A Well-seasoned Breakfast

Breakfast is a great opportunity to wake up your taste buds with a freshly cooked and naturally delicious meal. Vegetables, herbs and spices can all play a part in a good breakfast – yes, even on a Monday!


Grilled tomatoes with herb sourdough croutons and Rhubarb Ketchup.

I’ve been making my own natural sauces that go with lots of great breakfast dishes, but there’s plenty of reasons to rustle up a home-made breakfast, with or without sauce!
Here’s my top three reasons for making a freshly-cooked breakfast:

  1. Taste and flavour

A homemade, freshly cooked breakfast allows you to enjoy your personal favourite flavours and ingredients. So why not start the day with a big flavour hit?

Amongst my favourites are tomatoes, fresh herbs, eggs, chili, beans, spinach, cheese, bacon, soudough bread, miso soup, homemade pastries, marmalade, kippers….. (maybe not all in one breakfast though…)

There’s no limit to a flavourful breakfast, yet for the past 40 or so years, a bowl of breakfast cereal has been the UK’s breakfast favourite. You only have to look at the size of the cereal aisle in the supermarket to be reminded how successful the breakfast food industry continues to be.

The reality of the taste and flavour profile of breakfast cereal though, is, of course, just sugar – it masks the bland, processed nature of ready-to-eat breakfast foods and does little else. And every bowl of cereal will taste exactly like the previous one, so you never get any taste and flavour variations like you do if you cook your own breakfast.

Texture is another element of taste that is often overlooked. Naturally cooked foods have wonderful variations in texture – for example, the crunch of toast, the smoothness of butter, the wobblyness of marmalade – all add to a really satisfying meal.


2. A creative start to the day



Homemade baked beans with Umber sauce.

Rustling up a fresh breakfast from scratch is the chance for a bit of early-morning creativity .

A bleary-eyed  fridge rummage can lead to a lot of creative breakfast cooking – left-overs; cheese; homemade baked beans; eggs; potatoes…

Trying out other cultures’ breakfast is fun too – I’m liking homemade miso broth for breakfast at the moment amongst other things.

And using herbs and spices is a brilliant creative way to put a different ‘spin’ on scrambled egg or fresh hash browns for example.

3. An early morning nutritional hit.

A freshly cooked breakfast made of natural ingredients is going to be good for you – yes, including a fry up.


Spicy hash browns with scrambled egg and Umber sauce.

Eggs are one of the most protein-rich foods you can eat, and incredibly versatile. Home-cooked baked beans are full of fibre.

Potatoes are rich in potassium and other minerals. Vegetables and fruits all contain natural vitamins and minerals. Cheese and butter contain vital fats, homemade bread gives you fibre and protein, herbs and spices contain essential minerals, spinach is full of iron, organic bacon is full of protein, good fats and minerals..

On the other hand, a bowl of crunchy nut-style cornflakes is one third sugar – yes really! –  and the product includes four types of sugar (sugar, barley malt, molasses and honey). One ‘breakfast bar’ I just checked out contains no less than 10 different sugars, and each bar is 50% sugar.

Yet the cereal food industry has somehow managed to make us feel bad if we choose a freshly cooked breakfast over a bowl of cereal or a cereal bar. We’ve been conditioned into believing that a naturally cooked fresh breakfast is indulgent, unhealthy, reckless, time-consuming and should only be an occasional treat. Of course the opposite is true.

So here’s to fresh, weird, wonderful and well-seasoned breakfast dishes every day!


An Edible Commute

It’s 7.45am. It’s the middle of August and a gorgeous sunny morning. I’m working from home today, and have decided to do a ‘commute’ to enjoy the early morning before settling at my desk.


My commute takes in woods, water, fields and, most impressively, hedgerows. I’ve been walking this route every now and then for a few weeks, and gradually noticing all the edible plants growing, flowering and fruiting.



Rowan trees line the narrow road, with their heavy clusters of berries and their handsome leaves and I get absorbed in the idea of a creative morning of making rowan jelly.

Lower down in between the rowans, plump rosehips shine in the early morning light. More ideas for jams!


I pass by the old chapel. Feverfew flourishes from the cracks at the bottom of the stone wall. If I had a headache or a cold, perhaps a feverfew tea would be just what I needed.


As I descend to the lower valley, the blackberry bushes have taken over where the nettles left off, and promise much in the weeks to come. Stained fingers and blackberry pie will be on the menu soon…


A Sandwich and Not a Sandwich

tuna sandwich

The sandwich is a British lunchtime institution.

Indeed apparently over 6.5 billion pounds (yes really), is spent in the UK on buying sandwiches each year.

So not only is the lunchtime sandwich a British habit, it’s also incredibly big business.

Which is probably and sadly why the notion of a sandwich has become a sorry sight (and an even sorrier eating experience), in most big food chains.

In my view, a sandwich is a couple of pieces of buttered bread surrounding something I like, such as cheese and pickle or tuna and salad. The point of a sandwich has always been its practical and simple construction and its versatility of filling.

When I worked in a city and stepped out of the office into the high street at lunchtime feeling hungry if I hadn’t made any lunch that day, I was a food marketeers easy fish, just waiting to be caught.

Like thousands of others I’d wander along the pedestrian streets, assessing the lunchtime choices and believing I was in control, choosing what I wanted.

In reality, I was probably nearly always sold what I was meant to be sold – the ‘meal deal’ if I was feeling prudent or lazy; the ‘gourmet hummus, rocket’ etc… from an upmarket sandwich chain if I was feeling confident and healthy; or anything from a supermarket, if I was also doing a bit of general shopping and was in a hurry.

But a mass – produced sandwich is not really a sandwich at all. It’s 37 different dubious – sounding ingredients put together to resemble a sandwich.

Here’s my comparison in looks, cost, ingredients and taste:

open tuna sandwich


table of sandwich

homemade sandwich


My homemade sandwich is half the price of the supermarket one, and tastes SO much better.

This is a homemade sourdough, but decent bread is much more available to buy now too.




co-op sandwich


The supermarket sandwich is quite revolting. It’s a bit like eating a sweet, fishy sponge. Maybe they just need to go lighter on the mono and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides of mono fatty acids…


Kids Cook, Grown-ups Wash Up (KCGWU)


Getting children and young people interested in cooking is really, really important.

So I’m launching Kids Cook, Grown-ups Wash Up Day!

instead of getting the kids to wash up after you’ve cooked – switch it round for a change.

Let’s face it, for many – or perhaps most families, the kids’ main experience of cooking and eating fresh meals is setting the table, then arguing over who’s turn it is to wash up. (As a parent I know I’ve been more than guilty on this front….)

So I started thinking perhaps this contributes to some kids seeing cooking as a chore rather than a creative pleasure. The grown-ups get all the fun of making a mess and the satisfaction of putting good food on the table, then it’s the offsprings’ job to clear up.

So please join my mission to get more children inspired by cooking and send me your pictures of your KCGWU day!

Processed Food V Home cooked food – the stark truth.

If you needed another reason to cook your own food, this post illustrates the shocking difference between a day’s ‘convenience food’ and simple, freshly cooked meals.

I’ve detailed the contents of what’s in a fairly ordinary day’s food, first if you buy the dishes ready made, and second if you make them yourself. The results, I think, speak for themselves.

Here’s a menu for a day that sounds pretty good – It includes lots of fruit, veg, protein and fibre and there’s no cake, chips, sweets, burgers or pizza.What good possibly be wrong with that?

Well it is quite wholesome, unless you decide to let a food manufacturer make it for you…

Here’s my sample menu:

Breakfast Fruit and nut cereal and a banana and yoghurt drink.

Lunch Tuna and cucumber sandwich, fruit yoghurt and a soft drink.

Afternoon Snack Cereal bar.

Evening Meal Quiche and Salad.

So let’s have a look at the ingredients of this day’s menu if you decide to buy them ready made.

These ingredients, by the way,  are of products from the highest ‘quality’ supermarkets and coffee chains, not the lowest! The packaging labels of the foods I’ve chosen include things like ‘healthy and natural’; ‘be good to yourself’; ‘fat free’……

This is the full list of ingredients you’d be eating:

Breakfast Rice, Wholewheat, Sugar, wheatflour, rice flour, vegetable oil, malted barley (a form of sugar), sugar, calcium carbonate, hazelnuts, sugar, rolled oats glucose syrup ( a form of sugar), vegetable oil, flavouring, tapioca starch, antioxidant (mixed tocopherois), barley, malted barley flour, almonds, barley malt flavouring, salt, vitamin c, niacin, iron, vitamin B2, vitamin B1, vitamin b6, folic acid, vitamin b12.

Lunch Oatmeal bread:, wheat flour, water, oatmeal, what bran, yeast, salt, wheat protein, spirit vinegar; emulsifiers (mono and di-acetyltartaric esters of mono and di-glycerides of fatty acids, mono and di-glycerides of fatty acids, vegetable fat, malted barley flour, flour treatment agent (ascorbic acid), canned tuna: tuna , salt, mayonnaise dressing: vegetable oil, water, spirit vinegar, sugar, pasteurised egg yolk, cornflour, salt, dijon mustard (water, mustard seed, spirit vinegar, salt), white pepper, mustard flour, concentrated lemon juice cucumber. Fat Free Yogurt (Skimmed Milk, Skimmed Milk Concentrate/Powder, Yogurt Cultures, Bifidus ActiRegularis® (Bifidobacterium Lactis DN-173 010)), Cherry (11.2%), Fibre (Oligofructose), Fructose (1.4%), Stabilisers (Modified Maize Starch, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum), Concentrated Elderberry Juice, Acidity Regulators (Sodium Citrate, Lactic Acid), Flavouring, Sweeteners (Acesulfame K, Sucralose) Carbonated Water, Glucose Fructose Syrup (20%) (Lemon, Cranberry, Raspberry), Flavourings, Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Caffeine, Extracts of Black Carrot, Stabilisers (Locust Bean Gum, Acacia, Glycerol Esters of Wood Rosins).

Afternoon snack Yoghurt flavour coating 30% (palm kernel oil, sugar, MILK whey, dried yoghurt (MILK), emulsifier: sunflower lecithin), dried apricots 17%, ALMONDS 12%, shredded coconut 12%, glucose syrup, crisped rice (rice, sugar), honey, For allergens, see capitalised ingredients, May also contain: Peanuts, Soya and Sesame Seeds.

Evening Meal Single cream (milk), pasteurised free range egg, feta cheese (milk) (11%), extra mature cheddar cheese (milk), wheatflour contains gluten (with wheatflour, calcium carbonate, iron, niacin, thiamin), slow roasted tomatoes (7%), unsalted butter (milk) (4.5%), onions, pasteurised free range egg yolk, spinach (2.5%), whole milk , cornflour , cracked black pepper , rapeseed oil , barley flour (contains gluten), salt, sugar, maltodextrin, tapioca starch, dried oregano, dried basil, ground black pepper, dried garlic, capsicum flavouring, chilli powder, ground cumin Romaine Lettuce (66%); Caesar Dressing (23%); Sea Salt & Black Pepper Croutons (7%); Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (made from unpasteurised Cows’ Milk) (4%).Caesar Dressing contains: Water, Rapeseed Oil, Pasteurised Free Range Egg, Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (made from unpasteurised Cows’ Milk), White Wine Vinegar, Cornflour, Sugar, Salt, Worcester Sauce (Malt Vinegar, Water, Black Treacle, Tamarind, Salt, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, White Pepper, Pimento, Ginger, Mustard Flour, Paprika, Clove), Garlic Purée, Black Pepper.Sea Salt & Black Pepper Croutons contain: Wheat Flour, Rapeseed Oil, Yeast, Sugar, Sea Salt, Black Pepper.

Yes, that is the astonishing list of  around 175 ‘ingredients’ that you would eat if you bought rather than made each of these dishes.

(Incidentally, that doesn’t include the banana and yoghurt drink in the morning – the manufacturer only provides minimal information such as calories / fat / sugar content and not full ingredients, so it’s anyone’s guess what’s in it…)

If you look more closely at the ingredients, you’ll see that sugar and sweeteners are mentioned no less than 22 times.

I also noted the ‘nutritional guidelines’ given on the packaging for each of these foods, and that information is also pretty astonishing, especially about the sugar intake.

The following data is per portion.

The ‘heatlhy’ breakfast cereal comes in at 12g sugar.

The banana and yoghurt frappucino comes in 55.2g sugar – yes 55.2g!

The sandwich contains 5g sugar.

The low fat yoghurt contains 11.7g sugar.

The soft drink weighs in at  34.1g sugar.

The ‘natural’ health food bar contains 8.8g sugar The quiche and salad contain 5g sugar.

So that’s a whopping 131.8g sugar you’ll have consumed in just one day

In fact, if you made a large chocolate cake from scratch and ate the lot, you’d have eaten less sugar….

So now let’s look at the nutritional content of the meals if you make them yourself:

This is the list of the ingredients you’d need:

Rolled oats, honey, vegetable oil, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flaked almonds, dried berries, coconut flakes.

Ground coffee, milk, banana, yoghurt.

Flour, yeast, salt, sugar, water, tuna, cucumber, eggs, vegetable oil, salt, pepper, mustard seed, vinegar.

Yoghurt, cherries.

Oats, butter, raisins, cinnamon, ginger, salt, sugar, syrup.

Flour, butter, water, eggs, feta cheese, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, spinach, onions, salt, oregano, basil, pepper, cumin. Lettuce, parmesan cheese, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper, eggs, mustard powder, olive oil, anchovy fillets, garlic.

60 ingredients – all of them natural, many of them herbs and spices and certainly a list that you can probably recognise as food.

As far as sugar and syrup goes, sugar is used just twice in the home made menu- once in a tiny amount for the bread dough, and then in the cereal bar, and syrup is used once, in the cereal bar.

Overall, the sugar intake is about 15g.

My conclusion from this exercise is that it really reinforces the fact that marketing, advertising and food labelling all conspire to get us to eat horribly processed, unhealthy packs of ingredients that are a poor apology for food.

Taking raw ingredients and making a meal out of them is the fundamental recipe for a healthy diet – it doesn’t really matter what you make, but it’s always going to be infinitely better than buying your dinner in a packet.

The manufacturers have mastered the art of selling us a menu of chemicals by undermining our own cooking confidence.

They put misleading labelling and information on packaging that feeds that lack of confidence and then step back and say ‘hey, everyone has a choice, so we’re not to blame if people eat a lot of the wrong thing’…..

But of course they are not at all innocent. Billions of pounds are spent working out how to get people to buy processed food and it’s very difficult to resist the constancy and weight of that machine.

So we really must fight that seductive advertising, buy fresh veg and make our own food and do all we can to encourage others to do so too.

Incredible Edible is, well, incredible


Urban planting transformed into edible produce. Simple as that, although of course the ripples of this simple and brilliant idea go far beyond.

Wilmslow in North Cheshire is host to one of the Incredible Edible projects.


Public growing spaces around the town are bursting with edible produce.

I took a few pictures the other day of some of the spaces.

ImageImageStrawberries, onions, beans, gooseberries, oregano and garlic are all flourishing.

Everything grown is available for anyone to enjoy – when I was there, two or three people picked some strawberries and herbs as they were passing.

The Incredible Edible project began in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, by a small, inspired group and is now spreading across the country.

I think it’s a genius initiative, especially when as a culture we are becoming more and more remote from the sources of our food.

Anyone can help out (it’s all managed by volunteers), and everyone benefits. A community initiative that is genuinely and wonderfully accessible.

If you’d like to find out more about Incredible Edible http://www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk