The wonders of garlic


Garlic is one of the most broad-reaching therapeutic plants in existence. Louis Pasteur observed garlic’s antibacterial activity in 1858 and it has been used as a food and medicine for thousands of years. Greek military leaders fed it to their troops to strengthen them for combat and the Russians used it to treat soldiers’ wounds during World War II after they ran out of antibiotics.

Indeed garlic has a myriad of medicinal uses. Its antioxidant activity and high sulphur content offer powerful protection against blood clot formation. The sulphur-based essential oils, which cause the pungent odour, are extremely effective at destroying both viruses and bacteria as they move through the body, in particular in the respiratory and digestive tracts. It is also second to none for expelling worms.

The high sulphur content of garlic is also very useful for joint health. Sulphur makes up about 75% of all connective tissues and a good dietary source offers support to these tissues, making sure that they stay strong and supple.

Garlic is also now often used for its advantageous effect on the cardiovascular system. Hundreds of studies show that garlic offers protection against the formation of plaques within artery walls. In addition to this, garlic seems to lower blood pressure, probably by it vasodilatory action which causes blood vessels to relax thus lowering overall pressure.

There is even evidence to suggest that regular garlic consumption may protect against colon cancer by protecting the cells from damage (antimutagenic effect). It has a positive effect on digestion in general and swelling and irritation may be rectified with regular consumption.

Although adding garlic to your dishes will always be enormously beneficial (and delicious) whichever way you decide to use it, the absolute best way to consume it is raw. What’s more, the oils are made even more powerful when garlic is crushed or very finely chopped as this starts the enzymatic process that releases the active compounds. Use garlic raw in salad dressings, over roasted vegetables or added to your dishes at the last minute. Bon appétit!


Spaghetti alla vodka and dogs on ditches



Hello everyone! Due to Broken Bossy’s temporary incapacitation I have taken on many extra responsibilities, including cooking and writing today’s blog. Obviously I’m quite exhausted, but BB is progressing very well, although she had a bit of a cold which caused her to utter eye-wateringly naughty words every time she sneezed. Still, on the bright side, at least she lost her voice for a bit which, believe me, had not been adversely affected by the accident. I don’t consult with Java on many subjects as I don’t ever believe she can contribute to my overflowing fountain of wisdom and knowledge, but I did ask her recently what she thought about the ditch incident. We are both completely flummoxed as to all the fuss and bother involved. How could you possibly hurt yourself so badly falling into one in the first place, and how could it take so long and involve so many people to get out? Java and I are in and out of ditches all day without so much as a blink of an eye, but Bossy? Not so; one little ditch visit and it’s pandemonium followed by wheelchair, crutches and an onslaught of barked commands for the next six weeks. I really don’t know why humans think they’re superior – they’re so fragile! I’m just glad to be a tough, ditch-smart dog.

I’m not an expert at cooking for humans so we’re eating lots of things from the freezer, which seems to be packed full of bags of tomato sauce. If you already have a good tomato sauce, this recipe is very easy and I thought that the vodka content might help with BB’s pain a bit!

Ingredients (serves 4)

250g spaghetti (I used spelt spaghetti)

Pinch of sea salt

300g fresh tomato sauce

75ml vodka

75ml cream

Grated Parmesan and freshly-ground black pepper for serving

Cook the pasta in salted water according to the instructions. Add the tomato sauce and vodka to a medium saucepan and heat for a few minutes, stirring well, until the mixture begins to reduce. Add the cream, stir to combine and then reduce heat and leave to simmer very gently for a few minutes. Combine the drained pasta and sauce and toss to mix well. Sprinkle on the Parmesan, grind on the pepper and serve.

This recipe has been submitted to the ‘Pasta Please Challenge’, hosted by Supper in the Suburbs and Tinned Tomatoes.

Ditzes in ditches


I spent the better part of the morning of Tuesday 8th September languishing in a deep, sandy ditch. Ten days on, I’m just beginning to see the funny side:  ‘Last Tuesday firemen were urgently called into the middle of absolutely nowhere to save an ‘anglaise’ who had forgotten to apply superglue to her saddle that morning. Her young horse, having been scared witless by a lifting pheasant, took off home at a flat-out gallop, but not before finding the time to rear up, swerve and plunge into a nearby ditch where he unscrupulously deposited his rider.’

My compliments to the firemen who fulfil the role of paramedics in rural France, because just finding me was a challenge in itself; ‘I’m in a ditch next to a cornfield’ is really quite unhelpful when you are surrounded by hundreds of square kilometres of ditches and cornfields. Strangely enough, I spent my time waiting for them to arrive fretting about sunburn, my abandoned breakfast dishes and all the other things I should have been doing had I not been skiving off 2m under. Although totally unable to move, I wasn’t particularly uncomfortable (apart from an irritating mouthful of sand) and it never occurred to me that once I’d been hauled out I wouldn’t be walking back home to make a late lunch.

Arriving at Emergency, the doctor’s first words were ‘bloody horses – they should all be turned into mincemeat’, which I though was a rather insensitive thing to say to a horse lover like me. I’m now at home with four broken vertebrae and exceedingly impressive multicolour bruising. I had a lucky escape thanks to my airbag vest, which did a pretty good job of protecting my upper body. I’m pleased to say that my voice escaped unscathed and is getting lots of exercise barking orders at anyone crazy enough to stay within hearing distance.

Barbecue sauce and fried neurones


My nerves have taken a hit this week. Léo, in a bid to make up for lost time after finally having his plaster cast removed, thought that running with bulls, swinging from trees on ropes and bumper cars would all be excellent rehabilitation techniques. His schemes, each more horrifying than the last, had me rushing to enquire about the possibility of having hand brakes and airbags installed on the horses.


Java befriended a hedgehog and has a permanently bloody nose as a result. Without wishing to cast aspersions, I think she’s yet to make the link between her bleeding nose and new-found love. Even the eminently wise Hugo has become self-appointed Inspector of Wasp Nests and has a nasty sting above his eye to show for it. It seems that the long-lasting extreme heat has got to us all – hopefully our neurones will fall back into place in the next few days, although I’m not holding my breath…


I made this barbecue chicken dish for Léo’s birthday – he’s a big fan. It is made with fresh tomato sauce which makes it relatively healthy, and it’s deliciously tangy. I cooked it in the oven, but I’m sure it would be excellent barbecued too.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

150ml fresh tomato sauce

100ml apple cider vinegar

Dash of worcester sauce

50g cane sugar

3 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer for about five minutes, or until the sauce begins to thicken. Coat the chicken and cook for about 25 minutes or until the coating begins to caramelise.

Peach muffins and broken bone competitions


Since the beginning of the summer holidays, Léo has been sporting a hefty plaster cast on his broken left arm (his third to date). Unfortunate at the best of times, but even more uncomfortable and itchy when temperatures are in the high 30s. We went to the pharmacy to pick up his painkillers and someone in the queue (there are always woe-laden queues in French pharmacies) – very helpfully I thought – started to list all the things he wouldn’t be able to do this summer: tennis, beach, pool, riding, rafting, mountain biking, skateboarding, windsurfing… As Léo’s face started to drop, I decided to whisk him away before she could delight us any further. We went for a drink in a café to boost our spirits, where the owner immediately started to regale us with in-depth tales of her multiple fractures, insisting on how lucky Léo was not to have broken his leg. We downed our drinks before her competitiveness got the better of her and she felt compelled to produce any further anecdotes to ‘out fracture’ him. I was very tempted to stop at the pharmacy on the way home for a heavy-duty anti-depressant for both of us, but decided against it in case we bumped into anyone else wanting to contribute to the list of Things We Won’t Be Able To Do This Summer.


The powdered hazelnut in these muffins is rich in the bone-building – or rebuilding as the case may be – minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Ingredients (makes 12)

100ml olive oil

100g cane sugar

2 organic eggs

150g spelt flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

100g ground hazelnuts

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon garam masala

50ml yogurt (or milk)

2 peaches, peeled, and cut into rough cubes

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the olive oil and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until pale. Add a spoonful of flour, beat again, then add the eggs, beating further until the mixture is light and fluffy, adding a little more flour to prevent curdling if necessary. Gently fold in the rest of the flour, baking powder, ground hazelnuts, seasoning and yoghurt and combine. Lastly, gently fold in the peaches. Spoon the mixture into muffin trays and bake for 25 minutes.

Banana tart and rabbits might fly



I think that Java might have experienced what we psychologists refer to as a psychotic break. Being surrounded by creatures – human and animal – of questionable sanity, I recently felt the need to go on a course, which is how I am in a position to say this. I’m not sure whether I should mention my diagnosis to Bossy or not; she thinks Java’s just an adorable scatterbrain and I don’t really want to be the one to break the bad news. Anyway, Java spends hours every morning and every evening gazing at baby rabbits with her head cocked and one foot in the air. She looks, frankly, more than a little bit foolish, and that’s being charitable. I mean, she’s a hunting dog so you’d think she’d try to catch them instead of staring at them gormlessly. I know that she’s bred to hunt birds, but it’s still very odd. I think that she’s probably waiting for them to spread their wings and fly away, but in view of the fact that they’re rabbits, that’s just not going to happen. I don’t put her straight though because while she’s busy being half-witted, I get some uninterrupted peace.


Ingredients (serves 6)


80g coconut oil

150g spelt flour

35g dessicated coconut

Pinch of sea salt

Roughly 6 tablespoons of cold water


3 medium-sized bananas, sliced into 1cm pieces

2 eggs, beaten

50g coconut sugar

30g desiccated coconut

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

200ml double cream

1 teaspoon rum

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

To make the pastry, begin by cutting coconut oil into small cubes. Add this to the flour and desiccated coconut with a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl. Blend by hand until the mixture becomes crumbly. Add the cold water, mixing 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 or some cling film 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. Cook the pastry for 15 minutes. Arrange the bananas evenly over the surface of the pre-cooked tart. Add the eggs, coconut sugar, desiccated coconut, vanilla essence, cream, rum, cinnamon and nutmeg to a bowl and combine to create a homogenous mixture. Pour over the bananas and cook for 30 minutes, or until the filling is no longer wobbly. Delicious served either lukewarm or chilled.


Quinoa salad and it’s raining shoes, hallelujah!


Humidity is rising – barometre‘s getting low
According to all sources, the street’s the place to go
‘Cause tonight for the first time
Just about half-past two
For the first time in history
It’s gonna start raining shoes.

Like most 12-year-olds, Léo is partial to sleeping in the morning, especially during the holidays. Unfortunately for him, the morning is the time when the hens are at their busiest and noisiest and they seem to enjoy being particularly vocal on the terrace right under his bedroom window. This morning I was surprised to find the terrace void of hens, but brimming with a random assortment of shoes. When Léo finally emerged, I asked him if he knew anything about the shower of shoes. Looking scarily thunderous, and with a hen-like flap of his forearms he screeched: ‘CUUAAAAA cua cua cua’. So the shoe-laden terrace is obviously Léo’s take on the concept of shoeing away the hens.

Quinoa is an ancient grain, reputed to have given the Aztecs enormous strength. It is very nutrient-dense, containing more protein than any other grain. It is also extremely rich in vitamins and minerals and has significant anti-inflammatory properties. It makes a marvellous alternative to rice.

Ingredients (serves 4)

250g quinoa, cooked and cooled

100g peas, cooked ‘al dente’ and cooled

200g chickpeas, cooked and cooled

50g cashew nuts, roughly chopped

1 shallot, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

5 fresh mint leaves

Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

Mix all the ingredients together in a medium-size bowl, adding the mint leaves, seasoning and olive oil and lemon last. Mix well and serve slightly chilled!