Sunday, 15 February 2015

Spiced Wholegrain Seeded Fruit Loaf


125g extra strong wholemeal flour
200g malted wheat flour with wheat bran
50g oat bran
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground alspice
1 sachet fast action yeast
40g soft dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1tblsp olive oil
300ml hand-hot water
25g ground linseeds
25g mixed seeds
25g candied peel
25g chopped glace cherries
25g sultanas


This is easy to do in a bread machine. Choose the 'dough' setting and add everything but the seeds and nuts, as your machine's instructions suggest. Once the machine has finished, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and follow the steps below from step 7.

1. In a large bowl, sieve together the flour, salt and spices. Any bran caught in the sieve can be thrown on top of the flour.

2. Add the oat bran, yeast and sugar, mix well

3. Make a well in the centre and gradually pour in the water, stirring the flour into it as you pour. Add the oil and bring together. You should have a sticky dough. Add more water or more flour if you need it.

4. Knead for about 10mins until the dough is smooth and elastic

5. Oil a large bowl, put the dough in the centre, cover loosely with oiled cling film and put in a warm place for an hour till doubled in size.

6. Turn out onto a floured surface

7. Mix the seeds and fruits in a bowl. Spread the dough out so it's a large rectangle, and pour the
seeds and fruit evenly over it. Then fold the edges of the dough over, roll is up, and knead until the fruits are evenly distributed.

8. Oil a loaf tin, pour some flour into it and tap it on each side until the flour coats the bottom and sides. Tip out any excess flour. Then press the dough into the tin and put it back into a warm place to rise. No need to cover it this time. Preheat the oven at 200 C.

9. After about 30mins, it should have doubled in size. Place it gently into the oven, being very careful not to knock it or it'll sink! I actually put the oven on at about 40 C and let the dough rise in the oven, then just turn the temperature up to 200 C and leave the loaf where it is so I don't risk loosing the air in the dough by moving it.

10. Bake for approx 20mins, till just turning brown on top. If you tip the loaf out and tap the bottom, it should sound hollow, and when you cut into it you should be able to press a finger softly into the dough and it should spring back rather than sticking together.

11. Great with lots of butter!

Sunday Evening Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Risotto

Serves 4, or 3 very hungry diners!

For the risotto:

1 pint veg stock
1 tblsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
200g arborio risotto rice
1 large glass dry white wine
50g butter
small handful grated gruyere cheese
lots of salt and pepper

For the toppings:
1/2 medium butternut squash
1tblsp olive oil
1tblsp fresh thyme leaves
1tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
salt and pepper

small handful almonds, chopped
small handful pumpkin seeds
small handful wholemeal breadcrumbs
large knob of butter

crumbled feta cheese to taste


1.      Preheat the oven at 200 C. Peel and de-seed the butternut squash and chop into 1cm cubes. Put on a baking tray with the olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix well then pop in the oven for 30mins, along with the un-touched whole garlic bulb. Put them both to one side once they’re cooked. The garlic bulbs will be squishy not crispy, the squash should be soft and slightly brown at the edges.

2.      In a medium saucepan, keep the stock on a low heat so it stays hot.

3.      In a second heavy based saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the onion and celery. Cook over a low heat for about 5 mins till it starts to go translucent.

4.      Add the glass of wine to the onion and turn up the heat so it cooks quickly, stirring constantly. 

5.      When the wine is absorbed, turn the heat back down, add a ladle full of stock and keep stirring until the liquid is absorbed.

6.      Add more stock, a ladle at a time, till it’s all been absorbed. Take your time over this. It should take about 30mins. You might need to add more hot water if the rice isn’t cooked after all the stock is gone.

7.      Take the risotto off the heat and stir in the butter and gruyere cheese. Add a decent amount of salt and pepper, tasting to make sure you’re putting the right amount in.

8.      Squeeze the soft garlic out of the roasted bulbs and stir into the risotto.

9.      Next heat a heavy-based frying pan on a medium heat (don’t use any oil) and add the chopped almonds. Keep tossing them so they turn brown evenly. Add the pumpkin seeds after a couple of minutes to toast these too. Then throw in a knob of butter, allow it to melt, then add the breadcrumbs. Mix well and take off the heat.

10.  Stir the squash into the risotto and scoop dollops out into large warmed bowls. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and top with the nut/crumb mix.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Feeling Bad for Feeling Bad

I lost faith a little bit in my writings lately…

I realised I’ve been wrong about a lot of things and have written some blogs in the past making assumptions and giving advice that I don’t agree with myself any more.  I’ve talked to people who have changed my mind about things, straightened things out in my head and allowed me to see my own points of view from a different perspective. 

So I thought… who am I to preach ways of doing things if I haven’t learned the lessons properly myself? How embarrassing to write so confidently about life when I don’t know any more about it than anyone else and constantly get things wrong?

But you know what, screw it, I like writing. And musing. And getting it wrong. I suppose when it comes down to it, most advice is only stories told by people who are living their own lives as well as they can, just like everyone else. We take on board what we need to hear.

So here I go again. Who knows maybe in a year’s time I’ll re-write this with a year’s extra life experience under my belt.

Feeling Bad for Feeling Bad


This blog is for anyone who, from time to time, feels bad about feeling bad.

Ok, so this is what happens: 

* Your best friend has a baby. You’re so incredibly happy for her, she’s beaming with love and excitement… but you can’t shake the realisation that the days of hanging out, giggling at nothing, painting your nails with glitter and feeling like there was nothing in the world more important than your friendship are a thing of the past.

* Your little brother moves to Australia because he’s been offered his perfect job. You’ve never been so proud of him but you didn’t realise until it happened how much you were going to miss him, or how jealous you would feel.

* You’re going to a party where everyone is wearing elegant classy clothing, but you just don’t feel comfortable in any of the dresses you try on, so you wear a dress you already have. It isn’t so elegant or classy, but it’s YOU. Everyone at the party compliments you on your individual look and says they wish they had the confidence to do it. The party’s great, and you feel a sense of pride, but a little bit of you really just wishes you could be elegant and classy too, and all night you can’t shake that feeling of discontent in your own skin. 

I’d like to frame this from a context of positivity to start with. I very much believe that thoughts are at the root of almost everything that happens to us in our lives. I genuinely believe that if you nurture positive thoughts you will live a happier life. It’s not just flowery-pastel-coloured-unicorns-and-rainbows talk. This quote from an author called Katherine Woodward-Thomas illustrates what I mean quite well:

“Life is a creative process and our thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, choices, actions and words are the tools we use to invent our experiences and circumstances.”

But what do you end up with on combining these two elements of life; a tricky contradiction. You want to feel only good things because you want only good things to come to you and others you love, but the truth is, you don’t feel only good things. What do you DO with that?

Well, to be honest, I don’t know. But there is this: congratulations. You can feel. You’re really good at it. You’re so good at it in fact, you can be overwhelmed with feelings of joy and sadness at the same time. That is something quite special and something you can be proud of.

There is a level of sensitivity where we are able to appreciate every feeling and emotion our bodies provide us with. Where’s the fun in denying that ability? Just do it! Cry at a sunrise! Laugh out loud at a group of frolicking lambs! Dance because you’re so happy! Scream because you’re so angry (maybe not in someone’s face, though that might be tempting)! 

But of course, when your body knows how to feel these things, you WILL feel them, even when you don’t want to. It’s OK though- that’s the point I really want to make here. You don’t need to be angry at yourself that you feel bad when you should feel good. 

I’ve spent much of my life avoiding the word ‘sensitive’ and feeling embarrassment at the fact that I have emotional responses to pretty much everything. But then when I stop to think about it, it’s those very responses that have allowed me to have the most poignant moments in my life. Emotions, I suppose, are a physical response to the information going into your body. Do you know what, I’m glad I have them. Sadness and pain are as much a part of that experience as happiness and pleasure. And they are not in any way mutually exclusive! 

Ok, so you may not be able to control your body’s physical response to things. What you can do however is nourish the good thoughts and give less energy to the bad ones. In practical language:
don’t spend too much time contemplating the bad. Feelings you can’t do anything about, thoughts you can. If you’re caught in a loop of negative thinking then maybe you could try reminding yourself you feel bad because you’re sensitive to emotions and this is one of those experiences in life that makes you feel bad. Experience it. Think about how it makes you feel. And then let that be. Let yourself feel bad, then remind yourself of the good, and try to be grateful for it and to hold on to those thoughts of gratitude and happiness. I don’t think you need to do anything more than that.

And remember that everyone else on this planet who feels things as explicitly as you do….? We understand.

Massive love x

On a serious note, if anyone is reading this and thinking they only ever have bad thoughts, and can’t hold on to the good ones… firstly I’ve been there and I know how that feels, secondly, you can bring yourself out of it with work and with HELP. Seriously, find someone to talk to about it. It’ll change your life.