Lockdown, Recipe, Uncategorised

Lockdown – butternut squash soup recipe


Serves 4 generously (keeps in the fridge for 3 days)

Takes about 35 mins + prep



  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and seeded and diced (or buy it prepped – 600g)
  • 1 pepper, seeded and diced
  • About 3cm of fresh red chilli, seeded and finely sliced (opt)
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 litre stock
  • 2 tsp olive oil


  1. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion, garlic, celery and carrot, and saute for 3 mins.
  2. Add the squash and stock, bring to a simmer, cook for 30 mins until the squash is cooked.
  3. Cool a little, then whizz through a blender and check the seasoning. (You might need to add a little bit more stock/water, depending on how thick you like your soup.)


  • Spicy: end of stage one, add spices and stir for 30 seconds: add 1tsp smoked paprika and 1 tsp cumin; or 1/2 tsp mild dried chilli; 
  • Orange: with the stock, add grated rind of an orange (and stir in the juice after you’ve blended it)
Lockdown, Recipe, Uncategorised

Lockdown – potato and leek soup recipe

Serves 4; takes about 30 mins + prep




  • 450g potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 medium leeks, washed well and cut into 1/2cm rings
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 litre stock
  • 1/2 tbs olive oil


  1. Heat the oil, then saute the leeks for about 3 mins.
  2. Add the potatoes, garlic and stock.
  3. Simmer for about 25 mins, until the potatoes are soft.
  4. Let it cool a little, then blend and season. 
  5. Garnish with snipped chives and a swirl of plain yogurt
Lockdown, Recipe, Uncategorised

Lockdown – veggie soup recipe

Super-easy – takes about 30 mins + prep



  • 1 red onion or leek, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • about an inch of red chilli pepper, deseeded and sliced (or a pinch of dried chilli flakes)
  • 1 tsp ground smoked paprika
  • A litre of veggie stock (or 1 tin chopped tomatoes in juice plus fill the tin with water once or twice again, depending on the amount of veg you use)
  • Veggies – all roughly chopped – of your choice, roughly one large handful prepped per portion of soup (I’d use red/orange/yellow pepper, courgette, butternut squash, sweet potato, parsnip, a couple of ribs of celery…) (if you’d rather have a brothy soup, cut to small dice rather than roughly chop)
  • Big handful of dried red lentils
  • a little olive oil


  1. Heat a little oil in a pan; add the onion, carrot, celery, fresh chilli and garlic; saute on medium heat for 5 mins. 
  2. Add spices and cook for 30 secs.
  3. Add veggies and stock (and dried pulses if using), and simmer for 25 mins or until veggies are soft. 
  4. For smooth soup, whizz through a blender; for brothy soup, you’re already there 🙂

You can also get away with just dumping everything but the oil in a pan, bring to a simmer, cook for 25 mins (makes it even more low cal/easy effort).

Exercise, Lockdown, Uncategorised

Lockdown – exercise circuits

I adapted one of my gym circuits as a home workout and I did actually film myself on my phone to demo it – but I cant download it! So I’m afraid it has to be the ‘paper’ version (though I guess that spares you seeing the flab!).

Suitable for all ages/levels of experience. No special equipment needed (but if you do the high-impact version you DO need proper gym shoes and, if appropriate, a supportive bra). If you have mobility problems, keep whatever you do to a safe level for you – don’t push your boundaries. Make sure you warm up first.

The key thing is COUNTING EACH REP OUT LOUD – because that will fill your head and give you no space to think about what’s going on in the world outside. It’ll give you a mental break as well as help your fitness.

It’s a ‘pyramid’ so you can repeat the circuit, or do it backwards, or do all the exercises in sets of ten – whatever you want to do. (But count the reps, because that’s the mental health boost!)

March on the spot, do circles with your arms (as in lift arm up, twist slightly to look behind as you circle your arm down), do a few knee bends, move your arms around


  • 100 jogs (each leg), marches or steps
  • 80 star jumps (full range if you’re used to it, step it out if not)
  • 60 punches (each arm) – 20 upwards, 20 in front, 20 down
  • 40 squats (go as low as you can, but make sure your knees are NOT further forward than your toes) – or if you’re finding the move tough place a chair behind you and sit down and stand up (without using your arms to help you)
  • 20 twists (standing – or if you want to sit to do a ‘Russian’ twist, bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor and your knees together, lean backwards slightly, hold a tin or a weight with two hands, and touch the floor with the weight each side)
  • 10 bicep curls (don‘t swing your arms – lock your upper arms, start with your arms at 90 degrees to the floor, clench your fists and draw your arm up from the elbow – do it slowly, three seconds up and three seconds down, because it’ll make your muscles work harder)


  • hamstring stretch – take a step back with one leg, bend the other knee (make sure it’s not further forward than your toe), both feet flat on the floor and hold (if you can’t feel it in the back of your leg, widen your stance!)
  • quad stretch – pull one leg up behind you and hold (should feel along the front of your thighs) – might need to hold on to a chair for balance, and that’s fine
  • shoulders – link your hands, turn them 180 degrees out, round your back and drop your head forward, hold

This is the original circuit. Enjoy!

  • 120 skips
  • 100 star jumps
  • 80 punches
  • 60 Russian twists with a shoulder press in the middle
  • 40 squats
  • 20 knee drivers (each leg)
  • 10 burpees
Lockdown, Recipe, Uncategorised

Lockdown – banana bread recipe


Cake without eggs? Yes, indeed! This banana bread is based on the one from Angela Gliddon’s ‘Oh She Glows’ website, with some tweaks. And it’s seriously scrumptious. All storecupboard except the bananas. 


3 ripe bananas, mashed
15 g ground flaxseed
80 ml almond milk (soy milk and oat milk also work just fine)
80 ml sunflower oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
60 g brown sugar
50 g rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
200 g plain flour


Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 1kg/2lb loaf tin. (I use precut liners because it’s so much quicker!)

Stir in the rest of the ingredients one by one.

Spoon the batter into the tin and spread evenly.

Bake the loaf, uncovered, for 45 mins until golden and firm on top – it should spring back like a sponge.

Notes from me: I tend to cover the tin with foil for the last 30 mins and check it every five minutes – ovens do vary! You can make it without the oil, but it’ll be a slightly drier texture and need slightly less time to cook.)

Lockdown, Recipe, Uncategorised

Lockdown – cheese stars recipe

By popular demand… This is possibly the best recipe my mum ever taught me. Flat-out 1970s hedonism! Super-easy, brilliant for parties and afternoon tea, and everyone I’ve ever made these for has loved them – even my daughter, in her pre-vegan days (and she hated cheese!). Don’t ask me about the saturated fat content or calories because I’d like to stay in denial (but they are 3 Weightwatchers points each – worth it, in my opinion).

Normally I’d give tweaks to make it dairy-free, but in this case nothing works well enough. It has to be dairy cheese and proper salted butter. You can sub up to a quarter of the Gouda for cheddar and get away with it, but using all cheddar gives a different texture. This is my family’s favourite version.

Top tips: don’t skip the chilling stage (otherwise they spread and they’re impossibly crumbly and not as nice), and make sure the oven’s pre-heated.




  • 8 oz/250g butter
  • 8 oz/250g Gouda, grated
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 8 oz/250g plain flour
  • Paprika, to taste


Beat the butter until creamy.

Add the cheese, egg yolks and paprika.

Work in the flour (with your hands usually works best!).

Chill the dough for an hour.

Knead, roll out to 5mm thick, and cut out star shapes (my cutter is about 3cm wide).

Place on a lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 10-12 minutes then cool on a rack.

Lockdown, Mental health, Uncategorised, Writing life

Lockdown – working from home



A few tips for working from home from someone who‘s done it for a couple of decades – pretty much common sense, so apologies if I’m womansplaining (!) but it might help someone – and in these times I think we all need kindness and help 🙂

1) wear your work clothes (it will help you keep a work mindset) – one of my friends says that wearing shoes helps

2) sort out a routine (where and when you work – it is hard, especially if you have young children, but it’s also a way to help teach the skill of compromising!)

3) batch emails and use a timer when you’re checking them (ditto going on the internet – both of them can be massive time sucks if you let them)

4) get up and move at least once an hour – stretching, walking round the room/marching on the spot, up and down the stairs if you have any – if you have a fitness tracker that reminds you, great, otherwise maybe use your phone to set an alarm

5) hydrate properly and eat well (ie put the cookies and tortilla chips in a cupboard – if they’re out of sight you’re less likely to scoff a cookie with every cup of coffee)

6) schedule in social breaks (again, use a timer! but those breaks are important – if you’re on your own, maybe work out a schedule with friends so you can FaceTime/Skype/whatever)

Main thing is – you’re not alone. It’s doable. Sometimes it’s boring, sometimes you won’t feel like it – but schedule in treats. Get two things ticked off your todo list, and that earns you 10 minutes doing a crossword/playing guitar/whatever makes you happy.

Stay safe, be kind, wash your hands, and we’ll get through this.

Lockdown, Recipe

Lockdown – dhal recipe


Based on a recipe by Anna Jones – uses mainly storecupboard ingredients

35 mins + prep; cooked on stovetop; serves 4
a little oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
Fresh ginger (thumb-sized piece), peeled and grated (or 1 tbs of the stuff in a jar, or 1 tsp ground will do!)
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (can use red)
1 red onion, peeled and chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cinnamon
200g dried red lentils
400ml stock
2 large handfuls of spinach
bunch of fresh coriander, chopped (can live without this…)
Juice of 1 lemon

Heat the oil; saute the garlic, ginger, chilli and onion for 10 mins.

Add the ground spices and saute for 30 seconds.

Add lentils, coconut milk and stock, bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 25 mins. (Check it and stir every so often so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.)

Stir in the spinach, chopped coriander and lemon.

Serve with rice or carb of choice (we also did roasted veg with ours – courgette, mushrooms, pepper – cut into 2cm pieces, mist with oil, bake at 180C for about 20 mins)

Lockdown, Mental health

Lockdown – mental health exercise

I’m resurrecting my blog during lockdown and I want to use it for positive things that might help people.

Lots of people are worried right now, and sometimes it’s hard to get out of a fear spiral. The exercises below (researched by me with my Medical Romance author hat on, some time back!) might help.

Start by ‘square breathing’ to help steady you (breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 3, breathe out for 3, hold for 3).

Then you do the 54321 sequence below – what it does is use all your senses to ground you in the present and stop your thoughts spiralling.

5. Name five things you can see around you (eg table, dog).
4. Name four things you can touch around you (eg pen, chair).
3. Name three things you can hear (eg clock ticking, birdsong)
2. Name two things you can smell (eg coffee).
1. Name one thing you can taste (eg coffee, a biscuit)

Big hugs to all of you. We’ll get through this.