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Self-care begins with what you eat

Lorna Salmon shares how the joys of cooking, baking, foraging and feasting have helped her through the toughest of times. A passionate mental health advocate, since her diagnosis of depression and GAD (generalised anxiety disorder), she has found solace with her love of food. 

Her debut book, The Calm Kitchen is more than just a recipe book. Following the four seasons, it’s a beginner’s guide to reconnecting with nature through food as a form of self-care, from the soothing smell of lavender in summer to the simple magic of baking a loaf of bread on an autumn evening, from shopping (or foraging) for your favourite seasonal ingredients to cooking them to feed yourself or your friends and family.

Lorna shares how mindful cooking, baking, foraging and feasting (the latter being her personal favourite) can lead to better peace of mind, health and well-being. She takes you through a collection of foolproof recipes alongside informative, insightful guides to ingredients and how they can benefit your physical and mental health.

You will also find tips on foraging across the hundreds of miles of countryside, woodland, orchards and kitchen gardens in the United Kingdom. With more than 30 delicious recipes, all of them vegetarian, The Calm Kitchen is the perfect companion to help you quieten your mind and nourish your body – more timely than ever as we all learn to cope with the stresses of this global Coronavirus pandemic.


Cooking for people is one of my favourite things to do. It taps into a central pleasure I get from my relationship with food: sharing that love with others. I’ll quietly squirrel away at a recipe behind the scenes, fine-tuning, testing and tasting before I decide my culinary creation is ready to be unveiled around the makeshift table in our flat’s kitchen. It’s a warm, comforting, safe space.

As someone who’s been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and depression, I can often find myself feeling low for no reason. At times I also struggle to put myself in social situations because they can be incredibly draining. But in recent years, I’ve noticed that food and friendship can have exactly the opposite effect. Especially when the two are combined: I feel restored.

The nature of my diagnosis means I have an inherently busy brain, and this is why the mindful act of cooking has been so beneficial for my health. I am, often for the first time during the entire day, forced to be present and focused on what I’m doing right here, right now. Distractions burn food. I am in my kitchen and this is my time. Not only for me, but for the loved ones I’m feeding that evening.

The self-care benefits of feeding friends and family are undeniable, and with that comes the pleasure of nourishing and sustaining others; all of which are amplified by the shared joy of eating and enjoying a meal together. Cooking for others has genuine psychological benefits.

In the most primal sense, our brain will reward us because we’ve successfully kept ourselves alive by eating. You’re also reaffirming a powerful sense of community with your nearest and dearest. No wonder you feel so good after feeding not only yourself, but a room full of others! You are the provider, the caregiver, the nourishment-maker.

It was a revelation that something I’d been doing for so long was so beneficial for my mental well-being: the act of slowing down, going about my usual mindful meal prepping, chopping vegetables, stirring sauces and creating something delicious with my favourite music setting the pace for proceedings. That food then puts a smile on the face of the people you love most. I feel needed and loved in those moments – because I need and love them, too.

This is the joy of feeding friends and family – an age-old ritual designed to bring us all closer together, cementing relationships, laughing, reminiscing, celebrating. This happens around tables of different shapes and sizes across the world every day.

Now isn’t that a lovely thought?

Extracted from The Calm Kitchen: Mindful recipes to feed body and soul by Lorna Salmon. Illustrations by Naomi Elliott.

Whether you’ve got a tiny urban patch or large garden, Garden writer Simon Akeroyd’s new book Perfect Compost will help you harness the magic of composting to make your plants thrive. Here are his top 10 tips for perfect compost:

  1. Regularly turn your compost
  2. Use a mix of green and brown material
  3. Chop up larger material
  4. Avoid perennial weeds
  5. Ensure your compost bin is rodent-proof
  6. Have more than one compost bin
  7. Prevent compost from drying out
  8. Place bin so it has good access from the house
  9. Place bin directly on soil if possible
  10. Try wormeries if you don’t have room for a compost bin

perfect compost

Perfect Compost is packed with useful tips for successful composting, from deciding what to put in your kitchen compost caddy to how to use the final product in your garden. Out now!

Illustrations by Abi Read.

Garden writer and busy mum Laetitia Maklouf has discovered the secret of happier gardening – do something small every day. Her new book The Five Minute Garden is packed with little bursts of activity: spruce, chop, nurture, fuss or tackle a larger project, all in five minute forays. Here is Laetitia’s five-minute method to keep your garden beautiful.


By Laetitia Maklouf

Illustrations by Liane Payne


This is the outline I follow, and I put it here simply as an idea to spark your gardening endeavours.


Everyday basics

Watering, weeding, sweeping, tidying – do as much as you can in five minutes. Watering: all containerised plants in summer.

Weeding: pick a spot, start the timer, ready, set, go! Two trays or trugs: one for composting, the other for council or black bin.

Sweeping: sweep or blow out steps, paths and terraces. Compost leaves.

Resetting and tidying: cushions out, umbrellas up, lights and candles lit and vice versa at the end of the day.

Monday spruce

This little enterprise sets you up for your week. It’s a general garden-tidying mission – all the baseline jobs but over the entire garden. Don’t get into detail – no perfectionism here, but you will get round the whole area. Tidy away anything out of place, weed anything that’s obvious when you look around, roughly sweep/blow all terraces, steps and paths and water anything that needs a drink.


Tuesday chop

This is everything that needs chopping and tying-in. Get those secateurs and do the dead, diseased and dying dance. Next, tackle any tree or shrub branches that need pruning or shaping. Tie in anything that needs training. Put everything into a bag for council composting, or chop up fine for home composting. Mow and edge the lawn (summer).

Wednesday nurture

This involves moving and planting. Take stock. Lift and divide perennials that need it in autumn, move (or remove) anything that’s not working and replace with something else. Sow seed, prick out, pot on, plant out. Plant bulbs in autumn.


Thursday fuss

This is simple deadheading and fussing. Glass of wine, finger and thumb. Compost or vase. Also feeding containers in summer.

Project: The Friday Project

This is simply a day where I pick something that needs doing and go a bit deeper than my normal, slapdash gardening. I pick something from the list below (which is not exhaustive but covers most of the things that need attention in my own garden).


  1. Terrace or patio, steps and paths, window-sills, balconies. Wash with a strong hose stream or pressure wash and/or scrub with baking soda/vinegar to remove any slippery mould. Weed between cracks.
  2. Lawn.Weed out any dandelions. Deal with any bald or yellow patches.
  3. Flowerbeds. Get between the plants and search out hidden weeds, prune out any dead, diseased or dying matter, deadhead in summer, divide in autumn, mulch in winter.
  4. Containers. Re-pot in spring, feed and deadhead in summer, plant up in autumn and spring, mulch, weed, and so on.
  5. Topiary. Clip, feed, mulch according to season.
  6. Compost. Turn the heap, add green or brown waste/bulking agents, and so on.
  7. Tools and shed, greenhouse. Tidy away anything that’s out of place, brush down surfaces, clean and sweep/wash floors.
  8. Pond or water features. Remove weeds and/or fallen leaves, add oxygenators.
  9. Indoor plants. Wipe leaves to remove dust, turn plants, pot on or propagate as necessary.
  10. Garden furniture. Brush down and wipe clean.


If you have a huge job that needs doing quickly, simply add it to your basic list, and do it instead – so, for example, you could make mulching the garden your basic enterprise for an entire week – a trug-full a day.


Citrus fruits were favourite flavourings for all sorts of meat dishes by the late 16th century, when they were used in combination with sweet spices and dried fruit. This recipe, from Laura Mason’s Roasts (National Trust Books) uses orange and lemon only, producing a very intense, slightly sharp-flavoured gravy. 



 ½ lemon
1 chicken, weighing 2kg (4½lb)
salt and pepper
unsalted butter
juice and pared zest of 1 lemon (preferably unwaxed)
juice and pared zest of 1 orange (preferably unwaxed)
a few sprigs of fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme or marjoram (optional)
splash of stock, to deglaze


Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas mark 6. Put the lemon (which could be one you’ve squeezed all the juice out of) into the body cavity of the bird, along with the herbs.

Bard the breast with a little butter.

Also spread a little butter over the roasting tin (just enough to stop the bird sticking as it starts to cook), and put the bird in. Calculate the roasting time.

It’s often better to start roasting a chicken on its side, especially if it is a large bird and your oven is an unreliable gas one like mine. Cover with a lid if the tin has one, or with a piece of oiled or buttered foil. Roast for about 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180°C, 350°F, Gas mark 4. After another 10 minutes, turn the bird onto the other side; cover and roast for another 15–20 minutes, then turn it onto its back.

When you turn the chicken onto its back, pour the fruit juices over. Cover again and return to the oven. About 30 minutes before the end of cooking time, uncover, baste, then salt the skin and add the zest, cut in thin strips, to the juices and return to the oven. Baste again a couple more times. Take special care to watch that the juices in the tin don’t burn; add extra stock or water if necessary.

At the end of cooking time, the bird should have a deep gold-brown and very crisp skin. (Turn the oven up to 220°C, 425°F, Gas mark 7 for a few minutes to get it really brown and crisp at the end, if necessary, but do watch for burning.)

There should be a relatively small amount of juice with a very concentrated flavour in the roasting tin. Pour off the juices and deglaze the tin with a little stock. Skim the fat off the juices and add the deglazed cooking residue, but don’t attempt to make a thickened gravy – just give everyone a spoonful or two of the cooking juices with the meat.

Roasting times

Standard instructions for roasting a chicken are to start it off at 200°C, 400°F, Gas mark 6 for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180°C, 350°F, Gas mark 4 and cook for 20–25 minutes per 500g until the juices run clear. Examine the meat between the leg and the body; if any hint of pink shows here, or in the juices that flow from the thickest part of the thigh when pierced with a skewer, the bird needs further cooking. If you have a probe thermometer, measure the temperature of the thickest part of the thigh (but not touching the bone): it should be at least 70°C (160°F). Allow for resting after cooking time.


Discover more tasty roast recipes in Roasts by Laura Mason, out now.

Photograph by Tara Fisher.

Matt Williamson’s The Lazy Weekend Cookbook is full of over 100 easy-to-follow recipes that are packed with flavour.

These burger patties have all the delicious flavours of spicy North African merguez sausages. You could cook them in a frying pan, but a bit of smoky flavour from the barbecue really gives them the edge. While you’ve got the barbecue fired up, it’s worth slinging some extra veg on the hot grill to accompany these spicy patties: try courgettes and peppers cut into broad batons and/or aubergine cut into 2cm slices, drizzled with a little olive oil and given a good pinch of salt.

Merguez-Spiced Patties

600g minced lamb or beef

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

120g Greek yogurt

6 dates, pitted and chopped

12 mint leaves, finely chopped

½ lemon

½ cucumber, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped

½ red onion, finely chopped

2 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped

4 burger buns or 4 flatbreads, split open


Quick harissa

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

½–1 tsp chilli powder

1 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1–2 fresh red chillies (seeds removed if you don’t want it too hot)


To make the harissa, blend the spices, lemon juice, the garlic and chillies to a coarse paste.

Stir 2 tablespoons of the harissa paste into the minced meat, along with 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper, and mix until evenly distributed.

Shape the meat into four patties (slightly larger in diameter than the burger buns, if using).

Mix the remaining harissa paste with the yogurt, dates, mint and a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Mix the cucumber, onion and tomatoes with a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the grill or barbecue to hot.

Grill the patties until cooked to your liking (about 5–8 minutes for medium), turning once.

Warm the flatbreads or burger buns lightly on the grill. Spread the yogurt mix inside, insert the burgers and spoon in the cucumber salad.

The featured recipe is from Matt Williamson’s The Lazy Weekend Cookbook