Friday, 11 November 2016

Switzerland, St Luc - skiing and snow shoes

Hello lovely people!  It's been too long. How are you? I've been busy with my PR business this year and in the process my blog has been neglected. It's good to be back!

In the spirit of preparing for winter, here's an article that got published earlier this year in our local newspaper The York Press. It's all about an amazing ski trip we took to Switzerland's stunning St Luc. If you love to ski are you planning a trip to the slopes?

Mary Sweeting takes a hike to discover the real Swiss mountains in the stunning Val d’Anniviers

As we gaze, entranced at the snow-capped Alpine peaks before us, we could almost forget the pain that led us here.

You might think that being a travel writer is one long easy ride; freebie forays filled with fabulous food, wine and grand hotels.

All of the above is true, however this time we are made to work for our keep.

My husband and I are enjoying the view from the Hotel Weisshorn, a 2337metre high hostel that we’ve hiked to on snow shoes from the village below. To confess, I only make it just over half way, where a lovely Swiss man called Pierre greets our group with an obligatory cheese fondue on the mountain. With sun shining, snow glistening and legs burning, a few of us decide to opt out of the final ascent and instead get a lift in a snow mobile to the top.

In my defence, this is all after an intense first day of skiing with local Martin Hannart who has no concept of the word slow.

So on our first evening in the resort I already have legs like lead weights and thighs (do they call them glutes?) which felt like feeble foundations. This is helped immensely though by a relaxing massage in the spa at the Bella Tola Hotel in Saint-Luc, a beautiful place run by stylish couple Anne-Francoise and Claude Buchs. The hotel has oodles of character, with a painted ceiling by hotelier Monsieur Ritz’ s brother, a flurry of feathered lampshades, excellent food and original furniture pieces from the 1800s.

Before I set off on the trip, I did a straw poll of friends and family, asking them what comes to mind when they think of Switzerland?’ Results are varied, with chocolate, closely followed by cheese and cows coming in the top three. Roger Federer is ever popular of course. Next up, mountains, skiing, tax efficient banking. Oh and trains that run on time.

No one mentions wine though.

The Valais region we’re staying in is filled with vineyards and the wines are excellent here. The only snag is that the locals like it so much they don’t export, so it’s difficult to taste unless you visit.

Both the train and Swiss Air are true to form, with on time services, free chocolate (another tick) and polite, multilingual staff. The train pass (known as the Swiss Travel System) lets us travel by train, bus or boat across the length and breadth of the country. This time we only use it to travel from Zurich airport to la Sierre and back from there to Geneva. If you get the urge though, it allows you to visit more than 75 towns and cities, as well as gaining free entry at over 470 museums.

Switzerland has different cantons, or regions, each with their own distinct culture, languages, traditions, foods and wines.

There are four official languages in Switzerland, French, German, Italian and Romansh, which is spoken only in a few valleys. Val d'Anniviers is part of Le Valais region and is French speaking, which I relish as a chance to practice.

Skiing in Saint-Luc is a joy and we’re blessed with great weather and excellent snow, which they were missing at the start of the season.

If you’re looking for somewhere romantic and away from the half term ski crowds, this resort could be for you. Just don’t forget the fitness training before you go.

Fact file:

Travel to Zurich with Swiss Air from Manchester from £71 per person (one-way)

Or from Leeds Bradford to Geneva return with easyjet from £170 per person in winter season

Where to stay: For tradition and romance with spa: The 4* Hotel Bella Tola from £76 per night

For panoramic views of the mountains: Hotel Weisshorn, St Luc from £196 per night. 

The Swiss Transfer Ticket covers a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and your destination. Prices are £94 in 2nd class and £151 in 1st class.

7 day ski pass £195 per adult 

Similar posts:

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Spiced beetroot and sweet potato soup

This is a really warming soup that makes for a nourishing lunch on a cooler day. The beetroot and sweet potato are packed full of phyto-nutrients and fibre and create a vivid purple colour which is so fun. 

Garnish the soup with a sprinkling of feta or English goat’s cheese for a wonderful creamy, salty contrast. Here I added half an avocado on the side with some oatcakes to up your healthy fats. You’ll feel ready for anything after this one!

3 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large fresh beetroot, peeled and chopped
½ red onion, chopped
1 tsp balti or madras curry paste
1 tbsp bouillon stock powder
2 pints water

1.       Place the chopped beetroot, sweet potato and onion in a large saucepan with a little olive oil and place on a medium to high heat. Keep stirring so the vegetables don’t stick to the pan and add in the curry paste so it coats all the veg, stirring all the time.
2.       Once all the veg is sizzling hot and coated with the paste, add your water and stock powder. Bring to a gentle simmer until the vegetables are cooked through and soft, which usually takes about 30-40 mins.
3.       Blitz the mixture with a hand held blender until smooth.
4.       To serve, place soup in small bowls and crumble over some goat’s cheese, serve with half a sliced avocado and oatcakes.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

How to make lemon and poppy seed cake

Ah the joy of a cake. This one is made using white spelt flour and ground almonds so is easier for most people to digest and has more nutrients than refined wheat flour. It's not gluten free though so if you are then just use self raising gf flour instead of the spelt, almond and baking powder.

Lemon and Poppy Seed Spelt and Almond Cake
4 eggs
2 lemons, quartered and boiled in water until soft (about 30 mins)
4oz spelt flour
4oz ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
8oz butter
8oz jaggery, melted (an unrefined sugar or you can use 1/2 honey, 1/2 maple syrup)
1oz poppy seeds

1. With a hand held blender blend the lemons with 50ml of water until you get a pulp, then strain through a sieve.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and jaggery or sweet ingredients together with a wooden spoon.
3. Add the eggs and mix until all combined. Add the lemon mixture.
4. Add the flour, baking powder, almond, poppy seeds and fold together.
5. Bake in two sandwich cake tins until golden and the top of the cakes spring back when pressed.
6. Cool on a wire rack and decorate with thick yoghurt and berries. Enjoy!


Sunday, 19 April 2015

Citrus, hyacinths and tulips: a springtime photography post

The rise of craft coffee and a tasting tour

We've got a serious love affair for coffee here in the UK.

The industry generated a turnover of £5.8billion in 2013 and with craft coffee shops like Bottega Milanese in Leeds, and Kaffeine and Brick Lane Coffee in London fuelling our love, we just can't get enough. Although I don't advocate overdoing it on the caffeine, I do love a cup of Joe every now and then.

This week I received a lovely delivery from new online craft coffee roaster, Hope & Glory Coffee Co. The specialists there blend and batch roast your coffee and send it to your doorstep.

I was also lucky enough to go for a nosey around Hope & Glory's roastery in North Lincolnshire.

On arrival the smell is incredible, a bit like that evocative freshly baked bread smell which you stays with you hours after you've been to the bakery. I feel like Charlie in the proverbial chocolate factory.

As you can see I also become visually obsessed by the beautiful sacks and barrels of coffee beans from around the world...

Hawaii coffee beans

Jamaica Blue Mountain beans - some of the most expensive coffee in the world and the only one that arrives in barrels

Glamorous coffee factory outfit!
Hope & Glory use this beautiful Italian 'little red roaster' to produce their batch roasted artisan blends of Blenheim Espresso and single origin beans. You can now buy these in either bean or ground form (they explain why we shouldn't be sniffy about ground coffee here).

I try the Blenheim Espresso and it's fabulous, sweet like butterscotch with a lovely smooth chocolate flavour.

The Hope & Glory Coffee Co. 'little red roaster'
I'm also treated to a tasting experience - using Arabica and Robusta beans from around the world to blend some amazing coffees.
Tasting table at Hope & Glory HQ
Much sipping and slurping later, I emerge from the caffeine buzz to the big wide world.

I do have to be careful of how much caffeine I drink and I try to have a day a week away from coffee, but if I'm going to drink it, it has to be good!

How do you enjoy yours?

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Banana, coconut and oat smoothie

This breakfast smoothie is packed full of healthy prebiotic fibres and beta glucans to help regulate your digestion and energy levels throughout the day.

Try soaking the oats and flax overnight to ensure your body can absorb their nutrients. You can also add two tablespoons whey protein powder to help to keep your blood sugar even.

Banana, coconut and oat smoothie
Serves 1

1 banana, chopped
2 tablespoons dessicated coconut
Small handful oats
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
2 tablespoons vanilla whey protein powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Large glass water

1. Soak the oats and flax overnight if you have time to deactivate their phytic acid which can stop you absorbing nutrients.
2. Add all the ingredients to a blender and mix for about two minutes. Enjoy straight away.

This recipe features in The York Press.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

7 ways to boost your digestion and energy levels

via weheartit
Hey, I don't know about you but I want some of what she's having. Hands up who struggles with bloating, feeling full all the time or even worse, bad breath? Did you know that these can all be signs of poor digestion?

You may have guessed that it's a topic I just can't get enough of and guess what? Every time I learn something new I'm duty bound to share it with you!

So here are my top tips to follow to help you boost your digestion and your energy:

1. When you wake up, don't eat straight away - instead reach for a warm water with lemon and perhaps a green juice. This gives your liver less work to do first thing and more time to detox from the day before. Leave a good half hour before you eat and you'll be feeling much better already.

2. If you eat a lot of dry food (I used to live on crackers, bread, oatcakes, cereals, nuts), your body has to add water to them to digest them properly. If you eat foods with lots of moisture in already - soups, stews, salads - you give your body more help. If you struggle with bad digestion try broths (especially bone broth), soups, stews and risottos.

3. Eat more green things. While cooked foods can help a severely compromised digestion, green smoothies, salads and veggies all have bitter qualities that help your liver to process your food. Just make sure you also eat enough fibre if you're juicing.

4. Try to eat fruit an hour apart from other things in your diet. Fruit and sugary foods are processed more quickly than protein and fat, so fruit before a meal will suit your digestion better than afterwards. According to Chinese medicine they have a 'descending' quality - so eating an apple after your meal (leaving an hour's gap), should help your liver and digestive system cope with the daily onslaught.

5. Exercise has to make this list! In our stressful lives it's important to get out of breath every now and then. Even yoga helps digestion because when your body feels relaxed it can start working again on the basics of processing your food intake.

6. Eat more fibre rich foods. If you're gluten free try chia seeds, gluten free oats, flax or adding psyllium husks to breads or smoothies to up your fibre content. Fibre attracts water and helps everything flow smoothly!

7. Leave three hours between eating your last meal and going to bed. This has revolutionised my sleep; whenever I do this I wake up refreshed. Your liver does it's thing at night so give it plenty of space to do its job. This gives your body a well earned rest and time to reset the digestion process ready for the day ahead.

What are your tips on good digestion? Let me know!

Similar posts: 
How to make chicken bone broth
Beetroot, coconut and lime soup
10 things I've learnt about digestion
Super green smoothie

Friday, 3 April 2015

Hally's and Little H, King's Road, London

When you go gluten free you have to give up the joys of the freshly baked croissant, the satisfying crunch of just popped toast and the simplicity of a buttered French baguette.

As soon as you step out of your own kitchen it's not easy to find a healthy breakfast is it?

This means I love it when I stumble across a prime brunch spot. Which is what Hally's on the Parsons Green end of King's Road in London is.

They do:
  • Fresh juices, tick. 
  • Eggs as you like them, tick.
  • Gluten free cakes, tick.
  • Smashed avocado, tick.
  • Excellent flat whites, tick.
This 'Californian inspired' place is freshly decorated with whites and a happy pop of yellow. Filled with beautiful people of a morning (my husband decides that any single man in there is on the hunt for pretty females; very basic but perhaps true).

I've found that anything Californian or Australian themed pretty much always caters for gluten and dairy free and low sugar lifestyles, making life just a little bit better for those of us on the hunt for a good brunch!

Have a look at Hally's here. There's Little H opposite too which does all the juicing. 

Happy brunching!

Where are your favourite brunch spots? 

5 ways to bake without gluten and a free ebook

Image courtesy of
Moroccan Orange Cake made with ground almonds
The BBC's Great British Bake off final had over 12 million viewers last year. Make no mistake, baking is big news.

So for the gluten challenged, avoiders, doubters and downright difficult among us, how do we get the same thrill that Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, Mel and Sue and the contestants are delivering into our living rooms of a Tuesday evening?

To make sure you don't miss out on all the fun just because gluten isn't your bag, here are five top tips to bake awesome desserts without it:

1. Use nuts instead of wheat flour. Almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts are all used across Europe and the Middle East for cakes and pastries, while Coconut desserts and flours are used across Asia too. you can buy ground almonds easily and any specialility flours like coconut you can find in health food stores like Holland & Barratt or online.

2. Try gluten free flour. Dove's Farm online has a good selection, including plain and self raising flours which are great for cakes and stronger brown and white bread flours.

3. Gluten free flours can need more liquid than normal flours. Go with your instinct when it comes to the batter mix but some will need extra water / eggs when you're making them. Trial and error is a good thing but if you want foolproof recipes try some of the links below!

4. You might (will) need more raising agent with nut flours. Although using eggs can raise a cake too, you'll probably need to add baking powder to your mixture. Again, have a look at the recipes below and you'll see.

5. Not using gluten can make your cake more nutrient rich. Refined white flours are all very well but if you want your cakes to be healthier, using nuts will add magnesium, while carrot, beetroot, parsnip and apple can all work really well to add flavour, moistness and extra nutrients. Bonus!

P.S. You can get a free Better Bakes ebook including exclusive tips on dairy and gluten free baking and desserts by subscribing to the blog on the right hand side!

P.P.S. feast your eyes on these foolproof gluten free bakes...
Maple and oat scones
Beetroot chocolate cake
Pistachio and rose cake
Little Sicilian almond pastries
Moroccan orange cake

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Mexican hot chocolate

Ahh winter. Home of hot water bottles, log fires and hot chocolate. If you're in need of a warming brew, this Mexican version gives you spice and chocolate in one, what's not to love? 

I used raw cacao and coconut milk as the base here but if you can tolerate dairy then milk is good too. The chilli and cinnamon give it a spicy hit that'll be sure to warm your spirit.

Makes 2 large hot chocolates
2 mugs of pouring coconut milk (I use the Tesco free from one from the fresh aisles)
2 heaped tablespoons raw cacao powder (or you can use normal cocoa)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 dried red chilli or a sprinkle to your taste of red chilli flakes
2 tsp jaggery goor (unrefined sugar) or agave
1/2 tsp cornflour to thicken if desired

Warm all the ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk until the mixture has thickened with the cornflour.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

NYC #1: Brooklyn Bridge Park, DUMBO & North Williamsburg

It's been non stop foodie / life / love inspiration since we touched town in New York City last week. To say this is a food capital is completely underestimating its gastronomic draw. New York is home to over 200 nationalities and that equals food heaven!

Firstly, let's talk about Brooklyn shall we. We started out by meeting a friend at the beautiful Glasserie  restaurant just across the river from Manhattan. Built in a converted glass factory, its menu was a stunner; everything seasonal and an Israeli chef who knows a thing or two about subtle flavours and punchy ingredients. As our New Yorker friend remarked, the place was 'filled with bearded hipsters', which we took as solid reassurance that this was the place to be.

We then found ourselves at the 'Smorgasburg' Brooklyn food flea market, a gathering of pop up restaurants and food entrepreneurs selling their delicious wares. Even though there were tacos, butternut soup, lobster, sweet potato fries and asian desserts on offer, the longest queue (where you see the dog above) was for the donuts! Travesty I know.

However I couldn't afford to get too smug as our next stop was Oddfellows Ice Cream, an artisan ice cream maker just a ferry ride away in North Williamsburg.

When I say the best ice cream, oh how I mean it.

My choice was a salted caramel confection with 'wet nuts' (more delicious than they sound, a mixture of chopped walnut and butterscotch). My friend had a scoop of the extra virgin olive oil, just as delicious, while my other half, who is - by his own admission - a vanilla ice cream aficionado, agreed that this was, in fact, the best he'd ever had.

Here's the view looking back over Manhattan from Smorgasberg at Brooklyn Bridge Park: A real treat!

Some other amazing places we saw along the way:

Mast Brothers. I recognised this artisan chocolatier from mynameisyeh's post - you can take a tour and taste along the way, it's well worth it. Plus the packaging is as gorgeous as the chocolate.

Depanneur. A lovely foodie deli with lots of gorgeous Brooklyn hand made food, drink and gifty things.

Bedford Cheese Shop. Think you know about cheese? This place is filled to bursting with the stuff. Best things are the amusing descriptions which the team conspire and muse over to see whose are most comedic. The shop also stocks raw goat and sheep cheeses for the health conscious among you.

Wholefoods. There are a lot of Wholefood stores around NYC, I kept seeing raw sauerkraut and carrot and ginger pickles - filled with lacto fermented veg which is good for your gut!

Watch out for installment #2 soon, all about Manhattan!

Similar posts:
An Argentine Asado
Buenos Aires: Fish at the Mercado Central
Buenos Aires: Fruit traders at the Mercado Central 
Detox week in Spain

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Meet the producer: Staal Smokehouse

When you run your own food business, life can be tough. As much as it's many an office worker's dream to start their own food company, it's easy to forget that in practice it can be an all consuming, exhausting and in the case of Justin Staal, smoky affair.

I saw Justin last week at one of the many Christmas fairs that have been going on in Yorkshire of late. He runs the award winning Staal Smokehouse from East Yorkshire with the help of his lovely wife George. Justin is a keen fisherman and has travelled the world, giving him the chance to see how different cultures smoke and cure their meat, game and fish - from hot smoked king salmon in Alaska to cured Ptarmigan in Iceland. Inspired by his travels and a love for good food, he set up Staal Smokehouse.

I've been meaning to do something on their fabulous smoky savouries for ages and here we are, hooray we finally did it! 

This is just the most delicious and easy recipe I've done for a while and it would be perfect to make as a starter for a dinner party. It combines raw beetroot (which we all know is good for us), spices, satsumas and Justin's award winning Oak Smoked Salmon. His salmon is brined then cold smoked to give a lovely smoky flavour, then the temperature is raised in the kiln so the fish is cooked through in a hot, heady smoke.

Oak roast salmon with spiced beetroot and satsuma
Makes enough for 4 starters
1 pack oak roast salmon (already cured / cooked)
1 large beetroot, raw, peeled and grated
Pinch red chilli flakes
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 and a half satsumas, sliced and skins removed (keep the remaining half for juice)
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice and the peel of one lemon to garnish
Salt and pepper

- This, as Nigella would put it, is more of an assembly job. The only thing you have to do is take a heavy bottomed pan and toast the coriander seeds until they start to pop. Then remove them and bash them with either the end of a rolling pin or a pestle and mortar. They smell delicious.
- Next , mix the beetroot, lemon juice, satsuma juice, chilli flakes and most of the ground coriander seeds and season with salt and pepper.
- Assemble the beetroot, add the sliced satsumas on the side and crumble some of the flakes of salmon on the top. To decorate add a few pieces of lemon peel on the top and sprinkle the remaining ground coriander around the plate.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...