Recipes, food and family views from Beverley

  • Neilson Lemnos, childcare, clubs and photos

    Childcare, clubs and Clare Edmead Photography Our children, aged 17, 14 and 12 are all booked into clubs. The 17 year old wasn't impressed as she's almost 18 and declared that 'she'd see what the people were like'. Our 14 year old is in Waveriders with other year 9 and 10s and small boy, who's 12, is in Surf Squad with other year 7 and 8s. The activities are so good I haven't seen them all week. The clubs run through the day, including lunchtime and dinner so the children are supervised virtually from 10am through to 10pm. Last year small boy spent the first morning in club and declared it 'boring', after that he just hung with a bunch of boys he'd befriended. This year we haven't seen him, he's basically been on the water most of the time, in kayaks (3 hours one afternoon), daily catamaran joy rides, gladiators style battles on the SUP boards, plus cycling into town for ice creams. In Waveriders they've been in the pool frequently with battles, water polo, pool Olympics with the aid of kayaks and paddleboards, etc, plus volleyball and yesterday they had chocolate fights, brilliant, everyone had chocolate and they had to try and cover each other in it without getting covered themselves, then attempt to wash it off in the sea, fab parental entertainment. In TAG - teenage action group, they've also been constantly on the water, two teams had to build rafts (anyone who's been to a sales conference knows about these) then the other half of the TAG had to capture the rafts, sort of pirates really. Again parental entertainment on the beach. Yesterday they had 'water slides', huge sheets of plastic on the grass with hosepipes, brilliant. Beach entertainment this afternoon came in the form of 'sharks', two sharks in the water, the rest in kayaks, all in helmets. The two sharks had to capsize the kayaks and last man in a kayak won. That became interesting when it was a two man kayak and they turned on each other. Today the whole TAG group have gone off on a gullet cruise. How do we know what they've done every day? Do they tell us? No. So how do we find out? Clare Edmead Photography, that's how. This is totally and utterly brilliant. There are three photographers on site who work for Clare and they go all over the place taking photos of everyone. I spotted one on the fun boat used as one of the outer sailing markers waiting for victims. Every afternoon the photos are up loaded onto four computers in the pool bar and you put the ones of your kids, you etc into your shopping basket, at the end of the week they are transferred onto CD to take home for around €95. It's the only way we would have any clue what our children are up to, plus we have fabulous photos that otherwise we would not have as we wouldn't have been there to take them. I think it's worth every penny. Whoever had the idea for this deserves a medal. You do have to like your partner as you see an awful lot of them over the week as the children are off have huge amounts of fun without you. Windsurfing update The beach team are wonderful, by the end of my week I've managed to sail in a wind (on Sunday I was terrified of any slight amount of wind) sail over the wake of the speedboats (on Sunday I fell off a lot) and today I was sailing in winds gusting 4-5, plus I finished the morning with a beach landing, on purpose this time. My previous beach landing was going backwards when I was aiming to go out to sea, so that didn't count. I was rather loud about it and Nathan mentioned that all the beach had heard as he helped me take my kit apart. In all the 22 years I've tried to learn to windsurf I can honestly say that I've never spent so much time on the water. Usually it's been a morning or afternoon lesson, this year Neilson have changed the way they teach and it's two sessions a day, morning and afternoon to help you get going quicker, it works.

  • Neilson Lemnos - food, drink and waterfront

    The town of Myrina is lovely but we have yet to find great food, it's cheap, the food is passable but 'could do better'. Lovely salads, OK fresh fish but my grilled squid was chewy and a little on the charred side, the food in the hotel on bistro nights was excellent. We had great reports about this and think we missed out a bit here by going out. Some friends (who we bumped into at the airport, and who are in the same resort) went on the wine tasting trip last night and said it was excellent and the food was too. We are staying put on Thursday for the beach BBQ due to rave reviews about the food and the chilled out vibe.

    Talking of chilled out vibes, it's 12.30pm, I've spent a great morning on the water on a windsurfer much to the relief of the lovely Max who looked horrified when he saw me coming towards him this morning but more of that later. I'm currently sitting in the pool bar with an exquisite cappuccino freddo made by Mitch, listening to Bob Marley and now Stairway to Heaven. The girls who usually take over the músic and insist on hip hop are on a break so Mitch and his mate have taken advantage, I think Deep Purple is lined up next, tee hee hee.

    Theo, lovely crazy cocktail bar man, makes amazing cocktails, the ones that don't taste alcoholic until you realise that your legs don't work. Last night he was making a Watermelon one and gave me a taster, yummy, 6pm tonight is happy hour....guess what I'm doing? The bar staff are brilliant, in fact ALL the staff are brilliant, can't believe that everyone is so happy and smiley but they are. They even come round the pool and beach taking drink orders, real luxury.

    I have to say that the waterfront staff have the patience of saints. I've spent 22 years trying to windsurf, I got the hang of it two years ago here and got going in Kos last year so the lovely Mike, head of waterfront, put me in 'improvers' windsurf class with long suffering instructor Max. Well, everyone else was way out to sea with me still petty close to shore unable to even get the damned sail up. Two hours later still haven't got the sail up and I get demoted to 'Beginners' class with people who've never windsurfed doing better than me. Lucy and Mike, the instructors in beginners, were lovely though and the whole vibe is very much, 'you're on holiday, you're supposed to having fun, if you're tired and went to give a session a miss it's fine, just come back when you feel like it.' This is so different to other beach clubs when it's more 'if you don't turn up you can't come back cos you'll miss too much'. So chilled, friendly and easy going.

    So two days in beginners not really getting going and becoming more frustrated, not helped by the swell and onshore winds until day 3, wind dropped, millpond sea and I tagged on the 'taster' session with Lucy and actually got going. The highlight of the afternoon being passed by a group of 11 year old boys in kayaks commenting "you're a really good windsurfer" as they paddled past, obviously 11 year old boys know what they're talking about, love them. Two hours later I've been promoted to 'improvers' for tomorrow.

    The look on Max's face was a picture at the improvers session, the look of abject terror that I was in his group. The day started off well, got going, with wind too, tacked, fast tacked, sailed with wind and had a really good morning on the water. This afternoon was different, I was tired, my shoulders really ached and I probably should have parked my bum on a sun lounger, but no, I had to take a windsurfer out. Didn't get very far and was about to give up when Max came over and suggested I get into the rescue boat with him, he'd tow me out to the fun boat marker and I could wait on there and if I decided to have another go I could. Bliss, sunbathing on the fun boat with a lovely cool breeze, eventually Max came back and I spent the next 30 mins in the rescue boat with him, lovely afternoon on the water.

    The quiz night on Sunday was great fun, tonight is battle of the bands and half price mojitos this is going to be a good night I think

  • Neilson Lemnos - arrival

    Going on holiday wouldn't be the same without the traditional silly o'clock flight from Gatwick.  This year there was a pleasant queues to get airside, they've improve the passport control - electronic now, plus the screening was a lot more efficient....more time for breakfast and shopping.

    Flight left on time.  I make a rule about writing only positively so I'm not going to mention the food on Thomas Cook Airlines save to say that the air crew gathered up a lot of full cartons of food, we've learnt and went to Pret a Manager and took breakfast on board.

    Arrival at Lemnos and greeted with lovely smiley Neilson staff, checking us off and writing our room numbers on the luggage as this is all delivered to our rooms by the lovely smiley Neilson staff.  A short, 30 minute, transfer to the hotel, welcome drinks on getting off the coach and straight to the restaurant for some decent food.

    Our rooms are lovely, garden rooms on the ground floor with hammocks on the patio, fab idea Neilson.  Sun tan lotion and cossies on straight into the massive pool, I was in first...children are wusses!  I was also first in the sea!

    5pm was the welcome talk, essential for info about the children's clubs and also to book into tennis, windsurfing and sailing lessons.

    They did a brilliant talk on the 'we don't serve under 18s alcohol, if they look under 18 and they are 18 or older they can have a band so they'll get served, otherwise they won't'.  They also warned us that if they went into town there wouldn't be any restrictions - so be warned.

    Big girl and I came here, same resort, two years ago, just the two of us so we knew how good it was, husband was a little more dubious and so were the littler ones.  Didn't take long to convince them.  The food is amazing, haps of salads and fresh fruit, grilled meats and fish, jelly and ice cream, pasta with a choice of sauces and chips for the desperate parents with kids who won't eat anything else (essential for holiday happiness, I know!).  Pancakes for breakfast means happy children, pool bar opens at 9am for the best coffees, and the most awesome cappuccino freddos on the planet.....I've tried explaining to my local Costa how to make these like Neilson and they don't get it, pure, simple, espresso over ice, topped with frothy milk and sugar if you wish, delicious....I've had to wait two years for these, dammit they're good

    The milkshakes are just as good as big girl remembered and despite her younger siblings declaring that they wouldn't be as good as 'Me-shakes' they've agreed that they are, if not better.

    Chess, draughts and backgammon are available in the pool bar and a great way of chilling out with soothing chill out music in the background during the day

    Food is 'club board' meaning that breakfast and lunch are included every day with dinner 3 nights a week.  On the other three nights you can either eat a la carte at their bistro evenings or beach BBQ or walk into town.  It's very easy to stay in the resort without seeing anything of Lemnos and without putting anything back into the local community which I think is a shame.  This way you get out and venture into real Lemnos.  The local town Myrina is very pretty, with a colonial feel and beautiful buildings, a castle on a hill, harbour and pretty white church on another hill overlooking the town.

    Everyone is just so nice, smiley and welcoming, even in high season when they've all been out for a quite a while. Loving being back, so are the kids, we'll check out the beach front activities tomorrow and see how kids club goes

  • Albufeira - holidays for 18 year olds

    My big girl, aged 17 and 9/10ths had just come back from her first solo holiday with her best friend.  They looked at Magalluf and decided against it, I suggested Ibiza as that's where I'd have gone as I love clubbing and that would be my idea of heaven....again a resounding 'no'.  Big girl is off to uni in Sept to study physics and engineering, she definitely takes after her Dad, I'm an art school drop out.  Her idea of clubs is 'hell' as she wants to discuss theoretical physics and solve the question of life the universe and everything which is difficult to do in a very loud environment.


    They settled on Albufeira in Portugal and got a last minute cheapy in a self catered 1 bedroom apartment in a hotel miles away from the beach but with its own pool.  She's never experienced 'normal holidays', for the past 17 years of her life her holidays have consisted of:

    • Beach clubs, you know, the ones that are all inclusive with fab kids clubs so the parents  have a holiday and funnily enough all the 'do not disturb' signs go on the room doors for the first hour of kids club opening.  In places like Lemnos, Turkey, Kos, Corsica, Greek mainland, Sardinia.  The activities are amazing (sailing, windsurfing, tennis), the food is amazing, the childcare is amazing.  We had beach club holidays until she went to big school and we could no longer take her out during term time (too expensive for 5 of us during summer hols).  We're off to Lemnos again soon with Neilson.
    • Glamping in France, consisting of the biggest flipping caravan you can get, 3 bedrooms with 2 power showers and a dishwasher.  Right on the beach so we could have surfing lessons every day and for the rest of the time the kids whizzed around the campsite in a collective dirt cloud of bikes and you took your life in your hands trying to signal to your child that it was time to come in for a shower and food.   Food consisted of wonderful fresh produce from the local hypermarket, a fabulous selection of fish and the competitiveness of the communal bbqs with the biggest hunk of beef, most amazing marinades and small children bringing assorted nibbles on bikes to the blokes slaving over hot coals.
    • Le Touessrok in Mauritius - this was a one off, we were married there and went back a couple of years ago with the kids for my husband's 50th birthday and our wedding anniversary on air miles flights.

    You can see the holiday standard she has been set, hmm, Albufeira?  It would be an experience.  They had a list of things not to do:

    1. No quad biking
    2. No motor bikes
    3. No scooters
    4. No drinking things that they hadn't seen poured or opened themselves
    5. keep thumbs over bottle tops at all times
    6. No drugs
    7. Use condoms (better than the alternative)
    8. No jumping off the balcony, or actually even going anywhere near it for that matter.
    9. Hold each others hair up when the other's vomitting into the toilet.

    This is what happened over the next 4 days

    Day 1 - text - "in Portugal, it's freeking beautiful, just been shopping for supplies, have boursin, lovely bread, some fantastic meats and wine" - hah, proud Mum no take-aways or rubbish food.

    Day 2 - text - "loads of 40 year olds and kids but not many our age so we're getting loads of free drinks from the bars so we agree to go in, loving strawberry daiquiris, the strip is full of awful restaurants, there are no Portuguese people here just loads of Irish and people from Liverpool, lots of crap food restaurants"

    I ought to add that both and her and her bestie are tall, slim, gorgeous and intelligent, by tall I mean with heels on they are probably around 6'2" and scary as hell to any chaps.  Some chap put his arm round her in a bar and without thinking she did one of her judo moves (she did judo for years) and he ended up on the floor surrounded by a load of his mates who were complete awestruck and a little in love.

    Day 3 - text " found lovely seafood restaurant in the old town"

    Day 4 - text - "jumped off the balcony loads of times, the flat isn't on the ground floor or anything!"

    Day 5 - text "Not dead"

    She got home today, the two of them had a fantastic time but couldn't believe the behaviour of some parents in the hotel (swearing at small children and each other in front of small children) and some of the other people they met.  They were appalled by the 'strip' and the food the restaurants had to offer plus the lack of any locals, all Germans and Dutch with a  few Brits.  They got talking to a bunch of guys in a bar and weren't giving them the time of day until one of them sheepishly admitted that he'd studied Maths at Oxford and that was it, in a corner with drinks talking about her favourite subjects - Maths and Physics, this lad couldn't believe it, he'd been hiding the fact that he'd gone to Oxford and studied maths all week as most of the girls he spoke to saw it as a right turn off.

    The pair of them sounded so middle class retelling their adventures, it was really funny, her present to me - a bottle of peri peri oil, love it.

    They had a great time but she's looking forward to a 'proper holiday' soon, see you soon Neilson.



  • Neilson Lemnos - 3 days to go

    Three days, 2 and a bit sleeps to go (can't count a full sleep on Friday as we have to be up at 3am) until we hit Lemnos with Neilson at Portomyrina Palace, getting a little excited now.

    This will be my fourth time in Lemnos, I know I should be a bit more adventurous with my Greek islands but the truth is I love the beach club concept and Lemnos has the best windsurfing winds for me - pathetically awful, just about able to get up and it's taken me 20 years to get my 'Start Windsurfing' RYA certification.

    I was last on Lemnos two years with Neilson when big girl finished her GCSEs and we got a last minute booking in early July.  It was here that I actually got to grips with the windsurfing malarky, ie getting up and going, in different directions and getting back to shore again upright without swimming it back.  How come this was different to other years? Neilson run the RYA courses inclusive of the package which makes a huge difference because:

    a.  You get a certificate at the end if you pass (OK I know, I'm an adult, but it's my competitive streak, I want that piece of paper that says I can do windsurfing and that I'm now one of the cool beach lasses that can go and get her own rig without being supervised).  It helped keep me focussed when the bruises turned my legs blue and when everyone else in my group was doing it properly so I wanted to do it properly too.  The encouragement from the beach front guys was enough to keep me in bloody minded mode and just do it.

    b.  You get a certificate at the end if you pass - nuff said.

    I got a certificate and last year it scared the hell out of me that I was considered capable of putting my own rig together and taking it out by myself.  It was really scary and, to be honest, I prefer windsurfing with other people who are just as awful as me as you have someone to talk to and compare bruises with.


    So this year I will be having the conversation with the windsurfing guys as to whether I'm up to doing my Intermediate Non-planing certificate (please, please, please) or whether I have to do my Start Windsurfing again.  Last time there was a lady in my group who had done the Start Windsurfing for 6 years in a row - that's a bit like me and tennis - I don't do tennis now.

    Big girl has decided that she wants to do the RYA sailing course - after mucking about in the water over the years she wants to do it properly.  Last time she was out on a pico with a friend who could sail, unfortunately said friend promptly jumped into the sea and swam off to raid another pico and left her on her own, she managed to make it back to shore and got the sailing bug too.Sailing

    This time I'm taking all the family, my lovely husband has decided to focus on his tennis (bye darling) and maybe do a bit of sailing, 14 year old will be hanging out round the pool making friends and may get off her backside to do a little waterskiing and 12 year old wants to spend the whole two weeks in the pool only getting out for hourly ice creams or milkshakes (in his dreams).

    I wonder if things have changed in the past two years, what do I remember?

    First night - welcome drinks then making sure you get in the right queue to sign up for the various activities, we have this down to a fine art - I'm off for the windsurfing, big girl is charged with booking the sailing for her and her Dad and husband's off to the tennis queue - sorted, bet they've changed it though.

    Culture - we're going to Greece so we have to do some 'culture', you know, find some ancient ruins, hah, love this.....Portomyrina Palace has ruins in the hotel, just outside the bar, right by the restaurant so we don't even have to move off site. Just get up walk outside and tick the culture box.

    Food - this is big part of the holiday for me, I love it when someone else cooks. Food is my job so I don't want to cook on holiday.  I'm also a 'fussy beggar' on a low carb, low sugar diet so the food last time was ideal:

    Grilled chicken, lamb and fish
    Loads of salads
    Fresh fruit, heaps of watermelon, olive and cottage cheese
    Pasta options for the younger ones

    Coffee - essential life support.  The pool bar had amazing iced coffees which guaranteed to keep me human each morning.

    Milkshake ration cards - forget about beer ration cards, these were a brilliant concept as the staff were pretty vigilant about serving the teenagers alcohol but of course milkshakes aren't alcohol and they can run a pretty hefty bar bill on 5-6 of these a day.  I must add that these were gorgeous, made with ice cream, but on a par with a large beer price-wise.  Neilson introduced ration cards for the kids that the parents had to sign off as to how many they were allowed a day, loved it.

    Supper in town - Myrina is only few minutes by taxi and 15-20 minutes to walk, three nights over the week supper isn't included in club board and guests are encouraged to go into town.  This helps put something back into the local economy as it's so easy not to leave the hotel if you're only there for a week and the town so incredibly pretty with it's harbour and shopping opportunities for teenage girls.  It's not a 'party' town either so this year we may well allow almost 18 year old to go in with her friends, we won't sleep until she's home though.

    Activities - as well as perfecting my technique of glueing backside to a sunlounger the last time I was there my day involved:

    8am - Yoga overlooking the beach, punishing time to get up but worth it
    8.45am - shower, bikini on, breakfast, sunlounger
    10am - maybe aerobics class, maybe not
    12 noon - aqua-aerobics - awesome, I got the award for aqua operatics for really bad singing, very loudly to 'living on a prayer' at the end of each aqua-aerobics session
    2pm - windsurfing
    4pm - brush up on sunlounger technique
    6pm - sun over yardarm so first beer of the day before shower and glam up for supper
    12 midnight - have pool bar closed down around me

    Aqua aerobics

    Photos - one of the most innovative and superb ideas Neilson have come up with is having on site photographers.  Clare Edmead and her team are out there just waiting to take action photos so you don't need to cart your camera around trying to hide from your kids so you can take photos of them without them seeing, Clare and her team do this for you.  Big girl refused to have her photo taken so Clare took this a personal challenge and used a long lens to get some brilliant shots of her without her knowledge, otherwise I'd have come home with none.  Thank you guys, see you Saturday.

    So 3 days and counting, very excited, wonder if I can beat the kids to the pool as soon as we get there on I can!




  • Summer Berry Cupcakes

    A taste of summer in a cupcake.  This is a great cake or pudding to take on a picnic, you could cheat and buy a madeira cake, make up the topping and assemble it at the picnic.  It makes a lovely change to summer pudding

    150g soft butter or margarine
    150g caster sugar
    3 medium eggs
    150g self raising flour
    200g mixed berries such as raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, blackberries etc (fresh or frozen and defrosted)

    Ingredients: for the topping
    100g mixed berries as above
    2 tablespoons caster sugar

    1. Preheat the oven on to 180c/gas 4. (AGA roasting oven, shelf on oven floor).
    2. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
    3. Add the eggs and flour and mix well.
    4. Gently stir in the berries being careful not to break them.
    5. Split the mixture evenly between the 12 cupcake cases in a muffin tin and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. (AGA: 15-20 minutes).
    6. Place the berries for the topping in a pan with the caster sugar, heat gently for 5-10 minutes until the berries collapse and the juices run. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
    7. Remove the cakes from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack, leave to cool.
    8. To serve place a spoonful of berries on top of each cupcake as a healthy alternative to icing.
  • Don't wash raw chicken - Food Safety Week

    The most common cause of food poisoning is caused by the Campylobacter bug.  You can't see, it taste it or smell it, if you've ever had campylobacter food poisoning you'll never forget it.  The groups at the highest risk are children under 5 years old and people over 60 years.

    Onset is 2-5 days, making it very difficult to know where you picked it up from and it can lead to abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting, in the very worst cases it can lead to reactive arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, diseases of the nervous system and it can KILL.

    80% of cases of campylobacter in the UK originate from contaminated poultry but cooking the poultry thoroughly will kill it.  However, the most common way of picking up the bug is by cross contamination.  This means that utensils, your hands, work surfaces and taps (when you're washing your hands) have raw poultry juice transferred to them and from there transfer to cooked food.  The chicken that was contaminated has been cooked so it's safe to eat but the other things that have come into contact with the raw poultry aren't, that's what gives you food poisoning.

    What can you do?

    1. Handle raw poultry carefully, DON'T WASH IT, this won't wash off the bacteria, in fact the water that you use will splash off the poultry taking the bacteria with it and where it lands will be breeding ground for the bacteria.  All someone has to do is touch that droplet and eat an apple and the bacteria is transferred onto the apple and they contract campylobacter food poisoning.  If you wash poultry in the sink you risk splashing the bacteria around the draining board, taps, back splash, sink, everywhere in the vicinity and it doesn't kill the bacteria either, just don't do it.
    2. Have dedicated chopping boards purely for raw meat.  Ensure that these and any utensils that come into contact with the raw meat are washed thoroughly at a high temperature, dishwashers are brilliant.
    3. When handling raw poultry don't touch anything else until you have washed your hands, yes, it may be a pain washing your hands a few times when prepping up poultry but it's better than risking campylobacter food poisoning.
    4. Turn the taps on with your elbow if you have raw meat or poultry on them, ask someone else to turn them on and use liquid soup so you don't transfer any raw meat juices onto the soap.  If you have to touch the taps wash them down afterwards with hit soapy water and remember when you go to turn them off they will have raw meat juice on so you'll have to wash your hands again.
    5. Make sure that your poultry is thoroughly cooked, never eat undercooked poultry, if in doubt cook it for longer.

    Check out the Food Standard Agency's guildelines for further tips and more information

    Just because celebrity chefs do things on the TV doesn't mean it's right or safe to eat.


  • Greek Meze

    On a warm summer's day these will remind you of holidays in the Med; Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Israel, wherever.  They are delicious and lovely to make for snacks, lunch with a Greek salad and to share with friends.

    The pitta crisps are mega healthy version of tortilla chips and the beans are my absolute favourite, eaten on their own, straight out of the fridge, they barely make it to the table.

    These cigar-shaped cheese pastries are very popular in Turkey, Greece and The Lebanon. They are lovely served as a starter on their own or with dips like Tzatziki.

    200g feta cheese, crumbled
    1 egg
    1 tablespoon water
    2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
    a pinch of freshly ground black pepper
    1 pack of filo pastry
    50g melted butter
    a little water

    1. Preheat the oven to 200oc/gas 6.
    2. Mash the feta cheese using a fork, add the egg and a tablespoon of water and stir to mix.
    3. Cut the parsley using the scissors add to the cheese along with the black pepper.
    4. Lay out the filo pastry, brush the sheet with melted butter and cut into three. Cover the pastry with a damp tea towel to prevent it drying out.
    5. Spread a heaped teaspoon of cheese mixture thinly along one edge leaving a little room so you can fold the edge in. Fold the edges in and roll up to form a cigar shape. Brush with a little water on the final edge to help it stick down.
    6. Brush with melted butter and transfer to a baking tray. Repeat until all the mixture and filo has been used up.
    7. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot or cold with Tzatziki on the side.

    Gigantes Plaki (Greek Beans)
    One of my favourite Greek dishes, serve at room temperature with other Greek meze or as a side dish with lamb.  They are best made the day before to allow the flavour to develop

    2 x 400g jars butter beans
    2 tbsp Greek extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
    1 large onion, finely chopped
    2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    400ml tomato passata
    1 tbsp tomato puree
    1 tsp dried oregano
    1 tbsp flat leaf parsley
    1 tbsp mint
    sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    1. Drain and rinse the butter beans, set aside.
    2. Sauté the onion and garlic in a large frying pan over a low to medium heat for around 10 minutes until soft but not browned
    3. Add the tomato passata, puree and herbs and simmer for 2-3 minutes then add the beans.  Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
    4. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl, cover and allow to cool.  Chill overnight in the fridge and bring to room temperature before serving.
    5. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of fresh herbs.

    Pitta Crisps
    1 pack wholemeal pitta bread

    1. Preheat the oven to 180c/gas 4/AGA roasting oven.
    2. Warm the pitta bread under the grill or on the simmering plate of an AGA until they just begin to puff up. This makes them easier to split in two. The split the pitta breads into two.
    3. Cut each half into 6 or 8 triangles, you should end up with 12-16 ‘crisps’ from each pitta bread.
    4. Spread them in a single layer on a greased baking tray and bake them for 5-10 minutes until the triangles are toasted and crisp but not burnt. Keep checking them as they burn easily. AGA roasting oven shelf on top set of runners for 5-7 minutes.
    5. Turn them over and toast the other side. Remove from the oven, leave to cool and store in an airtight container. Serve with dips as a healthier alternative to tortilla crisps.

    ½ a cucumber
    200 ml Greek yoghurt
    Juice of 1-2 lemons
    1 clove of garlic, finely grated
    1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

    1. Peel, deseed and grate the cucumber. Wrap the grated cucumber in muslin or a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
    2. Mix together the yoghurt, lemon juice, garlic and oil, stir in the cucumber and sprinkle with a little paprika, chill before serving.
  • Bikini body, week 3....the Ball and bacon butties

    End of week 2 and 5 lbs lighter plus a good couple of inches gone too.  I'm feeling much better about my body, I actually feel like I've got my body back after a couple of years fighting for it.  I know, it sounds silly but there we go.

    The first goal was to wear my lovely pale green Ghost gown for Dinton Ball which took place last Saturday, 10 May.  I've had this gown for a good 10+ years, or longer, it's an original Tanya Sarne gown.  It's cut on the bias with a slight drape at the front and a very low plunging back which means stick on bra and no-show knickers.  Tights are a no go and so are slips as anything around the waist is seen.  Any lumps and bumps around the hips and thighs are also highlighted - hence needing to lose a couple of pounds.  So here's the dress with me in it, and a good dose of fake tan, no Spanx in sight, I refuse to buy them.  The frock looked great.

    Bev and PeteI fell off the wagon on Saturday though.  My Mum had a hospital appointment on Saturday afternoon, she doesn't go out much (her choice) and dislikes eating and drinking in public (self conscious due to Parkinson's Disease) so when she suggested stopping at Costa for coffee and cake I jumped at the opportunity as this is a rare request.  She would only eat cake if I shared it (she weighs under 6 stone), so the 'sod it' factor came in, I had half a slice of coffee and walnut cake with her.

    Off to the ball, two glasses of champagne later and as I couldn't remember what wine we'd ordered the only one on the table with our name on it was a bottle of red.  I'm not keen on red so I decided to be incredibly self righteous and not drink any more and drive home at 2am. I left the carbs with main course but did have the bread pudding as part of the dessert.  The real downfall was at midnight when the lovely Ricky and Emily from The Egg House Charcuterie served up bacon butties, diet and low carbs out the window, had to have one.  It was sooo good.  Pete tried to take a photo as he couldn't believe I was tucking into bread, white bread too, but he wasn't quick enough, that buttie was downed without touching the sides of my mouth. OMG it was soooo good.

    Next target is to get back on track, lose another couple of pounds as I'm off to Rome in two weeks and want to wear shorts in public without feeling self conscious, still craving sugar, chocolate and especially fruit.  I'm now aiming for between 30-50g carbs a day mostly fruit and veg so just have to stay off the unhealthy carbs and the sugar and focus again.  I've been making my own version of Marks and Spencer's Blackcurrant Yoghurt, lower in carbs and way more tangy as a huge reduction in sugar.

    I made it to the gym on Sunday morning whilst my lovely husband was nursing a hangover, also didn't make a complete fool of myself like some of the very drunk people at the ball on Saturday.  Took my back to school balls when the headmistress insisted on vetting ALL the photos before any were published to make sure none of the children were embarrassed by their parents.....would have been interesting on Saturday.


  • Low Carb Pizza - cauliflower base

    This pizza base is made from cauliflower, so it's low carb and suitable for anyone with a gluten or wheat allergy.  It is surprisingly filling and tastes really good, don't expect a crispy base as it remains soft and easier to eat with a knife and fork than your fingers.

    Ingredients for 2 pizza bases:

    420g raw cauliflower - approx a medium cauliflower once it's been grated
    1 medium egg
    25g grated parmesan cheese
    1 tsp dried oregano
    Olive oil
    20g passata
    2 large slices of German pepper salami
    20g thinly sliced pepperoni
    1 tbsp frozen peas
    1 ball mozzarella (you'll need more for the pizza topping for the second pizza)
    salt and black pepper

    1. Preheat the oven to  200c/gas 6/AGA roasting oven.
    2. Grate the cauliflower, discarding the stalk and hard centre.  Place into a microwave safe container and microwave on high for 4 minutes.
    3. Transfer the grated cauliflower to a square of muslin or a clean tea towel, leave to cool then squeeze out the water.  There will be lot of water, it's surprising how much comes out of the cooked cauliflower.
    4. Tip the cauliflower into a bowl and add the egg, parmesan cheese and grate in half the ball of mozzerella, oregano, season and mix well, split into two and gently squeeze each into a ball to make two pizza bases.
    5. Sprinkle a little olive oil onto a baking tray or piece of baking parchment, rub some on your fingers and flatten each of the pizza base balls into a rough disc on the oiled tray or parchment.  Neaten the edges and bake for 10 minutes until golden. (AGA baking tray on oven floor for 8-10 minutes)
    6. Remove from the oven and on one of the pizza bases spread over the passata then top with the salami, pepperoni, frozen peas and scatter with the remaining mozzarella.  Leave the other to cool and freeze it until you need it.
    7. Place back into the oven and bake for 6-10 minutes until the cheese is bubbling.

    You can use a different choice of pizza topping if you wish, this is just to give you an idea, the above pizza comes in at approx 330 calories, 15g carbs, 18g fat, 34g protein and is very filling.

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