Mango and ginger kulfi and fire-proof mouths


When I lived near Paris, an English friend and I used to frequent a wonderful little Indian restaurant where we invariably ordered kulfi and halwa for dessert. I’m sure they used to cringe and don their heat-proof clothing and goggles as they saw us approach because we always ordered everything extra extra hot, which is unusual in France where Indian restaurants tend to be more subtle than in the UK. I’m all for subtle; subtle is usually a good thing, but not when it comes to Indian food when my tastebuds demand strident, lurid and brash. Eating Indian food is an extreme sport for me: bungee jumping for the palate.

This ice cream is divine and absolutely perfect after a brazen vindaloo – it puts out the fire like applying aloe vera to sunburn. It is usually made with condensed milk instead of coconut cream.

Not only is ginger deliciously tangy and refreshing, it is also a potent antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory, as well as being an excellent antioxidant source. It aids digestion and helps prevent nausea and motion sickness as well as headaches, respiratory infections and arthritic pain.

Ingredients (makes about 12 mini moulds)

400ml coconut cream, any excess water removed

400ml Greek yoghurt

1 large mango, peeled and pureed

25g almonds, finely chopped

25g pistachios, finely chopped

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, ground

Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and combine well. Pour the mixture into silicon muffin moulds (I used a mixture of muffin moulds and canelé moulds). Freeze for at least two hours. Take out individual portions and leave to defrost slightly at room temperature about 45 minutes before serving. Delicious served with halwa.

Halwa and ice skating for dogs



Until today, I neither shared nor understood Java’s enthusiasm for the cold white stuff that suddenly appeared the other morning. Mind you, she’s so foolish that I don’t understand much about her at all. I refused to go out all day on Monday in the hope that it would disappear. It didn’t, and there was even more of it this morning so, after much coaxing, I agreed to accompany Bossy and Java on a walk. I soon found out that if I ran very fast and then suddenly stopped, Java (who copies everything I do) was taken by surprise, skidded, lost her balance and fell over (what’s not to like?). How anyone with four legs can actually fall over is beyond me – it just goes to show how silly she is. Bossy lost her balance a few times too *canine snigger*, but in her case it’s more understandable as she only has two legs and I suppose she’s busy trying to control her mouth, always going at full throttle. These little bonuses mean that I’ve decided that the white stuff is not so bad after all. I may even look into skiing lessons…

Halwa is a deliciously fragrant Indian dessert cake. It contains ghee, or clarified butter. Having had all dairy residue simmered off, ghee is suitable for people with dairy allergies. It is a rich source of omegas 3 and 9 as well as butyric acid which has been shown to decrease inflammation, particularly in the intestines. It is also an excellent source of vitamins A, D, E and K.

Ingredients (serves 12)

350g carrots, grated

50g raisins

50g almonds, chopped

50g pistachios, chopped

5 tablespoons ghee, melted (you could replace this with butter or coconut oil)

2 tablespoons honey

3 eggs, whisked

200g almond flour

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, crushed

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Combine the carrots, raisins, almonds, pistachios, ghee and honey in a mixing bowl. Gradually add the almond flour, bicarbonate of soda and cardamom seeds to the whisked eggs and blend until homogenous. Add the flour/egg mixture to the carrot/nut mixture and combine well. Transfer to a prepared medium-sized baking tin and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Savoury chickpea muffins and cold, white stuff


Everything was all white this morning (my punishment for making silly puns is that I now have the Bill Withers song ‘Lovely Day’ stuck on repeat in my head: ‘Then I look at you, And the world’s all white with me, Just one look at you, And I know it’s gonna be a lovely day…’).

Snow in this area is rare, which means that when it does happen, everything grinds to a halt; Hugo being a case in point. He dipped one paw into the cold, white stuff, looked around quizzically, sighed heavily and turned back into the house. Java and Léo, on the other hand, were absolutely delighted. Snow is a precious commodity. So much so that I now have a freezer full of ready-to-throw snowballs, which is, I assume, the ammunition equivalent of microwave meals. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he didn’t try to take them to school in a cooler box.

Like Hugo, the migratory cranes in the cornfield to the back of the house looked very cheesed-off. I think they were probably lamenting their choice of winter destination: ‘That’s the last time we’re coming here – what a rip-off! We flew 5,000 kilometres for a bit of sun and this is what we end up with. We could have stayed at home if we’d wanted snow!’. Maybe Hugo will migrate south next winter in case the nasty, white stuff strikes again.

javasnow2 copy

javasnow copy

Chickpeas (or garbanzos) have a very low-GI and are a rich source of fibre, making them ideal for digestive disorders and weight loss. They are also rich in protein (in the form of amino acids), minerals (especially manganese, selenium and iron), vitamin K, folates and antioxidants (saponins).

Ingredients (makes 12)

200g spelt flour

Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon chilli powder

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

400g chickpeas, pre-cooked and mashed

2 eggs, beaten

100ml olive oil

75g cheddar cheese, grated (any hard cheese will do)

1 onion, chopped

½ red pepper, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Combine the flour, seasoning, spices and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl. In a second bowl, combine the chickpeas, eggs and oil, mixing well. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, folding together well. Lastly incorporate the grated cheese, onion and red pepper. Transfer the mixture to muffin tins or moulds (I use silicon moulds) and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a fork comes out clean. Delicious served hot or cold.

Anzac biscuits and manic Monday


This morning I was to take Léo to school, Java to the vet to have her stitches removed, and my husband to the osteopath in an attempt to convince him that his ribs are fractured and that he should temporarily cut out all activities involving long ladders and roofs. We arrived at school to be told that their roof had collapsed in the night and that there would be no lessons for the foreseeable. This suited me quite well as it happens, because it meant that Léo could stay in the back seat to prevent Java from strangling herself with her lead; emergency stops on the hard shoulder to unravel dogs are always a bit of a nuisance.

While the journey was event-free, it took no fewer than four of us to hold Java down while the vet tried to take out her stitches. Fifteen kilos of hyperactive, adrenaline-fuelled, unadulterated puppy terror produce a force to be reckoned with, believe me. Obviously Luc couldn’t help, what with his dodgy ribs, but it was very useful to have him there barking orders at us all (including the vet) to ‘just hold her down for God’s sake’. The visit to the osteopath was less traumatic (Luc didn’t wriggle on the table), but she did call me in to insist upon the importance of his staying still and on terra firma for the next six weeks. I guess someone else will have to fix the school roof, although presumably he’ll be available for ‘advice’!

These biscuits are divine and really rather healthy. Oats have a low GI, are extremely high in fibre and contain a multitude of vitamins and minerals. They are also rich in beta glucans which increase the immune system’s ability to fight off bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites. Although beta glucans enhance the immune system, they don’t make it overactive and are therefore suitable for people with autoimmune diseases.

This recipe is adapted from Amber Rose’s wonderful book ‘Love. Bake. Nourish’.

Ingredients (makes 16-20)

125g spelt flour

100g desiccated coconut

40g raisins

100g rolled oats

Tablespoon chia seeds (optional)

Pinch of sea salt

75g coconut oil

50g butter

80g honey

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Prepare and grease two baking trays. Combine the flour, coconut, raisins, oats, chia seeds and salt in a large mixing bowl. Gently melt the coconut oil, butter and honey in a small saucepan and stir until smooth. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in two tablespoons of boiling water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine well.

Roll walnut-sized pieces of dough into balls and place on the baking trays, leaving space between each ball. Flatten them slightly and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool before serving.

There are always flowers for those who want to see them (Henri Matisse)


Over the past 50 years, wheat has been cross-bred to make it more resistant, shorter and faster growing. Today’s wheat is extremely inflammatory and contains substances that are difficult to digest. It is believed that the gluten found in this modern-day wheat is responsible for the rising occurrence of celiac disease, as well as benign gluten and wheat intolerance.

In addition to this, wheat’s glycemic index is very high as it contains amylopectin A, which is more easily converted to blood sugar than any other carbohydrate, including table sugar. The protein in wheat is transformed into exorphins which bind themselves to the opioid receptors in the brain, creating cravings and serious addiction. And to add insult to injury, recent research suggests that the consumption of modern wheat might trigger autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

So if you make only one change towards improving your diet this year, how about replacing wheat flour with some of the many alternatives?  Not only will you be adding flavour and goodness to your plate, you’ll be improving your overall health as well.

  • Spelt flour. This is a big favourite of mine. Although it contains gluten it is in a form  far more easily digested than the gluten in wheat. It contains more protein (in the form of amino acids) than wheat and is a rich source of B vitamins, fibre and minerals. Makes a wonderful, slightly nutty-tasting substitute for wheat flour in baking.
  • Rye flour. Rye flour also contains gluten, but again in a more digestible format. It is an excellent source of fibre, so much so that it is actually said to aid weight loss. It also contains plenty of vitamin E, calcium, iron and other trace minerals. Also well-adapted to baking, although I usually combine it with another flour as it can be a bit dry.
  • Buckwheat flour (gf). Despite its name, it’s not a type of wheat at all, but a plant closely related to rhubarb. Buckwheat is rich in protein, B vitamins and minerals (including iron). It makes wonderful pancakes and crepes and may be combined with spelt or rye flour for baking.
  • Chestnut flour (gf). Chestnut flour provides protein in the form of amino acids, fibre as well as vitamin E, B complex vitamins, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.
  • Chickpea flour (gf). Grain-free, chickpea flour is high in protein (again in the form of amino acids), folate and B vitamins, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Makes superb fritters, savoury pancakes and flatbreads.
  • Millet flour (gf). Purportedly one of the least allergenic of all flours, millet flour is gluten free and very easily digestible due to its high alkalinity. An excellent source of iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc and B vitamins.
  • Quinoa flour (gf). Quinoa flour contains about 17% protein, which makes it a richer source than any other grain flour. It also contains iron, calcium, zinc, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and copper.
  • Kamut flour. A highly nutritious flour, containing a form of gluten easier to digest than wheat. Again high in protein, it also contains potassium, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and iron.
  • Teff flour (gf). Teff has by far the highest proportion of calcium compared with other flours. It also contains amino acids, B vitamins, vitamin K and minerals. In its native Ethiopia, it is primarily used to make traditional flatbread.
  • Coconut flour (gf). Like chickpea flour, coconut flour is grain-free. It has the highest percentage of fibre (58%) of any flour. It also contains vitamin C, iron and calcium. It is delicious used in baking and may also be used for pancakes or bread.

Look here and here for more nutritional information.

Cream of mushroom and spinach soup and Hugo’s take on sterilisation



Java spent all day yesterday at the vet. Although I had a nice peaceful day, I did miss her, which is a bit like missing a sore paw really. I heard Bossy tell someone that she was being sterilised. I know that she’s inclined to be dirty (Java, not Bossy), because she’s often covered in mud (and sometimes worse), but I didn’t realise that it was that bad. And anyway, once she’s been sterilised, surely she’ll just jump into the river and roll in the mud and be dirty all over again. When she came back last night she was in a very sorry state; I think that the sterilising machine must have slipped or something because she had a big bandage on her tummy. Also, she cried all evening and couldn’t walk properly and had to be carried to bed. I’m not allowed to practise my judo on her or chew her ears for two whole weeks, which makes me wonder what the point of her is. I hope they don’t take me to the vet to be dry-cleaned because I don’t want to end up like that. She seems to be better today, but I’m not: I’m quite exhausted because I had to comfort her all night while everyone else was asleep *exploited doggy sigh*.

Thank you Hugo. I’m sorry that you’re feeling exploited, but it was very kind of you to take care of Java. This soup is packed full of nourishment. The mushrooms provide vitamins D and B complex, as well as minerals such as selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and copper. The spinach contains high levels of iron, folic acid and calcium as well as vitamins A, C and K. The butter and cream aid absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).

Ingredients (serves 6)

10g butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, finely sliced

1 clove garlic, crushed

125g mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used button mushrooms but you could use any sort)

225g baby spinach leaves

1 litre organic vegetable or chicken stock

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

100ml pouring cream

Gently heat the oil and butter in a large pan, add the onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add the mushrooms and cook for five minutes before adding the spinach, stock and seasoning. Simmer for about 15 minutes and purée until smooth. Add the cream, stirring well and serve.

Best wishes for the new year, duxelles quiche and soggy ears


A very Happy 2015 to everybody!

Our New Year has started true to form: one dog is wearing a filthy tennis sock, fetchingly held in place by a rubber band and the other dog has soggy, disheveled ears full of impossibly matted knots. Hugo had a bit of a paw mishap, which explains his incongruous footwear. Presumably to take his mind off the pain, he has taken to chewing Java’s ears, which explains her unladylike appearance. He chews them in a ‘try and stop me if you dare’ kind of way that brings to mind old westerns where the cowboys chewed ‘baccy’ and then spit it out on the ground. I’m half expecting him to thump down a shot glass and growl for another whisky to wash down his ribs and beans. I never imagined for a second that I might one day need advice on how to untangle an English Setter’s soggy ears and yet, here I am asking. If anyone can impart some wisdom it would be most welcome because I’ve tried combing, brushing, coaxing and blackmail to no avail. She’s very fidgety and slippery and it’s a bit like trying to coif a hyperactive eel which, all things considered, I could probably do without…

These mushroom quiches are really tasty and quite rich. The crushed oats make the pastry particularly crisp, nicely complimenting the filling.

Ingredients (serves 6 – 8)


100g spelt flour

50g buckwheat flour

50g crushed oats

1 tablespoon olive oil

50g butter

20g virgin coconut oil

Roughly 6 tablespoons of cold water


4 large mushrooms, finely chopped

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 rashers of bacon, finely chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 egg

150 ml double cream

To make the pastry, begin by cutting the butter and coconut oil into small cubes. Add to the flours and oats in a mixing bowl and add a pinch of sea salt. Blend by hand until the mixture becomes crumbly. Add the cold water, mixing rapidly with a spoon. Remove the mixture from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until you obtain a ball of pastry (if the mixture isn’t ‘sticky’ enough to form a ball, you may need a drop more water). Wrap in a clean cotton tea towel and leave to ‘rest’ in the fridge for about two hours. This relaxes the dough and makes it easier to use.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Roll out the pastry on a clean, lightly floured surface and fill the tart tin or tins. As this pastry contains buckwheat flour and oats it will be quite fragile. You’ll find that you have to treat it delicately and possibly fill in the cracks with remaining bits of pastry by pressing gently. I use individual tart tins. Precook the pastry for 12 minutes.

To make the filling, combine the finely chopped mushrooms, shallots and bacon and line the quiche cases with the mixture. Break the egg into a small bowl and add the cream and seasoning (salt, pepper, paprika). Beat well to form a homogenous mixture. Pour the egg/cream mixture over the top and cook for 18 minutes.