Funny and Useful book on How to Lose Weight - Review

“A chilli a day
Keeps a fat arse at bay”

Jane Wenham-Jones

This is just a quick post for people who like eating as much as I do but who don’t want to pile on the pounds.

I have just, almost inadvertently, read a really good book by Jane Wenham-Jones that tackles this problem!  She writes for “Writing Magazine” to which I subscribe and I have read and enjoyed her “Wannabe a Writer?” so when I saw “100 Ways to Fight the Flab - and still have wine and chocolate” available on Kindle I thought I’d have a look, seeing as how I am a little heavier than I’d like to be.

Jane Wenham-Jones' writing style is easy and informal as if I was having a chat with a friend and it is also very jokey and fun but what she says is realistic, reassuring and actually very useful and, here’s the great bit ... since reading “100 Ways ...” and selecting which of the hundred ways I fancied (which isn’t difficult as many of them are very attractive) I have lost 4lb (which is 1.814 kg or about 7 cups for American readers!) in a couple of weeks!

No.1 in the "100 ways..." is Eat Chocolate, No. 2 is to cut out butter and quit drinking which happily is then immediately stated to be a joke! No 12 is the recommendation with which I started this post concerning chillies. The things is they are all seriously useful suggestions once you read on.

There is a loads more to the book than the aforementioned “100 ways ...” including chapters on dressing to look slim, losing weight fast, exercise (sorry about that), attitude and even a few recipes and a poem!  There is also an associated blog which might be of interest.

This is a light hearted, downright funny, interesting and useful book so there you have it,  I recommend ...

by Jane Wenham-Jones

Lovely solstice sunset last night!

Wonderful foods and a Motto for Life!

Live more and eat very happily.
Now  that's what I call a Motto for Life!  

About a week ago I received a parcel of goodies from Olives et Al and feel guilty that I have been a bit tardy in reviewing what they sent me. The truth of the matter is I have been overwhelmed with their wonderfulness!

First out the box was a jar of Sumac and this is what it says on the label ...

“Inspired by adventure we spent a year journeying across the Med on two motorbike collecting recipes everywhere we went.  Discover some of our stories – and tell us yours ...

So, of course I immediately visited their site and was beguiled for ages and ages, I suggest you do the same. There is so much to read, such a lot of useful information ranging from how to taste olive oil (it’s more complicated than I made it sound there!) to how to have shiny hair. Lots of recipes, ideas and fabulous pictures and that’s not all; click on a fabulous picture and up comes an interesting little story that makes me want to wander off and see some more of our lovely World. This is just a snippet of their clickable pics, there are loads!

images from around the world

All this excitement  before I'd even tasted the products! 

Olives et Al sent me four interesting items and there is a lot to play with so this is a preliminary post with another one to follow when I've had a more thorough experiment.  Firstly ...


Now you might think me a bit of a doofus but despite having an inordinately huge interest in food and being quite well travelled myself (including North Africa and Greece) I had never tried sumac.

a dish of sumac

haddock with sumac scented panko crumbs

My first taste was a tentative dip and lick of the finger – hmm, lemony – and my second was using it to brighten the crust on some haddock.  I am very partial to panko crumbs so this time I mixed some sumac with them together with some Maldon sea salt “et wulla” (as they say in the States!) lovely crunchy, tangy, salty divine fish. 
The very next day I sprinkled sea salt and sumac onto salmon fillets before pan frying them and serving with oven baked sweet potato chips and a salad dressed with the lovely Mojo Pink Grapefruit Dressing and Marinade which was also in the parcel – see below for more details on this.

salmon with sumac

Olives et Al’s sumac is 100% pure crushed berries sourced from a Women’s Cooperative in the West Bank and is totally authentic.

I can’t believe I have waited so long (so very, very long!) to try this delightful spice and my mind is spinning with ideas!

Mojo Pink Grapefruit Dressing & Marinade

Now this one says on the label ...

“Why are labels covered in photos?  Have a look at the website for the full story and loads more pics.  
Live more and eat very happily”

I am glad they say “dressing and marinade” because I am always encouraging people to use various vinaigrettes to marinate meat and fish before cooking and especially useful in this Time of the Barbecue.

The flavour of this dressing is quite powerful (and I’m not surprised as it contains garlic, cumin, Dijon mustard and oregano with loads of lovely black pepper heat) but in a good way! 

The recipe was apparently discovered in the Cayman Islands which is close to “home” for me.  I actually first tried mojo in the Canary islands where it is a garlicky, citrus and olive oil mixture often used as a dipping sauce (luckily I have some wonderful Vicky’s Bread on hand) and I believe it may be the Latin influence in the Caribbean that has caused the sauce to migrate.

Last night for dinner we ate up the remains of a roast chicken; my real man had ... another roast dinner whilst I ate a delicious salad of diced chicken, salad leaves, tomatoes and red onions tossed in Pink Grapefuit Mojo. We both had new potatoes that were only yesterday in our friend Carol’s garden – lucky us!  I  tossed mine in a little Preserved Lemon Butter.

Preserved Lemons

I've had preserved lemons before and am glad to be having them again! The first thing I did was cut some slivers off one and the second I did was to scatter some of said slivers over smoked salmon with sour cream.  Lovely (especially after I added lots of black pepper - not shown!).

smoked salmon with preserved lemon

Next I made Preserved Lemon and Black Pepper Butter (see here for lots of compound butter ideas because they are so useful) and inserted some under the skin of a chicken breast. It roasted up wonderfully, the skins was crisp, the flesh was fragrant and I roasted a few potatoes alongside which turned out well too.

chicken roasted with  preserved lemon

preserved lemon ice cream

Message from the future – here is an easy no-churn recipe for utterly brilliant Preserved Lemon Ice Cream; sweet and lemony as heck with a very slight salty bite from the pieces of preserved lemon.

Neat & Dirty Lemon Vodka Olives

jar of dirty olives

According to Olives et Al this preserving of olives in alcohol is a world first – thank God someone got round to it at last!  

had a quick nibble, as one would, and have to say I approve.  I haven’t done anything more yet but will be reporting back.

Picnic Recipes for a Change

“If ants are such busy workers, how come they find time to go to all the picnics?”
Marie Dressler.

Having just got over National Cucumber Week we now find ourselves in the throes of National Picnic Week.  Will it never end?


So here are a few suggestions if you are headed out to dine al fresco, en plein air, sur l'herbe or simply outdoors.

Pan Bagnat Aka Soggy on Purpose Sandwich!

This is traditionally made using a round flat country loaf but is also good using a chunk of baguette.

Here’s a sort of recipe!

5 lovely ripe tomatoes
60ml olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp minced garlic
2 baguettes cut into 3 pieces
a selection of ingredients you fancy such as ...
more tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, olives, anchovies, celery, onion, tuna, rocket, tapenade, goats’ cheese, roasted vegetables etc.

~   Purée the five ripe tomatoes with oil, vinegar, garlic and a little seasoning.  
~   Cut the baguette pieces in half lengthways and scoop out some of the crumb to make room for goodies. (Obviously you will keep the scooped out bread for some other delicious purpose such as these ideas for leftover bread).
~   Brush the cut sides of the bread with the tomato mixture.
~   Layer your chosen fillings in one half of each piece of baguette, drizzling with any tomato mix you have left.
~   Press the tops on firmly, wrap tightly in cling film and chill for several hours, preferably with a weight on top.
~   Unwrap and slice thickly to serve.

Mrs. Beeton's Potted Beans

Mrs. B’s recipe is very odd calling as it does for ½ a pint of haricot beans baked in a slow oven with no liquid whatsoever, which must surely be an oversight, till tender. Here’s my variation ...

400g can of haricot beans – drained
60g (possibly leftover) wholemeal breadcrumbs
60g grated mature Cheddar cheese eg. Cornish Crackler
60g soft butter
seasonings of choice
60g or so more butter – melted

~   Basically pound everything together till you have a coarse pâté like thing!
~   Taste and season – Mrs. B favoured cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper and I have not argument with that.
~   Decant into a pot or pots and top with a little melted butter to seal.
~   Chill till needed.

If you feel like being more orthodox with your beans please see here for Hummus and other bean dips and purées. 

Pasties of some sort –I would say that!  How about these ...

Cornish Gouda and Leek Pasties

This recipe makes 2 large, 3 medium or 6 small pasties.

15g butter
90g leeks, halved, sliced, washed and drained – how to clean leeks
45g coarsely chopped crumbly mature Cornish Gouda or similar tasty mature cheese
200g pastry
1 egg – beaten
sea salt – the crunchy kind

~   Gently melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat.
~   Stir in the prepared leeks.
~   Turn down the heat to low and press a piece of foil, baking parchment or a butter wrapper directly onto the leeks covering completely. Try not to burn yourself.
~   Cover the pan and cook gently for about 20 minutes till utterly tender and just starting to brown.
~   Set aside to cool a little.
~   Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC/180C fan/gas 6.
~   Grease and line a baking tray.
~  Roll the pastry out fairly thinly and cut into 6 x 75mm or thereabouts circles, or whatever size you choose.
~   Stir the cheese into the leeks. I normally say “season to taste” at this point but the mixture was so delicious I’m not going to say it here.
~   Divide the filling between the pastry circles, fold in half and crimp the edges to seal.
~   Put onto the prepared baking tray.
~   Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little crunchy Cornish Sea Salt.
~   Bake for 20-30 minutes till golden and smelling gorgeous.


If you have any pastry over – how about some cheese straws

Salad of some sort – nothing too fragile, perhaps coleslaw and potato salad ...

Easy Impressive Potato Salad

~   Put a bunch of spring onions, coarsely chopped, in the food processor together with a couple of dollops of mayonnaise.
~   Use to dress warm, freshly cooked potatoes. If you can get ones with red skins these look fantastic!

More potato salad ideas here.

Strawberry Scones 

To make 6 normal scones or 4 embarrassingly large ones!


This is a good way to make a few strawberries go a long way.

225 g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch or two of salt
50 g cold butter or margarine
200g coarsely chopped strawberries
80 ml milk

~   Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC/180C fan/gas 6.
~   Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.
~   Add the butter or margarine and “rub in” with your fingers until a breadcrumb texture is achieved
~   Stir in the sugar and the strawberries.
~   Add the milk and mix in, by hand is easiest, till you have a soft dough.
~   Add a little more milk if too dry or a little more flour if too wet – you need a soft but not sticky dough.
~   Lightly knead just a few times to bring the dough together.
~   On a floured surface press or roll the dough out to about 2 cm thick and using a cookie cutter cut into rounds or other attractive shape.
~   Transfer the scones to a greased baking sheet, brush their tops with a little milk and bake in the oven till risen and golden – about 20 minutes.
~   Transfer to a cooling rack till cold.
~   Take some clotted cream with you.

genius scone recipe cookbook
Great Preview Here!

Incidentally this is based on my genius scone recipe from which no end of wonderful things can be made! Not only can it be varied to create any sweet or savoury scone, American biscuit, griddle cake or rock bun you can think of, not only is it the base recipe for many traditional and ancient dishes but it also makes lovely fluffy dumplings, crisp doughnuts, cobblers, turnovers, pie crusts and more.

Naturally, I've written a book on the matter ~ The Secret Life of Scones.

Other good things to take on your picnic include crisps, nuts, biccies, chocolate, cheese and good bread.

Remember ...

~   A picnic blanket or similar.
~   Kitchen roll and maybe some wet wipes.
~   A bag for rubbish.
~   Plates, knives, forks and, very important, wine glasses.
~   Salt and pepper and any pickles, sauces or relishes you fancy.
~   Something delicious and refreshing to drink – kept cold in a cooler.
~   Choose somewhere beautiful!


PS.  Hold yourself in readiness its Wrong Trousers Day on June 27th!

Please Click here to Tweet this post ~ thank  you!

9 Things to do with a Cucumber (Madam!)

I've just realised that today is National Cucumber Day in Britain. I had no idea, why does no-one warn you?  I've never heard ...
 “51 days to Cucumber Day” 

... or similar on the news.  To celebrate here are all the good ideas I can think of, suddenly, for these delicate fruit.

Thai Cucumber Salad with Roasted Peanuts

60ml fresh lime juice
1½ tbsp nam pla (fish sauce)
1 fresh hot red chilli
2 tsp minced garlic
1½ cucumbers – halved, seeded and thinly sliced
1 red onion – thinly sliced
3 tbsp chopped salted roasted peanuts

~   Whisk together the first 4 ingredients.
~   Toss with the cucumber and onion.
~   Put in a pretty dish and sprinkle with the peanuts.

Rasta Salad

The bright colours of this salad, red, green & gold are, of course, the signature colours of the Rastafari Movement as seen on their flag depicting the Lion of Judah.

~   Mix together 4 handfuls of tender lettuce leaves, ½ a fresh pineapple, diced,½ a cucumber, seeded and cut into julienne, 1 red pepper cut into slender julienne, 1 bunch spring onions – green parts only, sliced diagonally.
~   Squeeze over the juice of 1 lovely lime and toss to coat.
~   Taste and season bearing in mind, if you wishto be authentic, that Rastas don’t take salt!


Lightly Pickled Cucumber

This is my favourite way to prepare cucumber, see here for details (and for some timely info on starting, maintaining and enjoying Rumpot/Rumtopf.

Raita OR Tzatziki

These two sauces, Indian and Greek respectively, are very similar. Although you can just use finely chopped fresh cucumber if you use Lightly Pickled Cucumber it will stay crisp, have more flavour and won’t water down the yogurt although it might be inauthentic! 

~   Stir chopped or lightly pickled cucumber into yogurt (plain – not strawberry!)
~   For Indian Raita flavour with fresh mint, chilli powder and cumin to taste. 
~   For Greek Tzatziki add lemon, garlic, mint or dill and a little olive oil and in this case it would be rude not to use Greek yogurt!


Pennsylvanian Dutch Cucumbers

1 cucumber
1 medium onion
120ml sour cream
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
black pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

~   Prepare and salt the cucumber as for Lightly Picked then rinse and dry well.
~   Toss together with the onion. 
~   Dressing - mix together the rest of the ingredients and season to taste.
~   Fold the dressing through the cucumber and onions just before serving.

Sugar Snap Peas & Cucumber in Mint Vinaigrette

1 thinly sliced cucumber
a good handful of sugar snap peas – topped and tailed and maybe sliced diagonally - up to you!
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
salt and pepper

~   Sauté the cucumber and snap peas together in the olive oil together with the sugar till al dente (or, to put it another way, crisply tender).
~   Off the heat stir in the rest of the ingredients and season to taste.
~   Serve warm with lamb, for instance.

Cucumber & Citrus Vodka Granita

2 cucumbers – peeled, seeded, chopped and then puréed
300ml simple syrup ~ see below
2 tbsp citrus vodka

~   Stir all together.
~   Freeze in a shallow metal pan stirring and crushing lumps with fork every 30 minutes till the mixture is firm.
~   To serve scrape into flakes with a fork and pile into pretty glasses.
homemade cucumber granita

 Garnish a Pimms



   Happy Eyes

Put a cool slice of cucumber on each eye and relax in a prone position to soothe, refresh reduce dark circles and puffiness.

Cheer up your Cucumber

They do say that you can make refresh your cucumber and make it last longer by placing the stalk end in a small container of water and standing it in the fridge.

Simple Syrup 

This is equal parts of water and sugar stirred together over medium heat till clear and then simmered for about a minute. Cool and chill till needed. This is the basis of many sorbet recipes, see Sorbets & Granitas by me for about 50 sorbet and granita recipes that use simple syrup.

In the UK I use this sort of cucumber ...


... which, when in foreign parts, I called a “Eurocumber”, to distinguish it from the ridge cucumber ...


... which is more common in the States.  This has a tougher skin than ours but if you remove that everything should be fine.

Discombobulated about Cadbury's, Beetroot Salad and Rik Mayall

Firstly as I had some motivating leftovers I just ate an interesting Sudden Lunch!

~  Menu  ~

Riso al Salto
Tender Leaves (and beetroot) with Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette
Glass of Red
Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate with Ritz
Black Coffee

You may remember the Roasted Shallot & Blue Cheese Risotto I made the other day – it was delicious but too much for me (I wish, wish, wish I had a larger appetite!) so today I fried myself a flat risotto cake, called Riso al Salto in Italy.

risotto caka aka riso al salto

I grated over some Gran Padano and topped it with some Tesco Sweet Beetroot Salad which was a bit surprising. This is our favourite prepared salad and we buy it quite frequently. Only the other day my real man commented that there wasn’t much beetroot – I don’t know if anyone was listening but this pack took beetrootiness beyond our expectations.

beetroot salad

I am going to take some out and make pretty pink coleslaw!  Anyhoo I dressed it with the remainder of my Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette and I wondered if it might be too much of a roasted shallot good thing but no way!  It worked very well.

Other ideas for leftover risotto include ...

~   Arancini ~ shape leftover risotto into a ball, make a hollow in the middle and insert a piece of appropriate cheese (blue in this case).  Reform the risotto around the cheese and roll in seasoned flour, then beaten egg and finally coat with breadcrumbs (or panko for a bit of yummy fusion). Fry till hot, crisp and golden with a melty middle.
~   Use to stuff vegetables eg. tomatoes or peppers before baking.
~   Leftover risotto can, with care, be reheated to be almost as good as the first time. Heat a little stock and then stir in the leftover risotto, continue stirring till hot through and then add a knob of butter and some Parmesan cheese and stir till melted.

Lunch pudding was strange.  I bought on a whim the other day a triple pack of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Ritz and I just cannot see the point!  

Cadbury's dairy milk chocolate with Ritz crackers!! Why?

Each large flat square of gorgeous Cadbury’s milk chocky is topped with a tiny Ritz cracker!  Sometimes the cracker falls off but this was fine with me because after a thorough test of the product I picked off the remaining Ritz, they just interfered with the chocolate.  I really like salt and sweet combinations, love Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt and didn't dislike the Marmite Very Peculiar chocolate I tried a while ago but this just didn't work for me! Cadbury make such wonderful chocolate and I hate to feel like this about one of their products.

In Other News ...

~   I have received a package of goodies from Olives et Al which I shall be experimenting with over the next few days – such interesting things to play with!

~   I am so very sad, are you?, at the death of Rik Mayall who contributed a lot to my laughy youth and I like Ade Edmonson’s comment ...

And now he's died for real. Without me. Selfish bastard.

R.I.P. Rik Mayall