sweet corn



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.



The London Olympic Games are about to start. Years of preparation will culminate in the highly anticipated opening ceremony and display of sporting excellence. We all have our favourites, I am definitely rooting for the Czechs, my tennis heart will be supporting Switzerland and of course as a British resident I will be pleased with any medals going to the Brits. But there is another team that me and my fellow Bristolians will have a soft spot for.

The Olympic teams arrive many weeks before the actual start of the Games. Driving to kids to school quite a few weeks ago I noticed a huge banner at our neighbouring University welcoming the Kenyan team. Athletes from Kenya were staying next door to us and they trained at the sports facilities of our local college. My friend’s son had a twinkle in his eyes when he showed off the autographs from the whole team at school. He certainly was inspired and promised me his autograph when he becomes the world champion.

So here is a recipe for the Kenyan team, a thank you for the inspiration they gave the local kids. I have based it on a Kenyan classic, irio, a bean, sweetcorn and potato mash. Irio is fantastic as it is, but I wanted to make it a bit more special and created irio cakes served with lovely tomato spinach that would not (I hope) be out of place in any Kenya home. My daughter asked if she will run as fast as the athletes after eating these.

ready for the oven


irio cakes
2 large baking potatoes (mine were 800kg or 1,7lb)
250g (2 cups) sweetcorn (tinned or defrosted from frozen)
1 tin red kidney beans, drained
2 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped

tomato spinach
1 tsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 tomatoes, skinned and seeded
450g (1 lb) spinach (preferably mature spinach)
1 Tbs lemon juice
salt to taste


  1. Pierce the skin of your potatoes and place them in a 200C (390F) oven. Bake for about an hour or till skewer goes in without any resistance. Remove potatoes from the oven and let cool down.
  2. Halve the potatoes and scoop the flesh out into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Turn the oven down to 180C (350F).
  4. Add the drained beans, sweetcorn and scallions to the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Using a potato masher mash the ingredients together. The sweetcorn and most beans will remain intact while to potato will turn into a mash. The whole mixture should come nicely together.
  6. Place some cornmeal in a shallow bowl (or a plate). Divide the mixture into equal portions and make cakes, 6 for a starter portion and 4 for a main dish.
  7. Roll each cake in the cornmeal and place on a baking sheet lined with a grease proof (baking) paper. Bake for 30min or till they start to brown. Turn them half way through. (You could also fry these cakes if you wish.)
  8. While the cakes are baking prepare the spinach. If using mature spinach remove the stalks, wash thoroughly and cut up, I used large scissors to cut up the spinach.
  9. In a large saucepan heat the oil, add the spices and cook till they start to pop, take care they do not burn them.
  10. Chop up the tomatoes and add them to the spices together with 2 Tbs of water. Cover with a lid and cook for 5 minutes or until the tomatoes soften.
  11. Add the spinach to the tomatoes, season with salt then cover with lid and cook on low heat for 10min or until the spinach is very tender (if using baby spinach reduce the cooking time). Add the lemon juice.
  12. Serve the cakes on top of a spinach mound.




This week every paper in the country ran a story about statins. The headlines announced that everybody over the age of 50 should be taking the cholesterol lowering drugs statins. According to BBC there are currently between 6-7million people in the UK taking statins every day. That means roughly 10%, about 1 in 10. According to the new recommendations this number would go even higher.

Statins save lives, there is no doubt about that, mainly in people who had already suffered a heart attack or have other cardiovascular problems or can’t lower their cholesterol sufficiently with diet and lifestyle change. However giving statins to people within the low risk category scares me.The problem with statins is the same as with all drugs, they come with side effects. I read that some 28% quit taking them because of the side effects. Just looking at the comments (that follow the recent stain articles online), from people who have had bad experiences with statins. How about memory loss, severe pain in joints and muscles, muscle wastage, depression, kidney and liver problems, lack of appetite, sickness, apathy, night sweats, sexual disfunction... On top of this they also raise the risk of Type-2 diabetes (which is out of control so no need to push the numbers any higher).

It worries me that anybody would even entertain the idea of giving a certain drug to everyone over certain age. I want to be prescribed medicine if I really need it. I try to avoid taking medicine if I can help it I won’t even take a pain killer for a headache; water and rest usually helps. I don’t want to be made into a patient if I am not ill. We wouldn’t be taking daily antibiotics just in case we might catch a bacterial infection sometimes in the next few years... Let’s give statins to the people who do need them, and who will benefit, but let’s put more effort into education people and help everybody lead a healthier lifestyles.

Cholesterol can be easy to control with a plant based diet. There are countless success stories, just look up Dr Fuhrman, Dr McDougal, Dr Barnard, Forks over Knives, Engine 2 Diet and many others. To quote Dr Margaret McCartney (I will be reviewing her book Patient Paradox soon) on statins: “ These tablets save lives - but the life they save will probably not be yours.”


This made a huge batch, perfect if you are feeding lots of people. You can serve it as a side dish or it is satisfying as a main with some green leafy veggies or salad on the side.

I made the leftovers into spicy fried rice, I say fried but I used a bit of water in the frying pan and some chilli sauce and a splash of tamari. Delicious.

The brown rice I used was my favourite Thai Jasmine rice that I get in my local Oriental supermarket, but any brown rice will be great. Just follow the cooking time on the packet.

Serves 6-8


1 1/2 brown rice of your choice
3 cups of stock (or water)
1/2 Tbs olive oil or 60ml (1/4cup) of water
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp Hungarian paprika (sweet or hot)
1 tin of red kidney beans, drained
1 cup of sweetcorn kernels (I used frozen)
1/2 cup of peas (I used frozen)
125ml (1/2 cup) vegetable stock

  1. Cook the rice in the 3 cups of stock according to instructions, set aside.
  2. In a large saute pan heat the oil or 60ml of water, add the onion and garlic and gook till softened.
  3. Add the spices, kidney beans and sweetcorn. Add the 125ml of vegetable stock, cook on medium until most of the stock is gone. This softens the beans and gives them lovely flavour.
  4. Next add the peas and the rice and heat through.
  5. Serve.