So you’ve got SIBO…

I’ve had a stomach ache for 24 years.

What started as colic, then ‘just growing pains’, then a particularly nasty case of appendicitis, then a wheat intolerance, then type 2 diabetes quickly re-diagnosed as type 1 diabetes, then anorexia, then diabulimia, then post viral fatigue, then every food intolerance under the sun has finally been diagnosed as SIBO. Small intestine bacterial overgrowth. And I’m so relieved.

After a life time of pain, tiredness, discomfort and hiding behind baggy jumpers and a big scarf I finally know why.

My lovely parents tried all sorts when I was growing up, eliminating then testing certain foods from my diet, taking me to specialists and consultants all over the place, ferrying me back and forth from hospital and appointments. They were and still are incredible and amazingly supportive.

My pain has never really made sense, always ticking most but not all of the boxes of various things. We’ve been circling the idea of a leaky gut, autoimmune reactions, bad bacteria but never hit the nail on the head for years. Eventually I went and cried at a poor GP and he sent me off to the gastro clinic. For the first time in my life the consultant listened properly and then very confidently told me he was going to get me better.

He then sent me for every gastro test necessary, trust me you don’t need the details..

Finding the time to go to these appointments with a full time job in London and a husband who often works away overseas wasn’t easy. My friends were amazing at helping out and if I didn’t have an inappropriate amount of love for them already, I do now!

And now I have my answer. Sibo. And it’s treatable.

I’m now booked in to see my consultant and we’re going to get busy treating this beast. I feel so positive. I can finally get my life back.

For so many years I’ve felt trapped in a body that was shutting down and would never get better.

I lived my life having to go from work straight to bed and either leave social events early or not go at all. I removed all the mirrors in our house because I couldn’t face looking at my painful, bloated stomach. I wore a scarf to hide my stomach every day, even in the 34 degree heat. All food made me sick and I’d be melting into my desk at work even after the smallest of lunches from brainfog. I would be suffocated by the bloating of my own stomach pushing and restricting my lungs. Walking upstairs made my heart feel like it was going to collapse and don’t get me started on the guilt, depression and anxiety. I felt like such a burden on my lovely, supportive husband.

And now I can fix it all. No more hiding.

I’ve already started the recommended fodmap diet and after only 3 days my bloating has halved and I have energy. I feel like me again. It’s not an easy diet to follow but if it can do that much in 3 days then it’s worth it!

I’m so excited for what’s to come.

Gorgeous Greek bean salad

Gorgeous Greek bean salad

This is my take on a Greek salad. Light and fresh and full of healthy fats. It’s tasty and really cheap to make and works great as a side dish for bbqs or picnics. It also keeps well in the fridge so is perfect for meal prepping your week’s lunches! The fats and protein will keep you full for ages and it usually keeps me satisfied during a long afternoon at work and a train ride home.

Ingredients

  • 400g tin mixed beans or chickpeas
  • 400g reduced sugar baked beans, with the juice
  • 1 cucumber, cut into small chunks with the seeds removed
  • 1 cup of Black/kalamata olives
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 10 Cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 50g Feta cheese, crumbled, optional
  • Black pepper, to taste

Method

Mix all of the ingredients together, including the juice from the baked beans as this will help make the dressing.

Serve chilled, it goes great with houmous and couscous for a quick and easy lunch!

Bright yellow Korean pickles!

Bright yellow Korean pickles!

lOne of my favourite Korean side dishes is pickles! Bright yellow, sweet, sharp and refreshing! They’re super delicous and easy to make from home without any nasty artificial extras. They go so well on the side of some crispy Korean fried chicken or a bowl of comforting udon.

They’re also ridiculously inexpensive and easy to make, and have loads of nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. And of course, all types of radish are famously full of fiber.

I love them, and I think you just might too!

Ingredients

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  • 1 1/2 cups (350ml) water
  • 1 1/2 cups (350ml) rice (or white)vinegar
  • 1/2 cup (200g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 20 whole black peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 pound (450g) daikon (sometimes called mooli) radish, peeled and sliced

Method

In a medium saucepan, stir together water, vinegar, sugar, salt, turmeric, peppercorns, and bay leaves.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to ensure that sugar fully dissolves.

Remove from heat and add daikon.

Transfer pickles and brine to an airtight glass container and store in the refrigerator.

Pickles will last about 1 month.

The Marram Grass Cafe

The August bank holiday is always a special one in our house. It almost always falls on my lovely mum’s birthday. Since I left my parent’s sleepy Welsh cottage home for the bright lights and big city of, well, Canterbury, I’ve not managed to spend her birthday with her. But this year after work meetings in London I decided to hop on a train to North Wales for some much needed quality time. 

Now locally there’s been a lot of fuss made about a little cabin on the corner of a campsite hidden deep in the centre of the Isle of Anglesey. That cabin is home to The Marram Grass restaurant. Having featured on the BBC and in the Michelin guide, my foodie senses were itching to try it out. And what better time than a birthday celebration?

Driving along the winding back roads of the island, it’s hard to see how anyone could find the place. Turning the corner we nearly sailed right past it and my dad had to make a sharp U-turn around a nearby roundabout before finally realising that we had arrived.


For all its charm, the outside is not necessarily impressive. But the buzz of chatter and glow of newly lit candles quickly draws you in. Inside, is a bustling and friendly restaurant sat beneath a canopy of grapevines and comfy wooden décor. The complete absence of pomp and showiness is hugely refreshing and welcoming.

The waitress greeted us like an old friend, even letting us change our table from inside the busy restaurant to a more spacious table outside so that we could enjoy the evening sun.


We were quickly shown to our table and offered our menus. The menu is simple, local and very seasonal, with about 9 dishes, always a good sign of a confident chef. There was also a specials board inside which featured a very tempting half lobster dish.

After our orders were taken and our drinks brought promptly, our waitress offered us an amuse bouche or pre-starter if you will. And boy am I still dreaming of that little cup of foam. Creamy mushroom and piquant wild garlic deliciously punched my taste buds in the face and they were grateful for it. I could have just had a big bowl of that and been left very happy.


Shortly after scraping the last drops of foam from the little bowls, our starters arrived. Sweet potato soup and chunky homemade bread served with lashes of whipped butter arrived steaming in front of me. The intentionally mismatched crockery is understated yet undeniably fashionable. The soup was a warming, flavourful delight, seasoned perfectly. The bread was so good my mum wrapped hers in her napkin and snuck it into her handbag to savour later as a midnight snack! I shan’t go into how a couple of days later she found that piece of bread at the bottom of her handbag, having completely forgotten about it. Credit to her though she still ate it, and thoroughly enjoyed it too!


Our next stop was the main course. And what a main course it was. I had chosen the local lamb with seasonal turnips and radishes, crushed garlic and lamb jus. I love lamb and by that I mean I really love lamb. So many people serve lamb as part of a heavy, autumn comfort dish, which in itself is a lovely thing, but often requires a good nap afterwards.

This lamb was different. It was light in a way I’ve not experienced before. I was left feeling pleasantly full and completely satisfied but in no way in need of an after dinner snooze. It was fresh but completely packed full of subtle flavour. The lamb was mouth wateringly tender and the vegetables still slightly al dente, as they should be. My only complaint was that I could have easily demolished a whole jug of that jus. But as it stood there was a more socially acceptable amount on my plate although in my greed I would have wholeheartedly welcomed more.


My dad had the half-portion fish and chips. My mum certainly had food envy when she saw his dish arrive and I must say it looked spot on. A really welcome sight on the menu was that the batter was gluten free as standard. As a celiac myself, visiting restaurants can be a daunting task. But here the menu was helpfully labelled and each dish was available in gluten free form with not so much as a hesitation from the waitress when I enquired. A welcome change from my usual restaurant experiences.

All mum’s food envy quickly disappeared as her seabass arrived. My mum has the rather questionable talent of being able to, consistently and without fail, pick the worst dish from every menu. But not this time. That fish was crispy in all the right places and soft and delicate in all the rest. I know because I stole some off her plate. And I would happily commit that crime again. It was really tasty.

Then there was pudding. At this point both my dad and I had bowed out of the race, basking in the pleasant glow of our full tummies. But being her birthday we insisted mum treat herself to a pudding. And the rhubarb crème brulee was beckoning her. It was a good choice. Unctuous crème brulee sat beneath pearls of rhubarb and a quenelle of meringue. A real birthday treat.


Coffees and conversation followed. Even the bill was a pleasant surprise at just over £25 per head. For food of that quality I was expecting it to be more and would have happily paid it too!

As you may have noticed, I’m a big fan of this friendly little restaurant. Reasonably priced, welcoming atmosphere and just really good food. It certainly deserves all the praise it has received and will now become a regular haunt of mine every time I visit Wales.

Seriously good vegan chocolate cake


So this year I was tasked with making a vegan birthday cake for my very much vegan husband. Being his usual self he had said he was happy to go without but I like to spoil him on his birthday and having a big, candle laden cake is a part of that. 

I must admit I was a bit sceptical when I came across this recipe but the result completely surprised me. The only way I can describe it is as the most rich, chocolatey, moist cake you will ever find. It tastes just like a double chocolate muffin and you definitely can’t tell it apart from your average non-vegan cake. Except that it might, dare I say, be better?!

If you haven’t already run for the hills at the sight of the vinegar on the ingredients list, then give it a go. I think you’ll be more than pleasantly surprised.

Ingredients

200g plain flour

200g caster sugar

4tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

5 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract/essence

1 tsp white vinegar

250ml water

Method

Preheat oven to 180 C / Gas 4. Lightly grease a 13x23cm loaf tin or a 20cm round cake tin.

Sieve together the flour, sugar, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Add the oil, vanilla, vinegar and water. Mix together until smooth.

Pour into prepared tin and bake at 180 C for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

P.s. For icing I used dairy free margarine, icing sugar, vanilla essence and lots and lots of cocoa powder.

Vegan.

I have been a dedicated and loyal carnivore since the age of six when I demanded ham sandwiches for my packed lunch. It has been a true love affair. But now everything is about to change.

After I permanently scarred myself after overzealously hacking into a joint of Christmas parma ham (and subsequently my finger) I knew it was time for a change. I had begun to feel sluggish, the extra bit of winter weight was refusing to budge and I had become a regular at the drive through McDonalds that was dangerously close to our house.

As a type 1 diabetic any dietary change is something that needs to be considered and researched carefully. So of course I headed straight for google. I scoured the internet for a couple of days on my lunch break, reading blogs (some helpful, some terrifying), scrolling Instagram, coming across photos of ripe, delicious watermelon, beautiful, crisp salads and also the odd photo of a maltreated animal.

My husband embarked on a vegan diet a few weeks earlier as a way of reversing his sound engineer diet of sandwiches and energy drinks. He’s feeling great. His belt is already doing up tighter, stomach cramps have cleared up and no longer feels guilty for his mild hummus addiction.

After reading some of the more sane blogs, I feel that I am ready. I have been encouraged by the other vegan type 1 diabetics out there that raved about how the extra fibre in their diet had dramatically lowered their blood sugar readings. They had made sure to stick to healthy, low GI veg, rather than eating a chip bap which I suppose is still a legitimate vegan meal!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m DEFINITELY not saying I will not eat meat again. I love it too much. Maybe I will become one of those people who eats vegan as part of their daily diet but indulges in a few cheeky animal products at restaurants or friend’s houses. But for now I will give it a week. If it really does change my blood sugars for the better then maybe it will become more permanent? And a week really isn’t that long… is it?

 

Places to eat: Pork & Co, Canterbury

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I’ve always been a lover of food whether that’s tenderly cooked fillet of grass fed beef or a packet of ramen noodles (I know, classy right?!) and pulled pork is a solid favourite for me.

Over the past couple of years pulled pork has become the king of the fashionable food pack and it’s been swiftly included on nearly every menu in most kinds of restaurants.

Now as I mentioned above I love a bit of pulled pork, so you can imagine my excitement when I heard back in April 2014 that Sam Deeson (the guy behind one of my favourite and most visited Canterbury eateries a few doors down, Deesons) had opened a shop dedicated and committed solely to pork.

Inspired by hog roasts at food festivals, but done properly with all the trimmings; hand crafted buns for example, rather than the usual supermarket offerings. The shop itself has been lovingly crafted without a detail missed to fit the simple yet genius ethos of British, local pork in a bun, no messing, just really good food, served fresh.

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All of the pigs used at Pork & Co are British, free range happy pigs, with the buns homemade and most of the ingredients for the sides coming from The Bunker, Deeson’s & Pork & Co.’s smallholding. Not surprisingly, the shop gets through an entire pig every day!

There are always a few hungry faces hanging around the door to the shop and trust me that pork does not disappoint. It all just tastes SO good. They’ve really hit the nail on the head with this little gem. It really is the finest pork you ever did have!

P.s. They’ve also just opened up Little Joe’s Deli up by the cathedral that I’m desperate to try. If it’s anything like Pork & Co or Deesons I’m certain it’ll be a huge hit!

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