Brownies: the real result

Katherine posted a few days ago about an experiment she did in attempting to create a ‘healthy brownie’. I just felt that I wanted to give a little bit of real-person feedback on the results of this experiment.

Here are our friends Jo and Cliff, when asked to do a ‘thumbs-up/thumbs-down’ rating:



I think their expressions say it all.

And here are our friends Mark and Maddy:


So, as you can see, we weren’t that impressed. I do like healthy food, on the whole. But these weren’t pleasant, I’m afraid – nothing to do with the technique or the maker, but everything to do with the concept of trying to put a potato into a cake. – bringing you the truth, no matter how hard it is to stomach.

Luncheon problems, Part I

I need to admit something: I’m terrible at lunches. I really don’t know why, but I struggle to put something together myself that I find satisfying and tasty while being fairly healthy. And I’d far rather go and buy lunch each day than make it myself, although even buying stuff I get muddled with what I like.


Eating and drinking because It’s The Rules

Last week it was St George’s day. So as I usually do on St George’s day, I bought some English ale and had one. Not because I’m fanatically a proud Englishman, but because it’s a bit of fun. (I sometimes have a Guinness on St Patrick’s day.)


That got me thinking about the fact that there are so many little excuses to eat or drink something for a certain day because “it’s tradition”. Off the top of my head:


It’s not people, but is it palatable?

On social media I recently came across a product which seems to be so appealing on the one hand and yet so tragic on another. The product is Soylent, which claims to be a full replacement for all nutrients in a powder, which you mix with water to make a shake (the featured image is from the website). You drink the shake instead of eating your meals and you get everything you need, nutritionally, and apparently it might even taste okay. (more…)

Growing things

There is something deeply joyful about gathering food in that you were responsible (in part!) for growing. But up until recently I wasn’t living in a house big enough for doing things properly in the garden and, of course, there’s always the lack of time as an excuse. More reasonably, I feel that as a renter, I wasn’t too keen on ploughing (!) lots of time into setting up a garden when I wasn’t sure how long I’d be there.

However, I was given a ‘grow your own chillies’ set a few years ago, and so I did – and it was not just easy, but rewarding. You can grow chillies in small pots on a sunny windowsill, and they don’t need a huge amount of care either – in fact, one of the most common problems with chillies is overwatering them.

Right now it’s a lovely time of the year, with trees transformed by their new leaves and flowers popping up everywhere in the woods near where I live. And added to that, to see these new plants poking their way out of the soil and going on their way to becoming potentially big plants with lots of fruit is exciting!


This year I was given another set of chillies to grow. It’s possible to keep chillies alive over the winter, but not easy and this winter was a bit complex having moved around a lot. But anyway, we’ve got three different types of chillies – from left to right Cayenne, Jalapeno and Scotch Bonnet. I am aware that Scotch Bonnet in particular are very spicy, so that’s rather exciting! Clearly Cayenne aren’t doing so well, but we’ll give it time.

I’ll keep you up to date as to the condition of the chillies as they grow – and what sort of things I use them in. Right now, the plan is potentially for some chilli olive oil.

Store bought sauces vs M.I.Y. (Mix It Yourself)

I have a bit of a split personality when it comes to food. Sometimes I just want to get meals out of the way, and eat really quickly – and I don’t care what I eat. This is often the case for breakfast on weekdays, where I just want to get on with work (but get properly fuelled) – so I usually go for an oatmeal-in-a-mug arrangement.

At other times I just want to take things slowly and put the meal together properly – and it doesn’t matter how long it takes to cook. This usually applies on the weekends and sometimes in the evening too; when I want something satisfying, tasty, and interesting to eat.

So there’s often a trade off between packet-sauces and ingredients-based sauces. A typical example would be a stir-fry sauce: a brownish-liquid with a claim to be oyster sauce or plum sauce or hoisin sauce. I honestly couldn’t identify them on a taste test.

However, putting them together from ingredients is much more satisfying. So yesterday my meal plan subscription (they provide fresh ingredients and you do the cooking – just not the deciding or the shopping) gave me what was essentially a stir-fry. It was a really complex affair with cornflour on the beef and all sorts of other preparation, but the key thing here was the sauce. It had a bunch of ingredients:

  • Light soy sauce
  • Chinese 5 spice
  • Muscvado sugar
  • Beef stock
  • Water
  • Squeeze of lime juice


How much better is that than a store-bought packet! You have good control as to what goes in (let’s face it, who has read an ingredients list and understood every single ingredient?), and there is more likelihood of having individual characteristics of each of the ingredients coming through. So rather than being a gloopy generic flavour, you get hints of lime and the five spices and saltiness and so on. And it taught me a little bit about sauces too, something I don’t know enough about. It was completely worth the extra 10 or so minutes it took to assemble the ingredients rather than open a packet.

So I resolve: next time I make a stir fry, I’m going to look into making it from scratch.

And the main ingredient is…aubergine

I absolutely love Japanese food – when done properly. So when I am given food from Japan, I am usually excited, unless it’s NattōIn this case I was given something I’d never had before – an aubergine-based meal. Literally the main ingredient was aubergine.

This may not sound that crazy to you, but until now an aubergine has never been an exciting thing for me – I’ll eat it, mostly happily, but it has a slight bitterness to it which is just a tad unpleasant and the texture can be a bit unusual. So all the better that I try it out and give it a chance to win me over, as I love doing things with ingredients that I’m not used to.