Leek and potato soup with mushrooms and repeat offenders


After a busy week for tumbles — my husband fell backwards off his horse and frontwards off his bike — we had planned to go the beach for lunch on Sunday. Léo however had other plans; he performed a forward somersault off his bike and landed on his already twice-fractured arm.

Emergency departments are never a pretty sight, but even less so on Sunday mornings when they’re full of bloody rugby players (I don’t have anything against rugby players, but they always seem to have blood spouting from somewhere), and the dregs of Saturday night. As they fast track young children, I told Léo to make himself look little, which, as he’s over 6ft now, made me sound a bit insane.

The receptionist greeted us like old friends and commented more than once on the fact that our family’s records took up a substantial amount of room on her database. As this was potentially his fourth broken arm (he once very efficiently broke them both at the same time), she wondered if he might have any deficiencies. I said that yes, I was convinced he had a number of deficiencies: fear and common sense to name but two. She looked at me strangely and said that she had be thinking more along the lines of calcium or vitamin D. In the end, it turned out that his arm wasn’t broken, just badly dented, which didn’t really sound much better to me, but I suppose it made for a change. For some reason, on our way out I felt compelled to shout over to the receptionist like a madwoman that his arm wasn’t properly broken this time. I felt the need to justify as she’d made me feel like a repeat offender. I suppose she might have a point…

Leeks are an extremely rich source of  vitamin K which is surprisingly important for bone health. Mind you, so is avoiding falling off your horse or bike. Vitamin K has repeatedly been shown to help avoid bone fractures. Leeks also contain substantial quantities of vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus and are a rich source of allicin, a sulphur-containing compound with anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.

Ingredients (serves 6)

45g butter

6 small leeks, rinsed and diced

2 large potatoes, peeling and diced

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

1 thyme sprig

2 bay leaves

500ml chicken stock  (or vegetable if you prefer)

1 teaspoon paprika

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons crème fraîche

85g mushrooms, sliced

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the leeks, potatoes, garlic, shallots and thyme and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the stock and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Remove the thyme and bay leaves. Blend the soup until smooth and add the crème fraîche. Fry the mushroom in a little butter until golden brown, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add a spoonful of mushrooms to each bowl of soup and serve.

Chicken and sweet pepper tagine and cowboys on bicycles



Somebody is going to have to give me a crash course in human logic, or lack thereof, because there are things I’m currently struggling to understand. First of all, I thought that the main function of a butcher was to provide you with an endless supply of slobberingly succulent meat. Not so apparently. The Tall One believes our butcher to be of unparalleled counsel when it comes to his own joints, cartilage and bones and takes his advice over the doctor’s when it comes to treating his dodgy knee. So, since the butcher told him that cycling was the way forward, he has had his bicycle surgically attached (have you noticed that I’ve mastered the metaphor?).

The Tall One and Bossy sometimes take Texas, the very old horse, and Bijou, the very young, insufferably silly horse to a field where proximity to a river and shady oak trees means the grass stays lush year-round. Taking them there is one thing, bringing them back quite another. Bijou has a tendency to pinch the head collars from their ‘safe place’ and hide them. So, bearing in mind that humans are meant to be of superior intelligence, this is what I don’t understand: Why don’t they just find another place to store the head collars? Bijou gets the better of them every time which means that, as he’s quite good at hiding things, they invariably come back ‘au natural’  (the horses, not the intellectually-challenged humans). The sight of Bossy and Tall trying to round them up on their bicycles makes it all worthwhile though.

So to conclude, if you’ve got dodgy knees, the butcher’s your man. And if you want to outwit your animals Bossy and Tall are most certainly not…


I have to say that Bossy outdid herself with this dish, although I might only be saying that because I feel a bit mean inferring that she and her husband are ‘intellectually-challenged’. I’m not usually a big fan of spices, but this was subtly fragrant and the tagine dish was a pleasure to lick clean.

Ingredients (serves 4)

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

8 chicken thighs

Juice of half a lemon

4 medium-sized carrots, peeled and cut

1 red pepper, washed and cut into strips

1 green pepper, washed and cut into strips

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon coriander

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bay leaf

Two tablespoons of honey

200g dried prunes

150ml chicken stock

Fresh coriander to serve

Gently brown the onions, garlic and chicken in the olive oil in a medium-sized casserole dish (or a tagine if you have one). Once golden brown (after about five minutes), add the lemon juice, carrots, peppers, seasoning and spices and continue to brown for a further five minutes. Add the honey, prunes and chicken stock and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer for about half an hour with the lid on and then remove the lid to allow the sauce to caramelise slightly. Sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander. Delicious served with couscous.


Apple cider vinegar: an impressive multitasker


The word vinegar translates to vin aigre, which means ‘sour wine’ in French. One of the earliest noted uses of apple cider vinegar was by Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. He used it extensively, sometimes mixed with honey, as a remedy for a multitude of ailments.

It has been purported to cure just about every condition under the sun at some time or another. While some claims of its plethora of healing powers may be exaggerated, it is, in my opinion, most beneficial for digestive health. I take a couple of teaspoons in a glass of water every morning and haven’t suffered from indigestion for a long time.


Rich in enzymes, apple cider vinegar aids digestion when there is a lack of stomach acid; a lack of hydrochloric acid is the most common reason for indigestion and reflux problems. It also acts as a natural prebiotic by encouraging the growth of good bacteria in the intestine. In addition, the acetic acid has also been shown to help with mineral absorption, which means you get the most out of the food you eat. The consumption of apple cider vinegar on a regular basis helps the gut flora function more efficiently.

The vinegar contains a perfect balance of 19 minerals including potassium, phosphorus, chlorine, sodium, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, iron, fluorine, silicon and zinc. Drinking a couple of teaspoons diluted in water is an excellent way to replace electrolytes lost after exercise or during hot weather. Its potassium and magnesium content can also help relieve leg cramps. It is rich in enzymes which boost chemical reactions in the body, and malic acid which protects from viruses, bacteria and fungus.

The acetic acid content of apple cider vinegar slows the digestion of starch, tempering the insulin response and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Numerous studies show that vinegar can increase insulin sensitivity and significantly lower blood sugar responses after eating. It also contains pectin which helps to regulate blood pressure and ash which contributes to the maintenance of an alkaline state in the body.

And one of apple cider vinegar’s more random abilities is its effectiveness in stopping hiccups in their tracks. It works by cancelling out the message sent to the brain to hiccup by overstimulating the nerves responsible for the spasms. It is also effective to reduce the itchiness, redness and inflammation of insect bites.

The best form of apple cider vinegar to buy is the ‘mother’ form – the pure, murky, unpasteurised form. And obviously it should be organic: choosing apple cider vinegar made with organic apples is the best way to maximize the nutrient content and minimize your exposure to pesticides.


Hazelnut mocha cake (gf) and hiring a PA



Noisy is a resourceful boy: Within a day of returning to school last week, he had found himself a very efficient personal assistant. A much-needed personal assistant I might add because, although he’s a clever boy, he doesn’t do well with practical matters and is rather absent-minded. Quite often he asks me what day it is and whether or not he’s had lunch yet. His new assistant ‘phones him in the morning to tell him which classroom he should go to and at what time, and in return Noisy advises on homework matters.

I have decided to take a leaf out of Noisy’s book and recruit a PA for myself. I believe that in some circles, you don’t even exist if you don’t have a PA. I’m having difficulty finding someone though. So far I’ve had applications from Java (ha ha, in your dreams Java), a couple of hens and a somewhat persistent hedgehog. Still, I’m quite determined because things can’t go on like this – I have too many slap-happy charges. Last week Bossy went flying over the handlebars of her mountain bike because Java chased a deer onto the track in front of her, and Java pinched a pair of Bossy’s shoes and vomited into them. I have taken to hiding in the shower for some respite. Please let me know if you can suggest any suitable applicants.


Hazelnuts are a good source of oleic and linoleic acids and are also rich in dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytochemicals.

Ingredients (10 servings)

150g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa)

115g coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 tablespoons black coffee

4 eggs, separated

100g cane sugar

100ml plain yoghurt

70g ground hazelnuts

40g buckwheat flour

75g hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and prepare a medium-sized loaf tin. Melt the chocolate and coconut oil until smooth and add the vanilla extract and coffee. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and yogurt until light and smooth and then combine with the melted chocolate/coconut oil/coffee. Mix the ground hazelnuts, buckwheat flour, chopped hazelnuts, salt and bicarbonate of soda together and combine with the egg yolk and chocolate mixture. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks and gently but thoroughly fold into the mocha mixture. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the tin and leave to cool. Delicious served alone or with Greek yoghurt or ice cream.

Fresh figs with ginger mascarpone and honey and Bijou on the drums


We’ve been sleeping with the all windows wide open to make the most of the slightly cooler night air, which means that I was woken at 3am a few days ago by a very noisy, metallic and somewhat unorthodox rendition of When The Saints Go Marching In. After a quick recce, which involved almost knocking myself out on a wooden beam, I came to the conclusion that I hadn’t actually fallen asleep in a sleazy jazz club, and the appalling racket was coming from the direction of the stables. Never underestimate my powers of deduction. Torch in hand, I soon discovered Bijou (our youngest horse) in full swing by the water trough, which I suppose must be the equine equivalent of a bar. He had got hold of two metal buckets, three tins, a broom and a hoof pick and was delighting in putting each item to maximum sonic use with the help of his hooves and surrounding walls, whilst strutting his funky stuff. The other horses were looking on slightly bemused and I don’t think I’m mistaken in saying that one of the more adoring hens (Bijou is very handsome) was tapping her foot in time to the surprisingly rhythmic din. Hugo and Java slept right through the performance – I don’t think they can be jazz connoisseurs.


My musical nights mean I’m not always in a state to contemplate elaborate recipes, but I think some of the nicest dishes are a happy marriage of flung-together ingredients. This is a good example.

Figs are a particularly rich source of minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper. They are also high in fibre and vitamins A, E and K. Figs also contain prebiotics, which help support the pre-existing good bacteria in the gut, improving digestion and general health.

Ingredients (serves 4)

12 fresh figs, cleaned and cut in half

8 large tablespoons of mascarpone

2 teaspoons ginger, freshly grated

4 tablespoon runny honey

20 walnuts, roughly broken

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Arrange the figs in individual desert bowls. Combine the mascarpone and freshly grated ginger and add two large tablespoons per bowl. Drizzle a tablespoon of honey over the figs and mascarpone, add the walnuts and finally sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve immediately!



Crab and kelp noodle salad and kayak dyslexia


For anyone who hasn’t tried kayaking, I can highly recommend it – it’s enormous fun. Especially if the person at the helm (in our case, my husband) yelling navigation instructions suffers from left-right dyslexia and is wearing heavy-duty earplugs. We had friends to stay and decided to hire two kayaks to travel 10 kms down a very wild and unspoilt river nearby. Léo organised the teams, taking the person most likely to agree to capsizing at will with him, leaving me with my momentarily deaf husband and girlfriend with whom I chat relentlessly. Hence the earplugs.

Between the incessant chat, barked back-to-front instructions from our ear-plugged, laterally-challenged helmsman, our unheard retorts and copious giggling fits, we descended the river in the most inelegant and perilous zigzag fashion imaginable, ploughing into the banks on one side, only to veer off to hit the verges on the other side. At one point, we all had to disembark to dig the front half of the kayak out of particularly prodigious sandbank. Meanwhile, Léo and his teammate’s boat was approximating a washing machine on spin cycle, and they were dunking in and out of the water like over-excited labradors.

When we finally arrived at our destination, I was mortified to see that our party were the only ones to be soaked through. I was also covered in wet sand, bumps and scratches and a tree branch had taken root in my hair.

Glancing at the brochure when we got home, absolutely wrung out, I was amazed to see that there were all sorts of wildlife to be seen on the descent – turtles, rare birds, salamanders, otters and beavers. Of course, we had created such chaos that all the wildlife had fled, bar a very intimidating and bossy-looking duck that had quacked at us in outrage. Who can blame him?


Needless to say my shorts were no longer white at the other end!

Ingredients (serves 4)

400g kelp noodles

200g crab meat (I used tinned)

3 shallots, chopped

100g sweetcorn

2 small carrots, julienned

1 red pepper, julienned

100g cashew nuts

handful of mint leaves


4 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, crushed

1 clove of garlic, crushed

½ teaspoon chilli powder

Drain the noodles and add to a large bowl. Add the crabmeat, shallots, sweetcorn, carrots, cucumber nuts and mint leaves and mix well with your hands. Combine the ingredients for the dressing together in a jar and shake well. Add the dressing to the salad, mix well and serve.

Double chocolate buckwheat cookies (gf) and pointless activities



Bossy and Noisy went on holiday to the Pyrenees recently. Bossy actually considered taking Java with them for about three seconds, before coming to her senses with a jolt. It would have been funny though – the thought of Java in a hotel makes me chuckle. She doesn’t own a lead and thinks it’s OK to jump on to the table while people are eating. I don’t think she’s ever even been to a restaurant before. Unlike me, sophisticated she is not. It’s a shame that she didn’t go though, because it would have been more relaxing for me; as it was I had to put up with her incessant crying and whining. It got so much that I taught her a new game: Running Away. She got quite hooked on it and played every day they were away, much to my delight. It put the wind up The Tall One though I can tell you – I don’t think he fancied the idea of telling Bossy that he’d lost her little dog.


Bossy and Noisy got up to all sorts of foolish activities such as going up to the top of the mountain and coming back down again on two-wheeled contraptions at full pelt. How futile does that sound? I can just imagine how Bossy must have shrieked – I’m glad I wasn’t there to subject my poor ears to the certain GBH. Noisy confided in me that he went well ahead to disassociate himself from her; he’s at an age when he gets very embarrassed by his parents. In my opinion he’d be quite justified in always being at that age. He also climbed up some very tall trees and swung from branch to branch. I don’t understand the need to do that at all – it’s not as if he’s a monkey. Well, I suppose he is a bit of a monkey, but still.


Then they went down a very rough and angry-looking white river on a rubber raft. Why on earth would you pay to do that? It sounded very dangerous to me and I’m beginning to worry for their sanity. Obviously their sanity is an ongoing cause for concern, but now even more than ever. The Tall One was worried all the time they were away about whether they were going to return intact as they’re both quite prone to broken bones, but they came back in one piece – or two pieces as the case may be – and normal (I use the term lightly) service was resumed.


Ingredients (makes 25-30 biscuits)

125g buckwheat flour (or normal flour is you prefer)

50g ground almonds

50g oat flakes

½ teaspoon ginger powder

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

50g cocoa powder

50g chocolate chips (I broke up some 70% dark chocolate)

25g chopped or flaked almonds

80g cane sugar

80g coconut oil

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Mix the flour, ground almonds, oats, ginger, salt, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, flaked almonds and sugar in a bowl and set aside. Melt the coconut oil over a gentle heat and mix the eggs and vanilla together. Add the melted coconut oil to the dry mixture, combining well and then add the egg mixture, continuing to mix well. Roll into a sausage shape, roughly 5cm thick. Refrigerate for several hours or even overnight.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Cut the dough into slices of just under a centimetre and space out onto a greased baking sheet. Cook for 12 minutes and leave to cool.