All of the pleasure, none of the pain

It’s properly cold now. I mean it’s only getting up to 16°C during the day. Well, OK, but it has been 1°C overnight. And the Aussies have NO IDEA about insulation, double glazing, or appropriate heating for their houses. I fear I may lose some fingers.

Now can I get some sympathy?

For me, as well as for my poor cats, the only answer is to stuff in the calories like they’re going out of fashion. It’s a dangerous game and is the reason Bertie has turned into a little dumpling in a few short weeks.


But I still need to eat, so I thought I’d roll out the fun-free cake again, this time in a different incarnation.

apple and date cake

Apple and date cake

This time I replaced a third of the dried fruit with diced apple and sliced the remaining apple to line in the bottom of the tin, along with a little spray oil, before baking. I also added 1 tsp cinnamon. Goddamn, it was delicious!

For interest’s sake, I thought I’d do a little calorie counting. Each 70g slice (1/12th) contains:*

  • 15g dried fruit, 30g fresh fruit and 20ml fruit juice
  • 8g of almonds
  • 3g protein
  • 2g fibre
  • 140 kcals (600kJ) (vs 275kcals (1170kJ) for shop-bought lemon drizzle)

But … that’s nearly half the calories.

So I had two pieces. With some Baileys ice cream.

I am my own worst enemy.


*I am not a nutritionist and all the maths is my own. You’ve been warned.

Sugar: to tax or not to tax, that is the question

Despite the example set by raft of countries worldwide, the apparent support of the public and calls from Jamie Oliver no less, there was no announcement on a sugar tax in Tuesday’s budget.


I am entirely ambivalent on the issue. The more I think about it, the more undecided I become. Whilst I can see there is an obesity crisis in which sugar no doubt plays a part, I can’t help think this game would be better played if the government were not to beat the population with a financial stick, but rather lead it with a carrot. Literally.

Isn’t this is issue about education?

I think I would like to be able to buy food at the price the producer and retailer set, without interference by the government, deciding for myself how much sugar I consume based on what I understand it will do to my body.

But on the other hand, I don’t have a couple of calorie-crazed kids at my heel, screaming ‘Mummy, I’m hungry, can I have chocolate/sweets/lemonade’ and the numbers speak for themselves:

tax saves lives

So perhaps I should shut the fuck up.

Food for thought

What the hell are we doing? No, seriously, really what the fuck are we playing at?

There are so many things us humans are doing – to each other, to the planet and to its other inhabitants – that are so very wrong/immoral/cruel/selfish/just pure evil, I can’t bear to watch the news for fear of hearing what suffering we’ve inflicted today.

If you think that, as a single person, there’s nothing you can do to make the world a better place, you’re wrong.

You make informed decisions, and you do as much as YOU can – then the world is already a better place.

This is one person’s contribution to making us all better human beings by thinking about what we eat, and the implications of where it comes from, which made my heart warm a little:

food for thought vanessa kimbell
It’s just a bit of a shame (and more than a little ironic) that it’s not available as an ebook. However, you can use Look Inside to read the introduction (which is thought-provoking in itself) and if you press the Kindle tab at the top of the page, you can tell the publisher you’d like to read this as an ebook – that’s my contribution for this morning 🙂

Pea and avo pasta with fennel

This might be my new pasta obsession – I always have to have one on the go. I would cheerfully lick the blades of the food processor to get at the smears of sauce hiding from my persistent spatula.

pea and avo pasta with fennel

Pasta with pea, avocado and goats cheese sauce, with caramelised fennel and Parmesan and almonds

The avocado sauce so smooth and has a really good bite of raw garlic; the caramelised fennel gives a great sweet balance to it, with the Parmesan providing the salty umami flavour.

This is easily adapted for all sorts of food intolerance without losing much:

  • GF – use GF pasta
  • LF – use lactose free cream instead of goats
  • Vegetarian – use a vegetarian hard cheese instead of Parmesan
  • Vegan – omit cheese
  • Nut free – omit almonds

I’m REALLY glad I outgrew my childhood avocado allergy though!

If you wanna make it, the recipe’s here.

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It’s what you do with it that counts

Sprouted lentil cornbread. That does NOT sound like it holds much promise. But, as with all things in life, it’s what you do with it that counts.

To your standard cornbread recipe just add diced red pepper, feta and sprouted lentils. This loaf is now sliced and stored in the freezer, ready for a fabulous brunch whenever I feel like it.

sprouted lentil cornbread

Toasted sprouted lentil cornbread, with avo, basil, Milawa goat milk Camembert and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

I’m just wondering how it will perform as a toasted cheese sandwich. I guess there’s only one way to find out … 🙂

Sprouts, not the Brussels sort

So it’s true. What goes around, comes around. And apparently sprouting is back on trend. Whilst in the seventies it was all alfalfa and mung beans, this time around it seems that you can sprout pretty much any nut, seed, legume or grain you like.

But why sprout?


  1. Improves digestibility
  2. Increases nutritional value

Soaking the bean neutralizes enzyme inhibitors, such as phytic acid, which protect the seed whilst it is dormant – unfortunately these inhibitors also inhibit your own digestive enzymes. Once neutralised, the vitamins and minerals already present in the bean become more bioavailable to you. Also, sprouted beans have a lower GI because some of the starch (particularly that indigestible rascal, raffinose) has been used by the sprout so the proportion of protein and fibre becomes higher.

I don’t need to tell you how to sprout – there are loads of articles, videos and blogs out there

I will say this though – it’s ridiculously easy and you don’t need any equipment. Because so many beans etc can be sprouted, I’m not going to go crazy buying in packets and packets of seeds that I might not use. I’m just going to use what’s already in my cupboard. For the chickpeas, I used a baking tray, a sieve and a clean tea towel. That’s it!

What I wanna know is: what do you DO with these little nutritional powerhouses? By the looks of it, there’s nothing they DON’T go in.  This week I started with chickpeas. I tried them raw – liked ’em. Sort of a nutty, crunchy texture. But I thought I would make:

Sprouted chickpea and any-veg-you’ve-got-in-the-fridge fritters

This is less of a recipe and more a technique. Do with it what you will. It’s a great recipe for using up those veggies that have started to look a little sad by the end of the week.

Switch up the flavours:

  • go Morrocan with some cumin and coriander, perhaps a little cinnamon, and serve with harissa yoghurt
  • add a tsp of garam masala to eat with a veggie curry and some popadoms with mango chutney
  • roast tomato, onion, courgette and aubergine with garlic and thyme for a side of no-trouble ratatouille
  • add ginger and chilli to the fritters and eat with a green salad and sesame soy dipping sauce
  • serve with a thick and spicy tomato salsa and a little ham
  • make them a little thicker and call them veggie burgers
sprouted chickpea fritters

sprouted chickpea fritters with pesto and poached egg

I decided I would try lentils next … and why not mix them all up? So I’ve got black, green and brown on the go. I imagine they will take 3 or 4 days. Once they are ready, I plan to make this:

Sprouted lentil cornbread toasts

Take your standard cornbread recipe and add a cup of sprouted lentils. Another great brunch dish if toasted (or fried in butter!) and served with avocado and poached eggs. Or you could turn it into salad croutons after a toasting in the oven with some oil.


There is a risk of contamination by bacteria such as E. coli and Listeria on sprouts. Do your research before partaking of any sprout, particularly raw, and assess your own personal risk, eg elderly? pregnant? Check if the current advice is to cook your chosen sprout or if it’s ok raw. If in doubt, cook it out!
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Sichuan calamari with pineapple, red pepper and sweetcorn salsa

calamari with pineapple salsa


It doesn’t get any simpler than that – barbecued calamari dusted with sichuan pepper or nanami togarashi, at your whim (both in my case); served with a salsa of red pepper, pineapple, sweetcorn, onion, coriander, chilli and lime juice.

Bliss! And calamari gets a sustainability tick of approval – it’s all good!

Eating myself clean

I always feel a bit toxic after Christmas. Sort of dirty on the inside. Know what I mean? The only thing that I want to eat is broccoli, lots and lots of broccoli with just a squeeze of lemon.

Mmmmm, brooooccooooliiiiii …

broccoli clipart

It’s a bit of cliché, but I’m getting CLEAN this New Year. I’ve heard about clean eating but haven’t really understood exactly what that actually means.

Cue a little light googling.

Ah, right! So, clean eating focuses on eating whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods but as with vegetarianism it seems to be all things to all people – there’s no right or wrong, you just go with what feels right for you and take it just as far as you want.

Here are some good explanations
Cooking Light
Clean Eating Australia

So what I’ve realised is that an advantage of having multiple food intolerances (advantage??!) is that they necessitate me cooking almost everything from scratch – so that ticks the ‘unprocessed’ box. Cooking from scratch keeps out those pesky preservatives and additives, including salt and sugar.

And as for whole/unrefined, I’ve found that as I’ve got older I’ve already become more drawn to the ‘brown’ version of foods – brown rice, wholegrain spelt flour, wholegrain spelt pasta. These foods suit me miles better – higher levels of fibre slow the release of sugar from the food and better keep my blood sugar on an even keel.

As an aside, it has long been my complaint than many market-targeted gluten-free foods are incredibly over processed, lacking in fibre whilst being high in sugar. It all seems so unnecessary. It’s this reason that drives me to make my own spelt bread rather than rely on the gf alternatives. (Although note that spelt DOES contain gluten but I’m wheat intolerant not coeliac and can tolerate spelt)

So this January, I’m looking forward to eating plenty of fresh vegetables, nuts and legumes, brown rice and quinoa with a little cheese, fish and chicken, and feeling all the better for it.

Addendum: Aubergine, butternut squash and French bean curry with brown rice and raita for dinner – that’s a win for clean eating!