Chocolate Coconut Flapjack

Saturday morning starts like many others: me lying in bed, with my head telling me to: ‘Get up! Get up now! You’re going to be late to get Daisy to her drama class! Everything will be a horrid rush’… And my body urging me to shut my eyes and snuggle down for a few more minutes (all day I’ve had that My Body, My Body’s Telling Me Yes song going round & round in my head….). 

After half an hour of mental battling I get up and am sent head-long into a day of mad rushing. Breakfast for four, fed the cat, stop the fighting, have a shower, debrief Tom on what needs to be done while I’m gone, argue with Daisy about her choice of footwear (no, high heels are not suitable), find the car keys….

Two hours later Tom and I rendezvous at a kid’s party. He’s brought Ollie & I’ve brought Daisy. I have my first cup of tea of the day perched on a child’s chair. A perfect pit stop. I could sit there all afternoon watching the musical chairs crew going round & round, but there are bags to be packed and scarves to be knitted. We are going to the seaside for joint-family birthday celebrations and are staying the night at auntie Barbs’s. We’ve been looking forward to this all week, so why are we not more organised?! 

Tom & I have a quick tete a tete about what I need to do when I get home. “You’ll need to pack for the four of us, finish knitting the last 20 rows of the birthday scarf, add tassels & find someone to feed the cat,” I am instructed. 

But I wanted to make some birthday chocolate flapjacks,” I whine. Tom points out that this is completely and utterly out of the question. I will have an hour at home and I’ll never get it all done. The flapjack-making has been chopped from the to-do list. “Yes darling, you’re completely right, darling.” Is what I think I say. 

And yet as soon as I walk in the door (alone at last!) I immediately turn on the oven, fill up the kettle (caffeine levels aren’t nearly high enough), and dig out the flapjack recipe. I spend a therapeutic half hour melting coconut oil and golden syrup, and weighing out oats and desiccated coconut, all the other more important things have gone from my mind. 

Until, all too soon it’s over and the kids come bursting in with party bags and wearing masks, and the delicious coconuty smell wafting through the house gives me away, as does the lack of a suitcase in the hall or the knitting which clearly has no tassels on it, and which will have to be finished in the car, but that is another story….

If you’d like to have a go at these truly delicious flapjacks, please see the link below. 

I especially love them because they are dairy & gluten free, using coconut oil instead of butter. The recipe suggests using date syrup instead of sugar. I used golden syrup (what’s flapjack without golden syrup?!) 

They make a great dessert because they are rich, and go exceptionally well with some cream. Enjoy!

Beetroot, Feta & Pumpkin Seed Salad

Friday night. Tom couldn’t hide his delight when he phoned on the way home from work to find out what was for dinner. Could it be a take away? A nice Indian? A pizza? It’s been a long week, we deserve a treat. But no. We’re having salad. Not one, but two salads: a beetroot, feta & pumpkin seed one, and a tomato and olive one. Surely that’s enough to send anyone over the edge…..

Tom regained his composure quickly though. “Lovely! Can’t wait.” He said. He’s very long-suffering. 

We had the salads with jacket potatoes, for once perfectly cooked and all fluffy in the middle, and grated cheese. Tom washed his down with a Friday night pint of strong Polish beer (we’re getting down to the dregs of our Christmas alcohol supply..).

If you think your kids won’t eat beetroot, introduce it as a science experiment. Beetroot has a funny habit of turning certain things a different colour. Daisy & Ollie’s main objective when eating beetroot is to see how long it takes to go through their system. Say no more.

This beetroot salad is a regular in our house because it really is very tasty and the three main ingredients go so well together: beetroot, feta & the toasted seeds. 

We were first introduced to it by my auntie Barbara when on a family holiday in Whitby. Each person took it in turns to make an evening meal and this is what she made. She did it with a tahini dressing which I must learn to make. It’s a good salad to have in winter because the beetroot & seeds are still slightly warm. 

The Whitby hol, 2012. Barbara far-right.

Beetroot, Feta & Pumpkin Seed Salad


Serves 4

  • 4 small beetroots, fresh or pre-cooked
  • Feta cheese, cut into small cubes
  • Pumpkin seeds, handful
  • Bag of rocket salad
  • Fresh mint, torn

If using fresh beetroots, trim the roots and tops and boil for about an hour. 

Drain and leave to cool. Put the seeds in a dry frying pan and toast over a moderate heat. A few will pop when they are ready. Toss to make sure they’re done all over. 

Arrange the rocket on a large platter. Cut the remaining root and top off the beetroot and remove the skin by rubbing with your thumb. It’s a messy job! Cut the beetroot into cubes and scatter over the rocket. Add the feta cubes, sprinkle over the seeds and tear some mint leaves over. 

Drizzle over dressing of your choice. Ours as usual, was an olive oil, lemon, garlic & honey concoction. 

Tom reeked his revenge with pudding by announcing to joyous cries that he was going to make ‘daddy’s delight’. It is one of the most obscene versions I’ve seen. The kids went beresk for it, after enduring a dinner of veg. I, in the meantime, slipped away for a hot bath in peace.

Happy Friday, people! X


It’s been one of those days. Daisy’s been off school ill and no cooking’s been done. In fact meals have gone out the window and it’s been a steady stream of snacks instead. At least Daisy hasn’t lost her appetite!

These guys (above) made an appearance at about 3.30pm, just as the snow was starting to come down and we watched it swirling out of the kitchen window. 

Making snacks into appealing animals might seem a bit excessive, but if you’ve ever had a fussy eater, you’ll know that you sometimes go to strange lengths to get them to eat. 

Take the giraffe I made yesterday. There’s no way Ollie would’ve eaten a wholemeal pitta if it hadn’t been disguised as the torso of a giraffe (with squashed raisins for the spots): 

If you’ve ever gone to strange lengths to get your kids to eat, please share! 

Bill Clinton’s Breakfast Smoothie 

After listening to yesterday’s lecture on the relationship between diet and disease, I thought I’d give Bill Clinton’s healthy breakfast smoothie a go. 

Apparently Clinton’s love of hamburgers had made him a heart attack waiting to happen, so in 2010 he drastically changed his diet and this smoothie is what he has every morning now.

Considering he must have the world’s top nutritionalists at his disposal, it’s a bit of a boring smoothie, just berries, almond milk & some protein powder. Ollie & I decided to do our own jazzed up version: 

Breakfast Smoothie

Serves 2

  • 1banana
  • Raspberries, small handful
  • Blueberries, small handful
  • 1/2 mango
  • Coconut milk

For an extra health kick, we also added: 

  • Tbsp super greens powder
  • Tbsp milled chia seeds
  • Tsp raw wild honey.

Chia seeds are the fad at the moment because they contain calcium, manganese, phosphorus, and are a great source of healthy omega-3 fats (important for brain function). See more here:

Raw honey is better for you than the standard stuff because it hasn’t been heat-treated, so still contains its full complement of enzymes and antioxidants, and has antibacterial properties. 

Raw honey is expensive so I haven’t bought it before, but I stumbled across this stuff and the chia seeds while I was in TK Maxx buying pants. Ok, they may have fallen off the back of a lorry but the honey was only £2 instead of £10 and is the BEST I’ve ever tasted. Ollie & I kept having little spoonfuls of it. 

Tell Me What You Eat And I’ll Tell You What You Are

This was the title of yesterday’s lecture and is a quote by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French gastronome born in 1755. The lecture, by a gastroenterologist, looked at all the latest world research (much of it excitingly done in Norwich!) on diet & disease. 

Here are the top 10 things I took away. Please bare in mind it was in the evening, I took no notes and I’d spent the day with a four year-old, so don’t take me word for anything:

  1. Consuming milk is bad for adults (increased cancer and diabetes risk).
  2. But yogurt is good because of the enzymes.
  3. Cheese is somewhere in the middle: a bit good, a bit bad. 
  4. Coffee is good but only the caffeinated stuff (protects against liver cancer & diabetes II) 
  5. Alcohol is bad, although a glass of red wine a day is good.
  6. If you have Crohn’s Disease in the family, breastfeeding your children can help prevent them getting it.
  7. Peanuts are bad. They can contain a fungus called Aspergillus, which is a source of aflatoxins and they are toxic and highly carcinogenic.
  8. Japan has a high rate of gastric cancer because of the high salt content of their diet. 
  9. Cooking food using a wok or barbecue is bad because compounds called AGEs are formed when food is cooked at high temps. AGMs can cause tissue damage, inflammation and increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
  10. Pineapple (the bromelain in it) is very good for curing diahorrea and for aiding digestion. 

So quite a few avenues of pleasure shut down there, but you can still have coffee and pinapple, so we can’t complain! 

Beef Bourguignon

A quick post tonight. Just got in and I have an important date with the next episode of Spiral before bed. I have it on good authority (Amy) that it’s going to be a corker. 

I’ve been to a free lecture at UEA (University of East Anglia) entitled: Tell Me What You Eat and I’ll Tell You What You Are. It was by a gastroenterologist and discussed the relationship between diet and disease. Very interesting (more on that tomorrow), although it looks like my love affair with peanut butter will have to end. Apparently peanuts contain a fungus which is not good news at all…

Anyway, on to dinner. I’m glad I ate before I went out. We had Beef Bourguignon for tea and it was absolutely delicious, but it would seem that red meat is not good news either. 

Putting that aside, beef Bourguignon is a dish of kings, as far as I’m concerned, and one of our favourites. Any food cooked in wine has to taste good. The best beef boug we’ve ever had was on the ferry from Dover to Calais, and we’ve been trying to recreate it ever since. Maybe it was the salty chips that it was served with that made it taste so good? This is what we had ours with tonight. 

Here’s the recipe I use, although I haven’t looked at it for many years because I know it off by heart.

If you only do one thing this week, treat yourself to a homemade bowl of this, just take in to account the 3 hours it takes to cook…..

Bon Appetit! 

Briden Bananas & Cream

This post is dedicated to the three Briden girls who we shared this pudding with many moons ago. 

Every parent should have this dessert in their culinary armoury. It’s a winner and requires very little effort. There are just two crucial things to remember: 

1) the cream must be squirty.

2) the child must be allowed to do their own squirting. 


  • I small banana per child, sliced
  • Squirty cream (don’t get the ‘light’ stuff, too sweet) 

Optional extras

When we were eating this in the early nineties, the only extra on offer was ‘crunchy sugar’ ie: demerara, sprinkled on top (thanks for that memory, Lucy!) 

But any of the following can be sprinkled or drizzled on top: 

  • Chocolate, grated
  • Sprinkles
  • Raisins
  • Dried apricots, chopped
  • Flaked almonds
  • Nuts, crushed 
  • Desiccated coconut

You’d be surprised at how much fun can be had with a can of squirty cream. The fun is all in having control of the cream can. Ollie loves this pudding so much that it can be used as a bargaining  chip for good behaviour, or leverage to get him to eat the veg from their first course. 

Tonight I had four children for tea at short notice. No fear, we had cream in the fridge (as I urge every parent to have at all times!) & bananas in the fruit bowl, so pudding was sorted. I arranged a plate of sprinkles (see below) and we played a game where I went into the lounge (and lay on the sofa with my eyes shut!), while they each created a picture with the cream, bananas and bits & pieces. I then had to guess whose pudding belonged to who. 

It wasn’t hard to tell. The girls did sensible faces, whilst Lucas did a ‘football’ which consisted of filling the whole bowl with a lot of cream, then delicately placing raisins here and there to represent the black spots of a ball. There wasn’t a slice of banana in sight…..

Daddy’s Delight

If Tom’s around and allowed to be in charge of pudding(!), he soups up ‘bananas & cream’ to the slightly over-kill version: Daddy’s Delight. The kids go crazy for this chanting: ‘Daddy’s Delight! Daddy’s Delight!’ whilst banging their spoons on the table. 

This version has the added elements of ice cream, golden syrup and melted down chocolate bars drizzled on top of the already existing bananas & cream. See what I mean about over-kill! 

At Christmas he broke up chocolate coins and sprinkled them on top,  at Easter it was melted down Easter eggs. His ‘Daddy’s delight’ knows no limits and obviously the children love him for this, but this recipe comes with a word of caution: Daddy’s Delight is a lot more effort and within three mouthfuls the children inevitably feel sick, leaving you with a sticky, sweet mess that you feel obliged to finish off in the name of not wanting to see anything go to waste…. Choose this version at your peril ; ) 

The kids and I finished dinner off with a fire in the garden. If I was to write an alternative parenting book, two of my essential tips for any parent would be: 

  1. Always have a can of squirty cream in the fridge. 
  2. Buy a garden incinerator (B&Q 20quid) and teach your children how to build a fire.

Ok, maybe only pyromaniacs would agree with no. 2, but look at how much they love it (you can just about see through the glass!) 

Good night! 

Chicken Laksa & Rice Noodles

Post-party. The day unfolded something like this:

7am: Tom wakes up on the sofa snuggled up with his friend, Ben and Alfie the cat. Alan Partridge is still on in the background. It’s been playing for 5 hours. 

9.30am: I come down to find the remains of the coffee cake next to a bottle of Lagavulin. 

10am: Pick up the children from their sleepover and sit through their extended performance of Thriller – the musical. 

11.30am: arrive home with white bread for sausage sandwiches. Tell the kids to go in quietly as there are people still asleep. 

“Asleep!” Daisy shouts, incredulous that anyone should be asleep when she’s already been up for 5 hours. “What’s wrong with them?” She cries. 

Ollie bursts in the front door shouting, “Hi guys!” No one is asleep any longer. He runs from room to room searching for something or someone then flops down in the kitchen sobbing, “I can’t find Brewery!” The wailing escalates until I have to call Daisy in to interpret what on earth is going on. Turns out when I said, “The house smells like a brewery” in the car, his brain re-scrambled it to mean: “There will be a dog waiting for you at home called Brewery”. I didn’t stand a chance guessing that one. He would not be pacified until I opened the packet of Daim chocolate eggs (what a great invention) that I’d just bought and was saving for later. 

Brunch today: restorative sausage & mushroom sandwiches

Dinner: chicken laksa & noodles. Delicious comfort food, gentle on the gut, from a favourite book: 

Serves 4


  • 1tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4 tsp garam masala
  • Salt & pepper
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 3 chicken breasts, cut into large pieces. 
  • 300ml coconut milk
  • Lime, squeezed
  • 180g rice noodles
  • 200g veg, streamed (broccoli, pak choi, mangetout etc)
  • Handful of mint & coriander
  • Carrot, finely julienned to serve


  • Fry the onion in the coconut oil until soft. 
  • Add the garlic and ginger for 1min
  • Add the spices (apart from garam masala) seasoning & a splash of water for another minute.
  • Add the stock. Bring to the boil & simmer covered for 12 mins.
  • Add the chicken, coconut milk & garam masala. 
  • Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer until chicken is done (approx 4 min).
  • The curry should have a medium creamy consistency. Stir in the lime & season. 
  • Cook the noodles. 
  • Serve the laksa on top of the noodles. Add the carrot & chopped mint & coriander. 

Absolutely delicious and proof here that Ollie considered eating it (even though he only actually ate the sticks of carrot & bits of chicken):

American Breakfast Pancakes

Tom’s birthday today. Always a relief as it means we are the same age again, and I am (for 5 brief months) no longer the older woman. 

As is tradition, we always have pancakes for birthday breakfasts, and for the last two years Daisy has made them. She is more than capable, and yet I still find myself breathing down her neck about whether they are ready to flip or not. She just bats me away with the fish slice and tells me to sit down. 

I use Nigella’s American Breakfast Pancake recipe: 

And we have them one of two ways:

1) with streaky bacon and maple syrup OR

2) with raspberries, bananas & maple syrup OR

3) my preferred option – think you’re going to have option (2) then eat two rashers of bacon off the grill while you’re waiting for your pancakes to be done. Streaky bacon is so good, it’s irresistible. 

I didn’t have time to make myself a separate gluten free batter, so I had the ingenious idea of using a packet of gluten free Yorkshire Pudding mix instead. Bit of a crazy idea but it made delicious pancakes and I will do it again. 

Right, time to get back to the birthday fun! Happy weekend. X

Coffee and Walnut Cake

No rest for the wicked. After the epic marmalade making session last night, I’d quite like to avoid the kitchen today, BUT it’s Tom’s birthday tomorrow, so time for the annual coffee-cake-baking-session. Coffee cake is Tom’s favourite, and one of mine too, so why do I only bake it once a year? Maybe because I always follow Delia’s recipe, and her icing – mixing a pot of mascarpone with a shot of espresso (or something like that) makes me nervous. It probably curdled in the past. 

 This evening, Daisy and I made it together and we doubled the quantity to make it a 4-egg cake as last year it seemed a bit small. If you do this, just remember that it will obviously take longer to bake. I got it out after the designated 25mins and looked mystified as to why it was uncooked….

 I will post a picture tomorrow when I’ve iced it. It really needs to be iced and eaten on the same day as the mascarpone icing goes a bit funny by the next day.

In the meantime, here’s some pictures of Tom receiving his cake 4 years ago. Ollie’s eyes on the second one always make me laugh. Poor thing. The shock of seeing candles blown out for the first time.

If you’d like to have a go, here’s the link to her recipe:

Happy baking!

Next day….and here’s the finished article: 


The kids are finally in bed and I have a very big pan of orange marmalade on the hob. It seems to have taken all day to get to this point and there’s still an hour of boiling to go! It’s going to be a long night….

Saying that though, the house smells amazing. It’s almost worth it just for that. And I’m sure around midnight when I finally get to try some on a piece of toast, with a cuppa tea, it’ll taste pretty blooming good. Slater says it better than I ever could in this article about marmalade-making:

So what have I learnt from this marmalade-marathon?

1) Follow one recipe. Do not consult three, then harass the veg box man on his views while his engine is left running for 20 minutes. It just leads to confusion. 

2) Read a recipe ALL the way through before starting. Having to stop to go into town to buy a square of muslin is a pain. 

3) Buy this book: River Cottage Handbook No.2 Preserves by Pam Corbin. It is the best book on preserves and the marmalade recipe has no pushing-pulp-through-muslin stage to it. 

4) Make marmalade when the children are away. However much TV you offer them, they will always prefer to get involved. Sharp knives, boiling marmalade + a four year old = added stress to an already stressful situation (mainly because you still haven’t decided which of the three recipes to follow!) 

Aside from that, and the fact that I’ve written this post twice because the site crashed, it’s been great fun! Now to sterilise the jars and put the saucers in the fridge (ask Delia)……

And finally: early hours of the morning….

PostScript to self for next year:

1) You never have enough jars! Raking through the shed at midnight, looking for more, is not fun. 

2) Do not wait until the morning to clean up any marmalade spills. It’s like getting tar off a work surface. 

3) Do not embark on this project again until you have bought a jam funnel. You slop marmalade everywhere when you pour it into jars. 

4) Do not put a 4 year old in charge of orange pip quality control. They do not have very high standards and you will end up fishing pips out of molten jars of marmalade late at night.