Food Safety Week


Summer Roast ChickenIt’s Food Safety Week (16th-22nd of June) and this year the Food Standards Agency (FSA) wants us to stop washing raw chicken. I was invited to a special FSA event to find out why.

My initial reaction to the invitation was highly enthusiastic (I love a good cookery demo) and I was keen to find out more and share my findings here on my blog. But the more I thought about it the more I wrestled with the idea. I have professional experience in two fields; Cooking and Facilities Management (specifically cleaning), which I fear may make me a rather unpopular dinner party guest. Most people both cook and clean to some degree and have learned these skills over a number of years…so probably don’t like to hear that something they are doing is wrong. The difficulty I have is that I need to know the safest way of working and once I know it…well I can’t un-know it.
If you’re cooking in my kitchen I will probably have one eye on what I’m doing and the other on making sure you’ve washed your hands, are using the correct colour coded chopping board/cleaning cloth/utensil for the task and if you so much as think about double dipping you’re out on your ear! Unfortunately for my friends and family I can be a little too eager to share gross food hygiene horror stories.

But this particular campaign isn’t aimed at professional chefs but to anyone and everyone who cooks chicken, especially at home, and the FSA are keen to reach as many people as possible with the message “Don’t Wash Raw Chicken”.

Food Standards Agency Campaign 2014 Campylobacter

The FSA have found that washing raw chicken in your kitchen sink before cooking it increases the risk of contracting campylobacter which is a form of food poisoning. They issued a press release on why they want to increase awareness now:

“The call comes as new figures released today show that 44% of people always wash chicken before cooking it – a practice that can spread campylobacter bacteria onto hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment through the splashing of water droplets.

Campylobacter is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK, affecting an estimated 280,000 people a year. Around four in five of these cases come from contaminated poultry. The resulting illness can cause abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea and vomiting. In certain cases, it can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, reactive arthritis and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a serious condition of the nervous system. At its worst, it can kill. Those most at risk are children under five and older people.”
Food Standards Agency 16/06/14

At the press event the speakers were Bob Martin from the FSA, Professor Sarah O’Brien from the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool and Home Economist Sue Ashworth who demonstrated how to prepare a raw chicken for roasting and whipped up a quick Caesar Salad. Even though we’d spent the morning talking about food poisoning I still managed to scoff a load of Sue’s chicken salad.

Sue Ashworth Home Economist Sue Ashworth Home Economist Sue Ashworth's Chicken Caesar Salad Sue Ashworth's Roast Chicken for FSA Event

I knew that raw chicken was something to be dealt with carefully but I thought that was due to the risk of salmonella. I was shocked to then discover the number of campylobacter cases far outweighs the instances of salmonella, e.coli and listeria put together! The facts kept getting scarier – the amount of organisms you need to consume to become infected is tiny and if you’re unlucky the effects can be horrendous. BUT this isn’t a public health scare. This isn’t like when BSE hit the headlines or Edwina Curie started flapping about eggs. From what I could understand from the data presented; cases of camplyobacter have been steadily high for many years. The FSA seem genuinely committed to bringing these figures down and, as well as this campaign, they are talking to farmers, suppliers and major supermarkets to reduce the contamination at all stages.

FSA Campylobacter Campaign 2014

So, now you know! There’s loads more information, if you want to hear even more grizzly details on the FSA website. All you need to do is tip the raw chicken straight into the roasting tray or frying pan directly from the packet then wash your hands. The bacteria is mostly on the surface and the high heat of the oven or the pan will destroy the bacteria for you…no go tell your friends, preferably at a dinner party so that I’m not the only one!

Summer Roast Dinner

Now for the tasty bit.  If all this talk of bacteria hasn’t put you off your dinner (and I really hope that it hasn’t) I’ve come up with a super simple alternative to a traditional Sunday Roast, perfect for a hot Sunday evening. Everything cooks together in one tray at the same time and there’s no sweating over a hot pan of gravy.


Summer Roast Chicken with Watercress

Serves 4

3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 baking potato
5 sticks of celery
1 medium sized fennel bulb
1 head of chicory
5 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
2 eating apples
Salt & Pepper
1 medium sized free-range chicken
1 bag of watercress

For the dressing
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 dessertspoonfuls of olive oil
Salt & Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C then drizzle the 3 tablespoons of olive oil over a large baking/roasting tray.

2. Pick the leaves off the celery stalks (if there are any) and the fronds from the fennel and set aside for using in the dressing.

3. Wash and chop into large chunks the apple (discard the core and seeds), potato (no need to peel it), fennel, celery and chicory. Pile all these chopped ingredients and the garlic cloves into the roasting tray and toss in the oil. Season well with salt and black pepper then make a space in the centre of the tray for the chicken.
Roasting tray ready for the chicken to be added

4. Remove and dispose of all the packaging from the chicken and place it in the centre of the roasting tray, no need to wash the chicken first. Wash your hands in hot soapy water.
Chicken with Potatoes, Fennel, Apple, Chicory, Celery and Garlic ready to be roasted

5. Cover the whole tray in tin foil and roast in the preheated oven for 1 hour.

6. After an hour remove the foil and use a spoon to baste the chicken in the juices. Put the tray back in the oven for another 30 minutes.

7. Check the chicken is cooked through by inserting a sharp knife or a skewer into the thickest part of the bird. If the juices run clear and the meat inside is opaque white all the way through then it’s ready. If not pop it back in the oven until completely done.
One-tray Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Fennel, Apple, Chicory, Celery and Garlic

8. To make the dressing, finely chop the fennel fronds and celery leaves (reserved from earlier) and add to the zest and juice from one lemon. Whisk the mixture whilst you gradually add 2 dessertspoons of olive oil until well combined, it should also thicken slightly. Season with salt and pepper.

9. To serve, scatter some watercress leaves on each plate, pile the roasted fruit and vegetables on top then add pieces of roasted chicken. Drizzle everything with the lemon dressing and enjoy, preferably outside with a cold glass of white wine.
Summer Roast Chicken

Summer Alternative to Roast Dinner

What are your favourite chicken dishes? Did you wash raw chicken before the campaign started? Do you have any questions on cooking or ideas you want to share? Do get in touch I’d love to hear from you. I’m on twitter as @miriamjsnice and you can throw all your kitchen queries at me using the hashtag #askmim. Alternatively say hi on Facebook or drop me a message via the Ask Mim! contact page.

Happy cooking xxx

Low Carb Diet

Cooking, Recipes

In response to my last blog post (where I offered to come up with dishes to help those on specific diets) I received the following email from a reader: (love the title she’s given me!)

Dear foodie agony aunt, 

I’m attempting a low carb diet and a few days in I’m already running out of meal ideas and I’m starting to lose steam… 😦
– I can have meat of any kind, but the leaner the better.
– Eggs
– Dairy (ideally low fat)
– Vegetables
– On the occasions when I eat carbs they should be low GI and very small portions
– Minimal use of oils/fats

Once a week I’ll be having no carbs during the day at all, so those days will be the hardest to vary. What I want to avoid is meals like spag bol but without the spag (where the carb is so clearly missing it’s depressing!).


Ahoy there Reader!

Thank you so much for writing in 🙂 Firstly, however I should say that cutting out a food group entirely is not always the best idea, so I’m glad you are permitted to have some carbohydrates in your diet. But more importantly, everyone is different and if you know this plan works for you I admire your determination to stick to it.

Right, now first let’s address the spag situation. Grab yourself a good vegetable peeler – mine is one of those ‘Y’ shaped speed peelers and it was from Morrison’s and cost 80p! It’s one of the best peelers I’ve ever had (and no this post is not sponsored by a supermarket).

1. Using a vegetable peeler create long ribbons – here I’ve used courgettes but carrots work really well too, or a mixture of both is even better!


2. Drop the vegetable ribbons into a pan of boiling water and cook for no more than about 3 minutes.

3. Drain and serve your vegetable mock-spaghetti with your bolognese sauce.

Alternatively make your own pesto.


This is a great way to use up store cupboard bits and you can vary it how you like or to suit your dietary plan.
Here I used a mixture of almonds and cashews, blended with rocket leaves and a little olive oil. I would normally have added garlic but I had to go out that afternoon so I flung a few capers in instead. Olives work well too and a little grated hard cheese…

Basically you need:

– a leaf (basil, spinach, rocket, mint or watercress)
– a nut (pinenuts, brazils, cashews, almonds or walnuts)
– a dash of olive oil
– salt & pepper to taste

Optional extras:
– grated hard cheese like Parmesan, Gruyere, Comté
– crushed garlic
– olives, capers and anchovies
– lemon juice

Blend all of your chosen ingredients together in a blender or smash them up in a pestle and mortor. Taste and adjust the ratio or seasoning as you like, have fun experimenting!



My second suggestion is an alternative to rice. It’s so simple it’s barely a recipe, but it’s super delicious!
All you do is coarsely grate some peeled butternut squash. Then pop it in a non-stick frying pan without adding any oil. Dry toast the grated butternut squash turning it frequently with a spatula so that it can all cook evenly. After about 5 minutes it should be tender but with slightly scorched edges, serve immediately with your main dish. I think this would be delicious with grilled fish and a green salad or with a good spoonful of chilli con carne!


Healthy eating and getting fit can be really difficult. I hope these recipes are helpful and what’s great is they actually take less time to cook than traditional rice or pasta!
I’ve started trying to get fit by doing some yoga and jogging. I’m not fit enough yet to brave the jogging route down regents canal – at busy times it can get quite hairy with Cyclists, Dog Walkers, Joggers and Canada Geese all getting tangled up under a footbridge.
Instead of joining them I’ve cleared a small area of floor space in my bedroom and use an app which shouts out various exercise or yoga instructions! So currently, my idea of a work out is to jog basically on the spot whilst a disembodied voice shouts “almost there” and “you know what to do!”. I normally find this really boring but I discovered that the jogging routine is approx 30 minutes long so there’s no reason why I can’t watch TV or a film to keep me entertained. So last night I jogged to an episode of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle on iplayer! Yay for cardio workout + satire! I felt much better about eating some more broccoli and pepperoni pizza… and a glass of my housemate’s red wine 😉

If you’re stuck for recipe ideas too, please do send me a message via the contact form or head over to my Facebook page.

Healthy Resolutions

Cooking, Recipes

Ahoy there team!
How are the New Year’s Resolutions going? I can’t even remember what mine were and it’s only just the end of February! If you’re still on a health kick, nice work! Whether you’re doing it to shed a few seasonal pounds, avoid foods which aggravate your system or alleviate an underlying health issue it’s always difficult to break old habits and stick to new ones.

In this blog post I wanted to write a recipe for some of my favourite people who are on a strict plant-based and whole-food diet. The recipe I’ve chosen is for bulgur wheat and salsa wraps which really super easy are great for sharing. They’re based on fajitas but instead of sour cream I’ve used tahini sauce and instead of cheese there are tasty toasted pumpkin seeds. Use shop bought whole wheat tortillas or make them yourself from whole grain spelt flour.

Spelt Flour Wraps

Bulgur Wheat and Fruit Salsa Wraps

The process of piling in as much of each of the fillings as you like is fun and I hope feels more like a treat and less like a diet food.


1 red chili
1 apple
2 tangerines or other small oranges
Small bunch of coriander
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper

1) Finely chop the chili, apple, tangerines and coriander and put everything into a large bowl or serving dish.
2) Pour over the lemon juice and season well with salt and pepper.
3) Stir well and put into the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Bulghur Wheat

Bulgur Wheat
4) Put 1 cup of bulgur in a heatproof bowl.
5) Add 1.5 cups of boiling water, cover and leave for 15-20mins or until all the water has been absorbed

Tahini Sauce

Tahini Sauce
3 teaspoons light tahini paste
6 teaspoons of water
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

6) Mix the tahini and water together until the mixture is the consistency of thick cream. Add the cumin and stir well, add a splash more water if needed.

Lettuce, Pumpkin Seeds, Lemon and Avocado

To serve
1 little gem lettuce (shredded)
1-2 Ripe Avocados (sliced)
Lemon wedges
Pumpkin seeds (toasted)

7) Load up your own wraps and dig in!     Help Yourselves!

DinnerAdding Lettuce Ready to roll Finished Wraps More SalsaDesserts are often off the menu when you’re trying to stick to a healthy plan, but I’d find them super hard to give up entirely.
My favourite discovery is this banana ice cream, it’s made with blended, frozen bananas and that’s it! Genius! It really does end up like a premium ice cream but with the calorie count of, well…a banana!
And it doesn’t end there. Missing pastry? Try using ripe avocado instead of butter in your shortcrust recipes. Ok, so it doesn’t come out as crisp and rich but it’s not half bad. I made a sweet potato pie with avocado pastry recently and served it with banana ice cream and a cheeky drizzle of maple syrup! Yummers!

Sweet Potato Pie

I would absolutely love to hear from you about healthy eating and special diets. What foods are you currently avoiding? Send me a message in the comments box or via the contact page and I may be able to write a brand new recipe for you too.

Have a super weekend x

The demon roast veg!


I love roast vegetables. I do. The ultimate mix is probably my Dad’s. He uses red peppers, aubergines, red onions, courgettes and carrots smothered in garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil and then once roasted they are scattered with feta cheese and returned to the oven just for a moment so that the feta becomes fluffy – amazing! This dish reminds me of Saturday nights in front of the TV watching Bugs (please tell me I am not the only person who remembers this 90’s gem?!).

To keep my wobbly hormones in check I need to keep fairly slim. Generally it’s going pretty well. As much as I can I have switched to wholemeal alternatives and was surprised initially at how easy I found it to cut out sugar, but this week, I have really struggled. My new routine should be frighteningly healthy and consist of a breakfast like; wholemeal toast with avocado and/or a poached egg, a fruit smoothie with added spirulina and either a black coffee or herbal tea. Snacks of seeds, nuts or dried fruit, during the day, light lunches and an even lighter dinner. But, lately, I’ve been waking up without an appetite and therefore eating more and more later on, or worse, eating lots when I’m not even hungry.

Last night was particularly bad as I made a huge tray of roast vegetables for which I had a massive craving. I ate a great big greasy bowlful, half a pack of feta cheese and still went back for more and some flapjacks! This morning, not wanting to go to the shops I started to heat up the rest in the guise of brunch, but looking at it dished up, I stopped myself and had some fruit instead.

I have started to find it easy to fall back into the trap of eating as something to do. Loosing weight is hard, keeping it off is harder. I know, stuffing my face with vegetables isn’t exactly the same as eating a big plate of fish and chips but I have had a week of biscuits, ice cream, cocktails and a vat of chilli con carne so I do need to get back on track. Enough is enough.

For me the important thing is to acknowledge what’s happening. If I go into autopilot and start scoffing my dinners mindlessly in front of the telly it’s going to be harder and harder to get back to my sourdough and avocado ways. And what happened to my 10 minutes a day of exercise? I’ll tell you what happened; I stopped doing it that’s what!

There are many reasons why I find lifestyle changes hard – stress, laziness, lack of confidence, I’m sure everyone has a dip now and then. It’s the same reason why a few kitchen chores get neglected, I don’t keep up with the laundry and sometimes I find it a real push to write with any kind of regularity.

This blog post is to give myself a bit of a ticking off. An online disapproving glance and “Ahem”. We shall see this week if it works, the proof is in the pudding (must not eat pudding).


Sugar Free Easter

Cooking, Recipes

When you’re trying to stick to a new healthy eating plan celebrations and holidays can make huge demands on your willpower.


I’m trying to make a permanent change to my eating habits to balance out some dodgy hormones. In a nutshell I realised I wasn’t getting anywhere near enough fibre and was consuming far too much sugar.
So far it’s going pretty well. I have been able to swap my firm favourites with very similar whole grain alternatives and am eating plenty of fruit. It’s almost easy, and I’m already feeling the benefits which is brilliant.
But now it’s Easter bank holiday weekend and I can’t have an Easter Egg, slab of simnel cake or a hot crossed bun. I figure if I’m struggling with this; how on earth am I going to get through Christmas?!
The only reason it’s been easy so far is because I’ve been switching things I can’t have (like butter) with things I really like but I can have (like avocados). In order to beat my Easter Blues I have decided to try and make a cake out of the things I can eat, but make it look like something I shouldn’t. Make sense?

Somehow Simnel Cake sounded like the easiest thing to mock up. Plus, I’m staying with a friend in Birmingham at the moment so this seemed like a recipe which wouldn’t leave the kitchen too messy.

I can’t really have cake because it contains refined sugar but I found this recipe for banana bread online. It seems there’s enough sweetness in the bananas so that you don’t need sugar- brilliant.
I substituted the plain flour for wholemeal because I thought I might as well make it as good as possible and I baked it in a round cake tin to further trick my brain. When it came out I let it cool and then sliced it in half through the middle. I sandwiched it back together again with a scrummy paste made from about 25-30 dried dates softened with around 4-5 tablespoons of boiling water (keep adding a splash and mashing them until they are the consistency of thick lemon curd). Add to the date paste half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a dessert spoon of cocoa powder. This made a really sweet chocolate filling ideal for this cake, but it’s also good on toast if you miss the occasional chocolate spread.
Obviously the marzipan was going to be the next hurdle, but i winged it and soaked some dried apricots in the same way as the dates (and about the same amount). Using a hand blender I processed 150-200g of whole almonds into the apricot mix. It turned out like a pale peanut butter. It tasted quite pleasant but I think next time a drop of almond essence would give it a more convincing marzipan flavour.
Finally I lightly grilled the cake to make it look authentic and that was it. Simnel Cake.
It was like eating cake, without the headache inducing sugar rush and probably at least one of my five a day; result!

Happy Easter xxx




I’ve been having some pretty loopy mood swings lately. This might all be fun on a good day but heaven help anyone who speaks to me on a bad one. Turns out, my whole body is in a spot of bother and it appears that if I don’t do something about it now my health could really suffer.

Sugar has been deemed the biggest villain here and has been banished from my usual diet until further notice. White flour, white pasta and rice have been shown the door. In their place come whole-meal and whole-wheat counterparts. This isn’t a diet. I have never properly been on a diet. (Although I did once spend a week eating special K for breakfast and lunch. This sounds like I was successful until you factor in that I was meant to do it for a fortnight! Oh, and another time I tried to cut out carbohydrates and fruit but that lasted as long as it took me to realise I’d just made a batch of soda bread).

This no-sugar-more-wholemeal-plan is a change in eating habits that I need to make permanent. I eat quite healthily most of the time but I am prone to having huge sugar cravings. I can easily bake a batch of fairy cakes and eat the lot. This doesn’t sound catastrophic but these sugar hankerings have been getting progressively worse.

If the only result of my heavy sugar intake was a little weight gain and furry teeth then I could live with that but in my case even a small increase around my waist throws my hormones into a right muddle. In a funny sort of way I hope I stay scared about this for a long time, or at least until I have settled in to an almost sugar free world and begin to feel a few benefits.

After glancing over a few books, doing an online search and chatting over coffee with sympathetic friends I gleaned a lot more information on this subject than I thought. It sounds naïve but I was genuinely surprised at the amount of differences even small changes in eating habits can make with so many health problems.

So far, so good, although let’s be realistic, I’m only 3 days in!

In order for this to be sustainable I have decided to face it with the following two-pronged attack:

1) Focus on the worse case scenario

If I don’t change then there are serious health problems ahead.

2) Be positive about what I can eat

I started listing the things I cannot regularly eat anymore (such as white flour, sugar, cakes, biscuits) and started to think of delicious alternatives or “swapsies”. This new healthy lifestyle actually encourages the consumption of some of my favourite things – a little red wine, dark chocolate, poached eggs and avocados; if I start to think of these things as medicinal then, well; happy days!


When Richard offered to make me porridge this morning I felt a little sad. I’m one of those people who take their porridge with a metric tonne of golden syrup but I know that’s definitely off the menu. Instead I went for chopped dates and a dash of cinnamon and (thankfully) it was surprisingly delicious. Yesterday I made risotto with bulgur wheat instead of white rice and this evening my spaghetti carbonara became spelt spaghetti with avocado and goats cheese.


Bulghur Wheat Risotto


Spelt Spaghetti with Avocado, Lemon, Goats Cheese and Spring Onion

With all this extra veg, fruit smoothies, dates and a dash of spirulina I might be farting for England for the next few days but at least I’m on the right track!

I shall open a window and look forward to loosing a few pounds and my sweet tooth!