Putting the soul back in the kitchen

It’s only a couple of weeks since meeting Eira and I now find myself in the kitchen of another of Cardiff’s food visionaries.  Geraldine’s vision is to “put the soul back in the kitchen”.  She wants to save kitchens from becoming a place to warm up convenience foods and rescue them as a place where nourishing meals are cooked up from scratch.

Geraldine’s work for charities and community groups led her to create a course to show people how to make simple healthy meals using fresh ingredients. More recently she’s focused her efforts on helping young families eat well on a budget. Look at this alongside her work as a chef in various community kitchens, food projects and festivals and you see why I call her a visionary.

Today, Geraldine is letting me taste a few of her recipes that will be on the menu at ffresh during the course of Tiger Bay The Musical.  Her recipes are steeped in the multicultural heritage of Tiger Bay, where she grew up.  Her grandad was a baker from Barbados who moved to Cardiff and opened up a boarding house and cookshop for seamen. After finishing college, Geraldine went to live in Barbados.  It was there she learned her craft at the ‘Ocean View Hotel’ renowned for its excellence in Bajan cuisine, and learned about herbal medicines and natural remedies from two elder women she worked with.

As we talk, Geraldine prepares some delicious Jerk Chicken, a Cucumber and Avocado Salad, Salt Fish Balls and Pan Fried Plantain.  Watching the ease with which she navigates her kitchen, mixing, adding herbs and spices and assembling this delicious meal, I’m more than inspired to go back home and rediscover my lost enthusiasm for cooking.

It’s no surprise Geraldine prefers home cooked food to eating out, but in her lifetime she’s seen the kitchens of Tiger Bay replaced by restaurant chains in Cardiff Bay.  So, it’s nice to know a local girl will be putting nourishing food back on the menu at Tiger Bay Presents.

Jerk Chicken

The chicken goes in the oven first. It’s been marinating all night in a very special and delicious spice mix. All the juices that have been released is what the chicken is going to be cooked in, no need to add oil. The end result is a spicy, juicy and tender chicken.


Jerk marinade (12-15 chicken drumsticks)

2-3 tsp ground Jamaican pimento (allspice)
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp fresh thyme
2 bunches spring onion
2 onions
1-2 Scotch Bonnet chillies
2 tbsp dark soya sauce
3-4 garlic clove
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 fresh orange
Juice of 1 fresh lime
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper


1. Blend together all ingredients in a blender or food processor.
2. Pour over chicken and marinate for about 2 hours or overnight.
3. Bake in the oven for about 1 hour. Barbecuing is even better. Make sure coals are white before placing chicken skin side down and keep turning to prevent chicken from getting too dark. Baste regularly. Cook for about 70 minutes.

Cucumber and Avocado Salad

As the chicken is roasting and our conversation rolling we turn to making a simple and very refreshing cucumber and avocado salad


1/2 long cucumber
Pinch of fresh chilli (depending on how hot you’d like it to be)
1-2 tbsp lime juice
Pinch of salt
1/2 avocado

1 tbsp finely cut fresh parsley


1. Cut the cucumber into quartered slices.
2. Finely slice the chilli and sprinkle it over the cucumber, together with lime juice and salt. Mix it all together. Then add avocado and parsley.
3. Enjoy it as a side dish or a refreshing salad on its own.

Salt Fish Balls bubbling in hot oil

Salt Fish Balls

Geraldine’s signature dish, which she will be serving for people at the Tiger Bay Presents festival. Salt fish was part of Geraldine’s diet since she was a kid, it was cheap and delicious served with cornmeal dumplings.

Ingredients ( will serve 6 people)

230g salt fish (when flaked)
230g self raising flour
2 onions
Half or one full bonnet chilli
1/2 bunch spring onions
Fresh parsley
Fresh Thyme
Cold water to bind (8 tbsp)
Deep oil for frying

1. Soak fish overnight. Remove skin and blanche with boiling water for few minutes.
2. Drain water and allow to cool.
3. Flake the fish (making sure all bones are removed) into bowl.
4. Finely chop or grate the spices and herbs and add it to fish.
5. Add flour and enough cold water to make a medium batter (dropping consistency)
6. Put a pot on heat and fill it with oil about 2 inches. Wait till it’s hot. You can try by dropping a small spoonful and see of it stays in one consistency.
7. Drop small spoonfuls of the batter into hot deep oil and fry until golden brown.
8. Drain on paper towel and serve.


Pan Fried Plantain

Lastly, a plantain is sliced and fried in hot oil in a frying pan. This is served on a side of succulent and delicious roasted jerk chicken. Together it makes a sweet and sour duo – a real feast for your taste receptors.







































Inner City Eira

I could listen to Eira talk for hours. I would be constantly nodding in agreement to all that she says. And in relief too, knowing that there are people walking this earth who totally get what food is about.  It’s about making it at home from scratch, using local products, foraged harvests, or surplus produce that people leave at her doorstep. It’s so easy to fall in love with Eira’s philosophy and her way of doing things. It’s just so right, so empowering and so independent.

Eira once created a special menu plan for her son to help him survive on a budget while eating nourishing food. The answer was home-made tomato sauce that could be used for various meals, dishes that overlap with certain ingredients and save you money. These little things, that aren’t so little. All for the sake of having a nourishing home-made meal. Thank you!

The recipe that I got from Eira, is the perfect foodification* of Eira’s wisdom. It’s called ‘potch’ and it’s a simple, comforting mash of some seasonal and local root vegetables. It’s a proof that simple seasonal and local ingredients with a bit of spice is all you need to make a delicious dish.

*as in personification but with food


Ingredients (serves 2)

3-4 potatoes

2-3 carrots

½ turnip –  swede

1 leek

50 g butter

a pinch of salt

a pinch of white pepper

a pinch of grated/ ground nutmeg

2-3 tbsp of cream (I used yoghurt)


1. Clean the root veg and cut them roughly the same size. Put all in a pan together and cover with water and add salt.Boil the vegetables until tender, drain , mash them, put lid on pan.

  2.While the root veg are cooking, clean and chop leeks.Put butter in a pan, heat up and add leeks. Cook till tender, normally 5 -10 mins. Add the cream, nutmeg and white pepper to the leeks, cook for 2-3 mins.

 3. Add the leek mixture to the root vegetables, and mix through)

Eira makes it in big batches, and leaves it in the fridge for her family to eat it in all possible ways- as a side, as a spread, in a sandwich, etc…

For Eira’s preserves, have a look at her website innercitypickle.co.uk or come to Roath market on Saturdays, where she sells her produce.


A basic sauerkraut recipe

It’s a cold, dim autumn evening in the mid 90’s and at home in our kitchen my mum and dad are forcing a shredded cabbage into a small bucket, until every ounce of juice has been squeezed out.  They then cover it with a small plate and place a big stone on top, keeping the cabbage submerged in its own liquid. For the following weeks my Dad will check the fermenting cabbage and see if it’s still got enough juice. Every now and then he’ll ‘dig’ some sauerkraut out of the bucket, put it in a jar and keep it in the fridge for daily consumption. The smell of fermenting cabbage will linger in the kitchen for weeks.

Inspired by this sauerkraut nostalgia and requests from my food loving friends I’ve decided to share a simple fool-proof sauerkraut recipe that I use myself.

I recommend starting small and making a jar of sauerkraut first. I usually use a recycled 0.5l or similar size jar.


1 head of cabbage (white or red)

2-3 tbsp of Salt.

1-2 tbsp of caraway seeds (optional)



  1. Shred the cabbage finely –  I use a mandolin because it’s quick and easy, but you can use a good knife, just make sure you slice it finely so you can squeeze as much juice out as possible.
  2. Place the cabbage shreds in a bowl and mix with salt and caraway seeds. Use your hands to massage salt into your cabbage and apply a bit of pressure to make sure the juice is coming out. It may help to leave it for a bit, 30min-1 hour. The cabbage should soften and get juicier. Before you start filling your jar, there has to be some juice already at the bottom of your bowl. If not, massage it for longer.
  3. Start stuffing a jar with cabbage, one big handful at a time. Make sure you force it with your hand each time to the bottom of the jar so that there are no air gaps.
  4. When you’ve finished stuffing the jar, find something to weigh down the cabbage to keep it submerged. I use a glass that fits in the jar, filled with water and pushed down on top of cabbage to squeeze out even more juice. You can also get glass weights, which are a bit more practical.  Make sure your sauerkraut is submerged at all times. This is the key to a successful fermentation.
  5. Cover the jar with a muslin cloth or a towel to prevent flies or anything else falling into it.
  6. Wait. The smell and the look of it so enticing, I can barely wait 3-4 days before I start tasting but you should experiment with times as it will take longer to ferment in colder climates and colder seasons.

Sauerkraut is delicious on its own but can be eaten as a condiment with a main meal, mixed in a salad or even a soup. The leftover juice from sauerkraut is delicious too.

Sauerkraut with seaweed

For more tips and inspiration for fermenting, have a look at the work of Sandor Katz and Annie Levy who also runs  fermentation workshops.

Mango lassi for a hot day

Lately I have been getting back to fermented food. It’s just that it’s very tasty and, some say, quite healthy. Also, I come from a food culture where fermented food is part of the daily diet. Kefir in particular is used quite a lot especially during warmer summer months. My kinfolk and I eat it with boiled potatoes or make cold soup with beetroot called ‘šaltibarščiai’ (which from Lithuanian translates as ‘cold borscht’). It’s a delicious pink soup that I make for everyone who hasn’t tried it yet. I promise to share the recipe soon, but this post is not about that. This is me talking about having milk kefir grains and having incessant supply of kefir at home. If you’re in a similar situation here is a recipe you can try.


1 cup Almond kefir (made with almond milk and milk kefir grains)

very ripe mango (can’t stress that enough, how important it is that mango is ripe, all flavour depends on it)

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp ground cardamonn

1 tbsp sweetener- honey, maple syrup or other



Blend everything in a blender and enjoy. Kefir makes it all very refreshing and it truly tastes better on a hot day!

Perfect Monday

While running my eyes around Cat’s and George’s house it felt like my perfect home- a big old wooden table, a bright kitchen overlooking a rustic garden with herbs and tall trees behind it. Little details everywhere made me feel so happy inside knowing that there are people who appreciate similar things in life.

That sunny and happy Monday morning we sat and shared Cat’s home-made bread, her partner George’s scrambled eggs and a bowlful of stories..with apple butter on top. It was one of those conversations that sinks in and leaves you  feeling warm and nourished long after it’s over.

Cat has travelled and lived in many places, so much so that there is no place she is particularly attached to. She shared a home-baked bread recipe, that makes you feel quite homey.

George is also  well-travelled, including some spontaneous trips such as one day going to Paris with his suitcases and no particular plan. His roots are in Minessota, where amongst other things he used to be an eggman (I didn’t dare asking). He shared a scrambled eggs recipe.

Cat’s Bread Recipe

This is a simple recipe for a home-baked bread. Mix it in the evening, bake it and eat it next morning. Easy to make and has few ingredients. If anyone feels intimidated to make their own bread this perhaps could inspire them to take that step.

Ingredients (makes two loaves)

  1. 6 cups of flour (half white, half wholemeal). You can use any flour you’ve got at home.
  2. 1/3 cup of mixed seeds
  3. 1 tsp yeast
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 3 1/4  cups water


  1. Mix all the ingredients and leave it on the counter covered overnight, or for 8 hours.
  2. Grease the tins and put the dough in. Let it rise for about 1.5 hours. Then bake for about 40 minutes at 235C degrees if you’d like brown crust.



George’s Scrambled Eggs

You are free to improvise with ingredients, but some herbs and spices is a great addition!


  1. 1 finely diced onion
  2. red pepper
  3. purple sprouts
  4. fresh herbs: parsley, chives
  5. salt and pepper
  6. 1-2 slices of bacon
  7. eggs
  8. 1/2 cup of milk


  1. Fry the onion. Then add all the other ingredients, except for eggs. Fry them till browned.
  2. Beat the eggs in a bowl with milk. Then add them to the pan with all the other ingredients.

Happy belated 50th George!!!

Something foraged, something grown

Jo has a very special garden (special to me), in that there are lots of things you can eat from it which as far as I’m concerned is the best thing  a garden can have. It’s also a very nice garden to hang out, it has some cosy corners and chairs.

I love Jo’s cooking philosophy (first and foremost I love that she has one); she tries to cook something everyday that is either grown or foraged by her. When I was invited over I thought I would be having a bowl of nettle soup but Jo turned it into a feast with friends and lots of food. What a great and inspiring idea! Too good to be ignored.

At the outset of this project I said there would be events as a follow-up of blog-posting where people will gather, share food and just have a good relaxing time together. It seems my words are taking very visible and physical shape. I intend to carry on with the feasting by finding interesting and forgotten spaces in Adamsdown and Splott for us to have pop-up dinners.



This last year I made a small challenge for myself – to eat something from the garden or foraged everyday. Somedays its just a few chives, or something out of the freezer, my aim is to grow all the greens I need to eat.
Nettle soup came to a whole new level when I discovered it all comes together on a different level with a parsnip or two.
This year I discovered our allotment is even bigger than we thought, so we went about clearing around the blackcurrant bushes and lots of nettles sprung up. I liked to pick them at the allotment as I can be sure there have been no chemical sprays.
I’ve lived in Adamsdown for 10 years, walking distance to the city but still have room for a garden of herbs, strawberries and little fruit trees I planted myself. I’ve been giving attention to having more of a sense of belonging here in Cardiff and having NINE friends around the house for soup, salad and some wonderful baked apples that Lara made was really special. I’d love Adamsdown to get a bit greener, I would like to give planters with flowers to the neighbours on my street, but I feel a bit shy, that might be my next challenge.

Parsnip and Nettle soup for 9

Several sprigs of thyme
Veggie stock. I use a big teaspoon of swiss vegetable bouillon and enough water to cover the veg.
2-3 leeks
1 onion
4 parsnips
2 potatoes
about 100g of nettles (wear a glove and pick only the top few leaves, it can all get a bit stringy if the nettles are too old)
pinch of salt and pepper
3-4 tbsp of cream (optional)

1.Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Add and soften a chopped leek and onion

2. Add 4 chopped parsnips, 2 potatoes. Bring to the boil and simmer.

3. When all the veg has cooked add about a third to half a carrier bag of nettles.
4. Two minutes later whizz with a whizzer.
5. Add a pinch of salt and pepper
6. Once in the bowl add a little  cream if you like.

Jo’s foraged nettle soup

North East for Easter

Brecon Beacons National Park – looking across toward Blaen-y-Glyn waterfalls

Easter weekend drew nearer and nearer and all we had were vague plans to “go West”, but when Easter suddenly arrived, it was North East that we went.

Those West Wales plans fell apart on the Saturday.  Struggling to find inspiration on the map, and determined to avoid the car, our eggshell minds cracked and we heard a little chick cluck out  “Middle Ninfa Campsite”, and that was that.  We’d read about this campsite a while ago, made a note, and here was an opportunity to explore – the route just laid itself out for us:

A train to Merthyr and then cycling the rest of the way; Taff Trail to Talybont-on-Usk, along the Canal to Llanfoist and just 1km up to the Campsite.  Google maps told us to expect 3.5 hrs in the saddle, we figured 6 to allow for slowness (and enjoyment).

I checked my watch, 1.30pm. Rain tapped at the glass of the train doors as they slid open, letting us out into a cold and dreary Easter Sunday in Merthyr.  All shops were shut, and our short wet cycle through the town centre would have been silent were it not for the hubbub from the pubs.

The Taff Trail threaded us through the old streets of Merthyr and eventually took us up to the reservoirs.  The rain was capricious: occasionally merciful, stopping to let us dry off, and moments later cruel and juvenile, bursting down upon us when we were enjoying some magical moment – pausing to take a photo of the steam train running along the hillside or savouring our picnic beside the waterfalls.

Pontsticill Reservoir

The downpours and the uphill cycle had almost broken our spirits by the time we were gazing across at Blaen y Glyn.  The magic that came next will be known to those of you who’ve done this part of the Taff Trail: a downhill track for what seems like an impossible time, at the end of which you find yourself not deep below the earth’s crust as you might expect but in Talybont-on-Usk.

It was there the rain nearly caught us again, but this time we had a cosy pub to hide inside – with a hot cup of tea, two complementary chocolate eggs (and no questions asked).

From Talybont (and for the rest of the trip) the canal took centre stage.  Dog walkers, canal boaters, slow travellers, wild pheasants, inquisitive cattle and the quiet of the canal.

Cycling along the canal
The canal
The idyll by the canal
A boat-house
A pheasant feeling uneasy upon seeing the dog

 Perhaps it was basking in all this enchantment or pausing for photos with the giant redwood that slowed us down, or maybe google maps was just fantasising when it said “3.5hrs”, but somehow we found ourselves at 10pm in the dark, pushing our bikes up (and up and up) the 2km from Llanfoist to Middle Ninfa Campsite.

The Giant Redwood

It was most definitely worth it.  The family who owns Middle Ninfa are extremely hospitable, their farm is incredibly charming and the view from that hill is one of the best things you can wake up to.

It was Easter Monday morning and the sun shone brightly as we made our way back to the Canal.  The yellow fields of rapeseed lit up the valley below and the muddy brown waters of the canal lead us on like a mini mississippi snaking around the hillsides.

Camping at Middle Ninfa
All in one: a composting toilet, a shower, sinks, powered by sun energy
View from Middle Ninfa campsite
Rapeseed in bloom

We arrived in Pontypool just in time for the train back to Cardiff, bringing us in at 1.30pm, our little Easter adventure complete.

Budget: £46.25

Total Time: 25 hrs

Distance: 50 miles on the train + 45 miles cycling (approx.)

Some inspiration to live a good life found by the canal

Asha’s quick and tasty lunch

‘A typical lunch for me is a doorstop piece of a granary toast; then I get a tin of plain sardines drained and mash them up in a bowl along with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Spread that on to the toast, then I pile up all my favourite things on top for lots of flavour and nutrients. Usually a rocket, chopped up small beetroot, a spring onion, a radish, a cucumber and tomatoes, topped off with capers, coriander and a drizzle of hot garlic sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. It’s a yummy cheap quick and a  nutritious meal.’

If you don’t have all of the ingredients for Asha’s lunch, I say, do it anyway. After days of putting it off  I decided I would give it a go with what I can find in my kitchen.  Instead of a granary toast I used a slice of a sourdough bread, skipped the hot garlic sauce as I’m not the one for spices,  nor did I have any beetroots. And yet it turned out to be a beautiful mouth-watering snack for lunch.  This recipe is totally open for creativity and improvisation, the basis of it is a slice or two of bread, and some sardines, the toppings can vary.


  1. A slice or two of bread
  2. 2-3 sardines  from a tin
  3. 1 tbsp lemon juice
  4. 1 tomato, chopped
  5. 1/4 of cucumber, chopped
  6. 1-2 radishes, chopped
  7.  1 small beetroot, chopped
  8. fresh herbs (can be coriander, parsley or dill), chopped
  9. some salad leaves
  10. 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  11. 1-2 Tbsp of capers sprinkled on top


Mash sardines and mix in some lemon juice, salt and pepper. Spread it on bread and top it with different vegetables, salad leaves, herbs, and seeds. You can add a sauce if you have one. Enjoy!!!


Yam, sweet potato and plantain stew

If you live in Adamsdown then you’ve heard of Clifton street. It’s the heart of the Adamsdown universe, where people shop, get their hair cut and tattoos inked, meet a neighbour for coffee, a nata and co, hire fancy dress, taste Brasilian street food, and much much more. It is one of the most diverse streets in Cardiff. If you’ve been there, you’ve probably passed by or have had your clothes altered at Sierra Tailors maybe even by Alie. He alters and repairs the clothes and also creates his own designs from recycled materials for his fashion design course.

The recipe Alie shared is typical for West African cuisine, and includes different root vegetables (big, long and sometimes hairy). Getting the products for this recipe was a journey of exploration. I’ve finally confirmed my suspicions that that big green banana is not a banana but a plantain. It is eaten only cooked- boiled or fried – and is usually used in savoury dishes such as stews.
This recipe has had some adjustments that I made. Usually it has crayfish and some smoked fish on top of that both of which I didn’t include. On reflection, having some fish is a good idea to balance out the sweet flavours of a plantain and a sweet potato. I also ommited some hot spices that Alie recommended which would again have complemented the sweet flavours. You can follow the recipe bellow or you can take it as a suggestion and work out the best flavour combinations for you.

(From top to bottom: yam, sweet potatoes, plantains)

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

1. 1 onion, diced
2. 2-3 plantains, cubed
3. 1-2 sweet potatoe, cubed
4. 1 yam, cubed
5. 3 tbsp tomato puree
6. 1-2 cubes (Maggi) or vegetable broth
7. Chopped parsley


1. Add the onion and fry it in oil.
2. Add plantain, sweet potatoe, yam, tomato puree and stock cubes with water to cover it all. Boil for about 25 minutes.
3. Sprinkle parsley on top and enjoy!!!

The end result is a stew that’s quite sweet!

Mark’s breakfast for the hungry

Mark, the baker, once used to live in Adamsdown  and work at a workers co-operative on Clifton street called ‘Hungry Planet’. Some Adamsdown residents still recall those days with a bit of nostalgia. ‘Hungry Planet’ was a healthfood store, a cafe and a bakery with its core values being positive social change, ethical and sustainable food.

Sadly,’Hungry Planet’ had to close its doors a few years ago. After the closure Mark still continued baking bread and  grew it into something new, something that provides Cardiff with healthy and tasty sourdough bread. ‘Riverside Sourdough’, an artisan sourdough bread bakery was born and has been running ever since.

Mark shared his daily breakfast recipe which is a selection his favourite ingredients thrown together to create a really nourishing and satisfying breakfast. Perfect if you’re hungry.


6-7  leaves of steamed kale or chard, or other greens

a few slices of feta cheese, cubed

5-6 olives

a handful of sauerkraut, or other fermented vegetables

a slice or two of sourdough (Mark usually has a gluten-free or spelt bread)

1-2 tinned sardines or boiled egged, chopped, if not using sardines

1-2 tbsp of   pumpkin, sunflower, sesame seeds mixture

tamari sauce

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp olive oil


1.Prepare the seed mixture. Toast the seeds in the pan on a low heat for about 6 minutes. Leave to cool. Add tamari or soya sauce.

2.Assemble everything in one plate and enjoy!

This is my take on Mark’s super breakfast