Tag Archives: healthy

My grandmother’s beetroot soup

Cup of purple coloured soup pictured from above against big pink flowers

Image: Michael Caplan

I ring my mother. She is 92.

“Do you use beef stock to make beetroot soup?” I ask.

“No,” Fay says, “we never used beef stock. This is how we did it,” said my mother. “This is my mother’s recipe.”

Sarah’s beetroot soup

Slice the beetroots.

Cover with water. Simmer for about half an hour until tender. 

Drain the sliced beetroot and keep the beetroot stock. 

(You don’t use the sliced beetroot for the soup. My mum says: use them in a salad with sour cream with sliced onions). 

Beat 2 eggs with the juice of one lemon.

Add carefully- or eggs will curdle – to some of the warmed beetroot stock.  

Once the beaten eggs are incorporated into this small amount, tip it into the main soup.

Reheat carefully – very carefully – so the eggs don’t curdle. 

Add sour cream if desired.  

Thanks, mum.

This purple-looking healing soup, which I make with organic ingredients for extra quality, health and taste, enables nourishment to slip-in unsuspected via its beetroot-sweet, lemony lightness.

My grandmother Sarah died when I was 16. She was warm, earthy and wise, with fierce opinions I did not always agree with. Born in 1899 in London, her parents were migrants from anti-semitic Tsarist Belarus and Lithuania. I think of her so much in my heart.

My mother says the older she gets, the more she thinks of her grandmother, Jesse, (Sarah’s mother).  Jesse died when my mother was ten years old.  My mother says: “I talk to her every day. I call to her by her Yiddish name, Yeshki. She used to read the Yiddish translation of Shakespeare’s plays.”

I am showing my mum this blog on my phone

(I only learned that bit yesterday when reading out this blog to my mum – see pic above).

My mother repeats stories endlessly so we remember them. My mother’s recollection of her grandmother are imprinted on my DNA since childhood so I have absorbed Jess’s “live each day as if it were your last” philosophy.

My mum again:  “Jesse used to say: I am not frightened of death,’ and pointing over to the window, she would say: ‘It’s as if I’m passing to the other side of that net curtain.'” 

So, eat beet soup, and enjoy this precious life!

#Nojunk bean chocolate cake

Happy grandchild with chocolate bean cake “I pledge to eat and feed my family only real ingredients I can recognise or spell.”

Last week, I signed the Organix #nojunk pledge because children need real food – not additives, fillers or artificial processes that produce profits for food manufacturers yet ill health for our children.

Is this right? NO!

Last week’s blog was about Organix, its pioneering ethos and why organic standards protect our children’s healthy by banning the nasties.

I promised a #nojunk cake and here it is.

Hand-written recipe for Bean Cake

The recipe is thanks to Olea’s mum. Olea and my granddaughter Tayda are schoolchums. After I had contributed a wheat-free raw date and lemon cake to my granddaughter’s 5th birthday party, Olea’s mum wrote out there-and-then a healthy wheat-free recipe (see pic) using…beans.

I am a big fan of beans thanks to The Bean Book by Rose Elliot, my cooking bible when my own children were little in the 1980s.

Healthy beans

Beans are seeds, a plant’s future offspring. They spill on the soil where they wait for the right conditions to germinate. Their food reserves support this process and is also good for us when we eat them. Packed with protein, vitamins and minerals, beans are nutritional powerhouses.

Big yet compact, their plentiful food stores are low-fat and high-energy. They quieten sugar-levels because of their high-fibre – the soluble sort that gently coats the gut and is slow-acting – and have high-levels of cancer-busting antioxidants. (Above from my intro on beans in Make More of Peas and Beans).

Olea’s mum’s #nojunk bean cake

Raw ingredients for bean cake, eggs, melted butter, beans and melted chocolate, ground almonds, pot of honey

The cast assembled (clockwise from top): eggs, pot of honey, melted chocolate over a drained tin of butter beans, ground almonds with baking powder and melted butter.

Blend up:

  • 1 tin of cooked beans (butter/kidney/black – unsalted, drained)
  • 4 eggs
  • 100 – 150g ground almonds
  • 6 tablespoons of coconut oil or (melted) butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda plus natural flavouring (spice, essence, ginger, vanilla etc)
  • 1/2 cup sweetener

Lightly grease baking tin. Bake 180° 30 – 40 mins-ish.  

I omitted the 1/2 tsp of baking powder, using instead an extra egg (5 eggs in total). I used organic eggs and butter for extra nutritional value (and guaranteed high animal welfare standards).  As sweetener, I used half a jar of honey for low-glycemic slow release sweetness (no one noticed honey taste at all).

For flavouring, I used a 150g bar of Green & Black’s organic dark chocolate, melted in a pan over another pan of boiling water, and blended into the cake mix. I also dribbled melted Green & Black’s chocolate on the cooled cake.

Cake mixture in fluted tin belonging to my grandma

I blended all the ingredients together with my trusty £20 hand-blender and poured the cake mixture into a fluted tin that once belonged to my grandmother. (When my mother gave me her cake tins recently, she said: “It feels like the royal abdication.”).


I served the cake with Biona organic sour cherries from a jar for the adults.
Slice of chocolate bean cake with unsweetcherries from a  jar



Everyone who tasted the cake pronounced it a success.

And no one guessed the mystery ingredient was healthy wholefood beans! Happy child sitting on low table eating healthy bean cakeTwo-year old enjoying my choco bean cake





 Organix #NoJunk Challenge badge

And….Join the #NoJunk Challenge!

Hey, I have just entered this blog post in the Organix #NoJunk Challenge Blog Hop…fingers crossed!

Chard pesto – eat your greens


Sitting in back of a car last night looking at pics on my ‘phone with my niece, Charlotte, she says (re above pic): Wow, that looks nice.

Really? I say.

Charlotte enthuses when I tell her what it was: a made-up quick supper dish brimming with health. Thus I am encouraged to share:

Chard pesto for pasta

Traditionally, pesto uses garlic, basil, pine nuts and parmesan. This one replaces the fifth ‘umami‘ (pleasant savoury) taste of parmesan with anchovies. I used Fish4Ever anchovies because they are truly carefully caught and conserved which shows in the taste. And conserved in organic oil a) because organic farming saves the sea by not polluting coastal waters and b) authentic (mechanically not chemically-produced) olive oil.

I replaced the basil usually used in pesto with a pack of freshly-picked organic kale (from Radford Mill Farm shop which by-the-by is having a Frack-free festival in May) – or organic chard on another occasion. You could also use freshly picked nettles.

Then I blended the greens etc with my hand-blender (a £20 kitchen equipment must-have). By blending it into a sauce, it made eating healthy greens into effortless, comfort food.

I poured the green sauce on to a bowl of freshly-cooked pasta. You can use any pasta but I used Sweet potato and buckwheat pasta which is wheat-free (as wheat, an argumentative fellow, rarely agrees with me).


Fry about 4-5 anchovies in their oil so gently they…melt

Fry half an onion sliced, also gently

Add sliced/chopped garlic – as much as you want – I like lots! (and do not overcook so I can have more of garlic’s immune-boosting qualities)

Finally, add a pack of chopped organic greens with (half a cup?) water – enough water so the chard/kale cooks down quickly but is not over-watery. Simmer for 5 minutes or less.

Takes about 15 minutes to cook pesto and pasta at same time (in different pans).

Apologies for my unscientific amounts. As my grandmother used to say when asked for precise amounts in a recipe: “Vifil nemen” = As much as it takes.


Celeriac salad


Celeriac’s brutish appearance belies its tender nature.

This winter root vegetable makes a fabulous nutritious raw salad in minutes.

Here is the celeriac peeled, its dirty shavings discarded and its whiteness revealed, ready for grating.

Celeriac - grated with ingredients

After grating it, I dressed the organically-grown celeriac with yogurt, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and lemon juice. All organic because I want less of the bad stuff, more of the good stuff.

Nigel Slater’s classic celeriac remoulade is made with cream and mayonnaise. He points out dressed celeriac goes soggy overnight so eat it freshly-made.

Celeriac salad goes well with many dishes such as fish

Celeriac - salad

– and is also just great on its own.

Carrot cake at the Grand Canyon

I ask the Grand Canyon rancher: “What is the trail for the scaredy-cats with no heads for heights?”

Nonplussed, she sends us to the start of the Bright Angel trail.

Looks steep and scary to me.

I do not dare take in the view. Just focus on my feet.

Try to ignore the images of pitching headlong over the edge which my mind is generously supplying.

We see a zag of lightning.

Thunder hollers in the canyon.

Anxiety about heat exhaustion (it was 100 degrees when we started) is replaced by fear of being struck by lightning.

Fat plops of rain fall.

When we reach the Mile-and-a-half shelter, I am soaked. Chilly.

Three US students and a  family from Amsterdam are also sheltering. We commiserate over Holland losing the World Cup.

The students have been hiking since early morning.

They witnessed a helicopter rescue for a hiker with a scorpion bite. The helicopter took six hours to arrive, the rancher two.

Not enough money, say the students. The Grand Canyon is feeling the recession.

The rain stops.

We set off on our return journey up the trail.

Miraculously, my mind is no longer furnishing scenes of disaster.

I am no longer hugging the side of the rock.

I am taking in the view. And stride.  A miracle.

Time for the carrot cake’s photo-shoot (see pic above).

I baked it the night before, amalgamating and adjusting several recipes found on the web for the simplest.

Here it is before I forget it.

Whisk five small eggs (or four big ones) with 1+1/4 cups of sugar and 1+1/4 of organic coconut oil

Fold in 2 cups of organic flour and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.

Plus 3 cups of grated organic carrot and some cut-up raisins.

Bake in a greased loaf tin for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Insert a knife to check it is not wet when withdrawn. If wet, the cake is not sufficiently cooked.

Because of the high altitude (7,000 feet) of Flagstaff, the cake took another twenty minutes.

I concocted a separate topping of whisked organic tofu, lime juice and organic agave nectar (the un-organic kind is highly processed and not worth it).

The topping did not come with us to the Grand Canyon.

Unlike the brave carrot cake, that did.

Quick lettuce soup

Lettuce soup

It was buy one, get one free at the organic supermarket in Bristol.

The Better Food assistant pointed out the bargain gem lettuces, fresh from the company’s Walled Garden.

I thought: oat-thickened lettuce soup. The perfect opportunity to share the quickest healthy-soup recipe I know. You basically boil water with butter, add oats to thicken and then the lettuce which takes seconds to cook.

Boil 1 pint of water with 1 ounce (30g) of butter. Add 1 ounce of rolled oats. Bring the water, butter and oats to the boil. Simmer for five minutes to cook the oats. Add a lettuce, chopped. Season with lots of black pepper but a little salt. Turn off the heat after several minutes as lettuce cooks quickly. And will carry on cooking in the water.

I think blending this soup makes it more unctious. I blended mine (see pic).

I came across it the other day. My mother was cooking it when I got back from the Guild of Food Writers Awards. Appropriately, the recipe came from the pen of one of our best food writers, the late Jane Grigson (mother of Sophie).

I love Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, which has recipes for every veg from artichoke to yam. My mum made hers with spinach, but the Grigson original is Irish Nettle Pottage.

I have had this book since 1980 so why, oh why, did I not think to delve in, in my nettle-soup phase?

On the subject of mistakes, I broke one glass within ten minutes of leaving the charity shop with five (for a fiver). When I photographed the damage, it had beauty (see below).

I feel a moral coming on.

Mistakes are like jewels in the crown because we can learn from them.

Broken wine glass