofu scramble? Or I may just have to take my spoon to it....Yum.

Somehow I think I should order another tomatillo kit for next week....


Makes about 2 cups

400g (just under a pound) of tomatillos
1 medium (I had 2 small) red onion
1 -2 green chillies (serrano or jalapenos are great)
squeeze of lime
a bunch of coriander (cilantro)


  1. First remove the papery outer skins from the tomatillos. Wash the tomatillos.
  2. Pierce each tomatillo with a tip of your knife and put them on a aluminium foil lined baking tray.
  3. Place the tomatillos under a grill (broiler), grill about 2 min, turn over and grill for another 2-3 min. The skin will start blistering and tomatillos should soften. Take care not to burn them. Let the tomatillos cool down.
  4. In a food processor chop the onion and the seeded chilli (chillies) pepper.
  5. Next add the tomatillos, coriander and a squeeze of lime (to taste). Season with salt if you wish.
  6. Serve at room temperature





Yesterday I posted an article from The Independent on my Facebook page that criticised the governments efforts (or lack of) to tackle the obesity crisis. The predictions are staggering, by 2050 some 50% of children are expected to be obese or overweight and in the same year the annual cost of obesity is predicted to be £50bn. Year 2050 may seem like a distant future but we need to do something now so these numbers never come true.

Today I saw a disturbing article about the rise of breast reduction surgeries (funded by NHS) on girls under 16, the youngest being 11. These are not cosmetic surgeries, NHS is not that generous, these procedures are due to obesity. These girls are suffering serious back pains and apparently cannot exercise due to their large bust. I do find this outrageous and can’t but get angry at the people who have failed these girls and allowed them to get into this kind of situation.

A recent study at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California shows that obese children have a raised risk of gallstones. The risk is 4x larger for the moderately obese and 6x for the extremely obese. My aunt used to suffer with this painful condition that has always been associated with adults not kids. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, especially children.

I do strongly believe we have to assume personal responsibility for what we feed our kids. As for the government, maybe taxing the processed, sugary and fatty foods would be a good start. The money made from these taxes should be put into companies who supply healthy food, the fruit and vegetable growers and the companies struggling to produce and sell healthy options in market flooded by cheap junk. The money should also go into education of both adults and children. Maybe that way we can avoid health tragedies.

When it comes to personal responsibilities, salad is always a good start, especially one with dressing made without any refined oils. I constantly try to come up with oil free dressings and finely feel like I struck gold with this one. It is slightly French inspired (I used some fine Dijon mustard). The oil replacement? Chia seeds soaked in water, the jelly like mixture makes a great emulsifier similar to oil. And since chia seeds are an amazing source of good fats they will also boost the absorption of fat soluble vitamins from your veggies.



I love using broccoli stalks, it makes me feel great about reducing waste but they are very delicious indeed. You can substitute julienned kohlrabi for the broccoli.

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side salad

1/2 a red leaf or dark leaf lettuce
1/3 of medium red cabbage (about 2 cups)
3 stalks of broccoli
half a medium red onion
1 mango

chia seed dressing
1 Tbs chia seeds
60ml water
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 tsp agave syrup
2 Tbs sherry vinegar


  1. First, make the dressing. Soak the chia seeds in water for about 10min. You should end up with jelly like texture, it kind of resembles frog spawn :)
  2. Add rest of the ingredients, stir thoroughly until well emulsified. Set aside.
  3. Make the salad.
  4. Wash the lettuce and tear into bite size pieces.
  5. Shred the red cabbage as thinly as you can, I used a knife but a food processor or mandolin will work great.
  6. Next peel the broccoli stalks and cut off any hard ends, cut the stalks into thin matchsticks (julienne).
  7. Slice the red onion as thinly as possible.
  8. Peel the mango, cut the mango cheeks away from the stone and slice very thinly.
  9. Toss the salad ingredients with the dressing and serve.



Back from our holiday in Disneyland Paris. We all had a blast and kids wanted to stay at least another five days. I must admit that even before we left for Disneyland I was already dreading the food. Not much understanding of veggie needs in France. Indeed I have returned with a bout of my irritable bowl syndrome which has been a very rare occasion over the last year and a half... Not sure whether it was the much richer food, less fibre or just the stress of a long tiring drive (and I was just the passenger).

Do you remember the book
“French Woman Don’t Get Fat” ? Well, I have to report that they certainly do. I am sure we all have an image of Marion Cotillard type woman in her Channel suit, elegantly lifting a Gitane to her Dior adorned lips while talking about French literature with her charming scarf wearing male companion. None of that in Disneyland. And yes French women, men and especially children are getting larger too. All around the world we seem to be on a slippery slope. I could not believe a young boy I saw in our hotel (about 14). His family were visiting the park from the Middle East. He was so large that he struggled to walk, his breathing was laboured and he was sweating profusely. It was painful to see. This was not a rare sight.

Interestingly in the Middle East, China and India it is the affluent who are putting weight on. Fast food, in these countries, can still be a luxury enjoyed by the well off. I remember when the first McDonald restaurant opened in Prague in the early 90’s the cost of a hamburger was twice of what a decent restaurant meal would amount to. On the contrary, in countries such as the USA, Great Britain and indeed France (even though it only has obesity levels comparable with the USA 30 years ago...), the poorer tend to be larger, due to junk food being cheap.

Sometimes, though, I can’t but think that blaming the cost is only an excuse, healthy food doesn’t need to be expensive. As I don’t go to McDonald’s I am not sure about the prices but I believe that you will have to spend at least £12 to feed a family of four. My veloute soup is for sure a quarter of the price or less. It is filling and much much better for you. This veloute (oh la la, how very French) is as rich as the egg yolk and cream thickened French veloutes. All thanks to the magic of a mere 1/3 cup of cashews. Provided you can get a white sweet potato (I had some from the Sainsbury's Taste the Difference range) the soup has a beautiful pale yellow colour, good enough for a Channel suit :)



If you are not using a high speed blender make sure to soak the cashews for at least half an hour in some water, drain before adding to the soup.

Serves 4

3 large stalks of celery
1 medium onion
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 medium sweet potato, preferably white variety, peeled and diced
500ml measure (2 cups) sweetcorn (frozen or fresh)
1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock
80ml measure (1/3 cup) of cashew nuts
cracked black pepper and coriander leaves for garnish

  1. In a large sauce pan heat up about 60ml water (1/4 cup), add the celery and onion and cook till softened. Add more water if the vegetables start to stick to the bottom of your pan.
    2 Next add both potatoes, sweetcorn and the vegetable stock.
    3 Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20min or until the potatoes are tender.
    4 Transfer the soup into your blender, add the cashews and process until smooth.
    5 Serve garnished with coriander and cracked black pepper.



Yesterday I took kids for a breakfast in a farm shop cafe. I have been using up my fruits and veggies before leaving for our holiday on Sunday butomehow I used it up too fast and needed more fruit. Farm shop seemed the best solution, I could pick up some produce and treat the kids all in one place.

We enjoyed our lovely veggie breakfast while watching the rain outside the windows. On the way out, fruit and few veggies in the bag, the rain eased off for just long enough for kids to feed the adorable piglets. The farm shop leaves a bucket of fruits and veggies not good enough to sell outside the shop.

Three months old piglets waiting for heir apples

The three months old piggies really enjoyed their apples, happily grunting and squabbling over the fruit that got more and more covered in the sticky brown mud. I suddenly had this heavy feeling in my heart while watching those happy spotty piggies, I couldn’t stand the thought of them ending on the butcher's counter one day. At that point the farmer arrived and told the kids there are 5 days old piglets hiding in one of the huts. We had to have a look. We could just see them peeking from the dark corner, too scared to explore the big wide world just yet.

They seemed rather big for such a young age. The farmed explained it was because they were only 5 of them, plenty of milk for all. I said to him that I suppose that is a bad thing for them in the long run as they going to get fatter too quickly. I did mention I was a vegetarian and don’t really like the idea of them being turned into ham and pork chops. This farmer didn’t look at me with disapproval as one would expect, he said that maybe because of their size they may become great breeding pigs. Funny, the pig farmer tried to soften the blow and I did appreciate it.

Still I couldn’t stop thinking about those innocent little pigs, and their fate. I wish there was a Charlotte out there for each little piglet. On the way home my kids and I had a discussion about it all. My son sad he was happy we have brought him up a vegetarian (even though he thinks meat looks tasty).


Aubergine is traditionally cooked with lots of oil. If you have a good non stick wok you can get away with half a tablespoon as long as you follow my method. You will get soft moist aubergine without the grease. Makes sure it is cooked through, the pieces should be easy to squash with a fork. There is nothing worse than undercooked aubergine!!!

Serves 2

1/2-1 Tbs rapeseed (canola) oil
2 medium aubergines, cut into bite size pieces
2 stalks of lemon grass, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 inch of ginger, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
3 Tbs tamari
200g whole wheat or rice noodles (cooked according to packet instructions)
juice and zest of half a lime
2 spring onions (scallions) finely chopped

  1. Heat the oil in a wok (that has a lid) and add the aubergine. Add a pinch of salt. Stir the aubergine around until it starts to brown. Add 1 Tbs of water and cover with lid. Cook until the aubergine is soft and cook through. Remove the aubergine and set aside.
  2. Add the lemon grass, ginger, garlic and chilli to the wok and stir fry until soften. You can add a tablespoon of water if the veggies start to stick.
  3. Next return the aubergine to the wok and add the noodles.
  4. Add the tamari and lime juicy and stri-fry till the noodles are heated through.
  5. Add the lime zest and the spring onions and serve.




Falafel, together with hummous, may just be the most famous Middle Eastern food. It originates from Egypt but is equally home in Israel, Palestine or any vegan household around the world. Traditionally, falafel is made from chickpeas, broad (fava) beans or mixture of both. These are soaked, ground, spiced and deep-fried.

Falafel, apart from the deep-frying, is extremely healthy. These spiced morsels are high in protein and fibre while also rich in many minerals and vitamins such as calcium, magnesium, iron, folate and others. Usually served in a pitta pocket or flat bread together with salad and tahini dressing it makes a perfect plant based meal.

As much as I respect traditions I decided to try and up the stakes, beef up that nutrition content and lower that oil content. My beetroot falafel looks outrageous with its deep dark red colour, and lusciously moist. Baked in the oven it is also free of oil. I used tinned chickpeas rather than soaked uncooked ones, mainly because I didn’t use the deep frying method of cooking, but convenience was definitely a factor too.

You can serve these in the traditional way in a pitta bread, or on top of a salad. They will also make fab canapes. There is no better accompaniment to falafels than tahini sauce. Just to be different I made 2 different tahini sauces. The other day I acquired some raw black sesame tahini and I thought using next to the traditional creamy coloured tahini would create a great contrast on top of the red falafel morsels. No pressure here, making just one tahini sauce is perfectly fine, just double the quantity. Any leftovers are great as salad dressing.


Makes 18

1 can chickpeas, drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of fresh coriander (cilantro), about 2 handfuls
2 medium carrots
3 small beetroot (mine were 160g /5.6 oz together)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbs black sesame seeds
1 Tbs white sesame seeds
1 Tbs tahini
40g (1/3 cup) gram flour

tahini sauces

3 Tbs regular tahini
2 Tbs lemon juice
2-4 tbs water

3 Tbs black tahini
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs water



  1. In a food processor combine the chickpeas, garlic, fresh coriander and salt.
  2. Process together, this will need a lot of stopping and scrapping down the sides. The texture should be a mixture of creamy smooth with some coarser pieces. See the above picture.
  3. Place the chickpea mixture into a mixing bowl.
  4. Finely grate the carrots and beetroot. I used my box grater for this job as my food processor doesn’t grate finely enough.
  5. Add to the chickpea mixture.
  6. Next add the cumin, tahini, sesame seeds and gram flour.
  7. Using your hands mix thoroughly.
  8. Form the mixture into walnut size balls and slightly flatten them.
  9. Place into the refrigerator for half an hour.
  10. Preheat oven to 180C.
  11. Line a baking tray with greaseproof (parchment) paper and place the falafels on top.
  12. Bake for about 15min, turning halfway through the baking time.
  13. While the falafels are baking make the sauces. Just simply mix the tahini and lemon together adding water until the desired consistency is acheived.
  14. Enjoy.




It would be hard to imagine cooking without onions. They are a based of so many dishes lending great flavour but there is so much more to the humble onion. We are constantly bombarded with the latest exotic superfoods like goji berries, macca powder, chlorella... the onion may look rather ordinary and unimportant.

Onions are one of my food superheros. They may not be trendy and exotic but they rightly deserve their superfood label. Onion cell walls contain alliinase, the enzyme that is released by chopping or crushing. The alliinase than catalyses the release of organosulfurs, hence the sulfuric acid smell and tears when we chop onions. The onion uses this as a protection agains herbivores. These chemicals are what makes onions so special.

The above mentioned compounds are what makes onions such a great cancer fighting food.
Dr Fuhrman in his book Super Immunity (a must read!!!) states that “epidemiological studies have found increased consumption of allium vegetables is associated with lower risk of cancer at all common sites.” The numbers he mentions are staggering, just 80g portion of onions 7 times a week has provided these stats:
56% reduction in colon cancer
73% reduction of ovarian cancer
88% reduction in esophageal cancer
71% reduction in prostate cancer
50% reduction in stomach cancer.
Amazing right?


Onions are not just a cancer fighter, they have antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. They are rich in chromium that helps to balance blood sugar. Onions are the richest dietary source of quercetin (not in white onions) which may just reduce your hay fever or asthma symptoms, but can also raise the good HDL cholesterol and ward off blood clots.

The best thing about onions? Apart from being delicious they are cheap as chips and very available (no excuse!). I know that not everybody likes to eat them raw but in this Indian recipe they mellow out while they meld with all the other flavours creating a delicious salad/salsa/relish type concoction. Serve it traditionally with curry but is fab with veggie burgers, burritos or even on top of a veggie chille.



1 large tomato
2 red onions (medium) or 1 large
1/2 cucumber
pinch of salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
juice of half a lime
2 Tbs coriander leaves

  1. Deseed the tomato and chop quite fine (think salsa). Put it into a medium bowl.
  2. Next chop the onion and cucumber into roughly the same size pieces as your tomato.
  3. Add the salt, cayenne pepper, lime juice and coriander leaves (I like to leave these whole).
  4. Rest in the fridge for half an hour for the flavours to develop. Bring to a room temperature before serving.




Kids have been asking for a strawberry milkshake for couple of days. Today I picked up a crate of strawberries so there wish was fulfilled. The result was a gorgeous pink milk, just like the one Lola of Charlie and Lola loves to drink. Carrying the glasses to my kids I said: “Delivery for Lola”, to my daughter’s delight.

This made me think of the Charlie and Lola’s pink milk that I spotted in the supermarket a while back. I am not sure if that particular brand is still available but I did some searching on the internet and found information about the ingredients. The ingredients list is not much different from other strawberry flavoured milks that can be found on supermarket shelves. Milk first of course, than sugar, strawberry juice concentrate (about 1%) and some preservatives. There is also beetroot red colouring.

My pink milk has a cup of strawberries and half a banana, the strawberries is all you need to achieve the perfect pink hue. There is no added sugar and no preservatives or colours. And, of course, no cow's milk either! My son exclaimed this was the best strawberry milkshake he has ever had as he proceeded to spear the garnish with his straw (boys!). Hang on is that why they call them strawberries??? :)) My daughter’s glass was empty so quickly that I have no doubt she loved it too.


RAW if using homemade almond milk.

Makes 2 tall glasses.

375ml (1 and 1/2 cup) unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
2 cups strawberries
1 banana
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
handful of ice

  1. Place all ingredients into your blender.
  2. Process till smooth.
  3. Serve garnished with a strawberry.




My Dad, who was visiting for two weeks, was scouring the supermarket for his favourite hot smoked paprika. While in the spice isle I notices a small box of Berbere spice mix. Of course I had to have it. Before I buy any spice mix I check the ingredients, anything that has MSG is quickly discounted as are any spice mixes that are padded up with ingredients that shouldn’t be there are rejected too. My berbere mix had nothing sinister in it.

How surprised I was when, after opening the metal box, I found a beautiful concoction of whole spices that hit my nose with an intoxicating heady fragrance. Berbere is a punchy spicy mix from Ethiopia. It always contains chillies and array of fragrant spice. As with most spice mixtures there are variations but mine, apart from chilies, contained black pepper, cumin, coriander, fennel, cloves, allspice, ajwain seed, ginger, cardamom and nutmeg.

Berbere spice mix

One spice I admit was totally new to me, the ajwan seed. Of course I had to look it up. Ajwain seed is common in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine and comes from the same family as carrots, fennel and dill. Ajwain is believed to increase digestive function, has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. In India it is used to ease asthma and as an ingredient in cough remedies.

I used my berebere to spice up chickpeas and kale that made a perfect topping for a baked potato. I only had white potatoes in my vegetable box but the spiciness would go beautifully with a baked sweet potato. I put 2 teaspons of berbere in my mix, the result was spicy but not blow your head off. The spicy hit of the chillies seems to be eased by the rest of the gorgeous spices.



Serves 4 as a baked potato topping, 2 if served alongside grain

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp berbere spice mix
1 large tomato, peeled, deseeded and chopped
1 Tbs tomato puree (paste)
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
200 g kale, tough stalks removed, leaves shredded

  1. In a frying or saute pan (you need a larger one to accommodate the kale later) heat couple tablespoons of water. (you can use 1 Tbs oil if you wish)
  2. Add the onion and garlic and saute on medium heat until soft. Add more water if the vegetables start sticking.
  3. Next add the berbere and stir around, saute for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomato to the pan and cook for about 5-10 min until softened.
  5. Add in the tomato paste and cook for about 1 min.
  6. Next add in the chickpeas and about 100ml (under 1/2cup) of water. Cook for 5 min until the sauce thickens.
  7. Add the kale in and stir it into the sauce. Cook until tender, about 10 min. Add more water if the mixture seems too dry.
  8. Serve over baked white or sweet potato, or over some brown rice or other grain.




There has never been a better time to eat a plant based diet. According to latest research, correlated by the fabulous Dr. Greger, it can help prevent, treat or even reverse the leading causes of death. It will not prevent you from a freak accident but all the other causes may just be in your plant strong hands. Check the bellow talk by Dr. Greger and all of his other brilliant videos on his website.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could slash our chances of getting heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s or kidney failure? Especially in the light of today’s articles about chemotherapy, we need more prevention rather than treatment. According to new research chemotherapy seems to undermine itself making tumour cells treatment resistant. The BBC article noted that: “ around 90% of patients with solid cancers, such as breast, prostate, lung and colon, that spread - metastatic disease - develop resistance to chemotherapy”. Wouldn’t it be better to slash our chances of ever being in need of such treatment?

The report on chemo maybe some scary stuff but not a huge surprise, the 2004 Australian study showed : “The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the USA.” See link below.

Nobody can guarantee plant based diet will definitely work in preventing cancer and other diseases but as far as research goes it is the best tool we have. And the only side effects are that you may just feel a whole lot better. Why not start with this great smoothie?



Makes 2 refreshing tall glasses

2 pears
half a cucumber
1 baby gem lettuce
100ml unsweetened almond milk
thick slice of lemon
slice of ginger
I Tbs ground flax seeds
cup of ice

  1. Put all your ingredients into your food processor. I don't bother with removing the core or stalks from my pears.
  2. Blend till smooth.
  3. Enjoy!



A short stroll around Clifton lead us to Thali Cafe. I admit I secretly hoped we would end up there as I have been wanting to try it out for a while. Kids would usually vote for Pizza Express across the road but since my son has been lately discovering spicier food, his deciding vote went to the Indian cuisine. Yes, a result!

From my experience the more extensive the menu the poorer the restaurant, there is nothing worse than going through pages and pages of dishes and finding it all tastes the same. This seem to be the case of many Indian restaurants. Thali Cafe’s menu is very concise (yet interesting). I found it very easy to decide. You can choose from light lunches or Thalis. The word Thali means "plate" in Hindi and describes a selection of different dishes, which makes it perfect way to eat if you are an adventurous diner and like to experience different tastes.

We started with poppadoms with chutneys. The poppadoms were not oily at all and I wanted to leave with a bucket full of tomato and tamarind chutney, sooo delicious. Definitely one to recreate at home.

Veggie Dairy-free Thali

Our mains went this way:
My daughter: Kids Tiny Thali (rice,dal, pakoras, salad and seasonal fruit)
My son and husband: Veggie Northern Thali (paneer curry, rice, veggie subji, dal, rice and cucumber raita)
My Dad (the lone meat eater): Lamb Kofta Thali (paneer from the above replaced with lamb meatball curry)
And last but not least, me: Dairy-Free (YES!!!) Thali (veggies, veggie subji, tasty salad, dal, rice and a spiced tomato sauce and a lot of YUMMINESS)

First the bad news, my daughter found the dahl spicy and refused to eat it, the good news - more for me :) Everybody was happy with their food. I was a bit worried that my son may find his curry spicy, but he loved it and said this was the best Indian he'd ever had. Success all around!

Kids Tiny Thali

Usually, after eating restaurant or take away Indian curry I feel a bit heavy and my stomach doesn’t feel happy with all that oil that it is not used to having. Thali Cafe’s food did no such thing, their curries lack the usual thick layer of oil. I left feeling happy and satisfied with no heavy kind of feeling.

This may just become my favourite curry joint in the city. I am already planning to try the Masala Dosa and the Pakora Chappati Wrap next time we go. Luckily there are 4 Thali Cafe locations in Bristol. You can also purchase a Tiffin and use it for takeaways. Great idea!!!

The service was fantastic too, very friendly and efficient. There is only one complaint (nobody is perfect), whoever made my pot of green tea went too heavy on the leaves. I do like my green tea delicate and this was rather bitter. Only a minor fault in otherwise perfect dining experience.

Go and check them out: