Dish Of The Month Challenge – January


IMG_0223A few years ago in another life, on another blog, I took part in a Nigel Slater dish of the month challenge.  The challenge was to cook a dish from each month from his Kitchen Diaries II book.  I made it as far as June.  Since then, and this also goes back a year or two, I was gifted, by my brother, Nigel Slater’s A year of good eating book, Kitchen Diaries III.  At the time I had a fairly good look though it, I hold my hands up I didn’t get round to actually reading it and certainly didn’t cook anything from it.  So, this year I am challenging myself to complete the dish of the month challenge, this time with The year of good eating book.


I nearly fell at the first fence when I realised I only had a day left of the month, and I realise this post will hit February.  Picking a January recipe was easy, the smoked mackerel and beetroot fishcakes were definitely one to be tried, not least because I had all the ingredients!  I’d bought the smoked mackerel with an idea to make a potato and egg salad for lunch one day and the beetroot for a kale and beet smoothie one morning.  Beetro

ot redeployed I’m now off the hook for the smoothie!!!  I didn’t have fresh horseradish so used a teaspoon of the creamed horseradish I had in the fridge.

I love fishcakes and have had probably as many misses as hits when making them in the search for the ultimate fishcake.  This version, definitely a hit!  A keeper!  I probably needed to dry out my grated beetroot a bit more as despite heeding the instructions to only briefly fold in the beetroot to avoid turning the mash pink, my mash was pretty pink.  And his advice not to move the fishcakes in the pan for the 6 minutes a side should be followed, I turned one too soon to my cost.

I’ve never had a pan big enough to produce enough fishcakes for us both at the same time so I alway

s brown them in the pan first then transfer to a baking tray, brown the rest and then heat them all through together in the oven.

There are various suggestions for sauces but as I was going off what I already had in I mixed some natural yogurt with some of the creamed horseradish.

As if being quick and easy to make and incredibly tasty isn’t enough reason to try these check out the benefits of beetroot and smoked mackerel!

The Nutrition Bit


  • Beetroot offers great support for the liver, so perfect to pack into our January diets if you’ve overindulged during the festive period!  The deep, purple pigment, betacyanin, helps to stimulate a process called “phase 2 detoxification” breaking down toxins more efficiently.  It can also help in the production of bile which can further help the removal of toxins, although be careful if you suffer from gallstones.
  • Supporting liver function also benefits our skin, if the liver is overburdened the skin is used as an alternative to eliminate toxins, aggravating conditions such as eczema.
  • Beetroot also has a beneficial effect on blood pressure.  It is high in natural nitrates which the body converts into nitric oxide, a powerful vasodilator which widens the blood vessels.
  • There is also a school of thought that it is an anti-cancer food, increasing the production of the body’s own cancer preventing chemical, glutathione-s-transferase protecting cells from damage.
  • It contains a compound, zeaxanthin which protects our fatty subcutaneous tissue from free radical damage helping to prevent the skin from becoming saggy and dull.
  • B Vitamins helping to improve nerve function.
  • Iron and antioxidants purifying the blood and improving oxygen uptake, good for anyone suffering with anemia.
  • Antioxidants – have you heard of the ORAC score? this is used to measure the total antioxidant power of foods.  Beetroot comes in at 840, higher than red peppers, oranges and carrots, but trumped by blueberries, strawberries and spinach.
  • Potassium – modern diets are throwing out our sodium/potassium balance leading to water retention and hardening of the blood vessels.  Tipping the balance in favour of potassium can have the opposite effect.


  • Mackerel is incredibly high in omega-3 fatty acids, these help the body to produce its own anti-inflammatory compounds making it great for arthritis, eczema and asthma sufferers.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids also have a positive effect on cholesterol and can protect blood vessel walls from damage.
  • reasearch has shown Omega-3 fatty acids can have the same effect as the anti-depressant Prozac by increasing serotonin.
  • There is some evidence eating foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids three times a week can help with Alzheimer’s
  • it is high in vitamin D, vital for the body to utilise calcium and so it is good for the prevention of conditions such as osteoporosis.
  • Vitamin D has also been shown to play a role in mental and emotional functions, immune regulation, fat metabolism and protection against some cancers.  The main source of vitamin D is the conversion of cholesterol when our skin is exposed to sunlight.  A regular intake of oily fish during the winter months can therefore be very beneficial!
  • Also contains vitamins A, B-complex, C, E and K.  Calcium, potassium, selenium and magnesium helping to regulate metabolism and therefore blood sugar and cholesterol levels

The Breakfast Edit

Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince and Dine like a Pauper is the saying.  A lot of weight loss aficionados will tell you this, others will say a calorie is a calorie no matter what time of day it is consumed.

I am more in the latter than the former camp but I do believe there is something behind the first theory.  A good nights sleep, for example, is a key player in health and happiness and I don’t believe anyone sleeps well on a belly full.  We might feel sleepy after a good feed, the post Christmas dinner coma for example, but I don’t believe anyone has the good, undisturbed nights sleep that leads to waking feeling refreshed and raring to go when we’ve overindulged in the evening.

Likewise with lunch, a considered lunch with the balance tipped more towards protein than carbs, for me anyway, really helps beat that 3pm slump.  So it follows that a good breakfast can really set us up for the day!

I’ve had a very mixed relationship with breakfast, I know I should do breakfast, but too often than not it’s easy to not.  As kids we fared very well, Dad would make us porridge before we set off for the school bus.  Even as we got older and were capable of making our own he would still perform this ritual for us, and I was grateful, it kept me going so well it meant I could pretty much skip lunch and save my lunch money!  Lunch was for wimps back in those school days, not something I stand by now!  As I ventured into university life it was much more tempting to have more time in bed and just grab a couple of biscuits and so the decline set in.  For breakfast to work for me it has to be appealing and fairly easy.

This is where oats are still a favourite.

Oats are the power breakfast of breakfasts! They contain beta-glucans, a soluble fibre which slows down the absorption of carbs and so prevents blood sugar spikes and keeps us feeling fuller for longer.  Sugar spikes also encourage our bodies to produce and store fat, something I am guessing a lot of us would like to avoid!  Amongst other things they are also a rich source of magnesium, an increasingly common deficiency.  Magnesium relaxes blood vessels, regulating blood pressure and can help prevent heart attacks.  Studies are starting to link magnesium deficiency and depression so getting a daily dose of oats could really help with those winter blues.  And of course the benefits of oats for our good and bad cholesterol balance is well documented.

There is the obvious bowl of porridge, I posted a few days ago on my Facebook page a Jamie Oliver link with a variety of ways on how to top yours.

Although only a matter of minutes, porridge does take some time to make so my regular go to is granola, there is always a tub of this tried and tested recipe in the cupboard. A bowl of yogurt, plain, full fat, live, topped with a couple of handfuls of this granola and some fruit is perfect.


  • 500g Oats
  • 1 Cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 Cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Cups chopped oats, I use almonds and brazils
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 125ml maple syrup





Mix all the dry ingredients together, melt the oil and add the syrup, stir this into the oats to coat evenly.  I have my wonderful Pampered Chef stone baker which makes the mixing and cooking easy, use a large bowl and then spread on two large, lined baking sheets as an alternative.

Bake for 20 mins at 150 fan, or equivalent, give a good mix and bake for another 10-20 mins depending on how toasty you like it.  Once out of the oven give a good mix and allow to cool, if you don’t mix it will set into clumps.  Store in an air tight container and enjoy!


Another favourite are these oaty pancakes, I make a batch, freeze and then toast from frozen.  These combine oats with another breakfast favourite – eggs.Bodyism Pancakes

100g oats – 200g cottage cheese – 4 eggs – 1 tsp cinnamon

Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor for a smooth batter.  Heat a frying pan, add a little oil, I use coconut for these.  Ladle in a little batter, cooking in batches for 2-3 minutes each side.


fresh eggs

 So the other speedy breakfast favourite that ticks a lot of boxes are eggs.  High in protein and good fats eggs are also a source of choline, an essential nutrient which stimulates brain development and function. Choline has also been linked with increasing memory retention and recall as well as improving alertness, what a start to the day!!


To be continued …..