Blogging under the moniker Bangers & Mash, it’s pretty obvious I am a carnivore. But in recent years I have drastically reduced the amount of meat I eat, for both health and environmental reasons, and view it much more as a luxury food rather than every day staple. I’m always looking for new ways to cook more varied and interesting meat-free dishes and so when I was invited to try out a course at Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath I jumped at the opportunity. Continue reading “Cooking Asian Street Food at Demuths”
Mother’s Day isn’t usually a big event in our house as it generally falls pretty close to my birthday. Some years it’s even fallen on my birthday.
This year I turn the big four-oh and I am being treated to a whole host of dinners and parties, which started last weekend with Saturday lunch at the outstanding Ethicurean and then pampering followed by tapas at the Lido in Bristol on Sunday. My other half is cooking us a fabulous Middle Eastern feast for us tomorrow (my actual birthday), as well as baking his infamous carrot cake. And then next weekend there will be a gathering of family and friends at the Thali Cafe in Southville, and who knows we might even venture out to a club on Saturday night – partly to prove I’ve still got the stamina despite my advancing years.
So this year I really don’t expect much on Mother’s Day. My family has organised quite enough for me already!
And so when my Mum came to stay for a long weekend at the end of February, I decided to celebrate Mother’s Day a little early but in her honour. Continue reading “Benedictine truffles for Mother’s Day”
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.
With just two weeks to go until the big ho ho, here’s a round-up of some of my favourite festive foodie discoveries, perfect for eating or giving (or both) this Christmas… Continue reading “Christmas thumbs up for…”
Here’s a quick round-up of some of my family’s latest foodie discoveries. From veggie-packed breads to tempting puddings, meaty sausage rolls to meat-free mince, it’s safe to say we’ve been eating rather well of late! Continue reading “Thumbs up for…”
If you’re looking for a gift for the foodie bloke in your life, can I recommend this latest title from Haynes. Yes, that’s right. Haynes, as in the publisher of the popular car manuals.
Following on from their success with the Haynes Baby Manual , they’re now taking a foray into the world of cookbooks, namely in the form of manly pies. The Men’s Pie Manual is written by food journalist and author, Andy Webb, who has also been a judge at the British Pie Awards since 2011, so he should know a good pie when he sees one.
They’ve got the look and tone of the Men’s Pie Manual just right – that 70s DIY manual feel is all there. And with a quote on the cover from the blokiest of TV chefs, the gert lush Tom Kerridge, Haynes clearly feel there’s a booming market out there for lads, as opposed to chaps, in the kitchen. Continue reading “Bangin’ books: Men’s Pie Manual, plus a hearty oxtail and beef cheek pie”
It’s not all that often I get the chance to dine at beautiful country house hotels. It’s usually only very special occasions these days – significant birthdays and anniversaries, big family gatherings, that kind of thing. But the very next opportunity we have to put on our glad rags for a smart night out, I’ll be suggesting a visit to the Milking Parlour at the Old Manor Hotel, near Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire.
This tasty and very satisfying pasta dish is brought to you courtesy of Chop Sizzle Wow; a new cookbook bringing together 50 quick and easy classic Italian recipes from the bible of Italian home cooking, The Silver Spoon, in a fun and engaging cartoon format.
I was sent a review copy, and as the press release said it is perfect for cooks young and old, I decided to put the children to work testing out one of the recipes.
Our chosen recipe was rigatoni with meatballs. Except we didn’t have any rigatoni, nor did the corner shop, so we went with penne instead. Jess and Mia loved the cartoon concept of the book and found the recipe fairly easy to follow, but they definitely needed some adult assistance from time to time; such as when they couldn’t get the meatballs to fry and brown without them disintegrating. At this point I stepped in and cooked up the meatballs in a separate frying pan.
But all in all the dish was a resounding success and the end result was very good. I think it’s one the kids will want to cook again. Oh, and they also have their eye on several recipes in the desserts section, such as the Chocolate Delight and the Stuffed Peaches.
The recipes in Chop Sizzle Wow are brilliantly simple and very easy to follow, although you probably do need a little kitchen nouse to fill in some of the gaps.
The book is divided into five sections: appetizers, pasta, main courses, deserts and baking, and extra stuff. There’s also a witty introduction giving an overview on how Italians cook and eat.
The illustrations by Brazilian illustrator and artist Adriano Rampazzo (a recent graduate of London’s Central St Martin’s art college) are fantastic and I’m sure this book will appeal to comic book fans, as well as those looking for an easy introduction to Italian cookery. I think it would make a great Christmas present for students returning to their uni digs after the holidays.
If you’d like to try those tasty meatballs yourself, here’s the recipe…
Pasta with meatballs
300g minced meat (our pack was 400g and we used all of it)
Half a clove of garlic (we used a full one – who saves half a clove?)
1 celery stick
1 sprig parsley (we decided this wasn’t enough, and used a small bunch)
1 sprig rosemary
350g rigatoni (we used penne)
plain flour for dusting
3 tbsp olive oil
25g grated Parmesan
Thinly slice the onion.
Chop the garlic.
Chop the carrots and celery.
Chop the parsley.
Chop the rosemary.
Lightly beat the egg.
Mix the meat, parsley and garlic. Then season and mix in the egg. Shape into small balls. Dust with flour.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a low heat.
Cook the onion, carrot, celery and rosemary for five minutes on a low heat.
Increase the heat to medium and add the meatballs. Cook until lightly browned all over. (This is where I had to jump in and rescue the meatballs because they were falling apart. I fried them in a separate pan and then added them back to the vegetables.)
Season and add the passata. Simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta for 10 minutes, or according to packet instructions.
Drain the pasta, then add to the meatballs. Gently stir together and serve, topped with pasta.
Chop Sizzle Wow is available from the Phaidon online store and costs £12.95.
As this dish is a perfect one for older children to make themselves, I am entering it into the Family Foodies challenge, which I host with Eat Your Veg, where the theme for October is Cooking With Kids.
Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary copy of Chop Sizzle Wow from Phaidon Press for review purposes. No money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are my own.
My girls are usually rather excited when I’m sent goodies to review but when they caught sight of this latest delivery from the good folk at Clearspring they were more eager than usual to get their grubby mitts on the contents. Continue reading “Thumbs up for… Clearspring fruit purees”
Somehow the entire summer has slipped by without me bringing you a single Thumbs Up For… post. So, while we still have a few days of August before us, here are some of the tasty foods and drinks I’ve been testing on your behalf that I thoroughly recommend you look out for yourself.
New York Bakery Co Seeded Bagel
Bagels are a big hit in our house. Perhaps it’s got something to do with the hole? Holey food in general seems to go down well. But I must say, these limited edition Seeded Bagels from the New York Bakery Co went down particularly well.
With that classic bagel chewiness, these tasty bagels are a satisfying source of fibre for slow release energy, packed full of linseeds, sunflower, millet and poppy seeds from the inside out. They cost around £1.60 for a pack of four and are available at Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
Black Sheep Coffee Robusta Revival
Try as I might, I can’t go a couple of hours without a cup of coffee. But it needs to be decent coffee. So when the good people at Black Sheep asked if I’d like a sample of their new Robusta Revival, of course I said yes, particularly when I heard this is the UK’s first fine Robusta bean product. I was intrigued.
Black Sheep rebels against the common assumption that Robusta can only used for low-grade products such as instant coffees. Their product, available as beans or ground, comes from a single-estate in India – the only estate in the world to have received three ‘Fine Robusta’ certifications by tasting experts.
It definitely didn’t taste cheap or low-grade to me. These fine robusta beans made for a beautifully rich and creamy mug of coffee, not at all bitter but instead quite mellow and slightly sweet and nutty. Next time I’m in London, I’ll be heading for the Black Sheep cafe in Camden to pick up another bag, or two. At £5.40 for a 227g bag it’s not cheap, but then good coffee never is.
It might not be the easiest to pronounce, but Västerbottensost is a wonderful Swedish cheese. It’s full of flavour, slightly salty and slightly nutty, and is an extremely versatile cheese to cook with. It can be used in baking, sauces, salads or as a garnish for rice and pasta dishes.
I recently tried some in my mini vegetable frittatas, which will be appearing on the blog very soon, which were a hands down winner with all the family. The tasty cheese balanced the sweet veggies perfectly.
Västerbottensost is available in Waitrose, Ocado and Selfridges and costs around £8.90 for 450g. I’ll be looking out for when it’s on special offer!
Silver Spoon Chocolate Flavour Icing Sugar
On rainy days, an activity I turn to again and again with the children is baking. And with a bag of this Chocolate Flavour Icing Sugar from Silver Spoon, creating some stunning* chocolate and strawberry cupcakes was simply child’s play with lots of bowl-licking action to be had (by kids and mum alike).
Widely available, a 125g costs around £1.60 and is enough to ice 12 little cakes. For more baking ideas, check out the Baking Mad website.
* Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder; particularly when it comes to your own child’s creations.
M&S Summer of Flavour
One of the plus sides to commuting three days a week to Bristol has been the chance to pop into an M&S Simply Food store occasionally on my way home from work to pick up a treat or two.
I’ve rather enjoyed their Summer of Flavour range. These world-flavour inspired deserts in particular have proven particularly popular in the Bangers & Mash household, with the raspberry and lychee panna cotta my personal favourite.
The Summer of Flavour range also includes barbecue meats and sides, tasty snacks and cooling fruit juices and cocktails. If you’re quick, you might just pick up one of the M&S in store offers.
Tesco ‘Free From’ Coconut Milk
I’ve been shifting rather a lot of this Coconut Milk from Tesco in the last couple of months. We’re enjoying it in our porridge and fruit smoothies – it’s delicious combined with pureed pineapple and mango – and I like a tall glass of it when I get back from a run, usually with some Camp coffee or Nesquik chocolate powder stirred in. I know; we all have our weird little idiosyncracies and Camp coffee and cheap chocolate milkshake powder are a couple of mine!
But back to the coconut milk. It’s dairy, gluten and wheat free, so ideal for anyone with food allergies or intolerances and at just 67 calories a glass it’s also a handy substitute for anyone watching their weight. It costs £1.25 for a litre carton and is widely available in Tesco stores.
I can’t say I’m much of a real ale drinker; cider is more my thing really. It’s generally only when my Dad comes to stay that ales make an appearance in our fridge.
But when Wychwood got in touch to say they’d like my opinion on their very British craft beers, I was tempted. Maybe it was the curious names, like Black Wych and Hobgoblin. Apparently each beer is named after a character that lives in the ancient woodland that is the Wychwood forest.
My husband was rather taken by the Black Wych, a sweet and smooth porter, but it was a little too dark for me. I really liked Hobgoblin, a fruity ruby beer, but it was Imperial Red that really surprised me. It’s a lovely malty beer that’s full-bodied but not too heavy. I’ll definitely be drinking this one again.
Wychwood Beers are widely available from supermarkets and off-licences and cost around £12.50 of eight 500ml bottles.
What new products have you been eating and drinking this summer? I’d love to hear your recommendations and new discoveries…
Disclosure: I was sent complimentary product samples from M&S, Wychwood, Silver Spoon, Västerbottensost, Black Sheep Coffee and New York Bakery Co for review purposes. No money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are my own.