sweet potato brownies


For a few especially frantic, especially sleep-deprived weeks now Pablo has been on school dinners instead of packed lunch. Apart from apparently being pretty "cool" when you're 4, school dinners seem to have this amazing power to send him home at the end of the day starving hungry and with such miserably low blood sugar that I have regularly considered selling him to the nearest circus rather than hear one more second of whinge. Maybe this is because every day seems to be pasta, sweetcorn and jelly? Who knows, but it was evident that I had to man up and start packing a lunchbox again. 

The worst bit about the lunchbox is the snacky bit. I don't like buying the palm-oil-filled overpriced kids' snacks from the supermarket, but I do love to bake…duh…so am always on the lookout for some kind of "healthy" treat that takes as little time as possible to whip up. I adapted this recipe from one by the insanely gorgeous Deliciously Ella, who is a goldmine of adventurous, nutritious ideas. And I promise these are totally yummy, and most importantly Pablo thought they were an actual brownie and felt like he was getting a really serious treat…when they are technically a health food. So, proceed….


Sweet Potato Brownies

2 medium sweet potatoes
2/3 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
14 pitted dates
4 tbsp raw cacao
4 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp coconut oil
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180C. Peel the sweet potatoes, cut them into chunks and steam them for about 25 minutes, until they are completely soft. Place them in a food processor with the dates and blend until smooth. 

Add all the remaining ingredients to a bowl and fold in the potato/date goo. Fully line a tin (I went for 10x10 and you wouldn't want any bigger or the brownies will be too thin, unless you double the recipe) with baking parchment and spread in your mix as evenly as possible. 


Bake the brownies for about 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out dry. Let them mostly cool in the tin before removing and chopping them up. For a bit of added glamour I painted them with a dry brush and some edible bronze lustre - this is always a good tip for making brownies more fancy! If you do so, do it before you cut them up or you'll be in a world of stress. 

Totally delicious, totally healthy…and also totally vegan, should you need that box ticked too. I might try adding some desiccated coconut next time… already planning a next time...

cookie monster



I've been being all January and taking a long, hard look at our eating habits. It's so easy with kids to slip into a routine where every meal is based around wheat and cow's milk, the two things we are supposed to try and have less of. Not to mention the horrible hidden sugar in everything from bread to baked beans. So it's been a month of learning new, quick recipes and making things from scratch, and actually it's been really fun. I got this fab Gwyneth Paltrow cook book, which is full of super fast, mega tasty family friendly meals and snacks. I must have made about 15 of the recipes so far and have yet to be disappointed. I know, I know, everyone loves to roll their eyes at Gwyneth - and she invites it, to a degree, with the inclusion of phrases such as "Like a prize, a perfectly ripe avocado emerged from Gwyneth's carry-on" errrm - but I bloody love her, especially for this book. Seriously. Try it. 

I've been loving the soups, the endless avocado and quinoa feasts, but sometimes you need a cookie. Especially if you are a hyperactive smalley. Or a little boy with a lunchbox. So today Indy and I baked up a batch of invented biscuits, and they were so completely delicious that I had to share… 

Raring to go...

Raring to go...

Monster biscuits

110g gluten-free plain or self raising flour (we use Dove's Farm)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
75ml coconut oil
3 tbsp raw honey
75ml maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
grated zest of half an orange 
50g oats
50g grated carrots
50g raisins
1 mashed banana

Mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl, and set aside. In a big bowl, mix the coconut oil, honey, maple syrup and vanilla. Try not to let your toddler eat it all at this stage - this is the most challenging bit of this recipe. Add the egg, the orange zest & mashed banana and give it a good mix.

Next add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until well incorporated. Then mix in the oats, raisins and grated carrot. Indy was pretty into pinching these out of the bowl too… Once all is mixed, add dollops (approx 1 tbsp) to a cookie sheet - ours is nonstick (but a bit haggard) and we didn't bother greasing it, which worked out fine.  Bake at 170C for 12 minutes, then place on a rack to cool. 

Having made this kind of "healthy" biscuit before, with varying degrees of success, I wasn't expecting them to be so incredibly tasty. They were soft and sweet and tasted like the best home made oatmeal raisin cookies I've had. And they were quick to make, and a fun activity with a crazy toddler. Hopefully Gwyneth would approve, too… 


And so, with back to school comes a return of the dreaded lunchbox. Another chore to add to the evening - or worse yet, morning - routine. In order to make the experience more of a challenge I tend towards obsessive health freakishness and insist on making life a thousand times more difficult by ensuring all snacks are home baked, no sugar allowed...and so on, until my head explodes. I so resent the overpriced, palm-oil filled, totally un-nutritious snacks so aggressively marketed to us mas, pas and kiddos, (and yes, this includes all the attractive organic carrot puffs and rice cakes) that I mostly refuse to buy them. The inevitable outcome is that I'm constantly caught short on the snack front, and there's only so many grapes, raisins and satsumas you can shovel down them. SO, on the off-chance I'm not alone in my predicament, I thought I'd have a stab at some easy, nutritious and lunchbox-friendly recipes. 



leftover risotto (of any flavour, though I used Beetroot - and the best beetroot risotto recipe in town is this one) 
an egg
breadcrumbs (you can buy these or stick some vaguely stale bread in the food processor)
Rapeseed oil, 500ml - 1 litre


So you've made a delicious risotto, yippee! But if you're anything like me you have made a bit too much to be eaten at one sitting, but too little to feed the whole family another meal. We always end up with one small tupperware full, languishing in the fridge. Not any more... 

Arancini, which means "little oranges" in Italian, have got to be one of the least time consuming, most enjoyable ways to use up leftovers. Proper, traditional arancini back on their home shores tend to be stuffed with ragu or mozzarella, and you are very welcome to do so too, but regular old balls of any kind of risotto are just fab. The risotto is best if it's been left in the fridge overnight to get really stodgy. Heat oil to 170-190 degrees (best if you have a thermometer to check, but if not then give it about 5 mins and then chuck a breadcrumb in and make sure it sizzles instantly.) Then you simply roll the risotto into little balls, dip them to coat with beaten egg, roll them in breadcrumbs and deep fry. The whole process takes no longer than ten minutes, and is nice and quick to tidy up. 

Considering they are filled with parmesan-smothered rice, these are understandably bloody delicious hot, but they are fantastic cold in a lunchbox too. Nice and filling, nutritious and reliably devoured. Even Indiana polished them off, and she likes to attempt survival on milk and bananas alone. And apart from the bit in direct contact with sizzling hot oil, they are a great one to make with kids, who love smooshing the rice into balls...or any shape they like!