Baking challenge: sticky, syrupy, sweet – rum baba


This post is part of my personal challenge to bake my way through all the challenges of the Great British Bake Off. The challenge below is the technical challenge for week one (cake week) of series three: rum baba.

Paul Hollywood’s rum babas are an exercise in indulgence. An enriched, yeasted cake is drenched in acutely sweet syrup, the little cakes being turned and turned again until each crumb is soaked through. The cakelets were topped off with creme Chantilly, cream to which vanilla extract and even more sugar is added, resulting in it being stable and stiff enough to pipe. In truth, the very sweet cream atop the syrup-drenched cake was too much for me, and had I not been following the recipe exactly I would have gone with my instincts and chosen the cool lactic contrast of unsweetened cream. This is what I suggest you do.

070_edThe recipe also suggests serving with ‘red fruit’. Strawberries wouldn’t be quite right, as wonderful as they are; something acidic and tangy is needed. I used sharp-sweet raspberries but red currants would be ideal.

Hollywood’s recipe yields four cakes and is intended to serve four, but the babas are quite hefty in size, and when I served them to friends, we halved them. The incredible sweetness of the syrup also mitigates against eating a whole one, I reckon.

Finally, lacking savarin moulds, and unable to find any of the required size anyway, I used a mini bundt tin, greasing it and dusting carefully with caster sugar, and despite the warnings that these delicate cakes may stick, they turned out beautifully. It gave the cakes an attractive whirled pattern, too. In Dutch bundt tins are referred to as ‘turban shaped’ because the swirls of the cake tin recall the swirls of a wrapped turban.

You can see the generous amount of syrup pooling at the base as it soaks in

All in all, this recipe was straightforward enough to put together and makes a manageable number of sweet, sticky, buttery treats which can’t easily be found in high street – or even fancy – bakeries in the UK.

Continue reading “Baking challenge: sticky, syrupy, sweet – rum baba”

What’s in the fridge? – Juliet, London

You can read Part One (my fridge) of this series here and Part Two – my friend Emma in Tbilisi’s fridge – here.

13442503_10153550800491759_787005479245608244_oMy friend Juliet and I met – as you might predict – at university, where she rapidly gained a reputation as a pretty extraordinary baker. Back then the mighty cupcake loomed large in her repertoire, but she had conquered the macaron well before we donned the graduation cap. She is still an admirable baker – she kindly shared her recipe for matcha choux puffs – but her skills go well beyond the kitchen. Juliet has upholstered chairs, knitted cup warmers, handmade a skirt, built a picnic bench and passed the GDL. She’s a solicitor in London and while her days might be spent in the office her nights are definitely spent in pursuit of fabulous food and travel – as can be seen on her Instagram. Despite leading a very busy life, she has an admirably impeccable kitchen.

Who do you cook for?

Mostly myself, but I love having friends over and cooking for them too.

Do you have a cooking philosophy or approach of any kind?

If I’m cooking for someone else, even if it’s just one other person, I like to really think about what I’m making. I want it to be special and something they’ll enjoy eating. If I’m on my own, I’ll happily cobble things together from what I have.

Where do you buy your groceries?

I’m a Sainsbury’s girl through and through! I grew up shopping at Sainsbury’s and even now that it’s not my nearest supermarket, I go out of my way just to shop there.

Tell us a little bit about your kitchen. Is it minimal or cluttered?

My entire life is minimalist. I find clutter too stressful, so I try and keep things organised. That’s not to say that my cupboards aren’t packed with crockery, utensils, Tupperware and dry goods, but everything has its place. Generally, I try to keep the worktops clear, save for a few appliances.

“My entire life is minimalist.” She’s not joking…

What’s in your fridge?

I had a dinner party at the weekend, so I’m working my way through all the leftovers. In addition to my staples, I’ve still got some tomato sauce left. I managed to get through the chorizo, escabeche and chocolate cake the other day though…

What are the three most useful ingredients in your kitchen (and why)?

This is a really tough one! Flour, butter and eggs. I always have these on hand. They’re so versatile! If I have a craving to do some baking I can usually cobble something together with other ingredients I keep stashed away. Eggs are probably the hero ingredient though. Even if I’m not baking I can always do something with eggs, whether it’s frying, scrambling or poaching them, just to add a little extra protein to a meal.


What three foods are always in your fridge?

Soy milk, jam and apples. It sounds like an eclectic mix.

Soy milk – I honestly prefer the taste of soy milk to regular milk. I buy the pasteurised stuff so that I can just keep two or three cartons in the fridge at a time.

Jam – I have lots of half empty jars of jam. I’m not sure why, but I just can’t seem to get through them.

Apples – I probably eat an apple a day, because y’know, it keeps the doctor away.

Is anything currently missing from your fridge?

Not really. Apart from a few staples, I try to buy food as I need it. My biggest fear is having to throw food away because it’s spoiled.

What treats do you keep in your fridge (or cupboards)?

I really try not to have treats in the fridge/cupboard at home. I like to eat healthily, so I try to remove the temptation to eat sugar laden treats.

What foods were always in the house when you were growing up?

My house growing up was the complete opposite. We had (and still do) an entire drawer full of cakes, biscuits and pastries. My mum is continuously panicking that supplies are running low.

What three gadgets or tools are most important/helpful for you when cooking?

I love my K-mix equipment! I have a kit that has a stick blender, soup blender, electric whisk and a blender. That’s really handy and will pretty much sort me out for anything I want to make. I also recently acquired a K-mix stand mixer, which has been brilliant. It’s the only way to safely make Italian meringue. The last tool I couldn’t live without is a sharp knife. Everyone should have at least one.

If you had to make yourself a meal with the food in your fridge (and pantry) right now, without going to the shops, what would you make?

If you had to make yourself a meal with the food in your fridge (and pantry) right now, without going to the shops, what would you make? So many options! I’ve got some gorgeous slow roasted tomato sauce leftover from the weekend. I could toss that together with some pasta. Alternatively, I have some salmon fillets and sweet potato fries in the freezer. I’m sure I could turn that into a delicious dinner.

When there really is nothing in your fridge, where do you go out to eat?

Living in London, I’m spoilt for choice. Near me I have a choice of chain restaurants in Canary Wharf (Wahaca is a favourite of mine). If I’m craving something that feels home cooked though, I would go to The Eagle in Clerkenwell. It’s not really near me any more, but I still spend a lot of time in that neighbourhood. It’s a great place to grab a casual, inexpensive, freshly prepared dinner.

The Little Taperia, Tooting

I’m not very good at weekends. Whereas magazines and newspaper lifestyle pages will refer to ‘lazy mornings’ spent in bed with a broadsheet, followed by brunch; and late meandering lunches; and evening suppers eaten at the kitchen island, legs dangling from bar stools, spoons dangling sleepily from fingers, I am usually in a state of nail-biting anxiety from the moment I close the office door on Friday evening. The anxious mental refrain is always about how I will manage to fit everything in to the measly 48 hours of rest to come: errands, the gym, meal planning, dishes, ironing…Perhaps one day I’ll have the dishwasher, clothing dryer and, I suspect, cleaner required to make those double-page spread Sundays a reality.

Octopus, grilled, with many, many, many capers

Sometimes, though, I do manage to get things right. A few weeks ago, on a day that was blazingly hot, my boyfriend suggested we have lunch out. We may live in deepest darkest south-west London, but these days we’re pretty spoilt for choice in our area, with Wahaca, Franco Manca, Five Guys, Chicken Shop and Honest Burgers, not to mention London’s best south Asian restaurant (apparently Tooting is being called ‘the new Shoreditch’) mere bus rides away. But what caught my eye was a relatively newer restaurant, The Little Taperia. Since we ended up having lunch monumentally late, it felt appropriate to have Spanish food in honour of this and the heat.

The Little Taperia is, as the name suggests, tiny indeed: in fact the space it’s in was once a pet shop. If you’ve frequented Euston’s Honey and Co, you’ll have an idea of the scale. Still, we managed to find a seat, doubtless on account of the late lunching hour.

I will always eat a croqueta

David and I shared a lunch of tapas: of course I ordered the ham croquetas, the Spanish dish I most adore, and garlic prawns, and patatas bravas with allioli – very classic. Finally, a beetroot, spinach and goat’s cheese salad – a slightly odd choice, more British than Spanish – and grilled octopus. When the waiter took our order he recommended a sixth dish; caught out, we dithered and ended up ordering his recommendation of pan con tomate.


I was a bit regretful at having panicked – after all, pan con tomate is just tomatoes on toast, easy to recreate at home, whereas I usually like to pick things to eat at restaurants I wouldn’t bother to make at home, because they’re too specialist or fiddly or time-consuming.

Chives were everywhere. They look nice against the grated tomato.

Yet what arrived outstripped my expectations and was definitely worth ordering: a smear of sweet tomato pulp over bread that was both crusty and yet tender, lightly charred at the edges; a sprinkle of chives; and a generous drizzle of some exceptional olive oil, silky in texture but with a sharp green bite. It was a lovely example, and reminder, of the wonderfulness of simplicity when perfectly rendered.


Pickled chillies and chives to garnish…?

The prawns in garlic and chilli were a little more astringent with vinegar than I would have expected – it was served with those jarred, sliced pickled chilli is rather than fresh – but still vibrant, the acid providing bite against the sweet and slightly smokey prawn flesh. There were only two prawns as part of this tapa, though, so you’ll have to order multiple if you’re dining as a group. It wasn’t my ideal version of this dish because of the pickled chillies.

The patatas bravas with allioli were what you’d expect: crisp-edged potatoes, fatty garlic mayonnaise. It could have had more garlic, but then I do love a powerful punch of garlic flavour rather than a delicate hint. As a dish, patatas bravas is the most unchallenging Spanish food I can think of and rarely anything but delicious and moreish, even the versions which are comfortably middle of the road. You wouldn’t really want something innovative and groundbreaking even if it were offered, frankly.

245It’s much the same with respect to the ham croquetas: classically rendered, evenly crumbed morsels of ham-studded bechamel, they were crisp on the outside, and salty and rich within. I really do love them and very much want to make Miriam Gonzalez Durante’s recipe soon.

The two dishes I liked less were the beetroot and spinach salad and the grilled octopus (picture at the top of the post). I found the salad a bit bland, although I did enjoy the goat’s cheese, which had been beaten into a mousse – where I could find it. On the whole it was a bit same year and even a touch watery. The octopus was a bit too charred, harsh and, again, astringent for my taste, with perhaps too many capers. My boyfriend enjoyed it, though – chacun à son goût and all that!


All in all, despite these blips, I was really pleased by this casual restaurant, which served up some very enjoyable food. Yes, the dishes are largely predictable, but that is part of the charm. And it’s even nicer to have something in the neighbourhood for when I’m able to embrace a relaxed weekend.

Everything I Cooked from ‘Greedy Girl’s Diet’ by Nadia Sawalha

This post is a run-down of everything I cooked from Nadia Sawalha’s cookbook ‘Greedy Girl’s Diet’, and accompanies my full review of the book.

Beautiful berry pancakes [Come on, Break that Fast]

I think we can safely agree that this photo is overexposed...

This is an easy recipe to pull together – not quite one-bowl, because you need to separate the egg and beat the whites to soft peaks before folding into the batter, but all very easy to do by hand. They were delicate and tender and sweet enough without any toppings. My boyfriend liked them very much, which I think is important when cooking ‘diet food’ for someone not on a diet themselves.

Cinnamon chocolate banana shake027 [Come on, Break that Fast]

This is a blend of banana, semi-skimmed milk, cocoa powder and agave syrup, topped with grated dark chocolate. My bananas were so speckled that I left out the syrup, and they were more than sweet enough. The recipe reminded me that I don’t adore the combination of cinnamon and dark chocolate, personally. Fine but standard.

Jane Wake’s wide-awake seed bar [Come on, Break that Fast]

This is one of the few recipes I didn’t photograph. Think of a standard seed bar and you get the idea. Oats, nuts, seeds, coconut and dried fruit is mushed together with bananas, honey and light butter (I wasn’t too enamoured about buying this) before being patted into a baking tin, baked, cooled, and cut into bars. I substituted flaked coconut for the desiccated coconut (because that’s what was in the cupboard) and just chopped it up a bit; it was fine. I used one and a half large bananas instead of two small ones, and baked the bars a little longer than specified. They remained quite soft and prone to splitting, but held together. They were good: not too sweet, as you’d expect, and full of texture from the nubbly dry ingredients. These weren’t sensational but they quelled snacking urges reasonably well. I don’t think they would have fuelled me if I’d just had them for breakfast, though, as the bars were smallish.

Buckwheat pancakes [Come on, Break that Fast]

044 (2)Like most buckwheat pancakes, these were hearty, nutty, and filling, and could have had both savoury or sweet applications. The recipe doesn’t state what level of heat you should cook these over and actually the pan needed to be hotter than I expected to get these crepes to release. There’s a teaspoon of oil along with skimmed milk in these so they released decently once thoroughly cooked. They did have a tendency to be crisp rather than floppy as a silk scarf, however.

Creamy avocado soup [Let’s do Lunch]

016 (2)Sawalha suggests that this can be eaten as both a dip or a soup, and as I don’t like cold soup or yoghurt-based soup, I went for the dip option, and it was certainly thick enough to withstand scooping by pitta bread or vegetable crudités. Although the picture looks quite smooth, it was chunkier than it appeared because the cucumber didn’t blend entirely into the yoghurt and avocado.

Italian soup [Let’s do Lunch]

010 (2)This hearty soup is what I characterise as a ‘mealtime’ soup; one you could easily have as a meal, rather than as a starter. It is filling and well-flavoured with garlic and oregano (helpfully, you can use either fresh or dried in this). It is essentially a minestrone soup, save that it does not include pasta, and it was a little odd, to me anyway, that there’s a recipe both for this and for a minestrone in the book. I used less oil than called for, which was two tablespoons.

Leek and potato soup [Let’s do Lunch]

005The more I think of this soup, the more I think that it was actually one of the book’s complete failures, betraying its premise. Don’t get me wrong, this soup has a lovely flavour – you are allowed bacon as well as onion, leeks and potatoes – and the portion is a generous bowlful, but it’s so thin and insubstantial that, even after eating a double portion, I was bitterly hungry (and I had even thrown in an extra leek). Given that almost every single recipe is filling as well as tasty and that the whole premise of the book is that you don’t have to eat punishing ‘diet’ food to lose some weight, this struck an odd note. Maybe leek and potato soup just can’t be skimped on.

Marvellous minestrone soup [Let’s do Lunch]

263My opinions on this soup are virtually identical to my opinions on the Italian soup, and I also used less oil in this. The recipe only calls for half a pepper, annoyingly, and frankly I would just bung the whole thing in – it’s not going to radically distort the calorie count, after all! Another annoying point is that the pasta is supposed to be already cooked but I disobeyed this instruction and cooked it in the soup rather than separately. The ‘pasta’ I used was Israeli couscous – I consider it a pasta because it’s tiny balls of semolina and wheat flour.

The recipe calls for spinach and cabbage but I only used cabbage, because I was bringing this to work (the picture was taken at my desk, in my little travel soup mug) and reheated cabbage smells vile and is deeply antisocial.

Cumin-spiced carrot and butternut squash soup [Let’s do Lunch]

021Butternut squash and carrots are both sweet vegetables and it was unsurprising that the finished soup was sweet, too. A red chopped chilli is included on the ingredients list; it is marked as optional but I think the heat is absolutely essential to counterbalance the intense sweetness of the vegetables. Some lemon or lime juice stirred through at the end would also not have gone amiss and skimping on salt would be a mistake here.

The recipe calls for one tablespoon of oil just to fry an onion and three garlic cloves; I used one teaspoon, which was plenty for the purpose.

Spicy lamb and hummus pitta [Let’s do Lunch]

020 (3)Now this, to me, was an absolute standout. An almost miniscule amount of lamb – 100g – is cut into tiny pieces, mixed with garlic and spice mix (the recipe calls for baharat, but as I didn’t have it I used ras el hanout), browned and served with a sauce made of hummus and coriander, as well as chopped lettuce and green pepper and flatbreads (the recipe calls for pitta, but I used flatbread). Light, spicy, refreshing, easy. It was utterly delicious and my boyfriend loved it, too. The only fly in the ointment is that the recipe is listed as serving four – four people who are watching their weight, maybe. I ate one portion, but my non-dieting boyfriend polished off the remainder easily.

023 (2)

Chicken and avocado salad [Let’s do Lunch]

028Confession: I am not a lover of chicken and I characterised this as ‘fine’. As with all chicken-based recipes, I concluded that I would have much preferred it without the chicken, and the use of cooked skinless breasts is never going to be seductive. The recipe calls for four such chicken breasts, already cooked – is that realistic? Do people just have cooked chicken lying about? I certainly don’t. Having halved the recipe to serve just two, I baked the two breasts in the oven before adding to the salad. I didn’t have walnuts so used pecans, and toasted them before adding to the salad. Even if using walnuts, I would consider the toasting step compulsory, but the recipe just has you toss them in raw. Nuts are much crunchier and delicious when toasted – they taste much more of themselves and start to slightly give off their natural oils, allowing them to mix into the other flavours on the plate.

Beetroot and potato salad [Let’s do Lunch]

022This dish is intended as a side salad to serve four, but I ate half (two portions) as a main meal. The yoghurt-based dressing goes luridly pink as the beetroot juice seeps into it. This is a salad for beetroot lovers because there is double the beetroot to potato; unusually, for a British recipe, we are directed to not use the type pickled in vinegar, but plainly cooked. Fortunately, such plain beets are easy to find now, even in my local Lidl. The vinaigrette, which is poured over the beetroot and just-cooked potatoes, balances the earthy sweetness of the beetroot sufficiently.

Substitutes and omissions: I didn’t use either the fresh or dried dill called for in the recipe because I don’t like it enough to feel it’s worth buying. The recipe calls for low-fat Greek yoghurt, but I used 0% fat to no ill effect. I used English mustard instead of French and actually I think the fieriness of the English product is a good foil for the bland potatoes and sweet beetroot.

Spicy chickpea tagine [Let’s do Lunch]

022 (2)

This is a nice, easy-to-put-together riff on a standard chana masala-style dish. Actually my version was a bit more chana masala-ish because I used garam masala instead of cumin (I’d run out of the latter). I used an extra cinnamon stick instead of the teaspoon of cinnamon called for (same reason).

I’m going to be a broken record on the use of oil in this cookbook; I cut it again in this recipe.

Broccoli, mushroom and chilli parmesan pasta [Let’s do Lunch]


Notwithstanding the chapter this is from, I cooked it for dinner. It was fairly quick and satisfying. As someone who doesn’t love mushrooms, but can live with them, this was a pretty average dish. I used wholewheat spaghetti instead of the penne pictured.

I did wonder if the calorie count for this recipe was off – the portion of pasta is generous and the recipe calls for two whole tablespoons of oil – but given the rest of the dish is mushrooms and broccoli, it seems to be about right. I used only one tablespoon of oil myself and cooked the mushrooms for much longer than called for, so that they became properly soft and cooked down. The recipe asked for the quartered mushrooms to be cooked ‘for a minute or so’ over medium heat, then to add garlic and chilli and cook a further minute. They would have been far too raw for my taste with that cooking time. Also, because I had halved the oil called for, I used a little of the pasta cooking water to the mushrooms once the garlic had been added to stop it from catching. Adding pasta water also thickens the sauce and gives it some silky body.

All in all okay but not one I would make again.

Spaghetti with chilli, crab and lemon [Let’s do Lunch]


As I mentioned in the full review, this dish was, for me, a stand-out disaster. There were a lot of lovely, fresh flavours in the dish: lemon, spiked with chilli and garlic, a refreshing and zesty combination. I could see how it would be lovely with proper, fresh seafood, but the tin of white crabmeat – as called for in the recipe, mind – was much too reminiscent of cat food. Sawalha does recommend using fresh crab if you can. I think fresh crab is essential for this. It’s perhaps not very homely and budget friendly to call for expensive fresh shellfish, but the tinned crab honestly made me want to cry. Don’t do it to yourself. Either use fresh crab, or don’t make the dish. I somehow doubt Sawalha makes this with tinned crab herself…

Substitutions: I couldn’t find a 200g tin of crabmeat so used one weighing 170g, which yielded 120g. A blessing, as it turned out. I didn’t add the parsley called for because I didn’t have any but if making this (with! fresh! crab!) I can see how the cool, herbal green would add an extra complementary note. I used much less oil than the two tablespoons called for so treated myself to an extra smidgen of wholewheat pasta. I also didn’t have any white wine so I borrowed a trick from Nigella Lawson and watered down 100ml of white vermouth with 100ml of water. The recipe, incidentally, calls for a ‘half glass’ of wine. I’m not sure what this means since wine is poured in varying measures. It really would have been no effort to add an approximate amount in millilitres so all in all, between the cat food meat and slapdash ingredients list, this recipe made me very cross.

Roasted pork meatballs in tomato sauce [Let’s do Lunch]

054 (2)The pork specified is lean, so of course the meatballs can tend towards slightly dense, even dry. The sauce is based on tomato paste and an annoyingly unspecific ‘teacup’ of boiling water (again, it would have served to recipe better to specify the size) and two tablespoons of olive oil (of course I used less). The sauce is consequently of quite a plain, sweet character – family friendly.

The recipe calls for the meatballs to be rolled into ‘hazelnut-sized’ balls. Not a chance. I made them small, but not THAT small.

Za’atar Chicken [Let’s do Lunch]

Chicken i236s marinated, not too long, in an acidic mixture of lemon, salt and garlic – enough to make the flesh take on that dense, slightly pickled look of fish prepared ceviche-style. Za’atar is hardly exotic now – any old supermarket seems to stock this pungent, aromatic combination of wild thyme, sumac and other herbs. The presence of za’atar in the world is a great help. Anyway, this is easy, quick (bar the marinating time) and fresh-tasting. The chicken is intensely lemony and herbal. If I’m going to eat chicken, this is the kind of flavour profile I like.

Chicken and preserved lemon tagine [Let’s do Lunch]

175As with za’atar, so with preserved lemons: little jars of them seem to be available everywhere now, and are even popping up as supermarket own-brand versions.

The recipe suggests using chicken breasts or thighs; I went for thighs, sacrificing a bit of leanness for dark, juicy flavour. The calorie count probably could have been shown for breasts or thighs, though, as there would have been a difference. I left out the green olives called for because I don’t care for olives. Anyway, this is a heady, aromatic and forgiving dish. I thought the cooking time was a bit long for thighs, but it did result in tender, melting meat and vegetables, and when you need comfort that falling-apart quality provides a great deal of it.

Sinless spaghetti Bolognaise [Delicious Dinner]

087Sinless this may be, but I confess to not loving this version of spag bol. The recipe suggests using turkey or beef mince; curious, I tried turkey, an intensely lean meat which, when ‘lightly brown’, takes on a firm, crumbly texture and the taste of sloppy cardboard. The meat was strangely dry despite the sauce being so wet (as can be seen by the pool of liquid on the plate) and the mushrooms were a slightly slimy, unwelcome presence in texture and taste terms – I don’t think they add anything (apart from low-calorie bulk, obviously) so what is meant to be a comforting and familiar family dish.

Creamy chicken curry in a hurry [Delicious Dinner]

051If you come across slightly older cookbooks, you will occasionally find a recipe for a sweet, mild curry which combines generic yellow ‘curry powder’ with a grated apple, handful of raisins and poached chicken breast. This reminded me a little of those recipes: mild yellow commercial korma paste is mixed with yoghurt and chicken is marinated in this bland mixture for as long as possible, then tipped into a pan and cooked in stock. The mixture is thickened with ground almonds and, although there is no apple to be seen, sultanas are stirred through. The result is very old-fashioned, almost flavourless and textureless but very sweet. It was not to my taste but might have pleased a young child, and indeed Sawalha describes this as ‘strictly a family dish’.

Marvellous macaroni cheese [Delicious Dinner]

052 (2)All macaroni cheese recipes seem to have in common that they use a million cooking implements and vessels, and this was no exception (pasta, bechamel, baking dish, vegetables…).

Substitutions: the recipe calls for leek to be fried in a little oil, but given that I had bought light butter, I tried using that. Stick to oil. I used ‘light’ extra-mature cheddar to cut the fat content (although the calorie difference between light and standard cheese is negligible). Instead of grilling the top of the dish I baked it for about half an hour so that everything could bubble together.

The bechamel (or white sauce) did split a little when I made this – I don’t think skimmed milk works for this since the nature of the sauce is that it relies on fat and flour to bind it.

The vegetable content of this dish was great but I don’t like cooked fresh tomatoes and, like most pasta dishes, it wasn’t filling for very long.

Betty’s beautiful burgers [Delicious Dinner]

No photograph of these. They look like smallish burger patties, so you’re not missing much. They are good! They’re based on lamb and have a bit of pomegranate molasses in them. You can bind them with an egg, egg and breadcrumbs or even ‘dried apricot stuffing, made up according to packet instructions’. Hmm. I used an egg.

Thai veggie curry [Delicious Dinner]

This was the first recipe I made from the book, before I decided to review it. The recipe uses 70g of Thai green curry paste so, unsurprisingly, the recipe depends on you using one which is of good quality and, more importantly, suits your tastes – mine tasted a little of anise, surprisingly. Frankly I don’t think carrots (called for in the recipe!) belong in a Thai green curry – pea aubergine would have been more suitable, though harder to get hold of. I didn’t use the fish sauce or beansprouts, on account of not loving either ingredient. I used soy sauce instead of the fish sauce.

Chicken shawarma [Delicious Dinner]


What a great recipe. Juicy, spiced, flavourful grilled chicken which hearkens to Sawalha’s father’s Jordanian roots and is based on her favourite street food eaten on the streets of Amman. The spices include cinnamon, allspice, cardamom and even gum mastic, which is a spice I have sought out, and found, in London food shops which serve Turkish and Middle Eastern communities (I mean, they serve all communities, but they specialise in foods from these communities), but never seen in a ‘big four’ supermarket. This authenticity pays off in the fantastic flavour of this dish. Well worth making. It’s drizzled with tahini sauce upon serving.

Funky fish and chips [Delicious Dinner]

073 (2)The book shows an evenly-crumbed slab of yellow fish. Well, that’s not quite how it worked out for me. Admittedly, I used an egg white instead of an egg, but the chilli and basil-flecked polenta mixture clumped together horribly and adhered to the fish in lumps. The oven-baked chips stuck to the pan and didn’t brown properly, though that could have been down to me using a generic ‘white’ potato rather than one designed for roasting.

Vegetable makloubeh [Delicious Dinner]

027 (2)

Another one of the first recipes from the book I tried. It wasn’t greatly promising because of the way the aubergine was cooked. Aubergine benefits from slow cooking in lots of good quality olive oil until it surrenders silkily, or roasting over open flame until the skin chars and the spongey flesh takes on deep, smokey flavour. I don’t think it benefits from a quick spray with as little olive oil as possible and roasting. The slices didn’t brown appetisingly and remained looking, and tasting, a little pallid. I think the dish could also have benefitted from deeper, richer spicing to bring the vegetables together into a harmonious whole; the cauliflower and aubergine didn’t really marry.

Prawn and chorizo rice pot [Delicious Dinner]


This recipe was delicious and, given that chorizo is highly fatty and so something the dieter often must strike from her culinary register, unexpected. The combination of sweet juicy prawns and drier, firmer, salty, smoky chorizo is one of the most exemplary surf and turf pairings around, and certainly among the more accessible.It’s a recipe that’s ideal for a weeknight because it comes together quickly and is easy and stress-free, and doesn’t use up loads of pans or require obscure ingredients. I have made this one multiple times and for me it’s the standout recipe, worth holding on to the book for.

The recipe ekes out a tiny bit of very finely chopped chorizo – and the effort made to chop it truly small will reward you – which would, in other dishes, seem rather a mean amount. Albeit the quantity of chorizo is low, the amount of rice is generous. Although the recipe calls for 200g of prawns, I always end up using slightly less because packets bought in the supermarket are usually between 150-180g. As I have testified before, I prefer the Waitrose raw king prawn above others, for taste, textural, and environmental reasons.

Fancy fish pie [Delicious Dinner]


Another recipe that took up a lot of cooking vessels and implements, but it yielded a really satisfying dinner, deeply comforting despite the use of light butter, light cream cheese and low-fat fromage frais. The recipe calls for a mix of smoked haddock, coley and prawns, but I used (sustainable, line-caught) cod as I was unable to find coley. I think you could also use pollack if you can find it.

Chilli con carne [Delicious Dinner]


This is a great and satisfying chilli con carne based on lean minced beef and bulked out with beans and peppers, served with brown rice and a fresh, enlivening salsa. The only annoying thing about it was that the recipe called for a  200g tin of kidney beans, but I could only find standard-sized 400g tins, resulting in half a tin leftover in the fridge. Honestly, I would spare yourself the aggravation and just chuck in the whole tin.

Ratatouille with quinoa [Delicious Dinner]


In many respects this is a very standard ratatouille – it’s bright, fresh, a good weeknight dinner. Personally the balance in this recipe was weighted too heavily in favour of the courgettes; I prefer a greater proportion of aubergine, although it’s true that their tendency to absorb oil means it might not have been easy to include more. Speaking of oil, this is another recipe where I used much less than originally called for – just under two teaspoons, a third of what was called for (two tablespoons).

Minor gripe about the instructions: the vegetables are placed in a casserole to bake together and it’s not clear if the casserole should be lidded or not.

Fabulous falafels [Delicious Dinner]

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Tinned chickpeas are whizzed together with seasoning, garlic and bicarbonate of soda and compressed into falafel balls. Sawalha asks you to make sixteen. I made eight and they were already small and falling-apart crumbly so I think making them smaller would be very difficult. The falafel were quite dry and hard and fell apart into crumbly dust. Traditionally falafel are made from chickpeas that have been soaked, but not cooked – maybe using cooked ones produces this more unsatisfactory result. I have had delicious, moist falafel that have rivalled lamb patties for juiciness; it is possible.

I used much less low-fat yoghurt for the dressing than called for in the recipe – by accident rather than design,because the amount I had left in the pot was much less than the 150g required. I blended it in a mini chopper to make it smooth. As a result my version of the rocket-based dressing was more pungently green and peppery-bright than it would have otherwise been, and I liked it.

Saffron prawns with rice [Delicious Dinner]

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Another good, solid, easy dinner with a delicious foundation of flavours. I mistakenly used brown rice instead of Basmati, only clocking the error when I realised how short the cooking time was. It was still tasty in its own right. God, I love prawns – their sweetness was perfect against the rice.

Moroccan-style fish [Delicious Dinner]

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Sawalha claims she created this recipe for herself and her father, who don’t favour fish. It’s true that white fish is often cooked lightly and delicately, and this richly spiced, tomatoey stew, flavoured with my favourites like paprika and cumin, enhanced with chickpeas, is a welcome change. It’s satisfying and, while I don’t know if it would convert someone who truly hates fish – I personally love fish, so this is alien to me – I think someone who is on the fence would enjoy it.

Coconut, prawn and mangetout curry [Delicious Dinner]


A nice, easy curry, apparently based on a favoured takeaway dish, based on Madras curry paste, light coconut milk, mangetout  and prawns, thickened with ground almonds. The recipe asks for a tablespoon of brinjal pickle to be stirred into it at the end, but I skipped this step because I didn’t want to buy a jar of pickle specially for this recipe, as I doubted we’d eat the rest. I do think the pickle would have been a good addition, though, lifting and brightening the flavours with a sour edge. My version was a little bit soupier than the one photographed in the book. I served it with rice for a comforting, warming supper.

Lemony risotto [Delicious Dinner]

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This recipe serves two and so was extremely convenient for me, living as I do in a two-person household. The portion, while sufficient for me, was perhaps a little on the small side for a male non-dieter. The recipe is packed with vegetables: asparagus, petits pois, spring onions and watercress. I left out the watercress (I forgot to buy it, that’s all) and used a little bit of leek as the allium base instead of the spring onions. With the asparagus, peas, lemon and parmesan this recipe can’t be anything but bright, punchy and refreshing, despite the creaminess. I liked that parmesan cheese was included in the calorie count.

Risotto with seared scallops [Delicious Dinner]

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Another one that serves two. The portion is a decent-sized bowlful – the amount of rice is quite generous – sufficient for a non-dieter.

I used less oil than specified and skipped the light butter and the wine used to finish the scallops. The finished dish was perfectly rich-tasting and creamy without the fake butter so…why bother? Also, I didn’t have as much Arborio rice as required by the recipe – and hadn’t eaten all day – so added a little extra bacon. I used a whole pack of small Patagonian scallops instead of four larger ones.


Sirloin steak salad with creamy horeradish dressing [Delicious Dinner]

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I made a number of changes to this recipe of strips of griddled steak tossed with blanched green beans, salad, radishes and a dressing of horseradish and low-fat salad cream, served with grilled garlic bread. Firstly I shifted the register from English to French by using half-fat creme fraiche and instead of the salad cream and mustard instead of horseradish, which is not something I would ever ordinarily use. I also used baby leaf spinach instead of mixed leaf salad, rocket and watercress. I used more steak because the smallest packet I could buy in the supermarket was a little bigger than what was called for. This is a straightforward and undemanding salad to put together, but following the instructions for the garlic bread just resulted in the garlic falling off the bread and burning on the grill pan. However, grilling the bread did give it an amazing smokey flavour that made up for it not oozing with melted butter.

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Tandoori chicken with tzatziki [Delicious Dinner]


A confession: I made this recipe in the evening after going to a friend’s birthday lunch, which had lasted about six hours and multiple rich, meaty courses. The chicken had marinated for about 36 hours and I cooked this up and fed it to my hungry boyfriend, but could not actually manage it myself. He liked it a lot and it smelled great. You marinate chicken in yoghurt, tandoori paste, ginger and spices, so the chicken is both tender and permeated with spice all the way through.

The recipe asks you to use two chicken breasts and two chicken drumsticks, but I only found drumsticks available in large, family-sized bags. Given that we don’t have a freezer, this would have been an impractical purchase, so I used four chicken breasts.

Pancakes with raspberry topping [Decadent Desserts]

010I had this for a more indulgent weekend breakfast rather than dessert and would characterise it as a ‘what’s not to love?’ kind of recipe, with flavours that almost anyone would enjoy. The pancakes – which are crepes, really, being thin – contain very little fat, just from the egg and the tiny bit of fat which remains in skimmed milk. As a result, despite cooking them on a very slick nonstick crepe pan, it was somewhat difficult to get them to release from the pan. Embrace the tears, I say – you’ll be slopping raspberry sauce over them anyway and that hides any imperfections.

For the raspberry topping, I used lemon juice instead of orange juice – orange juice would doubtless be better if you have a sweeter tooth or are serving to children. I also used frozen raspberries, as they were being cooked anyway and were cheaper than fresh; they broke down completely and became extremely liquid, but still tasted good. If you want a thicker, jammier sauce, use fresh.

Cookbook Review: ‘Greedy Girl’s Diet’, by Nadia Sawalha

Maintaining a calorie deficit is no joke. Between July 2015 and June 2016 I was consuming no more than between 1200-1400 calories a day while attempting to shed (what became) 24kg of weight. There were, obviously, exceptions to this rule – though surprisingly, I didn’t surpass my calorie allowance on my birthday or Christmas – but the majority of my days were in significant deficit, all faithfully tracked on MyFitnessPal.


There are people who will disagree, but eating this way is actually quite exhausting. It makes work of what should be instinctive, turns meals into maths, and I found it very difficult to cook from my extensive cookbook collection simply because the calorie counts weren’t there, and sometimes it was too tiring and daunting to run it through MyFitnessPal’s recipe calculator only to discover it was well beyond my daily limit: the after-work conundrum of what to cook was magnified. On the other hand, I did need to eat with a very prescribed calorie limit in order to lose the weight I wanted to lose. This problem led to me buying up a lot of healthy-eating orientated cookbooks, the kind which are actually aimed at dieters and so will print the nutritional values on the recipe pages as a matter of course. (It also led me to multiple clean eating cookbooks. Enough said on that phase). While in this phase, desperately seeking inspiration, I found ‘Greedy Girl’s Diet’ in a charity shop and, after a bit of anxious leafing, was drawn in by the promise of quick meals where the hard work of calorie counting had been done for me.

img_0005I’d heard of Nadia Sawalha, the author of the book, but mostly know her as a winner of Celebrity Masterchef, and didn’t realise she was an actress (having acted in EastEnders, that perennial soap classic) and broadcaster prior to this. Notwithstanding popular cliches to the contrary, the cover of the book (see above), and it’s title and subtitle, really do say everything about what it will offer: a slim, happy Sawalha beaming, dressed in a (reasonably slinky) Little Black Dress, propped on the kitchen counter, whisking up what looks to be cupcakes, and the promise that you can ‘eat yourself slim with gorgeous, guilt-free food’. So this book is really, definitely, absolutely, unequivocally, aimed at women, then.

The introduction confirms it – in ‘My Secret’ Sawalha covers her dieting history, basically a potted history of “starving, bingeing, starving, bingeing and then starving and bingeing all over again, to no avail” and following every touted ‘miracle solution’ to the problem of an imperfect body, which, she verifies, have not worked for her. My own weight loss history is different – I have gained significant amounts of weight twice in my life as follows: I enter a stressful period of my life, eat to comfort myself, and then one day wake up loathing myself. I couldn’t entirely relate, but I think aspects of this story will resonate for most women. It was only when Sawalha realised she should be nourishing, not punishing, her body, that her approach to eating began to change. She also writes in a separate section about her relationship with exercise, characterised by dread, laziness and fear, and how she realised that, in order to start exercising, she would have to…start exercising. When I was very overweight, walking into the gym full of toned, ab-flashing women who were so expert on the machines made me tense and trembley, so yes, I could relate to this!

Moving on from the confessional, sisterly tone – you will like it or not, but you don’t have to read it either way – and on to the recipes, there are three sections: Come on, Break that Fast, which covers both quick weekday breakfasts and recipes more suited to weekends; Let’s Do Lunch, meals I characterise as slightly lighter and quicker, and Delicious Dinner.

Personally I found timg_0008he breakfast section the least inspiring. There are some nice recipe in there – I liked the berry pancakes, wide-awake seed bars and buckwheat pancakes – but most of them were not to my taste (scrambled egg and smoked trout, egg and bacon tomato pots) or weren’t really recipes, but more ideas (avocado toast, boiled eggs and soldiers, almond butter crumpets – literally just toasted crumpets and almond butter, but the recipe takes up a full page!). However, when it comes to breakfast I am one of those people who is very tied to a routine of eating the same things on a daily basis, punctuated by the occasional weekend variation, so for me, personally, this wasn’t so much of an issue. If you’re struggling to break out of a cereal and toast rut, however, other books may be better.

So delicious – and I think it looks so appetising, too

Things did look up when it came to lunch. There’s a decent range of soups, which is important to me in almost any book, not just diet ones, because soup is what I typically take to work with me on a daily basis. Some of the recipes worked very well and were flavourful and filling, as advertised; the leek and potato soup, however, was miserably thin and could only really serve four if the four you were serving are very young children with tiny appetites (in fact its watery texture and pallid colour made me think of gruel, the Victorian invalid/workhouse staple). It didn’t fuel me at all and reminded me of ‘traditional’ diet food (the kind that sends you straight to the biscuit tin). However, the hearty Italian soup and the Marvellous minestrone (superlatives are common throughout the book) were brightly flavoured and kept me going for hours, so I can forgive the vichyssoise blip. Other lunch ideas were more suitable for someone who is lucky enough to work from home, such as the Lamb and Hummus pitta (I cooked it on a weekend), but, that being said, it was one of those punchy, filling dishes so full of flavour and texture that it truly belied the idea of diet food. It uses only 100g lean lamb for a recipe serving four but it was truly enough.


img_0015As with the breakfast recipes, the salad recipes were not really up my street, although the two I did try- chicken and avocado and beetroot and potato – were good enough. My boyfriend particularly raved about the chicken and avocado salad, which contains bacon (I do not really like chicken but I did like the dressing and avocado). The nice thing about this diet book is that you’re totally allowed to be eating bacon, chorizo, potatoes and cream – just used very moderately.

Most of the lunch recipes can be pulled together fairly snappily; the more time-consuming ones are appropriately under the heading of ‘Family Sunday Lunch’, albeit a small family; the recipes largely serve four. Most of them, again, were solid and definitely suitable for sharing, although the vegetarian comfort pie, a dish of stewed celery topped with mashed potatoes without butter, did not tempt me. It sounded a surprisingly austere and traditional note of deprivation and seemed quite old-fashioned amidst the pork meatballs and za’atar chicken and chicken tagine, so appetising and very delicious.

img_0017The Delicious Dinner chapter similarly includes different themes, including of course family-orientated recipes (serving four), such as Sinless Spaghetti Bolognaise (the twist is the use of turkey mince and addition of mushrooms) and Creamy Chicken Curry in a Hurry, a somewhat old-fashioned and unchallenging curry recipe which Sawalha admits is not one she would serve to guests. Based on korma paste, I imagine it’s a dish even the pickiest of children would eat. There’s also a chicken shawarma recipe which surprised me with its inclusion of gum mastic in the ingredients: despite the rise and rise of Middle Eastern food in the UK, this is still not something you can buy in standard supermarkets. Slightly fancier recipes are included in the ‘Dinner Party Goddess’ sub-section, including my stand-out dish of the book, the Prawn and Chorizo Rice Pot, which stretches 70g of chorizo among four diners in a way which will leave everyone satisfied. This dish is quick, it is utterly delicious, it combines my favourite things of prawn and chorizo and it clocks in at 367 calories per serving: I have made it many times and my boyfriend loves it, too. Finally, there’s a sub-section on ‘Dinner for Two’, which is always helpful for me given that typically I am serving just two. This section included such pleasing dinners as Coconut, Prawn and Mangetout Curry (Sawalha’s healthier remake of a takeaway dish, apparently!) and Lemony Risotto. The portions were generous and satisfying – in fact, the Tandoori Chicken recipe resulted in more chicken than I could eat, though this might speak more to my slightly reluctant relationship with chicken than anything else.

On the whole this is a very ‘accessible’ cookbook, by which I mean virtually every ingredient, with maybe two exceptions throughout the entire book, could be bought in a bog-standard supermarket; many of the ingredients could be ‘sourced’ from a corner shop or petrol station outlet if that’s all you had. However, sometimes this impulse to make things approachable rather than authentic does go too far, as when Sawalha calls for tinned crabmeat for her chilli, crab and lemon spaghetti. In fairness she does suggest using fresh rather than tinned in the head note, and do follow her advice: the tinned variety was an absolute abomination. It tasted like the smell of cat food. I am really not ‘above’ tinned fish – I am rather fond of tinned salmon, especially eaten with cut up fresh tomatoes and chips, as served in my grandparents’ home – but tinned crab just does not taste very nice. It would have served the book better if Sawalha had just acknowledged that this recipe should be made with a fresh, slightly more expensive shellfish.

img_0014My main quibble with a number of the recipes is that, for all that this is a diet book, Sawalha actually uses much more oil than would actually be needed – I’ve cut the oil asked for by as much as a third in her recipes and did not feel that they suffered. I was also not hugely delighted by the reliance on artificial ‘light’ products (such as light butter, light cream) in some recipes, but this was admittedly limited and understandable, given the publication’s raison d’etre.

Is this a must-have cookbook? I’m not so sure. Has it produced a series of solid meals, some of them outright delicious, which enabled me to stick to a restricted calorie plan without feeling deprived? Yes, most definitely. All diets require some element of balancing out, and this cookbook would help with that even if you’re not quite calorie counting on a regular basis. The recipes are accessible and the ingredients easy to get hold of. It is not a groundbreaking tome, but it is, barring exceptions, a reliable source for weeknight dinners, some of them very delicous and some reasonably unremarkable but good enough to eat. Whether that’s enough to give it a place on your bookshelf depends entirely on your priorities.

A full round-up of every recipe I cooked from the book will be posted soon.

What’s in the fridge? – Emma, Tbilisi

My lovely friend Emma and I met at university when we stayed in the same hall of residence and rapidly bonded over a shared interest in food (combining Oreos, peanut butter and bananas; dyeing water green; and baking and eating Presidential cookies all featured) and TV (Veronica Mars especially). (There was more to it than that, but you get the idea). Emma is originally from the US but now lives in Tbilisi, Georgia, and writes the fabulously informative blog Cookies and the Caucasus, which is a must-read if you are planning a trip to Georgia (her post on how to have the iconic Georgian dinner out is an excellent start). She kindly agreed to open her fridge door for this series (first post here).

img_0605Who do you cook for?

I cook for myself, and about half the time my boyfriend eats with me. I like cooking for others, too, but I usually do that at friends’ houses, because my flat is small (the kitchen is good-sized, but it takes up half the flat).

Do you have a cooking philosophy or approach of any kind?

I try to cook one big dish on the weekend that will keep throughout the week for lunches to bring to work and quick dinners, so that tends to be a stew/curry or a salad. I often wind up working around one ingredient, either something Georgian that I don’t know and want to explore, or something non-Georgian that I’m so excited to see that I snap it up first and figure out what to do with it later. I don’t like touching raw meat, so I don’t cook a lot of meat. Sometimes I’ll buy a rotisserie chicken, or raw meat pre-cut into the necessary shape so I can just throw it into the pan.

Where do you buy your groceries?

Mostly at the grocery store across the street from my house (it’s called Universami) and at the grocery store across the street from my friend’s house (Furshet). I also stop at the fruit and vegetable stand on my way home if I’ll be cooking, or if I have time to wash and cut something for the next few days. I make it to the Carrefour Hypermarket about once a month, where I can get more specialty ingredients.

img_0966Tell us a little bit about your kitchen. Is it minimal or cluttered?

I rented the place furnished, so I can’t take any credit for the kitchen. It’s recently renovated, so the cupboards are quite nice. Sadly, though, the oven doesn’t work, only 3/4 of the burners on the cooker turn on, and I was in the flat for 2 and a half months before I got a fridge…so you could say it’s minimal.

What’s in your fridge?

I just got back from my post-paycheck grocery shopping spree, so my fridge is quite full right now. I’ve got a lot of condiments–I like to keep both the Georgian and American basics around, and I also like to make curries and stir fries, so I have the basics for those, too. Summer produce season is in full swing–you can see mulberries, blueberries, lettuce, and ekala (it’s, like, a twig…the scientific name is Smilax excelsa) [Ed: sarsparilla is part of the same family]. I’ve also got herbs and a big head of broccoli in the veg drawer, in addition to the stuff not in the fridge.


What are the three most useful ingredients in your kitchen (and why)?

img_0957Garlic, olive oil….I can’t think of a third that’s at the same level. I’ll eat pretty much anything with garlic and olive oil on it. I suppose salt is necessary for the garlic and olive oil to do their magic, so that’ll be number 3.

What three foods are always in your fridge?

Some sort of fermented dairy product (usually matsoni – Georgian yoghurt – but often kefir or ayran – Turkish thin buttermilk), eggs, hot sauce.

Is anything currently missing from your fridge?

Like I said before, it’s fuller than usual as I just got back from shopping. I realized when I got home that I had forgotten to put parmesan on my list, so that’s missing. Usually all those ingredients would be turned into dishes, and there would be stacks of containers in the fridge. That’s the plan for this evening.

What treats do you keep in your fridge (or cupboards)?

I don’t really keep treats around…I make myself walk to the store if I have a craving. I always have tea, which is comforting, so I guess it can fill the “treat” slot.

What foods were always in the house when you were growing up?
Fruit, lots of varieties of cheese, tortillas

What three gadgets or tools are most important/helpful for you when cooking?

I only have three gadgets: an immersion blender, a WonderBag, and a julienne peeler. They’re all fairly new to me, and have really expanded my repertoire!

If you had to make yourself a meal with the food in your fridge (and pantry) right now, without going to the shops, what would you make?

I’m going to make some pkhali (Georgian vegetable puree) this evening, so I’ve got the ingredients for that. The obvious dinner is to cook up those ravioli, and I’m sure I’ve got pesto in the fridge somewhere. I’ve also got lovely tomatoes. But more in line with the spirit of the question, I’d make an herb omelette, as I have lots of herbs lingering in my vegetable drawer, and I always have eggs. The cheese I have, smoked sulguni, wouldn’t be my first choice for an omelette, but in a pinch I think it would be fine.

When there really is nothing in your fridge, where do you go out to eat?

Khachapuri, preferably adjaruli, but whatever’s hot at the local bakery will suffice. If I’m too lazy to cook, I’m usually also too lazy to go anywhere, but I want to give a shout-out to our embattled Kiwi Cafe. Often when I go there to meet friends, I’ll get a dish or two takeaway to preempt running out of food in the fridge, because they cook the kind of things I like to cook, it just saves me some effort.

August 2016 Food and Cooking Favourites

I feel like a slightly tentative snail or bear or other creature that habitually creeps from a comforting hibernating environment to say – hello! I’m here! I made a video! I have created content! I have not, despite appearances to the contrary, been smacked entirely unconscious by work, which picks up a head of steam around this time of year sufficient to blow us into December.

I have still been eating and reading and enjoying things, which brings me to my August 2016 Food Favourites, which, looking at it now, is centred around the theme of comfort: comfort food (meatballs), reading (Laurie Colwin) and TV (the Great British Bake Off). It’s a reminder that the weather is getting colder as we moved into autumn but also that things are starting to get more strained and stressful in the office as the deadlines hit us like arrows).

I filmed this a few weeks ago (it’s just taken me a while to get my editing act together) and my gushing about the Great British Bake Off and expression of it as a genuine national treasure of a show now reads as oddly ironic and a little bittersweet. (For those of you who don’t know, the Great British Bake Off, a BBC institution, has moved to the commercially orientated broadcaster Channel 4, which specialises in edgier programme aimed more explicitly at the youth demographic – or, as almost inevitably described, ‘yoof’. It’s inevitable that the unique character of the show will be lost now that the two presenters and one of the judges have declined to move channels).