Vegan savoury strudel, gf and df

This recipe was inspired by Elke’s Austrian take on a Greek spanakopita (spinach pie).  Instead of the usual triangle slices of a traditional spanakopita, she opted for the strudel “log” shape, and added loads more delicious spinach than one normally finds in these pies.
I’ve tweaked the recipe yet again by adding more vegetables to the spinach.  So it’s no longer a spanakopita but a roasted sweet potato, spinach and leek ‘strudel’!  And with a gluten-free puff pastry and dairy-free fetta; a vegan version to see how it works.
Worked a treat!

The store-bought ‘Jus-roll’ gluten-free puff pastry makes it all so very easy and quick.  And Violife’s vegan Greek fetta is delicious and a great option for anyone going vegan, or with a casein (dairy protein) or lactose intolerance.
You can steam the sweet potato cubes, definitely the healthy option, but as I was roasting a lunch the day before I decided to add the sweet potato cubes to the oven; also the pine nuts right at the end.  Less work the following day when I was playing with this recipe.


For six slices

1 packet Jus-roll gluten free puff pastry (or regular Jus-roll puff; or filo.. shortcrust, whatever you like)
400g packet spinach, roughly chopped
green part of one leek, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, squeezed (two at the start, one added near the end)
1 large sweet potato, about 250g, cubed, then either roasted or steamed before you start your log
dollop of olive oil for a light fry and to lightly brush onto the log before baking
80g toasted pine nuts
100g Violife ‘Greek white’ (or non vegan, regular Greek fetta)


If you haven’t roasted your pine nuts, nor your cubed sweet potato, do this first.  When done put aside where no one will be tempted to have a nibble.

For the filling, pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan on a medium heat then add the sliced leek and 2 of the pressed garlic.  Gently fry until the leek’s transparent.
Toss in the roughly chopped spinach and wilt.  Hover near the pan otherwise your delicious leafy spinach pile will vanish to an overwilted green sludge.  The same goes for the pine nuts, keep close, for if you leave the kitchen even for a moment they are bound to burn.  Hover.  Keep watch.

Add the roasted/steamed sweet potato cubes to the pan of spinach to warm through, then that last garlic clove.  Stir in the roasted pine nuts.

Wait for everything to cool before adding the crumbled fetta.

With ‘Jus-roll’ you can literally unravel it from the box and start filling it with your cooked veg, so easy.
However, if it’s too thick for your taste roll it thinner and larger.  Whatever you decide, ensure you have parchment underneath it (the paper it comes wrapped in its box), so you can easily lift the filled roll onto the oven tray.

Spoon the filling along the long side of half the pastry, leaving a clear 2-3 cms edge all around so you can seal it without the filling oozing out.  To make your log just fold over the pastry and, with water-wet fingers, press the edges closed then go over them with a fork to create a neater, tighter finish.  Brush with oil and prick the pastry, to stop a gap forming inside as it cooks.

Bake in a moderate fan oven, about 180 C degrees (c350 F), until light golden brown, approx 30 – 45 mins (depending on everyone’s unique oven.  Like us, they have personalities and might decide to take longer to colour your strudel).

Slice and serve with a leafy colourful salad, or as part of a delicious summer garden spread.

Kali oreksi! Bon appetit x


Cypriot grain salad

This is a delicious salad a friend brought to the table on my recent trip back to Sydney when a gaggle of us got together for a catch up feast.  It’s inspired by the ‘Hellenic Republic’ grain salad recipe by Melbourne chef George Dimitrios Calombaris.

Instead of freekah (cracked wheat) I used quinoa only because I didn’t have freekah in my pantry.  It’s a good gluten-free option although be aware that pseudo grains like quinoa can be a problem for grain-, or gluten-sensitive peeps.
I also used dairy-free coconut yoghurt as that’s what I had at hand – and with that the salad morphed into a vegan recipe!  And even though df yoghurt doesn’t sound very Hellenic it was absolutely delicious with the cumin and pomegranate swirled in it.  Also I snuck in some rocket because I love leafy greens and it’s such an easy way to get more into your daily diet.
All in all, this is a well-rounded dish with all the macronutrients you need, so enjoy it on its own, or alongside other dishes for a feast.  Last week we ate it as a side with falafel, very yummy.



(serves 4)

100g red and white quinoa (or freekah)
100g Puy lentils
1 bunch coriander, chopped
1 bunch parsely, chopped
handful rocket or any salad leaves you like
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp (c 30g) toasted pine nuts
2 tbsp toasted flaked almonds
2 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
2-3 tbsp small capers
70g currants
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
100g pomegranate seeds (or a whole pomegranate)
100g Greek yoghurt or dairy free alternative
1 heaped tsp ground cumin


Boil the Puy lentils and quinoa separately in water until cooked to your liking.  Drain and cool.
In a bowl, add these to the chopped herbs, toasted nuts and seeds, capers, currants, lemon juice and olive oil.  Mix well and then stir in the rocket or salad leaves.
Add the ground cumin and pomegranate to the yoghurt and dollop on top of the salad.
Easy, quick and very scrummy!

Crossing Covid borders (or Our Road trip in tomato miles)

Last week we packed up the car, put on our masks and I took a very deep breath of courage.  A road trip across Europe was the last thing on my mind, I was still stuck in Downing’s street ‘Stay home’ slogan even though UK had moved on from there.
Travel was happening, flights were flying, but government recommendations were once again wobbling, erring on the side of caution after some viral clusters up north and spikes in parts of Spain.  I was quite happy staying in our Dorset cocoon, thank you kindly.

However I’m married to a braver human bean who was chomping at the bit to get out to the olive grove, to lop and clear and feed our trees for that wannahave opulent harvest.  Also to deal with any wildlife that had moved into the house, and yes, to swim in the Ionian and enjoy some summer heat.
He told me we could do the drive in three days, just had to exercise caution and common sense and keep washing our hands.
I wasn’t so sure, but the choices didn’t look good.  Fly out and join him when the virus had calmed down?  Well, planes were definitely not on my to-do list (yet!), and Covid-19 wasn’t showing any signs of exhaustion.
Husband Braveheart then assured me we didn’t have to book anything until the last minute.  He knew me well.  It gave me wriggle room to wait and see if the dreaded second spike would lock us down; time to check online if there were problems crossing borders.
Silly, of course, since problems could arise from day to day, minute by minute, but crucially it gave me time to get used to the idea and supplement my faith and wobbling courage with mega doses of brave thoughts.

Fear can really mess around with your mind.  That’s what this road trip has shown me.  Also, that the English, French, Italians and Greeks all look the same in masks (but tomatoes in each of these countries look quite different 🙂

We headed off on a Tuesday just after dawn, passing the most breathtaking gossamer mist lying on the fields around our village; sheep floating on clouds.  How I would’ve loved to have taken some pictures but I knew that a photo stop three minutes from home might be pushing my luck.  We were now on a mission, moving forward at speed.

We drove past the edge of a low-cloud New Forest, then onto a mist-filled empty M3 followed by a not-so-misty M25 with morning traffic moving smoothly, which was a first.  Needless to say we arrived at the Eurotunnel with oodles of time to spare, but no earlier trains were offered unless extra was paid.  That wasn’t going to happen since we’d already paid considerably more than in the past.

So many cars were lined up at the terminal!  Didn’t they know they shouldn’t be crossing borders or gallavanting off?  That hesitant see-saw was STILL happening in my head even after we’d packed up the house and given three peeps baby-sitting rights to our house and tomato plants.  Crazy, right?  Fear had definitely set up home in my brain’s amygdala.

The first interesting Covid change I noticed was that only Starbucks was open in the Eurotunnel building.  Leon’s restaurant and the other independant coffee/food outlet there were both shut, and that just about sums up how stupid some decisions have been in these times.  No real coffee to be had for Braveheart and no delicious Leon nibbles for me.
Luckily I’d made enough sourdough rolls to last the week so we didn’t bother, but we did use the loos; signs everywhere were warning us that toilets on the train were off bounds.
People came in and out of the terminal, lined up for their Starbucks, but they weren’t the crowds I’d dreaded.  Most of them were wearing masks and certainly all were keeping sensibly apart.

The border checked our passports and that was it.  No taking of temperatures, no forms to fill out declaring we were Covid-free, although I could’ve sworn the month before, online forms had been requested; go figure.

Whisked from Folkestone to Calais in 30 minutes we found ourselves on the autoroute with a  clear blue-sky above, and on both sides endless stands of ripening corn and dirt-brown fields where grains had been harvested.  On the horizon I could make out vast stands of sunflowers, blooms long gone but still tall and leafy with blackened seed heads gently bowed to the ground.   This was normally the low, flat landscape with sludge grey skies that would make me yawn into a neck-cricked car sleep.  Today a shining scene took hold of my attention.  Windows open, I breathed in holiday.

Before I go any further, and whilst in France, I have to mention the autoroutes here.  Who can’t wax lyrical about them after the bump and polluted constriction of the M25?   Why we can’t do the same in England is a mystery to me.  Can anyone explain?
In addition, the highway service stations in France are also more like destinations than simply refuelling spots.  Rows of shady trees, beds of tall swaying white gaura and cars separated by wide stretches of grass and picnic benches.  Not the concrete car landscape on most of the British motorways with their boxed-in plantings and scattering of reluctant saplings trying their best.  So, even with a stream of travellers arriving off the autoroute all the time, safe-distancing was easy.  Enough space and trees and greenery to separate us all.

We covered 891 kilometres that first day, the longest drive day of all.  We decided to bed down just outside Beaune, a beautiful medieval town in the centre of the Bourgogne wine region that we’d never seen before and hadn’t planned on seeing now  – we were on our mission etc – but the evening we arrived something changed.  We sat in the hotel gardens, trying the local wine and eating our sourdough sandwiches (the restaurant was closed), and as we watched guests soaking up the last of the sun and a family playing in the pool, a couple riding down the lane on bikes, I suddenly realised that we were watching people who were actually on holiday, not just passing through as quickly as possible.  So the following day we woke up to the idea that a drive into town and a wander around would be just the thing.  Braveheart’s mission could be put on hold for an hour.

Turned out to be three hours because Beaune may be small but it is really one of the prettiest towns.  Very vigilant too, almost worryingly so.  Masks were on indoors as well as out, with locals crossing the street when they saw us, hurrying along cobbled lanes armed with purpose and fresh baguettes.
When I look back, it was in Beaune where people seemed to be the most careful, taking ‘soyez prudent’ to a level that would disperse any fear of catching anything, not even a smile or a glance, which of course is another sorry downside of this distancing palaver and mask-wearing.  Not seeing facial expressions and smiles and people not making eye contact.

At the end of our wander we watched a small street market being set up (of course there’d be a market, we’re in France!)  This one was mainly selling trinkets but onetiny stall had a display of the most astonishing tomatoes which had nothing to do with the tomatoes in my veggie box back home, or the tiny firm buds of green cherry toms in our Dorset garden.
This Beaunian stall holder was selling heritage tomatoes in delightful small crates, denizens of the region I would’ve happily slipped into our car had there been room (sadly, like a time capsule, it was filled to the brim, ready for all countries, weathers and emergencies).  Just seeing these tomatoes made me so inordinately happy.  Look at them, aren’t they stunning!?

Leaving the town late morning we wound our way towards the foothills of the Alps and onwards to the chocolate-box mountains that would take us over the border to Italy.
Did it occur to us there might be long delays into the Mt Blanc tunnel?
When the road sign glittered silver bold type letters at us ‘Expect a wait of 90 minutes’, I was sure it was Covid-related, the testing I’d been expecting or at least something to do with checking forms and asking about our well-being.
But no, it was simply August, the main holiday month in France and Italy.  With most people staying closer to home there were more cars on the road – not that we realised until we got stuck in the tunnel queue.
Motor off, windows down and another sourdough sarnie as we waited for all the vehicles to inch up the last hairpin.  Snowcapped mountains above, a waterfall beside us, it was easy to take.

By early evening we reached Piacenza, a beautiful walled city in the Emilia Romagna region.  We’d stayed here a few times before, loved the Palazzo Gotico and Piazza Cavalli, and the hotel which had coped so well with our groundhog days two years before when our old car broke down and we stayed on and on.
Sad, but no surprise to hear the hotel was running at 40% capacity.  And the breakfast buffet the following morning was such a lonely experience, with us standing in a vast room at a distance to the buffet table, pointing to various foods whilst a young masked girl silently placed hot and cold bits on our plates.  Cold scrambled eggs by the time we reached our table, not a culinary delight.

Emilia Romagna was one of the four regions in northern Italy worst hit by the pandemic back in March.  The north was where Italy’s Covid-19 journey began.  In April about 70% of positive virus cases were reportedly from Lombardi, Emilia Romagna, Veneto and Piemonte here in the north.
Contrary to what you might be thinking, knowing about my wobbly start, this Covid fact hadn’t concerned me in the least when I was doing our last minute overnight bookings before the trip.  My brain must’ve been appeased by the fact that people here had been through hell and would be careful, they wouldn’t want it repeated.

We sat outside in the square, drank our beer and aperol spritze then moved to another outdoor restaurant for dinner at 8.  Most tables were empty, too early for the locals but not for us.  After 623 km, and with more dreary hours on the autostrada than we ha expected, we were exhausted and in need of a long sleep.

Day 3, the planned short drive (not) from Piacenza to Ancona.  We were catching our Anek lines vessel at 1500hrs for the overnight crossing of the Adriatic, landing the following morn at 8 (not!) in Igoumenitsa, northern mainland Greece.

What we didn’t take into account was that Italy, too, had crazy early morning work traffic.  Bumper to bumper for a couple of hours then some light reprieve for a few breaths before the turn-off to Ancona, with another slow crawl behind a stream of cars heading towards the port.  Luckily those see-saw thoughts of mine had stopped – the ones silently questioning why peeps were travelling and not staying home.  Fear had let go its white-knuckled grip as we waited in endless queues of traffic.

We’d talked about buying fresh food to take on board the boat since our sourdough sandwiches were long gone, and who knew what the ship’s restaurant would be like.

Following the huge check-in sign above the road, we parked and walked over to the terminal building where “Only car driver inside” handed over our precious declaration documents proving we were fit and symptom-free with no known Covid case contact (hooray, at last someone wanted to know!)
But with that we were checked into the system and unable to drive back to town to go food shopping.  Once checked in we couldn’t ‘check out’!

There was only a lone portacabin cafe by the terminal building selling limp pizzas; that was it.  So there was not much more for us to do than follow the signs to the expanse of boarding area, a concrete desert where hundreds of cars and trucks were already waiting in the midday heat.

Tucked on one side was a small white van that was selling food no one seemed to want.  Just one lone customer sipping on an overly bright-orange sparkling something.
I don’t know if this lack of food outlets was Covid related or not, but what a missed opportunity, given the hundreds  – thousands? – of trucks, cars and bikes waiting there for hours each day.

I walked over to check it out even though the bags of crisps, biscuits and fizzy drinks looked very unpromising.  Disappointment bubbled up again that we’d missed out on a deli purchase in town.
But then I saw them over on the right.  Through the glass display window I spied fresh rolls, ham…. and a pile of the juiciest red beef tomatoes, the only fresh veg I’d glimpsed since leaving Piacenza at crack of early.  Another moment of tomato joy in a sandwich!

Just before separating to go on board (‘only drivers in the car, passengers walk’), we clocked that we’d covered another 380 km.  We’d done the fastest zzzzzoom across Italy ever.

I could write a whole blog about the ship aka ferry crossing but I’ll spare you.
A quick list of impressions instead:
– All the crew wore small chin visors but most were cupped below the mouth looking more like some medical chin support.
–  I never saw a bottle of hand sanitiser on board but there were plenty of soap dispensers in all the public toilets so that was something
– A crew waiter or waitress was quick to clear up the huge mess of edible debris that was sadly abandoned by mainly young peeps (sorry, but true) who were maybe travelling together, or maybe not
– Every hour or so an intercom voice announced how the vessel was ensuring masks were worn and distances kept, and that this was the reason why ‘Anek lines was keeping us safe.’ But…I never saw or heard any crew member telling us to wear masks and keep safe.  Some travellers wore them when going into the cafe or wandering around the inside of the ship but I can’t say it was a masked sea journey.  Half and half if I’m being kind.
–  A big positive: it was easy to find secluded corners, quiet spaces to keep our distance.  Or to stay in a cabin – if you had one, which we did.  A super cozy one in fact with a large porthole window we’d never had before on these crossings.  Normally a black hole cabin, but this time Braveheart had booked us a ‘Pure’ cabin (which does beg the question what the rest of them were).
– The tables in the self-serve restaurant couldn’t be distanced as they were bolted to the ground, but there were only a few people dining and they were all using common sense.  We certainly enjoyed our Greek salads without strangers breathing all over them x

The following morn yet another shining day greeted us.  What a sunny road trip we were having!  However, our hearts sank when we realized the ship aka vessel aka ferry wasn’t going to be landing in Igoumenitsa by 8.  We hadn’t even reached the first stop of Corfu and given we had another ferry to catch which was a 3 hour drive south we were aware of time passing.

It was s-l-o-w progress disembarking.  Officials were checking documents and I have to admit I felt quite put out when we were told we had to leave our spot in the line of cars for the Covid testing (which I’d been waiting for all this time, but not now when we were about to miss connections!)
The chin-masked official pointed to a dead-end area in the distance, a normally forgotten, shabby corner of the port where around 20 cars were parked hugger-mugger.  I could make out clusters of people and a line of sorts forming the way Italians and Greeks do it, not the British-like queues.

There were 2 ‘patient’ chairs and just 3 officials in PPE but, oh my word, they worked quicker than I could’ve ever imagined.  I’m guessing they didn’t want to be in close contact for more than a minute with any of us viral foreigners.  Results, they told us, would be texted to us in 24 hours IF positive.
Luckily we never got that text.

The drive south to Patras was easy, partly because we’d done it before but also due to the fact it was a new highway, thank goodness, which was more than equal to the French autoroutes.  Breathtaking mountain scenery all the way, hardly any cars and the first spits of rain and grey skies, how funny, now we were in sunny Greece.

After Patras, there was the usual hair-raising 45 minute drive on the one-lane-pretending-to-be-three road to Killlini; this was the main port for ferries heading to the Ionian islands. We were speeding along with the others, dearly hoping we’d make our ferry connection.

Levante’s car ferry crossing turned out to be a totally different experience to the previous one.  Yes, only a 1.5 hour journey but it was full of rules and hand sanitiser and an official keeping us a metre apart as passengers boarded.
Masks had to be worn at ALL times we were told.  Inside, alternate tables and chairs had been cordoned off ensuring no one sat too close.

When I took off my mask to drink water, at our safely distanced table, I forgot to put it back on (ok,perhaps I forgot on purpose; suffocating in the heat).  A young woman at the table closest to us reminded me loudly to put my mask back on.
Even out on deck, with plenty of space and fresh air and hardly anyone about, masks had to be worn, which I thought was a bit ott (and that should be enough to tell you that 4 days of crossing borders had sorted out the fearful amygdala of my brain).

99.9% of the people on board were from Greece, one chatty official explained when I asked why the speaker annoucements weren’t in their usual English.
He told me the announcer was telling us that Levante ferries were keeping us safe.
And indeed they were!

We landed in Kefalonia, in the town of Poros and only had a short drive to our olive grove house.
Somehow those 35 minutes felt longer than the hours we’d travelled each day, but they did give me pause to think about the miles covered, and to feel grateful for the sun and blue skies that had made it all so easy, showing us so many landscapes at their best.  And also to take stock of just how empowering those four travel days had been.  I suspect fear had flown out the window the minute I realized it wasn’t just in UK – or in our cocooned Dorset – that people were using common sense and trying to stay safe.  All of us in this global mess together were doing our best.

Freshly picked tomatoes and chillis from our lovely neighbours awaited us, and a message from home that felt like a pat on the back, congratulating us on the journey.
They were definitely the best-tasting tomatoes I’d eaten.
Well…the best that day 🙂



Left Dorset 0550hrs 4th August, arrived Kefalonia 1700hrs 7th August.
Kilometres driven:  2272 km
Ferry Ancona-Igoumenitsa:  723 km (390 nautical miles)
Ferry Killini to Poros:   50 km.


Spiced carrot and red chard pancakes

This is a delicious vegan dish, a combination of shredded carrot pancakes with roasted spiced carrot – carrot upon carrot! – topped with a mint-garlic-lime juice df yoghurt.

Inspired by Nikki Webster’s scrummy recipe I added red chard to mine here below for extra colour and antioxidant goodness.  Spinach or kale, cavalo nero or even something like radicchio with its slightly sharp tang, would be delicious.  Really, the choice is yours.
Antioxidants are on my mind big-time due to my current auto immune and post-chemo clients not to mention the background noise of Covid-19, so I multiplied the antioxidant ooomph that spices offer and added lots of ginger, turmeric and garlic.

These gram spiced pancakes are a fabulous base for all sorts of other meals.  I topped them with a mixed rainbow salad last week and last night ate them with fish (cumin and garam masala rubbed on hake before grilling).
It’s so good to wriggle a recipe into the shape that suits your individual taste – and the occasion.
Have fun, and I hope you enjoy this dish 🙂


Serves 2

Spiced carrots:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 – 1 tsp chilli flakes
1 large or 2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed
4 cms knob ginger, grated
3 medium carrots, diced into small cubes
6 large red chard leaves (I finely sliced some of the stalks as well); or 2 large handfuls of young spinach or kale, roughly chopped
250ml filtered water
4 tbsp desiccated coconut, lightly roasted
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Carrot pancakes:

140g gram flour
1 tsp sea salt
2 garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
pinch chilli flakes – optional of course!
80g grated carrots
handful fresh coriander, chopped
300 ml luke warm water
2 tbsp olive oil

Yoghurt Topping:

6 tbsp plain coconut- or almond-based yoghurt (I used Coconut Collaborative’s df)
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp virgin olive oil
1-2 garlic, squeezed
4 tbsp chopped fresh mint (about 5 medium leaves per tbsp) or 3 tbsp dried
sea salt to taste

Mix these together and your topping is done!



Carrot pancakes:

Mix all the dry ingredients, add the pressed garlic, olive oil and water.  Blend well then stir in the chopped coriander and grated carrots.  Set aside for 15-20 minutes whilst you start the carrot curry below.

To cook the pancakes, add some olive oil to your non-stick pan then use a soup ladel to pour in your mixture (you’ll figure out the size you want after the first ‘trial’ which is always a good tester for size and taste).
Once bubbles form in the pancake and the edge darkens a little, ease the spatula beneath it and turn.  After the first one your pan usually finds its mojo.
Cover with a cloth or place in a low heat oven whilst you make a total of about 8 small pancakes.


The carrot curry:

Heat the oil then add the mustard and cumin seeds. When they start popping add the other spices and stir before frying the chopped onions till they soften.  Then comes the garlic and ginger followed by the diced carrots and water.  Cover and leave to simmer for about 10 mins, adding your chopped chard or greens so they wilt but don’t get cooked to nothing!

Meanwhile….dry roast the coconut in a pan until it just colours then stir it into the carrot-chard mix and season with sea salt and pepper.

To serve, spoon a generous amount onto the pancake base and dollop the mint yoghurt on top.  Add extra mint for decoration (I forgot in this photo!)




Crispy quinoa herb burgers with roasted butternut

Appleaday Quinoa Burger

This has become our recent favourite burger, the recipe tweaked and improved to suit our tastes.  Finally, a vegetarian burger with a delicious crispy outer coating and not something which falls apart.  Lots of flavours and textures here, which even our paleo older son enjoyed.There are quite a few ingredients but don’t let that put you off as it’s all very easy, especially second-time round (which happened in the same week, as everyone enjoyed it so much).

The burger recipe is one of those ‘toss-together-all-the-ingredients’ recipes – after you’ve cooked the raw quinoa of course!

If you don’t want the feta in the burger I suggest adding some extra spices such as cumin, crushed coriander seed or some finely grated ginger.

Second-time round, instead of the guacamole (for those avocado NON-afficionados) I roasted more butternut then mashed it up, adding the yoghurt, sea salt, pepper and some cayenne – simple and delicious.

Serves :4

For the quinoa burgers and roasted butternut:

150g red or mixed quinoa
1 egg, beaten
4 tbsp potato flour
1 heaped tbsp tahini
2 handfuls chopped soft-leafed herbs such as basil and parsley, or dill and coriander
1 butternut pumpkin (100g peeled, grated & squeezed dry; the remainder  chopped in large chunks and roasted as a side dish)
1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
50g pumpkin seeds
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
generous pinch cayenne if you like a ‘bite’ to your burger
200g feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
coconut oil for roasting the butternut and frying the burgers


For the Guacamole

2 ripe avocadoes, mashed
1 large, or 2 medium tomatoes, chopped (I used the current Marmande tomatoes, delicious!)
2 heaped tbsp chopped herbs  – your choice, how about coriander or parsley, dill or basil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
generous squeeze of lemon or lime to suit your taste buds
1 finely chopped red chilli – if you like some heat
2 tbsp Greek yoghurt (optional)

Anything else?

A mix of salad greens as an accompaniment


Cook the quinoa for about 10-15 minutes in 500ml of water with some sea salt.   Place the chunks of pumpkin in a roasting tin and drizzle with coconut oil, season and roast for about 30 minutes, until tender and golden.

Mix together the cooked quinoa, and all the other ingredients EXCEPT  100g of the crumbled feta and firmly press into 12 small burgers.  I used my clean hands for the mixing as the tahini was being awkward and didn’t want to mix…

Space them out on a baking sheet and cook in the oven on a medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, turning halfway so they crisp up but don’t catch.

Mix together all the guacamole ingredients, easy.

Now put your  dish together.  Begin with a mound of greens at the bottom then the burgers, topped with some crumbled feta (or dollop of guacamole if you’re not using feta).  On the side, a generous dollop of guacamole, and the chunks of roasted butternut.

Great colours, great taste!


Paleo, vegetarian, alkaline…what diet to choose?


What should you eat to improve poor health? Or, simply, what should you eat to stay healthy? There are so many different diets out there at the moment, I thought it would be a good exercise to compare some of the most current eating regimes.

Paleo is definitely the diet of the moment!  Loads of cookbooks and paleo restaurants are popping up, however it has actually been gathering momentum since the 90s (as a healthier cousin to the Atkins diet).  Loren Cordain put Paleo on the map back then and is subsequently considered its official founder (You can find lots of information about this diet on his website –

So, what is Paleo about?  Basically it’s eating what our caveman ancestors ate and eschewing foods which have ‘evolved’ since the agricultural revolution.  The belief is that our digestions – and nutrient requirements – haven’t changed all that much since those caveman days.  Hence Paleo is based on meat (including bone broths and organ meat), fish, vegetables, fruit and nuts.  No dairy, no legumes (pulses) and no grains.  And, like all the eating regimes I’ll be mentioning,  no processed foods (the fact that there is no healthy diet plan to support processed foods says it all).

Paleo proponents say this way of eating is more satiating and a good blood sugar balancer, providing sustained energy and well being.

There are research papers which support Paleo, showing that for many people it improves a.o. their healthy gut bacteria ratio. Considering 70%-80% of our immune system is in our gut it’s understandable why this is certainly one reason Paleo is suggested for some immune challenged health conditions.
However there are also numerous papers which criticize this diet.  One obvious reason is the saturated animal fat content which has always been considered pro-inflammatory (just think of arteries and cardio vascular disease).   Another criticism  is the lack of fibre in the form of grains and pulses.

So, Paleo and Vegetarian?  Never the twain shall meet…or is there a way?

What is a Vegetarian Diet exactly?  Does it have some ‘paleo’, ie. eggs or cheese… or no animal products at all?
I see many vegetarians in clinic who eat less vegetables than a paleo diet follower.  Cheesy pizzas or strange processed non-meat meals often figure in their  vegetarian food plan.  Not healthy, in fact processed anything is not going to be a healthy option for meals.

If you’re thinking about Going Veggie, consider the following.  Ideally a Vegetarian Diet is high in the one food that is in its very name: vegetables.  Also fruits, nuts, seeds, pulses.
And certainly if you’re a lacto-ovo vegetarian, then it includes dairy and eggs.  If you want no animal products in your meals, then you are eating Vegan, and if you’re new to a Vegan Diet, you may want to have some guided advice as to where to obtain your macro and micro nutrients, as some will be compromised (notably B12 and iron…also low protein in general).

The Low FODMAPS diet, created in 2005 at Monash uni, Australia, is less well known perhaps to the public, however it is an important one in the world of nutrition.

FODMAPS is the acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols – yes, it’s a mouthful of words.  What’s being talked about here are the different types of carbohydrates which are hard to digest and become fermented by gut bacteria, causing problems such as bloating, flatulence, pain and so on.
Little wonder this is an eating regime which often works for those suffering IBS-type or IBD symptoms.  This diet however is restrictive, and it’s not meant to be a ‘forever’ eating plan.  It’s based on excluding high FODMAPs foods for a set period, say, 2-6 weeks, and then reintroducing them one by one in order to ascertain which one(s) may be the culprit.

The claim is, if you lower your FODMAPs, you’ll lower digestive problems, and yes, this works a lot of the time.  However, keep in mind that this is indeed a restrictive diet, with some great vegetables, fruit, pulses and grains being excluded due to their high FODMAPS.  For that reason, this diet, like the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), is best done under the guidance of a nutritional therapist.

DASH is another acronym diet.  Similar to the Mediterranean Diet, it is the eating plan or regime which won the 2014 best diets award on U.S. Health news.

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and is based on high vegetable and fruit intake, lean poultry and fish, whole grains, and low-to-no artery-clogging red meats and sugars.  A healthy middle-of-the-road way of eating which would benefit many (apologies but can’t resist all the dashes!)

Acid and alkaline are words which crop up in the nutritional world. The Acid Alkaline Diet resembles a Vegetarian Diet in that it supports alkaline-forming foods such as vegetables, fruits, sprouted grains, pulses, nuts and soy products.
Red meat, which is acid-forming, is a no-go (as are the obvious acid-forming fizzy drinks, for that matter!  However these would be off any of the mentioned healthy diet options by dint of their high sugar/sweetener/additive/colouring content).

The theory regarding pH levels, is that having a more alkaline diet will lower overall body  inflammation and increase longevity.   pH is the measure of acids and alkalines in the body (the range is between 0 and 14), with acid-forming foods being linked to increased potential for inflammation and disease.

The acidic range is 0-7 (eg. vinegar is 2), and alkaline falls between 7 and 14.  Since all protein foods are acid-forming (to a greater and lesser extent, with red meat being a high acid-forming food), but very necessary to good health, this diet is based on 60%-80% alkaline, with the remaining 20%-40% being ‘acid’.   In this way, the Acid/Alkaline diet is more do-able.

The Raw Food diet is self-explanatory.  Raw foodism has its roots in the late 1800s when Maximilian Bircher-Benner discovered the benefits of raw apples for curing jaundice.
The reasoning behind Going Raw continues in this vein, namely that the nutrient levels in uncooked food will be higher and will provide more anti oxidants, more minerals and vitamins to achieve better health.
Raw food is not processed, microwaved, irradiated or genetically engineered.  Also it’s not exposed to herbicides or pesticides (which may be the hardest part of it these days).
Typically, about 80% is plant-based  – and never heated above 46 degrees C – with some raw foodies eating raw animal products like unpasteurized milk or cheese made from it, or raw fish (eg. sashimi).  The latter comes with its own set of potential problems as raw meats/fish can contain toxins.  Grains and raw dried organic legumes are also accepted plus cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil and raw coconut oil…

As healthy as it may be for some, going raw does not suit a lot of digestive systems (and for that reason, juicing could be an option if you wanted to increase the amount of ‘raw’ in your life).
Going raw is also not the easiest food plan to follow – think about eating out or at friends’.  It can be very limiting although admittedly there is currently a huge raw food movement, with fun equipment and ‘accessories’ on the market – like spirilators and dehydrators – which are enabling the range of interesting foods to expand.
This very equipment, however, can be costly plus the processes time-consuming, so for these reasons as well, it will not suit everyone.

The Mediterranean Diet has been a popular way of eating for many years.  It resembles the DASH and Mayo Clinic Diet and is based on low red meat, low sugar and low saturated fats.  There isn’t really just one Med Diet since Italians eat differently to the French or Greeks or Spaniards.  However there are some common denominators in that the Med Diet focuses on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts, olive oil, cheese, fish… and occasional red meat and wine with meals.  All quite broad, and hence a very do-able diet.  Certainly a good starting point for those who have never changed dietary patterns but wish to make a healthy and easy start.

So, after this little tour around some so-called healthy diets, do you have an answer to your digestive issues (IF you have issues?!)

If not, perhaps before you even think about which diet may help improve how you feel, you should first ensure that your digestive system is in good working order.  No amount of ‘healthy’ eating will work if there’s an unresolved digestive infection or an allergy or intolerance which is preventing proper digestion, absorption and regular elimination.
If this is ringing true in your mind then consider talking to a nutritional therapist like myself, or speak to your doctor for guidance.

There are so many other diets out there to share with you, from  the Macrobiotic diet to the Glycaemic-index diet to the Gluten-free…and more.
The bottom line is there is no right or wrong diet.
There will be a way of eating which will suit you and your health picture.  Possibly a mixture of some of the above.
In the end, it’s about finding the nutritious foods which you enjoy and which don’t cause discomfort.  Foods which will help you feel well and thrive.