Friday, 14 February 2020



Caviar topped Oysters
Zinc, found in Caviar and Oysters, stimulates the formation of testosterone, helps to produce sperm and increases libido. Oysters also resemble the "female" genitals, are very nutritious and high in protein.

Love Apple Soup
Tomatoes are often referred to as the "apple of love," due to the texture of the fruit and their acids which stimulate blood flow to the lips and mouth. Research shows they can enhance sexual performance and improve muscle control.

Foie Gras
Foie Gras contains high amounts of zinc and iron, which increase nerve sensitivity and blood circulation to intensify orgasms. Its mythical status may signal to our brain that the person offering it can take care of us, so we want to mate.

Avocado and Rocket Salad with Toasted Almonds Coriander & Pomegranate Dressing
Aztecs called the avocado ahuacuatl, or "testicle tree"; the fruit hanging in pairs on the tree resembled testicles. Catholic priests found it obscenely sexual and forbade it. It is rich with folic acid, vitamin B6 and potassium, which boost the immune system. Rocket has been documented as an aphrodisiac since the first century A.D. Throughout antiquity, almonds were regarded as fertility symbols and the aroma of almond is said to arouse passion in females. The Arabian nights tells a tale of a merchant who had been childless for 40 years and but was cured by a concoction that included coriander, which is also known as an "appetite" stimulant. The pomegranate passion comes from antioxidants, which protect the lining of blood vessels, increasing blood flow, resulting in increased genital sensitivity.
Roasted Salmon with a Spicy Ginger Pesto Crust (ginger; basil; pine nuts; garlic; chilli)
Salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which keep sex-hormone production at its peak. Ginger is a circulatory system stimulant that increases sexual powers and desire. Basil boosts circulation, which has an aphrodisiac effect in stimulating sex drive and increasing fertility. The scent is said to drive men wild (women would dust their breasts with dried, powdered basil). Garlic is full of allicin, which increases blood flow. The 'heat' in garlic is said to stir sexual desire. Pine nuts are rich in zinc and have been used to stimulate the libido as far back as Medieval times. Capsaicin, found in chillies, increases circulation to get blood pumping, stimulating nerve endings so you'll feel more turned on.
Sautéed Asparagus, Fennel & Celery
Asparagus is a key source of potassium, fibre, vitamins B6, A and C, thiamin and folic acid. The latter is said to boost histamine, necessary for the ability to reach orgasm in both sexes. Culpepper wrote, “asparagus stirs up lust in man and woman" and in 19thC France bridegrooms were served three courses of it at their prenuptial dinners. The Vegetarian Society suggests "eating asparagus for three days for the most powerful affect". Fennel is a source of natural plant estrogens and its use as a "libido enhancement" dates back to Egyptian times. Celery contains androsterone, a hormone that it is believed to attract females when secreted through sweat.
Caramelised Bananas & Pineapple with Nutmeg, Vanilla & Honey
Its sexual shape is obvious, but the banana is loaded with potassium, magnesium and B vitamins, chelating minerals and the bromeliad enzyme, which enhance the male libido aiding sex hormone production. They also provide instant, long-lasting energy – giving staying power and regulating blood pressure, which can help with erectile disfunction. Pineapple is rich in vitamin C and is used in homeopathic treatment for impotence. Vanilla mildly stimulates nerves, giving heightened sexual sensation. The scent and flavour is believed to increase lust. Myth has it that the daughter of the Mexican fertility goddess unable to marry due to her divine nature, transformed herself into a plant to provide pleasure and happiness. Honey is a great source of the mineral boron, that helps the body use and metabolise oestrogen. It also contains B vitamins, good for testosterone. In Egyptian times honey was used to cure sterility and impotence. Medieval seducers plied their partners with Mead, and honeymooners drank mead to "sweeten" the marriage. Nutmeg was highly prized by Chinese women as an aphrodisiac, which can produce a hallucinogenic effect.
Baked Figs Stuffed with Dark Chocolate
An open fig is believed to emulate the female sex organs; they are reported to be Cleopatra’s favourite fruit. Ancient Greeks thought them sacred, associated with love and fertility. Chocolate is the king of natural aphrodisiacs, containing anandamide, the psycho-active feel-good chemical, and PEA (phenylethylamine), the "love chemical," which releases dopamine in the pleasure centres of the brain, peaking during orgasm. PEA is said to help induce feelings of excitement, attraction and euphoria. Cacao also contains tryptophan, a key component of serotonin, which promotes well-being and relaxation, with cumin and cinnamon.

Monday, 3 February 2020


If the Met Office predictions for the weather this winter are to be believed, we are likely to experience some harsh conditions over the next few months. Time to stay indoors if at all possible, wrap up warmly, and get the mulled wine, cider or a hot toddy on the go to keep the cold at bay.

As I wrap my hands around the warm glass, just the spicy smell of the nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger is inherently uplifting and comforting. One sip and I can feel that warm glow spreading. Mulled wine and other hot alcoholic beverages have been around for centuries, but exact quantities are hard to come by; we all have different tastes.
Personally, I tend not to add a lot of sugar to mine and like to add a citrusy element with orange or lemon.

Visitors to the famous German Christmas markets will be familiar with glühwein, while in Scandinavia their version, glögg, has almonds and raisins added, along with vodka or other spirit, making it more potent. When entertaining at home, mulled wine provides an inexpensive way to please a crowd and there are plenty of commercial brands readily available.

In a recent taste test conducted by the Good Housekeeping team these came out top:

Morrisons Mulled Wine, (10%abv.) £3.75
This has a real festive flavour and a deep, vibrant colour with a fruity, spicy aroma.
Hints of cinnamon, ginger and citrus give a sweet smooth drink with a warming but balanced kick of alcohol.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Mulled Wine, (11%abv.) £6
This has a deep, dark raspberry hue, and a gently spiced cinnamon and clove aroma. The subtle sweetness is pleasant, but the sharp kick of alcohol can taste slightly bitter to some. 

M&S Red Mulled Wine, (12.5%abv.) £4
A full-bodied wine, suitable for vegans, with a sweet, smooth finish and an aroma of zesty oranges and berry fruits with a hint of apple.

Most shop bought mulled wines are relatively low in alcohol when compared with many red wines on the market but can easily be perked up by the addition of your favourite spice or spirit and making your own is really very simple. When heating the wine, do not allow it to boil, as that would destroy
the alcohol. Mix and match other ingredients (spices etc.) according to your own taste.
Try to use whole spices rather than the powdered versions, which can give a musty taste. Some people like to use brown sugar or honey as an added sweetening element, but these can tend to dominate; I use caster sugar. If adding any kind of spirit for that alcoholic boost, brandy is my first choice, but dark rum, cherry brandy or an orange liqueur flavoured can be just as good.

Article as seen in Somerset Living Magazine, pg 70 - February 2020

Thursday, 30 January 2020


Brexit, bush fires and viruses aside, at the time of writing I feel full of optimism. The reason? The Rotary Club of Ilminster’s Annual Youth Speaks Competition.

Each year, Swanmead School plays host to groups of primary school children from schools across the area who, in teams of three, have the opportunity to argue for issues that they care passionately about.

With an audience of 100 parents and friends keen to hear what they have to say, this can be a daunting task, but what a great start this gives them in life. The prospect of speaking in public would be sufficient to have most adults quaking in their boots, but not these youngsters.

It is almost 20 years since I first became involved in this fantastic project; this year a record 11 teams from 5 schools took part, and what truly amazing presentations we witnessed.

Topics were almost exclusively about our planet and the challenges we are facing; pollution, fossil fuels, mental health, racism, refugees, endangered animals and climate change.

It was clear from the content of their arguments that these young people were incredibly knowledgeable and had carried out a good deal of background research, able to respond to on-the-spot questions with aplomb.

What I and all of those present observed was the extent to which each and every one of them, despite painting a picture of gloom and doom at times, was passionate about making the world a better place, for everyone. Yes, the warnings were there, and given in no uncertain terms, as we were reprimanded, in forthright tones, for our past selfish behaviour and complacency, and reminded that as individuals we all have a part to play in ensuring the future of our planet.

The content of their speeches became emotional at times, as we were urged to remember that small changes can make a big difference. With our youngsters displaying such fervour in reminding us of our social conscience I feel that I can sleep easier in my bed tonight.

I feel thoroughly admonished, but full of hope, and believe that any one of these children should be included in any local authority discussions about the future of our environment.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020


Unsurprisingly, the Future of Local Government has been making the headlines this month.

Where local authorities have been at the mercy of central government funding cuts in recent years, and with little appetite for raising council tax to cope with the increase in demand across all services, both Somerset County Council and all four Districts have been stretched to the limit. What is clear, going forward, is that something has to change if we are not just to survive, but to move forward sustainably, taking into account the challenges our modern society faces. Doing nothing is not an option.

For sometime, the Leaders and CEOs of our local authorities have been meeting to consider options for our future; a presentation outlining a number of possibilities has been put before elected members.

What I would like to have seen is a clearer indication of the pros and cons of the options put forward.

Personally, I have never been a fan of ‘big’ organisations, but since attending a Local Government Association weekend at Warwick University, with councillors from across the country, I have revised my opinion. The majority were from unitary authorities and without exception they felt that as a result the people they represent were better served, in a more efficient and cost-effective way.

A unitary authority has single tier responsibility for all local government functions within a given area. At present, under our two-tier system, when making enquiries or raising concerns, members of the public are confused about which local authority to approach, and it often falls to elected members to act as intermediaries. This lack of clarity can result in unnecessary bureaucracy, duplication of effort and disorganised serviced delivery, with the additional cost that goes with such a level of inefficiency.

My contact with other unitary authorities has demonstrated that there is a strong case for a single authority to be able to prioritise and plan across all public services, without the constraints of red tape and conflicting priorities or decision-making schedules. Having one strategy and one direction will also release much needed funding opportunities.

The vision of the future favoured by Somerset’s district councils, who seem to be in accord, is for them to work more closely together. I would argue that we have always had the opportunity to work more closely together but there is little evidence of this being effective; each authority has its own priorities and agenda.

As a largely rural community, if we are to maximise our impact, and the influence we can have on central government for the benefit of our residents, then we must come together and act with one voice.

Everyone agrees, something must change. As the Leader of the South Somerset Conservative Group, I am heartened that when it comes to submitting the business case for a unitary authority, we are all in agreement that at the very least it is something that should not be dismissed out of hand without further exploration.

Cllr. Linda Vijeh
Conservative Group Leader
South Somerset District Council

Tuesday, 21 January 2020


Never under-estimate the importance of potholes. In my role as the Conservative Group Leader for South Somerset, I recently attended a Local Government Association leadership training course on Effective Opposition.

Twelve other councillors were present, from across the country and from a range of political parties, including, pleasingly, a number of Green Party councillors.

In addition to sessions on our personality types and how this can impact on our relationships with others, we discussed decision making and influencing skills and considered at some length the tricky relationship between elected members and officers.

It would seem that no matter what the political flavour of the ruling party the challenges and frustrations are pretty much the same.

One key issue that was raised is disappointment at the quality of reports produced at meetings where important decisions are taken. They are often lengthy, do not cut to the chase and use language not readily understood by everyone. This is an issue I have frequently raised myself.

It is also generally felt that, contrary to popular public belief, local authorities are not run by councillors but by the officers. Widespread opinion is that this is a bit like the tail wagging the dog. 
Not necessarily a view that I share, but I do understand the frustrations. Officers have often been in the role for sometime (a mixed blessing), and tend to specialise in one area of operation. This can be a bonus, particularly for inexperienced councillors, but can lead to accusations of hoodwinking.

Being a councillor is like being piggy in the middle; people come to you with their problems, and expect you to resolve them (very often by yesterday), and invariably this involves officer input which is not always as forthcoming or as timely as one might want.

Given the severe cuts to local authority funding in recent years, along with the disruption caused by ‘transformation’ in some authorities, it is understandable that officers are under pressure, but it is also increasingly difficult to make direct contact with them on a regular basis. There is no easy answer but on a personal level I am not a fan of the rapid move towards digital communication as there is the real danger that this can leave our most vulnerable residents disenfranchised.

Any dissatisfaction is often down to a lack of trust. In order for any council to operate effectively there has to be mutual trust between officers, elected members, and the general public. We do after all, or at least we should, have the same goals; to do the best we can for our local communities, who are after all, as taxpayers, footing the bill.

On a final note, one of the interesting pieces of information that came out of our discussions is that despite serious concerns over such issues as Adult Social Services, Child Protection and Health Care, what really matters to people on a daily basis is….. potholes!

Sir Humphrey, ‘Yes, Minister’ - The public doesn't know anything about wasting government money. We are the experts.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020


Whenever I am asked to submit a contribution to a publication, rather than writing about random wines and other beverages, I prefer to have a theme, and where possible, a local connection, to engage readers and focus on our fabulous local products.

With Valentine's Day on the horizon, and the shops already full of tempting treats, unsurprisingly, I was asked to select ‘luxury’ gift; after all, don’t we all like to be made to feel special? Herein lies the problem though, when it comes to food and wine, we all have different tastes, and budgets.

For birthdays and anniversaries, I aim to give indulgent gifts; something that the recipient will find irresistible. Here are a few treats I have recently discovered to tempt you into splurging, just a little.

Better still, why not buy a smart wicker basket or hamper and fill it full of your loved ones’ favourite things, and getting that feel good factor by supporting our economy, with the added bonus of something in which to pack up the perfect picnic next spring.   

  • Thunder Toffee Vodka, this unique blend of triple distilled vodka and toffee syrup will appeal to those with a sweet tooth. It comes in at 26% abv., costing £20.
  • Chalice Mead would be the ideal honeymoon gift for anyone tying the knot (mead formed part of the marriage ritual in medieval times). Set up to support our shrinking bee populations, and providing a modern twist, they have a wide range of flavours on offer, including Chilli Sting for the brave-hearted, and loads of lovely recipes. Available at £12.99 for 35ml., 13%abv.
  • Flavoured gins have been all the rage for some time now but for something a little different those on offer from Cambridge based Hedgepig, are worth trying. I love it that 50p of every purchase goes towards the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. My favourite is the Wild Bullace (a type of plum) and Quince Gin. A subtly sweet drink, great with cheese. £15.99 for 50cl. 30%abv.
  • For a drink that pack a real punch, Exmoor Distillery produce a 53% abv. Navy Strength Northmoor Gin, costing £44, using 12 botanicals in its single distillation to give real character.
  • Brother’s Cider have been making cider for 14 generations, and with the recognition of allergies becoming increasingly important, their gluten free ciders, suitable for vegans are popular. For something out of norm, their latest addition, Parma Violet Cider, is available at £2 for 500ml. at 4.5% abv.
  • Fans of Downton Abbey will be delighted to receive the Downton Hamper, which for £46 includes a bottle of Prosecco, and free UK delivery from
  • Lastly, Minehead based Roly’s Fudge Pantry will post your purchases for you and are constantly updating their usual range, great value at just £7 for 300g.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020


For as long as I can remember I have not only enjoyed, but actively sought out, sources of free food; mussels on the beach in Cornwall, wild garlic from the hedgerows, scrumping apples, pears, cherries and plums, and of course blackberries in the autumn.

Back in 1987, when living and working in New York as the chef to the British Ambassador to the United Nations, I made front page news when caught picking wild herbs from Central Park. Such was the concern of the park authorities they contacted the ambassador to ask me to desist, but not before I had fed the then French Ambassador the meal of his life!

Lest anyone be concerned about me ‘stealing’ food, it is not illegal to pick fruit from common land, or council-owned land where they are not growing fruit for the purposes of food. 

However, it is illegal to profit commercially from what you make with the harvested fruit; in recent years several local authorities have caused outcry by attempting to ban people from removing "the whole or any part of any plant, shrub or tree", effectively banning blackberry picking.

At this time of year particularly, I reap the benefits of excess produce from friends, and have been avidly picking blackberries and apples. I am sad to say that despite my efforts it seems that so many have gone to waste this year.

In addition to making blackberry and apple crumbles, jams and jellies, I have been busy making a whole range of blackberry liqueurs, using inexpensive spirits.

Commercially there are a number of options available, many of which originate in France, where the blackberry is known as ‘mure, but it is easy to make at home.

Quite simply you fill a bottle with the berries, and add the spirit, along with a little sugar if you like things on the sweet side, give it a shake and shove it in a dark corner for a few weeks. The resulting liqueur makes a great addition to champagne cocktails and is great for an unusual and gift.

Here are a few examples to tempt your taste buds.
  • Lejay Creme De Mure Blackberry Liqueur (15%abv.) £12.99 (70cl.) has subtle flavours, making it brilliant as a cocktail mixer, going exceptionally well in long cocktails and with Champagne.
  • Sovereign Spirits No.2 - Apple and Blackberry Liqueur (20%abv.) £18 (50cl.) is a combination of British gin, with apples and blackberries, and on the nose this smells just like apple crumble and custard.
  • Whitley Neill Handcrafted Blackberry Gin (43%abv.) £20 (70cl.) is evidence that the gin craze shows no sign of abating. Tasting of fresh plump berries and hints of floral hedgerow, the base of delicious, piney juniper is followed by zesty sweet citrus and hints of black pepper. The finish is earthy accompanied by the warmth of spicy cassia.
  • One Gin Sage & Apple (43%abv.) £38.95 (70cl.) is the perfect marriage of their original apple version with the earthy character of sage. An added bonus of this brand is that at least 10% of the profits help to fund water projects in the world's poorest communities.
  • Edinburgh Gin Apple & Spice Liqueur (20%abv.) £16.95 (50cl.) is described as enticingly crisp, brimming with lively exuberance. The apples are macerated with
  • cinnamon, then blended with Edinburgh Gin. Good with soda, served simply over ice, or in a classic Martini.
  • Paddy Spiced Apple Whiskey Liqueur (35%abv.) £28.25 (70cl.) A delicious combination of Paddy's triple-distilled and triple-blended Irish Whiskey and spiced apple flavourings.

    As we are entering the time of year when days are shorter and the weather becomes colder, many of these offerings would make super winter warmers as hot toddies.

    For teetotallers, there are also a number of non-alcoholic options on the market.
  • Jamun Juice (Indian Blackberry) - Basic Ayurveda £5.25 (480ml.) Ideal for those wanting to steer clear of alcohol, made from first press virgin juice, prepared from high altitude grown Jamun, also known as Java Plum or Indian blackberry.
  • Monin, is a popular French brand of syrup, which in their range has a fruity, tangy Blackberry Syrup on offer at £5.79 (70cl.)
  • Fentimans Apple & Blackberry Drink £1.49 (275ml.) is naturally light and fruity drink combining two quintessentially British fruits with natural botanicals to create a fresh and fruity taste.