Huel: the sample

A while ago I posted an article named It’s not people, but is it palatable? The article was about Soylent, the powder that you could mix with water and take instead of eating. I expressed interest, scepticism, and ultimately disappointment that I couldn’t try it myself. For a while I checked every so often to see if they had expanded operations to the UK, which they still haven’t.

A year and a half later, I’d forgotten about it, but then happened to come across something else: Huel. It’s a very similar concept (down to the minimalist website with an athletic-looking guy pouring beige liquid into a glass), and it was not just available, but originated in the UK. In fact, the two main players as far as I can see are currently Huel and Joylent, the latter of which not only comes from the Netherlands, but rather daringly posts their last three reviews on the front page of their website, which at the time of writing are not all positive.

img_20161024_151213I looked up Huel and some reviews, and to be honest they weren’t particularly positive (Guardian, Telegraph, both in spring 2016). I was wary of spending money on something which would be thrown out, but then I saw that their website had a sample size (100g, a 400 calorie serving which could serve as lunch). The clincher was when a colleague of my brother gave the vanilla flavour the thumbs up. I ordered the sample for £4.

The package was predictably plain, coming in a resealable pouch with a lot of ingredients and nutritional information on it. Normally I baulk at large ingredient lists but of course if you’re trying to cover all the nutritional bases then there are going to be a lot of ingredients.

I actually agonised a bit which meal I would use it for – in short the reason for this was that I wanted to make the situation as realistic as possible – I wanted to see what would happen if I actually replaced a meal with it. 400 calories is a bit small for any meal, but I settled for lunch. 400 calories is similar to some sandwiches, and on occasion when trying to be good about what I eat I have had 400 calorie microwave lunches which have kept me pretty full.

Opening up the pouch, the contents were as predicted, a beige powder (I will talk about the actual ingredients in another post but they are mostly things like oat, barley and pea flour). It smelled vaguely of vanilla, which was promising.


img_20161024_151431I then measured out the powder into a shaker and added water. Here’s one of the frustrations: they suggest 550ml water to 100g powder. Most shakers are 700ml, so there’s very little room to shake it. So I split the powder into two batches of 50g and 225ml water. I used scales, of course.


Having shaken the powder and water, I might have been able to fit it in one lot. Oh well. I also discovered that my shaker leaks a bit, which I don’t normally notice because I am in the gym.

img_20161024_151738 img_20161024_152219

As you can see, you get quite a smooth looking liquid from the 20 seconds of mandated shaking (it’s longer than you think). You can also probably see bits of oat and things on the side of the shaker though.


Drinking the shake, I was suddenly reminded that this isn’t the first time I have substituted shakes for a meal. In fact, in a review I never wrote, I had a Weetabix breakfast shake which felt, in consistency, very similar. It was milky with a little tiny bit of granularity to it, and the taste was not at all bad. It wasn’t as thick as I thought it would be, and the first shaker went down very quickly. At this point I was not convinced that it would fill me up – the first 200 calories went down in three sips.

However, in the minute or so it took me to make the second batch and then move to my desk, suddenly I felt a bit more full, and maybe I wouldn’t even need the second lot. I did, of course, and I tried to sip it as I worked, to see what it was like. No problem at all to just kind of sip on, which was kind of the idea.


I finished the ‘meal’ at 15.30, which was a bit late for a lunch for me but I’d been to the gym. By 6pm I wasn’t ravenous, but I was feeling a normal amount of hunger that I would at that time if I’d eaten 400 calories (given that my lunches are usually 600 or more). So it just about worked, and I didn’t feel terrible, which was a good thing. We’ll have to see with a longer term trial


Having had my trial I was convinced enough to order a starter pack of 28 meals in two bags. Their website (and email correspondence) suggests not to go all in, so I think I’ll just ease in with a meal a day during the week for now. In the end one of the real values will be when I’m busy and would otherwise get something unhealthy – hopefully I’ll reach for the Huel and get a balanced diet. In the medium term a meal plan with Huel replacing one or two meals a day will hopefully help me to hit some weight goals too. I have received my box of meals today, so a review will follow once I’ve got a few under my belt!


I can bake a vibrant rainbow!

Last year I made my first rainbow cake: in many ways it was a great success, but I felt let down by the colours. So I purchased some SugarfIMG_20160526_100138lair paste colours and it’s taken me until now to have a chance to try them out.

And WHAT a difference. The tiniest amount of paste (often less than 0.25 of a tsp) stirred into the batters produced a wonderfully vibrant colour. (Slightly terrifyingly vibrant in some cases – I was worried that people wouldn’t actually want to eat the ca

Check out the colours left on the baking parchment!

ke as it looked so artificial – but they did!)


Look at the contrast between the cake made with regular supermarket colourings (L) and the Sugarflair pastes (R)

I’m excited by the prospect of many bright cakes, icings etc.! Here are some photos of the process, and also one of the contrast between last year’s cake, using regular

supermarket purchased food colourings (where I had a use a large quantity to even achieve the slightly muted colours) and this year’s vibrant success! The colours I used were: Christmas Red, Tangerine, Melon, Mint Green, Baby Blue and Lilac.


D is for… Dates

Dates are another thing that I came to quite late in my life. For some reason I had them in the same category as prunes in my mind and had, therefore, never tried them. My dad used to eat them but I just wrote them off as something gross that I didn’t need to investigate. But then one day I ate one and could not believe what I had been missing out on for all these years. It tasted just like toffee. Sweet and delicious. They are now up there as one of my favourite treats (admittedly the list is quite long).

IMG_20160210_172732Recently my friend, who was expecting a baby, told me that there had been studies linking dates to timely and quick labours. A quick internet search confirmed this. She sent me a recipe of a date loaf that she made and ate the day before she ended up going in to labour. I made it last week and it was excellent. Tasted like sticky toffee pudding and went down a treat with everyone there. (Thankfully it didn’t cause anyone to give birth though!). A number of people asked for the recipe, so here it is:



The Return of the Sweet Potato ‘Brownies’

Last year I began my Very Important Quest to find the best brownie recipe out there. This included a brief detour into the world of special diet brownies, the results of which were varied. My first attempt was a gluten free, dairy free, no added sugar, vegan ‘brownie’, made primarily of sweet potatoes and dates. Lionel wrote about our friends’ honest response here. It’s fair to say, they didn’t go down particularly well.

IMG_20160204_171750But I have a confession to make. I am guilty of having *slightly* adapted the original recipe – I didn’t use the specified type of dates, and I used cocoa powder instead of cacao powder (you swap a few letters round – how different can it be?!) So I decided it was only fair to have another go, this time following the recipe to the letter.



Pecan, cranberry and chocolate brownies

A friend recently asked me to bake a ‘festive traybake’ so I decided to add some Christmassy tastes to chocolate brownies, using just ingredients I had in the house (it was too cold to go out to the shops!). The result was a very rich and tasty brownie, with a hint of Christmas. Very easy too 🙂


150g dark chocolate

200g Stork (or equivalent)

215g soft brown sugar

150g self raising flour

40g extra dark cocoa powder

3 eggs (large)

50g dried cranberries

100g pecan nuts

80g cranberry sauce


  1. Heat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4 and line an 8 inch square baking tin with baking parchment. Break the chocolate into chunks and melt it with the Stork in the microwave.
  2. Mix together the sugar, flour and cocoa powder and stir in the melted chocolate and Stork mixture, followed by the eggs. Stir through the dried cranberries and pecan nuts, followed by the cranberry sauce.
  3. Pour into the tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 35 – 40 mins. Allow to cool before slicing.

(Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food).


Christmas Jumper Biscuits

Here’s IMG_20131211_211322another fun idea for Christmas themed biscuit decorating. Next week is National Christmas Jumper Day in the UK, so why not decorate some jumper shaped biscuits to celebrate? I made these two years ago for the occasion, creating my own jumper template and cutting around it with a knife, but this year I have seen jumper cookie cutters in the shops, which would make the job even quicker (and your jumpers will look a bit neater than mine!). I made them with a gingerbread recipe, but as with the rIMG_20131212_202508eindeer biscuits, any biscuit recipe where you roll out the dough and cut out the shapes is just fine. I made the biscuits one evening and then spent a couple of happy hours decorating them the next evening. I picked a number of different themes – Santa, Christmas trees, candy canes etc.; made white, red and green icing and used a cocktail stick for the more precise parts; and used lots of other cake decorations: silver balls, mini smarties etc. Lots of fun and the results added to the enjoyment of Christmas Jumper Day at work.   IMG_20131212_194901


Reindeer Biscuits

(NB: these are biscuits that look like reindeer – not for reindeer to eat!)

These are really simple but great fun and enjoyed by kids and adults alike.

You will need:
-Basic gingerbread recipe (or any biscuit recipe, where you roll out the dough and cut out shapes)
-Gingerbread man cutter(s)
-Icing sugar
-Red food colouring
-Green food colouring
-Silver balls
-Any other biscuit decorating things you desire!IMG_20141217_193043

Cook your biscuits as usual and then let them cool. Make up green, red and white icing. Turn the gingerbread men upside down so that their legs are in the air and – look! It’s a reindeer (the legs become the antlers, the arms the ears and the head the face). Decorate accordingly.

You could also keep some the ‘normal’ way up and make them snowmen, for a variety. 🙂


Ombré Cake

Paul and Mary surprised me in this year’s Great British Bake Off by not knowing what Ugne was referring to when she said she was going to make an ‘ombré cake’. Now I’m no GBBO judge, but even I have heard of ombré, and not just referring to a way of dying your hair, which was how she explained it to them. Since making my rainbow cake I have been wanting to make an ombré cake and my friend’s hen party seemed like the perfect opportunity. For those who have been following neither the Great British Bake Off nor celebrity hair trends, ombré describes the gradual blending of one colour hue to another.

I decided, as it was a hen do, to make a heart shaped cake and to make the inside colour pink. I borrowed another friend’s heart shaped cake tin and this is what I did:



New England Food Day 3: Chicken Showdown

A lot of people who know me know that I’m partial to the occasional piece of chicken fried in the style of a certain Kentucky colonel. It doesn’t quite form a staple part of my diet, but it’s certainly an easy go-to when I need something satisfying and delicious. I could spend hundreds of words describing why I like it (especially for those of you who are wondering whether I’m really interested in good food after that revelation) but I won’t do so in this post.

The purpose of that meandering introduction?

Today was the day I had KFC in the USA.



New England Food Day 2: Lobsterday

I’m not an expert on lobster, but I know I like it. In large part that’s due to the fact that it’s got a great delicate flavour (it’s seafood without being too fishy), in medium part it’s due to the fact that a whole lobster is fun to eat, and in small part it’s due to the fact that it’s not that common to have, so I get excited about eating it.

I was interested to see how I would find it when lobster was in abundance and at a reasonable price. Would I get bored of it? Well, Day 2 was the day we were determined to finally eat some lobster and find out.

But that was getting ahead of ourselves. Unlike Day 1, we actually had three proper meals out on Day 2, which gave us a bit more exposure to New England food. (more…)