I'm trying to be on a bit of a health kick at the moment. Last year I was working long hours and sitting at a desk all day. There was a very tempting Marks and Spencer downstairs selling very delicious wasabi peas and chocolate covered pretzels, among other things. If I managed to squeeze in a yoga session it would be 10pm by the time I got home, and toast became my go-to dinner. Needless to say, I did not look or feel great. When I was in New Zealand in April I was inspired by my sister to think a bit more carefully about what I'm putting into my body. She has recently gone veggie and is very conscious about what she eats. She looks fantastic and says she has much more energy since giving up meat. 

Now that we're back in London I'm determined to make more of an effort at meal times and to be more mindful about the food I'm eating. I want to learn to eat with the seasons, to eat locally sourced and organic food wherever possible. Although I don't think I can give up meat, I do want to make sure the meat I eat is organic or high welfare. I've just signed up with Abel and Cole, and our first box of organic fruit and veggies will be arriving on Wednesday, I can't wait!

Ottolenghi has been a great source of inspiration lately. I made three meals using recipes from his book, Plenty, last week and they were all delicious. 

Tamara's Ratatouille
From Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

110ml sunflower oil
2 small onions, cut into 3cm dice
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 fresh green chilli, thinly sliced
2 small red peppers, cut into 3cm dice
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3cm dice
1 small parsnip, peeled and cut into 3cm dice
200g French beans, trimmed
1 medium courgette, cut into 3cm dice
1/2 large aubergine, peeled and cut into 3cm dice
1 small potato, peeled and cut into 3cm dice
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp tomato purée 
200ml water
chopped coriander to garnish (optional)
salt and black pepper

Pour two-thirds of the oil into a large heavy-based casserole dish or a pot (our 20cm pot was almost overflowing), and place on a medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, stir in the garlic, chilli and red peppers and fry for another 5 minutes. Add the butternut and parsnip and continue frying for 5 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, lift the vegetables out of the pot and into a medium bowl, leaving as much of the oil in the post as possible. Top this up with remaining oil. Add the French beans, courgette and aubergine to the hot oil and fry for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.

Return the contents of the bowl to the pot. Add the potato, tomatoes, sugar, tomato purée and plenty of salt and pepper. Stir well, then pour in the water, or just enough to half-cover the vegetables. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer gently for 30 minutes. Taste the vegetables and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

Finally, preheat the oven to 200C. Use a slotted spoon to gently lift the vegetables from the pot and into a large, deep roasting tin to make a layer 2-3cm thick. Pour the liquid over the vegetables and place in the oven to cook for 30 minutes. At this point all the vegetables should be very soft and most of the liquid evaporated. Garnish with coriander, if you like, and serve with steamed white rice.

P.S. I've set up a Facebook page for this yellow-haired girl! Feel free to take a look, if you like.


somebody that i used to know

A lovely young Australian couple introduced me to this song on our Salar de Uyuni tour in Bolivia and it's been in my head ever since.


food from the sky

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of volunteering for FOOD from the SKY. FOOD from the SKY is a brilliant not for profit project where food is grown on a roof in Crouch End and supplied to the supermarket below. As Thornton's Budgens says, it's "the ultimate local product". This social enterprise is a collaboration between Thornton's Budgens supermarket, the Positive Earth Project and the local community. The aim is to  effect change in the food industry by inspiring and educating the community about growing food in an urban environment and the positive impact growing food locally and sustainably can have on the environment.

FOOD from the SKY's vision is 'To grow Life, Food, and Community in our most cemented places and to bring the Heart back in our supermarkets!' It was clear from my visit on Wednesday that they have done just that. There were volunteers from all walks of life; students, retirees, the unemployed (ahem), who were all more than willing to do whatever was needed (weeding, watering, planting seedlings, transplanting, shifting two tonnes of compost to the roof...). Some had been volunteering every week since the project started nearly two years ago and were able to share their extensive knowledge of food growing, others had come for the first time. Everyone I met had a different story, but everyone was there for the same reason: to support this wonderful enterprise in making a difference to the community. 

FOOD from the SKY has also succeeded in inspiring organisations locally and internationally. Two of the volunteers were students looking to create a similar garden at their university, where students could learn about growing food and buy cheap organic produce. Another volunteer was an Australian researching how similar community gardens can be replicated on his side of the world. 

The greenhouse is made from recycled plastic bottles!
The space is a lush, green oasis in the middle of this great city. It's a beautiful place to spend time with nature, meet new people, get your hands dirty and be inspired. Check out their website to find out how you can get involved.


golf weekend in cambridgeshire

A couple of weekends ago we journeyed into the English countryside with some friends for a golf weekend. It was a total cliché: the boys played golf; the girls shopped and got manicures. It was so much fun.

It was so nice to be in Cambridge when the weather was warm and the sun was shining. Last time I was there it was below zero and I almost froze to death. Cambridgeshire is such a pretty and charming place, it's hard to believe it's less than an hour's train ride from London.


picnic in the park

Summer arrived in London today so we celebrated with a picnic in Hampstead Heath. Unemployment definitely has its perks.


spring blossoms

Apparently spring happened in March and we missed it. I managed to find the last of the spring blossoms in Regent's Park on the one sunny day we've had since we've been back. London really is stunning in the spring.

P.S. Apologies for the total lack of posts while we were away. It felt wrong blogging without photos. I'll be sure to tell you about our travels in future posts.


home again

We are back in London after four months away. I forget that it always takes a little while to settle back in; that you have to allow an hour to get anywhere and sometimes it can take the whole day to accomplish two things. Oh, and the weather? It's been bad. Really bad. But as always in London, the good stuff outweighs the bad. In the past week we've caught up with friends, drunk champagne and eaten cheese. There's been spring blossoms, walks through Regent's Park and trips to the markets. I've shopped at my favourite stores, eaten at my favourite restaurants and had countless cups of my favourite tea. We even managed to find our dream flat (we move in tomorrow!). Now all I need is a job...

Despite the dismal weather, it's good to be home.