Monthly Archives: February 2013



For the last two months, the mother-in-law’s psychotherapist boyfriend has been living with us.  Until now.  It was only ever going to be temporary but he moved out early one morning after a late-night bust-up.  (If you could call arguing with a psychotherapist a bust-up.)

He’s gone to stay with another therapist.  I’m sure they’ll talk a lot.  But he’s left Sid – the goldfish – here, swimming melancholically and forgetfully around his chipped glass world.  The children are curious; overzealous, really.  Zippy recently told Sid that she’d like to eat him.  She had just fed him, so I suppose she’s working her way up to a small-holding.  I informed her that Sid, like the fish in the mother-in-law’s pond, are ornamental – “only for looking at and talking to” – although if I had it my way, I’d free them all, as there’s nothing more disconcerting than watching a majestic, shimmering creature traveling aimlessly around a very, very small circle.

It rained this afternoon, so to busy myself and the kids we painted a pillowcase (we’re making a flag, not auspiciously decorating the psychotherapist’s ex-bed linen) and then made some kick-ass popcorn.  This is a family-friendly snack to end all snacks: moreish beyond belief and not unhealthy.  In fact, it’s actually nutritious if you have the right ingredients (by which I mean no added salt or sugar).  Here’s why…

Popping corn is a 100% wholegrain meaning it’s naturally high is dietary fibre.  It’s also low in fat, sugar- and salt-free, and high in calcium, iron, phosphorous, zinc, niacin, riboflavin and polyphenols (antioxidants that help prevent heart disease and some cancers).  Peanut butter (and other nut butters) add to the nutritional benefits as it provides protein, vitamins B3 and E, magnesium, folate and another antioxidant in the shape of p-coumaric acid.  And Walter C. Willet, the Professor of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, has this to say about the brown, sticky stuff: “Unsalted peanut butter, with 5 milligrams of sodium, has a terrific potassium-to-sodium ratio… Over the years, numerous studies have shown that people who regularly include nuts or peanut butter in their diets are less likely to develop heart disease or type 2 diabetes than those who rarely eat nuts.


Maple syrup is just scrummy.  Absolutely the best thing that trees have produced since oxygen, wood, paper, coal, fruit and homes for small creatures.  Gosh, trees are fricking awesome.  Anyway, back to maple syrup… Yes, it consists primarily of sucrose but it also contains lots of potassium, zinc and manganese, and compared to honey, has 15 times more calcium and a tenth of the sodium.  And again, like popping corn, scientists have recently discovered that maple syrup consists of natural antioxidants phenol compounds that block two carbohydrate-hydrolyzing enzymes that contribute to type 2 diabetes.  This included five new compounds that have never before been detected in nature.  In your face, table sugar!

Unlike the highly-saturated fatty coconut oil used in commercial food processes, raw virgin coconut oil is composed mainly of medium-chain triglycerides and is naturally saturated and free from trans-fatty acids.  Made using fresh coconuts that have had their oil pressed out of them and then simply filtered, it is unbleached and unpasteurised.  It’s incredibly heat-stable, meaning that it suits frying and other methods of cooking at high temperatures.

This recipe takes about 10 minutes to prepare from start to finish, and makes a big enough bowl of popcorn for a family of 4


75g popping corn
3 tablespoons smooth or crunchy peanut butter (allowing a little more for crunchy) or other nut butter, no added salt or sugar ideally
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons raw virgin coconut oil
1/4-3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like your munchies)
A sprinkling of sea-salt if required



Heat a heavy-bottomed pan and add 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil.  Add the corn kernels and cover tightly with a lid.  Shake the pan continuously – holding the handle on the lid as you do so – as this helps to prevent the kernels from catching at the bottom and encourages popping.   You will start to hear the corn pop and then eventually slow down to a halt.  This process takes about 5 minutes.


Transfer your popcorn into a mixing bowl and remove any unpopped kernels.


Using the same pan, heat your peanut butter and remaining tablespoon of coconut oil over a low heat until it melts down a little.  Add the maple syrup and cayenne pepper, stirring off the heat, so that it forms a paste.  Immediately pour the mix onto your popcorn, working through carefully with a spatula or wooden spoon until it’s all coated.

Tip the popcorn onto a non-stick baking tray and spread out the pieces to separate them using your fingers.  Sprinkle on some good quality sea salt, like Maldon, if you’re using.  Allow to cool and enjoy immediately!


This popcorn will store for a good few days in an airtight container, if it survives that long!

Alternative flavour: Za’atar & Olive Oil Popcorn
Make your popcorn in very much the same way but drizzle on some extra virgin olive oil and a good sprinkle of za’atar and sea salt before serving.



Every Wednesday, the mother-in-law welcomes a meditation group into her home. This small, quiet gathering of mostly women centres itself in the living room of the house bringing with it a humming, wombish equanimity that soothes the middle of the week, when the infant residents are peaking in their puissance and my maternal stability threatens a wobble.

One of the abhyasis (practicants) is Edna, a lovely Israeli woman who runs Edna’s Kitchen, a local food company making incredible, authentic middle eastern food. She recently gave us a pot of her beetroot hummus to sample, which was so utterly moreish I just, well, had to make more.

If we were to talk about food in terms of fashion, hummus would probably be placed somewhere alongside the Converse hi top. Outside their natural habitat (the Middle East/the basket ball court) they’ve been pop cult since the 1970s and have, in recent years, become so prolifically and commercially manufactured that everyone has eaten it and worn a pair, probably at the same time.

Beetroot isn’t as trendy as kimchi or a pair of McQueen ‘bumsters’ (ok, so my knowledge of haute couture stopped somewhere around 1996) but it’s definitely not as common as sliced white or a Burberry umbrella. It’s also an amazingly versatile ingredient (try making beetroot and chocolate brownies, they’re bloody gorgeous) and incredibly healthful.

Beetroot provides a rich source of strong antioxidants and nutrients, including magnesium, potassium, Vitamin C and sodium. It also contains betaine (which also gives it its crimson colour), a compound vital to cardiovascular health in that it reduces the concentration of homocysteine, a naturally occurring but harmful amino acid cysteine which contributes to the onset of heart disease and strokes. Recent studies have shown that it also helps to reduce blood pressure and increase stamina and performance (Lance, you should have hit the beets), and that betaine may protect against liver disease caused by alcohol abuse, protein deficiency or diabetes. Interestingly, beetroot has been used since the Middle Ages to treat illnesses of the blood. You definitely want to be eating this stuff.

It’s also worth noting that beetroot is cheap as chips and environmentally friendly to boot – it’s best-suited to northern European climates, so perfect for British soil, and rarely needs treatment with pesticides. This red orb can do no wrong.

A super-quick and easy-peasy recipe (if you have a food processor), this spiced beetroot hummus is heavenly with fresh pitta (here’s my recipe for that). Although today I had mine slathered on rye with some home-cured salt beef brisket. To. Die. For.


300g raw beetroot or around 250g ready-cooked beetroot (in water NOT vinegar/brine)
3 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 400g can of chickpeas, drained (260g drained)
Juice of 2 lemons
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon dried coriander
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper


If using raw beetroot, wash before cooking and then cover with cold water in a saucepan. (It’s not necessary to peel the beetroot.) Bring to the boil and then simmer until tender (around 1 hour depending on the size of the beetroot). Drain and leave to cool slightly before handling so you can peel the skin; it should just come off under some cold running water.

Once cooled, roughly chop up the beetroot and place in the food processor with the tahini, drained chickpeas, lemon juice and crushed garlic. Flick the switch and blend to a consistency that you are happy with (I like my hummus smooth). You should have a beautiful, light crimson-coloured paste.


In a heavy-bottomed frying pan, heat the olive oil and then add the sesame seeds, cumin seeds and coriander. Fry, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, for no more than 2 minutes making sure that the seeds don’t catch and burn. Remove from heat and add about two-thirds of this oily seed mix to the blender, along with some freshly-milled black pepper and salt (if you use). Whiz up again for a moment.

Spoon the hummus out into a dish and put the last third of the oily spice mix on the top. Eat.

The hummus should store for a good few days in the fridge, unless you’re my family and it goes in a few minutes.


Kimchi – snazzy sauerkraut (or what they call fermented cabbage in Korea); as seen (albeit as Choucroute) in The Independent’s Ten Ingredients for 2013
McQueen Bumsters – what people aspired to wear when I went to the London College of Fashion for a TERM (see here)

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