Random Recipe #2

By way of an intro…

Over the years I have collected many cookbooks. Bought new ones from cooks that I admire, or made random purchases from charity shops or received them as gifts. Whatever way they have entered my home they have all been dutifully kept on the shelves that I’ve been lucky enough to have in my kitchen. Which is often where they have stayed. Relatively untouched, unthumbed and unsearched. But not, perhaps unbelievably, unloved. They are a comfort to me that also wraps me with borrowed ability by association. Simply being in their presence inspires and makes me feel confident and capable in the kitchen. I do sometimes flick through a cuisine highlighted on a particular books’ pages for some backdrop inspiration or refer to the cooking times and suggestions outlined in my all time favourite book ‘How to Eat’ by the multi faceted glory that is also known as Nigella Lawson. But follow a full recipe…? Hell no. Not because I’m so bloody marvellous in the kitchen – quite the opposite. It’s just been a case of I’m always looking at them last minute and I’ve never got the right ingredients casually lying about. Recipes need planning to have the instructions followed exactly. Also, I learned to cook through necessity. The urge to eat, and especially the urge to eat nice things, drove me into the kitchen. Here, where at the time there were no cookbooks, I hotched and I potched and I’m certain largely botched until I emerged triumphant with edible fare. Yay!

So, on to the reason for this new set of posts…

I realise that I have a lot of books that I never look at all any more. Year after year I pass over their wares which they display lovingly on their spines. Not because I eschew them but because…hmmm…actually, why do I ignore their calls…?! If I’m not going to access their inner treasures then why do I bother housing them on by precious kitchen shelf space?! Chuck ‘em out and make space I hear you cry!! Pass them on to others!! I can’t! Don’t make me!! Their presence is a stable element in my chaotic kitchen. I cannot cast them out like broken toys. It’s too emotionally traumatic for me. Such a drama queen…where’s the eye rolling emoji when I need it…

Okay, so if I’m not willing to chuck them out then it strikes me it’s about time I delved into them and explored their jewels and created some of their offerings. But where shall I start ?!? With literally hundreds to choose from how can I decide where this new adventure should begin?

So, I asked a friend for a random number – he gave me 99 – and then I asked him for another random number he gave me 142. I followed these two and they let me to this book:

’50 Great Curries Of India’ by the rather fabulous looking and clearly super clever Ms Camellia Panjabi.


…and to this recipe:


(…take careful note of the photograph especially as this will be referred to later!)

7 brief bullet points and a suggestion. Looks easy enough at a scan…let’s get started!

Number 1: ‘Soak 1 cup coconut in 2 cups warm water. Leave for half an hour then put into a blender. Strain and keep the coconut milk.’

Oh dear. Well, I don’t have coconut and nor did the local supermarket so I’ll have to use a tin of coconut milk instead. Also, just to be nit-picky (already…I know, I know…!), the instructions are to put the soaked coconut into the blender but then what…? Chop, purée, pulse, obliterate…I like to know these things. I need a descriptive adjective to use as my guide. I’d assume blend until smooth-ish but ass-u-me and all that…

Number 2: ‘In a non-stick frying pan heat 1 tablespoon of oil and sauté 1/2 cup chopped coconut for 2 – 3 minutes. Set aside.’

Hell’s teeth. Still no coconut to be had – might have a centuries old bag of desiccated someplace but, truly, I’m not keen anyway so I’m gonna just go rogue and skip this bit!

Number 3: ‘Heat another tablespoon oil and sauté half the onions and 2 – 3 minutes. Set aside.’

Phew, finally a bit I can adhere to. Except I’m using the ubiquitous red onion and I’m sure that’ll raise a Cambridge educated eyebrow in Ms CP’s Taj Hotel Group kitchen but I’ll soldier on…


Living, as I do, with a certain individual who wrinkles their (albeit perfect) nose at the mention of onions and complains that they create some unmentionable havoc, I decided to soak the onions first. I read somewhere that this might help reduce the sting in their consumption. Any truth? Anyone know? I could Google it but I’m against the clock here as I’ve got my nets on a boil wash cycle and it’s rattling towards completion.

Number 4: ‘Heat one more tablespoon of oil and sauté the red chillies, coriander, mustard, fenugreek, cumin seeds, cinnamon, peppercorns and cloves for a few minutes.’

I don’t have red chillies. Or any chillies for that matter. I used to have a plant – ‘designed to flourish in the kitchen window of any household – giving all year access to vibrant and flavourful chillies’ – but the vague and non committal sunshine that drifted into my window in Yorkshire didn’t cut the mustard let alone grow the chilli. So, I’ve got powdered – Deggi Mirch (Degi or Deghi) which is the closest I could get to Kashmiri chilli powder the day I bought it. The latter would have been ideal and is smoother and has less heat but these are a good option. Otherwise I would have used a paprika and cayenne mix (about 3 to 1 ratio?) – options, options!

Also…I didn’t have fenugreek seeds so I sifted through this pack of Punchpooran (often called Panch Phoron which is a blend of five different whole spices) to get the required amount of them. Now, I will have sleepless nights worrying if I’ve created an imbalance in the bag which will ruin later dishes. I’m in bits over it…


For all the ‘set aside’ instructions that are going on in this recipe, the one time that it’s pretty vital to be setting stuff aside is now (these spices must be set aside after heating) and there’s no mention of it…! If you’re following this recipe may I humbly suggest you fry (or dry roast) these whole spices for a short while until they are ‘popping’ and fragrant – then take them off the heat and out of the hot pan and the set them aside…? Otherwise they will over develop and burn. If you are a great multi-tasker then you can prepare ‘Number 5’ while you’re keeping an eye on ‘Number 4’!

Number 5: ‘Now put the balance coconut, onions and spices into blender. Add the turmeric, paprika and tamarind and 1/2 cup water grind to a smooth paste.’

As I have gone full rogue on this recipe already I might as well admit that I didn’t do this bit either – because I don’t have a ‘spices only’ kind of blender – honestly I don’t suggest using your usual blender. I once did this and everything I put in it afterwards always had a feint hint of faraway onion and turmeric! Trust me, use your regular blender that you might want to make a smoothie in etc. at your peril! Instead I ground up the spices in a ‘spices only’ coffee grinder that I do have and pressed on! It just means that there’ll be less ‘pureed sauce’ in the curry at the end…so what?! I may eat these words yet…but I’m quietly confident it’ll make bugger all difference at this point especially as, yet again, I’m turning a blind eye to the mention of coconut!!

Also, paprika…?!?! That’s not even in the ingredients lists! WTF? Give me a chance to succeed, darling! Talk about curve ball…

Number 6: ‘In a saucepan, heat 4 tablespoons oil and sauté the ginger and garlic and 15 seconds, followed by the balance of the chopped onions for about 7 – 8 minutes, until translucent. Add the spice paste (ground spices in my case), sauté for 2 minutes, then add a little water (this is also where I added the tamarind!) and the potatoes and sauté for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the salt (about 1 teaspoon). Add 1/2 cup water, close the lid and cook for 6 – 7 minutes.’



Number 7: ‘Now add the cauliflower, 2 cups coconut milk and cook until done.’    


‘Cook until done’ is my all time favourite recipe instruction. It’s brutal in its number of f**ks given. It’s like the writer got bored by this time and thought ‘oh just work it out yourself…!’ Modern day recipes of this ilk will just have ‘Google it’ written at this point.

I prodded it with a fork and as it seemed some midpoint between raw and mush – I took it off the heat. It looked like this:

Remember that accompanying recipe picture in the book? Oh dear…I’ve done summat wrong eh? Probably that pesky paprika would have created the colour or perhaps there was an other ingredient missed off completely too? Like tomatoes…? It’s a mystery I’ll never know the answer to but all that really matters is that, regardless of all this palaver, it was a mighty tasty curry!! That is, after all, what counts right?

Random Recipe #1

By way of an intro…

Over the years I have collected many cookbooks. Bought new ones from cooks that I admire, or made random purchases from charity shops or received them as gifts. Whatever way they have entered my home they have all been dutifully kept on the shelves that I’ve been lucky enough to have in my kitchen. Which is often where they have stayed. Relatively untouched, unthumbed and unsearched. But not, perhaps unbelievably, unloved. They are a comfort to me that also wraps me with borrowed ability by association. Simply being in their presence inspires and makes me feel confident and capable in the kitchen. I do sometimes flick through a cuisine highlighted on a particular books’ pages for some backdrop inspiration or refer to the cooking times and suggestions outlined in my all time favourite book ‘How to Eat’ by the multi faceted glory that is also known as Nigella Lawson. But follow a full recipe…? Hell no. Not because I’m so bloody marvellous in the kitchen – quite the opposite. It’s just been a case of I’m always looking at them last minute and I’ve never got the right ingredients casually lying about. Recipes need planning to have the instructions followed exactly. Also, I learned to cook through necessity. The urge to eat, and especially the urge to eat nice things, drove me into the kitchen. Here, where at the time there were no cookbooks, I hotched and I potched and I’m certain largely botched until I emerged triumphant with edible fare. Yay!

So, on to the reason for this new set of posts…

I realise that I have a lot of books that I never look at all any more. Year after year I pass over their wares which they display lovingly on their spines. Not because I eschew them but because…hmmm…actually, why do I ignore their calls…?! If I’m not going to access their inner treasures then why do I bother housing them on by precious kitchen shelf space?! Chuck ‘em out and make space I hear you cry!! Pass them on to others!! I can’t! Don’t make me!! Their presence is a stable element in my chaotic kitchen. I cannot cast them out like broken toys. It’s too emotionally traumatic for me. Such a drama queen…where’s the eye rolling emoji when I need it…

Okay, so if I’m not willing to chuck them out then it strikes me it’s about time I delved into them and explored their jewels and created some of their offerings. But where shall I start ?!? With literally hundreds to choose from how can I decide where this new adventure should begin?

So, I asked a friend for a random number (she gave me 47) and I asked another friend for another random number (he gave me 22 and then changed his mind and said 122!!! Fool!!!) and followed these two and they let me to this – book 47:

And page 122 offered this recipe:

As the glorious ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ character said ‘with one small aubergine’ … well, this is with a couple of small aubergines! This sounds like the most simple yet delicious recipe. I think Aubergines (eggplants as our American cousins like to say) are a much maligned item. Many folk I know pull that one-size-covers-all kinda face when I mention it. A irritating combo of grimace and sympathy (I presume for liking them?!?) which only makes me want to prune them from my life rather than educate them. It’s the kind of food item that prepared badly creates a lifetime of hatred. As Ms MH says, ‘ Aubergine is a vegetable that can spring surprises, not all of them agreeable. The flavour can swing from bitterness to cloying blandness.’ She’s not wrong! Boo. But I do know that the mouth-feel, as ‘they’ like to say these days, isn’t for all but anyhoo…this might well be the type of recipe that changes that! Hoorah!

Ms MH doesn’t mention what the best onion to use is and I do have a feeling it’s not the ubiquitous red onion that is now the go-to choice. I suspect it’s the brown or white but I only have a red one so I have to go with that. Also, I don’t have a yellow pepper – I have an orange one! Oh sweet Jesus this is already going to hell…

Dunno about you all but I always scan recipes ahead because invariably there’ll some element that requires forward planning like marinating, pre-soaking or some such element that I haven’t factored the time for. Note to any cookery writers a strap line announcing the pre-preparation needed would definitely benefit a last minute inspiration grabber last minute cooking Larry like me! Ha. Oh…it’s just me then #awkward…

Moving swiftly on… scan, scan, scan and SEE…?!?! ‘Steep for at least 45 minutes’ – at least is also a curve ball. No cutting corners here then and the question begs what shall I do for that 45 minutes? Perhaps the intermediate prep and cooking will take 45 mins…? Perhaps not…? How can I possibly know..? ARGH! Another note to cookery writers if these ‘meanwhile’ activities will take up the required 45 mins steeping time, then a quick mention? It would allay my fears!

I’m starting to come across like a hysterical spaniel…

So, first aubergines…(which I realised I needed to buy, obvs as I didn’t have any casually lying about, so the chaos continues…)

Ms MH says: ‘Cut away the aubergines’ green tops, wash them in cold water, and split them lengthways in half. If there is a large quantity of seeds, and particularly if these are dark, cut the aubergine halves lengthwise in half again and scoop out the seeds, leaving about 1  to 1 1/2 inches of flesh next to the skin. If there are only a few, small, pale seeds, leave them. Set the colander over a shallow bowl, place the aubergine pieces inside the colander, sprinkle with salt, toss them, and let them steep for at least 45 minutes to discharge their bitter liquid.’

Done, kind of. I ended up cutting mine in weird wedge slab shapes which I’m not certain is the way Ms MH describes but I just went my own way especially as I don’t have any seeds in mine. Next time I’d cut them into smaller pieces – in fact, to the size I’d like them in the finished dish – as this would increase the surface area for the salt to react with…but then reduce the salt mentioned later in balance. I think…

Steep, steep little starlings…

Right, on with the show. The next instructions are: ‘Split the pepper in half, scoop out the pith-like core and seeds, and use a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler to skin the pepper. Cut it lengthways into thin strips.’ I broke ranks here and peeled the pepper first. I know! Rebel me. Actually I’d never peeled a pepper before in my life. It had never even entered my head to do such a thing. I’m going with it now as I’m obeying Ms MH but it might end up in the file marked ‘Things to never do again!’ It does seems like one of those extra steps that restaurants do for aesthetics and that ubiquitous mouth-feel (argh sounds too porny for me – I’m gonna stop saying it!) It was actually very quick and simple and meant no pepper skin in the final product, of course. But, again, this is one of those personal things and I think at home I’m happy to not be peeling a pepper or steaming tomatoes to peel them either. I’m not reaching for any culinary accolade and it uses vital cocktail time, frankly.


Next instruction : ‘Put the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic, and chilli pepper into a 10 inch frying pan and turn on the heat to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, just until the garlic’s scent begins to rise, but do not let it become coloured.’

My frying pan is not only not actually a frying pan (it’s a sauté, wok kinda vibe thingie…?!) but it’s also 12 inches obvs (oo-er vicar…!) so this might be vital…! (It literally won’t be, but I like being dramatic and Ms MH doesn’t offer any alternatives as an option – but I know it’ll be sound as the proverbial pound).

The repetition of the word ‘very’ concerning the thinness of the garlic slices is not lost on my eyes and brain but completely lost on my porky fingers and knife skills – ‘shrugs’ – but, regardless, is there anything more delish than the fragrant smell of simmering garlic? Mmmmm love it.


Next : ‘Add the parsley leaves, stir 2 to 3 times, then add the onion and turn the heat down to low. Cook the onion, turning it over occasionally, until it has become very soft.’

I love that Ms MH is so specific and says ‘stir 2 to 3 times’. No more, no less! I did it more and I don’t care who knows it! What she gonna do…?! Huh…? Actually she is dead so she might smack me up side the head from the grave so I best behave. Plus she’s an actual legend so no disrespect intended. Anyhoo…


Next : ‘Add the pepper strips, and sprinkle with salt. Cook, turning the ingredients over occasionally, until the pepper has become somewhat tender. Add the aubergine, the tomatoes, the wine, basil, olives and capers. Turn over all the ingredients 2 or 3 times to coat them well.’

Another ‘2 or 3 times’ instruction! I might have done it more than that…! Argh. I’ll go to Hell.

Next : ‘Put a lid on the pan and cook at a steady, but gentle simmer for about 40 minutes. If, while sauce is simmering, you should find that the cooking juices have dried up and there is danger of the vegetables sticking to the pan, add 4 tablespoons of water. Do not add too much water too often, or the vegetables will steam cook rather than stew, and bear in mind that there should be no water left at the end.’

‘Cook and drain the pasta, toss it immediately and thoroughly with the sauce, swirling into it 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Serve promptly.’

‘Ahead of time note : The sauce may be prepared several hours in advance or even overnight.Reheat gently, but thoroughly, adding a tablespoon or two of water if needed.’

I made mine the day before I used it and, like so many of these kind of dishes, I think the flavours really benefitted from the over night chance to mingle a lot more!

Compared to some modern cookbooks which are rammed with visuals and enticing photographs, of what you hope your version ends up looking like, Ms MH’s book is very word heavy and picture shy. Relying on the descriptions and recipes themselves to create lovely food. This recipe certainly delivers! I’ll definitely get the book down from the shelf a bit more often! Thank you Ms Marcella Hazan!!

Vlog – ‘What’s the fuss about watercress…?’ : Script and Link

This is the original blog and loose script upon which the watercress VLOG (will be live soon) is based.

Watercress, as the name implies, is an aquatic plant and it had been cultivated and recommended for it’s healing and nutritional properties for literally thousands of years.


Hippocrates swore by it, the Ancient Egyptians plied their slaves with it to keep them healthy. Closer to home we were obsessed with it right into the early part of the 20th Century but then it feel from grace some how and ended up being a steak garnish! A quick poll of a few friends reveals that a majority of them never touch the stuff preferring, as so many do, rocket and spinach where watercress could easily be eaten. Watercress out performs both of these and many more in it’s health supporting, disease fighting nutritional content – especially when eaten raw. And, although I loathe the word ‘superfood’, it’s a strong contender for such a title and it always tops lists of nutrient dense foods in many various studies (and nutrient calculation systems like Dr Joel Fuhrman’s ANDI – Aggregate Nutrient Density Index).

The listed benefits of watercress are diverse and far-reaching and include fighting cancer and heart disease, helping fight against stroke and cognitive decline.


It purifies the blood, heals sinus tissue, breaks down kidney and bladder stones, regulates hormones, build bones and it is anti-inflammatory and anti ageing. Its antibiotic properties fight bacteria, its antiviral properties boost the immune system, it assists the digestive and cardiovascular systems. And so on…

But is it all too good to be true? – I suspect it cannot eradicate all these evil badies single handedly like some sort of green leafy James Bond but there is actually enough evidence about to make it worth incorporating into your diet.

It is a source of a little protein and it’s fatty acid ratio between omega 3 and 6 is great too! But it’s nutritional reputation comes from the stack of vitamins and minerals the plant contains.

It’s noted for it’s Beta-Carotene content and the eye health boosting dietary carotenoids Lutein and Zeaxanthin. It’s very high in Vitamin K (blood clotting, bone health) and is a good source of the holy trinity of anti-oxidants A, C and E. It has various B vitamins like 1, 2, 6 and Folate and Pantothenic Acid and it’s strong mineral content includes copper, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and manganese.

So, there seems little disagreement that watercress is well worth eating but how best to have it? It has a hot peppery taste (especially if it’s a mature plant) that some people don’t like but if you do then bunging it in salads, sandwiches or just add small piles to your plate as an accompaniment. Eating the watercress raw will maintain the Vitamin C integrity but again that depends if you like the taste or not. Make it into soup or dips; juice it or add it to most pasta dishes. Chop it up and add it to just about anything and everything where you might add any herbs or other dark green leafy lovelies – like spinach and rocket (or combine it with these two!)

Whatever you choose to do with it I think it’s definitely worth adding it to your diet even if you only do so seasonally. The U.K. watercress season is fairly lengthy – from April right through to October – which means it is readily available then and cheaper than at other times.

Any great recipes let me know!!


Vlog – ‘Why exercise…?’ : Script and Link

This is the link to the ‘Why exercise..?’ VLOG on my YouTube channel and the following is the script (kinda) that I used and the drawings etc. in the VLOG so you can look at them more closely should you wish to!

Why exercise…?

From the time I could walk I was encouraged to move about a lot. ‘Go play out…!’ And I wanted to. I wanted to race around playing ‘It’ or ‘Wembley’ with my neighbourhood pals. At the risk of sounding like a Monty Python sketch, growing up poor and without the internet (yes, it was still only in being toyed with by the US Ministry of Defence at this time!) there was bog all else to do so we had to make our own amusements. Plus we didn’t have a car so it was only the miracle of the power of our own two feet that got us anywhere. A habit I stick with to this day.

It was a time when the phrase ‘exercise is good for you’ was much used but also the only explanation given. But is it true? Why is it good for us?

A majority of people seem to get involved with exercise for the management of their weight but whilst most experts (and everyone else who writes about these things), agree it is ‘useful’ in the process of achieving an ideal, healthy weight, there are, perhaps surprisingly, many other health benefits that come from exercising which actually supercede the benefits for weight control. Sadly, loads of people give up on the exercise element of their lives after a few months because they don’t see the results they are hoping for – maybe they aren’t realistic but we’ll discuss that at a later date – but if they could only realise in the meantime that there are many, actually more important, reasons to take up some ‘moderate activity’- forget about weight loss and think about these:

First off it’s all round good for your heart. Much research has routinely shown that even moderate exercise helps condition the muscles of your heart and lowers the risk of heart disease by lowering your blood pressure (I.e. putting less strain on your heart). It also increases the levels of the so-called ‘good’ cholesterol and decreases the levels of the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol which will all help in keeping your arteries clog free. Hoorah.


Incidentally ‘moderate activity’ is generally agreed by the NHS, American Heart Foundation etc. to be ‘activity that will noticeably increase your heart rate, make you breathe faster and feel warmer…but you should still be able to carry on a conversation.’

Hmmm…make of that what you will…

And you must do this for 150 minutes per week  – broken down into five 30 minute stints they all helpfully add…! Recommended activities are brisk walking (or at least in higher intensity interval bursts) low impact total body stuff like swimming, water aerobics, rowing, riding a bike, or even walking with poles apparently (I know…) Also, dancing, pilates, yoga and so on. Any increase in physical activity will benefit your health but adding a few exercises that strengthen your muscles too will be even better. This means training with weights or with resistance bands – even carrying heavy shopping counts! However, housework and shopping for shoes isn’t included…darn it.


So, apart from healing your heart, studies show regular exercise significantly lowers the risk of major illnesses like stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, right down to helping you stay cold free – reason enough right there, I’d say.

But it doesn’t end there…

Bone and skeletal issues like osteoporosis and arthritis are reduced.

Posture, joint health, flexibility, balance, coordination, stamina…all improved.

Your sex life, your eyesight, your confidence, your overall mood…all improved – those things might all be related actually – which also explains why it is often touted as anti-ageing!

Researchers have been saying that exercise feeds your brain for ages now and it’s even thought to lessen the impact of Alzheimer’s and dementia as it helps fight against brain shrinkage. Also, it increases your cognitive capability, enhances your creativity and improves your memory…it’s a no brainer, right?!

And if all that isn’t enough yet another huge reason to exercise is to de-stress. When you exercise your mood is enhanced as ‘feel good’ hormones and neurotransmitters are released. You’ll know these as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. These create a natural high which helps with the reduction of stress and helps you relax – this with an overall feeling of achievement, body confidence and healthiness all works towards keeping you feeling happier and more relaxed and stress free – which in turn promotes good sleep – which is so vital!


Studies have shown it can assist in depression – even proving to be more useful in places than anti-depressants. Stress is reduced, frustration vented and time spent on yourself doing something for yourself, building your confidence back up, is all part of the prevention or ability to manage this terrible, debilitating disease.

And finally, yes of course, the right sort of exercise is part of the process to help find and maintain an ideal, healthy weight – mostly because the combination of cardio, resistance training and stretching keeps the muscles toned and calorie-burning efficient – plus you’ll generally have more energy!

But remember if you’re new to exercising, or worried about it in any way, it might be best to go see your doctor first – and always start out slowly and build up to the recommended levels. Make sure you warm up, cool down and stretch!

Before I go – a small spanner I think worth chucking into this mix is that more and more studies are being released showing that exercise alone will not control your weight. Now, I’m sure you, like me, think that’s fairly obvious as surely many other factors are involved in the process especially the food we eat – it is after all ‘Exercise AND Diet’ that are promoted for achieving an ideal, natural weight. Increasingly though experts are saying that exercise is only a small percent (as little as 20%)  and it’s mostly diet that needs to be wrangled. I think it’s worth looking into, don’t you?

And I shall be doing just that in part 2…! See you then.

Vlog – ‘Why Sleep…?’ : Script and Link

This is a link to the VLOG – ‘Why sleep…?’ (it goes live very soon) but I’ve included the rough script here along with the drawings etc. that I use in the vlog. Enjoy…!

I’m talking about sleep because I have been reading recently how it can affect your health and bodily functions. Sleep is shown to be as important as diet and exercise, so, from a nutrition and anti-ageing perspective this is key.

Sleep is defined as ‘the natural periodic suspension of consciousnesses’ or ‘a condition of body and mind such as that which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended’. Crikey…

It is a part of our daily routine but why we actually sleep is still largely a mystery. It is generally thought to be the time when the body repairs, rejuvenates and rebuilds all its major systems and it is obvious, to anyone who loses a nights sleep, that we wont last long without it!

The National Sleep Foundation (of America) recently published new guidelines, produced with a team of medical scientists, to try and pin down exactly how much sleep we need.

They defined the ideals, by age group, as follows:

Newborns (0 – 3 months): 14-17 hours per day

Infants (4 – 11 months): 12-15 hours per day

Toddlers (1 – 2 years): 11-14 hours per day

Pre-school children (3 – 5 years) 10-13 hours per day

School age children (6 -13 years) 9-11 hours per day

Teenagers (14 – 17 years) 8-10 hours per day

Younger adults (18 – 25 years) 7-9 hours per day

Adults (26 – 64): 7 – 9 hours per day

Older adults (65 years+) 7-8 hours per day

People claim to need more or less than others but the necessary cycles (i.e. the quality of the sleep) are the key factor rather than specific time-by-the-hour calculations. The ‘sleep scientists’ say that the amount of sleep you need is ‘just whatever it takes to mean you can function through the day’…! (All that education and expertyness and that’s the best they can do…?!?`)

Hell’s teeth don’t tell the teenagers I know – they’ll never get out of bed!

You may think that sleep is a simple case of go to bed, sleep and wake up but actually a complex chain of events and repeating patterns occurs.

Sleep is divided into two main groups. REM and NREM. (Rapid Eye Movement and Non Rapid Eye Movement). The NREM stages (light, true and deep sleep) proceed the REM stage (also when you dream) and the whole cycle takes about 90 minutes.


NREM is comprised of three distinct stages:

1st: where the eyes are closed but you are easily awoken – this usually lasts up to 10 minutes.

2nd: a light sleep as the body prepares for deep sleep by slowing your heart rate and lowering your body temperature.

3rd: deep sleep where the body does its repairing, rebuilding and strengthening – if you are awoken from this you feel distinctly disorientated!

Followed by REM:

REM always follows on directly from NREM and usually lasts a short while – anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour – depending on how many cycles of sleep you go through. The REM stage gets longer as the sleep cycles increase. This is when most of our muscles are paralysed, our heart rate increases, our breathing quickens and our mental activity is heightened – no wonder it is the stage when we dream with all that going on!


Studies are showing that people are sleeping increasingly either less, more erratically or, usually, both. Sleep loss in this way is linked to evident things that we’ve all experienced like poor mood, decreased brain function (learning and memory) and even our safety during the day as we attempt things like driving (as the motorway signs say, ‘tiredness kills’). However, it is also linked to key potential health issues:


  1. Metabolism. Lack of sleep is being linked to fluctuations in the hormones that control appetite (or rather fail to do so) and affects the way the body processes carbs which may lead to weight gain.
  1. Hypertension and inflammation. Sleep loss has be shown to increase blood pressure and activate stress hormones. When denied the sleep cycles it needs, the body goes into alert mode which begins a cycle of stress and tension which in turn make it harder to sleep. As the stress hormones in your body also cause inflammation they need to be regulated by activities such as sleep. Inflammation is a major contributor to the deterioration of our bodies, so sleep is a vital part of our healthy living process.
  1. Immune system. During sleep it is thought that the body regulates and mends any problems, focusing energy on this task while the body rests. Disrupting this has obvious consequences.
  1. Longer term sleep deprivation is being linked to major illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

A word about serotonin, melatonin and sleep:

Serotonin controls heaps of things in our bodies such as our gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and immune systems, sexual function, mood and, notably, sleep cycles by powering the synthesis of melatonin in the pineal gland.


Light increases the production of serotonin and darkness encourages the synthesis of melatonin – the two then work in tandem and this is key to maintaining the sleep cycle. Anything that disrupts this pairing and the cycles they go through will result in poor sleep and the subsequent problems such as insomnia, anxiety, stress or depression. Sleep regulates all this and more.


Melatonin is not only a sleep regulator it is also an extremely potent antioxidant and sweeps through the body mopping up disease causing free radicals.

So, even though we don’t really know why we sleep we do see that we need to sleep. The expression beauty sleep is no cliché. It is the opportunity the body has to rejuvenate and it is the time when growth hormones are triggered and go about their rebuilding and beautifications! Very importantly, recent studies have shown that the brain uses sleep as its chance make decisions, cement ‘knowledge’, make sense of the day gone and to chuck out all the stuff it doesn’t really need to keep. Hoorah! Now we just need to make sure that we do sleep…

  • The ‘sleep experts’ agree that a regular sleeping pattern is key. Going to bed at similar times and getting up at a set time, regardless of the day of the week or holidays, sets your body clock to a healthy sleeping attitude. However, if you’re not asleep in say 15 minutes then the advice is to get up and do something  else and return only when you’re tired and feel like sleeping. Trying to ‘catch up’ on sleep doesn’t really work – it’s the consistency and quality that matters.


  • Smoking and caffeinated products before sleep can disrupt a true nights sleep as their effects don’t leave your system for a considerable time. Alcohol may make you feel like sleeping but it too can prevent good sleep and, of course, like any liquids before bedtime, may mean an unscheduled trip to the toilet, again breaking your sleep cycles.


  • Lulling your mind and body and preparing them for rest is a stage before sleep that most people skip, but it is very important. Winding down and relaxing before bed is a great way to tell your body to get ready for sleep. Relaxing things are more of the reading, having a bath kind of ilk rather than the watching TV kind. The bright screen (and this includes reading from a kindle/iPad) is not soothing to the eyes and brain at this time of the day and won’t necessarily have the desired effect. We need to recreate or reintroduce ‘dusk’ into our days! This isn’t as crazy as it sounds I promise! We are increasingly surrounded by short wave ‘blue light’ which our ‘body clock’ interprets as daylight. This blue light emits from TV’s, mobile phones, e-readers etc., so, when we try to go straight to sleep after using this type of equipment our bodies don’t have time to adjust. It’s straight from daytime to night time for our bodies – there’s been no dusk, no wind-down time. It’s like constantly skipping a time zone or two and subsequently subjecting yourself to low level, long term jet lag! Put a blue light filter on your devices at the very least, I’d say…?!


  • Bear in mind that melatonin likes darkness so, as sleep whisperers will tell you, your bedroom should be cool and dark and as quiet as possible – but keep your extremities warm!


  • The actual bed you lie on (and the pillows) are important factors too. You will have a preference to the firmness of your mattress but buy the best you can afford and don’t be shy about throwing yourself down on the beds in the shops to try them out…after all you will be spending a third of your life on it! Osteopaths will tell you that supporting the neck with good pillows is vital. As one of the most vulnerable parts of the body our necks need good loving and attention! I was told recently by the physio that a good gauge for the ‘amount’ of pillow you need is to stand with your shoulder against a wall and your head held straight. The distance between the wall and the side of your head is the pillow(s) you need.

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  • I know it’s nice to snuggle up with a loved one but ask any long time partnered people and they’ll agree that space in a bed is bliss…it is also better for you. So, make sure there’s enough room for you both and if you have pets or kids that muscle in on the bed space then I’m afraid it’s better to limit their access. I know a few dogs that certainly won’t agree!!  Also, consider that we have often learnt terrible sleeping habits so some of these elements might not feel comfortable or be harder to implement at first.


  • Stress and anxiety are major reasons why many people sleep badly. The mind whirring and worrying. Please consider tackling this. There are millions of books and websites etc. to guide and suggest ways to get down to the basics and begin to sort out the issues. Try some of them and give yourself a break! Taking time for yourself to explore and solve these things is the greatest gift you can give yourself.


  • Exercise will help with stress too and generally is a brilliant way to ensure a good nights sleep, although beware of this too close to bed time because you might be too energised to sleep.


A word about napping. A well placed nap is generally accepted to be a good thing as long as you limit it to 10 – 30 minutes and have it mid-afternoon. Anything else is considered to be bad. If you suffer from insomnia then naps can interfere with your possibility of a nighttime sleep even further. BUT our new best friends the sleep scientists are now saying that being awake in the middle of the night for an hour or so was totally normal before the invention of artificial light! AND we are the only mammals that purposefully postpone sleep! Hmmm maybe nature knows best…?

So, it’s evident that we must not undervalue sleep as it is vital to us in so many ways. Of course, you can’t always control all the factors that could prevent you sleeping properly but adopting good habits to encourage good quality sleep has to be the best way forward. Just think of the health benefits as you slip into bed ready to sleep. Those positive and beauteous thoughts about your inner and outer health will be a perfect subject to hold in your mind as you drift into sleep…


Vlog – ‘Beginning the journey…’ : Script and Link

Link to Vlog – beginning the journey – in which I try to find a starting point to create a new healthy world order for myself…

A more or less transcription of the vlog is set out here with the full versions of the drawings to have a closer look at should you wish! It goes something like this:

‘I dunno about you but I find the amount of information there is around concerning the whys and wherefores of healthy eating and healthy living a tad overwhelming – I really want to find a path through, create some kind of instruction manual for my healthy self but, frankly, I didn’t know where to begin…!

Common sense suggests many things contribute to the answer – our genetics, the food we eat, the lifestyle we lead, our financial and geographical access even the mental attitude we adopt.

So I decided to attempt to distill all the many rampaging thoughts, stashes of information, facts, trivia and theories I already have coursing through my brain down about all this into an initial idea – or rather a starting point – from which to begin my explorations and investigations proper.

Trouble is this distilling process could take ages to sift through all the detritus to find the nuggets of gold so I set myself a 5 minute limit and just wrote down headline words around the subject and these are the things came to the front. You’ll be able to add hundreds more, no doubt, but as I say it’s a starting point at least! This is what came out of my head…!

Already terrifying! I shall now go and have a lie down for a while…and cry a bit I think too…


Right, I’m back and as Alison Moyet would say, ‘I’m all cried out…’! So, how in the name of all things sane am I supposed to juggle all that?! Well, first thing, I’m gonna jettison all that pointless stuff – celebrity diets, super-model six packs and attempted perfection and comparison. Ooof it’s embarrassing that nonsense is even in my head…!

The rest I will need to organise into some sort of manageable system or I’m in danger of ping-ponging between them all – spending 5 minutes on each and not really achieving much OR worse still – ricocheting off each thing terrified and racked with guilt that I’ve not achieved any of them at all!! Spinning around like a dog chasing its tail…!!

None of this will do my health – body or mind – any good!

I always think it’s like spinning plates that we have to keep going! Giving each one a tiny swizzle to prevent it from crashing to the floor…!


This clearly leads to madness! So, with the barriers of healthy living, I mentioned in the previous post, firmly in mind and for the true purpose of future investigations and explorations – I have tried to organise this even more – and attempted to create a visual to keep in mind all the key elements that I need to remind myself of so I can begin to understand and establish my new world health order!


Hmmm…this puts me in mind of the phrase ‘everything in moderation’ – but perhaps the truth is nearer ‘everything in balance’.

As a final thought…if I am able to create a blueprint for a healthy, vital lifestyle is it actually going to be possible to achieve and will I be able to do the things needed to achieve it, and, ultimately will I want to…?

We shall see…’

Link to the vlog here

Vlog – ‘Introduction’ : Script and Link

Link to the vlog – Mathew Bose Introduction. In which I try to explain why I’m doing this…!

A more or less transcription of the vlog is below:

I don’t know about you but I find the billions of pieces of nutritional and health advice that are hurled at us morning, noon and night a tad overwhelming so I’m trying to find some kind of path through it all here.

I’ll be exploring all the things I find interesting relating to all things health and nutrition..and probably more besides because I love a tangent…

This will be a kind of virtual scrapbook for all the things I think are worth investigating and learning about to help me take charge of my own health care…and hopefully you’ll find some of it interesting too and perhaps even useful…!

I think the key to a good general health, in the modern western world, lies in understanding exactly what stands between us and a healthy lifestyle – which to me means one filled with relatively disease free, graceful ageing!

There are, in fact, 5 established barriers to healthier choices which are headlined as biological, time, economics, social and psychological. All pretty important and necessary to explore in their own right – and, of course, many of us have several at once!

But I think there is an overarching, super headline, to all these – knowledge. Knowledge is key to overcoming all the barriers. Knowing how things work, knowing what the effect of foods, exercise, water etc has on your body, knowing the ways to avoid unhealthy choices and so on. Knowledge is power, right? The power to gift ourselves a good healthy body and mind.

I think many people turn to nutrition because of their weight or an illness draws them into thinking about making changes. As time goes on it becomes clearer and clearer to me that imposing something, such as a diet, on your body rarely works. There may well be results within the short controlled initial period but then what..?

It is logical that we should be working in unison with our bodies and our minds, right, not bolting something on and forcing it to submission.

There is a new understanding regarding our bodies and health these days and the old ‘rules’ we were brought up on like ‘fat makes you fat’ and ‘just eat less and move about more’ are being proved to be false and useless.

So, everytime we are advised to follow some nutritional rule for our greater health I’m asking why? Eat less sugar? Yes, ok…but why? Don’t eat refined carbs? Ok, great…but why? Do some exercise? Sure, but why? And so on…because I think understanding the why to these things will make it easier to follow and achieve what is actually a lifelong, lifestyle change.

I’m also hoping to use the answers to these questions to build some kind of framework, a blueprint from which to begin to overcome these barriers and build a strong body that can heal itself and consequently change our lives for the healthier…for good.

Common sense suggests many things contribute to this. Our genes, the food we eat, the life we lead, our financial and geographical access, our mentality and so on…

If we were able to strip back everything to discover exactly what we have to do to live a full, vital, healthy life what would that look like? Is it possible to find out definitively? Is it possible to achieve even? And ultimately would we want to do the necessary things to achieve it?

I don’t want transient faddy waffle – I want actionable and practical things to do to reach my optimal health and if I find them I will bring them to you. And I hope, in turn, you’ll show me things and together we will be un-stoppably awesome.

Link to the vlog here.

How the body regulates fat…part 1 – The Ideal

One thing I realise when I talk to many people about nutrition is that most folks interest is specific to weight loss. The most frequently asked question is, ‘Can’t you just tell me what to eat?’ I always say no. Not because I couldn’t but because I shouldn’t. The key to these issues is fundamentally to understand WHY. So, exercise? Yes…but why? Eat less sugar? Yes…but why? Eat complex carbs over simple ones? Yes…but why? Sleep? Yes…but why? Drink less alcohol? Yes….but why and so on…

Listen, if you know the answers to all these ‘why’s’ then great and what’s more you certainly don’t need me or anyone else to tell you what to do as you’ll already be doing it. However, if you don’t know the answers then let’s go on a journey of learning together, shall we? I promise it will transform your health. Knowing why you eat or do not eat some foods and drinks is going to be the foundation of the rest of your healthy life. Maybe this will also help you decipher or maybe you’ll correct and teach me – either way I hope there is some actionable and practical sense at the end of all this…

The more I discuss this with people and research and read about the subject the more the ‘absolute truths’ I grew up with are making less and less sense. I’ve always believed we should question everything but somethings are so ingrained in the modern psyche that they don’t even register on the radar to be questioned…and I think claims like ‘fat makes you fat’ and ‘fat is bad for you’ are the exact type of lifelong accepted truths that need to be questioned…

Understanding the nature of fat and the fat cells is key to understanding what makes you store too much fat and gain weight, surely? It sounds obviously logical doesn’t it that to work with your body’s systems is the key to staying a healthy, well regulated weight? Right? Yet, when I asked around pretty much no one actually knew how we get fat – the actual process, and regulating systems, the body employs to maintain a steady fat mobilisation (in and out) and subsequently a healthy weight.

Essentially it goes something like this:

As we eat the digestive system coverts the food and drink we eat into its nutritional elements. A majority of this is glucose and glucose is the primary fuel of every living cell in your body. As soon as glucose is detected in the blood stream the pancreas releases the hormone insulin – it releases it in amounts to match the amount of glucose. Insulin’s job is to be like a gate keeper to the cells and open them up to receive the glucose – so without it the cells cannot be fed. As the cells will only take what they need at that moment any excess glucose in the blood stream is stored in the fat cells as free fatty acids. This has to happen as it cannot remain in the blood stream. The reason this is an involuntary process like blinking and making the heart beat is because the body simply cannot trust you to do it right!

Once all the glucose has been stored, and blood sugar levels are back to normal, insulin closes the cell doors and slowly leaves the body. Then when your body needs a bit of energy, and there is no immediate glucose handy (i.e we don’t immediately eat something), then the body calls on the fat cells to release the stored free fatty acids which then go around the body feeding the cells. They don’t need insulin to unlock the doors to the cells so they are a perfect quick release fuel for the cells. So, if the body controlled everything this perfect balance of storing excess energy as fat and releasing it in times of need would be the body’s natural way to supply energy and regulate fat in the body. This is the perfect scenario. The ideal.

However…this is rarely what happens. In part two I will explain the current usual state of things within our bodies and in part three attempt to suggest things that we might do to help our bodies by allowing them to regain control of our fat regulation!


Slow roasted tomatoes…

I’ve just been handed a large punnet of tomatoes. Hoorah you might think…but these are forlorn examples, embarrassed by their own fraudulent content, swollen with water and if the sun did actually kiss these it did so in a way akin to a self-conscious teenager forced to peck the proffered rouged cheek of an aged aunt.


Tomatoes used to be like this all the time – water logged and flavourless – but times have changed. Due to new growing techniques and an actual desire for a tomato tasting tomato (shock, horror!) there are now lots of different types and tastes available. British growers are increasingly selecting better flavoured tomatoes and perfecting them. For those of us living in the UK the tomato season is a slightly moveable thing due to the fact that a majority we can buy in our mainstream stores are grown in greenhouses. This of itself isn’t such a bad thing with British tomato growers increasingly growing more flavourful varieties and allowing them to ripen on the vine for longer. Additionally greenhouses mean controlled environments where the fruit can flourish in its super charged pretendy soil (officially referred to as hydroponic) with little need for pesticides – with insects pollinating and controlling pests – it’s all so utopian. The catch is the thorny topic of the heating of the greenhouses which critics say gobble up fossil fuels and release large amounts of climate changing gases. Without the extra heating, however, the tomato season would be a natural sun- fuelled one from only May to October – if the weather is good that is! Heating the glasshouses extend this to at least a ten month season.

Why have I got these dreary excuses…? Don’t ask. Why don’t I just chuck ’em out…? What…?!? Waste food…?!? Come now! But the real question is what the flip am I going to do with them? Actually, I’m being dramatic because at this time of year there is only one thing that is remotely feasible…slow roast the beggars!

If you have some of these in-season lovingly ripened tomatoes then you have many options but if you have a load of slushy, powdery ones like me then roasting is the answer. The ideal thing to do is spend a happy afternoon making these when the tomatoes are lush and flowing with summery ripened flavour and ‘preserving’ them in oil to eat during the bleaker beige-tasting months for a sun drenched burst to catapult you back to those long, warm summer al-fresco nights.

BTW tomatoes are pretty good for you too. These fruits contain vitamins (A,C and E – a tag team of antioxidants that work best together) and flavonoids (anti-inflammatories) and minerals. The biggest fuss is about their lycopene content (the red pigment in the tomato). Cooking tomatoes and allowing them to naturally ripen to their reddest point (even at home after purchase) actually increases their health factor by increasing the levels of lycopene. This is also an antioxidant that mops up free radicals (that damage your cells), and therefore helps in the battle against cancer and heart disease and has been linked, recently, to healthier, less wrinkly skin – score!

Two very important factors to consider are, firstly, the tomato must be eaten whole to get the true benefits (surely life’s too short to peel a tomato anyway…sheesh…!) AND the ‘meddled-with’ tomatoes that arrive from abroad (i.e. out of season ones) have usually been bred to last longer and this can potentially negate their health benefits…so, as I like to say at any opportunity, gorge on them when they are in season and then forget about them for the rest of the year and just eat tinned (surprisingly high in lycopene – so buy the best quality ones you can) OR do as I am, with this pile of slushy tomatoes I’m faced with, roast them.


It’s a simple job and one for a lazy afternoon when it’s grim outside and what’s more this fills the house with a gentle fug of roasted deliciousness. Pre heat the oven to the lowest setting. Halve the fruits and lay them insides facing up on a roasting tray and sprinkle them with a few bits of herbs and salt if you fancy – but you don’t need to as you’re going to store them in oil and herbs later. That’s it really!


Just leave them to slowly dry out and mildly roast in the warm oven for as long as they need or you can bear (ideally slightly longer than in this picture – but I’m impatient!) and when they are cool store them in a air tight jar covered in good quality cold pressed olive oil and some dried herbs to suit your personal taste! The winter dinners will be cheered up no end by the addition of these ruby-red jewels of intense tomato flavour! It’ll sustain you through until the tomato season begins again…! Result…!

Power balls…

Ok. So we know sugar is the proverbial Devil. Boo to sugar! We wave our banners and we join the marches to ban it from our lives before it kills us. Out! Out! OUT! Fists are shaken at the sugary world  around us and tears are shed about our waist lines. But all the while we have our minds on that secret Curly-Wurly in the glove compartment…right? Oh, just me then…#awks

Anyhoo…moving on.

One thing that is definitely true is that it’s harder to kick any of these worst habits when those around us are indulging happily and have no intention of paying any mind to the warnings from either their own bodies or any health experts. It takes mega will power and single minded focus. Of the many established barriers to healthy eating one is the thorny subject of who buys the food that comes into the household and why. This person is referred to in the health world as ‘The Gatekeeper’. A rather Hollywood title for the person lumbered with the weekly shop. We shall look at this minefield and enormously responsible job, that is fraught with pressure, elsewhere.

From the many people I’ve discussed this with I hear the same complaint and wrangle. Upon returning they are faced with the likes and dislikes of those that don’t do the shopping peering into the fridge and cupboards disappointed at the lack of their favourites. The lack of sugar laden, vitamin stripped empty calories which they see as the ideal foodstuffs. The stoic Gatekeeper then begins the Nutritional Value of Food lecture from the very top for the umpteenth time but gets the same response. Unprintable but easy to guess! I feel their pain and admire their tenacity but I also know, more often than not, it ends in a defeat. The biscuits and the crisps return alongside the mostly ignored healthier offerings…two types of bread now instead of one and so on…

In my house – I’m The Gatekeeper. I rule. BUT I also know that inside me there is a Curly-Wurly chomping, prosecco swilling version of myself with the the most alarmingly cavalier attitude to nutrition. So, I understand that look on His Nibs face that reads a tad disappointed that there isn’t a packet of dark chocolate covered digestives (the ideal breakfast apparently) and no Hoola Hoops (the ideal snack apparently – especially when eaten with a block of cheese! The Hoola Hoop becomes a kind of mini cookie-cutter when pressed into the cheese…oh lord…ok, I admit it’s rather nice actually but cannot be condoned!!)

So, the birth of the Power Nutrition Ball. The PNB.


These little beauties pack a sensationally healthy punch and provide sweetness that (hopefully) can satisfy the cravings. As you will know (and I’ve banged on about endlessly on here) sugar creates addiction and the weaning from it can take some doing. It should be a slow process that essentially begins with the retraining of your tastebuds away from sweet and into a more general, multi dimentional palate.

Just a note here to say that although sugar is usually targeted as a specific single item to avoid in its various forms – the word ‘sugar’ should also be taken to include all refined grains, juices, alcohol, processed foods and even fruit to some extent. Basically anything that ‘acts’ like quick release sugar in the body or has hidden sources of sugar in it. And I’m here to tell you that’s a hell of a lot of stuff. You’ll be amazed actually…

Even these PNB’s have dates in which some would argue are a concentrated hit of ‘sugar’ but more about that anon. I wanted to create something that would pack a good nutritional punch, be slow release and yet actually be nice to eat!

Here are a couple of my favourite mixes so far but honestly there are many more variations of this and you will want to adjust and exchange things as your palate and inspiration dictates.


You will need a food processor. I use a mini bowled one. Either way, but especially with the bigger processors, always check that the mixture is fully integrating as you go along. As with all my so-called recipes I am rubbish at amounts as I made it up as I went along. So the quantities below are a rough guide. There are a couple of things that I will point out. I would add the ingredients in the order below as the oats and seeds need to be pretty finely chopped/powdered.




Then add the other stuff slowly because if you go too far and want a drier mix it’s harder to add oats in later as they don’t chop finely enough and you’ll have to do them separately and blah, blah, wrangle, wrangle…

4 tablespoons organic rolled oats

1 tablespoon of mixed seeds (I used pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and flaxseed)

1 tablespoon cacoa powder (I use a blend that comes with powdered flaxseed and berries too)

5 organic medjool dates

2 organic prunes

1 organic dried fig

1 – 1.5 tablespoons nut butter (I used cashew here)

Makes about 25-ish

OR try these:


3 tablespoons organic rolled oats

1 tablespoon of mixed seeds (I used pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and flaxseed)

1 tablespoon cacoa powder (I use a blend that comes with powdered flaxseed and berries too)

2 organic medjool dates

11 raspberries – as that’s how many I had left!

1 tablespoon organic nut butter (I used almond here)

Makes about 15-ish – and the dry ingredient amounts here will perhaps need a tad of adjustment due to the fresh fruit element.


As you add the dried fruits the mixture may ‘ball’ together but remain ‘choppy’ – the nut butter will ‘clump’ everything together (these are all technical terms I’ll have you know!) What you are after is a mixture that presses together firmly and stays ‘glued’ – if it’s still crumbly when pressed then add more nut butter.

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Keep in mind you will be chilling these so they ‘set’ a little. If you are making bars then you might even want the mixture firmer to hold that shape. BUT do keep pressing bits to check the consistency as you don’t want it too claggy as you’ll never roll the buggers and there’ll be temper tantrums. Guaranteed.

A heaped teaspoon full pressed and rolled firmly between the palms creates the finished product. If you’re old enough to remember plasticine or were poor like me (cue violins…) and plasticine was a considered a luxury toy (those violins are deafening…!) then you’ll know the technique for squishing this mixture together without any further ado. Others will take longer to master the wily ways of it. Some posh, flashy folk then roll these in cacao powder or desiccated coconut…the options are many! As with everything it’s all about your own tastes and experimenting to find the exact combination that rocks your tastebuds!

Keep them chilled and they last for a while and, of course, can be carried around for snacking during the day – keeping you away from that beckoning Curly-Wurly!

Good luck!

A smattering of nutrition info regarding some of the above:

OATS: Oats are instantly better than many processed grains as the hulling process doesn’t strip them of their ‘bran’. Also, they contain a soluble fibre called beta-glucan which can slow down the absorption of sugars creating a slower release of glucose energy into your system. It is also thought to bind to fats slowing their absorption too and subsequently assisting the reduction of ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Oats contain very good sources of the minerals phosphorous (bone structure, healthy functioning of cells) and magnesium (nerve and muscle function and key to the production of energy) and the trace minerals manganese (needed for bone and skin health and helps regulate blood sugar) and molybdenum (assists in the detoxification of the body). It has a good hit of B-vitamins and that all important fibre – both soluble, mentioned above, and insoluble too which ‘scrapes’ through the intestines keeping everything moving along nicely!

Oats are technically gluten free. However, they contain a protein called avenin which is similar to gluten so those who are coeliac may still be sensitive to them – but the real problem lies in the fact that many are prepared in places where other gluten rich grains like wheat, rye and barley are produced making them susceptible to cross-contamination and unsafe for coeliacs. So, if you are avoiding gluten then search for pure oats that have been produce in a gluten free atmosphere.

DATES: Dates are an ancient bite size powerhouse of vitamins and minerals bound with great fibre. Naturally sweet and easy to digest so you can make full use of their health benefits. All round lush then…!

CACAO: Cacao (cocao) is generally believed to be a good source of antioxidants but the presence of flavonoids gives it its current healthy image. Flavonoids are a class of phytonutrient (the chemicals plants use to fight disease and bacteria) which are responsible for the pigmentation in the plant. They are getting a lot of attention in research these days as consumption of them is thought to give vital support to the main body systems (like the nervous and cardiovascular) and they are powerful antioxidants too, plus have anti-inflammatory skills which also assist the detoxification of the body.

BUT before you rush out to buy ten boxes of Milk Tray – the powdered cacao bean is more nutrient rich than the end processed result that we know as chocolate. The further the original roasted and ground beans go into the processing procedures the less the nutritional value. That’s why a 80% dark chocolate bar is going to be heaps better for you than a Curly-Wurly…but you guessed that, right?!