Eating out – Cavegirl style

Looking back over my posts, I realised that I said I’d talk about the restaurants we go to when we chose to eat away from home, rather than me just cooking homemade copies of the commercial stuff. This has fallen by the wayside for a couple of reasons:

1. There hasn’t been anywhere new I wanted to try out

2. I forgot

We’re lucky in Berkshire to have quite a wide variety of restaurants on offer, and they are gradually becoming more “Real Food” focussed. Independent coffee shops, organic juices – we’re almost catching up with London!

While many main-stream restaurants have caught on to the gluten-free bandwagon sadly many are still relying on corn, rice and a LOT of sugar. I’m fortunate not to have life threatening allergies, so I can eat a little of these substances and not feel too bad. In larger quantities I suffer the next day. This my current pick of Paleo-friendly dinner venues:

Jamie’s Italian – I so wanted to hate it, but it was actually very good.

Carluccio’s is my favourite for a special dinner. Not all that expensive, but the antipasti plates are too gorgeous to resist so it always ends up being a big dinner. Real Italian food that goes beyond pizza and pasta.

Loch Fyne has always been a go-to spot. While they don’t have a gluten-free menu, many of their main courses are served as- is and you choose sides seperately, so you can enjoy broccoli, salad or samphire with your meal. Also, you can’t go wrong with a plate of oysters or a lobster platter and a glass of something chilled and fizzy 😉   [unless you have a seafood allergy, then you’re buggered]

Mission Burrito – no GF menu but offers the option of having all the usual taco and burrito toppings on a crunchy salad. Made to order so just ask for no beans, and no cheese if you’re hard-core. This place gives Chipotle in the US a run for it’s money!

Las Iguanas is a new favourite. I had assumed this was another tex-mex, nachos and deep fried breaded food place. I was sooo wrong. Not being of Latin American decent I have no idea how authentic it is, but their Brasillian inspired food is unusual and delicious. It’s not often I go to a restaurant in the UK and don’t know what things on the menu are.  The GF menu is pretty big (although a lot of it does include rice, corn and beans) but the real winner here is their taco sharing plate which comes with gem lettuce cups instead of tortillas. Yum! They also do sweet potato fries, cassava fries and plantain chips, but they’re not marked as GF which suggests they’ve been coated in something to help crisp them up 🙁

There are, of course, other places where you can ask for substitutions to which they may or may not acquiesce – but we’re British and don’t like to have to ask.

Crispy shredded chicken Asian veg salad

The only reason I called this “Asian” salad is because I was replicating the most amazing salad I had at Asian Box in Macy’s SFO. Who’d have thought you could get fresh, tasty, gluten-free food in a department store basement food hall?!

You start your “box” with a base of rice, noodles or salad – I go with the brown rice or salad depending on jet-lag levels – then add protein* of your choice followed by steamed or wok-fired veggies. If that’s not enough there’s a whole pick ‘n mix of toppings like crispy shallots, fresh herbs, pickled veggies and chillies. As it’s all built in front of you, you can easily opt out of bits your don’t want.

STOP! We’re not quite finished yet! there’s still the 6 house made sauces to choose from! I normally have this as a treat so I’ll happily have a little sriracha sauce, even though it’s not sugar-free or soy-free, but they also have “Asian Street Dust” which is a mix of dry spices. Amaaazing!  Perfect mix of fresh, crunchy, spicy and comforting. Even if your body clock doesn’t feel ready for dinner time, it looks light enough to not be off-putting and just the thing for blowing away the long-haul flight cobwebs. Plus, it’s not in a restaurant so no expectation for you to interact with people or tip 🙂

So, back to dreary Berkshire, UK. Here’s what I threw together:

Asain Box Salad


Crispy chicken:

  • 2 tablespoons Coconut oil
  • 1 x whole Poached chicken breast (about 2 cups)
  • 1tsp Chinese 5 Spice
  • 1tsp Fish Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Coconut aminos


  • 1 x Yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into thin strips
  • 2 handfuls Beansprouts (about 150g)
  • Half a Cucumber, peeled into ribbons
  • Hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved


  • 25g Cashew nuts
  • 4 x Shallots, finely sliced
  • 1 x Red chilli, finely chopped (as mild or spicy as preferred)
  • 2 x Spring onions, thin sliced
  • Half a Lime, in wedges
  • Sriracha sauce, shop bought or homemade


Heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a wok or skillet. Tear the chicken into bite sized strips and fry in the oil until starting to brown and starting to get crispy strands. Add the 5 Spice, fish sauce and coconut aminos and stir well. You should get a slightly caramelised effect. Turn off heat, and set pan aside.

Assemble all the salad ingredients on a serving plate.

Now we work fairly quickly. Heat a small frying pan and dry roast the cashews until golden, then pour onto a chopping board to rough chop. Now heat the other 1 tablespoon coconut oil in the same pan and add the shallots. The natural sugars will start to caramelise and they’ll crisp up – keep them moving so they don’t burn. When you’ve achieved desired crispiness, remove from the pan and transfer to a piece of kitchen towel. They shouldn’t be massively greasy, but draining them prevents sogginess.

Serve up a portion of the chicken onto the salad, top with chilli and spring onions followed by a squeeze or two of sriracha and a spritz of lime. Sprinkle over the sweet and crispy shallots and the roasted cashews.

Asain Box Salad

*I couldn’t find any allergy info on their website, so I can’t be sure what’s in the marinades but I didn’t have any adverse reaction.


What do Paelo-eaters have for lunch?

Back in the day, my packed lunch would be a brown bread sarnie with tuna or leftover roast chicken in mayo. Maybe cheese and marmite or pickle. If I was feeling creative, a pasta salad or leftover roast veg with couscous – seeing a theme here?

Now that the baguette is banned and the couscous cancelled, what’s left? I can’t take a plate of stew and sautéed veg to work in my lunchbox; we don’t have microwaves to heat stuff up – long story, let’s just say people did bad things and now everyone has to suffer.

Got to think outside the box (or inside the box – lunchbox).


There’s only so many times you can have tuna and salad (and I use that term to describe the rather sad, English-salad of lettuce, cucumber and tomato) before you lose the will and march to the nearest food vendor for something hot and filling. So, there are few tips to keep it interesting:

  1. Keep it seasonal – not just      the ingredients, but a light chicken salad is only going to make you feel      so-so if it’s grey and cold outside (in the UK that can mean any day, not      just outside ‘Summer’ season). Even if you have to have a cold lunch,      adding some roast meat leftovers and colourful veg with a punchy      horseradish or mustard dressing can make the day a little better.
  2. Toppings are your      friend. Pumpkin seeds are good with      roast veg and feta cheese. Pecan nuts with coleslaw. Gherkins with beef.      Some of these are not cheap (like capers) but a little goes a long way,      and they keep in the fridge for weeks. Look out for supermarket ‘Economy’      versions of things like olives; no, they’re not the sort of olives you’d      serve on an antipasti plate, but they make a tuna nicoise look      bistro-good. Don’t forget the seasoning and dressing – think of the      American-style chef’s chopped salad or the beautiful creations at Ottolenghi. These are not English-salad 🙂
  3. Lots of vegetables – more      variety means more colour and ticking off more vitamins. Frozen veg work      well for this, as you can grab a handful and thaw under cold running      water, or just add them to your salad if you’re preparing the night      before. The humble frozen pea, just thawed, is surprisingly sweet. Dress      with chopped mint, or some pesto mixed with yogurt and you’ve got a bit of      wow-factor. Try different lettuces too; doesn’t have to be the expensive      bags of pre-washed baby leaves – just switching to a crunchy romaine or      bitter-leaf frisee can make things more interesting in appearance as well      as taste.
  4. Take inspiration from other      dishes and deconstruct – e.g. breakfast = bacon or gammon, hard-boiled      egg, tomato. Fajitas = chicken, peppers, roast onions, cheese, salsa,      guac, chipotle sauce. Moroccan tagine = roast lamb, butternut squash,      apricots, cinnamon, cumin.


Now, I’m keeping this to cold lunches due to my own work environment but if you do have means to heat your lunch there’s no reason not to have leftover dinner for lunch. I appreciate some people might think yuck, leftovers but given the economics you can’t knock it. Plus, if you’re buying the best quality meat you can afford, and spending time cooking it, makes sense to stretch it as far as possible.

Soups are also a winner, but pre-made versions tend to include beans, rice or pasta to bulk them up or are with thickened with corn-starch. If you get a veggie box delivered, and I cannot recommend this enough, then you’ll always have a variety of bits on hand to whizz up into a tasty soup. If nothing else to use them up before they go from looking a bit sad to turning into mulch and going to the compost bin. (Only downside I’ve found with organic veg – they just don’t last as long as supermarket stuff. Fortunately the flavour more than makes up for it.)

Once a week, normally a Friday as that’s when the next veg delivery arrives, I have cold frittata for lunch. Thursday nights I raid the fridge for any remaining bits of veg (I save off-cuts after making things like zoodles, but you’ll see more about that later) roast or panfry as necessary then combine with eggs and a dash of cream to make a large frittata. If there’s enough of something to make a proper dinner dish then it won’t go in, but anything that’s not-quite-enough is ideal. Small amounts of leftover bacon or ham work well, as does a little feta or goat’s cheese just dotted on top. Baby leaf salad like rocket or spinach that isn’t otherwise going to get used can be stirred thru the mix before cooking. Cool and cut into wedges, then pack with a pot of chutney or salad.

Shopping day lunch

ah, today is sunday. as yesterday i was mostly out shopping with my mum, dodging the puddles and walking oddly in flip flops and soaked jeans (it’s june damn it! i will believe it’s still summer) i was at the mercy of bought food.

this can be a bit of a pain as, having dropped the wheat and grains,  it becomes apparent just how much of the menus are bulked out with pasta and bread buns so i was pleasantly surprised to see on the specials menu at bill’s a salad of griddled asparagus, avocado, goat’s cheese and soft boiled eggs. it’s the second time i’ve been to the restaurant in reading, and the food really is exceptional (for the price – i’m not going to claim it rivals petrus!) so i’ll be making this a regular event. the breakfast is great – full english with decent bacon and sausages, and the bubble and squeak eggs benedict is gorgeous. unfortunately the service is terrible 🙂

i put a smiley there because, although the service is poor, the staff are actually very apologetic and friendly and seem to want to put things right. this might be due to their breakfast menu running until 1pm at the weekend, over-lapping with the lunch menu starting at midday – a bit chaotic for a kitchen preparing fresh food. or it could just be that the waiting staff don’t know what they’re doing – i had to wander off to find my table some cutlery and serviettes! but as i said, the food is good and the staff aren’t rude so it’s still an enjoyable experience.

as i had my mum staying over, i had someone else to cook for in the evening – yay! this is where my cook-it-until-it’s-done or you-eat-when-it’s-ready style of cooking is a little awkward. i didn’t realise quite how much i potter when i’m cooking, so dinner was actually served at about 9pm. oh well, we’re european not yanks 😉

dinner was pumpkin and beetroot, roasted with cumin and chilli and pomegranate molasses, and feta and a salmon ceviche with mango. oh, and a bottle of sauvignon blanc. and a yummy chocolate and passionfruit dessert from sainsburys 🙂



Back and Paleo-Lite

I decided to restart writing this blog, I took a look at what I’d
started out with some 4 years ago, and it struck me how much has
changed since then both in my life and in my eating habits. 

always considered that the food we ate as ‘healthy’ (while not being
raw-vegan-organic-Eton educated etc.) but looking at my scrappy
notebooks of shopping lists and menus, I think we were in denial!

we ate a fair amount of variety, almost every dinner was
mashed potato,
bread. Then there’s the unaccounted for M&S sarnies (someone may
have had 2 at a time – ahem) while out on a shopping trip. The crisps
and dip with a few beers before dinner. The nachos in the bar,
because we were being good and not ordering burgers and chips.
Crumpets with jam or marmite, because I needed them 😉 

decided to give Paleo a go at my husband’s suggestion, partly for
health reasons (he’s a bit of a running fanatic) and due to the
research we’d read about the effects of sugar and wheat on the body.
Having both suffered some minor, and major, symptoms it seemed worth
a go. Plus, being given the green-light to eat meat & fat – where
do I sign up?!


are you on a diet?

you’re on the gluten-free thing, then?

you get bored eating meat and vegetables every day?

it’s Atkins 1.2

you eat then?


heard these things a few times since I changed my eating habits last
year. I’ve also realised how little some people know or understand
about the food they eat everyday – my favourite; you don’t eat pasta?
Have couscous instead, that’s really good for you! 


let’s address a few of these. 

someone who has always been fairly-slim, and moderately active with a
snobbery about commercial junk-food, I’ve never gone over a UK size
10-12 and I didn’t set out to lose weight.  So I was surprised
when I suddenly fitted into a size 8 – most of this was due to losing
inches off my bust, so actual weight loss was only about 5kg. The
biggest difference for me was the extra energy I felt and
stabilization of my hunger – no more 3pm dash to the vending machine
for a Double-Decker hit. No more hangry (hungry / angry) episodes at
the weekends. 


I do avoid gluten, but I also don’t eat the ‘gluten-free’ food
substitutes such as tapioca, rice and corn, and I don’t eat sugar or
starchy legumes either (easy to spot – they look and behave like

seem to be a lot more restaurants now who serve you meals without
sides as standard now, which makes things easier. Plus it’s a lot
more interesting for me to eat steak with beautifully wilted spinach
and dressed green beans than the standard ‘chips’.


can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend than grazing over a
stack of food-porn and cooking up a storm. I thought cutting out
processed food would be easy enough, as we’ve never been ones for
ready meals and I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I was surprised at
just how much processed carb-based food we were eating by way of
rice, pasta and bread. A bacon sarnie on the weekend for brunch,
fajitas for dinner, the occasional pizza, antipasti with ciabatta to
mop up sauces….. I digress. At first, I was unsure how I could make
a whole week of menus, let alone a month’s worth, without repeats and
the dreaded oh, so it’s carrots and peas again. So I dug into my
stash of food magazines and trusted recipe sites for inspiration –
even then, so many were only half a meal with the final line:
with crusty bread

or the bigger cop-out:
with seasonal veg

what veg? cooked how?

Bing’ing and checking dozens of ‘Paleo’ food blogs, I found a couple
I liked. There are a lot of food-nazis out there who want to jump all
over bloggers for daring to include a teaspoonful of sauce that has a
wheat or soy derivative in the ingredients, or <

> include cheese, and I ain’t got time for that. Paleo-friendly
versions of things like fish sauce or soy sauce are available in some
parts of the U.S. and at specialist stores, but elsewhere we don’t
always have that choice.  Given the choice between a smidge of
wheat, or no Asian food – I’ll take my chances. To (badly) quote Voltaire
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. 

no, I don’t get bored. I feel like I’ve entered a whole new world of
food and have never been more excited by cooking. Looking back at my
old menus, we were eating pasta at least twice a week, and sometimes
bread twice a day – surely you’d get bored with that?! 


isn’t a ‘diet’ – it’s a lifestyle choice, like being vegetarian or
vegan.  Broadly speaking, Paleo (or Primal) diets include meat,
fish, fruits, and vegetables. It can be high or low carb. Atkins can
have processed grains and sugar. As long as it’s low-carb, that’s
what matters. 

main focus for me is to eat good quality food, and to enjoy it. I
don’t want franken-foods and, having cut them out from my diet,
I’ve seen what wheat and sugar do to my body and mood if I
reintroduce them. 


eat everything! Meat with fat, fish and vegetables with full fat
dairy products (in moderation, not due to the fat  content but because lactose
is a sugar) and fruit (again, in moderation due to fructose). Eating
real food is satisfying in flavour, texture and nutrition. It does
take a little longer to prepare than an oven ready meal, but actual
cooking time is  often less and I tend to make more than 1 meal at
a time anyway while I’ve got something to use up and the oven is on.
The fact that most meals are prepared from scratch, and can’t be
eaten without a fork, means food is savoured and not just troughed –
think how easy it is to eat a hamburger. I could eat 2 without even
noticing, and I’d still be hungry after. I don’t count calories, but
for those who do: 250 calories * 2 = 500 calories. That’s about the
same as a salad with goat’s cheese. NAUGHTY!  It’s about choices.  I’d
rather have option B and not be hungry after (and not have a bloated
stomach or insulin spike soon followed by the crash).
Obviously, you’ll have spotted the price difference there, but this
is a meal we’re talking about here; something you do 3 times a day,
putting food into your body. By not going for the leanest, prime-cuts
of meat, you also cut the price significantly. By eating consciously,
there is less need to snack because you
you’ve had a meal, and protein + fat = satisfied.

for what exactly we eat; well I’ll be updating you on that soon 🙂