Category Archives: Food

Homemade Nutella 😊

It was Shrove Tuesday this week, which in England coincides with pancake day.

In France, we are very lucky the events are different (not that anyone ever need any excuse to eat pancakes), we have pancake day early February, “la fete de la Chandeleur”, and then Shrove Tuesday, or “Mardi-Gras”, which marks the beginning of lent (just before the “Mercredi des Cendres”) the last day of indulgence allowed before the fasting period starts. In France we also celebrate Mardi-Gras with a carnival.

One thing that goes without saying with pancake is Nutella. Other chocolate spreads are available, they taste slightly different, but they all have tons of undesirable ingredients in them. Don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff!

But how, being sugar-free, could I still indulge myself and maintain the “tradition” without offending my ethics and keeping true to my resolutions…?


I had to make my own of course!

There are various ready-made hazelnut/chocolate spreads available in shops that are free from whatever you want, but it just doesn’t have the same charm, does it? 🙂

The internet really is wonderful, I came across this blog “sugarfreemom” written by a lady who went down the sugar-free road 10 years ago! For those who thought this not possible, she is the living proof you can actually survive without sugar!

  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract
  • a few drops of liquid hazelnut stevia
  1. In a dry skillet, toast your hazelnuts until fragrant, about 4-5 minutes over medium heat.
  2. Place on a clean kitchen towel and allow to cool.
  3. Once cool rub towel over them to loosen and remove as much of their skins as possible.
  4. Place in a food processor or high powdered blender and process until fine crumbs.
  5. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
  6. Taste and adjust salt and stevia if needed.
  7. Makes 12 ounces

I used organic hazelnuts, organic coconut oil, fairtrade chocolate powder, Himalayan salt (controversial, but I have some in the cupboard, so needs using), I used organic honey instead of stevia, again because I have honey in the cupboard, and I used vanilla extract instead of hazelnut stevia, for the same reason.

The smell of toasted hazelnuts really is something else! And the taste of the finished product is practically spot on!

It took me a little while to get the taste correct, so I would suggest being careful with the “sugar” and also the coconut oil, as the latter will determine the thickness of the texture. I started with 1/4 cup of oil but had to add probably another 1/4 cup as the mixture was too dry. Honey is actually tricky to use in baking, I think you could overdo it, so start with a little and keep tasting and adjusting. I actually had to add more honey (I probably used two tablespoons all together), but better that than the opposite. I think I put too much chocolate, the after taste is quite chocolaty but not unpleasant.

What amazes me is that you get hints of taste, like the “real” stuff, but the after notes are so much better! They leave you wanting for more! But be mindful, it is actually quite filling and satisfying. Whereas before I could demolish half a jar of Nutella in less time it took me to actually eat it, I was quite satisfied here with only just one slice of toast!

There you go, that’s what real flavours and good ingredients do to you, a genuine feeling of satisfaction, not a trick to the brain to make you stuff your face!

In case you need more excuses to give this a go, hazelnuts are a source of vitamin E to protect cells from oxidative stress, and phytochemicals said to support brain health and improve circulation. More details hereCoconut oil is high in natural saturated fats. Saturated fats not only increase the healthy cholesterol (known as HDL) in your body, but also help to convert the LDL “bad” cholesterol into good cholesterols. By Increasing the HDL’s in the body, it helps promote heart health, and lower the risk of heart disease. It is also good for a huge number of other reasons, some of which are highlighted here. The cocoa powder is full of powerful antioxidants and has an antidepressant effect. You can read more here.





Carrot Biscuits

I was having a very interesting conversation with the lady at the cashier of a too famous and too large retail store a few evenings ago. She was commenting on my shop, I am cutting out refined sugars (I will blog about that soon), and we were discussing how difficult this was, because sugar is absolutely everywhere, even in savoury products.

She then told me that her and her family once followed a wartime diet, for a couple of weeks. She suggested I look into it for inspiration, for the very simple reason that unfortunately they had no choice but to be a bit creative with the limited produce they had available at the time, and also because they usually are pretty healthy and simple (fresh, organic, seasonal) recipes.

She particularly recommended to make carrot biscuits, I love carrots, I was all over this!

I found this recipe on the website I really like the little anecdote about the surplus of the vegetable back in the days, and the creative ways the Government used to convince people to eat it!

In terms of cooking, I don’t think you can make it any simpler:

Carrot Biscuits

1 tablespoon margarine
2 tablespoons sugar + a little extra
A few drops vanilla flavouring
4 tablespoons grated raw carrot
6 tablespoons Self Raising flour (or plain flour + a half teaspoon of baking powder).

Cream the fat and sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in the flavouring and carrot.
Fold in the flour.
Form mixture into about 12 or 15 small balls.
Place each ball on a baking tray and flatten.
Sprinkle with sugar and bake in a brisk oven for 20 minutes.

Job done…

Because I’m sugar-free, I replaced the sugar with honey. It works well. Don’t use too much, good carrots should be quite sweet already.

If you want to make it even healthier, use coconut oil instead of margarine (I did), it works well too 🙂

And you can even adapt it to be gluten-free, by using gluten-free flour, or any other alternatives (brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, soy flour, chickpea flour…).

I stuck with normal white self-raising flour, because I had some, and I am not gluten intolerant. So admittedly I do not know how well it works, if you fancy trying it, let us know how you get on in the comments below!

Happy baking,



PS: I would of course recommend using organic carrots, for a better taste, but also less risk of ingesting pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals… 🙂

Not bad for a morning’s work!

Spring onions, potatoes, the last of the lettuce (hallelujah!) and a show-winner of a courgette.

Probably another courgette to pick in a day or two (and more to follow), some of the peas are nearly ready too 🙂

I’ll plant another row of potatoes before the end of the week, and hopefully another one in 2-3 weeks time, weather dependent.

The parsnips are doing well, and the only spinach plant left still manages a few leaves.

Huge improvement on last year’s crop, fairly happy with that, can’t wait for dinner!


Surplus rocket and what on earth to do with it

So if, like me, you were pretty keen on starting your vegetable garden, but sensibly only planted the stuff that you’d eat, and were likely to buy the most at a supermarket, then you’d have gone for the fairly safe, easy, good-chance-of-success peas, courgettes, spuds, spinach, broccoli, onions… and salad, of course.

We all know that salad grows quickly, and unlike parsnips for example or onions, which once they’re out of the ground, they’re out of the ground and you have to store/prepare them, with lettuce you are guaranteed a continuously fresh supply throughout the whole summer. And let’s face it, you don’t really eat that many potatoes and parsnips in summer do you? Nothing better than a good homegrown garden salad. Refreshing, healthy, low calorie, versatile… And so good in sandwiches, yes it is!

What most people don’t realise (because you have to see it to believe it) is in which quantity the stuff grows. The incredible volume of leaves that those little plants can produce. In such a short amount of time. And because you want variety, just one type of lettuce would be boring, you tend to plant several kinds of lettuce, like six different varieties for example. And you are aware that you don’t necessarily have green fingers, so you want to maximise your chances. And so you sow the entirety of the seeds that the little bag you got from the garden centre holds. The whole several hundreds of them. “Well with a bit luck, we might have a plant or two”.

Two weeks later, you can hardly see the rest of your garden. Hopefully your lettuce bed is a bed of its own, otherwise I suggest you invest in a machete if you want to check how your runner beans are doing. And if you don’t have runner beans, I would invest in a machete nonetheless. You’ve made a few tasty dinners with your homegrown rabbit food, but everytime you cut some out, more comes. Much, much more. To the point when another couple of weeks later, your machete is blunt, you’ve had salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day, your neighbours are hiding from you, in case you want to give them yet some more “organic produce from your garden that you grew yourself”, and you are still not making a dent into this dense forest. You are seriously considering (re-)inroducing rabbits (or, worse, slugs!) in your garden.

And then, when all hope is gone, and you’ve practically turned green, the plants flower, the leaves become uneatable, and the plant slowly… well dies.


In hindsight (wonderful thing we all know), two or three rows with two to three different varieties each would have been more than enough for just the two of us. As it turns out, the horse doesn’t particularly like lettuce…

Lettuce is very satisfying to grow as a first-time veggie grower, but it is also its downside. You cannot really keep it that long, can’t freeze it… We were lucky in a way that three varieties came out first, with the spinach (also great raw in salads), we managed to get through two of them, froze the spinach. What we were left with whilst the other three were growing, was the rocket. Huge quantities of. Not my favourite but still not worth wasting.

So I searched the forums, and this lady had a great idea, make pesto with it. Eureka! Easy to make, great to store, and ideal for a quick satisfying pasta-pesto.

All you need is garlic, oil, pine nuts, parmesan and some seasoning if you like. And the green stuff (rocket in this instance, could be any kind of lettuce I guess, wild garlic, herbs…) Oh and a blender (solar powered 😀 ).

Mix it all in, give it a whiz, et voila. I then scooped the mixture into a couple of small muffin baking trays (size which I’d say makes a portion for two people), and put it in the freezer. Once frozen, I put all the individual portions into a freezer bag. Use it as and when needed.

Quick, easy, healthy, versatile… All that a salad should be… 😀

Brox x

Homegrown… can food get any better?

We all agree there is nothing like sleeping in your own bed, well there is also nothing like eating your very own homegrown, handpicked food.

So last night we had barbecued marinated wild rabbit (recipe here, no picture sorry, too busy eating! this marinade really is yummy) with our homegrown garden salads (the rabbits had some too) and this morning breakfast with cereals and fresh garden berries (raspberries, red and white gooseberries). Delish!

And none of it is grown using any pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers… just a good dose of rain and sunshine, some elbow grease, and a real strong will to eat and live healthier.

I mean, can it really get any better…?



Pumpkin Feast

So it was Halloween not long ago, and like most people I bought a pumpkin (not yet growing my own). It was a rather large 2 or 3 kg bad boy. I never got round to the carving bit, I was more interested in what could be done with this pumpkin.

You probably already know that everything is good in a pumpkin, and that you can get quite a few tasty dishes (that one fed us for about a week!).

So about a quarter of it went into making this tasty and very simple pumpkin soup.

Homemade Pumpkin SoupHomemade Pumpkin Soup
Homemade Pumpkin Soup

Another quarter was used for this yummy pumpkin cake (literally a heart attack on the plate, but after grating all that pumpkin you will well deserve a decent portion, and probably seconds; I did!)

Yummy Pumpkin Cake
Yummy Pumpkin Cake

The other half was used between a pumpkin curry, pumpkin mash and bangers and pumpkin mash (I used potatoes in the latter, pumpkin on its own is quite watery and you don’t really get the “creamy” mash effect).

I obviously roasted the seeds (love this, and really nailed it this time, much tastier than the ones I did last year). Didn’t really follow a recipe, just washed them, then added a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt, in the oven at very low temperature for about 1 h then under the grill until all toasted.

As I was trying to use ALL of the pumpkin, I then wondered “can the skin be eaten?”

Well it turns out that yes, you can eat the skin. Make pumpkin crisps!

Pumpkin and other squashes are great value for money, you can get so much out of it! And if you grow them yourself, they will most probably be a lot more nutritious too. I have kept a few of the biggest seeds before roasting them to plant. Homegrown pumpkin feast next year, watch this space!

More recipe ideas here 🙂



Healthy breakfast options

I am probably the worst person to give any advice on breakfast, as I tend to skip this very important meal and give it no recognition, credit, second thoughts, significance, nothing whatsoever.

When I eventually have my breakfast at about 12 noon (or any time by which I’m borderline fainting), I try to make it as “healthy” as possible. Mix of (ready-prepared [*cough*]) cereals, usually muesli, fresh fruits and yogurt. But I realised that usually an hour or two later, I get really hungry again (especially when I had no muesli but a mix of other breakfast cereals). When I say hungry, not just a “oh I feel a bit peckish” type thing, I mean a real mixture of thunder, earthquake and revolution going on in there! You know when you get that feeling of literally an “empty” stomach..

This is when I realised that even though I was trying to get as healthy a breakfast as possible, it probably wasn’t very nutritious, hence the lingering feeling of not being satisfied.

I therefore set myself to try to make my own breakfast cereals, out of nutritious stuff, not full of sugars and buffers. This is when I came across this article

I chose to try Teff as it seemed like the most varied in terms of nutritious content. The second on my list would have been quinoa, due to lesser calorie content and greater potassium content, however no calcium…

Quinoa is usually available in your favourite supermarket, although the price will probably let you think each grain has been individually wrapped with an edible gold leaf. I went for the novelty and bought 1 kg of Teff seeds online for I think £8. Pricey might you say, perhaps not when you consider that I only need the quarter of a cupful for breakfast. I haven’t done any weighing to be able to say how much a bowlful of this would cost (I also bought some dried fruits, nuts, shredded coconut, and seed/nut mixture), but as a comparison a £2 pack of muesli will last me four days.

What I am trying to say here is that if my teff seeds last me for over 2 weeks, there’s a winner.

Here is how to cook the teff seeds

The picture above is teff seeds (a quarter of a mug) cooked, yogurt, fresh plums, dried fruits and roasted pumpkin seeds.

Another version below:

Healthy Breakfast Options - Teff Seeds
Cooked teff seeds with pear, mixed nuts and roasted pumpkin seeds.


I have only tried this over three days, so I would say a little early to notice any health benefits. However I seem to be able not to snack as often during the afternoon.

Morale of the story, don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself. As I always say if it doesn’t do you any good, it won’t do you any harm.


Correction: the price for the seeds was in fact £6 and not £8… even tastier!