Thursday 21 November 2013

An Invitation to join me at Bodnant in 2014!


Look at these amazing dairy free tofu cheesecakes made on my cookery course in October with their proud creators,  Janet and Erin!  Thanks Ann for having your camera at the ready!

Next time, I'll make sure I take lots more photos to remember all the fabulous dishes produced by everyone on the day as well as the lovely people who made them!

I'm happy to say the next course isn't too far away.  It's on Saturday 11th January 2014 and, like all the courses I'm running next year, the focus will be very much on "Eating Your Way to Vibrant Health."  

To get 2014 off to a great start, I'd like to invite you to join me in a detox  - one with a difference.  This detox is designed for people who love to eat!

If you've ever felt bloated or sluggish after Christmas, you'll know that too many rich and sugary foods can affect your mood just as much as your body. January is the perfect time to give yourself a well-earned treat to refresh your body and your mind and start the new year feeling fabulous!  

To me, detoxing my body isn't about depriving myself or going without food. It's about choosing the right foods that I know will cleanse and revitalise my body naturally. It's also not just a quick fix so I can go back to eating anything and everything again! On the course, I'll be showing you how I incorporate healthy, detox-friendly foods into everyday eating and sharing essential tips on eating well permanently. 

New Year Detox :  Recipes for Abundant Health and Vitality

The recipes we'll be making on the day will be delicious and full of goodness and flavour.  They will be completely free from saturated fats, eggs and dairy products and, as it's detox day, totally free from sugar too.  If you're wondering how you can possibly make food taste good without any of these ingredients, I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised!  

I can guarantee you'll go home not only with a range of fabulous dishes to enjoy but also plenty of new ideas to help you plan appetising and healthy meals for the whole day including breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I'm delighted to say the course will once again take place at the impressive Bodnant Cookery School.  Everyone who came in October loved being there.  Set in the beautiful surroundings of the Conwy Valley,  the School is part of a wonderful development of converted stone buildings dating back to the 18th century. 

As well as a beautiful restaurant and tea room, the Welsh Food shop in the courtyard sells local produce and speciality goods made in the North Wales area, well worth a visit at the end of the day! 

The New Year Detox course is on Saturday 11th January 2014.  It starts at 10am and finishes at 4 pm and costs £95 inc. all your ingredients and lunch. 

If you don't live in the area, there is accommodation available at Bodnant and special rates if you would like to make a weekend of it. Make sure you sign up for the loyalty card available on the website so you can enjoy their special offers and discounts!

I'll be back soon with more details of other cookery courses I'm running next year and some new recipes too!  In the meantime,  please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

If you are ready to book, please contact Bodnant Welsh Food on 01492 651100.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday 16 October 2013

My First Cookery Course

Bodnant Cookery School

I'm just days away from teaching my very first cookery course!  Whilst I've been getting everything ready for next Saturday, I've been looking back to where my love of cooking started and remembering the day I gave up eating dairy for ever!

When I was 20 and in my third year at college in Leeds, I decided that, instead of sharing digs with friends, I would rent my own bed-sit.  It was just one room on the top floor of a large house, very small and compact but well designed and wonderfully light.  It was great having my own space at last and what I loved most was having my own kitchen! 

It may have been tiny but it was here in this neat little kitchenette that my love for cooking was born. Every Friday I'd go to Leeds market and come home on the bus laden with bags of fresh produce ready to try out a new recipe. My boyfriend Eric worked in Manchester and came over most weekends.  He remembers arriving on a Friday evening, climbing the stairs and being met by delicious aromas permeating from the top floor!

Yoga had already become part of my life at college and for two years I was secretary of the yoga club.  Our wonderful teacher Doreen Musgrove inspired us all with her healthy approach to life and her love of eating natural foods.

When I moved back to the South East close to London in 1978, it wasn't long before I was eating regularly at vegetarian cafes and restaurants and going to Health Shows like the Festival for Mind and Body which were just beginning at Olympia then.  Cutting out meat seemed an easy choice to make when the alternatives tasted that good and certainly, being an animal lover, I felt more at peace with myself not eating it.  I remember the decision to stop eating meat was made one evening, after a particularly good meal at my local vegetarian restaurant in Wimbledon Village!

Unlike many vegetarians, who substitute cheese and eggs in place of meat, Eric and I were both naturally drawn to a more plant based diet and also still chose to eat fish.  Nearby, Kingston upon Thames held a thriving daily market and it's superb fish and fruit and vegetable stalls supplied most of our requirements! 

Eric shared my interest and together we came across many new pioneering books on health. One in particular described a new way of eating that made complete sense - a totally animal-free diet, cutting out all meat, eggs and dairy produce. Reading how a group of people in Wales had overcome illnesses such as cancer and arthritis by not eating anything from an animal made a huge impression on us both. Even though such a diet was pretty radical back in 1980, I immediately cleared out my fridge and cupboards of all animal products!  This proved to be a defining moment and one that would herald the way for a complete change in lifestyle for us both from then on. 

Making the decision to change your diet or lifestyle is a very personal one. Firstly, it needs to be combined with a healthy approach to all aspects of your life to create balance and lasting well-being. Secondly, it's important to make the decision based on your own thoughts and feelings. When you do that, the decision is easy because you are simply expressing yourself and your individuality.
"When you are clear on who you are and what you stand for .... nothing is difficult.       It's just your life."    Sarah Kramer   La Dolce Vegan

Next Saturday, 19 October 2013, I'm thrilled to be teaching a dairy-free baking course at the Bodnant Cookery School in the Conwy Valley, North Wales.  

Click here for all the details and watch out for new courses in 2014!


Saturday 17 August 2013

Cook with Me at Bodnant!


I've loved sharing my recipes with you since starting this blog in 2010. My aim has always been to show that healthy eating is easy as well as appetising.  I have a lot of fun making each dish look tasty and tempting in the photos and now there's a chance for you to sample the food too!

Next Sunday, 25th August 2013,  I'll be giving a demonstration of dairy free cooking at the Cookery Festival being held over the Bank Holiday Weekend at Bodnant Welsh Foods Centre in the Conwy Valley.  

It's free to enter and there will be a variety of events going on each day so do come along if you live in North Wales.  I'll be there around 3pm on the Sunday and, if you like chocolate, you definitely won't want to miss sampling my Extra Special Chocolate Brownies!

Click here for more information about the Festival and, if you are there, do come and say hello!

Rhona's Cookery Course

In October, I'll be teaching a one day Cookery Course at the exclusive Bodnant Cookery School in Conwy.  If you would like to cook alongside me in the wonderful facilities, this is your chance and I would love you to join me.   

The course takes place on Saturday 19 October 2013 and is all about baking the dairy free way.   As it's National Baking Week, it seemed like the perfect time to offer some healthy alternatives to traditional baked recipes which are so often loaded with sugar, eggs, cream and fat.  

Over the years, I've lost count of the number of times I've been asked "How ever do you make cakes without eggs?" so I'm really happy to share with you my tried and tested methods of making cakes and cookies as well as savoury scones and tartlets.  As with all my recipes on this blog,  you won't find any eggs or dairy ingredients and very little sugar too. 

 Eating Well is a Way of Life
To me, choosing what to eat has everything to do with the impact it has on my health.  I love food and I love the pleasure I get from growing, preparing and eating it.  It's really not that difficult to enjoy eating a healthy diet. It's just a simple commitment to eat food that does my body, mind and soul good.

We all have different body types and different responses to food so no one way of eating is right for everyone. As more people are being diagnosed with food intolerances, it's even more important for each of us to adapt our eating habits to meet our individual health needs.

Far from being restrictive, changing our diet can be an opportunity to try out new ingredients and new methods of preparing food.  It can revitalise our taste buds as we become more conscious of each mouthful of food we eat. It can also open up a whole new way of cooking that can transform our life as well as our health!

When I stopped eating meat and animal products thirty three years ago,  there were few cookbooks that could teach me how to cook food free from animal ingredients.  However, I loved cooking (and eating!) so it didn't take me long to find new ways of making fantastic meals that even my meat-eating friends enjoyed!

   The Joy of Baking

Baking can be a wonderfully absorbing and creative hobby. When we bake mindfully, we put something of ourselves into the mixing bowl and this expression of love and care is like a magic ingredient that produces amazing results!

This course will appeal to anyone who cares about what they eat and who loves making food delicious.  Whether you are a complete novice or an experienced cook, newly diagnosed with a dairy intolerance or well accustomed to eating dairy free or maybe you simply want to expand your cooking repertoire, you will be inspired to create some fabulous food.

 Hands-On Experience
You will have plenty of hands-on practical experience as you prepare light and crispy pastry without animal fat, bake scrumptious cakes and savoury scones without milk or eggs and produce a creamy dessert without cream!  

The course starts at 10 am and finishes at 3.30pm and, at the end of the day, you'll take home a wonderful assortment of baked goodies that you have made yourself, including:-
  • Basil, tomato and olive scones
  • Butternut squash and mushroom tartlets
  • Baked lemon tofu cheesecake with summer fruit topping
  • Blueberry muffins
  • Apricot and pecan cookies

A light lunch is included which we'll eat together in the spacious dining area overlooking the beautiful Conwy estuary.

Click here for all the details on the Bodnant website and to book your place.  While October may seem like a long way off, make sure you reserve a place for yourself now as numbers are limited. 

Look forward to seeing you there!  

Saturday 23 March 2013

Date and Nut Granola

At a recent Health for Life Club meeting in Llandudno, I asked everyone to eat something they wouldn't normally eat or make something they wouldn’t normally make so we could share our experiences at the next meeting.  The idea was to break out of our normal eating habits and be more creative and adventurous!  

As we were discussing the hidden ingredients in processed foods that day, I decided to make something I'd normally buy as a ready made product. The obvious choice was granola, something I love to eat for breakfast as a cereal or with fruit and natural soya yogurt. I'd made some granola years ago which was okay but I knew I had to come up with something so appetising, I wouldn't be tempted to go back to buying it again!

Granola is traditionally made with oats, nuts and dried fruit and often contains high levels of sugar and honey too.  I found adding extra fruit, such as mashed banana, cooked apple or softened dates, to the oat mixture before baking to a crisp in the oven gave the best results.  Four varieties emerged which I took along to our meeting - Tropical Banana, Apple and Mango, Cranberry and Apricot and Date and Nut. 

Here's the recipe for my Date and Nut Granola which got the vote from our discerning Health for Life Club tasters!   I hope you like it too.   It's great just as it is or with sliced banana, pear or apple, blueberries, raisins or apricotsAdd your favourite soya milk or yogurt or use it as a crunchy topping as I've done below The choice is endless so why not be adventurous, create your own variation and make it healthy and delicious!  


100g dates
100ml cold water
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp date syrup/maple/agave
200g  jumbo whole rolled oats
100g nuts (e.g. cashews, pecans, almonds, brazil nuts)
40g pumpkin or sunflower seeds    


Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas Mark 3.

First, chop or cut up the dates with scissors and place in a small saucepan.  Add the water and bring to the boil.  As the mixture bubbles away for a minute or so,  press the dates with the back of a tablespoon until you have a soft puree. (Alternatively, this can be done in the microwave)

Mix together the oil and syrup in a medium sized bowl.

 Stir in the date puree and all the other ingredients. 

Spread out the mixture on a large baking tray.

Bake for 20 minutes, stirring the mixture half way through.      After 20 minutes, stir again and lower the oven temperature to 150C/130C fan/Gas Mark 2.

Bake for another 20 minutes, again stirring halfway. By this time, the mixture should be crisp and golden but, if not, give it another 5 - 10 minutes.   

Leave to cool on the tray, then store in an airtight container.  I like to keep mine in a tall glass jar ready for breakfast and as a crunchy topping with fruit and natural yogurt.

Place any fresh or cooked fruit, such as pears, apples, apricots, plums or blueberries,  in the bottom of a glass dish.  

Spoon over a couple of tablespoons of natural soya yogurt and top with granola.

Making your own granola is easy and tastes so much better than bought.  Why not have a go and let me know how you get on!


Saturday 16 February 2013

Cauliflower Cheese Crumble with Tomato and Herbs

Adding tomatoes, fresh thyme and an oaty crumble topping to cauliflower cheese transforms a simple dish into something else entirely!

I've been making this for years so it's definitely tried and tested as well as being a favourite!  The idea for a cauliflower crumble originally came from a Sophie Grigson's recipe.  I've added a "cheese" sauce and made the dish entirely dairy free.  

There are quite a few vegan alternatives to cheese available these days but we've always liked Bute Island Sheeses which are available in most independent health shops.    Some larger Tesco stores now stock a range of soya cheese (cream cheese spreads and cheddar) which are made by the same company. 

Ingredients                      Serves 4 - 6

1 cauliflower
4 tomatoes (or 400g can plum tomatoes, well drained)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
freshly ground salt and pepper

100g dairy free margarine (e.g. Pure)
50g wholemeal flour
50g plain white flour
50g porridge oats
50g dairyfree cheddar Sheese, grated

Cheese Sauce
1 small onion 
40g dairy free margarine (e.g. Pure)
25g plain flour
15 fl.oz unsweetened soya milk
40g cheddar Sheese, grated
pinch of cayenne pepper


Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6

First prepare the cauliflower.  Break up the cauliflower into florets and select a few of the tender leaves (save the rest to use as greens another day.)  

At this point, it's handy to choose your ovenproof dish, ideally one that will take the cauliflower in a single layer.  

Simmer the cauliflower in a large pan of salted water until almost tender - about 7 or 8 minutes - or, alternatively,  steam for about 12 minutes.   Drain and arrange in your dish.


Next, make the cheese sauce.   Finely chop the onion.   Melt 40g margarine in a saucepan over a medium heat and cook the onion for about 5 minutes without browning until translucent.


Add 25g plain flour and stir well (a balloon whisk is great for this) until you have a paste,  then cook over a gentle heat for a minute or two, stirring all the time. 

Remove the pan from the heat whilst you pour in the milk.  Add a little at a time, stirring constantly.
Place back over a medium heat and bring slowly to a simmer.  Let it bubble away gently for about five minutes until you have a creamy sauce, then add 40g grated cheddar sheese and a pinch of cayenne.  Season with salt and pepper.

Pour evenly over the cauliflower.  

Slice the tomatoes and place on top of the cauliflower cheese. 
If you're using a tin, drain the juice (to drink later!) and chop the tomatoes into small pieces.   Sprinkle over the top with fresh thyme leaves and a little salt.

To make the crumble,  either melt 100g margarine in a pan over a low heat or in a medium bowl in the microwave.  Add the two flours (100g in total),  50g oats and 50g grated cheddar Sheese and stir well.  Season with salt and pepper.      

Using your fingers,   sprinkle the crumble mixture over the vegetables.  Don't worry if there are any gaps - it's not meant to cover every inch!

 Bake for about 35 minutes until the topping is golden brown. 

Serve straightaway with some oven roasted potatoes and a green vegetable.