Monday, 23 March 2015

Beef broth / stock

Beef broth gives a fantastic depth to tomato soup and is also the basis of all our beef casseroles.  It is ironic that stock cubes were once a staple in my cupboard and now I believe the home-made stock is the most nutritious part of the meal!

In an ideal world the bones would simmer for 12-24 hrs which would allow them to break down and as many nutrients to leach into the water as possible.  However if you have to make it in rush and can only simmer it for 4 hours you will have a perfectly serviceable stock, all be it a little less nutritious!

It is best to use filtered water if possible.  Also, if I am really stuck I would buy bones fresh from a butcher that I trust to have grass fed beef but generally I would look for organic bones.  I have been advised by nutritionists to do so as any toxins from the animal could be stored in the bones and leach out into the stock and there isn't much difference in price.  You can buy bones from online meat suppliers such as Graig Farm, Riverford Organic Farms both organic) and Devon Rose (not organic but high quality meat). 


1kg organic beef bones (if they are very large smash them up first) 
2 bay leaves
Large onion
Large carrot
1 celery stalk (and leaves if you have them!)
2-3 cloves of garlic, unpeeledApprox 12 peppercorns
Salt to taste


  • Place all the ingredients in a large stainless steel or ceramic pan 
  • Cover with filtered water (have at least an inch of water over the top of the highest bone)
  • Bring to the boil and then simmer for at least 4 hours, up to 24 
  • Sieve the stock into suitable containers.  Allow to cool and either refrigerate or freeze for later use. 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Super scones

So called because they taste super and are full of super ingredients.  I took some along to a friend's house this morning for a cuppa and a catch up and they went down so well people were asking me if I would bake batches and sell them! 

I make them a bit smaller than a standard scone as they are pretty filling - especially slathered in butter, cream and jam. No room for fat phobia here! 

I like to warm them up before serving but they are perfectly edible cold. 

They are incredibly simple to make. I was inspired by the recipe in a Kendall Conrad book but have adjusted the amounts of flour, fruit and yoghurt for a less dense scone. She likes to use currants but I like the soft chewyness of sultanas, mixed fruit or chopped apricots.


300 grams almond flour 
2 tbsp / 30g honey 
150g homemade or natural yoghurt 
150g mixed fruit / sultanas or apricots. 
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda 
1 beaten egg for glazing 


-Preheat the oven to Gas mark 3 / 140c
-Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper 
-Mix all the ingredients apart from the fruit in a processor or by hand 
-Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the fruit. It will form a sticky dough 
-Grab handfuls of the mixture, roll roughly into a ball, then flatten slightly into a scone shape 
-Place on the baking tray - they do not expand much so they only need a small gap between each one 
-Brush each one with the egg glaze 
-Bake for 20-25 minutes until they are golden on top and firm 

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Blueberry muffins

There was a horrible moment when I first made blueberry muffins as I folded in the fruit and saw the batter turn a murky blue  colour.  I was relieved to see that when cooked they become a beautiful golden colour! 

I love these as quick breakfast or lunch box addition. 

If you are dairy free just omit the small amount of butter - last time I made these I forgot it accidently (it had been left in oven melting) and they turned out fine. 

I like the warmth you get from adding all spice or nutmeg (my all spice is a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove).  This could be left out or exchanged for plain cinnamon. 

I like to use frozen blueberries as they are cheaper, more convenient and normally have more flavour. 


250g ground almonds 
80g honey 
45g butter 
4 large eggs 
1 tbsp vanilla 
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda 
Pinch of salt 
1 tsp mixed spice 
100-125g blueberries 


- Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/160c fan /180c for muffins or Gas Mark 3/140c for smaller cakes 
- Melt the butter in the oven 
- Sift the almond flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl 
- Mix the eggs in the food processor.  Add the honey, vanilla and melted butter and mix again 
- Add the dry ingredients to the blender and combine 
- Pour the batter into a large bowl and very gently fold or stir in the blueberries 
- Spoon the mixture into the cases and put in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes.  Check to see if toothpick comes out clean, if not give another five minutes and check again 

Monday, 9 March 2015

The 'no it's not soup kids' noodle bowl

We have 'done' soup in our house. After two years of bone broth and soups the kids are rebelling and will only eat tomato soup. The solution to getting the gelatinous goodness of stock into them was either bribery or trickery.  We went for the latter and hey presto 'noodle bowls'. Which definitely in no way resembles any likeness to a concoction of stock, vegetables, chicken and herbs aka soup!

To be fair, it is different in that most of the vegetables are left raw which gives the dish a delicious crunch and leaves you with a holier than thou feeling, (although it is also fab served with a very crisp dry white wine!)

You need to have some chicken stock and cooked meat already so it's perfect for leftovers. It's super quick to prepare and therefore great for weekend lunches.  (We have had it in the evenings too but some people don't tolerate lots of raw food late at night).

What's great is how versatile this dish is as you can choose different vegetables for different people and make the adult version more spicy with the additional chilli.  

As the food is served immediately after meat is added to broth I don't heat it through but if you prefer you can heat it up in the stock - ensuring it is piping hot. 

The ingredients below should serve four. If your are grain free you can serve without the noodles or with courgette noodles.

We use tamari instead of soy as its s gluten free traditionally fermented product  - tastes the same but may be stronger so go easy if you are using it for the first time! 


2 litres of chicken stock
1tsp Chinese 5 spice
A thumbnail of  ginger, chopped
1large clove garlic, chopped
1/2 red chilli seeded & chopped (optional)
1 1/2 sweet peppers, chopped finely
1 bunch of spring onions finely chopped
1 pak choy 
1 carrot, chopped into thin batons 
Chicken or other left over meat, sliced.
3 bunches buckwheat or rice noodles.
Tamari sauce 


-Bring the stock and five slice to the boil.  (You can separate this into two pans if you wish to have one 'chillified' and one plain) 
-If you are using rice noodles they can now be cooked in the stock, buckwheat noodles are best cooked in a separate pan, rinsed in cold water and then added to serving dish at end 
- When noodles have couple of minutes to go add the pak choi and the garlic. 
- When the noodles are ready ladle them out into the bowls. Layer the meat and vegetables over the top. Then ladle over the remaining stock to fill up the noodle bowl. 
- Add desired amount of tamari sauce upon serving 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Buckwheat crackers

The best thing about these crackers is you would never know they are buckwheat!  That sounds derogatory to the poor buckwheat plant (a relative of the rhubarb family and not an actual wheat) but having made bread with buckwheat there can be a strong earthy taste that is off-putting for some people.

The second best thing is the texture - they have a proper crunch which is often missing from gluten free snacks. 

The third reason is that they are a great alternative to the ubiquitous almond cracker. Almond flour is a lot more expensive than buckwheat flour, can be too sweet and also I don't want to eat almonds, in any form, every day. 

These crackers are delicious either rolled so thin they are almost like crisps or as a traditional thicker cracker for cheese or spreads.   They are perfect for a kid's snack time but equally would be an elegant accompaniment to a cheeseboard for a dinner party. 

Crackers only last a couple of days so initially making your own may seem like a faff.  However just like biscuits you can make the dough in bulk and freeze in portion bags.   Then they just need to be rolled out and baked for ten minutes - it's even just about doable in the morning if I am short of stuff for the packed lunches! 

I used ready milled organic buckwheat flour.  If you were going to replace flour with soaked groats you would need to reduce the water in the recipe to accommodate the liquid the groats will have absorbed. 

The ingredients below will make approximately a dozen crackers depending on preferred thickness. 


128g buckwheat flour 
57g ghee  (or butter or olive oil) 
1/2 tsp salt 
50ml water 
Black pepper to taste 


- Preheat the oven to 160c fan / Gas Mark 4 
- Measure out the ghee or butter in an ovenproof dish and put in oven to melt 
- Mix the flour, ghee, salt and pepper in the processor 
- Slowly add the water until you get a dough consistency. You may not need all 50ml.  If your dough is too wet just add more flour until rectified. 

- For square / rectangle crackers: 
Place the dough in the middle of a piece of baking paper the size of a large baking tray 
Put a matching size piece of baking paper over the top and with a rolling pin roll over the paper until the dough underneath is the desired thickness.  
Remove the top layer of paper and with a pizza cutter or knife cut the dough  into shapes. Carefully transfer into a baking tray lined with baking paper 

- For round thicker crackers:
Make small balls with your hands then place on the baking sheet. Either with a flat implement or your hand squash the ball down into a round shape 

- Bake  for approximately ten minutes until going golden in colour. They should be firm to the touch but not too hard as they will continue to crisp up when they come out the oven. 


Add 1/2 tsp caraway seeds for a 'rye' taste 
Add 2 crushed cloves of garlic and 1/3 tsp rosemary for Italian style crackers 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Yoga Workout for Strength & Energy: Full 50 Minute Workout- Tara Stiles ...

If you are familiar with yoga (vinyasa flow) this is a great home routine that will fit into an hour


Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Chicken tagine.

This is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog.  I bought a tagine on a late night shop to TK Maxx and then had to find something to make in it!  Being a bozo I had forgotten that I now have an induction hob so I was forced to start this recipe off in my large frying pan and then transfer it over into the tagine in the oven. If you have a suitable tagine and hob, or want to make the whole dish in a shallow casserole dish, (you will need one with a lid), then you can avoid this step.

This is not an entry level dish for a fussy kid, but it is easy enough to separate out the different bits of it. For example my eldest had everything including the lemons but I separated the chicken out for my four year old and just hopefully placed a few kalamata olives separately on his plate.  He queried 'the green bits' a.k.a coriander but was happy to accept they were a bit of vegetable and no scraping of chicken was required.  When he first tasted the chicken he said 'this tastes ...(I waited with baited breath, it's now nearly seven o'clock and I have no back up dinner) ..'this tastes different' and proceeded to eat the lot.  And no 1 child had seconds. Hurrah! 

There are lots of fantastic Moroccan side dishes that would go with this but on a week night, cooking on my own, this ain't going to happen.  So I served it with steamed cauliflower and flat green beans.  We don't eat couscous so we had it with organic basmati rice and that soaked up the juices nicely. 

The longer you can marinate the chicken the better but even a couple of hours will work. 

I used a mix of pitted green olives and kalamata olives.  I think the fat purple olives worked the best but are a stronger taste for kids. 


4-6 chicken thighs 
1 large or 2 small onions (chopped)
4 cloves of garlic (crushed)
1 preserved lemon (deseeded and chopped finely)
Approx a dozen and half olives
1/2 tsp coriander 
1 level tsp cumin
1 heaped tsp ginger 
Salt and pepper 
2 handfuls of coriander (washed and chopped) 
2 tbsp olive oil 
500 ml of home made chicken stock or hot water 


- Mix the  oil, cumin, coriander and ginger into a paste 
- Rub the paste all over the chicken thighs and set aside in a covered dish to marinate. 
- When you are ready to cook the rest of the dish remove the chicken from the fridge to allow it to come to room temperature 

- if you are using the oven preheat it to 180c / Gas Mark 6
( If you are using an earthenware tagine put this in the oven immediately so that it can heat up slowly) 
- On a medium heat brown off the chicken (approximately five minutes on each side).   Set aside 
- Cook the onions for a couple of minutes on each side until softened and then add in the garlic and cook for another minute.
- ( Whilst the onion is cooking heat up the chicken stock in the pan allowing it to get to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Or boil a kettle if you are using water) 
 - Add in the chicken, half of the coriander, the lemon, the olives and the hot stock to the dish. Season with salt and pepper 
- Either simmer allow the dish to simmer on the stove for 45-60 minutes or transfer it into your tagine / casserole dish and put in the oven for approximately one hour until the chicken is cooked through and tender - it should be falling away from the bone. 
- Garnish with the rest of the coriander before serving 

Chocolate mousse (ssshh keep quiet about the avocado)

I would love my children to willingly eat avocado but there is not a hope in hell of that 'slimy' texture getting near their lips. However that texture is exactly what makes avocado such a great ingredient in chocolate mousse.

This is a throw it all in the processor kind of recipe.  Over time you will probably come to adjust ingredients to your palate adding more banana or honey for a sweeter palate or more cocoa/cacao for a stronger chocolate taste. 

I like the texture you get from the dates but if you are looking for a smooth texture (and unless your processor can achieve a very smooth date paste) you could leave them out, and add a little more honey if required.  

Raw cacao may be preferable from a nutritional point of view but the recipe works with pure cocoa powder too (I buy organic cocoa powder) 

In theory this should be chilled before frozen but I have eaten it straight from the bowl and if it's a last minute pudding when kids come round to tea I can't see they are going to complain about the temperature! 


6 dates 
6 ripe bananas (medium size) 
3 ripe avocados (medium size) 
2 tbsp honey (ideally raw or unpasteurised) 
1 level tbsp vanilla extract 
4 tbsp raw cacao or cocoa powder 


-Blend the dates in the food processor 
-Add the bananas and blend again 
-Prepare the avocado - cut in half, remove the stone and spoon out the flesh into the processor, avoiding any black bits 
-Add in the honey, vanilla extract and cocoa and blend to desired consistency 
-Divide into ramikins and cover with cling film (or small plastic pots with kids) and either chill in fridge or freeze for a few hours before serving. 
Looks pretty served with strawberry and mint

Monday, 2 March 2015

My name is Tracy and I'm an addict....

'When I am particularly bad I don't care about sleep, food and spending time with the family.  Even though I know it isn't good for me I just can't stop.'

I am not talking about alcohol or drugs.  I am a recovering Internet 'research' addict.  

One article on phytic acid leads to another about chia seeds then another about curing eczema and before I know it I have diagnosed the whole family with candidiasis or thyroid problems.  

Having learned the physical warning signs I now know on a bad day when I read a very impassioned article about the evils of a particular foodstuff my heart will start racing. My mouth becomes dry. My palms sweat. And I start clicking on links furiously trying to get to a definitive conclusion. 

Sound familiar?  Those clever people who design websites and targeted marketing know how our brains work and have lots of clever tricks to keep us coming back for more.  The 'answer' to how to have a perfect diet always seems one Mercola article away.  

As a documentary maker I had to digest lots of technical health and scientific information and come to a balanced view.  So why do I have this over-reaction when it comes to looking at my own health and diet?  Why are a lot of my very clever, balanced, well educated friends guilty of the same thing?  

I believe it's very difficult to be dispassionate when it comes to our health or our children's health. Any talk of illness sends up the red flags in our brain and panic sets in, we think if we work a bit harder we can solve this problem. Really?  So there are professionals toiling away in hospitals and academic institutions across the globe who will admit that nutrition research is in its infancy and they don't have all the answers,  but I will be able to self diagnose and work out a treatment plan for my family if I just get another half hour on Google??? 

In my saner moments I know that something as complex as nutrition cannot be broken down into a set of rules but it would make life so much easier if it did and there in lies the attraction of looking for 'the ten foods you must eat every day' or the 'food you must never eat if you want a flat belly' 

The internet is neither good nor bad.   It can be a fantastic resource for medical information, accessing communities and of course finding recipes. However it is only as useful as the person navigating it. 

Firstly you will always find what you want to!  It's not dissimilar to playing with one of those kids toys that can 'guess the answer'. If you put in 'grains' and 'bad' you are going to find lots of paleo articles with convincing scientific argument telling you grains are indigestible and should be avoided. 'Grains' and 'good' will take you to lots of content from advocates of plant based diets who will have compelling evidence for why grains should be a staple in your diet.   

Secondly,  do you trust yourself to differentiate between good and bad science or to objectively consider the evidence?  It goes without saying that there is bad science posted on respectable looking websites. But what about properly researched science?  Are most of us really capable of extracting principles from detailed one-off studies?  Do we know who sponsors these studies?  Do we know the context?  Do we ever go beyond the headlines or summaries to read the original study and if we did, would we know what other studies appeared at a similar time that put forward a contrasting view? 

Most of the time we access studies via a website or blog.  Those authors all have a view point and even subconsciously will be looking for research that supports that viewpoint.  I have greater respect for someone who admits that there is no compelling evidence for any one diet and is prepared to be flexible in their thinking than someone who is using scare tactics to aggressively push their point of view. 

Consider why someone is telling you what they are.  Do they have a book to sell?  Is it a sponsored post?  If not, there is still question of how do they verify the information they are giving you?    Be wary of the 'Facebook effect'.  People who continuously post about their wonderful life and perfect children are self editing. Similarly people who write about food are not going to blog about the days when they could cheerfully smash their Teflon free pan over their child's head for refusing to eat their greens. (Hopefully this last point will be rectified when there are more English sites v American ones as I think we 'do' failure so much better).  

But what about testimonies from people who have tried dietary interventions and found relief from medical problems?  These people are not earning money from telling their stories, they have no axe to grind?  I think this is a true and certainly trying things on the recommendation of other parents is something we would do generally in life.  I think it's important though to remember that a written comment can only give you a snapshot of how they are feeling at any given time . Take GAPS.  Within the same blog I have found one article saying it is the answer to all the author's medical problems but another post six months on blames the protocol for further burning out her adrenals. I myself felt great for a few months on a paleo type diet but then my skin and energy deteriorated and I felt I was craving sugar more.  Also, we all have different physiologies and different schedules and this has an impact on our nutritional and energy needs so what works for someone else might not work for us. We know this instinctively but it's easy to forget when we are bombarded with images and information. 

There is also human psychology to take into consideration -  once we commit to an idea we look for the positives and with diet it seems we are very prone to mixing up the feel good factor of trying something new and feeling in control, with definitive medical progress (similar to the placebo effect). So whilst I would certainly consider other people's experiences I cannot assume my body will respond in the same way or that their will be long lasting benefits. 

In dealing with my addiction I have come up with some guiding principles.   If lots and lots of people are recommending something and it's fairly harmless then I will happily give it a try - for example having a teaspoon of honey and cider vinegar in the morning to ease digestion.  People have been recommending it since my granny's day and if it's pointless it's a fairly inexpensive placebo.  If there is anything more contentious or its a cutting edge technique I would seek out a professional (doctor, nutritionist etc) to give me some expert advice.  Take for example chelation therapy that is recommended for 'heavy metal detoxing'. An article on this could appear next to a discussion about whether banana skins can be used to cure verrucas. However chelation therapy can be a dangerous procedure, especially for children and needs to be carefully considered within a team of qualified people.  

Even when the factual basis behind a belief seems strong I remind myself that nutrition is a new science and there is still a lot to learn   Therefore I have stopped looking for points of difference and now look for where viewpoints meet (see my other post) because actually for all the posturing, there is often quite a lot of consensus.  

Most importantly (and one my nutritionist keeps remind me of when I start to spiral) is I need to listen to my body rather than treating eating as a  reductive science.  By not eating crap and eating clean food I have the ability to pick up clues much more clearly.   And going for a walk in the fresh air or getting two hours more sleep should help my digestion more than sitting glassy eyed in front of a screen playing detective!    

So as the old saying goes 'take everything you read with a pinch of salt' (Himalayan rock salt of course:))