Review: Grayshott Health regime

A regime lunch at Grayshott

A typical lunch at Grayshott while on the digestive cleansing regime

We were a mixed bunch gathered at Grayshott spa in Surrey on a sunny winter morning – 16 of us in total, ages ranging from 30s to 80s, all female apart from one man with his wife.

The conspicuous blue rubber bands around our wrists marked us out as a ‘special group’ – not exactly ‘nil by mouth’, but we faced a week of challenging food restrictions as willing participants on the spa’s ‘digestive cleansing’ regime.

The premise of the Grayshott programme is quite simple – if your gut is not working, then neither will anything else. As the Grayshott team state: “Get your digestion in good shape and all other systems in your body can restore, cleanse, and balance.”

Sounds great. Now what do I actually get to eat?? Continue reading

Review: Kew’s Global Kitchen Cookbook


If you’re an avid foodie, cook or healthy eating enthusiast (like me!), you’ll no doubt have any number of world ingredients stored in your fridge – ginger, coriander, avocados, maybe some olives, some medjool dates, perhaps even some tamarind. The list of these natural, international ingredients could go on and on.

These days, we don’t even consider many of these ingredients to be exotic. Thanks to the wonders of modern transportation, they’re everyday fare that we know we can buy whenever we need them.

So the latest publication from The Royal Botanic Gardens, KewKew’s Global Kitchen Cookbook (101 Recipes Using Edible Plants From Around The World) – comes as a great reminder of the source of such worldly delights, the fascinating history surrounding their arrival on our shores, and how they’ve been put to culinary use over the centuries. Continue reading

Pumpkin-spice protein slice


With its natural sweetness, pumpkin is the perfect ingredient for creating a low or no-sugar, guilt-free treat. This pumpkin slice is full of pure, healthy ingredients, and the result after baking is a moist, dense, lightly-spiced slice. The addition of hemp protein powder will ensure that it’s a slow release snack that also serves up a healthy dose of omega-3s.

You could make it totally sugar-free by taking out the honey and adding a little stevia. It’s also dairy-free and gluten-free. A triple, healthy whammy! Continue reading

An evening with artisan chocolatier Paul A Young

Tips from master chocolatier Paul A Young in Soho

Paul A Young making his Prune, Caramel and Black Pepper brownie (left) and his beautiful shop in Soho, London

As we head into Chocolate Week in the UK (October 14-20), a recent invitation to watch master chocolatier Paul A Young conjure up two new creations in his boutique Soho shop seemed just too good to miss.

So there we were last Thursday, a group of food bloggers and chocolate afficionados squeezed into Young’s small working kitchen in the basement, nibbling on samples and sipping Champagne, as the artisan himself rustled up perfect Prune, Caramel & Black Pepper Brownies and Prune & Porter Truffles. Yum, yum, and one more chocolate-coated yum for good measure!

If you were paying attention, you might have noticed an unusual ingredient in all that. No, not the black pepper – although I must admit using black pepper in sweet things is new to me. It REALLY works, by the way. Being a trendy artisan, Young uses Tellicherry pepper from India’s Malabar coast, but I’m sure any black peppercorns (note, they should be freshly ground) will do.
Continue reading

Review: VegfestUK London – an eco foodie feast

VegfestUK London

This was the first London event for Vegfest UK, and there were over 180 stalls of natural, eco-conscious healthy products and lots of entertainment and education laid on

Judging by the crowds of people who flocked to VegfestUK London at Olympia this past weekend, interest in vegetarian, vegan, raw, or simply just a less meat-filled lifestyle is at an all-time high.

It was my first time to this particular two-day foodie festival. Vegfest started in Bristol in 2003, set up by entrepreneur Tim Barford, expanded to the veggie mecca of Brighton in 2008, and it’s taken this long to spread its wings to the capital. They’d sold almost 10,000 tickets in advance of the first London event, and there certainly seemed to be a bumper turnout on the Saturday afternoon that I was there.

Individual food stalls and food product vendors obviously featured prominently, along with natural, cruelty-free beauty products and eco-clothing. There was also a huge range of entertainment laid on for show visitors – two cinemas with a good line-up of eco and health conscious films and documentaries (such as Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days), a large cookery demo area with lots of healthy, cheffy things going on, workshop areas, a kids play zone, a main performance stage, plus some live bands playing. Continue reading

Review: Bees, teas and macarons at St Ermin’s Hotel

Rewiew: Afternoon tea at St Ermin's, Westminster

Afternoon tea at St Ermin’s, Westminster. Tasty tea and honey treats. Is there a better way to spend an afternoon in autumnal London?

Afternoon tea is such a civilised past-time isn’t it? It’s also a great excuse to gorge yourself on mountains of sweet delights and slurp a dozen cups of tea in posh surroundings, without anyone around you even batting an eyelid.

From a chef’s point of view, it’s also become an extremely creative affair. Waltz into any reputable hotel these days and you’ll probably find an afternoon tea on the menu (priced on a sliding scale of fairly reasonable to downright extortionate), with many treats and savouries unique to that place.

The bees get busy

I recently visited St Ermin’s Hotel in Westminster with a good friend of mine, for an afternoon of sampling what’s probably one of the most locally sourced afternoon teas in London. You see, the honey for the hotel’s Honey Afternoon Tea comes from just a few storeys up – busily produced by their 200,000 resident Buckfast bees. Continue reading

Review: Lunch at The Corner House, Kent

The Corner House restaurant in Minster

Matt Sworder swapped the steamy professional kitchens of London
to open up a restaurant in the very building where he was born

I sometimes suspect there are many restaurants who like to talk about local sourcing and sustainability, but few who really ‘live it’.

But it’s not a criticism I could level at young chef Matt Sworder, who’s not only passionate about his local food economy – he’s even gone as far as locally sourcing himself…. well, in a manner of speaking.

Having served time at several leading London restaurants, including a Gordon Ramsay one, he did briefly consider starting his own venture close to the capital. But instead, he headed home to Kent – to open a restaurant in the very building where he was born. You can’t really get more locally-sourced than that.

His terroir is the very pleasant village of Minster, close to Ramsgate on the east Kent coast, and The Corner House lies in a lovely spot just opposite the village’s walled abbey, which is home to a group of Benedictine nuns.

From the outside, the restaurant looks like a cute, olde English tea shop (in fact, it once was), festooned with flower baskets, which just beckons you to step in. Once inside you’ll find a pleasant mix of modern and traditional – Farrow and Ball-style dove grey paint finishes meet rustic red brick floors – and a menu that’s unpretentious, seasonal, and bursting with local produce. Continue reading

Review: The Big Feastival 2013

The Big Feastival 2013

Clockwise from left: The music stage, gazpacho from a caravan, and the cheese tent by Alex

As we drove through the manicured villages of The Cotswolds on our way to Jamie Oliver and Alex James’s The Big Feastival – a two-day food and music extravaganza – it suddenly struck me that I didn’t really do big, crowded, noisy events.

I never ‘did Glastonbury’, not even once, and especially not at the height of the Mud Years which many of my friends lived through and pretended were a blast. I did do the Notting Hill Carnival, but only once. A near death-crush experience on a crowded pavement somewhere near Ladbroke Grove ensured I never returned, even though the Caribbean food was great. Millennium Eve celebrations in central London? Well, you can only do that once, but a similar near death-crush experience near Westminster Bridge, also ensured that I never really ventured into the city again on December 31st.

However, arriving at ex-Blur member Alex James’s expansive farm and country pile in Kingham, Oxfordshire, I needn’t have worried. With an expected 14,000 plus visitors over the course of the weekend, the spacious Feastival site seemed to have been organised with military precision. Continue reading

Review: Voya’s seaweed bath

Voya's seaweed bath

Voya’s dried seaweed package expands to five times its volume when immersed in warm water

I first encountered seaweed while living in Japan, way back in the, ahem, 1990s – the nori in sushi rolls, the wakame in miso soup and the dark hijiki used in salads. Growing up in Wales, I guess I should have been used to eating traditional laverbread (a variety of seaweed, sometimes mixed with oatmeal) for breakfast, but that particular tradition seems to have passed by my particular hometown on the North Wales coast.

It’s fair to say, I’m pretty sold on the taste and nutritional benefits of seaweed.
But bathing in seaweed? Now that’s a new concept to me, and probably to most other people too. So it was with a little trepidation that I unwrapped the beautiful biodegradable box that contained Voya’s dried organic seaweed bath (you can read more about the great background to Voya here). Continue reading

Review: Foodilic, Brighton

Foodilic, Western Road in Brighton

The lovely Zaya from Mongolia (left) prepares fresh feuilletes, which are served alongside a large selection of healthy offerings made daily on-site

The place: Foodilic, 163 Western Road, Brighton, BN1 2BB. Tel: 01273 760 190.

The glowing symbol of a big, juicy tomato attached to a vine might give some clue to what awaits at the new branch of Foodilic in Brighton. Step inside, and you’ll enter a health-foodie heaven of multi-coloured salad mountains, freshly-squeezed juices, organic free-range chicken, interesting savoury pastries and an irresistible line up of cakes created daily on-site.

The original Foodilic opened in North St, Brighton in 2009, offering the same healthy and nutritious food, but with a self-serve buffet operation. Foodilic Western Road, which opened in May, is really the new face of the brand. The help-yourself buffet has gone, but the great value hasn’t. Continue reading