Category Archives: Nutrition & Sensible Eating

Woolton Pie

No, M'Lord, that's where I wash me smalls!

Woolton Pie was created in 1941 at The Savoy Hotel in London and was named after Lord Woolton who was head of The Ministry of Food.

It can be made with just about any vegetables that you have to hand; fresh bought, leftovers, odds and ends, roasted veg, frozen mixed veg. – the decision is yours.  This recipe is about as Wartime Housewife as it gets, using all the elements of  leftovers, using what you have in the fridge or cupboard, and is very, very cheap.

The basic elements are:
Mixed vegetables
A sauce
A topping of pastry, crumble or potatoes – mashed or sliced


A deep-sided pie dish or casserole

*   Mixed vegetables cut into similar shapes if possible eg julienne strips or cubes
*   White sauce flavoured with cheese or herbs or both (see HERE for recipe)
*   A quantity of shortcrust pastry OR mashed potato OR sliced potatoes
OR savoury crumble mix (see HERE for crumble recipe)
*   Beaten egg to glaze pastry or grated cheese and butter for the potatoes

Pre-heat the oven to 375 / 5 / 190
If using fresh vegetables, steam them very lightly until they are just cooked
Put the vegetables into the dish
Pour over the sauce
Top with mash, sliced potatoes, crumble mixture or pastry
Top potatoes with grated cheese or brush the pastry with beaten egg
Bake in the oven until whichever top you’ve used is golden brown



Filed under Food, Leftovers, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes, Storecupboard

Local meat producers and Waterloo Cottage Farm

British Saddleback

Before the Shire Book of the Month, currently Pigs, changes, I want to tell you about a local meat producer called Waterloo Cottage Farm and the important role that small producers have in selling good meat from happy animals.

Meat is expensive and so it should be.  To produce good meat takes time, through slow fattening on the right kind of food, fresh air and exercise for the animals, slaughter in the least stressful way possible followed by a decent period of hanging before it finally arrives in your kitchen.

With this in mind, I visited local producer Waterloo Cottage Farm in Great Oxenden, Northamptonshire and was given a tour of the farm by owner, Kirsty Clarke.  We met in the light, cool shop, where a mouth-watering array of meat and produce was displayed.  After a brief chat about what I wanted to see, I was taken out through the back door to the business end of the enterprise.

Glorious Pig

I was confronted by lots of open pens, with several different types of pigs enjoying the sunshine.  I was wearing a long skirt and strappy sandals, so I tucked my skirt into my knickers and prepared to meet the pigs and what a gorgeous crew they were.  I have a big soft spot for pigs at the best of times, but being able to climb into the pens and actually scratch them and talk to them was a treat indeed.

Happy Pig

Saddleback Piglets

And Kirsty did indeed talk to her pigs and her care and enthusiasm for the creatures came across loud and clear.  The farm has a herd of British Saddlebacks which are allowed to mature fully in the fields and woods which surround Waterloo Farm, as well as Petrans and Ginger Durocs.  I became extremely soppy when she introduced me to the piglets who were running and rolling with their mother in the straw.

The Clarkes also have lamb and hogget, chickens, ducks and geese and they select beef and veal from local farms who also use traditional breeds.  All the animals have something in common.  They are all reared using traditional, sustainable farming methods which work with nature, not against it.  The animals are free to lead full, natural lives on healthy soil and fed on natural, local feed and the pigs are slow grown until they are 9-10 months which is a significantly longer life than an intensively bred animal. The barley comes from the farmer next door and the slaughterhouse is only nine miles away, the animals being accompanied there in a quiet and unstressed way which is better for the animal and better for the resulting meat.

Looking at the meat in the shop is a very different experience to browsing the chiller aisles in the supermarket.  The meat is darker in colour and more wholesome-looking than perhaps we’re used to and the bacon and sausages sit in great piles, pleading with you to take them home.  The bacon and hams are cured on the premises and their master butcher produces fresh piles of traditional and artisan varieties of sausages every day.

I bought some bacon and something I haven’t eaten for over thirty years – veal.  I have deliberately avoided veal because of the unspeakable practice of veal crating, but with the sure knowledge that the animal that provided this had been happy, healthy and natural, I took a chop home and had it for my supper.

My veal in the shop

I can honestly say that I’ve never tasted meat like it; it was tender, sweet and juicy and so flavourful I could have wept.  I also had some of their dry cured bacon for my breakfast the following morning and, apart from the taste, the most obvious difference was visual.  No white scum stickily coating the bottom of your frying pan here, and two rashers and a couple of fried eggs was distinctly more filling that the abominable mid-range stuff you buy at the supermarket.

Local producers do an incredible job of farming.  Not only do they help to preserve the rare breeds but they also help to preserve the very land on which they’re reared because of the sustainable ways in which they farm.  The meat hasn’t travelled huge distances and is therefore beneficial to the environment in a wider sense.  They are also firm protagonists of old skills such as proper butchery and artisan methods of preparation and, because of the renewed interest in this kind of food, many farms  are taking on apprentices.  Waterloo Cottage Farm also runs meat craft courses to encourage you to get the best out of their meat.

We must support these local producers in their endeavours by shopping with them whenever we can.  I have said it before and I will keep saying it until you do as you’re told; eat less, eat better.  Learn how to use to meat to get the best out of it and, I am convinced that properly reared, slow grown meat actually fills you up more so you don’t need as much of it.  Eat less, eat better.  It’s better for all of us.


Filed under Animals, Ethics, Food, Livestock, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Regional, Slider

The body knows what it needs

One of my very own lymphocytes taken using a Box Brownie. Incidentally I was delighted to discover that when I downloaded this image my computer 'scanned it for viruses'

I do think that often our bodies know what food they need and sometimes crave something that will rectify a deficiency.  A yearning for milk or nuts or oranges can be an instinctive way of topping up our minerals, Vitamin C, salt or protein.  A craving for chocolate and Richard Armitage is a sure sign of the body’s need for endorphins. I expect.

Last week both the boys had three days off school with diarrhoea and vomiting. Boy the Elder vomited occasionally but loitered palely on the sofa with a volume of Keats and a lace handkerchief, whilst Boy the Younger positioned himself on the lavatory with a bucket between his knees.

I rarely get actual symptoms of anything, but feel like death as my body goes into battle with whichever primordial set of viruses the boys bring home, probably generously donated by the parents who refuse to let their children stay at home when they’re poorly.

This week, I was clearly not only awash with lymphocytes but I had also run out of my migraine tablets.  This resulted in my spending all of Sunday night, and most of Monday, moaning in pain as the rainbow triangles darted in front of my eyes whilst trying to decide whether I was going to vomit because of the virus or the migraine and whether the stomach cramps were going to confine me to the bathroom indefinitely.

As it was, I was spared the bog and bucket fandango, and the application of boiling hot water bottles to the back of my neck and head alleviated the migraine sufficiently for me to drive the boys to school.

However, it is now Tuesday night and, although I was fine this morning, I was obliged to lie down for an hour before Scouts to re-charge as the nausea had set in again.  My giblets were gurgling and rumbling like a dysfunctional lava lamp and I felt as though I needed to eat something to appease the God of Wind.

As I collected Boy the Elder from Scouts, I was handed a small piece of apple cake which they had made during the session.  The smell of freshly cooked apple called to me, the light, fragrant sponge sang to me and I knew that the only thing that would make me better was a piece of apple sponge and custard.

I ran into the Co-op, grabbed an Eve’s Pudding for One and a tin of Ambrosia Custard, shoved it into the microwave and chowed it down.

I am cured.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  You’re never alone with custard.


Filed under Food, Health and Fitness, Nutrition & Sensible Eating

Joy of Soup

Red Winter Soup

One of the lovely things about the darker nights and colder weather is that home-made soup is on the menu more often.

Tonight we had Red Winter Soup which packed full of Vitamin C to help ward off colds.

In our local Co-op this morning I found four tins of Chestnut Puree in the bargain bucket for only 34p each so I bought them all for future use in Chestnut and Bacon Soup

Pea and Ham Soup

With root vegetables becoming seasonally cheaper, lovely lentil and vegetable soups can be recycled for days.
Make a huge pot and on Day 1 cook some chops or chicken pieces in it.  On Day 2 add some sausages and on Day 3 eat it on its own with good bread and a chunk of decent cheese.

Raid your local butcher or delicatessen and ask them for ham bones for hearty Pea and Ham Soup.

There are still patches of new nettles out there

And of course, let us not forget that Halloween is coming up.  Don’t just carve pumpkins, scoop out the flesh and use it for Pumpkin Soup.

And the beauty is that most soup can be made from Storecupboard Ingredients!   Put Soup into the ‘Search’ box for more souper recipes.


Filed under Food, Leftovers, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes, Seasonal, Storecupboard

Zinc and the Spotty, Listless Youth

Other people have written whole books about zinc and the implications of deficiency, inadequate dietary intake and those who have an increased need for this mineral.  I am going to concentrate on just one aspect of it, because it is topical for me.  Teenage boys.

Zinc is an essential trace mineral, present in all tissues,  and which occurs in the body in large amounts, second only to iron. It is well known for its important role in the immune system  and the body’s ability to heal and repair both internal and external wounds and also for the regulation of the skin’s oil gland function.

It is an essential component in the absorption of vitamins, particularly Vitamins A and B Complex and plays a major part in digestion and metabolism.  Vitamins A and B are also critical for the effective function of the liver; poor liver function causes chronic fatigue and poor utilisation of nutrients.  You see how it’s all linked?  Our bodies are constantly striving for stasis, which is why a balanced diet is so important.

Zinc is predominantly absorbed in the small intestine and the body only absorbs what it needs, the rest is excreted.  A diet which is too high in fibre will result in zinc deficiency as it binds the zinc and carries it away before it can be absorbed.

Zinc is essential for all growth, including sexual maturity.  It is also thought to increase male sex drive because of its ability to regulate testosterone in the prostate.

A deficiency of zinc can be at the root of much of the ghastliness of teenage boys.  How often have we been confronted with a spotty, greasy, lacklustre, lanky specimen of humanity who is constantly tired yet restless and unable to concentrate?  Teenage boys are particularly prone to growth spurts and the demands of this, coupled with the physical demands of puberty frequently deplete the body’s resources of zinc.  Boys also often seem to crave milk during their teenage years and, although calcium is also vital, large amounts of it can adversely affect the absorption of zinc.

Boy the Elder is showing signs of such ghastliness on all fronts, particularly the spots and the outrageous and expensive growing that he insists upon doing.  At 13, he is 5’7” and has size 9 feet and this all takes its toll on a chap.  He has a stupidly healthy and varied diet but there’re only so many herrings I can shovel into him during the average day.

I, too, suffer from acne which, in my case is definitely hormonal and I have to keep up a constant regime of skincare to keep it under control.  We may be at opposite ends of the chronological scale, but the causes are similar.  Hormones.  When Pandora opened that box, it wasn’t all the evils of the world that floated out, it was hormones, I’m convinced of it.

To this end, we have both started taking a zinc supplement in the form of a 15mg tablet (amino acid chelate), once a day.  Within a week, my skin has shown tremendous improvement.  Boy the Elder’s skin is slowly improving but we have found that the supplement has to be taken every day without fail for it to be effective.  Washing his face would also help, but that is much harder to do apparently.  He is also definitely more lively and less irritable towards his brother.  Result.

The recommended daily zinc intake according to the National Research Council is:-
Children aged 1-10   = 10mg
Males aged 11 upwards = 15mg
Women aged 11 upwards = 12mg

Good sources of zinc include:  fish (especially the oily varieties), shellfish, chicken,  meat, green leafy vegetables, green peas, pulses, nuts, egg yolks, and wholegrains.

Soil exhaustion and the processing of food negatively affect the presence of zinc in our food and organic, natural, unprocessed foods generally contain higher levels of zinc.

So, if you want your Neanderthal son to buck up, have a go at wacking up the zinc; you may be pleasantly surprised.

‘The Nutritional Almanac’ by Gayla J Kirschmann and John D Kirschmann.  Pub. McGraw-Hill, fourth ed. 1996

‘Nutritional Medicine’ by Dr Stephen Davies & Dr Alan Stewart. Pub. Pan 1987

The Complete A-Z of Common Ailments and their Natural Remedies’ by Judy Jacka.  Pub.Foulsham 1995

‘The Manual of Conventional Medicine for Alternative Practitioners’ by Stephen Gascoigne.  Pub. Jigme Press 1996


Filed under Children, Health and Fitness, Nutrition & Sensible Eating

White Fish cooked with Humous

It’s all fish with me at the moment.  This recipe is really quick and tasty and full of chickpea goodness.  You can use any firm, white fish – I used Whiting because it was on special offer in Waitrose and I happened to have half a tub of humous leftover from yesterday’s lunch.  I’m afraid we had troughed it down before I remembered I should have photographed it.  Next time.


1 x frying pan

1 good knob of butter (approx 2oz / 60g)
White fish fillets
Lemon Juice
1 tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley (1/2 tablespoon of dried)
Salt & Pepper

Melt the butter in the frying pan over a medium heat
Place the fish fillets in the pan
Sprinkle the fish fillets liberally with lemon juice
Sprinkle over the parsley
Give each fillet a good twist of salt and pepper
Smear 1 generous tablespoon of humous over each fillet
Cook the fish over a medium heat, turning occasionally
When the fish is cooked through add a couple of tablespoons of cream to the pan
Cook for a further 3 or 4 minutes until the sauce has thickened
Put the fish onto warmed plates, spoon the sauce over and serve with new potatoes and crisp vegetables


Filed under Food, Leftovers, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes

Fruity Chicken Salad

This is my absolute favourite salad because it’s filling, colourful, nutritious and delicious.  I’m afraid there’s no picture until tomorrow as I made the salad but I eated it … before I remembered to take a picture.  It serves two people.  I like a dark green salad such as watercress or rocket because the bitterness sets off the fruityness of the mango nicely.  Save a little of the mango to mix with the mayonnaise for a fruity dressing.


1 x sharp vegetable knife
1 x small bowl

2 chicken breasts – grilled
Dark green salad
1 x large ripe mango – peeled and sliced – set aside a few bits
1 x large ripe avocado – peeled and sliced
2 x large tablespoons mayonnaise
A little paprika
1 x heaped tablespoon pine nuts

Divide the salad leaves between two plates
Place the chicken breast towards one edge of the plate (six o’clock position)
Arrange the mango and avocado in alternate slices in a fan shape above the chicken
Mash up the set aside mango and mix it with the mayonnaise
Place a spoonful between the chicken and the fruit
Sprinkle with a little paprika
Sprinkle with pine nuts


Filed under Food, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes