Comfort Mood Boost Food: the recipes

Here are the recipes I promised yesterday. They’re full of mood boosting and balancing goodness to keep us all thriving not just surviving! See my previous blog with the reasons why I started this challenge, alongside Caroline of http://www.MysteryHare.com as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Over the past few months, I’ve been experimenting with more vegetarian and vegan recipes. However, I’ve given some options if you want to include meat.

Recipes in this order if you want to scroll down quickly: Mexican Style Sweet Potato Loaded skins, Three Bean Chilli, Guacamole, Pitta Pizzas with homemade tomato sauce and finally, pimped up porridge.

Mexican Style Sweet Potato Loaded Skins
1.Preheat oven to 200/6 – spritz or rub a little oil over potatoes. Pop sweet potatoes in the oven until just soft but not too squidgy (40 mins ish)

2.Scoop out some of the flesh to leave a thin layer (about 5mm) within the skin (tip: wait until the potato has cooled a little – learnt this from experience – trying to be quick and burnt finger!)

3. Put back in the oven with a spritz of olive oil and season. You want them nice and crispy – 15/ 20 minutes.

4. Top with Three Bean Chilli, then homemade guacamole (recipes below)

Options: 
– instead of vegetarian chilli use low fat beef or turkey or quorn mince chilli instead.

– Grate some cheddar over the top – put back in the oven to melt; then have the guacamole on the side.

– Just as tasty with regular potatoes but I like the sweet tang with the spicy chilli and sour lime-y guacamole.

I added a dollop of coconut yogurt instead of sour cream for a fully vegan treat, but whatever floats your boat – a little sour cream would work too.


Three Bean Chilli (makes 5-6 servings)
1 gulg olive oil
1 stick of celery, slice stick 3 times length wise and chop finely

2 small or 1 large carrot, dice finely

1 medium onion, dice finely

1 green pepper, chop fairly chunky

1 red pepper, chop fairly chunky

1 tin chickpeas, drained

1/2 – 1 teaspoon hot chilli powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 heaped teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons tomato ketchup

1 and 1/2 tinned tomatoes (I used the other half for the tomato sauce for the pitta pizzas)

1 tin black beans, drained

1 tin borlotti beans

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Method

1. Heat the oil and fry the celery, carrots and onion gently to soften (not brown) for 10 minutes
2. Add the peppers and chickpeas, stir and cook for 5 minutes

3. Add the spices and ketchup and stir so they coat the other ingredients evenly, cook for 5 minutes – smell the delicious fragrance

4. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir and leave to simmer for 20 minutes on a low heat

5. Add the drained beans and balsamic vinegar and nurdle for a further 20 minutes or until a nice saucy consistency. Ensure it’s not simmering too hard otherwise it might catch on the pan.


Options:
– Just as tasty with brown rice or over potato wedges or with a crusty wholemeal roll.

Guacamole (adapted Deliciously Ella’s recipe)
2 small avocados

8 cherry tomatoes

1 green chilli – I used jalapeño

1/2 lime

small bunch of coriander

twist twist of salt

Method

1. Run the knife around the avocado and twist to half it.
2. Pop out the stone and take off the skin

3. Slice and dice (lots of recipes suggest mashing but I like it chunky)

4. Quarter cherry toms

5. Remove seeds from the chilli and chop finely (wash hands before touching your eyes or face, or any other body bits! Or Ouch!)

6. Chop cupped handful of coriander leaves

7. Put all in a bowl together and mix carefully so it doesn’t get too mushy

Will keep in the fridge for a day or two but will then start to brown

Options:
– I love this with a boiled egg and oat cakes for lunch or one of the leftover wholemeal pittas, lightly toasted.


Speedy Power Boost Pitta Pizzas 
1 Wholewheat pitta
2 or 3 tablespoons of Homemade tomato sauce – depending how tomatoey you like it!

2 Mushrooms, thin slices

A few wafer thin slices of red onion

2 green olives, sliced

1/8 yellow pepper, finely diced

4 – 5 basil leaves, torn NOT chopped

10-15g thickly grated cheese

Method

1. Heat oven to 200 degrees
2. Spread tomato sauce evenly across the pitta

3. Press the mushrooms into the sauce

4. Scatter or place carefully the other ingredients over the pitta (not the cheese or basil)

5. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the pitta

6. Pop on a baking tray and cook for 10-15 mins so the cheese browns and the pitta crisps up on the edges

7. Tear basil leaves onto the pitta pizza you’re dying to shove in your mouth!

Options:
– use green pesto instead of homemade sauce and top with mushrooms, tomatoes, red onion, mozzarella and basil. Use tomato purée for an even quicker snack.


Homemade Tomato Sauce (will make enough for 4-5 pittas)
– 200g tinned tomatoes (leftover from chilli)
– Small onion, finely diced

– Garlic clove, finely chopped (as you guessed, I left this out)

Method

1. Soften the onions in a spritz of olive oil
2. Add the tomatoes and simmer on a low heat for 20-30 minutes- until it thickens to a consistency you like for a pizza topping!

***

I did try out an Overnight Oats recipe, but it just wasn’t pleasant- aesthetically or with the texture. I know lots of people who love them, but I think I’ll stick with normal porridge, made with coconut milk, 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup stirred through (if you want extra sweetness). Then, chunks of apple and sprinkled with cinnamon, pumpkin and sunflower seeds at the end!

Hope you enjoy some of the above and let me know your comfort food favourite!
Tomorrow, I’ll pop a list on here of what I discovered from my research about ingredients to use to help stabilise our moods, whether its because of depression or anxiety or just wanting to give ourselves an everyday healthy comfort cuddle.
I’d love to hear your food suggestions that boost your mood or ways you nurture your wellbeing!

Happy Friday x
Caroline’s blog: http://www.mysteryhare.com

Advertisements

Comfort mood boost food: one way to thrive!

Get home from work. Open the fridge. Grab a handful of tomatoes. Open the cupboard. Grab a bag of crisps (sharer bag anyone?). Look in the bread bin – ah some hidden leftover cake behind the white cheesy rolls. Back to the fridge – wine o’clock yet?

This pretty much sums up my go-to after work routine. However, I’ve recently realised cramming in food whilst leaning against the kitchen worktop, wondering when another treat is acceptable, isn’t necessarily the answer. Oh it truly feels like it’s the ONLY answer at times, but I’ve been trying a few new things to try and dissipate the yearn for crisps and boost my mood with a different kind of comfort food. Oh god I love them though – could bathe in their crunchy crispiness!

I did a bit of research into foods that support a more stable mood as part of Mental Health Awareness week and I love the focus of their campaign this year: Thriving or surviving? We all deserve to thrive, but so often – when I’m reaching for the Monster Munch multi-pack and pack of Haribo – it’s more about survival. However, swiftly followed by a blood sugar slump and reaching for another handful of cola bottles. Not exactly a survival method Bear Grylls would endorse!

So, as referred to by my wonderful new friend Caroline in her recent blog about foods that help with anxiety (link at the bottom), there are a few things we could try before reaching for the cake to keep us on an even keel:

Tryptophan (to create serotonin), folates, B vits, selenium, Omega 3, magnesium and iron.

What a fun sounding list…

However, Caroline challenged me to come up with a couple of meals and snacks to be a positive influence on our wellbeing and to stand up against the battle with sugar, crisps and alcohol!

Here’s what I bunged together:

– Overnight cinnamon apple oats

– Homemade Guacamole, eggs and oat cakes.

– Vegetable pitta pizzas

– Mexican style sweet potato loaded skins


Tomorrow, I’ll share the recipes and a list of great foods rich with the above wellbeing wonders, so you can comfort yourself and indulge. Cheers to thriving this weekend…

PS

… a few squares (bar…) of dark chocolate might be creeping into my weekend. And do you think vegetable crisps count as part of a ‘wide range of colourful vegetables’?
Caroline’s Blog: http://www.mysteryhare.com

Stuffed Baby Peppers (no vegetables were harmed in this recipe)…

Over the past year, I’ve been experimenting with more vegetable dishes. As you know, I used to hate most food that fell into this category! However the more different vegetables I try, the more I love. Aubergines, butternut squash, courgettes and asparagus have swiftly jumped to the front of what I’m gorging on at the moment as well as beautifully sweet peppers. These were always something I couldn’t get enough of as I reinvented myself as a person who enjoyed food!

The following recipe is something I put together last night as part of a tapas night at home. It’s completely vegetarian – actually it’s vegan- and I urge you to try it. A delightfully tasty but light dish that is a welcome contrast to the powerful chorizo or cured meats in a tapas. Or, simply lovely on their own.

Stuffed Baby Peppers

– Pack of 8 – 10 baby peppers (I used a pack of different colours but had to add a full sized one in as had some filling left. It looked like the parent to look after the young in the baking tin)
– 4 spring onions and 2 carrots, cut and diced very small.
– 2 celery sticks, diced very small
– 10 – 12 chestnut mushrooms, diced very small.
– 10 green olives, cut very small
– 1 1/2 tbspn tomato purée
– 1 Tspn dried oregano
– tbspn olive oil

1. Carefully slice the top of the pepper off to make a hat.
2. Using a small, sharp knife, cut out the seeds and membrane from the inside of the peppers (being careful to keep the vegetable intact and whole).
3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan.
4. Add the carrots, spring onions and celery to the pan and soften. Do this for about 15 mins on a low heat so they don’t catch or brown.
5. Add the mushrooms and fry for a further 5 mins.
6. Stir in the olives, oregano, tomato purée for another 5 mins. Ensure you stir the tomato purée fully so it coats all the stuffing ingredients evenly.

Now you’re ready to stuff!

7. Using a spoon, pack the stuffing into the peppers. I used a teaspoon and the handle to push it into the peppers and smooth off the top.
8. Place the hat back on and lay them careful into a spray oiled baking tin.
9. Bake for 25-35 minutes. Depending the size – check after 25 mins. I used a sharp knife to test when they were softened. Mine took 32 minutes… but you might like them with a bit more crunch than me.

IMG_1040

What you’ve made is a deliciously sweet snack or vegan tapas dish that definitely stands up to be counted amongst the meat dishes!

I also made: Spanish tortilla; griddled asparagus laced with salt and lemon; fried chorizo disks; and the previously blogged about patatas bravas. A hearty Saturday night spread.

Enjoy the bank holiday weekend and let me know if you want my new found recipe for a glorious Spanish tortilla.

Cooking Up a Welcome Distraction

Cooking for me isn’t just about the end result – although I think you know me well enough by now to know how much I LOVE eating the end result. Yes, it’s about the ingredients, the combination and blend of flavours, bringing it altogether to make a delicious dish. But it’s even more than that.

I’m struggling a little to find the words without it being a cliche or overly smooshy – you know the ones: food feeds and soothes my soul; I get into the kitchen and all my troubles melt away… that sort of smoosh.

However, cooking for me is all encompassing. It might now be called mindfulness or a distraction technique or goal-orientated behaviour. But whenever I go through a tough time, it’s one of the things that takes me out of my head, takes me away from any negative thinking that can hang around in your bonnet. Cooking often brings a long yearned for calm.

“Until I discovered cooking, I was never really interested in anything.”
― Julia Child

I thought I might share a bit about what works for me. Dynamite dishes that explode some of my destructive ear worms!

Colour Confusion

When you look outside and just see grey – not because of the drab winter weather or drizzly April showers, but due to the colour switch being turned off – it all feels a bit hopeless. A grey filter light replacing the sun; a grey gauze laid over the path.

What flicks the switch?
A rainbow packet of peppers; a tray of fresh, juicy cherry tomatoes; dark, leafy greens – vibrant, colourful fruit and vegetables yell at you to notice them. When I was feeling a bit rubbish and then started cooking, I focused on making soup for my husband and, in the end, a number in his work place were fed daily: carrot and orange; curried lentil; parsnip, apple and ginger; tomato and basil (of course) were some of the soups I remember concocting. Easy to make but mostly bursting with colourful, flavoursome ingredients.

IMG_0946

Your Incessant Inner Voice

What if they don’t speak to me? What if I embarrass myself? What if … ? What if…? I should be feeling better by now. I should be able to cope with this. There’s no way I can go out today/ talk to anyone/ move out of this room pick pick pick chip chip chip nag nag nag.

What can cooking offer?
Methodically chopping up vegetables like a commis chef can help to calm the onslaught. Also, recipes that demand complete focus from repetitive movements or something that needs a constant watch helped: Jamie Oliver’s risotto recipe for instance (this is the ONLY risotto recipe you should use!). The continual stirring is hypnotic. Béchamel and other sauces also need babysitting, so making Mediterranean Vegetable Lasagne is a great recipe for colourful vegetable chopping, sauce prepping and full focus stirring and layering. Kicking, punching, smashing the hell out of those negative thoughts!

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf

No Hunger Pangs

At times appetite can be affected. I remember at a particularly tough time, my stomach felt like lead inside so there wasn’t a lot of room for food. Also, it seemed to get stuck in my throat. Alongside that, the signals and connections that should have alerted me to being hungry seemed to be severed.

So what happened?
After a while, making fresh delicious looking and smelling food helped me to start eating more without consciously thinking about it. Cue the cherry tomatoes – sometimes just popping them in without thinking. The soup was also handy here as liquid was easier to eat and it seemed to melt the stomach lead!

“Oh, I adore to cook. It makes me feel so mindless in a worthwhile way.”
― Truman Capote

So, in my rather understated way, cooking is my everyday therapy man! I have grown to love it now rather than it being a fix for anything. The best and most welcome distraction.

What’s your favourite, all encompassing recipe? I’d love to try it.

Guess the reason I love to travel… FOOD!

As soon as we have any trips away, I bet you can’t guess the first thing I think about? Yep, food…well, and the drink if we’re going to be completely honest, but we’ll stick with the food for now. We love to wander to discover the local fodder. We don’t often dine out in posh restaurants, but rather nibble (massive bite), sip (gulp) and graze (feast) our way around bars and local dining places in the city.

I’ve been lucky to have stayed in an eclectic mix of countries: Sicily, Poland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Croatia and Bulgaria all evoke different food memories.

IMG_0334
Mind blowing Pincho Moruno – we had two more platefuls!

Pincho Moruno from Cafe Iruna in Bilbao; paella by the beach in Barcelona; Boxtys at Gallaghers on Temple bar, Dublin; the smell of cheese fondue in Zermatt that made me heave due to a hangover; delicious Caprese salad in Tremezzo, Lake Como at a run down Caff, (best version I’ve ever tasted) and the Shopska salad in Bulgaria. It’s this most simple dish that I’m going to share with you as it’s a wonder. But yes, it is a salad… with only 5 main ingredients…

Apparently it originates from a region of Bulgaria: Shopluk. It’s now heralded as one of the most recognisable dishes from Bulgaria – apparently invented as part of a tourist promotion in 1960s.

Deceptively basic: tomatoes, green peppers (can have them roasted or raw depending on your desires), cucumber, red onion (I omit this due to not liking raw onion) and grated cheese. Chop up chunky bits and throw them all on the plate. It’s traditional to add a pinch of salt and drizzle with sunflower oil and vinegar. (I don’t add the oil and vinegar as find too much oil in dressings a bit oozy and I don’t need the tang of the vinegar). Then, grate a load of cheese all over to finish it off. “Is that IT?” I hear you cry. Yes indeed, but I challenge you not to enjoy this crispy, crunchy dish. Don’t log off until you’ve given it a go!

fullsizeoutput_2e9
Bulgarian version – see how I was subtle about the red onion?

However, the cheese is the key. It was this pesky briny product that had me stumped when I tried to make it at home. Sirene (Bulgarian white cheese – goat or sheep or cow) is the Bulgarian requirement. However, I couldn’t find it. So, I experimented with an eclectic dairy mix, much to my husband’s irritation. The fridge was jammed pack with half grated pieces of cheese… and quite a pungent whiff.

Finally, I found my nearly there cheese. Just a cautionary note – do not use feta. Whatever you read: it. just. isn’t. right. The one I found wasn’t perfect but hey, closest you’ll get outside finding Sirene.

fullsizeoutput_2ea

It added the right grate-able, firm with a hint of crumbly consistency and a tang without full on punch flavour. It is the right colour too. In Bulgaria, if you ask for cheesy chips they say, “white or yellow cheese?” Always go for the white, delicious dairy option. (Not that I ever order cheesy chips as dinner…)

So, on a sunny day like today, when you need a sexy side to chaperone your main – chomp on this crispy number!

IMG_0847
My version: I used roasted red peppers from a jar… (being a rebel again)

A Saucy Wink to Pasta Puttanesca

Whore, slut, tart – of, and relating to, a prostitute… who on earth wishes to: a) start a blog like this b) indulge in a dish with such a reputation! Well… me of course! A pasta dish that you can rustle up with a few store cupboard ingredients, in around half an hour, works for me.

The most common told story is that the working girls of Naples made it as a quick meal between clients. However, after a bit of a search, this seems to be more of a modern myth. The recipe might link with ‘throwing all the bits you have in your cupboard’ into a sauce. Or perhaps comes from 1960s, when it was originally mentioned in a 1961 Italian novel about a pasta dish from Syracuse. But, you know what? I’m not a food historian – I just love cooking and eating, so google it and see what it throws up if you’re bothered. I’m bloomin’ starving so want to get on with it!

It packs a punch, this pasta quickie. A slurp of the sauce will smack you with a sweet, sour, salty flavour; it’s a healthy hit and will sort you right out after work (or between shifts – nudge nudge wink wink).

As usual, I’ve added and omitted a few ingredients so it’s more of an acknowledging, saucy wink towards pasta puttanesca (apparently, mostly because I’m using fresh cherry tomatoes – stick with a tin if you prefer to be more true to the ‘everything from a can’ style).

fullsizeoutput_2da

What do you need?
– 30g baby capers (rinsed to remove excess salt; I like the baby ones as no chopping needed)
–  Small red onion, finely diced (in place of the garlic; add one or two sliced cloves instead if you want to pong…)
– 225-250g (pack of) cherry tomatoes*
– 40g olives – quartered (I use green, recipes state black. I rebel!)
– 1/4 teaspoon or a sprinkle of chilli flakes
– dried oregano – good shake
– fresh basil – handful, ripped
– squirt of tomato puree and a splodge of ketchup (works well against the saltiness)
– your own portion of spaghetti if you want to be authentic – if you dare, grab the penne or Thomas the Tank shapes just to mix it up!

Absolutely Not Authentic, Don’t Moan at me Extras:
– Mushrooms (however many you want – 8? I just love a fungi…)
– 2 rashers of bacon – chopped (instead of the anchovies for me – the original recipe calls for 2-4); (traditionalists look away – this could be a mash up with an Amatriciana sauce – what a devil!)

I’d say this serves 2, but I’d probably be lying…

What do you do?
* First job is a bit of a ball ache – you need to remove the seeds from the tomatoes. My food love, Rick Stein suggests squeezing them over the kitchen sink. I tried this – I’m still finding hard, fused on seeds that splattered everywhere! They seem to love tile grouting…However, seedless cherry toms really work in the combo. So, I now squeeze each one under an upside-down washing up bowl… sounds a faff, but actually solves the problem. A pack takes under 10 minutes to squidge and it’s surprisingly therapeutic! Between finger and thumb – press – done!
– The next jobs are pretty quick. Spray the pan with oil (I like a spritz rather than gulgs of oil for this recipe)
– Throw in the onion and bacon and sweat them off for a bit (always an odd verb choice – who wants sweaty onions?)
– Bung in the rest of the ingredients except the fresh basil
– Stir and nurdle for a while – 10 minutes ish; stir basil in at the end
– Boil the pasta whilst the sauce simmers
– Mix it together: remember, tip pasta into the sauce. Add a dash of the pasta water (never thought this made a difference, a bit chefy. However, changed my world – it helps the sauce to coat the pasta. This bit is not a myth!)
– Grate on some cheese if you like

fullsizeoutput_2d8

This dish makes me smile: tangy, spicy, punchy, saucy minx of a pasta.

Happy Weekend… What’s your favourite pasta dish?

PS. I ran out of fresh basil – I’m in shock… had to use dried instead – nothing more to say about that…

Tales of a Fussy Eater…

Psst: I hated most food as a child. I know – you’re struggling to believe it, more so if you’d just seen me stuffing in dinner! But, I didn’t see the point in it and found facing food on the scale of inconvenient to horrendously embarrassing. Different textures made me shudder and cringe; I felt more than bothered by strong flavours and smells; I shirked trying anything that wasn’t on the ‘can eat’ list.

Here’s the diverse range of my childhood cuisine:

– bacon and ham sandwiches
– yogurts
– custard
– sweetcorn (it hid the flavour of any flecks of other food that was contaminating the plate)
– yorkshire puddings (if they touched gravy, forget it)
– strawberry jam (on bread, not toast) (only Dad’s homemade one)
– tomato ketchup (why oh why did they banish the Branston brand?)
– and… nope that was mostly it.

Every evening, Mum would call ‘dinner’. I didn’t appear. I planned my escape. Tucked, curled up tight behind the sofa in our middle room. (I was a bright spark and used the same place daily…) I just didn’t want to face meal time – it was like a tediously long Bushtucker Trial. (Nothing to do with my parent’s cooking I hasten to add!)

Just so you know – I wasn’t being intentionally awkward or obstinate; I wasn’t angling at only having dessert or chocolate (didn’t really like many of them either); I wasn’t refusing because I fancied something else; I didn’t chose not to like it. My attitude seemed to be that every new food was the enemy.

Eventually, as I got a little older – 8ish – I would eat raw carrot batons (only if sat in a glass of water to make them more juicy), handfuls of raisins (to disguise the taste of the slivers of apple I was encouraged to try) and some bland, white fish (if completely covered in tomato ketchup). My poor (vegetarian) sister is still haunted by the memory of the pink stained fish on my plate. I was such a joy to live with!

Don’t even get me started on green food: it was like garlic to a vampire; and I had Hulk reactions with every bite!

So, when did I change from hater to worshipper of food? How have I gone from detesting the sensation of a bursting tomato to it being the one thing I savour mouthfuls of every day? Who could imagine I could adore something green? (I even eat kale – yeah, I know a step too far perhaps, but hey – don’t knock it). Have a look at what I eat now:

IMG_0805fullsizeoutput_2c4fullsizeoutput_280fullsizeoutput_2d6

IMG_0806
Oops – how did this last one get on here?

Let me look back into the dark days of fussy…

My childhood was in the early 80s. Mum and Dad made hearty, healthy home cooked fare from fresh ingredients, so it wasn’t convenience fodder. Also, I enjoyed baking with Mum – raw dough anyone? (oo yeah, I never turned down licking the spoon – something I did eat!) Dad was always trying something new in the kitchen: making bread, creating his own chutneys and jams; he grew his own tomatoes and brewed his own beer – and I think this subconsciously influenced me (eventually) wanting to try new culinary things.

I suffered chronically with ear and throat issues and was partially deaf until age 5ish (bouts of tonsillitis, recurrent ear infections – leading to having Wallaces [grommets- Dad joke…] and my adenoids removed at 5). Did this affect the tastes or textures of things? Who knows. Maybe not. However, I do remember an upside of ‘disturbed by illness’ sleep – watching ‘Take 6 Cooks’ and ‘Floyd on Fish’ cookery shows with Dad. Rock on 1984! So weirdly, I was interested in food – just not eating it!

My first hint of food independence and mixing different flavours came as a teenager. Not the classiest of choices… Chilli flavour Monster Munch and warm cheese and onion pasties were a go-to lunch, alongside packets of plain Hula Hoops with a Kitkat – perfect mouth mix. (Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but sometimes I still go back to the ‘microwaved cheese and onion roll’ comfort with a dollop of ketchup… WHAT, I told you I eat Kale too, it’s ok!)

So, how have I gone from a pernickety picker to devouring most things in sight?

The meals that kick started the battle (although not until aged 16 onwards):
– Making tomato pasta (with finely diced Mediterranean vegetables no less) with my best friend Emma at her house (when we should have been at sixth form college!)
– making sweet and sour chicken with Nell, Julie and Lorna at Uni (although from a jar at first, this piqued my interest at different flavours… remember this was Studentville 1997.)
– cooking my first roast dinner with the uni girls – ridiculous how long it took us but I remember loving the end result. Surprise surprise – the vegetables didn’t kill me or make me throw up (Apology to parents for ignoring you about this – actually really sorry for all of it!)

The biggest change was when I started to cook my own food, in my own environment. Being in my own kitchen and feeling almost hypnotised as I cooked. It became my therapy.

Perfect Pants status can’t be granted though – I’m still quite weird about some things food related (and many things that aren’t…):
– fish and curry smells that linger in the kitchen air in the morning drive me to distraction and put me off cooking them (so I have to fight this urge to resist every time AND buy my body weight in odour beating cooking candles);
-overly soft textures, such as bananas and mousse, make me dudder and eject from the seat.
-Pungent flavours: sprouts, mushy peas and blue cheese – have me gagging at the thought.

But there aren’t many things I say ‘no’ to now. (Brace yourself – I’ve even eaten 2 sprouts in my adult life. However this was only because I made the Christmas dinner and wanted to check the texture… the flavour was drowned by gulps of wine… but it was worth it to be saved from the damnation of serving mushy veg!)

So, what helped (apart from just growing up)? With hindsight, 3 things planted solid foundations of how to love food:
-seeing my parents use fresh ingredients and enjoying food
-Dad being in the kitchen a lot, developing new skills and finding joy in creative cooking
-my parents constantly trying different things – even though it irritated the hell out of me
-and finally, finding my love of foods from other countries, Italy and Spain in particular
Oh and developing an obsession of TV cooking programmes; oh and building my collection of recipe books – the pictures captivated me, then the recipes.

I was a lost cause. Fussy, picky, finicky eater. That was me. So, if you are at your wits end and can’t think of anything else to try and feverishly worried about your child’s eating… just think about this girl. The closest I got to a vegetable/fruit was via a ketchup bottle. Now look at me eat. (Please, just don’t EVER serve me sprouts…)

Yours hungrily, so off to the fridge,

Tomato and Basil Girl xx