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.