Spice it up

Start a saucy affair

How do you fancy something hot this summer? We all like a bit of spice in our lives now and again. Well, this week I’m going to give you all the ingredients you will need to “start a saucy affair”!

Some like it hot

There are any number of sauces and marinades on the market, all winking at you from the Supermarket shelves, with their bright labelling and clever marketing slogans all begging you to “EAT ME”. Do you ever pick up one of these products and read the ingredients? In most cases you will find the second one is usually sugar! Below you will find two recipes for sultry summer days, which are quick and easy to make and do not contain huge amounts of sugar, salt and other additives. Both recipes can be made in advance and stored in the fridge:

chicken, juices, roasting, sauce, healthy eating
Reserved roasting juices

Spicy Barbequed Chicken

You will need one large fresh free range chicken, or you can use, chicken pieces, thighs, drumsticks etc. If using a whole chicken, turn the chicken onto its breast on a chopping board. Using a sharp knife. cut through the chickens back bone from one end to the other. Turn the chicken over, place in a roasting tin, flattening the chicken and make slashes into the breast and legs of the chicken, to help absorb the sauce into the meat. The chicken will cook through quicker, with this method.

Set the oven

  • 1tbspn Mustard Powder
  • 1tbspn Curry Powder
  • 2tspns Chilli powder or to taste.
  • 1tbspn Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1tbspn Maple syrup
  • 1tspn Cider Vinegar
  • 4tbspns Tomato Ketchup
  • 2tbspns Olive oil

Place all ingredients in a bowl, whisk together to emulsify.

Spread all over the chicken, rubbing well into the slashes you have made. Roast at 200c, Gas Mk6, 400f, for about 1 hour, ( or barbecue ) still thoroughly cooked through. (If you use the Barbeque for this dish, you will not have the juices for the salad).

Drain the juices from the roasted chicken into a bowl. Whisk in 1 crushed clove of garlic. (Reserve for pasta salad)

Remove chicken to a serving dish.

salad, leftovers, sun dried, olives, pasta,
Pasta & Veg Salad

Pasta and Veg Salad

Cook 1 packet of wholemeal pasta, in salted boiling water, with a drop of oil, until al dente. Meanwhile, in a large wok or frying pan gently fry for 10 mins:

  • 1 chopped red onion
  • 2 chilli’s chopped (or to taste)
  • 2 large courgettes. halved lengthwise & sliced
  • 2 large red peppers, deseeded and sliced

Drain the pasta, Pour the reserved juices from the chicken over the veg, allow to bubble for 5 mins. Remove from heat. Add the drained pasta to the veg and mix to blend. Add:

  • 4 chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 2 tspns Capers, drained
  • 2 anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
  • 3 tbspns Olives, drained.
  • 2 tbsns Fresh basil and parsley chopped
  • Seasoning to taste

Mix together well, season to taste, serve with the chicken and salad leaves.

Any left over pasta salad and chicken can be stored in the fridge and mixed together to serve for tomorrows supper.

Enjoy your home made food and say NO to convenience foods. Its better for you and your pocket.

Summer Salads

Super summer salads. Fresh and healthy or sugar and salt-laden convenience foods. No contest.

PAWS FOR THOUGHT & EATING

Healthy Eating

We all love eating al fresco, whether it be a formal meal, in the garden or seated on the sun drenched terrace of that little Greek Taverna. Out door eating, brings out the best – or worst – in us all. It takes just a few golden rays pushing through the grey English gloom and POW! we go into lunatic mode and out comes the Barbeque. Of course, that means a frenzied rush to the Supermarket to gather the lurid red, synthetic coated, chicken wings, pork chops and gristly burgers, made from more animal derivatives than you would find in your average tin of dog food. In the bread aisle we grab a couple of packs of cotton wool textured baps – I can’t even call them bread. – Next you head for the chiller cabinets to pick up some salads? Why? OK, I can hear you crying…

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Fresh and Healthy

Say No to convenience foods

Following on from last weeks blog: https://truffleicious.blog/2019/07/06/summer-salads/ This week we continue with the fresh and healthy eating theme. Firmly saying NO to pe-packed, sugar and salt laden convenience foods.

Convenience foods, are notoriously bad for you as well as being considerably more expensive than fresh foods cooked from scratch. The salt and sugars added to these products are there to enhance the flavour and texture of otherwise, tasteless, over processed ingredients.

salads, olive oil, healthy eating, gluten free, pulses
Super Summer Salads

This week, I have for you a few quick recipes and tips, which I hope will inspire you to change both your eating and shopping habits for good.

Make your own dressings

Its really easy and much more cost effective to whisk up you own dressings. If you make a large amount in one go – I make 1ltr – and divide it equally into four different screw top jars. Empty gin or wine bottles are excellent or storing dressings, you are also doing your bit to save the planet at the same time. Special equipment, is not needed to make dressings. A simple balloon whisk will do, failing that a fork will combine the ingredients. After decanting into the storage bottles or jars, give them a good shake before serving, the ingredients will then emulsify – make sure the top is securely screwed on -.

recycling, dressings, salads, herbs, homemade
Gin bottle dressings
  • For the basic recipe you will need:
  • 180ml extra virgin Olive oil or Rapeseed oil
  • 60ml white, red or cider vinegar
  • 5ml Dijon on coarse grain mustard
  • Freshly ground salt and black pepper

Makes 240ml. Place all the ingredients into a large jug or bowl and whisk together, taste and adjust seasoning to taste.

You can experiment by using different flavoured oils, mustards & vinegars to your liking. If you find olive oil to strong a taste, replace half or all with rapeseed oil.

If making double the above recipe, divide into four. Add to each of the four portions of oil, add one of the recipes below:

herbs, basil, mint, dill, rosemary, lemon balm
Garden fresh herbs
  • Fresh Herb Vinaigrette 4 tabs Chopped herbs. eg: Basil, Mint, Thyme, Lemon Balm, Dill etc. A simple dressing for any salad.
  • Garlic and Chilli Dressing Add as many fresh crushed garlic cloves & chopped chillies to your taste. Drizzle over you home made pizza or mixed with sweetcorn & pulses for a ziggy bean salad.
  • Blue Cheese and Chive Dressing Mash 100g Blue Cheese with 2 tabs Milk. Add 2 tabs, freshly chopped chives. Whisk into the oil dressing. Gorgeous with wedges of Iceberg Lettuce.
  • Feta and Dill Dressing Mash 100g Feta Cheese with 2 Tabs Lemon Juice, Stir in 2 tabs freshly chopped dill. Whisk in the oil dressing. Lovely served with a traditional Greek Salad, or a simple cucumber salad.

You can experiment with the different ingredients, to make your favourite dressing, to use with your BBQ goodies.

Instead of buying tubs of Coleslaw or Potato Salads try making your own, by combining, grated or shredded veg (carrots, courgettes, red onions & fennel), or cooked potatoes with one of the dressing above. Your options are endless. Go on. Have a go, you know you want too.

For more recipes you can make from scratch, click the link below:

Summer Salads

Healthy Eating

We all love eating al fresco, whether it be a formal meal, in the garden or seated on the sun drenched terrace of that little Greek Taverna. Out door eating, brings out the best – or worst – in us all. It takes just a few golden rays pushing through the grey English gloom and POW! we go into lunatic mode and out comes the Barbeque. Of course, that means a frenzied rush to the Supermarket to gather the lurid red, synthetic coated, chicken wings, pork chops and gristly burgers, made from more animal derivatives than you would find in your average tin of dog food. In the bread aisle we grab a couple of packs of cotton wool textured baps – I can’t even call them bread. – Next you head for the chiller cabinets to pick up some salads? Why? OK, I can hear you crying “I don’t have the time”. Of course you do, with a little bit of organisation and less time on Social Media, you can make the time.

Freshly prepared, homemade salads, grains, beans, fruits, veg, dressings
Home made and healthy

Recently, through the media, we have been made aware of the dangers of obesity and various medical conditions, emanating from our consumption of unhealthy foods. Processed, fast food is all about flavour enhancing sugar, salt, fats, chemical additives and preservatives. The craving for these foods, have little to do with the food itself, but more to the added synthetic textures & flavours, giving you a sensory overload, to get you hooked. – Think nicotine. – Why do we want to eat these and feed them to our children, encouraging them to develop a taste for over sweet, salty, synthetic foods. Give them a taste of real homemade food & they won’t like it. You, have fed them these unnatural foodstuffs and denied them the fresh natural taste of homemade, unadulterated food. Processed foods and ready prepared, chopped fruits and veg, apart from being more expensive, have less nutritional value than their home made, freshly prepared counterparts. Pre-packed fruits and veg, once chopped quickly leak their Vitamin content and many have sugar, salt & preservatives added to them to preserve there colour. How long does it take to chop carrots or shred a lettuce?

Next time you visit the Supermarket, take a look at the labels on the foods you are purchasing. Out of interest, I looked at a pack of pre-cooked chicken breasts. You will be aware that foods have to be labeled with the ingredients in decreasing order. These chicken breasts contained, chicken, sugar, salt and various preservatives! Why do cooked chicken breasts need sugar?? I will leave it for you to work out.

chillis, chutneys, harissa paste, home cooking, peppers
Chop yourself some chillis

Prepacked, processed, convenience foods are not in the shops to provide you with healthy options, despite what the labeling might say. They are convenience foods which have been designed by marketing agencies. With their smart packaging and snappy slogans they fool you into believing you are providing yourself and family with fresh, healthy, natural food. In reality they are convenience foods, placed on the shelves to play on your insecurities. Forget it. These products are there to make money for the Supermarket and food manufacturing companies, they have no thought for your health.

Don’t give in, make the time, to prepare your own food from scratch. What have you got to loose? you will save money, eat healthier and once you become aware of the taste of real food, probably lose weight and certainly not expose yourself to the plethora of illness associated with unhealthy eating. Go on, you owe it to yourself and your family.

In my blog next week, I will be giving you some simple recipes, for salad dressings and salads. All will take you under 30 mins to prepare. If you make up a large amount of the basic dressing recipe, you can use you imagination to add different ingredients to create other dressings and salads of your choice. You can find some of my previous recipes by following the links below: https://truffleicious.blog/2018/02/10/warm-butternut-squash-black-kale-salad/ https://truffleicious.blog/2019/03/22/harissa-chutney/

Until next week. Happy healthy eating.

Freshly prepared fruits & veg salads & dressings

Diary of a nobody

Daily doings of a ghost

Have you ever felt like a nobody? Everyone does from time to time, but usually we get over it and carry on with our lives in the best way possible.

The current government in England has done its best to makes us all feel like nobodies, under valuing us as a nation, just look at Brexit for example. At the moment of writing, this government does not have a majority and can not make legislation. Which is, from a lot of peoples prospective, a God send.

A few years ago the Conservatives were encouraging people to start their own businesses, in an effort to alleviate unemployment. Just before this, in order to be “fair”, women’s pension age was brought in line with the gentlemen. Prior to this, the fairer sex received their hard earned handouts from the age of sixty years & men at sixty five. Currently for women, the age is gradually increasing to sixty five, but the exact date is dependant on when they were born. From this year the age for both sexes will increase to sixty six years by October 2020, more increases will be incremented between 2026 and 2028. Calculate your State Pension age

Many women born in 1955, were looking forward to receiving their pensions at sixty, they had planned their finances in preparation for the event. Imagine the indignation and disbelief when they discovered they would have to wait another six years for that magic date! Many received no communication on this subject, others felt they were informed at such short notice, they were unable to implement new financial plans, finding themselves in dire circumstances.

A lot of these women, myself included, found themselves having to continue or start employment to supplement the delay in receiving their pensions. People of this age group are at a disadvantage in today’s workplace. A fact denied by the government, but what do they know?

Not to be beaten by the system, many with a lifetime of experience and initiative, decided to safe guard themselves by start their own businesses using money from their hard earned savings to cover start up costs. HMRC have generally recognised that it takes about three years for a new business to show a profit. Many people turned to Tax Credits help their entrepreneurial ideas to turn into fruition. Now. these people now face the next problem. Universal Credit. what an appalling, sole destroying catastrophe that it has turned out to be.

Over the next few weeks I will be documenting, my experience of being forced to forgo tax credits and try to fight the anomalies of this maze of confusion and mayhem which is Universal Credit. A fight in which I will endeavour to share my experiences and advice. There are companies and people who have helped me and those who have not. Find out more in the next instalment

Oh to be in England

Now that spring is there.

Appledore, Devon, Spring, Flowers, Rivers

Whoever wakes in England Sees, some morning, unaware

Robert Brownings inspiring ode, could apply to anywhere in England. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, unfortunately many of us do not have the time, inclination or quietness of mind to behold our surroundings & draw pleasure from the exquitiste unfurling of new life & a new dawn.

Appledore, mindfullness, north devon, bluebells, new life
Peace & tranquillity

Throughout my life there have been many times when I have not been able to appreciate the true beauty of the world. The “black dog” had been firmly resting on my shoulder. In some lighter moments I could briefly see an image, which would momentarily stir my interest. The neon lights of a London Street being reflected on a black tarmac road during a torrental downpour. The sun rising over Clapham Junction, while catching the 6.45 to Waterloo. These thumb nail shots were very short lived, but for a moment in time, gave me a warm feeling of pleasure & peace, before the full claustrophobic reality of my life, once more emcompassed me.

Trafalgar square fountain, red buss, people, grey day.
Trafalgar Square

My mother, who’s birthay it would have been today, had just died & my son had left the nest & fled to Medical School. The black dog didn’t just rest on my shoulder it was firmly ensconsed inside my head. I wouldn’t say I’d reached a cross roards, but hit a major pile up on the motorway.

Gin, tonic, orange slices, ice. lose up in a clear glass

Spending to much time in pubs – yes, the glass was always half empty – I awoke one morning in my manic phase. I was going to Greece! Having been left a small legacy, I packed a suitcase, stuck a pin in a map & booked a flight to Corfu.

Greece. What can I say. My senses were on fire with new aromas, sights & sounds. I had been here on holidays, but this time, I was staying. I had also not yet reached the place on this beautiful island where the pin had landed. Gazing out of the hyrofoil window, 40 minutes into my crossing the small olive tree clad Island of Paxos drifted into sight. This was to be my home & my salvation for the next three years.

Paxi, made me happy – most of the time , – I cooked meals for the tourists, using local produce & wine. Went for exilerating walks & swam at sunrise, every morning and once again I began to paint. There were days, when I would just shut myself away, relishing the solitude & peace which allowed my creative side to come to the fore, once more. Whilst making friends with the Greeks, I also met a lovely English girl who was engaged to a Greek man, she hailed from Appledore, Devon, a place I had not heard of. I made a mental note to seek it out on my return to England.

Mixed Media Painting by Jan Steele Yellow greek fishing boats against a blue sea, white buildings
Fishing Boats


Returning to the UK, I visited Appledore on many occassions, escaping the realities of the dark places in my mind. I was determined that one day, I would live there. Appledore, with its quaint, pastel coloured cottages & cobbled streets reminds me a lot of Paxos, although the weather is possibly not as clement. But, at Christmas last year, my dream became a reality & I finally made Appledore my home on 1st February this year. Beauty, truly was inthe eye of the beholder.

BlackLabrador, sitting on pebble beach, with sea in the back ground.

Now, I’m not going to say, that every day is going to be filled with the sweet smell of roses, or that my life will be perfect all the time. What I do know is that with the help from a lot of people & organistations, I have learnt to manage the variations in my moods. And the black dog? well it still sits on my shoulder from time to time, but the therapy one, walks proudly beside me, each & every day. For which I am thankful.