Food and a Sense of Home

If you’re living far from where you grew up, what are the foods you miss the most? What do you cook to evoke a sense of the place you love and make you feel more at home?

I recently finished an MA in Magazine Journalism at the School of Journalism, Media & Culture at Cardiff University, and as part of a work study agreement, I wrote an article for Planet Magazine online  on how four Spanish men living in Cardiff deal with these questions.

The article is called Slow Cooking Memories of Home  and I hope you enjoy it. As a bonus, it includes a recipe for an authentic Spanish omelette for you to try.



Health Food Cookies (vegan recipe)

Since the passing of my parents, I’ve inherited my mother’s collection of over thirty years’ worth of clipped and copied recipes.  Her recipe file is a treasure trove of (sometimes hilariously) retro dishes, classic cuisine and, most importantly, gems of home cooking offered up by friends and relatives.

This recipe is one of those donations.  There’s no name on the file card it’s written on, so I’m unsure who the contributor was. As the title of the recipe suggests, these cookies come from the wholefood revolution of the 1970s, the era that popularised granola, wheatgerm, and heavy use of nuts and seeds in baked goods.  

However much the title might conjure up – for those us old enough to remember – uncomfortable memories of Earth Shoes, shapeless cotton granny dresses, and food with the approximate consistency of sawdust, these cookies are actually quite nice.  The nuts and seeds go lovely and toasty, the dates melt into a gooey caramel, and the molasses adds a nice mellow undertone to the sweetness.

I’ve veganized the recipe below, but if you want to follow the original, here it is:


Health food cookies A

Health food cookies B


Health Food Cookies


1 ¾ cup whole wheat flour

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

2 cups rolled oats

¼ cup margarine

1 ½ cups brown sugar

2 Tbls. flax seeds

6 Tbls. water

¼ cup oil (I used canola)

¼ cup molasses

½ cup sunflower seeds

½ cup raisins

½ cup chopped dates

½ cup desiccated coconut

½ cup chopped mixed nuts (your choice)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Prepare cookie sheets by greasing or lining with baking paper.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, soda and oats.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream the margarine and sugar together.  Grind the flax seeds to a powder in a blender, then add the water and whiz together to mix.  Add to the margarine mixture, along with the oil and molasses, and mix well. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just mixed.

Place the remaining ingredients in another medium bowl and mix with your hands until all the bits are evenly distributed.  Add to the cookie dough and stir until incorporated. If you went to Brownies or Cub Scouts, the resulting mass will remind you of those birdseed feeders you made every winter, but don’t worry, the cookies it makes will be nice.

Drop heaping tablespoonfuls onto your prepared sheets.  Using damp hands, flatten and shape into rounds. Bake for 12 – 20 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want them.

Makes about 2 dozen

70s brainstorm:  If you can find carob chips where you live, they’d make a nice addition.

Wild Garlic Xató (vegan recipe)

Wild garlic is one of the joys of spring.  Mellower than garlic, with slightly sweet, herbal undertones, it’s a wonderfully versatile addition to your late spring and early summer recipes. You can eat it raw in salads or in a sandwich, or use it as a substitute for basil in pesto. In cooked recipes, it makes a nice substitute for greens such as you spinach, kale or spring greens. If you pick too much to use fresh, just wash and dry thoroughly, then freeze it for later use.

Wild garlic tends to grow in wooded, shady areas. Photo: Pixabay

Its proper name is Allium Ursinum, and depending where you are can be known as ramsons, bear’s garlic (as it’s apparently irresistible to brown bears), wood garlic, or simply wild garlic. It’s part of the onion family, and is closely related to chives. The plants grow in more temperate climates from Britain in the West to the countries of the Caucasus in the East. You can find it from April to June, growing in shady wooded areas.

It has bright green leaves that can grow to about 25cm/10in and has white star-shaped flowers. Be careful when picking it, though, as its leaves are very similar to the poisonous Lily of the Valley. Only pick when you can see the flowers and double-check by crushing a leaf to ensure it has a garlicky scent. If you’re in any doubt, don’t pick them.

Wild plants are a good way to make your diet more interesting. They can bring flavours and textures that you won’t find in products you buy commercially, and may have some health benefits. Some studies suggest that wild garlic is even better than regular garlic in lowering blood pressure, and its leaves and flowers have some antifungal properties.

wild garlic can be identified by its star-like flowers  Photo: Pixabay

In some European countries, wild garlic is increasingly being added to commercial products, such as the infused oil currently available at Ikea. As a result, there’s been a renewed interest in wild food plants in general. More and more people want to learn how forage, with workshops springing up in local communities and instructional videos available online. The Woodland Trust has some good foraging guidelines, so if you’re a novice, please read them through before going out to collect wild food.

Recipe – Wild Garlic “Xató” (vegan)

This recipe is based on the Catalan romesco sauce variety Xató, which is a blend of nuts and a variety of peppers called nyoras that is used on salads.

This wild garlic version would be good on a salad, but you can also stir it into pasta or steamed vegetables, or top a baked potato, grilled tofu or seitan steak (and if you’re a meat-eater, a real steak). My friend Jordi used it as a spread on toast, then added fresh tomatoes.

wild garlic xató on toast with fresh tomatoes  Photo: Jordi Sánchez

The measurements here are approximate, because it all really depends on what texture, degree of tanginess, etc. you personally like. Use this as a basic guide, then tweak to your own taste. This recipe makes a thick spread, as Xató tends to be much thicker than a sauce, but if you can add more oil if you want to use it as you would pesto.

The following uses 3 cups of wild garlic as that happened to be amount I picked. If you have more or less, adjust the other ingredients accordingly.


3 cups packed wild garlic, leaves and flowers

1/3 cup blanched hazelnuts

1/3 blanched almonds

½ cup olive oil*

3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

Salt to taste

*If your olive oil has a very strong taste, you might want to use a mixture of olive and a neutral tasting oil


Dry fry the nuts in a pan until they are golden and smell toasty. Set aside. Once the nuts are cool, combine with the wild garlic and vinegar in a food processor. While processing, drizzle in the oil until you reach the desired consistency. Add salt to taste.

ok, not so pretty, but delicious nevertheless: wild garlic xató stuffed portobellos

I used mine on baked Portobello mushrooms. I removed the mushroom stems, stuffed them with the xató, then baked them at 180C/350F for 20 minutes.