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How stressed are you?

You might know you are really stressed but think there is nothing you can do about it. Or you might not even realise that you are stressed. You have been stressed for so long you don't even notice the symptoms. You might even tell yourself that you are perfectly able to cope with stress, in fact you thrive on it, you love it, it makes you feel alive! I think women in particular at telling themselves they are coping fine, and whereas the mind actually believe it, the body won't. This is one of the reasons why after a particularly stressful day, you can get home and think you feel fine, have a lovely evening and then not be able to sleep.

The following are classic signs of chronic stress:

  • You wake up feeling sluggish and can't get going without a cup of coffee
  • Your brain is foggy, you find it difficult to concentrate and your memory is terrible
  • At night, although you are exhausted, you have trouble sleeping. Typically you have the kind of insomnia that allows you to get to sleep initially but unable to stay asleep, so you wake up in the night with your mind racing, unable to get back to sleep.
  • You have extensive fatigue that isn't relieved by a good night's sleep,even if you are able to get one.
  • You keep getting colds and flu.
  • You have frequent headaches, joint pain and muscle aches and other signs of increased chronic inflammation
  • You are anxious and maybe have heart palpitations and chest pains
  • You lack motivation to do things and may feel depressed
  • You crave high carbohydrate snacks (biscuits, crisps, chocolate, fizzy drinks) throughout the day, especially mid afternoon. But when these are the very foods that make you feel worse.
  • You find it increasingly difficult to cope with stress. Ordinary stresses that you used to take in your stroll now stress you out disproportionately to their importance.
  • Your digestion isn't great. You may have constipation and bloating. Or you may have frequent diarrhoea and nausea. The symptoms we associate with conditions such as IBS are frequently caused by stress.
  • If you are still menstruating, your cycles are probably irregular, you will have more cycles when you don't ovulate, so you will be deficient in progesterone and you may have tender breasts.
  • You have put on weight, especially around the middle, that you find impossible to shift, even when you don't give in to those mid-afternoon sugar cravings. Stress one of the biggest causes of weight gain. Even if your diet is perfect and you exercise daily, if you are stressed you will probably find it virtually impossible to lose weight.
These are some typical signs that your adrenals may be running on empty. You can probably see that the symptoms of chronic stress do seem to mimics the symptoms that many menopausal women complain of.

I see so many women in my practise with tired-out adrenals, especially around the time of menopause, I think it is safe to say that if you have more than a couple of the symptoms above, your adrenals will benefit from a bit of TLC in order to optimise your health in general and have the best menopause transition possible.

The M Word Prescription #2
A few of my favourite foods to support your adrenal glands and really help with stress-management:
  • All dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, cabbage, watercress, courgettes, rocket, parsley, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds especially almonds, which contain more magnesium than any of the other nuts. Soak them for a couple of hours in water to make them easier to digest and add to porridge or stewed fruit for breakfast. You can also drain them and drink the 'milk' and puts the nuts in a blender to make a delicious creamy spread or dip
  • Eggs. As well as magnesium, eggs are also rich in choline, which works directly on the neurotransmitters in the brain, helping to maintain a sense of calm but at the same time giving you a bit of 'get up and go'
  • Calming grains Eat complex carbohydrates at least twice a day, which help to boost neurotransmitters in the brain, which in turn, calms you down. My favourites are brown, wild, red and basmati rice, porridge oats and quinoa
  • Calming herbal teas. Replace some of your normals cups of tea and coffee with herbal teas containing liquorice, chamomile, valerian, hops or passionflower


Garlic Soup from Budapest

I love travelling. And as someone who constantly advocates eating good honest food, I love exploring new counties and discovering (and borrowing) the foods that people there have traditionally eaten.

Sometimes it can be quite hard. I was recently in the beautiful city of Budapest, where I have to say, I struggled a bit to eat the kinds of foods I know my body loves. Goulash soup was fine - oodles of deliciously nourishing bone broth with vegetables and a small amount of meat protein is up there amongst my perfect foods. But there was a limit to the number of times I could order that. The rest of the time I had to navigate my way around menus consisting mainly of various forms of processed pork, which is not really my thing.

But it was a great lesson in not being too fanatical about our diets. Good health is not about avoiding situations in which we may not have access to goji berries and chia seeds. It's about living fully, putting ourselves in new situations and discovering the beauty of faraway places, even if that sometimes means eating things we might turn our nose up at home.

In Budapest I  discovered one of the most delicious soups I have ever eaten and I have already made a load of it. Here's how I did it…



Cream of Garlic Soup

  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 large potatoes, chopped into cubes
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups of delicious home-made bone broth (I used beef broth chicken would also work)
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • A bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped finely


  • In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions and celery for about 3 minutes until soft.
  • Add the bone broth and bring to a boil.
  • Add the garlic, potatoes and bouquet garni
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Bring to the boil then cover and reduce the reduce the heat to allow the soup to simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring from time to time
  • Then using a stick blender, puree until smooth and creamy.
  • Pour into bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped parsley

Some like it hot!

I am always trying to get my clients to stop eating processed foods. But I also recognise that most of us live in the real world, not in the perfect world of the gorgeous-looking, young healthy-food bloggers.

It's often a struggle to get most of my clients to take a lunch break at all, let alone one that involves making from scratch a rainbow salad with ethically-sourced meat or fish.

So we must do the best we can. One of my regular clients proudly showed me her hastily-purchased supermarket lunch. It consisted of a ready-mixed salad with lots of goodies, a bag of mixed pumpkin and sunflower seeds to sprinkle on it (so far so good) and a packet of hot and spicy chicken breasts. I looked at the list of ingredients for the hot and spicy sauce with dismay. There were over 40 ingredients, most of them unpronounceable, many of them ending in -ose, indicating lots of sugar, plus several different types of processed fats. In short nothing that I would want to eat and nothing that I would call real food and all of which will play havoc with our hormones

My well-meaning client, in an attempt to be healthy was inadvertently stuffing herself with nasty chemicals that were not going to promote great health. When I pointed this out to her, she said that she loved spicy foods and found plain pre-cooked chicken too bland.

Now I have nothing against spicy food. As well as being warming and rich in anti-oxidants, spicy flavours like chilli can really help to boost our mood if we are feeling a bit down or a bit bored (common enough at this time of year!). So I suggested she substitute her spicy chicken pieces for pre-cooked (ideally free-range and organic) plain chicken breasts and make her own spicy sauce to keep in the office. This could be as simple as almost filling a small glass bottle with some good quality olive oil and putting a few roughly chopped chillies into it to infuse. This can last for ages, as you can keep topping up the oil.

Alternatively, try frying a finely chopped red onion on a low heat with a little sea salt until soft. Allow to cool then add to a few chopped chillies, a clove of garlic, a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, the juice of a lime and about 4tbsp of olive oil. Blend until smooth and keep in the fridge at work in a jam jar, ready to pour over your salad, beans, veggies, chicken or fish. It'll last about 5 days, providing a week's worth of good, natural spice.

Bon appetit!

Immune-boosting, gut- healing apples

Stuck for something delicious to eat on these cold winter mornings? Why not try my delicious super stewed apples?

Not only does it taste amazing but it can do amazing things to your body too:
boost your immune system so you should getter fewer colds and flus
reduce inflammation, which means less back ache, headaches, stiff joints
better digestive function, so less bloating, gas and constipation
improve your mood and let's face it, who doesn't need a bit of a lift at this time of year?
it might even help with weight loss

Whilst dried fruits can be rich in vitamins and minerals, they are also super-high in sugar, so I don't usually recommend eating them on their own as a snack. But when you combine them with some fabulous fibre, a bit of protein and a healthy helping of blood-sugar balancing cinnamon, you end up with a bowl of nutritiously-dense deliciousness that will give your immune system a super-boost that will help to keep you well all winter.

  • Take about 10 ripe apples and give them a good wash. Ideally choose a variety of different types and colours in order to get the widest range of nutrients
  • Chop them into small pieces and discard he core and pips, but keep the skins on
  • Put the pieces into a saucepan and cover with a couple of mugfuls of water.
  • Add a tablespoon of cinnamon powder and some dried fruits, such as goji berries, blueberries, cherries and figs.
  • Place on the heat, bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the apples have gone all mushy.
  • Then mix in a tablespoon of seeds, such as sunflower, pumpkin, chia, flax, sesame and a large handful of almonds
  • Serve warm or cooled

I always make this in bulk, as you can freeze it and it makes a wonderfully nutritious pudding
as well as a delicious breakfast.

Bon appetit!


Our Oh-So-Tired Adrenal Glands

We have been working so hard to hold our own in the work place, to raise our children, to be perfect wives and fabulous lovers and frankly it's taken its toll. The pressure to do those things and fulfil those roles to the best of our ability has required our little adrenal glands to produce increasing amounts of the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol and DHEA, and frankly they are tired out!

When we come to look at the most common symptoms of chronic stress we will see that they are frighteningly similar to the classic symptoms of The M Word. Whilst I am absolutely certain that stress contributes to the severity of our menopausal symptoms, I am starting to wonder if, in fact, the primary cause of these symptoms might actually be stress, which has then been made worse by declining levels of oestrogen and progesterone. Adequate levels of oestrogen and progesterone would have mitigated some of the effects of stress before menopause, except in the run up to menstruation when the severe drop in both these hormones cause some of us to be anxious, irritable, depressed, inflamed, have hot flushes, heart palpitations and insomnia. Hang on, that sounds familiar…

Your hormones work together in your body, which means that if you have one or more hormones out of balance, the other ones are unlikely to be in perfect harmony, either. In the years leading up to menopause, our ovaries begin to reduce the amount of oestrogen and progesterone they make. If this production declines at a gentle pace, we should suffer only minimal discomfort. But if hormones fluctuate rapidly we are likely to have more severe symptoms. Keeping our stress levels as even as possible will help us to keep our stress hormones balanced which in turn will help to reduce the big swings in oestrogen and progesterone levels that cause most of the uncomfortable M Word symptoms.

In coming weeks I will be suggesting various ways that we can support our adrenal glands and therefore hopefully ease some of the unpleasant symptoms of menopause - what I am going to call the M Word Prescription. Here's the first piece of advice:

The M Word Prescription #1
In order to maintain healthy levels of cortisol it is essential that we learn how to relax. The single best remedy for restoring adrenal fatigue is rest - take some time away from the things that our stressing you, get plenty of sleep, plenty of rest, fun and laughter. Never underestimate the therapeutic value of a romcom!!!

Check here regularly for updates or better still follow me on Twitter @theMwordwoman.

Remember, you know that you are not going mad, you do not have a disease and this is most definitely not the end of sexy, cool you!

Chick Pea and Coconut Soup

Here is the PERFECT winter soup - it'll keep you warm, balance your hormones, boost your immunity and improve your seasonal SADness. And it is absolutely delicious!!!

  • 2 onions
  • 2 400g tins of chick peas
  • 2 cloves of garlic, 2 celery stalks and 2 carrots
  • 500ml of vegetable stock
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 dried chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil or coconut oil
  • 5 stalks of purple sprouting broccoli (or other green-leafed vegetable)
  • Ground almond flakes (toasted)

Roughly chop the onions, celery and carrots and put them in a heavy-bottomed pot.
Cover with a generous splash of olive oil, or coconut oil and heat up until things start to fry and then turn down and cook for about 10 minutes until the onion is soft and transparent.
Add in the garlic and spices, give everything a good stir and cook for a further minute.
Drain and rinse the chick peas then add to the pot stirring everything together.
Add the stock and bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for a further 5 minutes (add more water if necessary).
Take off the heat.
When the liquid has cooled down a bit, using a hand-blender whizz everything until it's fairly smooth (it doesn't have to be puréed) then add the coconut milk and bring back to the heat warming gently - make sure that you stir occasionally so that it doesn't catch and again, add more water if needed.
Meanwhile, chop the broccoli into small pieces, put in a small pan, add a drop of olive oil
Cover the pan and heat rapidly.
The broccoli will spit and  pop lots, so keep stirring until the leaves start to brown. 
At the same time, toast the almond flakes.
Serve the soup, tip some broccoli onto the surface and finish with the almonds.

Bon appetit!


The best foods for winter wellness

The long, cold winter is a common time for us to get sick. As well as dealing with the after-effects of over-indulging throughout the festive season, the cold and the darkness leave us more susceptible to cough and colds and sometimes low mood and depression. So what can we do to help ourselves?

We need to make sure we are getting plenty of foods high in anti-oxidants include green tea, turmeric, bright-coloured fruit and vegetables such as cherries, berries, beetroot, sweet potato, spinach and tomatoes will help protect us against viruses.  They are also really anti-ageing! My take on the '5 a day' message is to encourage you to try to eat 5 different colours of fruit and vegetables every day. This will ensure you get a wide range of anti-oxidants and they will also look gorgeous on your plate and make you feel happy!

Give your liver a little boost to flush out those toxins that may be making you feel a bit sluggish by eating good quality protein such as fish, poultry, lean meat, eggs, hormone-balancing pulses, whole grains, nuts and seeds. The liver's absolute favourite foods are cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, beetroot, garlic, onions, lemon and eggs, so make sure you have some of these every day. You also want to make sure you drink at least 2 litres of water every day and eat plenty of soluble fibre, which binds to toxins and excess hormones to eliminate them from the body. Foods high in soluble fibre include apples, pears, sweet potatoes, beetroot, oats, flaxseeds.

To keep the body warm, make sure you eat plenty of hot food, such as soups, stews and home-made curries made with vegetables and lentils and chick-peas. Curries are great because the classic curry spices turmeric, chilli, cardamom and ginger all have a wonderfully warming effect on the body as well as supporting our immune system.

And even though it's cold out there, do try to get your body moving There are very few 'bad' things that we can do to ourselves that won't be made better by exercising. But you don't need to punish yourself at the gym (unless that's your thing). Choose things you really enjoy - a lovely walk in nature with your loved ones or a good boogie while you are doing the house work will do just as well.

Happy New Year!

THE M WORD* *Menopause Advice for sassy, cool women

For many women, approaching the menopause is a daunting prospect - hot flushes, night sweats, thickening waistlines, facial hair and incontinence pants. It may feel like an inevitable disease that creeps up on us in little stages, causing us to question everything we though we thought we know about ourselves.

This is very pertinent for me. I am 49 and quite astounded at how little many women of my age understand about what their bodies are going through. And although there are already heaps of books on the market on the subject of menopause, none of them seemed to talk to me and my friends. 40- or 50-something women in the 21st Century are not easily categorised. We are among the first generation where almost all of us had careers (as opposed to just jobs). We have battled to hold out own in the workplace and are not prepared to settle into our dotage defeated by our biology.

So as well as working with my clients to help to demystify it all, I am also working on writing a book to explain what the menopause is and to give you all the tools you need to navigate through it and come out the other end looking, feeling and being the most amazing version of yourself you can be. But as the book may not be ready for me and my friends. Besides, we shouldn't wait until we are actually displaying horrible menopausal symptoms. It's never to late or too early to start making some simple diet and lifestyle changes that can help us ease our way through the menopause still feeling amazing. so I have started a blog called The M Word. Check here regularly for updates or better still follow me on Twitter @theMwordwoman.

Remember, you know that you are not going mad, you do not have a disease and this is most definitely not the end of sexy, cool you!

Do we really need to Eat Organic?

I get asked this question a lot.

The short answer is that I believe we should always buy the best quality food we can afford. The best quality food will be whole foods reared or grown ethically in good soil with as little industrial or chemical intervention as possible. By definition, organic food will probably come closest to this ideal, although there are some amazing farmers and growers who adhere to these principles without getting Soil Association accreditation, so don't automatically write of the guys at the farmers' market whose produce is not "organic".

Many of us are on a tight budget these days too, so don't have the luxury of only eating organic food. So how do we prioritise?

With meat, "organic" could mean that the animals lived on a diet of organically-grown grains, which doesn't produce he healthiest livestock and so doesn't produce the healthiest meat. I would look for out for "grass-fed" meat and dairy and "organic free range" poultry. If you find this too expensive, I would just eat a bit less of it. "Organic" fish is farmed fish, so you would be better off opting for "line caught" instead.

But for me, eating plenty of vegetables and fruit is really important however they are grown. Saying that, some conventionally grown produce will retain more pesticides on them than others. We call the worst offenders the "dirty dozen" and these are the ones that we should buy organic if we can:

  • apples
  • celery
  • strawberries
  • peaches
  • spinach
  • imported nectarines
  • imported grapes
  • sweet bell peppers
  • potatoes
  • blueberries
  • lettuce
  • kale
However if you can't buy organic ones, add a bit of organic apple cider vinegar to the water you wash them in and that can help get rid of some of the pesticide residue.

The "clean 15″ are fruits and vegetables less likely to have a huge build-up of pesticides, so buying organic ones of these is less important:
  • onions
  • sweet corn
  • pineapples
  • avocado
  • aubergine
  • asparagus
  • peas
  • mango
  • melon
  • watermelon
  • kiwi
  • cabbage
  • sweet potatoes
  • grapefruit
  • mushrooms
The most important ingredient with whatever you eat is pleasure - don't underestimate the health benefits of taking time to enjoy truly yummy food!


From the Urban Naturopath's Garden

I have been advocating for many years the health benefits of reconnecting with Nature. For me, living in central London, that has meant spending as much of my free time as possible in the various parks, heaths and commons that punctuate the urban sprawl. I am practically on first name terms with the geese and ducks in my local park.

Another strong connection with Nature is through the choosing, preparing, cooking and consuming of whole foods, who pass on to us their energy derived from pastures, soil and, ultimately, the sun.

But until now, I haven't really tried to grow my own food. I have a garden, admittedly a very  small one, in which I love to sit and read and think. But Carl is the one with the green fingers, lovingly tending to the ferns, shrubs and bushes. We do have some edible plants too - pots containing all my favourites herbs as well as a tayberry and myrtle which provide us with a couple of bowls of delicious berries every week from mid summer through to September. And we have a fig and a gooseberry bush too, although in the last ten years these have yielded a grand total of two figs and three gooseberries.

But I suddenly have an overwhelming desire to grow some vegetables myself. What better is there of knowing the provenance of one's food that having been the one to grow it? I long for the opportunity to decide what to make for dinner based on what is presenting itself in my own garden as being ripest and tastiest, knowing that I had a part to play in their existence.

But I am no gardener. Worse than that, I have a huge handicap which has always held me back - a pathological fear of worms! I know it's irrational, it's a fear I have had since childhood. As a five or six year old, I once screamed the house down when I saw a huge and very straight worm on the floor of my dad's garage. It turned out to be a screw! And more recently I was pinned to a chair with my feet up for three hours, before I could be rescued, after one of the cats brought in a wormy present. I am not alone in this phobia. Apparently Dame Judi Dench is a fellow helminthophobe and my friend Fi can't even say the 'W' word. Anyway, you can see why this might hamper my ambitions as a gardener.

But I am a great believer in facing one's fears, so yesterday I went to the garden centre and bought gardening gloves, compost and some bags of seeds. And today, I spent the morning sowing - radishes, rocket, pumpkins and courgettes. And as I was starting everything off in pots, I didn't see a single you-know-what - so far so good!

In the meantime, I am continuing to eat vegetables from the market and from my Abel & Cole box, which, despite the hard winter and very late spring, I am delighted to see filled with gorgeous seasonal asparagus, which have really cheered up my breakfast eggs.


The Great Easter Egg Dilemma

Easter is nearly upon us, and for those of us who prioritise our health and try to make wise food choices, this can be a difficult time. I'm talking,of course, about the great Easter Egg dilemma - to eat or not to eat?

Let me try to help you decide...

Firstly, let's talk about anti-oxidants. You've probably heard that chocolate contains antioxidants, so it must be good for you, right?

This is tricky one… Yes, there is plenty of research showing that chocolate contains catechins and phenols which may be protective against heart disease and some cancers. However my feeling is that you'd probably have to eat quite a lot of it before you got enough active phytochemicals, and in so doing you would have ingested conisderable amounts of sugar, milk and caffeine. You are better off eating lots of bright coloured fruit and vegetables and drinking green tea to get your antioxidants.

Saying that, I am a great believer in having a little bit of what you really fancy from time to time. I also believe in the powerful benefits of eating as celebration, especially when surrounded by the people we love and who nourish us emotionally. So a small piece of good quality chocolate at Easter isn't going to do you much harm, (providing you can tolerate it)and if it makes you happy, then it has to be good. Good nutrition shouldn't be about depriving ourselves of the things we love to eat.

But the type of chocolate you eat does make a difference. Ideally, choose organic, dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids) as this contains less sugar, no dairy and its richer taste means you are less likely to eat too much of it.

Chocolate can cause an imbalance in your blood sugar which can lead to your feeling tired and probably craving more sugary or starchy foods. One of the reason that many of us crave something sweet mid-afternoon is that our blood sugar starts to dip at this time following its rise at lunchtime. I would therefore advice that you have chocolate at the end of a meal and that you make sure your meal contains protein, as this will slow down the release of the sugar into your blood stream. An alternative would be to have a small high-protein snack such as a handful of almonds or walnuts before you have a bit of choc.

Most importantly make sure you enjoy it and really savour the flavour. Make it a ritual of pleasure and never use it as a compensation for unfulfilled emotional needs.
Happy Easter!

The Food-Life Balance

Is your so-called 'healthy diet' getting in the way of your life? Or is your hectic lifestyle stopping you sticking to your diet? We hear a lot these days about trying to get the right work-life balance, but I want to suggest that you take a look at your food-life balance.

In the last month I heard a colleague say she couldn't go out to lunch to celebrate a friend's birthday because she was worried she would be tempted to break her diet. And a  friend told me that at a drinks reception at a swanky restaurant she didn't eat any of the nibbles because she couldn't work out the Weight Watchers' points. Instead she stuck to having 3 glasses of Chardonnay (5 points each).

Both these stories make me feel very sad. What is the point of being slim if the effort to get us there prevents us from experiencing the joys that life brings - like celebrating birthdays and savouring the miraculous creations of a Michelin-starred chef? In a plethora of studies about people who stay healthy into very old age, the common denominators that always crop up are having a good social network, being interested in the world around you and having fun. Good health is not just about calories and carbs!

On the other hand, I have many people in my practise saying that they were doing really well on their healthy eating plans until their boss shouted at them, their boyfriend forgot their 7-week anniversary, the photocopier jammed or some other everyday disaster. Then they spiraled downwards into a frenzy of carbohydrates, fags and booze.

Life can be stressful. But rather than seeing stressful events as a valid reason to sabotage our health, we should see them as signs that we need to be extra kind to ourselves. When we are stressed our requirement for nutrients increases dramatically. At the same time, our circulating blood sugar will be high, as the adrenal glands stimulate the liver to release stored glucose in anticipation of a fight or flight situation. So the last thing we need is to overload our system with a tub of Ben & Jerry's.

Healthy eating is about living in the moment - not avoiding the moment by either not turning up or by numbing ourselves with food. Healthy eating is a daily practise. It's about saying to yourself 'what can I do right now to make me feel as good as I possibly can?'. And the answer might be going out and having a laugh with my friends even if it means eating pizza, but I'll order a salad with it. It might be trying a bit of everything from the tasting menu at Le Manoir, because I may never get the chance again. Or it might mean stopping of at the supermarket on the way home from a hideous day at work and choosing to buy some bright coloured vegetables, nourishing spices and some grass-fed organic lamb to make my granny's special shepherd's pie recipe.

That's what I mean by food-life balance.

To make One Large Shepherd's Pie (with love).

For the base you will need: 2 carrots, 1 beetroot (raw), 1 large onion, 200g organic minced lamb, 1 200g tin of chopped tomatoes, 400ml vegetable stock (or water if you don't have any), 1 tbl tomato purée, bay leaf, 2 tsp fresh thyme, ground pepper, 1 tbl flour (can be gluten free), splash of olive oil. 1 deep cooking pot.

  • Put a few good splashes of olive oil into the pot and bring the heat up to medium. Finely chop the onion and add. Cook for a few minutes.
  • Dice the carrots and beetroot (keep the skin on but trim the roots) and add it to the pot. Fry for a further 5-10 minutes until the onion is clear stirring as you go.
  • Add the minced lamb, stir in and cook until it is no longer red - about 5 minutes.
  • Add a tbl of flour and stir thoroughly, then add the tomato purée and do the same.
  • Pour in the tin tomatoes and the stock (or water). Add the bay leaf, the thyme and pepper and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes checking occasionally that it doesn't stick to the base, add more water if needed. Remove from the heat. (If you are not going to cook straight away it must to cool completely before being put in the fridge or freezer.)
Set the oven to 190 degrees, or 175 degrees fan.

For the topping Potatoes are traditional but for a change try Swede, Butternut Squash and Parsnips! You will need: 1.5kg mix of Parsnips and Swede, a knob of butter, a splash of milk, 1 tsp ground cumin, pepper and salt.
  • Trim the roots off the parsnips, and peel the butternut squash and swede. Chop roughly into cubes and add to boiling water. When the water boils, bring down the heat (unlike potatoes which will need to be in boiling water) and cook until a knife goes in with just a little resistance.
  • Drain, return to the pot and add the butter, milk, pepper, salt and cumin. Mash.
It's now time to put everything together.
  • Pour the base into a baking dish (30cm x 20cm x 5cm) and remove the bay leaf.
  • Spoon the topping on the top sealing the edge first and working inward until covered. Using a fork make ridges into the surface (this will give you more crispy bits!) and brush a little milk over.
  • Put in the centre of the oven on some foil for spillage and cook for 35-45 minutes, the top should be nicely brown.
Serve with seasonal green vegetables.


Beat the post-Christmas Blues with a Gentle Detox


So, the silly season is over. The left-over turkey has been made into a delicious curry and is in portion-sized Tupperware in the freezer. The last of the Christmas veg have been made into soup. And the naughty stuff that you only eat (in excess) at Christmas is a distant memory.

So what's left? Bloating? Red or puffy eyes? Lethargy? Listless-looking skin? Achy joints? Fun that it was, maybe all that over-indulgence has taken its toll.

So why not take put an extra spring in your step and shake off the post-Christmas blues by trying a mini detox?

There is always debate in medical circles about the benefits of doing a detox. I know many doctors think the liver (the main organ of detoxification) is perfectly capable of ridding the body of toxins without any special support. I personally am not a fan of full-on detoxes, unless under the supervision of a doctor and I think the liver is the most amazing organ that can deal with almost all the rubbish we throw at it.

But I also believe that we can give it a bit of a helping hand every now and then, especially if you are feeling a bit sluggish or bloated. At the same way, we can prepare our bodies for growth and development for the year ahead.

But we don't need to spend a fortune on commercially-packaged detox kits. All we really need to do is reduce the body's exposure to nasty toxins and at the same time bump up our intake of liver-supporting nutrients to help the liver in its amazing work.

Just follow these easy steps for a week or two and watch your energy levels surge, your skin glow and your soul be filled with a sense of wellbeing:

Reduce your toxic load as much as possible by limiting your exposure to:

  • Processed food, deep fried foods, animal fat, alcohol, caffeine
  • Foods that commonly produce intolerances: dairy, wheat, sugar
  • Avoid smoking or smoky environments
  • Avoid non-essential pharmaceutical drugs
  • Keep your house well ventilated, especially whilst using household cleaning materials
Increase liver-supportive foods
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnip
  • Beetroot, radish
  • Garlic and onions
  • Lemon
  • Soluble fibre, which binds to toxins and excess hormones to eliminate them from the body
  • Foods high in soluble fibre include apples, pears, sweet potatoes, beetroot, oats, flaxseeds
  • Foods high in anti-oxidants such as green tea, turmeric, ginger, bright coloured fruit and vegetables such as cherries, berries, beetroot, sweet potato, spinach and tomatoes
  • Proteins, especially fish, eggs, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds
Support your other organs of elimination to take some of the pressure off the liver
  • Support your skin by dry skin brushing, taking alternating hot and cold showers and avoiding hygiene and beauty products containing harmful chemicals.
  • Support your lungs by taking regular steam inhalations with essential oils of tea tree or thyme and taking time to breathe deeply several times daily, ideally outdoors in nature
  • Get plenty of sleep. Our bodies clear toxins throughout the night so try to get to bed by 10pm every night.
  • Drink plenty of water. Aim for at least 2 litres a day and to add variety, why not try some wonderfully cleansing teas like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, liquorice, fennel, mint, dandelion or nettle?
  • Get twisting. Gentle twisting stretches help to increase blood flow to the liver.
  • A 20-minute lie down with a hot water body over your liver can do wonders as well.
  • Try to walk in nature every day, even if only for a few minutes.

A little warning: While detoxing, even in this gentle way, you may find yourself more tired than usual, more emotional and with transient headaches. Don't panic, this is just the result of toxins being released. Simply drink more water, eat more green vegetables and take a nap

Happy New Year and happy detoxing!



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