Magic and Alchemy in the Kitchen

Magic and Alchemy in the Kitchen

I am an avid reader, fiction, non-fiction, magazines, leaflets even labels…if there’s writing on it I read it. One of the habits I have noticed recently in my reading is being drawn towards food writing. Not so strange you may say considering that is what you write about and work with, but you see it’s more than that.

The fiction I have been drawn to recently has been about the alchemy and magic of food preparation. Now this isn’t a new thing, hearth magic is something that fascinates me, I’m not talking witch stirring a cauldron type magic, or making food appear out of thin air whilst your broom sweeps the kitchen on it’s own. I’m talking about the magic that happens when you prepare food.

If you’re like me you love having the time to make a meal from scratch, you plan your meal, collect your ingredients and chop, sauté, roast, baste, boil and prepare them with a love of what you do and a vision of what the final dish will look like. My Mum always claims you can taste the love in anything prepared for you by another be it a sandwich or a cup of tea, I think she is right.

Food since ancient times has had a magical connection.  People left food as offerings to Gods, used food as protection for a new home or feasted to celebrate the changing seasons. Some of these traditions have continued today, how many of us have baked a Birthday cake to bring luck and love to the Birthday Guy or Gal?

It struck me that my bedtime reading Chocolat by Joanne Harris is openly about alchemy and magic in chocolate, it links Easter with earlier pagan rites and the heroine of the tale Vianne is very aware of the effect her food has on her customers.


One of my other casual reads at the moment is Wicca in the Kitchen by Scott Cunningham, ooo Wicca isn’t that woowoo. Well it depends on your point of view, for me the fascination is learning about the ancient lore and rites surrounding certain food and also thinking more about the foods I choose to put in my body, if eating more wheat can attract more money I don’t mind giving it a whirl.

I am a great believer that our bodies tell us what we should be eating. That if we eat a healthy diet and listen to our bodies when we feel a little off balance, we can be lead to the mineral or vitamin we are lacking by our desire for certain foods. I say if you eat a healthy diet because believe me if you live on a diet of high fat high salt food that will be all your body will crave and you will be a long way from your body being able to tell you what you need to eat.

So before you dismiss the alchemy and magic of food just take a little time today to listen to what your body is saying, if you’re feeling a little low try a meal with bright colours tomatoes, sweet peppers, carrots, avocado I bet you have at least a little lift in spirits.

Another way food can lift the spirits or evoke vivid memories is through scent. This week I have been doing my training with Weleda and one of the important points raised was if someone dislikes the smell of a product, be the lead plant rose, almond, iris or pomegranate, then that product is not right for the person at this precise time. It is the same with food. Here’s a little test…Walk into your kitchen and open either the ground ginger or cinnamon jar, now what does that make you think of…I bet it’s Christmas and I bet a memory that makes you smile just popped into your head, that my dear is part of the alchemy and magic of food.

So just for today follow what your body tells you, what do you feel you need to eat? You may need to sit quietly away from the hustle and bustle of a busy work day but I bet you find something that scratches your itch, and just before you eat your chosen food take a deep breath and breathe in it’s scent, how does it make you feel? It’s worth a try, you never know you may learn something new about yourself.


So I Bought My Son A Pumpkin

So I Bought My Son A Pumpkin

Well it was Halloween and I thought as he is thirteen it may be the last time he wants to carve a scary pumpkin.

So Halloween came and went, the pumpkin was covered in black ink designs but he found it impossible to tear himself away from friends, Xbox and t.v. long enough to actually carve it.

I could have been annoyed but instead I thought right guess we’re eating pumpkin for the next couple of weeks. So what can you do with a pumpkin.

Well I made Pumpkin Fairy Cakes. The last time I used squash to make cakes I had a lot left so froze the remainder and just defrosted what I needed when guests came, they were really delicious and moist.

I made soup with lovely garlic, chilli and cumin, Garlic and Chilli Pumpkin Soup.

I toasted the seeds. This is sooo easy, the seeds are fiddly to remove from the stringy middle but do like I did and use it as meditation.

pumpkin seeds

Place seeds in a colander and wash thoroughly. The dry off in a clean tea towel. Heat a frying pan without oil on a medium heat and keep the seeds moving in the pan until they start to colour. Tipp into an air tight container and you have something to snack on over the next week.

Now after all that you would think I would be out of pumpkin but no, I still have a quarter left so I will be roasting some with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to add to couscous and hiding some in tonights veggie pasta sauce. Not bad for just one smallish pumpkin.

Now I think I got a lot out of one pumpkin but what would you make?

Bonfire Night Burgers


Bonfire Night, that smoky, noisy night when the cold air makes you absolutely starving. So what do you feed yourself and the rowdy rabble of a family…

Homemade Burgers that’s what.

500g minced beef (don’t buy the lean stuff it won’t hold together)

2 slices of bread made into bread crumbs

sprig of rosemary



half a small onion chopped finely

The bread will make breadcrumbs easiest if it’s dry, toasting it is a great way to make it crumbly and a food processor does the crumbing in seconds

Place beef in a bowl with salt, pepper, breadcrumbs and onion.


Then using scissors cut your rosemary finely, just the leaves not the stem.


make the mince into patties/burgers with your hands, try to make them as flat as possible so they will cook through evenly. Pour over a little olive oil so they do not stick to the griddle. Cook them on a medium to hot griddle or BBQ, or place on an oiled tray in the oven. They need to be cooked for 15 to 20 minutes or until all the meat is cooked through.

If you fancy jazzing up your burgers you can add some chilli or garlic to the mixture, or maybe a little chipotle paste. 


Garlic and Chilli Pumpkin Soup (Warning…This Soup Bites Back)

Garlic and Chilli Pumpkin Soup


2 onions

2 sticks celery

2 cloves garlic

1 green finger chilli

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 quarter of a medium sized pumpkin

1.5 litres stock, veg or chicken

In the pestle and mortar grind cumin seeds, garlic and finger chilli to a paste.

Chop onions and celery finely. Remove the pumpkin skin and cut into tiny cubes.

In a pan heat 2 tablespoons of veg oil, sauté onions and celery with the paste from the pestle and mortar, keep stirring until glossy and add the pumpkin.

Cook for a few more minutes and add the stock, bring to a simmer and cover. Leave to cook until the pumpkin is soft. You can then either use a masher to thicken, blend in the food processor or eat as a chunkier soup.

Pumpkin Fairy Cakes

Pumpkin Fairy Cakes


4 oz non dairy marg

4oz self raising flour

4oz caster sugar

Eighth of a medium Pumpkin roasted, peeled and mashed with a fork

2 large eggs

1tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 190°C .

Chop Pumpkin in half scoop out seeds and the stringy bits place on a baking tray and roast for about 20 minutes. Take out and cool. Remove skin before mashing ready for your cake mix.

In a large bowl  cream the marg and sugar until light and fluffy Add the egg and vanilla essence and beat well. Add flour a spoonful at a t time until no flour shows in mixture and add the mashed pumpkin.

Spoon a large dessert spoon of the batter into each paper case. Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, 15 to 20 mins maximum.

Spiced Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Cakes

Spiced Butternut Squash Cakes


I don’t know about you but we love cake in our house. We don’t eat it often and due to the dairy free nature of Moi we tend not to have shop bought delicacies. The only issues we have is none of us is patient enough to wait for a large cake to cook so inevitably I have adapted a lot of my cake recipes to make smaller fairy cakes.

Spiced Butternut Squash Cakes

4 oz non dairy marg

4oz self raising flour

4oz caster sugar

4oz butter nut squash roasted, peeled and mashed with a fork (about an eighth of a medium pumpkin)

2 large eggs

1tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp. Cinnamon

1 tsp.  grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp.  ground cardamom

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Preheat oven to 190°C .

Chop Butternut squash in half scoop out seeds and the stringy bits place on a baking tray and roast for about 20 minutes. Take out and cool. Remove skin before mashing ready for your cake mix.

I always grind as many of my spices by hand in the pestle and mortar as I can, it is stress busting, when grinding the cardamom just remember to remove the husks from your powder before mixing into your batter.

In a large bowl  cream the marg and sugar until light and fluffy .

Add the eggs, one at a time,  and add the vanilla.

In a small bowl mix the flour, salt, and spices. Once mixed add the  squash to the flour and spices and mix well then add a spoon full at a time to your sugar, marg, egg combo.  Stir just until completely combined and no flour showing.

Spoon a large dessert spoon of the batter into each paper case. Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, 20 to 25 mins maximum

Let  them cool if you can bear to wait.