Good news for tea drinkers!

Hands up, who likes a nice cup of tea? I think I am a bit of a tea addict, especially now that I work from home for half of the week. Luckily it’s not caffeinated tea that I am addicted to (although I’m unlikely to turn down a cup of earl grey first thing in the morning), I like all sorts of tea!

And in a recent lecture I heard about white tea being really pretty good for you, so I thought I’d give it a try!

There’s an awful lot of research going on at the moment about the health benefits of tea, but because white tea is full of flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) it is thought to have the following benefits:

  • Reduce cardiovascular disease risk
  • Potential reduction in cancer risk
  • Potential reduction in diabetes risk
  • Likely to aid with weight management
  • Some evidence of improved cognitive function

How amazing is that? From tea! There’s still a lot more research to be done, however, one important point to note – the tea also tastes good! I followed the instructions to brew for 3 minutes and although it looked quite dark and I assumed it would have an overpowering taste, actually it was pleasant, light and quite floral…!

PS – Antioxidants are natural compounds which work to ‘quench’ free radicals, reducing and stopping the damage they cause. Free radicals are naturally present in the body but also increased by external factors such as smoking, stress, UV rays. If anti oxidants and free radicals get out of balance in favour of free radicals, they can cause significant damage to the body

In case you’re interested, this info came from a lecture from Dr Lisa Ryan at Oxford Brookes Uni on 19/2/2013.



What do you take for granted?

Last Wednesday morning I had a bit of an eye-opener, and I think it’s going to be the same again tomorrow morning. I realised that for more than 10 years I have completely taken something I use every day, three times a day (at least!) completely for granted.

That is my ability to cook a basic meal from scratch. It doesn’t matter if it is porridge, soup, cake, pasta sauce or a roast dinner, I realised how incredibly lucky I am to know the basics of cooking.

Last Wednesday morning I spent three hours volunteering with a small project (through Oxford Brookes university), bringing basic cooking skills to ladies living in a deprived area of Oxford called Rose Hill. I was a bit nervous when I turned up at the community centre, particularly as no-one else was there when I arrived… Luckily Monika (the mature student who set the project up) soon bustled in and had me heaving boxes of cutlery and condiments into the kitchen ready for our students. By 9.45am there were five women chopping vegetables around a table, and by 11.30am they had cooked four different dishes including minestrone soup, apple crumble, brown soda bread and chicken and mushroom risotto:

The food was delicious and the ladies went away with some new skills which we’ll hopefully hear about how well their new recipes went down when I see them again tomorrow morning.




Four recipes to see you through the week!

I’ve just finished seeing a client and on my back door step is my lovely organic fruit and veg box delivery from Abel and Cole:

Not only is their lovely food organic and delivered to the door (the fab delivery man even brings it to my back door step so that no passersby take a fancy to my boxes whilst I’m seeing clients!), but it’s all traceable too – pretty important these days with the spectre of horse and other meat finding its way into all sorts of supermarket foods. I love getting my veg box delivery – it’s like opening presents as you never know what will be inside! One of the challenges though is thinking of recipes for all the lovely veggies inside, so this week we’ll be having:

Tuesday: it’s pancake day today but instead of using up flour, butter and eggs, I’ll be using up our leftover parsnips and apples for a seasonal soup. Roast equal numbers of parsnips and apples with an onion and couple of cloves of garlic. Blend with water and perhaps a little cumin if you like the spice. Ta-dah, it’s ready! If there is any leftover, I’ll freeze it for a future lunch.

Wednesday: perhaps some celery, stilton and broccoli soup! I literally stir fry the celery until soft, lightly boil the broccoli and then blend the two together with a little olive oil, water and some stilton to taste – yum and super quick! You could also add some spinach or cabbage for a super boost of iron and folic acid!

Thursday: Valentines day… to show my love for British sustainable fish, we’ll be having gurnard (white fish) fillets poached in milk, a little butter and bay leaves, served with brocolli, cabbage and potatoes. Did you know gurnard fish are found in shallow British coastal waters and use their specially adapted pectoral fins to cling onto the rocks and ‘walk’ on the seabed allowing them not to get pulled into deeper waters by the waves?! (Ah – I knew my marine biology degree would come in useful!)

Friday: roasted tomatoes with onion, garlic and sweet potato wedges (rolled in paprika and rosemary).

That’s dinners for the rest of the week sorted then!


Veg patch aspirations…

So I have finally got around to planning our new veg patch…

Until a few months ago this was a patch of concrete in our back garden. We hired a pneumatic drill and spent an entire day digging it up with my husband in charge of drilling and me practising my weight-lifting with chunks of concrete… we both needed a massage after that as you can imagine!

Unfortunately, since then, we haven’t got any further. So as soon as the weather warms up a bit, I will be out there, turning the scraggly weeds,  gravel and rock strewn area into a beautiful veggie patch… Having previously shared an allotment, I have no illusions of how hard this will be to begin with! I first took on half an allotment with a friend back in 2008 when I lived over in Jericho. It was a labour of love, and we eventually had to give it up due to our work and relationship commitments. However, we succeeded in turning a grassy strip into a very productive area of land within about 10 months. The produce in the first summer was unbelievable – we were giving it away in the end we had so many beans and giant courgettes! The only problem was that we were only really able to get down there once a week, so we often had to fight our way through the weeds to get to the veg…

I’m hoping our garden veg patch will be a little more manageable as I will be able to do battle with the weeds daily. My other challenge will be the slugs. I’m an organic gardener so I don’t use slug pellets or fertiliser. My sketch below shows my basic plan, but is based around companion gardening – basically planting things that like each other nearby (e.g. carrots and beans, strawberries and spinach, squash and sweetcorn), and also plants that will ward off the slugs and bugs with their smell (e.g. leeks, marigolds and nasturgiums). I love flowers to so I’ll be interlacing my climbing beans with sweet peas, and the flowers of borage, marigolds and nasturgiums make a pretty addition to summer salads too.



Watch this space for veg patch updates! Oh – and if you’re a keen gardener and have any tips for me, do let me know!