Do Gentle

 

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Spanish peaches…

As much as a holiday is needed, giving you that well-earned break from the daily grind, it can also put a great fat spanner in the works of your good intentions. Away from the gym, the juicer, blender, familiar super markets and supplements it can feel things are going downhill fast. But beating ourselves up about what we are NOT doing is hardly the way to go, instead tread gently and enjoy the moment without judging. Our bodies can adapt and adjust. I don’t travel with many supplements nor do I eat on holiday the way I do at home – not by a long shot – and that’s okay. I always try to stick to good water, fruit and as many vegetables as is humanly possible and the rest will take care of itself. Relax and try to find what is good where you are. Here in Spain there is some amazing olive oil, juicy tomatoes and flat, ripe peaches – not to mention some great red wines. That can take you a long way. They even do the organic and free range eggs that I love and crave on a daily basis.

By embracing what we can’t change we let ourselves off the hook, which is the whole point of a holiday. Sleep, love, eat and enjoy, people! With love from Spain. x

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Early morning sun rise..

 

Summer Smoothie with Berries

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Loving the  Summer berries right now…  My smoothies of late have taken on all kinds of interesting shades, thanks to the aforementioned berries, and not all entirely appetizing. The taupe version the other day actually needed to be poured into a blue and opaque jug before sharing with a friend. It was more reminiscent of a Farrow & Ball wall shade than a smoothie. Still, colour aside, the goodness is what is key and the flavour was so sweet. Add some nut butter and you have a nutritious and filling breakfast.

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Summer Smoothie with Berries:

Handful of blackberries

Handful of raspberries

Handful of spinach

10 – 15 brazil nuts or cashews

1/2 cucumber

1 banana

1/2 avocado

2 cups coconut water

1 tbsp coconut oil

Blend the lot and enjoy. Happy Summer! x

 

Petersham Nurseries

 

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Mozzarella and cucumber salad + Grilled vegetables selection – Petersham Nurseries

I’m lucky enough to live close to one of the sweetest lunch spots in South West London. Petersham Nurseries is a rare and unusual oasis, nestled between Richmond Park and the river Thames, that has established its own very special magic, available to locals as a cafe after dropping off children at school as well as for those coming from further afield to admire the plethora of plants.  The combination of a seemingly effortless, bohemian garden with scattered flower pots, eclectic Italian glass and ceramics, shabby chic garden furniture and random seating are beautifully juxtaposed with the slickly run restaurant and the very serious business of gardening which is at the core of this lovely venture. It has that aspirational quality to it as well – if we all fell head first into a fortune, this is how we would want to live.

On any given day you will find one or several amateur artists sketching the bountiful blooms available everywhere. But it is a haven not only for artists and horticulturists but also foodies, both the serious and the casual. You have to book long in advance to secure a table in the excellent restaurant yet on any day you can come and enjoy the home-made salads and cakes available in the charming cafe, all displayed on large rustic plates, probably sourced in a souk or a flea market in India, that will satisfy even the most discerning lunch guest. The randomness and setting of the place, coupled with the irresistible food and artifacts makes every visit a memorable event. If you get a chance to go, I’m sure you too will fall under its spell. x

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Beetroot, rocket and goats cheese salad – Petersham Nurseries

 

Super Green Juice

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I love reading the scathing reports on the latest super foods, health drinks, powders and cook books, generated by the media. We have happily eaten hot dogs, turkey twizzlers, Burger King and  battery farmed chickens for years – yet should someone decide to come up with a supplement or a new way of eating that claims any health benefits then all hell breaks loose. Why is that? Schadenfreude when someone feels and looks good after changing their way of life or just plain suspicion of anything new. The mind boggles. In any case – today’s green juice comes from the much maligned Gwyneth Paltrow’s cook book ‘It’s All Good’. This book is filled with gluten and dairy free recipes and drinks – yet includes meat – that  are tasty and fresh. As gluten and dairy are causing allergic reactions and discomfort in many, this book ought to be both helpful and inspiring. I suspect the book would have had a different reception should the author be a civil servant with a couple of gluten intolerant children in tow.  Still, I suspect she cares not much about the critique as her book flew off the shelves.

I very much enjoyed her juice this morning and hope you will do too.

The Best Green Juice (from ‘It’s All Good’ by Gwyneth Paltrow)

5 large leaves of kale, ribs discarded, leaves roughly chopped (if kale is not in season use spring greens)

1 lemon, zest and pith removed

1 large apple

1″ piece of fresh ginger

1 sprig of fresh mint

Juice all ingredients. Alternatively, if you have a blender but not a juicer, fret not. Gwyneth’s top tip is to blend all ingredients and then pour the mixture into a fine meshed strainer. Leaving the fiber and ending up with juice only. Happy Saturday to you all! X

 

Japanese Green Bean Salad

 

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This is a celebratory post in honour of the humble salad. Where I grew up, salads were certainly not what they are today. I have memories of bare leaves, mostly iceberg, thick dressings (think Rhode island or blue cheese) and the content of a can of sweet corn and button mushrooms, perhaps a few bits of cucumber too. Or the classic potato salad with more mayo than potato, with added bacon bits from a package. Sweden, where I grew up, was not known for its vegetable culture, that’s for sure.

These days, however, the salad is fast becoming a main event. Traditional pubs are now offering ‘super salads’ on their menu, which really are packed with super greens, seeds and nuts. And salad is a loose term. Leaves are no longer mandatory, instead all kinds of vegetables suffice – green beans, lentils, watercress, rocket, radish, chickpeas, lambs lettuce, beetroot, kale nuts, seeds and so on can be called a ‘salad’. For those tolerating dairy, feta, halloumi, goats cheese and mozzarella can be fab additions too. And what a lovely concept it is, to play with flavours, dressings, leaves, pulses and seeds until you find combinations that are uniquely your own. No rules!

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At a recent BBQ, the meat was a side and instead salads, all varieties, took centre stage at the table. It was a beautiful, varied spread. What are your favorite? I’d love to hear it. Currently, mine is a Japanese green bean salad with sesame dressing (see top). I could eat this every day at every meal. It goes with fish and meats but works beautifully on its own too.

Japanese Bean Salad with Sesame Dressing

Large packet of fine green beans, washed and topped

1 tbsp sesame seeds

2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce

1-2 tsp sugar/stevia/agave (depending on the sweetness you require)

Steam the green beans until just tender – you don’t want to overdo it. Put aside and cool slightly. In the meantime add sesame seeds to a small dry frying pan and toast until golden. Grind most of the toasted sesame seeds (not all) with a pestle until almost crushed and the aroma released. Mix tamari/soy with the sugar and add the sesame mixture and pour over the green beans. It may look like the dressing will not go far but keep turning the beans with a pair of tongs and eventually the beans will be beautifully coated in the dark, sweet soy mixture. Sprinkle the remaining sesame seeds on top of the bean salad and serve immediately. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do. Happy Wednesday! X

 

 

Pink Lunch

 

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Feeling too hot to eat today? I did – yet a lunch time smoothie is a perfect compromise of drink and solids. I made this one with less liquids than usual but added ice cubes, creating a consistency reminiscent of the frozen yoghurt I used to have in the States many years ago. I ate it with a spoon, which fooled me into thinking it was pudding, yet it was jam-packed with green goodness and ONE beetroot to make it this perfectly pink!

Pink Lunch Smoothie

1/2 romaine lettuce

1/2 cucumber

1 avocado

1 banana

1 beetroot

2″ ginger root piece, peeled

1/4 fennel

1 lemon

Handful of cashews, not roasted!

Chia seeds

Coconut water

Ice cubes

Blend the lot and depending on the consistency you are after, add more or less coconut water (or regular filtered water if you prefer). Enjoy your Tuesday! x

 

 

 

Roasted Veg Medley

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Thank God It’s Friday. Best way to end the week is to sit down with some good food and tonight it is roasted vegetable medley with goats cheese. The aubergines have ‘sweated’ and have roasted in the oven with the rest of the mixed vegetables. This dish would make an excellent side to grilled fish but is perfectly fine served on its own – with a few sun dried tomatoes and a tad of natural yoghurt on the side.

 Friday Roasted Veg Medley

1 aubergine, sliced and sweated

1 courgette, sliced

3 carrots, sliced length ways

1 large red onion

1/2 fennel

Dried herbs

Olive oil

Salt, pepper, chili flakes

Slice the aubergine and place on a baking tray. Add salt and let them ‘sweat’ until you can see drops forming on the surface. Wipe the liquid away and add to deep baking tray lined with greaseproof paper together with the rest of the vegetables. Add a generous glug of olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs and chilli flakes. With your hands, mix all together and ensure every vegetable is coated with oil. Place in a hot oven (200C) and roast for about 35-40 minutes or until  the vegetables are browned and soft. Let cool slightly and then add a few sun dried tomatoes, crumbled goats cheese and a dollop of yoghurt. Enjoy! x

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Grain Brain

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With the risk of sounding didactic, I urge all of you out there to read Dr David Perlmutter’s book ‘Grain Brain“. Yes, in it he discusses the risks of wheat, gluten, carbs and sugar, topics that have been newsworthy for some time and may make you shake your head. Do we really need more ‘fad science’? I would argue not. But I believe this may be different. Dr Perlmutter is an American neurologist that have made links between substances we consume and brain health. And not just any brain health but the biggies like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, diabetes, behavioural diagnoses (ADHD, autism et al) and recurrent migraines to name but a few. In his clinical practice, the results he’s achieved by simply changing his patients diets, not by medication, are quite astounding and he’s a stern critic of our, the world’s, pharmaceutical industry for whom the links between brain and diet has been known for some time. They do not want our best, they want profit. So in conclusion – this is not about our gut but our brains.

Already, and I’m only 1/3 or the way into the book, I have decided to take his suggestions on board and introduce a new way of eating for us as a family. Dr. Perlmutter’s point is that although a small percentage may be gluten intolerant, we are almost all gluten sensitive. But the biggie here is that we don’t know it. Not everyone has problems in the gut that alerts you there is an issue. Brain degeneration is slow and not immediately noticeable. Yet when it becomes noticeable it can be too late to reverse.

 

His other point is that we need to eat a lot more fat. High carb – low-fat is a recipe for disaster according to Dr. Perlmutter and many scientists now voicing concern about our eating habits in the West. High fat – low carb is his motto and with fats he means good fats like cheese, olive oil, walnut oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocados etc. The point is that our brains need a lot of it to be of optimal use. He is also not a vegan but advocates grass-fed meats such as beef, lamb, game and wild salmon as good sources of protein and fats. Not animals that have been reared with grain feed. However, I belive you can follow his advice even as a vegan if that is what floats your boat.

About a month ago I decided to give Gluten Free a go at home and introduced gluten-free pasta (various shapes) and bread. Some makes were more ‘normal’ than others and overall the children have not noticed. The gluten free pasta has a slightly more yellow tone but mixed with tuna, Bolognese, pesto, tomato sauce no one knows the difference. The texture is great providing you don’t over cook it and the bread toasts as any other toast. We have found the Genius brand to be very good. Overall, however, we have introduced eggs as the breakfast staple instead.

  • Scrambled eggs on (gluten-free) toast
  • Pancakes (buck wheat flour or any gluten-free flour)
  • Boiled eggs + soldiers (gluten-free again)

His book may not be your cup of tea but I think the reading and the mass of scientific studies that underpins his arguments, are quite compelling. Being informed is key, what we then do with the information is totally up to ourselves.

 

Beetroot Dream Juice

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Following on from Dr. Junger’s advice of giving our digestion a bit of a break, I decided to finish off the evening the same way as I started my morning. With a juice! This time a pink one, courtesy of the beetroot from my Abel & Cole veg delivery. Beetroot adds a musty yet sweet flavour to drinks which I’ve always enjoyed but may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, beetroot is a potent detoxifier and blood purifier – a real immunity booster. It is packed with vitamin B and C, a liver cleanser and supplier of iron which can be beneficial for those prone to anemia. It’s beautiful colour makes almost any drink look appetising, just remember to handle with care, the beetroot juice is not for the sloppy handed and can stain skin and clothes which can be near impossible to get off!

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My friend Malin enjoyed her morning ‘cocktail’….

Here is what went into this AM and PM’s juice:

Beetroot Dream Juice

1/2 cucumber

1/2 head of celery

5-6 leaves of romaine lettuce

2 big handfuls of chopped kale

2″ ginger root

2 beetroot, uncooked

coconut water

Juice and enjoy! Top tip: if you feel the pulp is still a bit wet, re-fill the juice chute with the pulp and juice again. You’ll be amazed how much extra juice you’ll gain by doing this. Night night. x

 

 

 

 

Electric House

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As a fruit and veggie lover I generally don’t tend to associate eating out with healthy food. Great tasting food, yes, quality meat, yes, but not necessarily fresh, organic, interesting veggies mixed in a way I’d perhaps prefer if I was cooking at home. Now I know many restaurants and pubs go to great lengths to have local, seasonal produce to serve with their dishes but I am talking about your average meal out, without too much planning or research. The truth is it’s often tasty but not so healthy.

To me, therefore, the concept is quite contradictory – the point of eating out is perhaps exactly that you don’t care about nutrition, on that particular occasion, but rather want to enjoy the flavours of that which you don’t eat every day.

Fast forward to yesterday, however, when I was taken to Notting Hill’s Electric House Restaurant by kind friends. The menu was positively brimming with yummy combos of vegetables that you could team with fish or meat but happily have on its own too. For me it was an eye opener of what eating out could be like when you have a menu match!

Here are some interesting dishes and combos from Electric House’s menu that can be recreated at home:

  • chilled asparagus soup
  • raw vegetables, walnuts, blue cheese
  • watercress, radish, sugar snaps
  • bibb lettuce, avocado and crab
  • grilled tomato, peas, avocado
  • spinach, grilled fennel, grilled asparagus
  • broccoli, carrots, caper berries, almonds
  • beetroot, runner beans, walnuts
  • avocado on toast, poached egg

Most of the vegetable dishes were no more than £7 and the portions were very generous, utterly simple and delicious. Definitely not just a small side. I had a piece of grilled salmon with green beans, coupled with a spinach, grilled fennel and asparagus salad. As I’m staying off gluten and starchy things at present, this was my menu made in heaven and just as filling as if it had been served with rice/pasta/potato. There was no way on earth that I was going to be able to finish all of it and in fact, none of us could. And we all like to eat – a lot! As it is a members club you have to know someone who can take you, but if you get the chance to go I can highly recommend the food and the ambience – when we left close to midnight the place was positively jumping. Enjoy your Saturday, everyone! X