Ben’s Balsamic Pigeon Breast & Smoky Bacon

Ben is really brave at just winging it, based on an idea, with no recipe whatsoever… and then having a really delicious meal turn out on the other end. He did just that with this dish, back when we used to work in the pub kitchen. He rustled this one up on an idea he had in his head and it was a special on the menu.

So the other day we happened upon some pigeon breasts and I said ‘let’s have that meal that you used to make at the pub for dinner tonight’. And just like that he conjured it up out of his memory from 4 years ago! It’s great having a Ben around!

Ingredients: serves 2-3

6 pigeon breasts

1 pack (6 rashers) rind on smoked streaky bacon

Salt and Pepper

6 tbsp Balsamic vinegar

We served it with:

Basmati brown & Wild Rice Blend & Mixed leaf salad. But it could also be served with crushed potatoes and green veg or Quinoa and roasted vegetables or why not be creative and tell me what yours accompanied?


1. Lay the pigeon breasts out and season well on all sides.

2. Cut the rind from the bacon rashers. Put the rind into a dry frying pan over a medium heat and render, until nearly back and most of the juice and fat have cooked out. It doesn’t matter if they burn a little, we won’t be eating the rind, just getting the flavour out of it. Remove the rind pieces from the pan once it’s rendered. If you have managed to avoid burning them you can eat these as crispy bacon bits! Otherwise discard. Pre heat oven to 180oC.

3. Add the pigeon breasts to the bacon fat/juice and seal for a minute on each side.

4. Add into the pan the balsamic vinegar. It will reduce very rapidly so constantly turn the pigeon and shake the pan so it doesn’t stick. When the balsamic is at the point of sticking and ‘treacle like’ remove from the heat. Roll the pigeon in the sauce so it’s well covered and remove from the pan. Wrap each balsamic pigeon breast in a rasher of smoked bacon, and lay on an oven proof tray.

5. Once the pigeon is out, return the pan to the heat with a little water to deglaze. Pour the resulting liquid oven the top of the bacon parcels and then put the tray in the oven for 10- 15 minutes, or until the bacon looks cooked.

6. Slice and serve with your favourite side!

The medicine of the past

Fresh air is magic. When I was really little I remember my great aunts that also lived on the farm telling me that ‘you need fresh air in your lungs’! They used to walk around the fields everyday to get their dose, come rain or shine!

I also remember my Dad telling us if we were a bit under the weather to get outside because it always makes you feel better. None of this ‘wrap up warm and go back to bed’, oh no! And however much I didn’t want to go outside on a day I felt rubbish, it always did make me feel better.

Well now science has caught up, as it very often does, and has proved in numerous ways how we benefit from the outdoors; with vitamin D exposure, with exercise and movement benefits and it can even ease the symptoms of depression, to name a few.

So today, when I had 2 grotty children who both have snuffles, coughs, aren’t sleeping and are generally in bad moods…what should I do? Well let’s just say there was no moaning and groaning or mention of a cough and cold when we got to Salcey Forest! Smiles all round and lungs full of fresh air!

Ps- if you’re wondering about Paddington, he is on holiday with us from Arthur’s pre school and he loves the tree tops and fresh air!

How I had my cake and ate it, avoided the gym, and lost 4 stone!

Sounds like click bait doesn’t it? But I 100% believe it to be true. So ‘What’s your secret?’ It’s a question I hear a lot these days. Well here it is! But I can only tell you the secret by letting you in on the journey of my transformation first. The transformation that lead this once obese and unfit, sugar junkie, exercise dodger to become a fit and healthy, disciplined, food loving, good example to my family. And as with everything in my life, it starts with food…lots of food!

‘I’ll never be thin, I love food too much’ This was my favourite phrase. And I believed it. And I liked it, because it excused the fact that I had a BMI that was over 35, and was touching 17 stone. So I hid behind the fact that I work in a food shop, ran a bakery, and had always been over weight, so I was never gonna change was I?!

But then once your eyes are opened to the fact that your size puts you in danger, there’s no option left but to change is there? So this is the story of a girl that learnt discipline and control, and in the process replaced obsession with a genuine love of food.

It started with exercise. I’ve never really exercised. I’d tell myself I didn’t really need to because I worked on a my feet a lot so that’s enough. But now I was at the point of needing to lose weight for my health and the health of my family, I needed to properly exercise. The thing is it’s very hard to start the process when you are very unfit, very over weight and basically a gym-o-phobe! I tell myself that I don’t go to the gym because it’s hard to get child care. But really I was scared to death of exercising in front of strangers, with machines that I didn’t know how to work, and wearing tight fitting exercise clothes. It’s my vision of hell. So I decided I’d see what the home workout scene had to offer. I’m lucky to have quickly found an excellent company, and really the cornerstone to my success. You know I love those business’ that are personal, where you deal with real people and not automated responses. Well I found this in the world of fitness. Team body project. Run by a husband and wife team, who are, via a bank of multi level workouts and plans they have made, your very own personal trainers in your living room. They may be over the waves of the internet, but they are there in your living room, by your side, kicking your bum onwards. They are also available to answer you questions, and there is a great community that provide unlimited support and loveliness!! So it took me a little while to get into exercising everyday, but I really took well to doing it at home, and followed plans to gradually build myself up. Whereas in the beginning I relied on motivation to get me doing it, now I’ve got to a place where I don’t rely on motivation. I’ve learnt the discipline to do it everyday, because it matters to me and it’s ultimately rewarding. Daniel, our trainer, says it’s like brushing your teeth. It’s not always fun but you just gotta do it everyday because you care about the outcome, and he’s right isn’t he?! So I’ve avoided the gym, and found the thing that suits me, and fits in with my day. It wasn’t easy in the beginning, heck some days it still isn’t. But the way it makes me feel and contributes positively to every aspect of my life is worth it. They say exercise only accounts for a small percentage of your weight loss, but it’s accounted for 100% of my focus.

So the diet? I’m actually really good at dieting. I’m even better at putting it all back on again. But this is a change for life, it’s not a ‘diet’. And here are the things that have helped me…

1. It’s about maths

It’s calorie in versus calories out. That sounds miserable on the face of it, but actually it has set me free. Because once it sinks in that it’s about eating overall less calories than you burn, it’s opened up the playing field. I’d always heard about magic diets that cut out one food group or another, and I’ve tried them. And I’ve had success until I couldn’t take cutting that thing out anymore and then gorged on it. But the realisation that all these diets do is attempt to control your calories within a framework that suits your lifestyle has lead me to a place where I can control my calories myself, without the rules of that diet. And in doing that, no food is off the table. But instead my table doesn’t have ALL the food on it at once! It’s lead me to really think about what foods I enjoy, and the ‘value for money’ you get out of things. This means I have cooked more, and I’ve been more creative about what I cook. It means I’ve enjoyed the process of cooking more. It means I’ve cut things that I’ve realised aren’t that important to me. For example I love poached eggs on toast for breakfast. Just skipping the spread on my bread (which I don’t even notice with a beautifully runny egg anyway) buys me a whole strip of my favourite dark chocolate to enjoy before bed. A whole strip! And if I want to go out for a meal and have a pudding? That’s fine! Just track the calories and eat less calories another day to compensate. Or do an extra workout. And what about the fact I love cake? Just fit it in to the plan, and don’t eat the whole cake! Nothing is out of bounds. The problem before is that I had no limits. So I was probably overeating by 1000 odd calories a day. I had no perception of that fact I wasn’t burning anywhere near that amount off. But the knowledge that you just need to balance it against what you burn has really set me free to choose the foods that take me to my calorie limit as I want. And with that I have had a sigh of relief and it’s lead me to the next revelation…

2. I love healthy food

Although I’ve just been banging on about not restricting any food group, when I first changed to this new way of life I did have a spell of restriction. For a few weeks I cut out sugar altogether. And then reintroduced it under my own steam. I also started to cook more. I’ve always loved cooking anyway, but I’d got a bit in a rut. Cutting the sugar and getting fit really helped give me the clarity and enthusiasm to throw myself into food again. And it’s amazing how much I found my love for cooking again! Cooking and loving food are as essential as exercise to a healthy lifestyle, for me anyway. Because I’m never ever going to stick to something that equates food to misery. But when all day I’m thinking up things I can cook tonight, I’m in happy land. And then there is no reason to leave! I’ve learnt that I’m happier dreaming of a new type of curry I can make with loads of vegetables and maybe trying a coconut rice to go on the side, than I ever was just eating the same old thing with no thought and then sitting down with a cup of tea and demolishing a whole packet of biscuits. Variety is the spice of life after all, and the habits I had got into did not promote variety. But cooking a new thing everyday opens the door to a world of variety, balance and most importantly, sticking to it!

3. There’s no time pressure

Once I decided this was a transformation for life, then it didn’t matter how long it took. When I have been on miserable restrictive diets before, it was a race to get to the goal so I could end the misery and get back to ‘normal’. Which in turn meant the weight went back on. But this is about life long habit change and not a race to the finish line. So if it’s not a race, you can actually eat a bit more! Where I had basically starved in the past, which was unsustainable and unhealthy, but fast. I found I could keep a steady 1lb a week coming off by still eating 1800 calories a day. For me that’s 3 good meals and a decent snack. Well that’s no problem I can live like that. On a diet before I’d have been gutted with just 1lb a week. But when I feel like I’ve eaten pretty happily and comfortably and a pound comes off…well that to me is a major win.

4. There’s no place for guilt

Guilt is the killer of joy isn’t it. So get rid of it. Why feel guilty because you’ve had a piece of cake. Tell yourself ‘I’m going to have a piece of cake, and I’m going to enjoy it’. Then afterward think ‘I really enjoyed that, I’m going to eat my dinner without the roast potatoes to balance the calories’! Or ‘I’m going to switch my lattes to a cups of tea’. Or a million other ways you can swap things for the cake. Guilt has no place. This one thing has made me enjoy my food. Decide you are going to have it. Fit it into the plan. Enjoy it. The end!

5. There is no wagon

This is the best lesson I have taken from Team Body Project. You see it’s not just a home workout plan. Everything that I’ve passed on in this post as messages relating to my success, have actually originated from them. I might sound like a person that’s been brainwashed by a cult, but really I’m just over the moon that I’ve had my eyes opened. I found a company unlike any other in the fitness industry. A company that tell it like it is, that get rid of the myths and bizarre diet rules that I have blindly followed my entire adult life. And this is the best one. I said to Daniel, our trainer, that I’m good at diets until I fall off the wagon. And his reply of ‘Vicky, there is no wagon’ is like the bullet that smashed everything I thought I knew about eating and dieting, and blew it wide open. Of course there is no wagon. Eureka. In a healthy life, following a balanced diet, there is no wagon to fall off. There’s just life, and a path that you keep walking. If you have a day where you eat more than you intended, oh well! Get up the next day and get back onto that healthy path. And walk it. It’s better for you to walk anyway!

So that there is my secret. I didn’t suddenly have a wand waved and fall in love with only eating raw vegetables. And I didn’t grow to feel like the very idea of cake was now repulsive! I didn’t take a mystery shake. Or only eat carbs on a Sunday during a thunderstorm. I did learn the value of moving, and the benefits of exercise. And that could be done without ever crossing the threshold of a gym (or lining their palm with silver!). And I did learn that balance in my calorie intake was crucial. Not everything I could balance on my plate like before. I learnt that there’s no place for food guilt, and also no place for restriction. I did however have to be honest with myself and not “forget” things I’d eaten! And that my friends, is how I had my cake and ate it, avoided the gym and have lost 4 stone!

Last but definitely not least, I must pay tribute to my wonderful husband, who has not only helped me, but had hopped on the journey right by my side and had now also lost a whopping 4 stone (at least, I’m sure it’s more), well done Ben!

Check out if you are interested in health and fitness at home, as well as support and advice!

Mission: Bagel

I love breakfast. But…I’m a big time breakfast hopper. I have spells where I love a certain thing, and have it every day for a few weeks and don’t fancy anything else. And then one day I hop to something else. And then have that every day. And so the cycle repeats. The last one was dark malt sour dough toast and honey. Had that every day for about 3 weeks and now I’m onto the next one.

So…This is my absolute favourite breakfast at the moment!

Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Eggs on a lightly toasted bagel with beetroot side salad. Just to clarify, salad for breakfast is weird. This is the ONLY instance that I find it acceptable!

So my challenge it to hand craft my own bagels. Tonight I had a little play around at my first batch. I want to get a base recipe and the techniques right so that then I can tweak it and add to it. I got all set up and then I heard the unmistakable scrapings of a chair being pulled along the floor which can only mean one thing. A small child is getting in on the act!

Well the result was something that looks like bagels, and smells like bagels. But the proof is in the pudding, isn’t it? Breakfast time tomorrow will tell me the truth as to whether I progress on my bagel journey or whether it’s over before it’s begun! I will report back! Watch this…hole?

Super Dexter & Veggie Bolognese

What does bolognese mean to you? In our house it means hearty, it means packed full of good stuff and it means a great big pan full so that we can keep coming back to it through the week! I really believe that good ingredients make cooking easy, and using the pedigree grass fed Dexter Beef mince is a perfect example of this. It just has so much flavour, that this meal cannot fail!


(This serves 4 of us with enough to put into the fridge for at least one more meal for all 4!)

500g Dexter minced beef

1 onion

3 cloves garlic

Glug rapeseed oil

8 cup mushrooms

Large jar passatta

1 Red & 1 yellow pepper

1 beef stock pot

1 Courgette

1 tin mixed beans

Small bunch fresh basil

Spaghetti (for meal 1, then jacket potato for meal 2, then rice for meal 3 😂)

Salt & Pepper

How to make it tasty:

1. Heat the oil in a large non stick pan, over a med-high heat, and then add the diced onion and fry until starting to soften. Add the minced garlic and mushrooms chopped into small pieces. Combine and cook until the mushroom has browned slightly and the onion is very soft. Add the diced peppers and continue to cook while stirring.

2. When the pepper has softened, add the minced beef. Break up with the spoon and stir until browned all over. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped courgette and stir in. Leave to cook for 1-2 minutes.

3. Put a pan of water with a pinch of salt onto boil. Add the beef stock pot to the meat and veggies, and a little water (only about 100ml), and stir to dissolve the stock pot. Add the jar of passata and the strained beans and when it’s all bubbling turn the heat down to a simmer. Leave for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the spaghetti into a pan of salted boiling water, bring back to the boil and turn down to a simmer. Next add to the bolognese the roughly torn basil leaves (leaving some back to garnish with). Season again with salt and pepper and leave to simmer for a further 5 minutes. Or until the spaghetti is done.

4. I don’t really need to explain how to dish it up and demolish it do I?!


Packed full of good stuff!

Makes enough to put some in the fridge for later in the week!


How can I make my child eat?

It’s always frustrating when your children eat a very limited range of food. Especially when you run a food business! As you might have seen before I have one that gives most food a go, and one that eats a very limited range. If he could live on cheese sandwiches, biscuits and those dried fruit ‘bear’ snacks (can’t remember the name, Arthur calls them ‘Bear & Mole’) he’d be quite happy. There’s only about 4 vegetables he will actually tolerate, and that’s when he’s in the mood. He won’t touch raw vegetables because they are ‘yucky’ and the only fruits he likes that aren’t dried are bananas and apples.

Then there’s the nightmares when one of the food they will eat, suddenly ends up on the ‘refuse and act like it’s poison’ list.

I have found this really hard, as I’m sure everyone does that has children that eat this way. I run a food business, my life is cooking! My life is trying new foods. My life is trying new cooking methods. But aside from this, I consider myself knowledgeable about what is healthy and what is not. And what I want my children to be eating and what I don’t. So there is a clash of wills when you are faced with a child that will only eat for breakfast toast and peanut butter. Everyday. Until suddenly it changes, and how dare you suggest he likes toast. And then he will only eat weetabix. With the milk in cup so he can pour it on himself. He went through a spell of wanting a boiled egg every morning. Yet last night when we suggested boiled eggs today, it was like we had torn his whole world apart.

So what do I do about it? Well the thing is you don’t know if you’re making the right decisions or tackling things the right way until they are grown up and you see the outcome of your efforts, and then it’s too late to go back! But this is what I believe will work. And that’s the best I can do really isn’t it?

So here’s the things I try and do:

1) Not force it.

It’s not a battle of wills anymore if you stop fighting. And by that I don’t mean give up the fight. I just mean that forcing and pressuring is going to make a strong willed child do the opposite. Don’t get me wrong I’ve done my share of begging/bargaining/laying the law down in the past. But it has never once succeeded. Not really. Yes he might have filled his ‘one bite of carrot’ requirement to buy himself a turn on sonic the hedgehog, but it’s not going to have made him like carrots. And it’s going to associate the eating carrots as something bad that I need a reward in order to do. So forcing it is out.

2) Give him control.

I’m pretty sure most of what is considered ‘naughty’ child behaviour is actually just a frustration when coming to understand the world. And his role in it. And the control or lack of it that he has. I’ve got on really well with Arthur in the past at giving him as many choices as possible, and in him making those choices, he’s not as bothered about the bigger battles. One example is he never used to want to get out of the bath. And he used to cry and I would get frustrated with him and it wasn’t pleasant. So I took the emphasis away from getting out of the bath and introduced some choices. First I’ll say ‘do you want to get out of the bath now, or in 1 more minute?’. He says ‘one more minute’. Then in a minute I say, ‘right the minute is up, it’s time to pull the plug…do you want to pull the plug or do you want mummy to pull the plug’. It’s always him who pulls the plug, but him being in control seems to work wonders. He gets out of the bath, no tantrums. So I’m starting to transfer my success with this over to food. ‘Do you want you tea with peas or with sweet corn?’ ‘If you don’t like your dinner you can choose a banana instead?’. Little things like that to hand the control over to him.

3) Make it familiar and accessible.

I will never give up dishing him up vegetables. Even if 100 times he refuses it. One time he will give it a try. The other day he discovered he liked a green bean that was on his plate. He was playing with his plate and picked up a bean and podded it open like a pea first to thoroughly investigate what he was committing too. But he ate it, and it was ok. He hadn’t eaten a green bean since he was about 10 months old. Now that’s real progress for us. I didn’t make a big deal of it, but was beaming inside. I also try to always get them involved in cooking and food prep whenever I can. The more familiar it is, the less big of a deal it will be to pluck up the courage to try it. And when that day comes that he’s ready to try new things, he will have the skills he needs to make them shine! I really believe that if I can, as a mum, pass one skill onto them, the ability to cook is the one I’d choose!

4) Lead by Example

And this is the big one isn’t it? Eat well yourself. Because when they hit that stage where they try more diverse foods, your footsteps are the only ones they will know how to walk in. This point has caused the most soul searching and the biggest change to our family life. We weren’t good examples when Arthur was little. And how could I expect him to eat grapes as a snack when I am eating biscuits? We have now completely transformed our attitude to food as a family. I know this will pay off! Because even if it doesn’t work at changing how the boys eat, it has given Ben and I much more enthusiasm for real healthy food, positive relationships with food and I’m sure a fitter, healthier and longer life!

5) Don’t Play Them Off

Well if point 4 caused the biggest change to our life, point 5 is the most challenging to implement. It is so tempting to say to Arthur ‘look at Leo, he’s eating his orange, isn’t he doing well?’ or ‘all your friends are eating strawberries, don’t you want one?’. But I’m trying hard not to do this, because he’s not a fussy eater. He’s a child. I don’t want to turn this into a ‘thing’ where he grows up with the self fulfilling prophecy that he has a negative relationship with food, and that’s somehow bad, or makes him bad. He’s a child that isn’t yet ready to try things. And if he does try them, a palette that isn’t mature enough to like them. Thinking back, all of my favourite foods currently I didn’t like as a child (most of them I would have never heard of back then, what the devil is hummus?!). So I’m determined to not make it an issue, he is only just 4. There’s loads of things he tried and even likes now that he didn’t touch 6 months ago. Which leads me onto 6…

6) Be patient, don’t worry

It’s not easy. But being more relaxed about what they eat makes meal times more relaxed. And more relaxed= more likely to try things. And if they don’t it’s ok, they will one day. And when that day arrives they will know how to cook. Maybe I can have a night off then?

If this sounds familiar to you, please get in touch to tell me what you did to help your children get into trying different foods. And please share to other parents. Because I have never observed ‘mum wars’ but I have often found solace in the ‘Mum Army’. Those band of heroes that are in your corner, who pick you up, give you advice, tell you it’s ok, and give you the strength and confidence to push on. Sometimes those words ‘yeah me too’ mean everything!