Kale and cauliflower samosas

Samosa Collage

One of the ways I am trying to feed my family more healthily is to increase our intake of seasonal vegetables while reducing the amount of red meat we eat. Normally I love my samosas filled with spicy minced lamb but this version with kale and cauliflower is every bit as tasty and much, much better for you.

I wasn’t 100% certain my children would be so taken by them though, so I was extremely pleased when they gave them their seal of approval, with Jessie, my oldest, happily tucking in to seconds and then thirds. Continue reading

The Spice Trail challenge: temple food

Temple Food

I’m on a bit of health kick these days. I assure you though, it’s not just another faddy new year’s resolution in reaction to an over-indulgence at Christmas. Since last autumn, I’ve been really trying to take a more healthy and positive approach to what I eat and how I exercise. Rather than counting the calories in absolutely everything I consume and sticking to a ridiculously restrictive diet, I’m focused on making better choices as part of my overall lifestyle and day-to-day routine, which I hope will be easier to keep up in the long run.

Being healthy shouldn’t be a chore or all about self-sacrifice and self-flagellation. I want to enjoy eating and enjoy exercise in the knowledge that I’m doing my body (and mind) some good.

So the theme for this latest Spice Trail challenge is Temple Food… as in my body is a temple.  I’m looking to the food blogging community to help inspire me with their healthy, feel good recipes. Virtuous and delicious, that’s the order of the day. And, of course, nice and spicy too. So it’s not all about diet ‘rabbit food’. I’m simply after your dishes that do you good from the inside out: restorative, refreshing, reassuring and revitalising. Continue reading

The Spice Trail round-up: peppercorns and allspice

spice trail badge long

I’m playing catch up with The Spice Trail this month and bringing you two months’ worth of recipe round-ups in one go. November saw us celebrating the humble peppercorn as a star ingredient in its own right, while in December we showcased recipes using the gorgeous and very versatile allspice berry. Continue reading

Last chance to vote in the Food Reader Awards

food mag reader awards2

That’s me on the right receiving my finalist certificate from Belinda Shipp from Rodda’s, sponsors of the Best Blogger category

If you haven’t voted yet in the Food Reader Awards and given your support to your favourite food heroes in the South West, there are just a few hours left to do so. Voting closes tonight (Wednesday 14th) at 11:45pm (GMT) and here’s where you can register your support.

I’m a finalist in the Best Blogger category and would dearly love your vote, although I have to say I am extremely thrilled simply to have made it to the finals. All the finalists met up on Monday for afternoon tea at the beautiful Combe House Hotel down in Devon, which was just wonderful, and I really enjoyed meeting fellow finalist Helen Upshall from Hells Belles’ Bites, as well as Belinda Shipp who is marketing manager for Rodda’s, the makers of Cornwall’s famous clotted cream and also sponsors of the Best Blogger category. You can see photos from the event over on Food’s website.

And in a couple of weeks, I’ll be hob-nobbing with the region’s top foodies once again when I attend the awards dinner over at Yeo Valley’s HQ right here in Somerset. So you can see why I’m more than chuffed to have made it this far. But having said that, any last minute votes would be very, very gratefully received!

Thanks so much for your support – it means a great deal.

At the special afternoon tea for finalists in the Food Reader Awards with fellow blogger Helen Upshall

At the special afternoon tea for finalists in the Food Reader Awards with fellow blogger Helen Upshall


Bangin’ books: Guilt-free Bottle Feeding

guilt-free bottle feeding

It’s not something I’ve admitted to publicly before, but I am one of the many mothers who found breastfeeding an absolute nightmare, at least first time round. In hindsight, I’d say my problems with breastfeeding were the main reason behind my depression after my first daughter was born.

Depression is something else I’ve never admitted to before. It was never actually diagnosed at the time and I certainly didn’t talk to my health visitor about it, although I’m pretty sure she suspected. I lied my way through those set questions they ask new mums to gauge your mental state in an attempt to look like I was coping.

But I wasn’t coping with breastfeeding and as a first-time mum, anxious to get everything right, to do it by the book and do it naturally, that just about destroyed me. That and the lack of sleep from constantly trying to feed a starving baby at all hours of the day and night who just wasn’t getting enough milk from me. And the pain of my sore, cracked, bleeding nipples. And the sheer bloody guilt that I just wasn’t a good enough mother. It’s nearly a decade ago but those feelings are still so very real, so very raw.

A few days after my first baby was born we were readmitted to hospital because my daughter was losing too much weight and it was clear we needed help. Hats off to the midwives at St Michael’s in Bristol for all the support they gave Jessie and me in trying to conquer the breastfeeding battle. I had a constant stream of midwives in attendance showing me the best way to support my baby during feeding and how to get her to latch on – each one’s advice however quite often contradicting the last. I was hooked up to vast, industrial-looking pumping machines and milked like a cow. They didn’t seem disturbed by the pitiful amount I was producing. Talk about committed to the cause. They were sticking wholeheartedly to the ‘breast is best’ mantra and there was no question of me giving up the good fight.

Looking back though, I really do question whether the fight was worth it.

After a few days I was allowed back home with Jessie. The feeding had improved but only marginally. I would still dread every feed and wince in pain throughout each one. I hated myself for not being able to do it. Occasionally, I’d hate my baby for not being able to do it. Then I’d hate myself for hating my baby. And most of the time I hated my husband and all men in general for never having to breastfeed.

I kept this up for six weeks – possibly the longest six weeks of my life. Then I was passed on from the midwives to the local health visitor. And she uttered those miraculous words, “Why don’t you try her with formula?” And from that point on our lives were magically transformed. My daughter rapidly went from a scrawny, scraggy thing, permanently bright red from crying, to a calm, chubby-faced, chubby-thighed bundle of bubbliness, who slept for longer than a couple of hours at a stretch. Because she wasn’t hungry!

I fed her a combination of breast milk and formula until she was six months old and while I never felt guilty, because I could quite clearly see she hadn’t been thriving until we’d introduced the formula, I always felt something of a failure as a woman and as a mother because my own body and my own milk just weren’t seemingly good enough.

That’s why I really wish this new book, Guilt-free Bottle Feeding, had been around back in 2005 when I was going through all this. It really would have made such a difference to have heard the alternative perspective that yes, breast might be best, but formula is a pretty bloody fantastic alternative option for those women who don’t go down that route for whatever reason.

‘Breast is best’ has to be one of the catchiest marketing slogans ever. It’s short, it’s pithy, it rhymes. It’s certainly a lot easier to remember than, ‘breast milk is better than formula, but some of its touted benefits probably come from the act of breastfeeding, as well as simply the type of parenting provided by mothers who choose to breastfeed, and formula is also a nutritionally complete way to feed your baby, so don’t sweat it too much’. (Guilt-free Bottle Feeding, Chapter 2 – Why bottle feeding won’t make your baby fat, sick or stupid)

Guilt-free Bottle Feeding – Why your formula-fed baby can be healthy, happy and smart is written by award-winning former BBC presenter Madeleine Morris and paediatrician Dr Sasha Howard. The publishers stress from the very start it is not an anti-breastfeeding book. But rather it is an anti-guilt book. It tackles some of the myths around infant feeding, revealing how many of the benefits of breastfeeding have been oversold to parents in the West, and shows guilt-wracked mums they have not failed their babies by giving them formula.

Morris and Howard provide a balanced and long-overdue alternative to the simplistic message that ‘breast is best’, showing that despite the huge pressure women feel to breastfeed, it is perfectly possible to raise happy, healthy and smart bottle-fed and mixed-fed children. The book brings together easy-to-understand scientific fact and research with case studies of real mothers of all backgrounds and walks of life who did not exclusively breastfeed for a multitude of reasons, all told with genuine warmth and humour.

One of the case studies I found most interesting came from one of the authors of the book, Dr Sasha Howard, herself a medical professional with heaps of ‘experience’ of breastfeeding. Despite having received a ‘comprehensive education about the practicalities of breastfeeding’ and helping numerous new mothers getting ‘a good latch’, she still felt ‘utterly bewildered’ by her own first experience of breastfeeding. Her experience seems to mirror my own in terms of never seeming to have enough milk to sate her child, the agony of cracked, bleeding nipples, and chasing her tail ’round an endless circle of feeding, expressing, expressed milk bottle top ups, and feeding again’.

Howard ‘succeeded’ in managing four-and-a-half months’ exclusive breastfeeding, but since then has asked herself many times, ‘Was it worth it?’ She says…

With all I have learned from the evidence and literature surrounding the benefits of breastfeeding, I do not think I would put myself, or my baby, through that again. I would try to breastfeed and I would do so exclusively if it works for my baby and me next time. But if it doesn’t, I would be happy to reach for the formula in  the knowledge that it is a balanced, informed choice I am making and that formula and a sane mother might just be a far better combination than breast and a slightly exhausted, slightly mad, resentful one. It seems a pretty sensible choice to me, both as a mum and a doctor.

I so wish I had read that first time around.

I’m pleased to say that with my second time daughter, Mia, breastfeeding was much easier – and even enjoyable. Who knows the reasons why. Perhaps I was a little more relaxed the second time. Maybe my expectations were a little more realistic and I was just ‘easier’ on myself and my desire to be the ‘perfect’ mother. But I think the fact that I knew formula was always there as a fantastic alternative was a real help.

If you’re having issues with breastfeeding and resisting the ‘temptation’ to bottle-feed because you feel that’s not what ‘good’ mothers do, then I’d definitely recommend this book to you. As I say, I really wish it had been around when I was in that position.

Guilt-free Bottle Feeding is published by Crimson Publishing priced £10.99.

Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. No money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are my own.

Apple and mincemeat streusel slice

Mincemeat streusel slice web

If you’re anything like me, at the start of December you have all these great plans for all the foods you’re going to make from scratch for Christmas. But as the month passes by, you realise there’s no just no way you can do everything you planned and you resort, as usual, to the shop-bought versions instead. Mince pies are a case in point for me. Every year without fail, I promise myself I’ll make my own this year. And every year without fail, I end up buying them in.

So, if like me, you have a jar of mincemeat sat in your cupboard, don’t let it skulk there until next Christmas. Now that we’re into January and things have calmed down a bit, why not make the most of it by baking this gorgeous apple and mincemeat streusel slice? It’s just the ticket for cheering up a wet and dreary afternoon with a good strong cup of hot tea. Continue reading

The festive Family Foodies round-up

It might seem strange bringing you a round-up of festive foods at this time of year, but it just wouldn’t be right to wait until next December. So you’ll simply need to bookmark this post for when you start planning your party foods for the next festive season. Although saying that, I think you’ll find there are plenty of tempting treats in this Family Foodies round-up you’ll be keen to try out whatever the time of year. Continue reading