sweet potato



The other day my son told me how a boy from his class bought a pack of biscuits for breakfast and brought it to school. My son was pretty pleased because his friend share the biscuits (and trans fats!) with his school mates.

My friend and I were talking about this over a nice lunch. We were trying to get our heads around how a 10 year old can be put in charge of buying his breakfast. I know he is not the only one, I hear stories of my son’s school friends buying extra large chocolate bars and cans of Red Bull before school.
We are both mum’s who understand how important good nutritions is for everybody, and especially growing kids. We can’t imagine being is a situation where we wouldn’t have anything in the house for kids to eat at breakfast. But there are households where this is the case, it is easier to give a child couple of quid and send them to a shop. I find that very sad. Especially since there has been a 4 fold increase in children treated in hospital for conditions linked to obesity.

My friend than talked about how her mum had knowledge about healthy eating without having access to the information we have today. The difference is she cooked, her mother cooked, her mother’s mother cooked. They passed the knowledge down the generations. Today the situation is different, many parents (I don’t want to blame the mum’s only) don’t cook, they look at the price and convenience when it comes to food not its nutritional value (healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive just look at http://agirlcalledjack.com/). Nutrition education at schools is not great, or dismissed by parents as rubbish. I did speak to someone who complained about school filling her daughters with rubbish and now she is refusing to even have a cake at home...

I have found, with my own kids, that it is not always easy to convince them to eat healthy. I know if I gave them money to buy their own breakfast they would walk out with a bar of chocolate or a croissant. And there are many things they refuse to eat. I still have the sweet potato hurdle to overcome. I do keep trying though... I came up with these sweet potato falafels hoping they might not realize... OK the colour gave the sweet potato away and than came the refusal but this will not stop me trying...

These can be also made into larger burgers, the mixture will make 6 burgers. They are also delicious cold the next day in a pitta bread with salad. They are yummy with a mango chutney.

1 large sweet potato
1 tin chickpeas, drained
1 small onion, cut into chunks
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 cup rolled oats (use gluten free oats for gluten free version)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
3 Tbs hemp seeds
2 Tbs of chickpea flour (if needed)

Makes 12


  1. First peel, cut into large pieces and steam the sweet potato till soft.
  2. In a food processor process the chickpeas, onion, garlic and oats and process till the ingredients are coming together. You may have to stop and scrape the mixture down from the sides.
  3. Tip the mixture into a bowl, add the drained cooked potatoes, cumin, coriander and the hemp seeds. You can also add couple tbs of fresh coriander (which I didn’t have on hand).
  4. Using your hands mix everything together while crushing the sweet potatoes.
  5. If the mixture is too sloppy you can add couple tablespoons of chickpea flour.
  6. Line a baking tray with non stick baking paper. Make 12 - 16 falafels (I made 12 larger ones). The job will be easier if you wet your hands before shaping your falafels, the mix won’t stick to your hands. I find it I have to wet my hands every 3-4 falafels.
  7. Place the falafels on the baking sheet and bake at 180C for 20 minutes turning over half way through.




Yesterday I watched BBC program about insect eating. Stefan Gates, the culinary globetrotter, explored the idea whether insect eating could save the world. We are all aware that the worldwide meat demand is becoming rather insatiable. In addition to the meat centric Western diets, new emerging economies are abandoning traditional ways of eating and consume more and more meat. We are faced with rising prices and incredible cost to the environment. Insects on the other hand are plentiful (in warmer climates), cheap, low methane producers, high in protein and apparently tasty. Insect farming would definitely be better for the environment than cattle farming.

Stefan in another BBC report tried to convince some students (yes they will try anything once!) to sample his meal worm burgers. He added nuts, vegetables and spices... he basically made a veggie burger with the addition of some ground up meal worms. Needles to say students didn’t think insect eating will become the next big thing in our restaurants.

Do we really need to find more animal protein sources? It is easy to get enough protein in our diet from plants. No need to bite on insect shells, ant eggs or grinding worms into burgers. And no, the though of tarantula bottom tasting very creamy (as the Cambodian children described it) is not appealing at all. I will stick to my veggie diet :)


There are a few steps in this recipe but it is worth it. Great dinner party dish.

Serves 4

roasted veggies
2 red pepper
2 medium parsnips
2 sweet potatoes
2 onions
2 aubergines
1/2 tbs rapeseed oil

spiced chickpeas
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli pepper, finely chopped
1/2tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam massala
2 tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and diced
1/2 c water
2 tin of chickpeas, drained
lemon juice to taste
salt to taste

cashew coriander sauce
1 cup cashews (soaked for at least 30min and drained)
60-90ml (1/4-1/3 cup) water
1/2 tsp dried garlic powder
1 tsp dried onion powder
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbs fresh coriander, finely chopped

250ml (1 cup) couscous

  1. Cut up all the vegetables into bite size pieces place onto a roasting tray, mix with the 1/2 of oil and roast at a 200C oven for about 30-40 min or until all vegetables are cook through and start to caramelise
  2. While the vegetables are roasting make the spiced chickpeas. In a medium saucepan heat about couple tablespoons water, add the garlic and chilli and cooked till softened, adding more water if needed.
  3. Next add the turmeric and garam masala. Cook briefly for about 30seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes to the spices and cook for about 5 minutes until they become soft and pulpy.
  5. Next add water and the chickpeas. Simmer for the rest of the cooking time of the vegetables, about 20min. Add lemon juice to taste just before serving.
  6. Prepare the couscous. Put the couscous in a large bowl, pour just boiled water over it, the water should cover the chickpeas by 1 cm. Cover with cling film and let it sit until the rest is finished.
  7. Finally prepare the sauce, put cashews, water, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon juice and process till smooth. Add in the chopped coriander.




It has been estimated that about 15% of the population are Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sufferers. Unfortunately I am one of them. My GP has done tests years ago to rule out Crohn’s and concluded that IBS it was. He prescribed some Fybogel sachets and antispasmodics to be taken every day. If I suffered weekly I would have probably taken all that he recommended however my IBS is not of very frequent occurrence and I hate taking any meds. Last three times I suffered were November (2011), August and September. I just couldn’t justify medicating myself with antispasmodics for something that comes once every few months. I will admit to having a trusty packet of strong painkillers in my drawer just in case the pain gets really bad, but it hardly gets used. I learnt to deal with IBS in my own way.

These are my personal strategies (different strategies work for different people):

I have tried to find a trigger food but without a huge success. Lactose is a very common trouble maker and indeed cutting out dairy has helped (less frequent flare ups) but it has not eliminated my IBS completely. Low fibre and high refined sugar diet tend to aggravate IBS however my fibre intake is generally high and refined sugar intake very low.

Stress can bring IBS on and reducing it through relaxation and meditation, or just simple "me time" is very helpful. The stress doesn't have to be only psychological I do tend to get IBS after a cold or any other infection. Hence supporting my immune system is also very important in minimising the frequency of IBS flare ups.

Listening to my body has been the first line of defence. I can spot my symptoms when they are just starting, slight tinge in my back (yes I get horrid back pain with my IBS) and going off food are the first indications of a brewing trouble. I can actually be halfway through a meal when I realise I can’t stomach another spoonful. This is a definite sign as I am generally known for my insatiable appetite.

When I spot the first signs I just have to stop eating, 24 hrs usually does the trick and can stop (or at least lessen) the pain which can be rather unbearable. The pain I experience starts in my back followed by pain in my abdomen, especially the upper part. Nausea, bloating and constipation are soon to follow. Hot bath relieves the back pain for a while, unfortunately it doesn’t last...Hot water bottle and wrapping myself in blankets helps a little too.

After 24 hrs of not eating I start gently. A plate of boiled potatoes is usually my first choice, and yes they taste amazing! Some broccoli on the side a tahini sauce seem to be gentle enough not to bring any pain back. I can't eat any raw foods for 48hrs apart from bananas when IBS attacks. And strictly no alcohol or anything with vinegar.

I have a bottle of probiotic powder and I should be taking them everyday. However I am notoriously bad at taking supplements... I try to put them in my smoothies, on top of my porridge or into my soya yoghurt...that is if I remember. I will have to set a reminder on my phone....( I am much better with my B12) Probiotics are a key treatment for IBS.

My IBS and I have been on a journey, getting to know it well had been an important strategy, I am on top of it most of the time. And I am determined the turn most of the time into always.

Here is a gentle soup that I made last time I had IBS. It is delicious and you don’t have to have IBS to make it :)



Makes 2 portions

1 onion, chopped finely
1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, sliced
vegetable stock
fresh coriander (cilantro) - optional

  1. Put onion, ginger, sweet potatoes and carrot into a sauce pan.
  2. Cover with vegetable stock. It should reach about 1/2 inch above your veggies.
  3. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 20-30min or till veggies are tender.
  4. Blend till smooth.
  5. Serve garnished with coriander.