Make Good Food an Everyday Thing!

Gorgeous fresh fruit ready for eating or juicing!

It’s no secret that I love food, good food, as unprocessed as possible, as fresh as possible and as organic as can be. In my small urban garden I have as many fruit trees as I can fit in: apples, plums even figs and you can see some of them in the photo above, chopped and ready to be placed on some puff pastry and sprinkled with freshly ground spices and maple syrup. Into the oven at 190 fan bake for 15-20 mins and hey presto – scrummy dessert for all.

I have been doing lots of cooking courses in the past year in London and locally. Macrobiotic cooking, Fragrant Lebanese, Classic French bread-making with Maria  – and this week a Raw SuperFoods course in Amsterdam –

We tried a raw foods restaurant in London called Saf which you are all probably sick of hearing me talk about but it was (and is) STUNNING. We – even the kids- loved it although there were the usual quips from Mike. “Do we have to pay for it, if they don’t cook it”  and so on. Boy, did he change his tune when he tasted their Laksa and Blue-berry cashew nut cheesecake!!!! Not to mention their super fresh energy juice and mocktails!

Many of the other participants on the course – Diabetics (type 2 who had cured themselves) raw fooders who raved about their fabulous immune systems (no colds for years) and those who just loved the fresh clean taste of herbs, juices, oils, nuts and veggies blended – were already converts. I am pretty convinced that there is much merit in having green juices and eating as many green, orange and yellow leafy type things as possible, but I also love cooked foods, particularly at this time of the year. On a day like this, with rain, huge gusts of wind and a cold that seeps into your bones, I like a French onion soup with crusty bread and melted cheese and something piping hot and warming. But I am going to give juicing and Diana’s Raw Food Lasagna made with courgettes instead of pasta a go. As an asthma sufferer I am keen to boost my immune system and I am keen to get the whole family eating more raw food. I tried out my first green juice on my kids yesterday. “It has a kind of after taste,” said my fussiest child. Yes, I said that’s called vegetables honey! I am going to have to do some serious experimenting to get the kids on board which brings me to Bill Granger who is a cook I really do admire!

Bill Granger, a top Australian chef has some top advice for parents in this months Vegetarian..”If everyone else is eating it then kids will eventually try it too. You need to make good food a normal thing – if you eat badly then your kids will eat badly too. Be unrelenting too, if they don’t eat it, don’t give them something else!”

I also made ANZAC cookies today, experimenting with Lemon Curd in the mixture as it is Armistice Day when we think of all of those who fought or perished in the many wars of the world, and in particular the Great War. Our ANZAC cookie recipe is in our old blog  where many of our recipes are archived.  Served with a fresh green juice made with apples from our garden, spinach, parsley, lemon, ginger and mandarin I felt that adding in an ANZAC cookie was almost a healthy combination!

Ginger, apple, parsley, spinach and mandarin juice with fruit


Wonderful Wontons, Delicious Dim Sum, Darling Dumplings – Thanks Denise!


So, what’s the difference between a won ton, a dim sum and a dumpling? Very, very little although Dim Sim literally means “snack” in Chinese. These snacks are usually served in bite sized portions and eaten almost exclusively with tea. And I am for all for them whatever words may be used: gyoza, momo, jiaozi or baozi. They are a brilliant way to use up those unloved bottom of the fridge vegetables, the sad cabbages, the half mushrooms, that bit of lemon grass, carrot etc, and they are very, very easy, peazy. Before I tell you exactly how easy it is to make these delicious little parcels, I have to thank one person. Remember when Jamie Oliver discovered that a lot of people had never actually switched on their ovens in their flats or houses, and decided that if he taught 8 people how to cook something, then they would teach another 8 people etc. etc, well I had a little Jamie helper of my own… so this blog is devoted to the wonderful and inspirational Denise Herbert who has a charming guest house called The Nunnery in the small rural town of Te Aroha, in far away Middle New Zealand. Denise stayed with me last year and shared her dumpling recipe and they have been firm family (and friend) favourites ever since. Thanks Denise…….Now over to you…

Dumplings (makes about 30)

We have done a few workshops making these and we have discovered that every batch is slightly different in taste and flavour, depending on the herbs/seasonings you use. However, all were delicious and were eaten up so quickly we could scarce believe it. So, be inventive, taste and try new variations each time. You just can’t go wrong. There is no hard and fast rules but you will need to purchase the right dumpling wrappers. We got ours from the freezer section at the ‘Amazing Oriental Store’: use the round gyoza wrappers about 6 cms across. Don’t use the soup wonton wrappers that require boiling for quite a long time – you will be chewing forever! We have experimented with the soft steamed dumplings and also the quick fried version.  If you are a “steamer” you will need to purchase a little bamboo steamer container that you place over a similar sized saucepan half filled with water. You will also need steamer paper which looks like a thin greaseproof paper with holes cut into it to allow even steaming. These items are cheapish and will be much used! However, you will need to eat your steamed dumplings rather quickly (not hard to do) as left out in the open air, they get slightly hard and plasticky! If you choose to fry them in a little rice bran oil, they will last a lot longer and are very suitable for after school snacks, picnics etc! OK, advice done, now to the recipe! Get the frozen dumpling pastry packet out of fridge about 20 minutes before you need them.

Make a couple of simple dipping sauces first

Add some fresh ginger juice (grate a cm of fresh ginger and squeeze into a bowl) into half a small cup of soy sauce. Add in fresh lime juice, some sweet mirin, and sesame seeds. Mix and taste to adjust seasonings. Can add fair trade palm sugar or some Thai chilli sauce.

Second sauce: add 2 teaspoons of sesame oil to about  a half of cup of mirin and 1 cm of finely grated peeled fresh ginger. Mix and leave for awhile, taste and adjust.


Finely chop your veggies and tofu. We used 1 whole packet of the Eko-plazas smoked tofu chopped very small. Add to this a cup of chopped white cabbage (we used the always sweet Spitskool), half a cup of mushrooms (shitake or portabella will do), some finely chopped lemon grass (from the freezer), a quarter of a cup of Thai Basil (my favourite ingredient of all time, you can use less as it is a strong taste!) Can add mint, coriander etc. Mix some liquid into the veggies – some standard soy sauce, some Indonesian sweet soy sauce, and a little of the sesame oil. Taste to get the combinations just right for your palate. Now you are ready to roll! Well, crimp, OK press!

Grab a small bowl of water to dab around the edge of the dumpling. Now this bit is somewhat difficult to explain in words but I will do my best. Place about a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the dumpling pastry. Dab water around the edges. You can choose to either just stick the half halves together creating a half moon shape or you can bring it together at the top so it looks like a rubbish bag shape or you can crimp the edges for a very professional look: using both hands fold the one edge over and over to form a fan like effect. OK, it’s just something you will have to have a go at. Or you could come to a workshop in my kitchen! Note to self, make a video next time we all make dumplings! Start with simple half moons and practice a bit of simple folding as you get more confident. Make all the dumplings and place on a plate ready to fry or steam.

Now, cook the dumplings. They will taste quite different as the veggies will be more ‘cooked’ by the steaming. If you fry the dumplings, do it very quickly as they burn easily. Put a bit of rice bran oil on to heat, drop the dumpling in, turn as it goes golden brown.

Serve with a salad of cucumber, radish, iceberg lettuce and those yummy dipping sauces. I haven’t met anyone yet who can resist these yummy parcels. Let me know how you get on. And thank you Denise! It’s been a cheese scone week here in the lowlands. Something to do with the mid winter blues I suppose. I have put my favourite recipe onto the My School Lunchbox facebook page if you are keen to give them a go. Nothing really beats a warm scone served with strawberry jam and an Earl Grey tea…..

Smoked tofu, mushroom and lemon grass dumplings

Smoked tofu, mushroom and lemon grass dumplings

Making cakes for a Fabulously Good Cause: Bidna Capoeira! And a recipe for Manakeesh Bread

cakes, cakes, cakes

It’s been a very, very busy October and we are all getting used to being back at school and work after the long hazy summer holidays. It really was a very warm dry Northern European summer and we all biked to the beach and made the most of the North Sea. But the last week was dragging a bit, and I noticed some family members too keen to watch screens a little too much. I often struggle with the concept of being an urban parent, and think back to my own childhood, growing up on a dairy farm in rural New Zealand. No google, no ipads, no shops, not much money, little telly but much gardening, baking, harvesting. haymaking and many trees to climb. Some loneliness, boredom and a bit of isolation too. It wasn’t all rosy but it was outdoors and there was some hard graft involved as well. It doesn’t take one person to run a farm, it takes a whole family.  I will honestly admit being an urban parent is one of the most challenging jobs I have ever taken on, but I imagine being a child of these times also brings many dilemmas and stresses as well: with the media many have, it’s like having a world in your room.  I do so long for all the temptations of the city to disappear and all the junk food to be transformed into wholesome home-baking and cooking. I ask myself if we really need Bubble Tea? And what exactly is it anyway? And I am very sure we don’t need MacDonalds and Burger King at all.  I’m positive that we don’t need the latest phone or H & M hot fashion item. October is my unshopping month, where I buy nothing new except food, and it is wonderful how not shopping frees up your days! Yet, how do I convince my urban kids that life is not about shopping or the latest media device when our whole system is built on consumption, over-consumption and a throw away culture? That will be an ongoing job for me and us all I guess. But if I find it tough being an urban parent, I can only guess what it’s like to be a parent in the shadow of war? I can only begin to slightly imagine being forced from my home, all my belongings destroyed, fleeing guns, the march of conflict threatening all those I love and care for. Now, that makes my concerns vanish into a puff of misty autumn air! As I write this I know that millions of children and families are living in a never, neverland of camps, surrounded by barbed wire and just managing to get through the day.

However, before you stop reading, and sigh heavily, can I just share this – that in the midst of all the very bad news that darkens both the Middle East and Africa, sometimes there’s a ray of bright glad hope. I met one in fact at The Hague Talks at The Young Justice: Kids in Conflict programme, marking the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Amid the horrifying statistics on disease, death and abuses all around our world, there is an NGO that seeks to bring some well-needed joy/distraction/education for those living in damaged communities. How? By using dance, music and a form of martial art that hails from Brazil. The NGO is called Bidna Capoeira, and I interviewed its founder, Tarek Alsaleh for asking him, if there was any way in which we could help. He said very humbly “Well, you could bake a cake.” Have a look here to understand the work he and the volunteers do in Jordan and in other places in the world

Anyway my friends and I decided to do just that! We baked a cake or two, made some bread and dips and had ourselves a lovely afternoon tea, while remembering how lucky we were to be in a home, in a peaceful nation, able to discuss our lives, our worries, our joys while raising some funds for a wonderful cause! I suggested that everyone make something vegan just to add a small challenge and we enjoyed an astonishing avocado and beetroot cake and some divine Palastinian breads. Now for a recipe! But before you try these breads out and they were delicious (thank you Basma!)  do have a look at their website to see how it works and changes lives. Maybe you will want to have an afternoon tea for them as well. By the way if you are in The Hague, I will be at the BSN Winter Fair on November 29, selling homemade chocolates to raise some more money for these fab teachers! And as always, let there be there cake and much chatting with it…….by the way we made over 200 euros with our little high tea! Hopefully it will make some small difference to a child somewhere!


Basma's lovely breads at our charity fundraiser!

Basma’s lovely breads at our charity fundraiser!

Manakeesh Breads

One of our favourite things on the day was this lovely bread which we dunked into humus and other dips! Very yummy. Carola’s vegan ANZAC biscuits made with coconut oil, also went down a treat. And that chocolate cake, well, that’s for next time….. This is the vegan version by the way. Usually, some yoghurt is used instead of water.

  • Ingredients 5 cups of flour (1 whole wheat, 4 white flour) + 2 tbsps of sugar + 2 sachets yeast +pinch of salt + 1 generous teaspoon baking powder + 3/4 cup vegetable oil (preferably olive oil) + 2 cups of warm water.

    Place warm water in a warm mixing bowl and add yeast. Stir to dissolve and let stand 3 minutes. Add salt and sugar and stir through. Add flour and olive oil and mix, using hands until you can knead the dough without it sticking to your fingers. Add more water, if needed. Knead into a ball.

    Wash and dry hands and remove the dough to chopping board. Knead the dough, occasionally dusting with a little flour, until a firm, smooth dough is formed. This will take about 15 minutes.

     Place the  ball of dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 2 hours)

    Then cut the dough into large or small balls depending on what you wish to do with it: make smallish buns or use it for pizzas.  Roll out the balls and place them an oiled oven tray. Rest them  for 5 mins. then add a table spoon of a mixture of olive oil and Zaater. Spread it over the dough and pop into a hot oven they go. 10 mins should be enough to cook them but keep checking. If you don’t run to Zaater, a wonderful middle eastern mix of wild thyme, sesame seeds etc, then I suggest a mix of ground cumin, coriander and maybe some black onion seeds!



Celebrate Bake With Compassion – 5 Top tips for a successful charity cake sale

Food just became more exciting: Agar jellies, Platters of Peppers, Spirit and Gimsel

Pretty, pretty jellies

Pretty, pretty jellies

a lovely started from Lindenhof restaurant, a flower stuffed with olive cream!

A lovely starter from Lindenhof restaurant, a flower stuffed with olive cream!

Even the packaging at Spirit gives joy

Even the packaging at Spirit gives joy


I haven’t written much for these holiday months, not about food or fiction nor even any questionable poetry. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking, learning or journeying into new foodscapes, it’s just that it takes me sometime to process the experience and decide what to write about. And sometimes I feel rather bored with my own food creations: how much tofu can you chop in a single day? Did it really work? Should I have used more miso paste?

I think now and then we need new people around, new food experiences, more chances to see how others do it, and an immersion into experience. We need inspiration or foodspiration. This holiday I think I got it, in droves. And have you noticed that there is a quiet revolution going on in your town. There is, here in The Hague: EcoRevolt, Den Haag in Transitie, more organic supermarkets, more knowledge being shared, more vegetarian restaurants appearing, more nut milks, more tofu products. It’s not so weird these days not to eat meat, dairy or gluten. In fact I might even go so far as to call it trendy.



We were lucky enough to eat at a 2 star Michelin restaurant Lindenhof, where the owner/head chef delights in cooking for vegetarians (see above the photo of his lovely stuffed flower above served with its little orange sorbet). I loved the chef’s kitchen garden and his 5 star chook house: those hens couldn’t be dining at a better establishment indeed. I do question these Michelin temples of food worship though although at the same time I admire their dedication to the glory and power of beautiful food but it’s also so elitist and crazily expensive. I see a half way house at the Rotterdam Spirit cafe which we visited twice this holiday and reveled in it’s magic: the type of meal we love to make and eat but here you can chose from 3o of them and pay for it by the weight. I strongly urge all of you to visit it if you are in Rotterdam. As you can see above even the take away packaging has a food message of happiness and charm. Spirit makes me happy and I want to associate food with happiness and sharing! And while there, have a look at Gimsel, an amazing supermarket indeed. Which brings me to this months recipes and my holiday manifesto….

Within our family we have one ardent vegetarian thinking about going vegan (me), one vegan who has discovered a love of peanut butter, one keen carnivore and one now and then carnivore. This can lead to some dissent about what exactly the next meal should be. I would just like to say that one very good lesson I have learned is never, never cook more than one meal at a sitting. And if there be mutterings and gnashing of teeth, then let the darlings learn to cook! And then to clean up! Before the holidays started I suggested we have a holiday manifesto: that we would share making meals, cleaning up and shopping so meals didn’t become a burden in any way. Occasionally all went well, quite often it didn’t. I am still working on it but I am glad to see one thing. My kids can cook a bit, quite well when they try. Now that makes me feel happy.


A platter of market peppers to be roasted and made into sauce!

A platter of market peppers to be roasted and made into sauce!




But on to using Agar Agar. Firstly what is Agar? It’s a mix of carbohydrates made from seaweed. It’s great to use as a setting agent and sets firmer than gelatine. Once set keep it in the fridge and don’t disturb it until you need it. It doesn’t like to oil or clingfilm, comes in both powder or flake form and we found it quite easy to work with. We experimented with passionfruit, raspberry and coconut to see how it tasted. We poured it into silicone moulds, chopped it up and generally had a lot of fun. It would be great to put into lunch boxes for snacks and make shapes for parties.


We used this recipe….

Raspberry Agar Jelly

Juice of one lemon or lime

400 grams of frozen raspberries – we cooked them with a tablespoon of maple syrup and strained them

2 tsps of agar agar powder

Warm up the raspberry or any puree in a small saucepan. Taste for sweetness adding more maple syrup if needed

Stir in agar agar powder and heat to boiling. Boil for 2 minutes and then pour into your desired container. In our case it was a mini muffin silicone mould. Easy peasy jelly! We then tried versions of other fruits but we all liked the raspberry best. See above for the extremely large agar container we brought. I think we may be using this for some months!

Energy Salad

We make a lot of what I call our standard “Energy” salad by mixing lentils, bulgar, giant couscous, quinoa and what-ever else is hanging about. I can’t tell you how much exactly but at a rough guess it is about a handful of each. And yes, it all goes into the same pot usually, because we are a bit lazy! But it works, it truly does. Start off your mixture by gently frying half an onion in some oil. Add in a few cumin seeds, some cardamon cloves, a piece of ginger or a garlic clove. Then you lentils, spelt, quinoa etc. Fry for a moment, then in goes the liquid stock. Make your own or use one of the organic boullion/stock cubes. Cover the grains with the stock and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Add in the bulgar and couscous just towards the end of cooking. Taste to make sure it’s all cooked and now add your extra flavourings. Pepper, salt, fresh or dried herbs. I make the date and red onion dressing often and pour over when cooled. Then serve with a mixture of tofu, grilled veggies, halloumi or paneer cheese, pomegranate seeds, sesame seeds, dried cranberries, nuts etc. A useful wrap filler or lunchbox salad which will not wilt!!! OK, it may not look a million dollars but it’s packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. Everyone but the 11 year old carnivore likes this salad by the way….

quinoa beluga lentil salad

Lastly, Tanya and I did a foodie tour of Amsterdam using The Happy Cow app, starting off in my fav foodie street Haarlemmerstraat, and discovered Vegabond on Leliegracht no. 16. What a treasure for goodies…. happy to take you there, if you are in that neck of the Dutch woods, contact me via the myschoollunch fb page.



Summertime and the Vegans are Easy, Inspiring and Quite Delicious!


I have had the most delightful visitors for the past week: author, story-teller, gardener, all round inspiring person, Waiheke Islander Tanya Batt and her long time musical partner in Story, New Zealander Craig Debham, currently based in Prague. I had just got back from a week of writing at Windmill Cottages, near Hansel in South Devon so words were already swirling in my head as were homegrown veggies, edible flowers, wonderful food (prepared by myself and my fellow writers) and new recipes were definitely on my mind! While in Devon we writers plucked all manner of gorgeous unsprayed, unsullied flowers to lace our salads: fuschia, borage, marigold, nasturtiums, pansies, pinks and chive flowers to add to our freshly cut salad leaves (see below)! We had a glorious time celebrating both food and words and I was ready to cook for my guests. Tanya is vegan and travels with her own kit of emergency vegan food for as we have discovered, pickings can be lean while traveling. She and Craig became my willing guinea pigs in between their very wonderful story shows which I catered for….
pretty salad



We reflected how it is absolutely possible it is to cater an event in an entirely vegan way using loads of fruit, veggies, and flowers and the punters went  mad for it!

It all was gobbled up, and nary a fizzy drink or plastic bottle in sight. This is what I made: Mini Morning Glory Cakelettes with coconut passionfruit frosting, filo and vegan pastry soy sausage rolls, vegan scones (used coconut oil to rub in, instead of butter) vegan ANZACS biscuits using coconut again. Our drinks were homemade Strawberry Iced Tea and Lemon/Limonade.  It looked a treat and franky it was she wrote in a modest sort of way!


prepping for story time!

We were fairly busy all week so I had to make some very quick vegan dishes. Here’s two of them: the first is my quick vegan hotcakes. These are as easy as pie, and can be whipped up for a quick week-day breakfast. Serve with plenty of fruit, roasted almonds and maple syrup.

vegan hotcakes

Vegan Hotcakes for 4

Sift into a large bowl, 2 cups of spelt flower (I got mine from Ekoplaza). Add in….

2 tsps of baking powder

a pinch of salt

a tsp of nutmeg or cinnamon or mix the two

Add in one grated apple and a mashed banana, the older and the ugliest you have! Bruised apples are entirely acceptable

Add in 2-3 tablespoons of oil. I used a rice bran oil, could use melted coconut cooking oil

Can add some muesli, granola, grated dry coconut if you want.

Add at least a cup of nut milk: almond, or rice or a mix of coconut and rice milk. We are very keen on the new Provamel Rice and coconut milk for cooking and using with cereals.

Mix to a slightly liquidly consistency. Do not overmix! You need to put scoops onto a hot griddle or onto a non-stick fry-pan. Make yours big or small but do use coconut oil to cook them in, either the “geurloos” (without the coconut flavour)  or the one that tastes of coconut. I love coconut so prefer that! Turn the hotcakes when you see bubbles begin to form on the uncooked side. Do use a good amount of coconut or rice bran oil or they will stick!


Date and Nut Burgers

These are based on my friend Jo Parfitt’s recipe from her Date Cookbook, but I have made mine with a ready made nut or falafel burger mix. As in all of my recipes use your favourite herbs, spices and flavourings. So far, everyone has liked these simple burgers, served with char-grilled red onion rings, beetroot, chutney, salad leaves and a good vegan mayo. The very best we have tasted this far, is the GranoVita Mayola, a vegan mayonnaise sweetened with apple juice which we purchased in the UK at Holland & Barrett.


Put the Nut burger mix (we used the Eko plaza’s Notenburger mix) and these ingredients into a food processor. Each burger mix will ask you to add in some liquid. This one uses 400 mls of water but do check the packet instructions.

Fresh herbs such as chives, coriander, parsley and mint.

A good cupful of mixed nuts, roasted or unroasted

8- 10 pitted dates

1 tsp of soy sauce

1 tsp of Thai chili sauce or one small chili pepper, de-seeded

1 tablespoon of tomato or some home-made tomato sauce

You may need to add in more liquid – water or tomatoes – to make it a fairly dense consistency. Taste for seasoning.

Shape into burgers and dust with flour or semolina and fry in olive oil carefully or they will burn. Serve with loads of salad, some hummus, chutney or make a burger in a bun. Great on the way food!

Last but so not least. I have been using a date and onion dressing for all my salads lately. It was given to me by my nephew Matt and I am happier than 3 things in a happy bag! Goes very well in a Quinoa, lentil and bulgar salad…

Date Dressing

Chop 4 dates very finely after removing the pit. Add in half a cup of rice vinegar or a some pre-made sushi dressing. Add in 2 tbsps olive oil, a squeeze of lemon or lime and some finely chopped red onion. Season with a little salt and pepper. Can add some sustainable palm sugar if you think too sharp. The longer you leave it the better it is. Works nicely with giant couscous as below…..


large cous cous


More info about Tanya Batt – Hire her if she is in your neck of the story woods, wouldn’t miss her for the world! And if you are lucky enough to see her, and you like slightly frightening stories ask for one about the evil possum!

Watermill Cottages – I can fully recommend!

Craig Debham’s New Zealand Band is

Jo Parfitt, publisher and writer –

Quick recipes from me on  the My School lunchbox facebook page, please like it and join me!





Vegan Dishes


beluga lentils

Vegan with a Vengeance!

I’ve been cooking vegetarian food for many many years. Although, I can always, always, learn more, I can usually put together a fairy tasty meal in a few, well maybe 20 minutes. However, I have been relying fairly heavily on eggs, cheese, and other dairy products, but no more, as we now have a vegan in the family. And she is deadly serious and for our planets sake I admire her tenacity and determination. We all know that the meat, dairy and fish industries are putting untold pressure on our fragile environment as are the now “year round produce” available in our supermarkets. Raspberries, strawberries and mangos whenever we so desire and yes, although I try never to shop in regular supermarkets, I too am guilty of purchasing out of season fruits and veggies! Oh, the greed of us human beings.

So, so much goes to waste everywhere, something that a local organization here in The Hague (DHiT) is trying to do something about by distributing slightly blemished fruit and veggies to the public at a very reduced rate. More on them and the scheme later.

For now though each recipe and packet is checked for eggs, dairy or honey –  a sandwich with dubious mayonnaise will be rejected outright as will most pastas. So, of course experiments were in order. Here are some of the ones we really liked. What’s important is to have some good oil/fats, and proteins in each dish. Vegan proteins? Are there any? Well, yes, loads………

First and foremost, yes folks, veggies contain protein. One cup of cooked spinach contains about 7 grams of protein, now there’s a relief for you spinach lovers! But there is also nut butters: cashew, almond, and peanut butter will give you 4 grams per tablespoon approximately. We have also been using a lot of Quinoa, easy to cook and great to put into salads and casseroles. Tofu is a standby and we’ve been buying the organic tofu from Ekoplaza. We particularly like the the olive stuffed tofu there which is fantastic in the grill pan and tossed into salads, sandwiches and wraps. Lastly, we are using beans and lentils like there is no tomorrow. They are our very bestest friends! We love em because 1 cup of cooked chickpeas yields a wonderful 14.5 g of protein (sources self so chickpeas forever.

Here’s a basic salad recipe which can be adapted in many ways. The soaked date dressing lifts any salad, and will taste lovely even if you think you are not keen on dates, like me and my kids. Just chop those dates very, very finely!

Beluga Lentil Salad

serves 2 at least

1 cup of Beluga lentils (dark black shiny lentils resembling caviar of course)

half a cup of red quinoa

1 small onion, chopped

cumin seeds

a good vegan stock, made up with 2 cups of boiling water

pomegranate seeds, fresh mint, flat leafed parsley, coriander.

dressing: 4 chopped dates,  half a cup of rice vinegar, olive oil, lime or lemon and a little palm sugar ( I am using the Aernga Palm sugar from the Ekoplaza which claims not to involved in that hideous deforestation. It supports the Masarang foundation and is only grown in mixed forests – but if anyone knows more about this, let me know please.)

Fry a small diced onion in a heavy based pot in a little olive oil.Add 1 cup of lentils with some cumin seeds and 2 cups of a good stock. Add in half a cup of red quinoa. Boil gently until lentils are tender to the bite (about 15 mins). Make sure it doesn’t burn but do drain any extra water off if any when the pulses are tender. Set aside until cool. Add in pomegranate seeds, chopped mint, coriander, and/or flat leafed parsley after it cools. Can add in extra bulgar at the boiling stage!

Make the dressing with finely chopped dates soaked in rice vinegar, a little oil, lime or lemon juice and some dark brown sugar. Mix and set aside. Can add some pomegranate syrup as well for extra flavour.

Add everything together. Taste for the right combo of sweet, sour and salty.  Also can add the olive tofu, fried in the grill for a few minutes on each side.

You can add in fried paneer, or some halloumi, or feta if you are not VEGAN! Garnish with herbs and edible flowers and enjoy.

Serve this with flatbreads and maybe some homemade hummus, a few salad leaves and you will be quids in for protein, fibre and taste!!!

I am still doing the Pop Up Cake Cafe at The Barbershop and try to include a vegan baked option everyday that I am there, Wed, Fri and Sats. More experimentation is needed but I find that the Morning Glory Muffin recipe adapts well to the No Egg substitute. And they have proved popular. Offering locals an alternative style of  “more healthy” baked goods has been a huge learning curve and I continue to learn. What I have found is that most humans are looking for a creamy looking cupcake thing which is just the sort of cake we were trying to avoid. So I have been making a vegan frosting with soy yoghurt, loads of coconut, minimal icing sugar or a bit of agave and those lovely freeze dried New Zealand powders my dear sis sent me: mango and passionfruit. They make a lovely icing on top of the morning glorys! Crumbles are easy as well, using melted coconut oil just as you would use a butter, mixed with my banana bread granola, extra oats, coconut and maple syrup. That’s it for now, pop in and see me at The Barbershop & Co and do look at to see what’s going on with local food, gardening, relearning old skills such as preserving and more. A lovely group of people indeed and their work is just what we need. First Barbershop & Co shared kitchen workshop has a date and a title. We are running a Sushi Made Simple workshop on May 31st at 15.00 to 18.00. Message me via My School Lunchbox on facebook to reserve your place.

muffins pear and pineapple


Cakes Galore & More…., nothing ventured, nothing gained! We set up Shop in The Hague!

Raspberry friand made by Bintou of

Raspberry friand made by Bintou of

What a beautiful raspberry and almond friand made by my friend Bintou. A little morsel of edible art really. Even though I regard food such as this as “sometimes” food, I am only human. I, too, love the odd  bit of  special “sometimes” food, even though I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth and I may well by one of the few people in the world who isn’t that keen on chocolate (except a salty caramel dark choc to be taken with an expresso). (photo of friand by Christine Fischer)

But  what I do love is homemade, personal, well sourced ingredients, and cakes made with love and care. I also love it when those cakes, muffins, etc are made with organic or alternative flours, less sugar or even no sugars, using agave, maple, dates or stevia. I also think, just like Mary Berry, that a little scone, still warm from the oven, spread with good butter and homemade strawberry jam is just the bees knees, and I think I have my scone recipe (made with spelt flour) off pat. I might even be immodest enough to boast that my date & cardamon scones are the best in the city.


I also believe that there is a shopkeeper in all of us. It’s just a thing humans like to do, trade stuff, sell stuff, talk about what we’ve made, what we love, be it knitting or food.We do love to be appreciated and to talk “shop”, don’t we? I’ve been writing about food, experimenting with it, developing recipes and sharing food for most all of my life and now I am about to put my muffin so to speak where my mouth is. We, my friend Bintou and I,  have a small 2 metre space in a start up venture called The Barbershop & Co in The Hague. We will join up with an Israeli/Palastinian duo called Love & Peas and a few others in a food hall, hoping our wares will find favour with the locals. We will use recipes, tried and tested that our friends and family love, and see if small and personal will find strike a note.

Our plates will all be second hand, knickknacks, and things lent to us by friends in an effort to be as sustainable as we can . We will try to buy nothing new to set up and decorate our little space. And we will see if we can complete against the large stores such as the newly opened Marks & Spencers who sell scones for 85 cents or the brioches at Albert Heijn – 6 for 2.98???  Although we can’t complete with such cheapness, we shall do our very best to make some beautiful food, so do pop in if you are in the area.

Our opening day is March 7 from 11 am to 15.00 at The Barbershop & Co on Torenstraat 35a. We will let you know what  and when we are cooking and what’s on offer on our FB page Cakes Galore – & more

Beetroot  & Dill Dip

And now a recipe. I catered for the launch of the New Zealand foundation KIN which will replace the KEA Netherlands chapter at their launch party on Saturday at De Wandelaar. I made a number of dips, hummus, tapanade etc but the most requested recipe was the very simple beetroot dip. Take a medium cooked beetroot, and blend with a small clove of garlic, some fresh dill, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, some mint leaves and a cup of either creme fraiche (can use Greek yoghurt as well). Blend, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle with black onion seeds  (Nigella seeds) t0 finish. Serve with sliced carrots, cucumber, crackers or strips of toasted lavas.

catering at KIN

Brrr, Party Food Fit for Jack Frost – December is (almost) Here!

Jack's Chrissy Tableau is up

It’s been 3 years now since I starting writing recipes for this Shiny Bright new blog. Three years of experimenting with food, testing it out on family, friends and complete strangers. Three years of cutting back on white sugar, salt and white flour. And many long years learning that ‘home-made’ is in danger of always becoming ‘store bought’ and full of hidden sugars and bad fats.

It’s been quite the journey for a technophobe such as me but I like to think, it has been a delicious and relevant one. I passionately believe that we should all know how to cook and where our food comes from. I absolutely believe that we must pass on our skills in both the culinary world and the gardening one to our children. And in this increasingly complicated world I still believe that anyone with a common cold will benefit from a hot lemon and manuka honey drink, that a meal made with love will bring joy to a sad heart, and a gift such as chutney or jam will send a wave of goodwill to a friend or neighbour.  I hope you find these recipes useful. I wish you a holiday season full of good, honest food and someone to share it with, all the very best, Kathy Voyles, The Hague, The Netherlands.



Here are some requests from friends and food colleagues and some ideas for the party table!

Sweet Potato (Kumara) and Feta mini Frittarta 

2 medium sweet potatoes

olive oil

1 tsp ground cumin

fresh basil, parsley or chives

baby spinach leaves

half a cup of either grated parmesan, feta or cheddar (whatever is in the fridge)

6 eggs

160 mls cream


Roast the peeled cubed sweet potato in olive oil with the ground cumin at 180 degrees for approximately 15-20 minutes and leave to cool

Mix together the cream and eggs with chopped herbs and baby spinach leaves

Line 12 greased muffin cases with paper muffin cups or cut round from baking parchment to line the muffin tin bases. Place the sweet potatoes in the base of the muffin tins, pour the cream egg mixture over.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes at 160 fan forced oven. Allow to cool and gently loosed and turn out. Serve with a chutney or a spice yoghurt dressing.


Whole Wheat Oattie Quinoa Cookies

This is based on a recipe from I have changed some of the ingredients and amounts. This recipe makes enough dough to make about 40 cookies. All I can say is hide them because if you don’t, they won’t last! They are simply too delish!




101 cookbooks cookies

2 and a half cups of rolled oats

1 cup of whole wheat flour (can use spelt)

2 thirds of a cup of quinoa flakes or puffed quinoa

1 tsp Baking Soda

half a teaspoon of sea salt (not coarse)

225 grams of soft butter

1 cup of dark brown sugar

half a cup of palm sugar (101 uses 2 cups of light and dark brown sugar)

2 large eggs

2 tsps of vanilla extract

280 grams of dark chocolate (I use the Sligro dark choc drupples) Break half up but leave some large rounds for decoration

Combine the dry ingredients and put aside.

Place the butter and sugars into the mixer and cream together. Add in vanilla and eggs, mix

Add in dry ingredients and the broken chocolate pieces. The mixture will be moist but not too liquid

Place large teaspoonfuls of mixture on baking parchment. Place a large round piece on each cookie in the centre. I fit in about 20 on each tray. They will spread a little. Bake at 175 fan bake for about 12 minutes. If you like them chewy then cook them for about 12 minutes. For a crispy darker cookie then leave them for about 15. It really depends on your oven. Cool on a rack and store in air-tight tins. Prefect for a class party or trip. The Quinoa is protein so will really keep you going!

Other ideas for class parties

Spanish Tortilla cut into squares

Kappa Maki – simple cucumber sushi

Morning Glory Muffins

Cheese, tomato and basil tooth picks

Stuffed eggs

Corn, coriander and panner bagjees with yoghurt sauce

Ottolenghi’s sweet potato fritters served with a minty lemon thai chilli sauce

Omelettes rolled and tied with chives

jack's Chrissy Tableau

More Pumpkins Than You Can Shake a Ghoul at…. and how to bring a glow to a grey day



Thank goodness there is a bit of colour in our lives on days such as these, when grey skies are above and the world is damp and chill. Jack and I were entranced by the pumpkin display at Vlinders ann de Vliet in Voorshoten, so we had to stop and take a photo. So many types, so easy to grow and quite delicious to eat (some not all). One of our family favourites is the roasted butternut and sweet potato (kumara) pasta dish, mixed in with loads of herbs, blue cheese, olives, pine nuts and baby rocket leaves, prefect for serving piping hot on a dark, dank day. It’s a time of year where we need to be uplifted by colour, candle light, stories and warm music. 



A wonderful friend of mine, Jo Parfitt (author and writer’s mentor – sent me this glorious glowing picture of spices from a market in Malaysia and it conjured up spicey memories of saffrony sauces, tumeric, cauliflour and coconut soups, minty cumin sauces and markets including our own Haagse Mart. This huge market open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday is well worth a visit for any aspiring cook, just go early and take some bags and your largest shopping trolly! Fresh herbs, preserved lemons, flat breads, thick breads, nuts, dried fruit, you will find it all here and more.  

So what recipes will I offer you on an Autumn day as the last leaves fall soggily to the ground? The first is from a little catering job I did for the hockey girls last week and it is a request from my Norwegian friend Kurt. It’s a popular filling for sandwiches in our house and yes, you can make devilled eggs with it too! 

Curried Egg Sandwich filling

Note you can make this with a hint of curry or not but I like it with Jenny’s Tamarind Chutney which I will be using next Saturday the 9th when I make Kiwi inspired food for Jens Hack’s new Kiwi Shop de Wandelaar. 

4 free range organically farmed hard boiled eggs – I have always been told to remove them straight from the boiling water and plunge into cold to stop the yolks becoming discoloured and greenish. Now this could be an old and wishful tale but it seems to work. Peel underwater and make sure they are free from shards of shell. Place in a large bowl.

2 tablespoons (again up to you!) of a good quality mayonnaise. I use the lemon flavoured mayo from De Marqt organic store

1 tablespoon of soft salted butter

pepper/salt/celery salt

sprinkling of capers/finely cut celery

finely cut chives/spring onions and parsley to add flavour and colour

some milk for mixing

Using a fork, mash it all together, adding in some curry paste such as Pataks mild curry paste or some chutney or just season to taste with pepper and salt.  

Use on toasted bread or in rolls or for stuffed egss. Garnish with lettuce leaves, sprouts etc Image


Now for a weekly tip and one which will hopefully save time and give a tomatoey richness to the weekly dinners. Just about everyone I know is juggling: their time, work time, kids time, exercise time and learning time, not to mention, tired time! Some people tell me they just don’t have time to cook, others say they don’t much like cooking. This sauce will take you no time at all and hopefully will form the basis of many tasty dishes such as the tofu mince shepherd’s pie I made last night. 


Roasted tomatoes in the oven as a basis for pasta sauces, pizza toppings, mexican bean dishes etc. 

1 kilo of fresh tomatoes, organic if you can afford it

2 tbsp olive oil

some whole peppercorns or soft red peppercorns

coarse sea salt

a sprig of rosemary if you have some

2 – 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped in half – smell it in the shop, you will know if it is a wholesome smell or a chemically one! Also remember to smell the butternut and other pumpkins as well – I have really been quite horrified by unpleasant smells from some supermarket veggies of late.

1 red or white onion, peeled and quartered

1-2 Turkish peppers, seeds removed, sliced into 2 halves

Heat the oven to 185, place all the above into a roasting pan, roast for approx 20 -30 mins, check and savour the smell. Take out of the oven when the edges of the onions, peppers and tomatoes are just beginning to caramelize, and set aside to cool. 

When completely cool, remove the stems and skins of the garlic, tomatoes, and peppers plus the rosemary twig and blend in a jug with a wand. If you want a Thai style flavour add in some sweet chilli sauce or a chilli pepper.

Adjust pepper and salt to taste and use throughout the week in whatever way you fancy! You will not want to go back to a commercial variety of tinned tomato ever again. Enjoy and get cooking!  Will I see you at the opening of De Wandelaar in Amsterdam on Saturday November the 9th, hope so! 



October Already – Birthday warm Fuzzies, Roasted Almond Pesto, Favourite Things, November 9!


I’ve been working on developing some new recipes for an exciting new shop ( – but more on that later!) and thinking about food, food, food. There was yet another birthday to celebrate in our house (mine!) and this year I invited my friends to cook their current favourite food or bring a tried and tested recipe to afternoon tea. It’s so lovely to share beautiful food with wonderful friends!   It all ended way too soon for me so I have decided to do the same for next birthday. I made my usual carrot cake, with half the amount of sugar but with lots of pineapple, decorated with dried cranberries and fresh berries.

And delicious it was

And delicious it was

I also made some curried egg sandwiches, jazzed up with roasted almond pesto, and some of Jenny’s Tamarind Pickle (from Waiheke Island) and garnished with broccoli cress. My, but the spread was grand, Antonio surpassed himself with a Spanish style aubergine tortilla, Basma made Cheese Fatayer, a sort of yeast pastry with olives, feta, herbs and spices, Jilly made a beauteous banana cake, Fanny  baked a light as a bee’s wing, honey cake, Anna prepared some fresh tasting hummus laced liberally with loads of flat-leafed parsley, Sharyn made a carrot souffle, Ute stuffed dates with walnuts and cream cheese, Johanna, a pumpkin and walnut loaf, Nancy some coconut date balls, and Michele, a lime and lemon tart that everyone raved about, Carolyn,  a plum cinnamon cake – and I could go on and on!! Please forgive me if I have missed anyone out – all I can say was thanks, thanks and more thanks!

The food was varied, delightful and delicious, the conversation brisk. And really that’s what life is all about isn’t it: honest homemade food, good company, love and laughter! More please, more sharing and caring!

On a more serious note, it was Buy Nothing New month so I asked everyone NOT to bring a present or buy anything new. Thus Lily-Anne had “borrowed” some peppers, and roasted them, Elske had raided her garden for a magnificent bunch of flowers and I even received some used teabags for my composters!  Thanks Helen!

Red peppercorns, paua shells, cooking mags, sumac & flowers

Red peppercorns, paua shells, cooking mags, sumac & flowers

The Buy Nothing New Month began in Australia (check the October 9 blog post) but is starting to catch on here in The Netherlands and I am a firm follower. Of course food may be purchased, in fact I positively encourage it, but like everything, it must be brought with care. I am asking myself constantly “Do I really need it? Will I use all of it? How can I best utilize it? I will admit I have a bit of a siege mentality and find myself shopping as if an impending disaster may happen at any moment!  Yes, the amount of lentils in my cupboards would see my family (and quite a few others) through quite a few weeks of any siege.  I’m working on changing that!

I am also developing some Kiwi style recipes for a new shop, selling a taste of the South Pacific without having to go the whole 18.000 kilometres to get to the land of the long white cloud! Happily, it’s all about food and wine –  it will sell  the very best of New Zealand’s artisan products which will marry well with local products. If you are keen to come and sample what’s on offer – and have a chat with me – I will be cooking! – then do join me on November 9 at 14.00 in the Oude Zuid of Amsterdam. See for more details.

Now, a new discovery (for me at least) and a simple one, it’s already a new favourite in this house.

Roasted Almond Pesto (to serve with pasta, egg sammies, cheese toasties, on crostinis etc)

Half a cup of blanched almonds, roasted carefully in a fry pan until golden and aromatic – use a tiny spray of olive oil if you like!

A good bunch of fresh basil or flat-leafed parsley or a mix of both.

Some mild flavoured olive oil or half and half of lemon infused olive oil – use about half a cup

2-3 cloves of garlic depending on how strong you like your garlicky flavours, peeled

parmesan or percorino cheese (or frankly whatever cheese you fancy using that’s been hanging around the bottom of the fridge for a while!) – use half a cup chopped or grated, depending if you have a good hand blender.

Blitz the lot with a hand held blender. Taste, and season with salt if needed and freshly ground red peppercorns. I am buying some slightly soft but still crunchy red peppercorns and the flavour is surperb!  It will keep for a few days if you top it up with oil and keep it in the fridge in a covered jar.

I sent this to school with some pasta and Jack said it was the best lunch ever!

I leave you with some of my favourite things for the Autumn

Loving making simple quick Thai style soups with onoff spices (from the Ekoplaza, the Massaman is excellent!) So easy and uses up all sorts of bottom of fridge veggies.

Loving the feta roasted cauliflower recipe from Flash Cooking

Adoring using the Lime infused Avocado oil in my Mexican style Friday Night lentil soup (testing some NZ products for – infused oils are some of them!)

Loving that my kids cooked me a secret “morning glory” birthday cake with fresh strawberry cream cheese frosting  – yah, they can cook! It has all been worth it then!

Laura Santtini's gorgeous Flash cooking cookbood!

Laura Santtini’s gorgeous “Flash Cooking” cookbook! Beautiful!


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