Medieval Tonic

This time of year everyone is ridden with colds. We all spend stupid amounts of money on different vitamins and remedies from Holland and Barrett or on tube after tube of Berocca. To add to the terrible weather, we are also all going out twice as much because of the Christmas season. My dad and I thought we would give this mad potion a go. This is from the medieval times when epidemics took hundreds of lives. People used natural remedies to try and cure themselves, before all of the prescription drugs we take were around. Penicillin wasn’t invented by Fleming until 1928. We wanted to see if natural remedies could make us feel on top of the world. There was only one way to find out, so on a rainy Tuesday afternoon we got cooking! (Well, not really cooking – we just chopped up all of the ingredients and put them in a jar!)

According to the description, this recipe is an antibiotic that millions of people have used to fight dangerous diseases in the past. Let us see if it can fight our colds and hangovers this December. Apparently this tonic has helped people fight bacteria, parasitic and fungal diseases and even the plague.

I put Val (my dad) on to the chopping and grating, with much complaint, and sterilised the jars.

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This is the recipe –

1 Large Bulb of Garlic Finely Chopped (A natural antibiotic)

1 Small Onion Finely Chopped (Powerful duo with close relative, garlic)

2 Tablespoons of Turmeric (I’m obsessed with it – it’s marvellous!)

5 inch Piece of Ginger Grated (Has an anti-inflammatory effect)

2 Tablespoons of Horseradish (For sinuses and lungs)

2 Fresh Hot Red Chillies (Have antibiotic properties and stimulate circulation)

700ml Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (It’s high in potassium so good for hair, teeth, colds and bones. It’s high in pectin, which decreases cholesterol, and malic acid that cures joint pain. Hippocrates, the father of medicine used only two natural remedies, apple cider vinegar and honey – and he knew what he was doing! Furthermore it promotes natural weight loss – FAB)

Put all of the ingredients in a mason jar. Close the jar and shake well. Keep it in a cool dry place for 2 weeks. Shake the jar several times a day.

After two weeks strain through muslin, squeezing well.

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Dose –

Quite worryingly, it says ‘it is valuable advice to eat some orange, lemon or lime after you consume the tonic in order to reduce the burning sensation and heat’!

A tablespoon has to be gargled and swallowed once a day just to boost your immune system and fight colds. If you are already ill then it recommends taking 5 tablespoons a day.

Apparently you can also add it to olive oil to make salad dressing! How convenient.

I’ll let you know if I have super powers in two weeks!

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All information from ‘Viral Alternative News’ (


Mussels – How do you like yours?

While travelling through the backwaters of Kerala I came across men, alone on little fishing boats. Normally, the fishermen go out in at least twos in order to gather the net together. When I looked closer, I saw that the fisherman was just pushing a long pole in, up and down the bottom of the water. I asked our boatman what was going on and he explained that they were collecting mussels from the bottom of the backwaters. All down the waterways there was mussel fishing activity. There were beautiful women in saris washing mussels on the banks and heaps of mussel shells being dried out.

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The mussel dishes I had in Kerala never came with their shells on like I am used to. Mussel fry is a dry (no gravy) spicy dish of mussels prepared very differently to our ‘Moules Frites’ dish in Europe. In Southern India the flesh is removed from the shell and marinated in a mixture of spices before being panfried in oil.

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Our boatman in Kerala told me that the shells are dried out, ground up and made into lime, which is used to make concrete. This is very Indian – allowing nothing to go to waste. ‘Backwater mussel culture is a decade old phenomenon along the Malabar coast and opens immense potential for resource and employment generation among coastal communities especially women living below poverty line.’

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Mussels eat plankton by using their body like a snorkel, filtering water in and out in a U-turn. Mussels actually clean the water they are living in. If you spot them when you are about to take a swim, you can feel at ease as they only like to live in clean streams and rivers so that it’s easy for them to eat and reproduce.

Fun Fact – Mussels have blue blood.

The word mussel dates back to the Roman times. The Romans called them ‘musculus’ meaning ‘little mouse’. I guess they could be mistaken for a very tiny mouse hiding in their shells – quite strange though. Another idea is that there was confusion between the mussel and the muscle holding the bivalve, having similarities to the shape of a bicep. Either way the ‘little mouse’ is held in place by the muscle of the mussel!

The French claim to have had the first mussel farm all the way back in 1235. However from 500BC there is evidence that the ancients were lowering rope and branches into shallow waters for mussels to cling on to so that they could capture them to eat.

The Ancient Romans had a recipe for mussel balls. These are mussels, steamed, pounded to a paste, combined with eggs and grain and roasted over hot ashes. Almost like a mussel meatball.

I have traipsed through various mussel recipes. I didn’t want to choose something predictable like mussels with garlic and white wine so, in an attempt to try out marinating and frying mussels, i looked at the traditional Kerala dish Kallummekkaya Olathiyathu, Mussels Fry. After capturing the mussel men hard at work on camera, i thought it seemed appropriate to try out some of the recipes that their wives would be cooking for them on their return from the backwaters.

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After testing a few i have put together what i think is the most delicious Kerala mussel  curry. I know it sounds odd, but trust me, it’s super quick and tastes and smells like south India (i know that sounds cliche, but i promise the whole of Shepherds Bush knew i was cooking that day).

This serves 3-4. Serve with rice. (We actually wrapped it up in left over duck pancake wraps from dinner the night before)

1 Kilo of Mussels

2 tsp Garlic Paste (about 2 cloves)

2 Tsp Turmeric Powder

Pinch of Salt

2 tsp Chilli Powder (depending on strength)

1 tsp Vinegar

Few tablespoons of Coconut Oil

1 tsp Mustard Seeds

Handful of Curry Leaves

2 Small White Onions Sliced

2 Large Tomatoes Chopped

2 Green Chillies Split Lengthways

2 Tbsp Finely Chopped Ginger

1 Heaped tsp of Ground Coriander

1 Heaped tsp of Garam Masala

Put the mussels in a pot and pour over a kettle of boiling water so that the shells open. Drain the water and remove the flesh from each shell. Throw away any that don’t open. Make sure you remove the beard off each mussel.

Mix together the garlic, turmeric, salt, chilli powder and vinegar and marinate the mussels in this paste for 15-30 minutes.

Fry the mussels on a medium heat for 10-15 minutes in a tablespoon of coconut oil.

In a separate pan (i used a wok) heat 3-4 tbsp of coconut oil. When it’s hot add the curry leaves and mustard seeds. After a few minutes add the onions and ginger and fry until the onion is translucent and starting to soften. Add the tomatoes and green chillies. Cook for a few minutes.

Add the cooked mussels (including any of the marinade) into the onion pan. Stir together on a medium-high heat. Add the ground coriander and garam masala. Add half a cup of water and then simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Add some salt if necessary.  For a dry fry, cook until the liquid has evaporated. Finish with a sprinkling of curry leaves.

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Why not try trying mussels a different way!

‘A Matter of Taste: Shellfish Desire’ Raymond Sokolov, 1979.

Cereal – Why don’t we have Shepherds Pie for Breakfast?

So, a funny thought entered my head – How weird is cereal!

Putting oats/grains in a bowl, pouring over milk and having it as a breakfast dish. Why is it not as acceptable to have shepherds pie for breakfast? I decided to look at where it first came from and who made it everyone’s start to the day!

I have discovered, after some research, that it all began because of religion. The Seventh Day Adventist Church is a protestant Christian denomination who are notable because they have their Sabbath day on a Saturday rather than a Sunday. They were formed in 1863.

There were food reformers at this time who were trying to promote against having meat for breakfast. It was common at this time to have meat hash for breakfast, a mixture of minced meats and potatoes. The Seventh Day Adventist Church made this reform part of their religion.

Ferdinand Schumacher, a German immigrant living in America, was the first to grind oats in his back room to make them digestible. This was in 1854. These ground oats gave a substitute for breakfast pork. In 1877 he adopted the Quaker Symbol. This is the first registered trademark of breakfast cereal. Eating oats for breakfast finally became common for all types of religion, not only the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Cereals have obviously come on leaps and bounds since then. “The number of different types of breakfast cereals in the U.S. has grown from 160 (1970) to 340 (1998) to 4,945 (2012)!”

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The most exciting part of my morning as a little girl was opening a new box of cereal and being the first to get the toy inside! ‘W.K. Kellogg was the first to introduce prizes in boxes of cereal. The marketing strategy that he established has produced thousands of different cereal box prizes that have been distributed by the tens of billions.

Kellogg’s Corn Flakes had the first breakfast cereal prize. The ‘Funny Jungle Land Moving Pictures Book’ was given to customers by the shop owners when they bought two or more packets of corn flakes. In 1909, this changed to a book in the post if you applied with tokens. ‘By 1912, Kellogg’s had distributed 2.5 million Jungle land books’. This book was finally exchanged for more modern and flashy toys in 1937.

Anyway, perhaps we could have Shepherds Pie for breakfast; after all it’s quite similar to the meat hash (meat and potatoes) that they we were eating before Quaker Oats came along. If you want to eat minced meat for breakfast – go for it, it’s traditional.


Aichner, T. and Coletti, P. 2013. Customers’ online shopping preferences in mass customization. Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice, 15(1): 20-35.

South Indian Fish Curry (Turmeric Part 2)

After spending five weeks in South India i fell in love with the coconut fish curry available at nearly every restaurant. It never tasted quite the same. It was almost a daily gamble of what type you were going to get. Some were much sweeter than others, or more fresh and citrusy. Following on from my turmeric post i wanted to share with you my recipe that includes marinating the fish in turmeric. After much trial and error here is my favourite fish curry. It serves 2 accompanied with rice. I think its fresh, healthy and delicious. Alter the amount of lime / sugar depending on your taste.

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1 Fillet of Cod (or white fish)

1 tsp Turmeric


1 Garlic Clove (minced)

1 Onion (sliced)

1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds

1 tsp Sesame Seeds

8 Fresh Curry Leaves

1 Vine Tomato (chopped)

1 tsp Ground Coriander

1 Hot Small Dried Chilli

200ml Coconut Milk

Small Bunch of Coriander Chopped

Sugar / Lime Juice to Finish

Slice the fish into 2 inch pieces. Marinate the fish by rubbing the pieces with turmeric, minced garlic, a sprinkle of salt and a drop of oil. Keep in the fridge for half an hour.

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Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan (skillet) and fry the onions, mustard seeds and sesame seeds for about 8 minutes until brown.

Add the ground coriander and curry leaves. Take the dried chilli, break it in half, pour the seeds in followed by the shell. Fry for a few minutes.

Add the coconut milk and chopped tomatoes. Reduce the sauce until it thickens on a simmer. Season with salt, sugar and lime juice until the flavour is rich.

Add the pieces of fish and cook in the sauce on a simmer for 4-8 minutes depending on the thickness of the pieces.

To finish sprinkle over the chopped coriander and a final squeeze of lime.

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