Thumbs Up To Muller Rice’s Remix

Muller rice remixed

My kids are into desserts. Typical children, right?

It’s definitely not genetic as I’m not so much into sweet things; I have a secret tub of Jude’s Salted Caramel ice cream in the freezer for ’emergencies’ but I’d generally rather eat a bag of crisps pre-dinner. I blame their love for the second course on nursery and school lunchtimes – they may get huge portions of fruit and veg there but they’re also offered the delights of crumble, jelly and chocolate brownies each and every day.

And so after every meal at home I’m greeted with the chorus “what’s for pudding?”

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Recently I’ve been happy to serve them up with something a little bit different. We’re all fans of the good old rice pudding but rarely have it as it takes so long to cook in the oven – by the time I’ve thought about making one it’s 5pm and E always makes comments about ‘that time it took you so long to cook a shepherds pie that we ate it in our pyjamas, do you remember, mummy?’. So Muller Rice’s new dessert that merges the classic fruit corners with the traditional Greek rice pudding recipe of Rizogalo is perfect for us!

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It comes in two varieties – Apple (Hux) and Strawberry (Elfie) – and are the perfect size to fill these two little tummies post-supper. You can see they’re not only a fan of the new remixed rice pots but also the good old thumbs up.

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You might have see Muller’s ambassador TastyB the bear in the latest Muller ads. He’s also the voice behind their Twitter account and is generally the best food or beverage-related animal I’ve seen since Gordon the Boar ;)

Bon appetit!

Thank-you Muller for sponsoring MTT!

Modern Mexico In London: SelfridgesXMexico

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A little while ago I was invited to visit Mexico. Well, kind of.

I love Mexican food. The one terrible thing about living out here in Milton Keynes is that there’s literally no decent Mexican food to be had anywhere. We have a Las Iguanas, true, but if a ‘Latin’ restaurant doesn’t even make fresh guacamole as part of their offering then I don’t want to know.

A Wahaca would be the dream, but I’ll just keep dreaming. God, I love Wahaca.

So when Selfridges asked me along to sample their Taste of Mexico evening I almost bit their guacamole-flavoured hand off. 2015 is The Year of Mexico at Selfridges and along with the Mexican Tourist Board they have provided a veritable feast for the senses throughout the foodie parts of the store.

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I went the whole hog; had a lunchtime cut and blow dry with my absolute favourite Sam at Ena (I have never left that salon feeling less than a million dollars), invited my dad along for the evening and enjoyed pre-Mexican champs at the Dean Street Townhouse. V decadent for a Thursday (I’m worth it… yeah?).

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Our meal was held in the beautifully appointed Corner Champagne Bar at Selfridges which is now my new favourite place – the house Champagne is lovely and there’s nothing like raiding DVF and Roland Mouret when you’re half cut, am I right? Me and daddy-o were the first arrivals and used the opportunity to sit back and watch the sun set over Oxford Street.

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Our evening began with a sample of a Mexican IPA which was paired with the amuse bouche: a taste of avocado, salsa, crab and paprika on toast. This was lovely – the IPA was light and hoppy (just as I like it!) and the crab zingy with layers of flavour through the salsa and avocado. No sign of pre-made guacamole here, I’m pleased to report.

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Does anything make you happier than a table full of tasting glasses? No, it does not.

IMG_0261Our starter was a beautifully light dish of lobster with mole verde paired with a Mexican Sauvignon Blanc, which I would have said in a blind taste test could have come from Chile. It was beautifully fresh and complimented the flavours of the seafood to perfection. I always think mole verde is a weird one and not to everyone’s palate but this was gorgeous – not too heavy and bursting with the taste of the herbs, or Oaxaca’s ‘seven moles’.

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Next up was my favourite wine of the evening – a chilled red (I might have asked for seconds). I believe I’m right in saying that each wine this evening came from the Baja California region of Mexico which is apparently ‘the next Napa’ – watch out for this red one in particular, it’s a corker. It accompanied our main course of pork served Manzanilla style.

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This came on a bed of pureed beans (think refried beans but a million times tastier) and a garnish of pickeld veg. I’m not ashamed to admit that I tried to send my pork back for being undercooked before I was told this is ‘the mexican way’ – it was delicious. Different to what we’re used to but delicious.

IMG_0266 IMG_0269Pudding was the absolute pièce de résistance. A deconstructed rice pud pannacotta which was made by the traditional method of making rice pudding but with the liquid drained off and used to form the pannacotta. This was garnished with dried mango and ‘nitro churro’ – tiny little raisin flavoured balls of delight that popped in your mouth. In.Cred.I.Ble.

IMG_0241The talented chefs who’d joined us from Mexico for the evening happily circulated and answered our many slightly drunken questions about how they’d come to the menu and the cooking methods they’d used. For two foodies (and wine-os) my dad and I were in heaven, it really was a treat of an evening.

Having eaten a fair bit of Mexican food in London I was delighted to sample something a bit different. This truly is ‘modern Mexican’ cooking: a beautifully fresh and interesting approach. It’s sparked an interest in Mexico in me that I didn’t have before and I can’t wait to visit the Baja California region to discover more (and hunt down that gorgeous wine).

Thanks to Selfridges for sponsoring MTT and for inviting me along to such a wonderful event. 

 

 

 

 

MTT Travel: The Food of Thailand

Thai food

You’d better believe that when I first sat down to write about the epicness that is North East Thailand the first word that leapt out of my fingers was FOOD.

Have we met? My name’s Alice and I’m a food addict. 

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I went to Thailand with a fairly open mind about what I’d find there food-wise. I’m not that well-versed in the culinary offerings of Thailand save for a slight obsession with chicken satay; my go-to takeaway when I’m at home is Indian and though living on the Kingsland Road in the late 2000s gave me a fairly good Vietnamese food education I hadn’t ventured further through Indochina to Thailand (Banana Tree doesn’t count). I was excited to see what I’d discover.

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The very first bit of Thai food to cross my lips was post-massage. It was 9am, I’d arrived at our hotel three hours earlier, had snoozed for 30 minutes and been whisked off to the spa of the amazing Grande Center Point Terminal 21. After the most amazing pummeling I’ve ever had we were greeted back at the reception of the spa area with this plate of deliciousness – fresh mango with rice cooked in coconut milk, served with a cup of jasmine tea. I’ve already tried to re-create it and while it was not quite as pretty it was very very delicious.

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IMG_2823The Thais are big fans of nose-to-tail eating, making sure they use each and every part of the animal (quite rightly!). Yet while at home I will happily munch my way through black pudding for breakfast, eat chicken liver pate for lunch and pop bone marrow in my evening stew there were some things here that were just a bit too real for me. Like the delicious beef curry you can see up there with added gelatinous… bits. Deliciously beefy for sure but the texture was something I was quite unused to. Or the green curry in the picture immediately above , which came with cubes of cooked chickens blood that were the texture of liver. Kind of freaked me out. It’s funny, what we’re used to!

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You can’t deny this way of cooking brings so much more flavour to the Thai dishes, though. They’re huge fans of using bones and fat in the cooking of their meat recipes, as well as shells and heads in the fish ones. The result is an array of beautiful dishes that surpass anything, literally anything I’ve tasted in this country. Well worth the odd crunch of bone if you ask me ;) If you haven’t picked fish bones out of your teeth mid-chew, you haven’t lived. And you can quote me on that.

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Thai cooks do two things exceptionally well in my opinion. Firstly, the deep fried food. Both of my absolute favourite dishes were deep fried and they were all so light and healthy-tasting. Every fried dish comes with a counterpart salad (mostly a spicy green mango salad) which, when paired with the fried meat or fish cuts beautifully through. My absolute favourite was the deep-fried catfish which is kind of ‘spun’ to create an incredibly light batter. Absolutely beautiful, I could eat it for every meal. My second favourite was the Thai ‘chicken nuggets’ (you can take the girl out of England…) which were cooked in a light, almost tempura-like batter and served with a super-spicy sweet chilli sauce.

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The second dish we all adored (and ate at almost every meal) were the creamy, spicy broth-based soups. Served at the table bubbling away on a flame they very often still contained prawn shells, lemongrass, herbs or bones, which led to the soup having the most wonderful depth of flavour.
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Speaking of flavour, let me tell you a little bit about SPICE. I am not a spice or chilli girl, not at all, and historically anything hotter than a Chicken Tikka Masala would have me making a fuss. But something seemed to happen to my taste buds in Thailand and they did a massive 360 – not only did I eat the food that was so spicy it could blow my head off, I really bloody enjoyed almost having my head blown off. Because the thing is, the food we ate had such depth of flavour that it was so easy to appreciate the spice and chilli as a part of that depth. In my very favourite duck red curry for example (you can see my replication here, for which I gave myself a massive pat on the back ;) there were just about a million flavours. Duck, tomato, lemon grass, kaffir lime, coriander, garlic, galangal, pineapple, coconut, chilli… and you could taste them ALL!

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It was a bit of a revelation for me, to have this big flavour door opened by some chilli and herbs. On return to the UK I participated in the traditional UK welcome home ceremony of Fish and Chip Friday at the pub and my food just tasted terribly bland. Which, funnily enough, is something that cropped up over and over again when the Thai people I met who had visited England discussed British food.

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The very next day I ran out to my local Asian supermarket, bought a big bottle of Sriracha and have been sticking it on my scrambled eggs ever since.

Another favourite of mine was the ‘sun-dried’ meats. We had pork and beef served this way which almost surprised me – I assumed most meats would come in curries. The meat had been marinated in herbs and spices and then dried for an extended period of time and much like the fried foods served with a light salad. Just awesome.

Oh and FYI the Thais go in for Pork Scratchings as a snack as much as we do but beat us hands-down in a taste test.

 

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I think my favourite meal was the one cooked for us at the Ban Arlue village – a 1000 year old settlement. There they cooked for us dried chicken (YUM!), egg omelette, cauliflower in oyster sauce, chicken broth,  mango salad, sticky rice and rice with banana wrapped in banana leaf.

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I might be crazy but I loved eating a really spicy curry for breakfast. Nothing wakes you up like getting a chilli sweat on pre-8am with the only downside being that I always inevitably ended up spilling the curry sauce down myself. Other options for breakfast (above) included a wet rice dish with options of toppings like ginger and spring onions and tons of fruit, and western options like toast, ham and cheese for us tourists.

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Pudding was pretty much always a beautifully carved platter of fruit: watermelon, pineapple, mango, papaya, guava. We were always so full up on curries and soups that some light fruit was welcome.

 

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Supermarket fast food in Thailand is that little bit cooler than England. It’s so uniformly teeny tiny and colourful! Also – Collon and Big Sheet. LOL.

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There was a large supermarket close to our hotel in Bangkok which was gorgeous – a lot like Whole Foods over here. But the real fun came from the 7-11s that can be found absolutely EVERYWHERE. It was so colourful and friendly. Funnily enough Tesco can also be found all over Thailand (it’s ‘Tesco Lotus’ over there) and is Tesco’s second largest international business. You literally can’t escape it.

IMG_3057I have to admit to eating a McDonald’s on my last night in Bangkok with Laura. You know how it goes, you have a few beers, spend the evening putting the world to rights and all of a sudden you’ve ran out of time for dinner. And so we headed for the golden arches and it was AMAZING. My double cheeseburger was so much tastier than in the UK’s version (I put it down to more flavourful beef and an extra slice of cheese) and the chips were tastier, too. Sorry, taste buds.

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Needless to say I’ve been totally obsessed with Thai food since I returned home. I’ve cooked a couple of curries from scratch plus a pretty good Pad Thai and though it’s not quite as good, I think I’m nearly there. Speaking to some of our Thai translators on our travels I was wondering why the green and red curries at home taste no-where close to those in Thailand. According to her we just don’t use the right ingredients and there’s definitely something in that – you will never re-create the many layers of flavour using a manufactured curry paste and that where’s the taste lives.

My local Asian supermarket has been amazing in terms of the ingredients they offer and I’ve been researching authentic recipes to get a real handle on how to make Thai curries. My cupboards are now bursting with palm sugar, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and sweet Thai basil. So delicious.

I feel like discovering the food of Thailand has been a real journey for me; it doesn’t end here. Next on my bucket list will be a cookery course somewhere in Thailand so I can come home really knowing how to re-create these incredible dishes.

I travelled to Thailand courtesy of TAT. 

Bonjour! Café Rouge Has A New Menu

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The children are off later this week to spend a few days with their daddy.

Whilst I’m practically salivating at the prospect of five nights of uninterrupted sleep in a row (woah there), I’m really dreading how much I’ll miss them. Don’t tell anyone this, especially not them, but I’d probably take the sleep deprivation over spending time without them – I know, I know. Big words.

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I’ll do my usual thing of filling my time off with work, the gym and my lovely friends so it’ll go quickly (Kirsty‘s coming to visit from NYC and there will be nights at the pub with Bryony and Amy) but until they depart on Wednesday we are making the most out of our last few days together. And one of my favourite things to do with these little people is go on a Saturday night dinner date.

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We get dressed up – Elfie wears a dress, Hux a shirt and me high heels – and have a lovely meal out together. Because I sell it to them as something very special they are both beautifully behaved and we have a wonderful time chatting nonsense and learning about my number one favourite thing – food.

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Camembert

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Ragoût D’Escargots

On Saturday night the lovely people at Café Rouge invited us over to their restaurant at The Hub in Milton Keynes to try their new menu and so off we went, dressed up and excited.

I heard the Chief Executive of the Casual Dining Group (who own Cafe Rougé and Bella Italia) speak at a conference a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed the discussion around the changes that are afoot within the chain. There’s the new menu of classics and new dishes and a programme of re-furbishment happening – exciting times!

As a restaurant I don’t think I would have ever chosen Café Rouge as a dinner destination. Lunch? Yes. Coffee? Probably. But it had never struck me as a place for a dinner date or child-friendly meal so I was interested to see how we’d find our evening.

Cafe Rouge2We arrived at 6pm and were really warmly welcomed by the manager. She showed us to our table and talked us through the menu. I loved her obvious enthusiasm and excitement for the changes that have been made; the Milton Keynes Hub restaurant was actively involved in the development of the new menu and each member of staff I spoke to was so knowledgeable about every item. I was happy to hear they’ve brought back one of my favourite dishes – fried Camembert – and the Confit Duck Leg which I’ve already heard most excellent things about.

We started our meal with the Fougasse à l’ail (£4.95)- an artisan loaf baked with garlic and served with warm garlic butter. It was huge – it disappeared in minutes. We all enjoyed it.

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Rib-Eye with Bearnaise and fries

I knew they’d introduced snails to the menu and was excited to try them. I’ve read that snails are the ‘next big thing’ in foodie circles, being so high in protein yet low in fat, and though they still make me feel a bit gross if I really think about what they are I do really enjoy them. And so we ordered our starters of Camembert (£5.95) and Ragoût D’Escargots (£5.95).

The Camembert was lovely – really enjoyable. But the Escargots were the real star of the show; delicately cooked with red wine and mushrooms and topped with puff pastry. I would eat these over and over again. I enjoyed these with one of my favourite cocktails – a Rouge Royal (Café Rouge’s Kir Royal – £4.95).

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The mains swiftly arrived; I went for my absolute favourite of a rib eye steak (medium) with Bearnaise sauce and french fries (£16.95). It was perfectly cooked and thoroughly delicious – half of it was eaten by the children. Elfie chose the very French Croque Monsier (her verdict: yummy) and Hux never picks anything other than pasta as he is two – the kids menus (main course, dessert and drinks) came in at £6.95.

Pudding was the only disappointment for me that evening. I always pick a Crème Brûlée which is my absolute favourite but the topping was nowhere near as thick and caramelised as it should have been. The strawberry and black pepper sorbet it was served with was lovely, however.

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The kids adored their ice cream sundaes, Hux so much that he insisted on eating it with his hands. You know, sometimes it’s easier not to argue.

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I get invited out for dinner a fair bit (and take myself out even more often!) and don’t always review the restaurants I go to. I like to think I have pretty high standards and so if I leave a restaurant feeling disappointed I’d just rather not write about it.

However, we three had a great time at Café Rouge and I think the whole thing was one of the nicest dinner experiences we’ve had in a long time. The staff couldn’t have been more attentive to us (but not overbearingly) and the food was well-cooked, tasty and good value. I was impressed by the wine list and had a try of a very nice Picpoul de Pinet and the restaurant had a great buzz by the time we left.

Plus there’s the bonus of having one of the most awkward family photos taken of us EVER that night. My children, ladies and gentlemen:

IMG_0175Café Rouge: we’ll be back!

Thank you to Café Rouge for inviting us along to try the new menu… we had a great time. 

MTT: Fluffy American Pancakes With Maple Bacon

Fluffy American Pancakes with Maple BaconPancakes were very much A Thing for my brother and I growing up. I remember my mum making them, not just for pancake day but for special treats and to eat as Crepes Suzette at their ever so grown-up dinner parties. My brother and I loved them – we ate them very plainly with only caster sugar, still do – and it was one of the first things I learned how to cook myself.

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Pancake-eating as a kid is one of my favourite memories – sprinkling sugar on those bad boys, rolling them up and stuffing them in my mouth with greasy fingers. I’d always order pancakes as a special treat at the John Lewis Café and any excuse to eat them, including Shrove Tuesday, was an occasion to look forward to. IMG_2313

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My pancake tastes have now diversified to include these Fluffy American Pancakes with Maple Bacon and my love for them originated as all good obsessions do: at a restaurant. Somewhere in Shoreditch, perhaps The Hoxton, and probably for about 12 quid. I was immediately hooked on the combo of soft and crunchy, sweet and salty and decided to re-create them at home myself.

Sidenote: zoom over here for a more diet-friendly Paleo version

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I straight away sought out maple syrup and though my eyes watered at the price the expensive stuff is well worth it (and currently 50% off at Ocado) as the other kind is a not-so-tasty synthetic imitation. I also always make sure I have streaky bacon in the fridge for this recipe which always crisps up much better than thicker back bacon. Smoked is my preference but whatever floats your boat.

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These pancakes have become something of a tradition in our house, we eat them every other weekend and I just can’t. Get. Enough. The maple syrup creates a wonderful sweet/salt symphony when added to the bacon and the pancakes fluff up beautifully to compliment its crisp bite.

Basically – YUM.

Don't burn yo bacon! Fluffy American Pancakes with Maple Bacon

I always use tin foil to protect my baking tray when preparing this bacon; burnt on sugar syrup is fun to scrub off for no-one – I learned this the hard way. And make sure your baking powder is as fresh as possible, this really makes a difference when it comes to the fluff factor of your pancakes. 
Fluffy American Pancakes with Maple Bacon Fluffy American Pancakes with Maple BaconThe original recipe (and best I’ve ever found) comes from the BBC recipe site. I haven’t really changed much about it because it’s always been perfect.

FYI my new breakfast crush is buttermilk fried-chicken with pancakes and maple butter as seen for brunch at Breddos Tacos‘ pop-up at Trip Space last summer. Give me six months and I’ll have mastered it. Epic.

5.0 from 3 reviews
MTT: Fluffy American Pancakes With Maple Bacon
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
In my family this recipe yields six pancakes - we have two each - so you may want to double it!
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Ingredients
  • Streaky bacon - we have 3 rashers per person.
  • Real maple syrup
  • 135g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 large pinch sea salt
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 130ml milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp melted butter (allowed to cool slightly)
  • Butter for cooking
Instructions
  1. Heat your oven to 200 degrees C, and spread your bacon on a tin foil-lined baking tray. Brush generously with maple syrup. Put in the oven as soon as it's reached temperature for around 12-15 minutes.
  2. Pop the flour, baking powder, salt and caster sugar into a large bowl. In a separate bowl lightly whisk together the milk and egg, then whisk in the melted butter.
  3. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and beat using a whisk until you have a smooth batter. The texture you want from this is a lot thicker than you might be used to with french crepes. Let the batter stand for a few minutes.
  4. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add a knob of butter. When it's melted, add the batter: I use a dessert spoon and measure out approximately two per pancake. It will seem very thick but this is how it should be. Wait until the top of the pancake begins to bubble, then turn it over and cook until both sides are golden brown and the pancake has risen to about 1cm (½in) thick.
  5. Repeat until all the batter is used up. You can keep the pancakes warm in a low oven, but they taste best fresh out the pan.
  6. Serve with the crispy bacon topped with maple syrup.

 

 

The Trouble With Bread And A Wheat Intolerance

A few weeks ago I had an epiphany. This is slightly concerning to me because three times in the last month I have looked my mum in the eye and said “Mother, I have had an epiphany” and what if we only get a limited amount of epiphanies in life? I feel like I might be using up all of mine on thoughts to do with my lovelife and carbohydrates. I should probably be saving them up for the times I think about World Debt and the problems with Justin Bieber.

Anyway, I had this epiphany. It followed a week that I have not been completely comfortable with, a week of my meals being 20 unhealthy/80 paleo instead of 80/20. I’d been a bit naughty and used the excuse of a few meals out, some special occasions and a couple of dinner parties to go wild in the evenings with the bread, pizza and brownies. And boy, have I felt it. I’ve been sluggish, bloated, tired and spotty. I’ve felt low and have lacked energy. But it’s a vicious cycle: the more I’ve felt lazy and tired the less I’ve wanted to cook and the more carbs I’ve craved. ARGH.

On the day of the epiphany at the lunchtime pre-school run I picked up a loaf of granary bread. Not for me, for the kids to have with the soup we were having for lunch (the most incredible vegan Carrot and Coconut soup… and I don’t even like to eat soup! Recipe coming soon). But because I can resist many things but not the temptation of carbohydrates when they’re in my house I buttered up a couple of pieces of that delicious delicious granary goodness for me to have with my own lunch. I gave myself a mental slap on the hand for doing it, and another one for not having baked the bread myself, but figured it was still pretty healthy after my breakfast of grapes and banana. And it was brown, after all. Much more healthy than a slab of white bread.

Pork Belly pizza

Pizza Express’s epic pork belly pizza… am still dreaming about this.

But then about 40 minutes after lunch – BOOM! Like a brick wall, the fatigue hit. It was a literal slap in the face, coming after a brilliant night’s sleep and a day of working and being active. My eyes and limbs were heavy and I felt so very sleepy, it was awful. If I could have crawled into bed for a nap I would have but instead I Netflix’ed some Pixar and sat on the sofa with the kids.

And this is when it hit me. This post-lunch slump that I’ve always accepted as being part and parcel of being a busy mum, and before that having a demanding full time job, it is because of the WHEAT. I already knew that wheat made me uncomfortably bloated, but this tiredness that I’ve always assumed was a natural slump in my daily body clock, it’s because of what I’m eating for lunch.

(PS: by this point I was so bloated that I had to undo the button of my jeans. Bloody bloating)

I have always been a pretty tired person. I’ve always napped or enjoyed a lie-in at every opportunity and it’s been a great big pain in my wheat-filled arse. I’ve felt lazy at times, frustrated with the fact that my body doesn’t perform like some others, annoyed that it seemed to require so much sleep. Even now with the children sleeping til 7am I often have to take a nap in the middle of the day. I’ve assumed this has just been me, but now I’m wondering if this is simply down to the damned wheat?

I peeled myself off the sofa to do a bit of research and low and behold, chronic fatigue is a symptom of a gluten intolerance. It’s in black and white and you can read more about it here, here and here. I scoured every bit of information I could find and rejoiced: I can’t tell you how liberating this information is, it could explain so much. Falling asleep in afternoon meetings, having to take a nap in my car at work. Not being able to cope with young babies because I’m SO. FREAKING. TIRED. It’s my bloody diet!

For dinner I made the kids toad in the hole and thought it was only fair to carry out a bit of an experiment: I tried one of their Yorkshire puddings to see the effect it had on me. It happened again. Like clockwork the bloating and the fatigue followed, though as it was the end of the day it seemed a little less noticeable.

Chocolate brownies

I feel a little bit mad with myself. If I’d have known that I was intolerant to gluten 5, even 3 years ago, my life could have been completely different. I have wasted so much time asleep after eating meals, it’s like I’m going to be given the gift of an extra two hours every day. I’m also mad that under no circumstances will I be letting myself eat gluten in the middle of the day because golly gosh do I miss bread. Buttery toast with marmite, crusty bread with a big slick of butter. French stick dipped in brie. No more – I’m back to green juices at breakfast and big ol’ carb-free salads for lunch.

But as much as I miss bread I miss the part of my life that carries on without me when I’m napping after lunch.

NB: I’m in no way a dietician or nutritionist and I will be referring to the professionals when it comes to checking my diet is sustainable and healthy. Paleo 4 life, etc.