Author Archives: Monica

Camping at Manzac Ferme, Dordogne, France

 I’m currently in the midst of a big long bike ride across France (see hashtags #franceenvelo and #tothemoon). Eight days and 450 miles into it, I feel like my legs deserve a rest. So it was convenient that I had just landed in Dordogne, one of my favourite regions in France for its woodland, enchanted lakes and overall quiet feel. Dordogne is also home to Manzac Ferme, one of the best campsites I know of. I’ve been wanting to write about Manzac for a while now, years in fact, because I’ve been coming here since 2012, when I first discovered it en route to Gascony, that first road trip across France that’s totally changed my life for the better. Manzac was part of that journey. 

The two things that first attracted me to Manzac Ferme was that it’s adults only (which sounds a little risqué but really it just means no kids) and dog-friendly. It’s also small – just 10 pitches, 5 for caravans, 5 for campers. Each pitch has its own private little nook, with a couple tent pitches situated right on the river. It also has free campsite-wide wifi, super clean facilities, and nice hot continuous showers (no push button hell). 


Manzac is also a top spot for walking – there are plenty of walks that leave right from the campsite taking you to some magical places in the Dordogne, including this little spot on the lake that is home to my ultimate dream house.

But what totally makes it for me are the people – George and Margaret run the place and they are the nicest people ever (I came two years ago over my birthday and they had my over for a glass of rosé to celebrate – bliss! – and this year they’ve been sharing some of their garden lettuce with me – little gems, my favourite!). Their son, Laurence (aka @lozula), was also here on my first visit and I’m so glad I got to meet him – he is a hugely talented photographer with a popular travel blog Finding the Universe. So, naturally we had a lot of common ground to connect on, and he’s even let me guest post on his blog from time to time. 

Coming here on bike is a little goofy. Manzac is really a place you should come and hunker down in for a week or two (indeed some guests come and stay for months!). A car is also handy to get you to the rest of the Dordogne and some of the villages like nearby Nontron and Piegut-Pluviers, both of which have stellar markets. But at the same time, for a cyclist, Manzac is such a welcome respite from the usual municipal campsites I’ve been pitching in for the last week, and George and Margaret are getting to feel like old friends now so it’s nice finding a bit of familiarity on this road trip that’s been otherwise totally full of the new and unexpected. Plus, no kids and free wifi to your tent (and a power lead, if you need it) – pure bliss in my world. 


Manzac Ferme
00 33 (0)5 53 56 31 34.
Manzac, 24300 AUGIGNAC, France

Indian Masterclass with Alfred Prasad

Alfred Prasad Indian Masterclass

Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending an Indian cookery masterclass with chef Alfred Prasad at Cookery School at Little Portland Street, part of Great British Chef‘s #gbccookschool line-up. Alfred received a Michelin star at just 29 years old for his work at Tamarind restaurant in London (he’s now pursuing his own restaurant empire). Naturally it was a thrill to have the opportunity to learn more about one of my favourite cuisines from this talented chef.

Alfred Prasad

Better still was that the evening was entirely vegetarian – Alfred grew up in Chennai in southern Indian. In his father’s family, vegetarian cooking was paramount and so his appreciation of vegetables started at an early age while spending hours in the family’s vegetable garden, tending ingredients destined for the dinner table.

Alfred Prasad Masterclass

For just a three hour class, the menu was lavish:

  • Kanchipuram Idli
  • Gunpowder Idli (a revelation!)
  • Pav Bhaji (vegetable curry served on toasted brioche buns)
  • Masala Dosa
  • Chaat
  • Malei Kulfi (pistachio ice cream)

The big highlight was definitely learning to make idlii and dosas, two Indian art forms that I have long admired but have always seemed too complicated to make on my own. Alfred made it definitely seem doable. We all had a go at making our own doses and most of us (myself excluded!) got it on the first try (I did manage it on the second try, however).

Making Dosas with Alfred Prasad It’s also worth mentioning that Alfred is the nicest guy! Friendly, approachable and an excellent teacher with fascinating stories to tell. It was a real pleasure learning from him.

Alfred Prasad Masterclass

Alfred Prasad Masterclass

Alfred Prasad Masterclass

Alfred Prasad Masterclass

Thank you to Great British Chefs and to Cookery School at Little Portland Street for the excellent evening. And thanks especially to Alfred Prasad for his top notch tutelage. I’m now off to order an idli maker and buy some urad dal: my breakfasts will never be the same!

You can get all the recipes and learn more about Alfred Prasad by downloading this Alfred Prasad e-Book from Great British Chefs.

Summer Drinking: Mirabeau Rosé

Mirabeau Rosé Wine

I never was much of a rosé drinker until I went to Gascony and Kate Hill showed me the way. Nowadays it’s my go-to wine of choice for a first drink on a warm summer evening. As such, I was very grateful to receive two bottles of Mirabeau Rosé from Provence, a region I generally favour for rosé as the style tends to be dry and crisp (I can’t stand that sweet stuff). These two bottles did not disappoint.

I’m still honing my wine tasting skills and since my good friend Mr. Neil isn’t here to fill in, I’ll let the producer provide the tasting notes:

Mirabeau Classic Rosé: A vibrant pink, classic Provence rosé whose generous fruit charms the senses immediately with a heady mixture of wild strawberry aromatics, red cherry and raspberry flavours. Surprisingly elegant and balanced on the palate, the Classic offers a delicious fresh acidity combining with the generosity of fruit, leaving a sumptuous lingering finish.

Mirabeau Pure Rosé: Strawberry notes appear first, closely followed by raspberries and white cherries, before the merest whisper of that most elegant of fruits, rhubarb. The acidity is crisp and integrated and the fruit provides an element of textural fruitiness that enables this wine to be drunk as an aperitif as well as with food.

The Pure was my favourite of the two – it seemed to have a little more going on and was particularly enjoyable on its own sans food. Both bottles were delicious, very easy drinking. I will definitely be returning to them again for future summer barbecues to come.

Mirabeau is available in Waitrose, online and in independent wine retailers and more than 40 markets around the world. You can follow Mirabeau Wine on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.


Optimum 9200 Blender Giveaway Worth £429

Froothie Optimum 9200 For those of you who’ve been lusting after a Vitamix or a Blendtec, listen up because I’ve got something even better. I’ve been using the Froothie blenders for the last year and can officially say I’ve retired my Vitamix. These blenders are fantastic. The Froothie Optimum 9400 is basically identical to the Vitamix in form and function but is far more powerful, and the Optimum 9200 is even better. I’ve grown to love its 3-speed setting and especially its timer (I hit the 35-second timer to make my smoothie and then walk away and get up with making tea, tidying up, whatever). I use it at least once per day, always for my morning smoothie, and sometimes again if I’m making soup, hummus or even my own spice blends (you can’t beat homemade curry powder). Fresh juice blitzed with oats and @naturya chia seeds for a creamy #vegan #breakfast #smoothiebowl. #froothie Slow roasted vegetable soup. @blueberrynutrit recipe made with parsnip, carrot & sweet potato. Blitzified in the #froothie. Garnished with berbere. Eaten with gusto! Homemade chilli powder. Tempeh chilli essential. (Used the #froothie #optimum9200 to blend it up - worked well!.) @froothie @froothieuk Today's blend: Apple, pineapple, cucumber, celery, lime, avocado, spinach, and chia seeds from @naturya. This rocked! Made with the #froothie #optimum9200 #optimum600 The generous folks at Froothie have kindly given me an Optimum 9200 to giveaway in celebration of National Vegetarian Week, starting today and lasting until May 24th. If you read this blog, then chances are you’re probably already pretty jazzed about vegetarian food. But if you’ve felt your jazz waning, then this week is a good opportunity to bump start your vegetable mojo, and what better way to “rev” it up than by adding an awesome piece of kit to your kitchen that will enable you to create all kinds of blitzed vegetable creations! share-logo

A few details about the Optimum 9200: The Optimum 9200 next generation blender is a commercial-grade super blender designed for longevity, versatility and BRAWN. Stronger, faster and more powerful than a Vitamix, the Optimum 9200 will set you up to make amazing soups, the silkiest smoothies, super smooth dips, nut butters, ice cream and more. This is the best blender you’ll ever use and the last blender you’ll ever need. Once you try it, you’ll wish you’d had it all your life. A few features you’re going to love:

  • Crushes ice in seconds
  • Easy to use, with three speeds, three timer settings and a pulse button 6 blade assembly creates a vortex that will suck your ingredients down and make blending a breeze
  • Super easy to clean and maintain by simply blending water in the jug at high speed

The Optimum 9200 retails for £429 but will be on sale for £349 during National Vegetarian Week. Visit Froothie’s website for details. Getting my blender soup on with @blueberrynutrit's recipe for slow roasted vegetable soup. #froothie #vegan Enter below using Rafflecopter – there’s loads of ways to submit entries! (Open to UK residents only, unfortunately, so sorry to my international friends!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Submit even more chances to win by entering Froothie giveaways on these awesome blogs:

You can also enter the Optimum 9200 giveaway on Facebook – simply like and share this post to enter. It’s giveaways a-go-go around here! Good luck and happy blending!

Healthy Vegan Shamrock Shake


My friend Emily has been making (and enjoying!) my Shamrock Shake recipe from my book, Smarter Fitter Smoothies. And since today is St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it was about time I share this healthy vegan smoothie on the blog for all the world to see.

I’m not sure what it says about me that I am so nostalgic for a milkshake made famous by a certain fast food chain whose name begins with “M” and ends with “s”. But there you have it. And there’s no need to feel bad about drinking this “milk”shake – it’s totally vegan, relatively low in sugar and full of healthy vitamin-rich greens (the smoothie gets its green color from spinach). Feel free to toss in some avocado for an extra dose of creamy green goodness.


Healthy Vegan Shamrock Shake

  • 1 ripe banana (preferably frozen, ~120g)
  • 1 cup spinach (~50g)
  • A few sprigs of fresh mint
  • 2 dates
  • 10 cashews (~10g)
  • a few ice cubes
  • water, nut milk or coconut milk for an uber rich Shamrock Shake experience

Combine everything a blender (I use a Froothie Optimum 9200) with enough liquid to blend and blitz until smooth. Garnish with a couple fresh mint leaves if you’d like.

215 Cals, 5g Fat, 44g Carbs, 4g Protein, 5g Fiber

Image credit: Emily L.W. Kern

Chestnut Flour Pasta

Chestnut Flour Pasta

I don’t get to see my sister, Stephanie, very often, maybe once per year if I’m lucky. So when we do get together it almost always involves an extended adventure, usually in the form of a road trip. One year it was New Orleans, another year, the Pacific Coast Highway. In November 2010, the road took us to Italy for a long, mostly leisurely drive from Rome to Bologna over the course of ten days, taking in as much as we could along the way.

Pian di Marte ospitalita rurale

One of our stopping points was Pian di Marte, a farmhouse-style agriturismo in the Umbria countryside where we had one of the best meals of our lives. In fact, it was our first meal outside of Rome and we hadn’t yet gotten used to the whole course-after-course-after-course thing that Italians are known for. That pasta was merely a “first” course was unknown to us (particularly as we’re vegetarians so used to pasta being the main event).

Morning at Pian di Marte

So at Pian di Marte, when we received our pasta course – homemade chestnut pasta with pine nuts, butter, rosemary and cavolo nero – we really went to town. And it was easy going because the dish was incredible. The pasta, made with chestnut flour, was hearty, nutty and unlike any pasta we’d had before. I’m not one for “whole wheat” or “spelt” pastas – they’re usually gritty and fall apart. But this chestnut pasta stood on its own and was a perfect match for the earthy rosemary and kale. Served alongside local cheeses and homemade bread, I don’t deny that we were in carbohydrate heaven, and we almost didn’t mind that we left little room for the three surprise courses to follow. The pasta was the stuff of instant legend.

Really amazing pasta

Thus began a quest to recreate the famous Pian di Marte chestnut pasta, and in the years since Stephanie and I have tried several times to relive the magic in our own kitchens.  After two so-so attempts with “chestnut pasta” recipes found on the internet, Stephanie finally had the bright idea to ask Pian di Marte how they made the pasta on their Facebook page. Turns out, the recipe has been on Pian di Marte’s blog all along, where they called it Tagliatelle con farina di castagne, zucca e salsiccia. (Note to self: if looking for a recipe based on a meal had in a foreign country, search for the recipe in that country’s language!)

Making chestnut pasta

The secret, we found, is in the flour. Look for Italian chestnut flour (farina di castagna) which is finely ground and suitable for pasta making. A pasta maker makes things easy, but you don’t need one – we made this by rolling out the dough with a rolling pin as thin as possible, and then slicing into ribbons with a pizza wheel.

Drying chestnut pasta

The dough is versatile, and makes delicious spinach and ricotta ravioli. But don’t go too crazy – you don’t want to overpower the great flavour of the pasta. Our favourite way with this pasta, in the Pian di Marte style, is to serve it simply with some lightly sautéed garlic and rosemary, a glug of good olive oil and a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts.

Chestnut Pasta

This recipe makes quite a lot of pasta but you can easily dry most of it and keep it on hand for the coming weeks. 

  • 400g chestnut flour
  • 200g whole wheat flour
  • 200g Italian ’00’ flour
  • 6 eggs
  • a pinch of salt


  1. Combine the flours on a large clean table and form a well in the middle of the flour pile. Break the eggs into the well, add a pinch of salt, mix together with your hands and knead for about 3 minutes, until you get a soft, pliable dough. Cover the dough with a cloth and leave to rest for half an hour.Making chestnut pasta
  2. Chestnut pasta dough
  3. Roll out the pasta dough as thin as you can (using a rolling pin or a pasta maker) then cut into whatever shape you’d like – I like thin ribbons, or squares or rounds for ravioli. If you’re not using a pasta maker, a pizza slicer is a handy tool for this.
  4. If you’re not going to cook it straight away, dust the pasta with semolina or flour and drape it over a rack to dry.Drying chestnut pasta
  5. Or cook the pasta immediately in a pot of boiling, salted water until al dente (4-5 minutes).

Also seen on Great British Chefs.

Mango Chilli Sorbet

Mango Chilli Sorbet

I recently had the pleasure of going to the latest supper club at The Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath. The theme: Indian Thali, hosted and prepared by the VCS’s awesome chef divas, Rachel Demuth, Jo Ingleby and Helen Lawrence.

It’s been ages since I’ve been out for Indian, and this was some of the tastiest, freshest and most interesting Indian food I’ve had in a long time: masala dosa, sambar, chutney, homemade paneer, peshwari naan and some new discoveries such as masala vada and khadi. (Rachel Demuth’s blog has a full recap of the evening with some amazing recipes).

One of the meal’s highlights came at the very end, and made me feel super glad I saved room to enjoy dessert: mango chilli sorbet. Tart, refreshing and with just a touch of heat from the chilli, this type of dessert is my favourite way to end a meal.

Beautiful Dessert


I’ve tried making mango sorbet at home but have never managed to make it taste like the mango sorbets and ice creams you get in Indian restaurants. So I picked Helen’s brain after the supper club, and she told me her secret: Kesar mangos! This yellowish variety of mango is popular in India and is what gives the mango-sorbet-of-my-dreams its characteristic flavour.

Fresh Kesar mangos are not easy to find in the UK, but tinned Kesar mangos are. And so, Helen’s parting gift to me was a big ol’ tin of pureed Kesar Mangos, offered on the condition that I make mango sorbet at home and write about it. So here I am.

Kesar Mango Pulp

The tinned Kesar mangos did not disappoint. They’re already sweetened (ingredients: mango, sugar, citric acid – nothing scary), so all I needed to do was blitz it in the Vitamix with some lime juice and ginger juice, mix in a finely diced red chilli, then churn in the ice cream maker. Pretty awesome.

The result was everything I hoped for. Arguably, I could have chopped my chillies a tad finer as they were detectable as “bits” in the sorbet, but this effect sort of grew on me – I liked the texture, and the sensation, like little pockets of heat encased in frozen mango awesomeness.

Mango Chilli Sorbet

5.0 from 2 reviews

Mango Chilli Sorbet
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 8

A refreshing sorbet, recipe courtesy of Helen Lawrence from The Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath. Kesar mangoes are the best in this, but if you can’t find fresh ones, use tinned (omit the honey and sugar if the tinned mangoes are sweetened). To make ginger juice, grate fresh ginger and then use your hands to squeeze squeeze out the juice.
  • 85g light soft brown sugar
  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled & stoned (or 1 850g tin of sweetened Kesar Mangos)
  • 3 tablespoons ginger juice
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded & chopped
  • 100ml limejuice
  • 50ml honey

  1. Place the mangoes, ginger juice, chilli, lime juice and honey into a blender (I use a Froothie Optimum 9200) and puree until absolutely smooth. Add the sugar and buzz again until mixed.
  2. Transfer the puree into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturers instructions. Freeze.
  3. When ready to eat, take the sorbet out of the freezer about ten minutes or so before you’re ready to eat it – this will make it much easier to scoop!

Nutrition Information
Serving size: 85g Calories: 111 Fat: 0.3 Carbohydrates: 29.1 Sugar: 25.5 Fiber: 1.3 Protein: 0.5 Cholesterol: 0


I am submitting this recipe to the dairy-free Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream challenge hosted by Kavey Eats.

Smoothie Bowls: Put Away The Straw and Get Out The Spoon

Smoothie Bowl

In this follow-up to Emily’s previous post on chia pudding, I present to you another discovery inspired by our seasonal meanderings: the smoothie bowl.

The concept is nothing new, indeed, I’ve been “eating” my smoothies with a spoon for months. But last February, fuelled by visions of pudding, marmalade, and sheep yogurt, we decided to try serving our traditional breakfast smoothie in a bowl. This was a total smoothie breakthrough! Not life-changing, but definitely smoothie-changing. Why? It’s all about Garnish Potential. A smoothie bowl maximises space for toppings, and also turns your smoothie into something that mentally might seem like a snack into a meal in itself.

A smoothie bowl should be thick and creamy (lest your garnishes sink to the bottom!). You can achieve this a number of ways. Great thickeners include:

  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Rolled Oats
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Psyllium husks
  • Thick yogurt

If you’re using seeds, grains and/or psyllium husks to thicken your smoothie, here’s a hefty tip: blend the smoothie for 20 seconds, then let the smoothie “rest” for a few minutes (this gives everything a chance to absorb the liquid), then blend again for another 20 seconds. The transformation is kind of insane – it goes from being a sort of thick but slightly grainy smoothie into something that’s almost like super smooth pudding. This might not suit everyone’s tastes, but for me it makes the smoothie seem more substantial. This is healthy emotional eating!

It also helps to use a good blender if you can – I’ve been working with the Froothie Optimum 9200 which is pretty dang powerful and also has a “20-second” button which is handy.

Smoothie Bowl

However you like your smoothies, I challenge you to try serving your next smoothie in a bowl and eating it with a spoon – you can do this with fresh juices, too. Think about it as an opportunity to slow down and really savor the awesome blend you’ve created. After all, digestion begins in the mouth, so it’s worth taking it slow.

Here’s my go-to smoothie bowl that I have for breakfast on most days.

Pineapple and Lime Green Smoothie Bowl

My favourite smoothie bowl toppings for this blend are berries, oats and coconut flakes, but anything goes – see my 16 Ways to Garnish a Smoothie for inspiration.

Serves 1

  • 1-inch slice pineapple
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • handful of spinach or other greens
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • 1/2 banana
  • 5g flax seeds (~1 tsp)
  • 5g psyllium husk (~1 Tbsp)
  • Garnish

Blender Method: Chop all the veg into chunks and add to the blender with the cucumber and pineapple at the bottom. Add a splash of water and start blending; add more water as needed to get it blending but you should use very little, otherwise your smoothie will be a little insipid (you can also use coconut water or other liquid of your choosing). Blend for 20-seconds, let it rest for a few minutes, then blend again for another 20-seconds. (You can add ice cubes to the second round of blending if you’d like to cool it down a bit.) Serve in a bowl garnished with smoothie bowl toppings of your choice. Enjoy!

Juicer / Blender Method: Juice the pineapple, lime, spinach, celery and cucumber (I use an Optimum 600 Slow Juicer). Add the juice to a blender with the banana, flax and psyllium. Blend for 20-seconds, let it rest for a few minutes, then blend again for another 20-seconds. (You can add ice cubes to the second round of blending if you’d like to cool it down a bit.) Serve in a bowl garnished with smoothie bowl toppings of your choice. Enjoy!

More smoothies that would work well as a smoothie bowl:

Travels with Paris’ Best Tour Guide

Mardi Michels and Monica Shaw in Paris on

One of my big “achievements” of 2014 was #monthofbirthday. Most of us, including myself until last year, very humbly choose to celebrate our birthdays on one particular day, and if we’re feeling extravagant, maybe for a weekend. But I decided that I would make July all about doing as much as possible to celebrate being alive. And what better place for feeling alive than Paris? And who better to help me make the most of it than my dear friend Mardi Michels of eat. live. travel. write.

I know Mardi through our Gascony connections, and when I found out she’d be in Paris for the summer, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay a visit and experience Paris through the life of someone who’s a total expert on the city. Through Mardi I was able to experience Paris as the locals do, from the regular life stuff of food shopping and cooking in tiny kitchens, to indulgences at some of the best foodie haunts in the city.

You can read more about it in my guest post on Mardi’s blog. Get yourself over there pronto!

Blé Sucré pastries  in Paris on

Grilled Leeks with Mustard Vinaigrette

Grilled Leeks with Vinaigrette, Served on Quinoa and wild Rice

The secret to tasty BBQ leeks is to blanch the leeks first so that they’re pretty much cooked before they go on the BBQ, then dress them in a tangy vinaigrette that compliments the sweetness of the leek. Almost any mustardy vinaigrette will do – I keep it basic with olive oil, white wine vinegar and dijon, then add fresh herbs like parsley, chervil or oregano to vary the recipes.

Serve the leeks over some whole grains like barley, quinoa or wild rice and you have a substantial side dish that’s perfect for a BBQ. You can also add other grilled vegetables – courgettes and asparagus work especially well. Too cold for an outside BBQ? Stay inside and cook this on a griddle pan.

Griddled leeks with quinoa, wild rice and mustard dressing. Nice recipe via the @riverford box.

BBQ Leeks with Mustard Vinaigrette

Inspired by Riverford’s Griddled Leeks with Wild Rice, Quinoa and Chervil.


  • 3 leeks, cut into 5cm lengths
  • a handful of fresh herbs like parsley, chervil or oregano, chopped
  • salad leaves and/or cooked grains to serve
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

For the vinaigrette

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard


  1. Boil the leeks for about 8 minutes, until tender. Remove from the boiling water and run under cold water until cool. Slice each piece in half lengthwise.
  2. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette by whisking all of the vinaigrette ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over the leeks and use your hand to slather the oil all over the leeks. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat up the BBQ (or griddle pan) on a high heat. Grill the leeks on each side to make ridge marks.
  5. Toss the salad leaves or grains with some of the vinaigrette and most of the fresh herbs. Arrange on a plate and top with the grilled leeks. Drizzle the rest of the vinaigrette over the leeks and sprinkle with the remaining herbs.

Also seen on Great British Chefs.