the way i make it is twimii Sun, 10 Dec 2017 18:34:28 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 the way i make it is 32 32 82094265 Shepherd Pie Sun, 10 Dec 2017 16:22:03 +0000
Shepherd Pie

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Shepherd Pie

It’s another Shepherd’s Pie recipe.

Another one? Well this is just to post something for the one listed on the old recipes page. Look I’ll be perfectly honest, my favourite type of Shepherd’s Pie is one made with instant gravy, mustard and a splash of red wine. Or one made with just the beef mince and that Salca Intenso Tomato and Olive sauce is good too. I didn’t feel I could do another instant gravy one and I couldn’t find the pasta sauce in the shops.

The thing about Shepherd’s Pie is you can make it many different ways and basically you make any mix of minced beef or lamb with some veg with a bit of sauce or gravy thrown in the liven it up a bit, top it with cream mash potato and cheese and bake until it’s all lovely bubblingly crusty and – well, of course it’s going to be a filling, comforting dish.

I don’t make it that much anymore and I’ve got to admit it’s quite heavy. Also, the Worcestershire sauce is made with barley malt vinegar so it probably contains gluten. Soy sauce is made with wheat flour but I’ve never had a reaction to soy sauce. I’m floored after eating this… oh dear. There is a vegan Worcester sauce made by Bionta which is gluten-free and I think it’s a very good substitute. This is what I use in the Tomato and Puy Lentils soup – not realising it wasn’t the exact correct ingredient – and it’s great in that. I picked up this in the supermarket without thinking or reading the ingredients.

Don’t get me wrong – this is nice.

But this is definitely the last Shepherd’s Pie recipe I’m posting.

Lamb mince, unsmoked pancetta, onion, leek, carrot, celery, thyme, tomato puree, pepper, worcestershire sauce, dark soy sauce, potatoes, butter, salt and cheese

Shepherd Pie

Makes 4 - 6


  • 85g unsmoked pancetta
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery sticks, sliced
  • couple of sprigs of thyme
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 400 - 450g lamb mince
  • 1 generous tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato purée
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (_or bionta Worcester sauce if you want to make it gluten-free_)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper. optional
  • 7-8 potatoes, peeled, sliced and place in a saucepan with water just covering them
  • butter
  • milk or cream
  • cheddar cheese grated


  1. Add the pancetta to a dry deep frying pan. Cook at a low-medium heat for the fat to be released. Stir around every so often - it will take a few minutes.
  2. Add in the onions and thyme, stir around well and cover for a couple of minutes for the onion to soften. Add in the rest of the veg and pepper, stir around well, cover the pan and leave for a few minutes to soften.
  3. Increase the heat, make room in the pan for the mince, add it in and keep stirring around untill all the pink lamb mince has turned light brown. Stir in the soy sauce, tomato purée, Worcestershire sauce and a pinch of cayenne pepper, if using. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and leave to simmer while you cook the potatoes.
  4. Boil the potatoes until they are tender, then remove the pan from the heat and drain off the water. Pour in either some whole milk or cream and a good knob of butter. Mash till smooth and season with salt.
  5. Place the lamb mince in a suitable oven dish or dishes, top with the mash potato and some grated cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven at 200 C until the top is bubbling and golden.
Mashed potato, meat filling, grated cheddar cheese, ready for assembling shepherd pies.


This will make 4 large portion – or 6 normal ones.


Out of the oven – leave it to cool for 10 minutes or so.


Shepherd’s Pie with broccoli and peas on the side – a filling winter meal.


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]]> 0 2985 Overseeing Genetic Engineering Thu, 07 Dec 2017 15:51:24 +0000
Overseeing Genetic Engineering

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Overseeing Genetic Engineering

Do we need world-wide agreed frameworks regarding how genetic engineering is undertaken in order to safeguard species (including our own) and ecological systems generally? And do we need an international body overseeing this work?

Today I read an article on the entitled Genetically mutated rats could be released in Britain to solve rodent problem. According to the article, scientists in the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute think they may be able to control populations of species, like rats, by releasing into the wild males whose DNA has been altered to only produce viable Y chromosome sperm cells so that these rats could only give rise to other male rats, who presumably would pass on the mutation, and so the population would decrease as the numbers of females kept dropping.

I think it’s fantastic that we now have the technology to edit genes but it is very worrying that as this technology has developed we haven’t developed sufficient ethical or ecological frameworks regarding just how and when such technologies can be used.

Apparently this technology has already been used in mosquitos to combat the spread of the Zika virus. I think the Zika virus has very worrying, potentially catastrophic, consequences for humans, because of the effects it can have on developing foetuses. That said I think that engineering population decline in other species in this way raises huge ethical and ecological questions that we simply cannot ignore.

Nothing in our world acts in isolation. Everything has dependencies – things that they are dependent on, and things that are dependent on them. If you greatly reduce the population of one species it has effects on other species and on habitats. Do we even have the data necessary to know what other species and how habitats would be affected by such a decline and to what extent? Surely this is vital. We need undertake proper risk assessments before engaging in this type of engineering. No?

It’s very unfortunate that a lot of the ethical questions regarding genetic engineering get reduced to facile arguements about whether we have the “right to play God”. These debates so easily descend into futile and besides-the-point “Religion v Science” contests.

However the question of what right we have to interfere with other species when our understanding of other forms of life, even those closely related to our own, is still so limited is one that we must discuss and find some sort of workable answers to – and these answers shoud be considered when building a framework of guidelines to govern this type of work and research.

Searching online I discovered that “There are two major international protocols that address genetically modified organisms, the Cartagena Protocol of 2000 and the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol of 2010. They are attached to the Convention on Biological Diversity of 1993. They apply only to transboundary actions; they do not apply to use or transit of GMOs within countries.” (source) It doesn’t sound as if these protocols are even applicable in this case.

I do think it’s possible that we can genetically engineer other species for their own benefit – and naturally for our species benefit too. I’m not in any way disputing the value and potential good of this technology. But surely we need much better safeguards in place – like gathering data on the interplay and interdependencies of different species so that we can have a better idea of the risks involved and work to minimise and mitigate those identified – and honestly shouldn’t this be one of the most basic requirements in undertaking such experiments? Do we have this type of data? Are risk assessments being done? If these types of experiments are going on, is there concurrent research going on examining what fallback strategies could be used in case something does go wrong?

I know that it’s not possible to eliminate risk. And groundbreaking sientific achievements occur at the edge of our understanding of things. And stepping out into the unknown is always risky. But we’re now getting to a point of technology and understanding where if we gather sufficient information about how things work in the here and now, and develop fallback strategies for if (and when) things go wrong (things inevitably go wrong from time to time) then that understanding will not only help safeguard what we’ve got, it should also help illuminate the path into the unknown. At least partially, no?

Now for all I know the Roslyn Institute may be undertaking this type of risk assessment research. I don’t know enough about the work they do or how they do it to know this. But if they are, should this be recorded by an independent body who can check that they are following the procedures they have set down to safeguard against any risks identified?

Such a body, a global agency, would not be charged with telling different countries what is acceptable in terms or work or research – that would be far too contentious and would likely take years if not decades for any consensus to be reached. Instead there should be international regulations which ensured risk assessments are carried out, strategies to combat those risks be identified, and where possible fallback procedures should be put in place (so for example, if you’re testing a genetic modification of a vegetable you keep samples of the unmodified crop and their complete genome on record – presumably this is already standard practice?). This body would then be tasked with keeping records of these risk assessments and the procedures identified to mininmise the risks, and there would be periodic audits to ensure standards and procedures were being followed.

If there were an international independent body who was overseeing any work or research in genetic engineering it’s possible that they could identify potential cross-risks or benefits even across projects gobally. It is possible that something which happens in a population or ecosystem that is the result of a genetically modified organism being introduced may not be readily identified as being caused by the introduction of the GMO. Having proper frameworks to record all work being carried out and proper communication on a global level – through an international agency? – would hopefully improve detection of these kind of occurrences.

Proper ethical and ecological frameworks for genetic engineering would do more than protect us from potential risks, if constructed correctly it would improve our knowledge, understanding and appreciation of life. That’s not overblown nonsense – it’s obvious.


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Gluten-free Chocolate Gingernuts Wed, 06 Dec 2017 14:14:59 +0000
Gluten-free Chocolate Gingernuts

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Gluten-free Chocolate Gingernuts

Would you like a recipe for gluten-free chocolate gingernuts that’s every bit as good as the gluten-filled version? Because if you would I’ve got one for you.

Oh isn’t it nice when something you try works out perfectly? The original recipe is correct. I didn’t think it was because I changed this recipe to be made with just blackstrap molasses and golden syrup with no caster or dark muscovado sugar – but no, it’s correct. All I changed here was the flour to make it gluten-free.

I knew if I made them with all gluten-free plain flour mix they wouldn’t be right. You always have to mix something into the flour to make it less dry and … I don’t know what exactly I don’t like about gluten-free flour mixes – they’re fine in a bechamel sauce or something like that but for baked goods it always needs to be mixed with something else. So after the marzipan-ish taste to the lemon meringue pie crust I knew I wasn’t going to use ground almonds. And I was thinking of trying chestnut flour but then I saw this packet of buckwheat flour I just happened to pick up in the supermarket a few weeks ago. Actually I saw it in the supermarket but bought it online at – where I also bought chestnut flour. So I’ve used a mix of gluten-free plain flour and buckwheat flour and the taste and texture are just right.

Buckwheat is part of the rhubarb family and is naturally gluten free. I had buckwheat pancakes (traditional Breton crêpes) for the first time this summer in a café in Rennes – which I forgot to note the name of (dammit!) – they are so good! I had a savoury one and a sweet one and oh they were so so good! So I bought the buckwheat with intentions of maybe trying to replicate those delicious pancakes.

Anyway just for want of something better to mix into the gluten-free plain flour mix I added in buckwheat and being totally honest I wouldn’t know it was in it – but these cookies taste the same as the normal version.

These cookies are very strongly spiced – they will wake you up. If you would like a gentler ginger taste, reduce the amount of ground ginger to 1.5 teaspoons but still add in 1 teaspoon of cinnamon – the cinnamon mellows out the ginger. I didn’t add ground cloves to these but do if you’d like that Christmasy taste.

I also didn’t add any chopped up pecan to these. I sort of stopped doing that some time ago – I think after the first time I made them. I should say that before I went gluten-free I made these a lot – like once a month. These and the gluten-filled recipe I mention in the gluten-free vegan soft fruit cookies post – I made them both quite often. And loved them. I think I’ll stick to my gluten-free soft fruit cookies as the substitute for the other one – they are simple, tasty and good for you. These bad boys are more diet-be-damned but if you use crude blackstrap molasses you will get a bunch of good stuff like vitamin B6, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron and selenium with you nice spicy sugar hit. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the blackstrap molasses stuff in the shop last weekend – treacle is the same taste-wise though.

Just one more thing – letting gluten-filled cookie dough rest overnight improves it. I don’t know why but it does. I made 4 of these the night before after leaving the dough in the fridge for 2 hours. And I made more this morning. Honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference between them. I’m not sure that non-gluten filled flours are really improved by resting. That said you should leave this for an hour or two before baking because the dough becomes harder and easier to shape.

Gluten free plain flour, buckwheat flour, caster sugar, dark muscovado sugar, egg, cocoa, butter, vanilla extract, treacle (or blackstrap molasses), golden syrup, cinnamon and ginger.

Gluten-free Chocolate Gingernuts

Makes about 30 cookies


  • 100g salted butter
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 generous teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 100g dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 tablespoon treacle or blackstrap molasses
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 115g plain white gluten-free flour mix
  • 100g buckwheat flour
  • 2 heaped tablespoons (~30g) cocoa powder
  • 1 egg, beaten


  1. Cut the butter up in cubes and melt on a gentle heat in a saucepan. When it's melted add in the spices and stir around well. Add in the white and dark sugar, keep stirring till it's smooth. Add in the treacle/molasses and golden syrup and stir around again till everything is smooth and blended. Remove the heat and leave to cool a little.
  2. Sift the gluten-free flour mix, the buckwheat flour and the cocoa powder into a deep bowl.
  3. When the melted sugar-spice-butter mix has cooled enough, it shouldn't be hot - warm at most, pour into the flour and mix it around well. When it is well mixed, touch with your finger to make sure it's only just warm and then mix in the egg. You always risk scrambling egg if you add it to something hot so it's important to make sure things are cool enough. Cover the bowl and leave it in the fridge for two hours or more.
  4. When ready, heat the oven to 200 C. Line a baking tin with paper and sprinkle over some sugar. Take a teaspoon of the dough, it will be quite hard, place between your palms and roll into a ball, flatten it a little, sprinkle both sides with sugar and place on the tin. Repeat. Leave about an inch between cookie on the sheet.
  5. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes. Take out, leave on the baking tin for a minute, then remove to a wire tray to cool. Let them cool for 10 - 15 minutes. Enjoy with a good cup of coffee!


These cookies are very strongly spiced - they will wake you up. If you would like a gentler ginger taste, reduce the amount of ground ginger to 1.5 teaspoons but still add in 1 teaspoon of cinnamon - the cinnamon mellows out the ginger.

Sifted flours and cocoa, melted sugars, spice and butter, and beaten egg. Ready to assemble.


Altogether now. Cover and leave in the fridge for two hours.


You can bake these without any baking paper, just on some sprinkled sugar.


Out of the oven – didn’t spread out quite as much as the normal gluten-version. So flatten them a bit before baking.


Flatter batch made the next day.


Proper cookie consistency. I don’t think I could tell they’re gluten-free if I hadn’t made them.


These are very spicy and sweet. Lovely with black coffee.


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]]> 0 2958 Easy Peasy Pea Mint Soup Wed, 06 Dec 2017 09:04:58 +0000
Easy Peasy Pea Mint soup topped with some grated Parmesan cheese.

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Easy Peasy Pea Mint soup topped with some grated Parmesan cheese.

It’s easy. It’s peasy. It’s Pea Mint Soup.

The old recipe is so wrong I – I – seriously I’ve no idea what happened. Did I have a mini-stroke in the middle of adding it? Did I accidentally start writing out the ingredients for a different recipe? No idea. But it’s wrong as wrong can be.

This recipe is a soup version of something I made during a strict detox that I was on – that I had come up with myself – that didn’t allow potatoes for – um – either the first 8 or 12 weeks. It didn’t allow for rice or pasta or anything like that either. So one evening I was grilling a couple of lamb chops, I wanted some sort of mash with them and I thought about how lamb is often served with mint sauce (I have never ever had mint sauce – I’ll have to correct that) and I thought about making a nice sweet mash of onions, peas and mint. Which I did and then squeezed in some lemon because I like things on the sharp side and I posted it as Pea-Mint-Salsa. And then it became Easy Peasy Pea Mint Soup – or it should have but half the ingredients appear to be part of some other recipes.

Easy Peasy Pea Mint Soup is made by gently cooking some sliced onion and celery, adding some frozen peas, some chicken (or light vegetable) stock, letting those cook and then blending with some (quite a lot really) mint leaves, squeezing in some lemon and adding some salt and pepper. That’s it. There’s not much to it. It’s sweet, simple flavours. The instant pea mint soup really is the same soup just made really quickly and without the celery. Does the celery make it better? Yes, so do the gently cooked onions.

The celery sticks were the nice leafy inner stalks which I think taste sweeter and a little more like parsley. I use these for the Mushroom & Creme Fraiche Soup too.

I topped one bowl with some Parmesan cheese, which was a nice combination, and one with mustard which also was fine – and vegetarian.

Garden peas, onions, celery, mint, stock, nutmeg, salt, butter and oil.

Easy Peasy Pea Mint Soup

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 17 minutes

Serves 4 small bowls


  • sunflower oil
  • butter
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 5-6 inner celery stalks and leaves, sliced
  • 600g garden peas
  • 1 pint chicken or light vegetable stock
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 20 - 25g fresh mint, leaves picked from the stalks
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cheese or mustard optional for decoration


  1. Heat a little sunflower oil in a saucepan. Add a pat of butter. When the butter has melted turn the heat down to gentle and stir in the onions. Cover the pan and let the onions soften for 5 minutes. Stir in the celery, cover the pan and leave for another minute.
  2. Add in the peas, stock and nutmeg. Raise the heat and bring to boil. Cover the pan. Leave the peas boil on high for 6 minutes or until they're cooked through and tender. Turn off the heat. Add the mint and cover the pan again for a minute just to soften the leaves a little but keeping the taste very fresh.
  3. Pour the contents of the pan into a deep bowl. Using a stick blender blend to a thick soup consistency. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon. Taste and season according to taste.
  4. Serve as it is or with cheese or mustard as a topping. Enjoy!
I’m finding that when I blend stuff in the saucepan on the hob I tend to get burned so here’s my solution. This and partially cover the bowl with a towel while I blend it.


Add lemon to sharpen the flavours. I added the juice of 1 lemon to this.


Also good topped with a little mustard.


Easy Peasy Pea Mint soup topped with some grated Parmesan cheese.


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]]> 0 2945 Fishy Looking Green Soup Mon, 04 Dec 2017 09:15:53 +0000
bowl of fishy looking green soup

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bowl of fishy looking green soup

This fishy looking green soup is like a thick salsa verde soup with fried mackerel. Very filling, very tasty, very green, very healthy altogether.

So this recipe is what I’m offering as an alternative to the old Green Mackerel Soup which was made with cockscomb mint. This isn’t. I haven’t had cockscomb mint – or even come across it – since. Also, looking at the list of the ingredients that had I’m not at all sure that the ground allspice and sugar wasn’t what gave the soup the taste of Red Strespils minus the numbing agent – intrigued? You shouldn’t be.

Anyway the name Green Mackerel soup for some reason made me think of salsa verde with fried mackerel. So that’s kind of what this is – as a soup. Except the recipe for the salsa verde is slightly different to the usual one. Was that because I got creative or just confused in the supermarket? Yes. So I’m calling my salsa verde green sauce.

Green sauce ingredients: tarragon, chives, parsley, mint, Dijon mustard, wholegrain mustard, 2 tins of anchovy fillets in olive oil, green olives. red wine vinegar and a little more olive oil.
Green sauce, green beans, basil, mackerel fillets, chicken stock, garlic, lemon, butter, salt and olive oil.

Fishy Looking Green Soup

Serves 4


    Green Sauce
  • small handfull of tarragon
  • handfull of parsley
  • handful of chives
  • handful of mint
  • 60 - 75g green olives, pitted
  • 2 x 50g tin of anchovy fillets in olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustards
  • 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • For the fishy looking green soup
  • 1 quantity of green sauce
  • 700g green beans
  • 750ml chicken stock
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and flattened with the flat side of a knife
  • handful of basil
  • 2 mackerel fillets,_boned, halved lengthwise and sprinkled with salt and lemon juice_
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • lemon slices for serving


  1. Remove the leaves from the stalks of the fresh herbs and discard the stalks. Add all the ingredients for the green sauce into a food mixer and blend well.
  2. Heat a little olived oil in a deep saucepan. Add a knob of butter to oil. When it is melted add in the green beans, chicken stock and garlic, stir around and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and let it boil away until the green beans are cooked and tender - about 10 minutes
  3. Add a little olive oil to a frying pan that will hold the mackerel fillets. Add a pat of butter to olive oil. Take a small flake of fish and when the butter is melted add it to the frying pan and if it sizzles then add place the halved fillets in the pan skin-side down. Leave them cook on a high heat. After about 4 minutes you can turn the fish over. The juices and butter should be brown at this stage, just gently shake the pan around then leave them to cook for 1 - 2 minutes or until all the flesh is fully opaque you'll have to turn the fish over to check. Remove from heat once cooked.
  4. Once the green beans are cooked, pour the contents from the deep saucepan into a deep bowl, add in the fresh basil leaves and using a stick blender blend till you have a thick soup-like consistency.
  5. Add 3 teaspoons of the green sauce to a ramekin. Pour the rest of the green sauce into the soup and stir around well.
  6. Take out 2 of the pieces of fish from the frying pan and leave on a plate chopped up. Roughy chop up the remaining fish in the pan and add this and any of the remaining juices to the soup, and stir it around.
  7. Serve in small bowls, each taking 2 ladles full of soup, top each with a quarter of the fish, a quarter of the green sauce from the ramekin and a slice of lemon. Hope you like it!
A heart healthy and flavoursome bowl of … fishy looking green soup.

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