Category Archives: Breakfast

Zingy green smoothie: cucumber, spinach, apple, mint, lime, ginger

I know there are loads of debates about smoothies and how much sugar they contain. I agree that you should consume more vegetables than fruit. But, if you eat the whole fruit – either by actually eating it or blitzing it into a smoothie – then you get lots of fibre (both insoluble and soluble), vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The rise in diabetes isn’t due to people eating too much fruit in its whole, natural form; it’s eating too much refined sugar in sugary drinks and too many refined carbs that busts your pancreas.

Anyway, this smoothie is really zingy and my partner loved it, but my youngest struggled with it – she prefers something that contains banana/berries at its base.

I always put a cube of frozen spinach into my smoothies. Okay, not always, but mostly.

Anyway, for this one you need, for four small glasses:

About 20g frozen spinach (or fresh of course)

Half a thumb size of ginger – be careful, if it’s fresh and good it’ll be quite powerful. I used half a thumb size and it was a bit too much for the children, adults loved it though

The juice of one lime

Half a bunch of mint, you know those bunches you get in the supermarket that cost about 85p (rip off)

Half a small cucumber, washed, not peeled and cut into chunks

One medjool date to bump up the sweetness and fibre a bit but you can leave this out

Apple juice. I get mine from our local farmer’s market, it’s really good but if you can’t get really good apple juice then blend in an apple (not the pips) and some water

Put all the ingredients in a blender/Nutribullet and taste it: because lime sizes vary and the recipe isn’t precise, you may need to add that date, or a bit more apple juice or water or cucumber. The ginger and mint are strong tastes, the cucumber calms it all down, the apple juice adds liquid and sweetness.

i think this would be really good if you had a cold. I can still feel the zingy effects over an hour later.


My breakfast smoothie

Seriously, like we need another picture of a green smoothie. But, nevertheless, here is mine.

But I wanted to share this because I think it’s so nice, it’s healthy but it’s not so scary that it alienates perfectly ordinary people, like me and you. I absolutely love it and will either have it first thing (after my mad Italian woman habit of lemon and psyllium husks in hot water), or after I’ve had a ‘proper’ breakfast and at about 11am. Depending on what time I have it I will vary the ingredients. I don’t add spinach if it’s too early because WTF am I turning into? But. My big discovery is frozen spinach. The one you get chopped up in ‘pods’. This way you don’t have bags of fresh spinach going off in the salad drawer (yuk) mocking you; it’s always fresh, and adds a nice cold element to the smoothie.

There are three key ingredients, to my mind, to make this smoothie really nice and friendly. And those are the almond butter, the cinnamon (who would have thought I’d become obsessed with cinnamon?) and the dates which must be those lovely expensive medjool dates. I buy mine from the market and £3 worth last me, easily, all week. I would probably also add banana as a must have. Remember that if you don’t fancy a whole banana, you can freeze it, chopped up in pieces, in a box in the freezer to add to subsequent smoothies.

So this is my basic smoothie:

One and a half medjool dates, two if you like

One banana, nice and ripe if possible

One teaspoon of cinnamon – don’t skimp on this

A big old tablespoon of almond butter

Handful of blueberries

200ml or so of almond milk or milk of your choice. I fill it up to the ‘max’ on my Nutribullet container. If you like a thicker smoothie add less, if you like it runnier add more etc.

You can blend it up now for a minute or so until smooth. But, if you want to ramp up the nutrient content you can add any, or all, of the following.

quarter of a teaspoon of spirulina

half a tablespoon of linseeds

big pinch of hemp seeds

1-2  tablespoons of oat flakes

some kefir if you culture it – I add two tablespoons

a pod of frozen spinach

The spirulina makes everything go really green. Don’t be scared. And you don’t have to add it if you don’t want to.

Just remember to blend until really smooth. I do it for about 30-45 seconds in my Nutribullet.

This fills you up for, ooh, maybe 30 minutes. Seriously it doesn’t fill me up for long in that ‘full up’ way. But I do feel REALLY good after drinking it. Until I pollute my body with a cappuccino. Sssh.


A chocolatey coffee warming smoothie for the morning

Something you may not know about me, I eat really healthily a lot of the time. I drink green smoothies with my children when they come home from school. I regularly fast. This is to mitigate when I do eat sugar, butter and flour made into cake and cookie form. But since I got into nutrition in a major way in 2002 even the crap I eat is pretty good. I think what you put into your body is really important.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and I’m not here to sound super worthy cos I don’t want anyone to visit my blog and feel bad about themselves. I know all about that, too.

Anyway. However much I may like green smoothies, there is no way on God’s earth I am eating one first thing in the morning, in winter. It just all feels too cold and unfriendly. I never feel hungry first thing in the morning, and yet sometimes I must leave the house for a full day of knitting words together into meaningful sentences. And I can’t do that on an empty head. Sometimes I need something nutritious, quick, easy to go down and that, even if it doesn’t fill me up til lunch (few things do), I will know that I’ve had some nutrition that morning.

I got this recipe from Dale Pinnnock’s Healthy Everyday book. I haven’t really made much else from it, but my interest in the book piqued when I read this recipe and it involved both chocolate and coffee. I thought, here is a my kinda book, a man who understands that to be healthy you don’t need to be eating cardboard.

I have adapted it slightly to suit my selfish needs and despite the milk making it ‘cold’, it somehow manages to be warming at the same time.

(no picture yet but there will be soon)

225ml almond milk (this is what I use but oat milk should work well too)

1 banana

1 heaped tablespoon of raw cacao – this is my favourite bit and I really do put a heaped tablespoon in. It’s worth buying raw cacao in bulk as it works out cheaper than really high quality cocoa from the supermarket and it’s much better for you.

2 heaped tablespoons of oats

4 almonds

1 teaspoon of raw honey or maple syrup

1 shot of espresso

a quarter of teaspoon of cayenne pepper (essential!)

You just put the whole lot into a blender (I use a Nutribullet) and whizz up until really smooth and drink it. YUM.


How I make porridge

People are quite often scared to cook pasta for me, on account of me being Italian. I think they think I spend my whole time at home making pasta from scratch and that my kitchen is covered with spaghetti drying from the ceiling.

I never really understood this intimidation, until I started getting into porridge. For such a simple food, there seem to be an awful lot of rules about how you should make it. Porridge features not at all in the Italian diet, so I didn’t have any claim to it.

All I knew is that whenever you read about how to make porridge it would say forceful things such as “all you need is water and salt, anything else isn’t porridge”.

But I don’t like porridge made with water and salt and it’s taken me years to admit this. Furthermore, feeling that that’s the only way to eat porridge isn’t really helpful because porridge is really good for you, so it’s worth working out how YOU like to eat it. After all, I know some people who eat pasta with ketchup and do I judge?

You guess.

Anyway, this is how I make, and eat, porridge.

For one portion. I put the saucepan directly on my digital scales and weigh everything.

30g porridge oats

100g of milk

150g water

a pinch of salt

half a teaspoon of cinnamon (I didn’t think I liked cinnamon but it really works)

Some berries

Maple syrup

Nut butter of your choice

Weigh the porridge, water and milk straight into a saucepan, then add the cinnamon and salt and put on the stove. It seems quite a lot of liquid but this is the key (I’ve found) to making a lovely creamy porridge.

Simmer and stir for quite a long time, 5-10 mins. You can leave it periodically and come back to it and I find it meditative and I like to think about the day ahead whilst doing it. Also whilst doing it I can’t POSSIBLY do anything else so I say to my partner “the children need breakfast, I can’t POSSIBLY do it because I’m stirring my porridge”.

Once the milk and water has been largely, but not totally, absorbed – you will still have a fairly wet porridge – take it off the heat and leave it for a minute whilst you plate up your berries and nut butter. I nearly always have blueberries. In the winter I buy frozen ones and stick them in the porridge for that last minute standing time.

I also add to the plate a large – very large – tablespoon of nut butter, usually cashew or almond and always Meridian as it’s the best by far AND I LOVE IT. This is because, contrary to popular opinion, porridge on its own does not, and never has, filled me up til lunch time. If I eat porridge with no protein in it (i.e. the nut butter) I am as hungry as a pregnant woman in the first trimester by 10am. Sometimes 9am. But adding a huge dollop of nut butter not only adds useful nutrients and good fats, but helps fill me up.

On top of the porridge, berries and nut butter I add a teaspoon of maple syrup. A teaspoon of maple syrup has 30 calories which is nothing really, but it really adds to the yummyness of the porridge.

This is how I make porridge.

Egg and bacon pies

This little recipe was from one of Donna Hay’s books – Fast, Fresh, Simple. It makes for a great Saturday lunch but involves no pastry (sorry) – perfect for when when you want something hot, tasty and quick but would prefer to avoid falling into the predictability of sandwiches.

Obviously my children hated this and just ate the buttered sourdough I provided as a prop, and the bacon. But hey-ho. We loved it.

The recipe is here. But for convenience this is what you need for four people:

6 rashers of thin cut bacon

6 eggs

240g creme fraiche (I used a jar of it that was slightly less than that)

2 tablespoons of flat leaf parsley (I use frozen Waitrose herbs they are great for this sort of thing).

Oven preheated to 180C. You need four small oven proof dishes/tins of about 10cm across. We used these little ceramic ones we got some free pate or desserts in years ago. We seem to have accumulated hundreds of these dishes, hardly any of which are the same size. Butter said dishes and place on a baking tray.

Put the rashers around the dishes, one and a half in each, so they make a rim. Whisk together the eggs, creme fraiche and parsley and decant equally into each dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked but firm to the touch. They puff up like little souffles.



Monday morning bread, aka chocolate sourdough

I need a bit of help on a Monday morning. Weekends are usually cosy, engaged, involved, family affairs and splitting us all up on a Monday morning can hurt. Even though I do a job I love, and I work mostly from home – so am incredibly fortunate – Monday mornings sometimes need a bit of easing into.

Thus it is that I decided to corrupt one of the baguettes I was making last night, for baking this morning, by rolling the dough around a few pieces of chocolate (a high cocoa content milk chocolate). Everything else stayed the same. But this morning, the promise of these served warm from the oven, aside a bowl of caffe latte for dunking into, just helped get us all downstairs.

Honey roasted cherry tomatoes. A thing of glory.



One of the things you should know about me and this blog, is that whenever I’m on a particular deadline, something hard and difficult, I write a blog post. So when people ask me, as they do “how do you find the time to blog?” it’s because I am nearly always avoiding doing something else and that something else is nearly always writing An Actual Piece.  All the professional writers I know have vast, varied, and sophisticated procrastination techniques. For me, if it’s not writing on this blog, it’s ironing or cooking or baking.

I turn to a write a blog post when I’m just about to start writing that actual piece. The last bastion of procrastination, when I’ve ironed everything that shows even a weak crease, baked up all the flour in the house into something cakey and menu planned the dinners until Christmas. So in that respect it’s like a warm up: a gentle stretching of a muscle that’s about to be really hammered in the main event. I like to think it serves a useful purpose.

My partner doesn’t quite see it like that. Living with a writer isn’t easy. It’s all “I’m on DEADLINE I’M ON A DEADLINE. DON’T DISTURB ME DON’T TALK TO ME I’M IN MY MENTAL SPACE” and then we faff and fuck about until suddenly, miraculously, the words spill out, via our fingers, onto the screen.

(n/b: the worse thing you can say to a writer is: just get on with it. This is like saying to your male sexual partner: just get an erection.)

Until that moment comes. Here I am talking about tomatoes. This recipe is from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Every Day. You may have the book. And you may have missed this unassuming, but actually vastly useful recipe. These make a great lunch: on toast, under a poached egg, or in a recipe that I will post next week (when I’m on my next deadline) which is a spin on what is really a very boring salad called tricolore. We try to make these when the oven is already on, and even if you don’t eat them immediately, they keep brilliantly for a few days in the fridge and just take minutes to warm up.


I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you to augment or reduce the recipe according to your needs.

500g cherry tomatoes (must be cherry toms, save those big bastards for something else)

2 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon of honey

3 tablespoons of olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Halve the tomatoes and place them cut side up. When I do loads, I don’t place every single one cut side up unless I really do want to procrastinate. Choose your tin according to your tomato yield: you want the tomatoes to be close up and personal, not spread far and wide.


Crush the garlic with a pinch of salt, then beat it together with the honey, oil and pepper if using. Because I have thick set honey, I have to melt the honey first as otherwise this just gloops together. Spoon the  mixture over the tomatoes and roast for about 30 minutes. I find it frequently needs longer as you want them toms to be goldeny brown, and bubbling. I sometimes finish them off under the grill too.

Eat immediately or keep in the fridge. Note that if you use tomatoes that aren’t that sweet, this will really improve them. However, if you start with really sweet tomatoes already then these are GLORIOUS. They also  make a great addition to a full fry up. Now then, I really must get on.



Ali’s oatmeal pancakes

Ali is someone I’ve known for about, ooh, nine years. I ‘met’ her on line via I Want My Mum, which was a parenting forum I used to co-run. I’ve never actually met her but we seem to share similar tastes in certain foods and I always look at her recipes with particular interest.

She shared this recipe for oatmeal pancakes which I wanted to try. We’ve been making these pancakes for a good few years now. And whilst I love them, and they do contain fruit, I’m aware they have a lot of flour in them. Even though we now always make them with half white/half wholemeal, we always seem to be starving a few hours after eating them and without wanting to sound like a carb bore, if I have these for breakfast, and say a sandwich for lunch, I feel really carbed out.

But! Ali’s pancakes are mostly oatmeal which is so good for you. They do contain a bit of flour but not much comparatively. You do need to make them the night before, but I don’t actually mind this now that I am an organised mother-type and not a rock and roller who traipses into the house at 4am wanting immediate carb satisfaction.

But anyway, my friend Emily has also reported great success with just warming the milk and oats up the morning you make them, so you could also try that.

I was almost quivering with hunger when I made these on Saturday morning so too greedy and impatient to take a pic. We served ours with live yoghurt and blueberries and strawberries. And maple syrup.

The recipe below is halved and, really, for me to have handy as we found the original made too many for us. Although we are four, my two girls eat just one or two pancakes. Do follow Ali’s original recipe though if you are more than two adults and two small children with bird-like appetites.

Here they are, Ali’s oatmeal pancakes:

65g oatmeal, the proper pinhead stuff. I have some by a company called Rude Health

125g plain full fat, live yoghurt, I used Greek style as that’s what we always have

112g milk, I used semi skimmed organic as that’s what we get

half a teaspoon of honey, mine is from the beehives of Gabrielle Palmer no less (get ME)

15g plain white flour

15g plain wholemeal flour (I now use 30g wholemeal flour and leave out the white flour completely)

half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

a big pinch of salt (quarter of a teaspoon kinda thing)

1 egg (note if you have very small eggs use two)

The night before. Mix together the oatmeal, milk, yoghurt and honey. Leave in the fridge overnight. This is the ideal, if you can’t then even just an hour soaking helps.

The next morning, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

I use a cast iron griddle. Mine is this one if anyone is interested and it’s brilliant for pancakes. I put a tiny drop of oil and spread it around with a silicon pastry brush (if it were natural bristle they would melt) and then put on three tablespoons of mixture per pancake and on that griddle I can fit three pancakes. When I say tablespoons I mean just the spoons I eat soup and puddings with, not an actual measure.

Turn the pancakes when they look ‘holey’ on top. About two minutes each side. Use your common sense here..I keep my warm in the warming drawer but a low oven would work. Or dish them out, as they’re done, to eager recipients.

They are delicious and everyone in my family loves them and declared them much better than our regular ones. They are nutty, ‘bitey’ and so much more filling than regular pancakes. So good to have that amount of oatmeal (and yoghurt) in pancake form. Of course we won’t talk about the amount of maple syrup I marry them with..

Try these this weekend. Next I must try Emily’s sourdough pancakes.

Eating notes: I have kept this mixture, i.e. the whole mixture with the eggs and flour etc added, overnight when I made too much one greedy Saturday; it keeps really well until the next morning when you can have pancakes all over again.

Gingerbread porridge

I have just come off deadline for a hideously complicated piece about mackerel. The research on anything to do with fish quotas is almost enough to drive me to a drug habit (JOKING). So I’m indulging myself with something blissfully easy to write about, something comforting, that I hope you will find useful.

Porridge. We all know how healthy it is. Rich in fibre, lowers your cholesterol, makes you strong and gives you a glow etc.


I am always STARVING five minutes after eating it and I have a bit of a guilt trip going over porridge in that I feel it should be made with steel cut pinhead oatmeal and stirred for one hundred hours and eaten with almost nothing, bar a grimace.

I do lighten up occasionally and use jumbo oats and semi skimmed milk and water and cook it on the hob with my spurtle (NEVER NEVER NEVER in the microwave) and then flood it with sliced fruit and maple syrup, but in my Catholic guilt-ridden heart, I know I am sinning.

Thus I hardly eat porridge which is stupid. Like not letting yourself buy cut up fruit because you should cut it up yourself and therefore never eating fruit (not relevant to me but you know what I mean).

This morning, as I was wafting round Waitrose and taking my commission for my mackerel piece and slightly panicking as I do before I start to write any piece (I can’t do it I CAN’T DO IT), I spied something. Dorset Cereals Gingerbread Porridge. In the packet are premeasured and sealed daily sachets (so wasteful!). It had stuff added to it to make it tasty (so indulgent!) and it recommended you do it in the microwave (shocking!).

I hadn’t had breakfast.
I’d had to dig the car out of the snow that morning.
I had been coerced into buying my child Smarties (I don’t buy Nestle products usually).
I had a hideously difficult piece to write on mackerel.
So I bought it.

I came home and made it – in the microwave – and ate it with a dollop of nut butter (to up the protein) and it was DELICIOUS. I am still going on it six hours later (bar the handful of nuts and an apple that I ate an hour ago but that was more out of deadline avoidance than hunger).

Am now going to eat this every day. Every day.

Every day sourdough baking

A gratuitous picture of a loaf of sourdough, baked this morning

I get asked, a lot, if sourdough bread is hard to make. I am tempted to say “really hard” to make myself look clever but the truth is, it isn’t.

Sourdough seems uniquely complicated amongst bread baking. I don’t know if it’s purposely shrouded in mystery. I know that it took me about two years to finally get down to it, to be brave enough to try, as it seemed magical and mystical. It is, but it isn’t difficult. The hardest thing about sourdough baking is being mentally ready.

Because once you have a good starter going, sourdough baking is almost bomb proof.

I bake sourdough about three times a week. Mostly I bake this bread, which is half wholemeal and half white.

Although I only bake half of the amount in that recipe, so 500g of flour, 200g levain (starter), 333g of water and I’ve got the salt down to just one teaspoon.

I divide the dough up to prove over two baton shaped bannetons so I have bread for two bakes. The bread in the picture above was proved in one of those bannetons.

It’s easy. The hard bit with sourdough, in terms of faff, has always been the starting off of it. Once I’ve weighed it out and refreshed the starter I know I need to be relatively close for the first three kneads (ten mins apart) and not too far for the one that requires a 30 minute rest. But after that I can do the school run or go out or do whatever. If I know I’m not going to be back in time – be really ages – then I put it in the fridge, and when I get back, simply bring it back to room temperature and take up where I left off.

You could never do that with bread with commercial yeast, because the yeast would get exhausted.

I’ve had a sourdough loaf going over three days.

Various people have said to me that they want to try sourdough baking. Instead of abstemious resolutions that make you feel miserable (isn’t January miserable enough?) try a resolution that will make you feel really good. With a good loaf you always have a meal. And when everyone else is out panic buying because it might snow, you can be smug knowing that with your starter, some flour, water and salt you can turn those tins of stock-piled baked beans into something really glorious.