Naked attraction, the new black mirror? Huevous rancheros with elderflower beans and pistachio pesto


2016. The year when black mirror becomes reality? Since David Cameron’s pig fetish was unearthed last year, everything that’s followed since has closely resembled Charlie Brooker’s dystopian future. Between Brexit, the rise of ISIS, Trump’s potential presidency and an array of celebrity deaths, this year has felt like an extended, shared nightmare. Saturated with cynicism, I naively believed that nothing could more could shock me this year.

But alas, my naivety was shattered on Monday when I innocently flicked on the TV to be unwillingly presented with five perfectly waxed vaginas, waiting for me to judge them. Channel 4’s new dating show, Naked Attraction, shows contestants an array of sexual organs and the lucky man or women chooses their potential life partner based on their pale, shrivelled naked bodies. No, Naked Attraction is not a dark prediction of what reality TV could become, dreamed up by the sick mind of Charlie Brooker. It’s a genuine dating show that has become the reality of TV (although it does closely resemble that Black mirror episode where people have to cycle all day on exercise bikes to earn money so they can enter an X-factor style competition to become a pornstar… but I’m starting to think the real-life version is sicker and more damaging).

That’s right folks, young men and women choose a date based solely on what their potential partner’s genitals look like. This is being shown on one of the nations most popular channels at 10pm on a Monday night, arguably one of the most watched time-slots. How this was given the go-ahead, I have absolutely no idea. The only logical explanation is that Channel 4 are gunning for the title of worst TV show ever, in the hopes of following in the footsteps of The Room and developing a cult following. Apart from instead of throwing spoons at the telly, will followers ironically throw their clothes and watch nude in solidarity? Who knows. In this horrifying year, I wouldn’t be surprised.

There are many things about this show that triggered a wild rage within me, but I’ve somehow managed to narrow down the top 3 reasons why I think this is the worst thing ever to happen to TV, culture and 2016:

1.It’s fuelling our body image obsession. The current climate for body shaming and eating disorders is as bad as it’s ever been. Sure, we may have traded in fat shaming for skinny hating, as the obsession with thigh gaps and collar bones shifts into ‘healthier’ goals of washboard abs and toned butts, but we’re still evaluating people based on image. The message is the something we all feared but secretly hoped wasn’t true: how you look is paramount. When you air a show where guys write off women because of their weird big toe or women discount men due to their chest hair (or lack thereof), you’re sending the nation a message -all of your biggest insecurities aren’t just in your head; other people notice them and judge you for it. Those self-conscious days where you poke at all your flabby bits but reassure yourself that no one else can tell you’ve put on weight. When you stare at your big spot in the mirror for hours, trying to convince yourself that only you can see it.

This show plants seeds of doubt and worry, that inevitably grow into crippling self hatred and blossom into a full blown eating disorder. Both me and my housemate admitted we both went into a rooms and stares at ourselves naked in the mirror, wondering how we would be judged and if our bodies would be enough to win us a date. Though it’s stupid to be influenced by shitty TV, it doesn’t take a lot to trigger feelings of body insecurity. This show teaches its’ watchers that their ability to make people laugh, their intelligence, love for the outdoors, interests, hobbies and skills are all insignificant. Portraying an ideal body image not only causes us to question our looks and lose self- confidence, but it causes us to undervalue our positive traits. Naked Attraction undermines all positive body image campaigns that tell us to ‘love ourselves’, and highlights the intense focus on image. This will have scary consequences for a world already rife with disordered eating and image obsession. More conceptually, it confirms the sad fact that this is not an episode of black mirror. This is the reality of the superficial world we live in.

2. They are actually trying to palm the show off as an interesting ‘evolutionary experiment’. Channel 4 have said Naked Attraction is actually just an experiment to test whether or not we can rely on our primal instincts to find a suitable partner. Because up until now we had no clue whether we judged each other based on looks, right? In the real world, we evaluate a person holistically. Yes, of course we choose our mates based on sexual attraction, but this is made up of an array of overlapping traits such as their humour, morals and intelligence. Boiling down mate choice to one aspect of a person is not only dangerous, it’s scientifically inaccurate.  It’s pretty clear that the sole reason for producing this show was because it’s controversial nudity would reel in the views. Pretending to be future-thinking and liberal is embarrassing and disrespectful.  Don’t try to fool the public that you’re doing anything other than chasing the ratings by passing it off is science. That’s almost as stupid as using a song about rape as the theme tune.

3. THEY USE A SONG ABOUT RAPE AS THE THEME TUNE. Blurred lines, arguably one of the most hideously sexist songs that was banned from most University campuses has somehow creeped it’s way back as the theme tune for Naked Attraction.  I honestly have no words.

So if you’re thinking of watching Naked Attraction tonight, please think again. Let’s boycott this show and cook delicious food instead. This recipe is a twist of one of my favourite breakfasts/brunches/brinners. It’s easy to make and beautiful…on the inside and out.

Huevous rancheros with elder flower beans and pesto guacamole :


1 punnet tomatoes

3 roasted red peppers (jar)

1 red onion

1 chilli

1 handful parsley

1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. Finely chop all ingredients and mix together in a bowl. Season well with salt and pepper.

Pesto guacamole:

100g pistachios

1 bunch basil

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 avocado

2 gloves garlic

lime juice


1 tablespoon Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon honey

  1. Blend all together. Start with the pistachios, basil and olive oil to make a pesto. Then add the remaining ingredients. Season well with salt and pepper.


1 tin butter beans

2 tablespoon elder-flower cordial

1 teaspoon tahini

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

  1. Drain beans and cook them over a hob with a splash of oil until they start to split.
  2. Add in elder flower, tahini, salt, pepper and spices. Cook for a remaining 5mins until soft.
  3. Lightly mash before serving.

Tortilla (Can make them yourself very easily – recipe to follow next week!)

Fried egg (1-2 per person)

Thinly sliced radishes

  1. Fry one or two eggs per person ( crack onto a buttered hot pan, cover and leave for 3-4 mins.
  2. Compile onto a hot tortilla. I suggest beans first then egg, salsa and guac. Top with thinly sliced radishes for extra crunch.


Hair of the dog: Bloody Mary Pizza



Hair of the dog is normally an alcohol-based phrase (typically used as an excuse to drink copious amounts of bloody marys) but I think the mantra, ‘curing like with like’ applies to food as well. That’s not to say that you can counteract the feelings of a sugar low by eating more sugar, however lovely that world would be. What I mean is that one of the best ways to improve your relationship with food is by eating more. Contrary to popular belief, extreme restriction is not the best path to successful weight loss and a secure relationship with food. I’ve mentioned about fifty thousand times on this site that restriction sets you up to fail. But, as we all know, eating feels counter-intuitive after a big binge . You feel guilty, uncomfortably full and overcome with anxiety about how much weight you’ve gained. Everything is telling you to reverse the damage by skipping dinner. This is a thought-pattern I hear from so many women – that restricting is the best way to relieve that terrible sense of regret you feel after eating something ‘bad’. In reality, one bad day or a couple of over-indulgent meals are probably not going to have a huge effect on your weight. But the way we react to those unhealthier times WILL have a long-term effect on our relationship with food.  Failing to meet unrealistic goals of missing whole meals or eating tiny portions intensifies feelings of shame and guilt. A repetitive cycle of restricting and messing up eventually causes us to associate food with these feelings.

The best way to break this cycle is to stop restricting. By forcing yourself to eat three meals a day, even in the midst of a binge or slip up, you allow yourself to enjoy food without the guilt.

Recent health related diets have been preaching this very mantra. Joe Wicks (aka the Body Coach) prides his mantra –  ‘Eat better, eat more’ – on being able to eat as much as you like. ‘You can eat double those calories. It’s liberating; Wicks says 90% of the people who come to him are under eating: It’s so common for women to starve themselves before a holiday, for example. Some of them are barely hitting 900 calories.’ These people tend to yo-yo diet, and their weight fluctuates accordingly.  But as long as you’re eating a diet that is mostly unprocessed and nutritious, you can eat freely without having to restrict.

But I can’t stress how important it is to remember that the health food industry is still not void of restriction. A wonderful article by Ruby Tandoh (the hot, smart wonderwomen from GBBO) reminded me that ‘wellness doesn’t look that different from dieting’. What she means is that just because you are seemingly eating regular meals, doesn’t mean you aren’t still restricting your diet. You don’t have to literally starve yourself to restrict. Limiting your diet to only ‘good foods’ and punishing yourself for even thinking about a food laden with sugar, dairy and gluten is still a form of restriction. Just because someone manages to get in a full work out before 6am and eats a diet of soup, chia and bee pollen, it doesn’t mean that they are mentally, or physically, well. In many ways, orthorexia can be a scary disorder because it’s much harder to recognise someone’s mental struggle when all you can see is their seemingly ‘healthy’ behaviours.

As Ruby explains, following the wellness cult took her from from one unhealthy relationship with food to another. Why? Because wellness is still restriction.

So what’s the answer? Cure like with like. Eat both healthy and unhealthy food, both in moderation. Don’t overdo it with the cake, but equally, don’t overdo it with the quinoa flour (a lesson I learnt the hard way when creating this recipe). Use regular food intake, and regular consumption of both ‘bad’ and ‘good’ meals as a way to improve your relationship with food, and with yourself.

Though lifting restriction can be scary at first, eventually you’ll strike a healthy balance and allowing yourself to actually enjoy the foods you like.  You’ll probably notice that breaking the yo-yo dieting pattern will help to maintain a stable weight and help to facilitate a much more important change – one in your mental health.

While bloody marys might be an acquired taste (though I’m living proof that once that taste has been acquired there ain’t no going back), this sauce is not. The spicy tomatoes paired with acidity from the toppings, creamy cheese and doughy base is absolutely delightful. Makes for a pretty good vegan pizza too if you make it without the feta.



Bloody Mary Pizza:

Ingredients (makes 2)

240g Flour (You can use buckwheat, spelt, white or wholemeal. I used quinoa flour but it kinda tasted like semen so I wouldn’t recommend it….shouldn’t have listened to those ‘wellness goddesses’)

235ml water

teaspoon salt

Tablespoon olive oil

1 punnet of tomatoes

1 teaspoon horseradish sauce

Tabasco (add to your liking)

3 tablespoons Lea & Perrins

Handful spinach

5 mini gherkins

1 teaspoon capers

50g feta cheese

  1. For the base, mix the flour, water, olive oil and salt together to form a dough. Season well.
  2. Grease a baking tray and roll the dough out into a circle. Bake in the oven on a low heat (around 180) for 15-20 mins while you make the sauce.
  3. Roast the punnet of tomatoes in the oven for 10 mins.
  4. Blend 3/4 of the tomatoes with horseradish, Tabasco, Lea & Perrins, salt and pepper. The add the remainder of the tomatoes in and blitz very lightly to give the sauce some texture.
  5. Once the base is cooked, spread the bloody mary sauce on the pizza, followed by the spinach, gherkins, capers and feta.
  6. Cook in the oven for a further 5-10 mins, until done to your liking.

Why do kids eat better than us? Orange and chilli aubergine cake


This week, I went to a really thought provoking talk about breast feeding. I know it sounds odd, I wasn’t expecting to be interested either. But this very impressive researcher’s work shows that women who have poor body image and disordered eating tend to overfeed their new born babies. The more conscious you are of your own body and eating behaviours, the less likely you are to let your baby listen to their natural hunger signals and force them to eat more than they actually need.

At this period of our lives, our brains are more impressionable than ever. The first two years of life are where huge chunks of our personality and behaviours are determined, so the way our mothers interact with us during this time will shape our relationship with food for the rest of our lives. Many people don’t realise that overfeeding their babies is likely to disconnect children from their instincts, potentially causing irreversible damage to their ability to self-regulate food intake.

In a similar vein, The Guardian wrote an interesting article only children below the age of four possess the ability to stop eating when they’re full. That feeling when you’re stuffed from a big Chinese takeaway but you just keep on picking, or when you still crave chocolate after a huge roast? That behaviour is not innate; it’s a learned emotional response to food. We use food to make use feel happier or calmer, because being full allows us to ignore negative feelings.

It seems like there is a critical window of development in early life where babies use their internal signals to know when, how much and what to eat. Without social influence, we would continue to rely on these hunger signals to guide our eating behaviours  across our entire lives.

If that mechanism stayed in place throughout adult hood, I assume that there would be a lot less people over eating and obesity probably wouldn’t be the global epidemic that it is. However, with the influence of an anxious mother who insists that her child eat drink more milk that it actually wants, or early consumption of sugary, processed baby foods, kids quickly learn to ignore their own bodies and eat how society dictates.  The extent to which a child listens to their hunger signals will either strengthen or weaken the neural pathways that tell the brain when we feel hungry and full.

As the very wise Meri Leston explains, the things we say to children wil have an effect of them for the rest of their lives. When it comes to body image, the seeds of self-doubt can be planted all too easily.

‘Why is it that we can’t stop describing little girls pretty or little boys as strong. That’s just going to set them up for an expectation of disappointment ‘- Merri Leston, TED x Oxford.


It’s so important that we realise just how sensitive children are to the influence of adults, and how readily their eating behaviours can adapt. By encouraging kids to tap into their own natural hunger signals, we could hopefully prevent another generation of emotional eaters. Of course, in a time where body image issues are at their highest, and our relationships with food are more complex than ever, change feels impossible. But it starts with understanding why we’ve developed this maladaptive relationship in order to become aware of how we can stop from passing this down to future generations.

This week is a rich and wonderful cake which is made with a secret ingredient – aubergine. Don’t be put off, it still tastes chocolatey and sweet, the aubergine replaces flour making it gluten free and high in anti-oxidants, enjoy!


Chilli and orange, aubergine chocolate cake:


2 aubergines

300g 70% dark chocolate

50g cocoa powder

2 tsp baking powder

60g ground almonds

3 eggs

200g honey

1 orange (juice and zest)

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

  1. Cook the aubergines in a microwave for 8mins, until soft.
  2. Scoop out the insides and puree the aubergine in a blender or food processor.
  3. Add the chocolate, which will melt in with the aubergine.
  4. Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl.
  5. Fold the melted chocolate and aubergine mixture  with all the other ingredients.
  6. Grease a cake tin and pour the mixture in evenly.
  7. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes (make sure you check if it’s cooked through, if not give it another 5-10 minutes).
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool.
  9. Sieve cocoa powder an chilli flakes over the top of the cake to garnish. You can also cut some of the orange peel and twist it for a pretty orange swirl.

Just something is enough :crispy tofu with grapefruit and avocado and miso dressing:



People hate change. I think there’s a general consensus that healthy eating requires extreme change and absolute dedication. For this reason, many people don’t even bother trying. They’re put off by the idea that they’ll be forced to make radical changes and give up the things they love. But of course, nutrition isn’t so black and white. In reality, the difference lean and obese people isn’t as large as we would think. For example, eating a mere 200 extra calories a day adds up to an extra 73,000 calories a year. That’s just one sneaky mid-afternoon chocolate bar that can tip you way over your recommended daily allowance.

So the eating behaviours that separate people who are healthy and overweight aren’t drastically different. This is actually good news if you think about it. To lose a bit of weight and go from overweight to healthy, you really only have to make small dietary changes to see large effects.

This is demonstrated by a recent study that shown eating more beans, without changing any other aspects of their diets, helped people lose weight. I’ve made no attempt to hide my love of pulses, particularly chickpeas. Now science has furthered this obsession by revealing that eating one portion of beans or pluses a day can lead to weight loss. Importantly, the weight loss is long-term, meaning that it doesn’t get piled back on after a few months. Yes they actually do clinical trials where they get people to eat a portion of beans every day and see what happens. Now that sounds like a wonderful thing to make money. If anyone reading this is recruit for these mysterious bean-trials, please send an application my way.

I’m not trying to claim that the world’s weight-related issues can be solved by eating more beans (plus, who knows what that would do for the methane levels), but it’s interesting that such a small change in diet can have such a positive effect.

So don’t be put off when you hear someone mention of ‘clean eating’ or ‘raw til four’. Healthy changes don’t mean you have to become a juice-loving yogi who eats activated cashews, cucumber for lunch and spends the majority of her life pretending she doesn’t want to eat cheesecake. Contrary to how Instagram’s version of a ‘healthy lifestyle’ it’s portrayed, you are can still eat cheesecake and still be perfectly healthy. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, just something is enough.

I’ll been out of action for a couple of weeks as I’m going to Peru with Understory, a food/science/art start-up I help to run. We’re going to film a ‘Chocolamentary’ in the secret farms of the World’s rarest cocoa bean. As you can imagine, I’m super excited to learn more about the process of how chocolate is grown and generally be around chocolate for a couple of weeks. As a parting gift I leave you with this utterly delightful recipe.

I totally realise that there are no beans in this recipe, despite the content of this blog mostly involving me chattering on about them. Oh the irony. But it’s too delicious not to share. It couldn’t be easier to make, I pretty much just involves chopping some stuff and mixing a dressing. But don’t underestimate this lil guy, it’s honestly one of the best things I’ve made in a long while.


 Crispy tofu batons with grapefruit, avocado, radishes and miso dressing:

Ingredients (serves 3):

For the Tofu:

Tofu (we just homemade because my housemate is a wonderful human but you can just use bought silken tofu)

50g chopped nuts

2 rosemary sprigs

50g breadcrumbs handful breadcrumbs

100ml Olive oil

For the salad:

1 bag spinach

1/2 bag rocket

1  grapefruit

1 avocado

4 radishes (thinly sliced)

For the dressing:

1 tablespoon miso

1 tablespoon tahini

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 orange (zest and juice)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

  1. Cut the tofu into batons.
  2. Mix breadcrumbs with toasted nuts, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper
  3. Coat the tofu in the breadcrumbs.
  4. Heat a pan filled with oil and, once hot enough, fry the tofu for 3-4 mins.
  5. Remove when the tofu is crispy and pat down with kitchen paper.


  1. Chop up the avocado, grapefruit and radishes.
  2. Mix in with the spinach and rocket
  3. Make a dressing by whisking tahini, miso, soy sauce, lemon juice, honey, orange zest and juice. Season well.
  4. Mix the dressing with the salad and sprinkle any leftover chopped nuts and breadcrumbs to serve.

Why does food make us feel stuff? Vegan white bean chocolate-chip cookies.



Ever eat a piece of of your favourite chocolate and genuinely feel happier after? Or felt a little homesick after cooking your mum’s signature dish? What about that blissful calming feeling that washes over you when you take that first sip of tea after a non-stop crazy day? These are just a few examples of our emotional connection to food but I can probably go on for longer than you’d care to read.

I think in general our generational obsession with food is largely because the experience of eating is ground in deep emotions.

It’s particularly interesting that when de constructed into separate ingredients, food is relatively meaningless.  Chomping on a stick of butter alone isn’t pleasurable. But the combination of flavours, ingredients and cooking processes that go into a buttery flaky croissant dipped in a steaming cup of coffee is bloomin’ delicious.   This occurs because our cerebral cortex, that part of the brain that does the more complex humany bits,  takes the single flavours and combines them into a unifying experiences that is immensely pleasurable.

It makes evolutionary sense that eating would make us feel good. We need a reward to be motivated to engage in risky food-seeking behaviours. That reward is the firing of our dopamine pathways that generates intense feelings of pleasure.But our emotional connection with food goes a lot deeper that the sensory level. Eating trigger internal states of the mind and body, that go way beyond something simply tasting nice. Our senses have a huge influence on each other on but this isn’t the full story. Food goes through high-order processing in the amygdala, which is where we generate emotions.

It is thought that the reason eating also stimulates the amygdala because flavour and smell are perceived as having social significance. We use food as a social tool to share and provide for each other, symbolising one of our best qualities as a species – willingness to cooperate. Food stirs pleasure because of its sensual properties and reward value, which in turn conjures emotions because of it’s personal relevance to us.

But food doesn’t so much symbolize social bonds as much as it allows for a recreation of them. The reason for this is that the emotions held in food tell us stories from our pasts – in so many of my memories, happy or sad, food is present. I can pinpoint the moment I fully understood the enormous significance that food holds in a person’s life. It was when my father (a man who’s cooking repertoire starts and finishes with toast) tentatively asked me to help him make my grandma’s signature petal cake so that he and my grandpa could feel close to her. Both baking and eating that petal cake held unique memories for each of us; it’s reconstruction prompted hours of reminiscing, laughing and crying as we each recalled the anecdotes that dwelled within the chocolatey layers. But everyone has their version of a haphazardly made petal cake – a meal that has the power to trigger a lifetime of memories, which form the emotional narratives of our lives.

What I’m trying to say is that what maybe the reason food and cooking can be so emotional is largely due to this social aspects. When you are creating a dish for others of course you are replicating the sensory qualities, but importantly, you’re replicating desires, our memories and the field of emotional associations we have. People’s unique preferences or dislikes for certain foods are coherent with their experiences. So the beauty of  food doesn’t lie in the entity itself, but the memories, emotions and stories they represent.

I’ve chosen this recipe because it’s discovery genuinely gave me a brief moment of euphoria. Turns out you can bake with white beans instead of flour and it leaves a gooey moist cookie that’s full of protein. All you do is literally wizz the ingredients together and bake it for twenty minutes. It’s simple, delicious and healthy enough to make you feel all the feels.

Vegan white bean cookies (makes 12):


 1 400g tin white beans ( I used cannelini beans) N.B don’t throw away the liquid!

6 tablespoons liquid from the beans

125g (8 tablespoons) peanut butter

1 tablespoon baking powder

110g (8 tablespoons) honey

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

100g dark chocolate chips

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C.
  2. Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor (apart from the chocolate chips). All the beans should be mashed, it should resemble thick cookie dough.
  3. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Spoon a blob of dough onto a greased baking tray, flatten slightly with a fork
  5. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until the tops turn golden.
  6. Leave to cool fore 5 mins before enjoying! I recommend dunking in a strong cuppa.

Chocolamentary – Understory needs your help!

Sorry for the radio silence, it’s been a crazy busy few weeks. I’ve been working hard on at Understory, a food/art/science start up I help to run. We try to tell stories through food, mostly in the form of chocolate products.

In the last week, we’ve launched an indiegogo campaign to film a documentary, called Chocolamentary, about the World’s rarest chocolate bean. We are raising funds, through our products, to take a team of scientists and filmmakers to the secret farms in Peru where the world’s rarest cacao is grown. We will film a documentary with an experimental new drone that explores the challenges the farm faces and how, as a company, Understory can help.

The chocolate industry is going through a tough time at the moment, from disease to slavery, to deforestation. All that without even considering how climate change will impact chocolate. What does sustainability look like for the world’s rarest chocolate? We need your help to find out.

At Understory, chocolate is everything. To make sure it stays that way, we need to work closely with the farmers and contribute back.

Here’s the link to our campaign if you want to support us or just find out more:

We’re offering all of our weird and wonderful chocolate products to Indiegogo backers. Here are some of the rewards we’ve been working hard to develop these over the last year and they can only be purchased exclusively through this campaign:

Our first cookbook, ‘Hungerstory’, with multisensory recipes, illustrated by children’s author Alan Snow.CcYvYBIWAAAQ2Qw

Glittermouth – our first storytelling Marscarpone chocolate bar. It tells a story, through music, of a musician who tastes melodies.


Love Potion- an aphrodisiac hot chocolate with sciency glassware. Made with carefully selected natural aphrodisiacs that have been chosen to embellish the chocolate with flavour and a touch of magic.

A Stormjar lamp – a working thunderstorm in a jamjar with tea bags and specially composed music to help destress you.

storm jar

Or we can even turn your face into a chocolate bar made from the World’s rarest Chocolate.

But it’s not all about the money! Yes, we do need it (for obvious reasons), but whether you can support us financially or not you can help us by spreading the word via facebook, twitter and blogs.

Any support would be amazing. This film will raise awareness for the need for sustainability in the chocolate industry, and by participating, you can help make it happen.

Here’s the link again if ya want to check it out:

Exercise For Your Mind, Not Your Body: vegan butternut squash pancakes with harrisa and pesto.



It’s pancake day coming up, which means that once again, everyone embarks on another journey of self-improvement, vowing to finally conquer their demons over lent. It’s also about this time of year that many blogs and articles get quite preachy – ‘Give up Netflix and use your time to volunteer!’, ‘Give up eating chocolate to drop a dress size!’, ‘Stop having lie-ins and get your admin done in the morning!’. Don’t get me wrong, these are all reasonable goals that would be easily attainable if we were all perfect humans living in a world without temptation or idleness. But unfortunately we don’t, so meaningful change is not so simple.  The pressure to be a better version of yourself is higher than ever. But I’m going to try and suggest (in the non-preachiest way possible), something you can do over the lent for no-one but yourself – exercise. I’m not suggesting this for the purposes of weight loss, to tone your flabby bits or even to get physically fitter. I recommend exercise for one reason only, because the psychological effects are hugely beneficial. Honestly, I think exercise is one of the best things you can do, other than actual therapy, to help improve your mental state.

Being a food blog, most of the posts on The Thinking Kitchen revolve around cooking, eating disorders and our general attitudes to food. Although exercise and diet go hand-in-hand, I try to stay away from talking about fitness as I’m not really qualified to do so. This isn’t because I don’t have the right degree or training but because I’m an extremely lazy humanbeing who has spent the majority of my life happily lying around, with no want or need to exercise.

It’s taken me several failed attempts (and many elaborate excuses) to get into a proper fitness routine; first I spent a few days doing the ‘8-minute abs’ video, but announced that ‘the muscle pain was making it difficult to laugh, and laughter is way more important than having washboard abs’; next, I attempted to become a runner, but after a couple of weeks I convinced myself that I had developed an allergy to exercise because I was so unfit that I’d spend an hour coughing and spluttering post-run; after deciding that I couldn’t handle fresh-air, I tried swimming but quickly realised that this is the most boring form of exercise know to man and so I gave up three sessions in, when the monotony became too much. It’s safe to say that I’m a quitter. I envy those, like my marathon running sister and mother, who have the stamina of …well, a marathon runner. But I am simply not able to do things that I don’t enjoy. With perseverance levels of zero, I resigned myself to a horizontal life and vowed to exercise when I’m middle aged and really had to.

Sadly, this attitude to fitness in the norm. Half of all adults in the UK do absolutely no exercise at all. Two thirds of seven-year olds fail to meet the recommended amount of exercise, despite being at school where exercise is a legal requirement. Other than the fact that we’re an inherently lazy species, I think part of the reason is because exercise is branded as a negative experience, only performed in to counteract the effects of a poor diet. Although the new campaign to display the number of minutes required to burn off the food on the label might mean well, it really reinforces this negative perception of exercise. In reality, there are so many more benefits to exercise that extend way beyond simply burning calories.

I realised this myself after a year of seriously exercising when I became quite frustrated with my progress. Though my body shape had changed, I hadn’t lost any noticeable weight. No matter which type of exercise I tried or how many days in a row I got myself to the gym, my weight stayed the same. After some research, I found that exercise hasn’t proved to dramatically help with weight loss; instead diet is recognised as the key to success. Feeling slightly cheated and discouraged, I threw in the towel for a month and reverted back to a few weeks of sweat-free leisure. But weirdly, I missed it. Not because I felt unhealthy or guilty for stopping but because exercise had been keeping me sane. Without the outlet that exercise provided, my emotions had nowhere to go, leaving them to sit and fester.

Whatever the problem, there is a fitness tonic. On days when I feel low,  jumping around my room to an exercise video gives me a buzz that turns my mood on it’s head. One days when I have pent up anger, punching and kicking another person in a kickboxing class is a huge relief. On days when I feel anxious, an hour of focusing on nothing but my (lack of) flexibility in yoga is honestly the only time of the week when my thoughts switch off. And it’s not only beneficial for your negative emotions; there’s nothing that complement a good mood better then running around  playing Frisbee with your friends. In whatever form you enjoy the most, exercise is therapeutic. So don’t exercise for other people’s benefit or to ameliorate the guilt of eating, exercise for your mental health – because trust me, it can genuinely be a huge help.

On a final note, I’d like to emphasis that I’m definitely not suggesting that all your problems will go away if you just go for a jog.  I would always encourage seeking professional therapeutic help and completely understand that in the depths of a low period, exercise might be the last thing you want to do. But mental health is a life-long struggle; anything you can do to provide some relief is a powerful tool.

So, if you’re feeling up to it, have a go at exercising over lent. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, try different forms and figure out which works for you. Oh and have a happy pancake day! I think we’ve all got the sweet ones down by now so here’s a recipe for savoury pancakes. They’re made from butter-nut squash, making them vegan, dairy-free and sugar-free! This recipe is adapted from Go Stuff Yourself but made vegan (if you don’t add the feta).



225g all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoons harissa

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon tumeric

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tin chickpea water (or 2 eggs for non-vegan)

1 1/2 cups almond milk

1/2 red onion, diced and lightly caramelized

1/2 butter-nut squash, roasted and puréed

Toasted Harissa Seeds 

Cleaned seeds from 1 butternut squash

Cumin to taste

Harissa to taste

Salt to taste


1 tin chickpeas

3 tomatoes (roughly chopped)

2 cloves garlic

Handful coriander

1 lime

1 tablespoon tahini

Feta for crumbling

1 tablespoon pesto

  1. First cut the butternut squash in half and roast in the oven (skin side up) for about 30-40 mins, until soft
  2. Preserve the seeds and mix with olive oil, harrissa paste, paprika and cumin. Roast in the oven for 10 mins.
  3. While the squash is roasting, caramelise the onions in coconut oil.
  4. In a separate pan, lightly fry the chickpeas, chopped tomatoes, garlic, coriander, lime and tahini. Season well
  5. Once the squash is roasted, scoop out the flesh from one half and purée with the caramelised onions and a dash of almond milk in a food processor or blender.
  6. To make the batter, mix the purée with dry ingredients in a bowl, adding spices to taste and seasoning well.
  7. Add the wet ingredients and whisk until combined. The mixture should be quite thick, if it is too runny whisk in some more flour.
  8. Heat a pan with coconut oil. Once hot, pour batter into the pan – the batter is quite thick so you don’t need that much for each pancake. After 2-3 mins, flip to the other side with a spatula.
  9. Repeat until you’ve used all the mixture and have a nice stack of pancakes.
  10. To plate, pour the tomato/chickpea mixture over the top. Drizzle pesto and top with crumbled feta, coriander leaves and your toasted seeds.

Confessions of a Perpetual Grazer: ‘Shepherdless Pie’ with Sweet Potato Mash


I’ve been thinking a lot about meal patterns recently, mostly because I’ve been researching them, but also in terms of my own habits. I am a grazer. I think it was when I moved away from home for the first time that I stopped having set meals and started eating at random intervals throughout the day. With no set hour for lunch or family meal time, it’s easy to slip out of a regular eating routine and into a cycle of eternal snacking. Being a perpetual grazer makes self-control very challenging. With no restriction imposed on when or what you eat, you go through the day happily accepting any opportunity to shove food down your throat. If you’re reading this as a grazer who manages to successfully control their intake than I’m impressed, but for me grazing adds great confusion to my diet. It often means I’ll replace nutritious food with ready-to-eat snacks, such as crisps, nuts or cake. It also makes all foods acceptable to eat at any time of the day, allowing me to have a couple of squares of chocolate at breakfast time and grabbing a few handfuls of cereal before bed without recognising that it’s a super weird time to be eating that food.

This lack of restriction is dangerous and scary. Humans are comforted by routine and structure. In the Western food system’s current state, choice is already overwhelming and it’s all too easy to make unhealthy decisions. This obesogenic environment, combined with no restrictions on meal time or portion size is a recipe for weight gain and obesity-related health consequences. Similarly, it promotes a general feeling of loss of control, which in turn increases feelings of guilt and pressure.

The idea that we’re supposed to eat little and often rather than have three set meals a day is not actually backed up by convincing evidence. In fact, some studies have shown that it’s better to consume all calories in one big meal. The reason is insulin – having large peaks and drops in insulin is bad for your body – each time you eat your body secretes some insulin and then spends the next few hours managing this increase through homeostasis. Uncontrolled insulin levels cause inflammation which in turn leads to weight gain. Initially, researchers thought that constantly eating every few hours is the best way to keep insulin constant but recent evidence suggests that it’s better to alter your insulin as little as possible. This means the less frequently we eat, the better.

With this in mind, the newest recommendations are to eat one large meal a day – quite the opposite of how most of us eat in today’s society. This may be why the 5-2 diet is one of the most successful programs for people to lose weight, as it’s a couple of days a week where the body get’s a break from constant maintenance of insulin.

I suppose this reflects how humans must have eaten before we learned to store or preserve food. We would consume after a kill or forage and not eat again until the next hunt. Interestingly, domesticated animals have been shown to have worse health outcomes, potentially because of the human three-meals-a-day structure we impose on them.

But it’s not just the frequency with which we eat that is bad news for us grazers – it’s been shown that people consume less when following a set meal pattern. I often wonder how all of the food I pick at throughout the day would look on a plate together. It would probably be enough to shock me into following a perfect eating routine, however it’s never quite as easy as you think to change your dietary habits. The main thing I’ve found that has helped to control my grazing tendencies is cooking. While I do spend the entire process taking nibbles and trying bits as I go along, the enjoyment I get from cooking is a huge motivator to eat meals rather than snack. If you find yourself frequently forsaking meals for crisps and chocolate, try to plan a recipe, buy the ingredients and get excited about the prospect of cooking – this long-term gratification will hopefully help to prevent yourself giving in to the short term cravings.

This recipe is the perfect place to start. It’s a warm and comforting dinner that you can spend all day drooling over to help you resist picking out of the fridge as soon as you get home. Oh, and it just so happens to healthy and vegan! Credit goes to my kickboxing instructor who inspired the recipe and gave it the name – ‘Shepardless Pie’.


‘Shepherdless Pie’ with Sweet Potato Mash:


2 Sweet potatoes (cubed)

2 tablespoons almond milk

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 white onion (finely chopped)

3 garlic cloves

2 carrots (finely chopped)

2 celery sticks (finely chopped)

12 sundried tomatoes

250g mushrooms



1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 can chickpeas

100g dried green lentils

200ml veg stock (hot water & veg stock cube)


2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon lemon juice

  1. Add chopped onions, garlic, carrot, celery and dried coriander to a pan with a splash of olive oil. Keep on a low heat.
  2. After 10-15mins, or once the onions soft, add sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, parsley and thyme.
  3. After 10mins, add in lentils   and chickpeas and 200ml of veg stock. Season well. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10-15 mins.
  4. Meanwhile, boil the cubed sweet potato in salty water for 25mins, until soft.
  5. When ready, add 1 tablespoon oil oil, 2 tablespoons almond milk and mash. Once creamy, mix in nutmeg and cinnamon. Season well
  6. Pour the veg  mixture into an oven dish, spoon the mash over the top.
  7. Mix breadcrumbs, rosemary and lemon juice together. Scatter over the top of the mash. Season with salt and pepper.

AquaFABa: Vegan Meringues made from Chickpea Water


The last few weeks I’ve been pretty busy trying (and failing) to stick to my new years resolutions and focus on work, so blogging has been somewhat put on the back burner. But then I discovered something that was so life changing, the need to blog grew greater that the need to do any of the things I should actually be doing. This life changing substance is an ingredient that we’ve all been mindlessly throwing away – chickpea water, also known as Aquafaba .

Ellie, my house-mate, has a very convenient hummus addiction so we spend quite a lot of time draining chickpeas and other various beans (wild, I know). Being the party girls that we are, we spent Saturday night playing around with a whisk and some icing sugar. The results have blown our minds, sending Ellie and I into a frenzy of chickpea-mania.  So much so that we’ve successfully freaked out everyone who’s come over to our house by on rambling on about the endless possibilities of aquafaba while we clap with delight. It turns out that the best replacer for egg whites is the brine that we’ve all been laboriously draining away to get to the protein-filled balls of..chick? I recently realised I had no idea what chickpeas even were… a pea, a bean, a legume, a pulse? Food is confusing. But aquafaba is not. Aquafaba is oh so simple.

It’s interesting how a substance we’d previously given no thought what-so-ever can suddenly hold such a high value. This transformation from an irrelevant waste product to a critical ingredient may have been a minor change, but it represents how readily our preconceived notions about food can be altered. This really echoes the ideal behind ‘Nudges’ – that small changes in behaviour promote long lasting results. People generally don’t like change. It can be overwhelming, requires a great deal of willpower, a finite resource, and importantly, it feels abnormal. So rather than drastic and unsustainable diet plans that will inevitably fail, psychologists advise smaller, permanent changes. By replacing one item for a slightly more healthy option, such as honey for sugar or quinoa for rice, the change feels manageable and has a higher chance of success.  This doesn’t only apply to dietary changes, but any self-improvement across the board. Take the stairs instead of the escalator on the tube to work; procrastinate by doing the crossword instead of scrolling through Daily Mail; substitute coke for a cup of tea. With infrequent, almost infinitesimal steps, you can alter a lifetime of bad habits without even realising it.

I’ll wrap this one up now as I do realise that fawning over glorified brine doesn’t make for the most intellectual or enlightening blog post. So, without further ado, I present to you meringues made with chickpea water.

All you have to do is whisk the brine in the same way you would egg white and you get perfectly white and shiny meringues. Aquafaba, like egg white, really just provides the structure of a meringue and is masked by the added sugar and  I’ve since learned you can substitute egg whites with chickpea water for most recipes, meaning you can make vegan mayo, hollandaise, macaroons  pies and pretty much any baked good of your choosing. My next feat will be to try aquafaba ice cream. This does mean, however, that our house is now plagued with a high volume of opened tins of chickpeas. I’ll apologise in advance if next week’s recipe features an extortionate amount of chickpeas, I will most likely be too busy drowning in a vat of hummus to care.


Vegan meringues with peanut and chocolate filling:


1 tin (400g) chickpeas

8 tbsps caster sugar


4 tbsps peanut butter

1 tbsp cocoa

5 tbsps icing sugar

  1. Drain chickpea water into a bowl, set chickpeas aside (and use them in whatever recipe you desire).
  2. Whisk the chickpea water for 10-15 mins until stiff peaks
  3. Add sugar a little at a time
  4. On a baking sheet, spoon small circles circles of meringue.
  5. Bake at 120 C for 1 hr and 20 mins.
  6. Meanwhile, mix the filling ingredients in a bowl. Make sure to sieve the cocoa.
  7. When the meringues are ready, spread the filling between two equally sized pieces to make delicious vegan sandwiches!



Lettuce not believe everything we hear: Soy-honey glazed sprouts


1419748_10153907778509758_1502764207_nOnly a month a go I took to this blog to rant about bacon-gate, when the headlines simplified the finding of a correlation between processed meat and cancer into the definitive statement that bacon cause cancer. This week, the media managed to misinterpret research in such a ridiculous manner that I’ve been riled up yet again.  The latest ‘scientific finding’ is that a vegetarians diet is bad for the environment. Even the more reputable newspapers have been printed this story driving the internet wild with meat-eating trolls taking pleasure in blaming vegetarians for global warming.

Of course, the public, who are now probably proudly shouting this at their vegetarian friends across the dinner tables, excited to they finally have ammo with which to scorn them for eating lettuce, have almost definitely not read the paper.

The actual finding that has been so overly hyped is that certain vegetables, specifically lettuce, do have a higher environmental food print than some meats. But the researchers compared the environmental impact of three diets, none of which were actually vegetarian. What everyone seems to be missing is that vegetarians don’t eat only lettuce and actually probably eat a similar amount of lettuce to meat eaters. In reality, the average vegan or vegetarian will usually eat more grains, soy and beans, all of which use very low levels of environmental energy.  You can’t claim that the impact of lettuce is the same as all vegetables, in the same way that it’s wrong to claim that meat causes cancer when in fact, only processed meats have been associated with cancer.

The media take scientific findings and twist them into stories until they are almost unrecognisable from the initial conclusions. The paper was actually making an incredible important point, that the foods we eat have massive consequences for the climate change. Instead, they have turned this research from a potentially important finding that could have had a positive impact in shaping attitudes towards global warming, into another excuse for us to remain ignorant and resist change.

What really worries me is how readily I believe reports on topics I have little knowledge on. There are dozens of articles I read in areas that aren’t related to food or psychology where I’m clueless as to whether the research is legitimate or not. I may be ignorant but I think April Fool’s day is the only time truly question the headlines. On any other day I probably wouldn’t be suspicious reading that they’d harnessed the energy from Thunderstorms or discovered a breed of flying penguins.

I’m sorry if I sound like a broken record, but if I don’t let my anger out in blog-form, the only choice I’ll have is to take my rants to the streets and I’d prefer not to subject poor passerbys to some crazy lady  shouting at them that Brussel sprouts are their friend.

But seriously, Brussel sprouts are your friend, and here’s a recipe to get them tasting of sweetness and umami.


200g Brussel sprouts

3 tbsps soy sauce

2 tbsps honey

1 tbsps mirin

1/2 tsp chinese five spice

1/2 tsp ginger

1 pinch chilli flakes

1 tsp sesame seeds

bunch spring onion (chopped)

  1. Whisk together soy sauce, honey, mirin, Chinese five spice, chilli flakes, ginger, salt and pepper.
  2. Coat Brussel sprouts in the sauce and pan-fry for 15 mins, until tender.
  3. Top with sesame seeds and spring onions to serve (I forgot to do this until after I’d taken the picture so yours will probably look better than mine did!)