Hungerford heroine: historical novelist Iris Lloyd

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Iris Lloyd explains more about her “now or never” approach to writing, having written her first novel at the age of 70 and just published her latest.

My Lady Marian, my eighth novel, has just been published. It tells the story of Marian who arrives at the court of Henry VIII at the age of 15 and later becomes lady-in-waiting to Katharine of Aragon then Anne Boleyn.

I have been writing all my life – stories, poems, pantomimes, as village correspondent for the Newbury Weekly News – but had never tackled a novel. When I reached the age of 70, I thought: “Now or never!”

At that time, I lived in Beedon, north of Newbury, and was helping to excavate a site on the downs that had been active all through the Roman occupation. Our “finds” included a thousand bronze and two gold coins, Samian pottery, jewellery, a Medusa medallion and a rare fish brooch (a sign of Christian activity), as well as the skeletons of a dog, one adult and more than 50 babies.

Inspired by this site, my first five novels tell the story of Bron, who was born and brought up there, who travels to Rome in pursuit of her young Roman officer lover, then returns home to a new village being built where Beedon now stands.

My sixth novel, Flash Black, takes place during the reign of Elizabeth I. There followed Hunterswick Green, a contemporary novel set in a new housing complex that is advertised as perfect but hides a secret.

  Signed copies of all my books are available through my website or by emailing by adding £2, postage to the price, or they can be obtained through bookshops.

Education guide: Winter 2019

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School days are the happiest days of your life, right? Check out our education guide and find out how you can make them really top class including information on bird watching, how to choose the right school for you, adult education and work experience.


As we enter a new year, Karen Neville teams up with the RSPB to encourage you and the schoolchildren in your family to spot local birds in your garden.

A staggering 6,764,475 birds were spotted during last year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, thanks in no small part to the thousands of schoolchildren who joined in. Youngsters spotted robins, starlings and blue tits among the millions recorded for the annual count.

And now it’s time to do it all over again to see which ones are thriving and which ones need your help to survive.

The house sparrow was the most common bird again in 2018, happy in both urban and suburban areas. Other birds flying high in the surveys included the goldfinch, long-tailed and coal tit while robins were down, largely due to the mild winter which made food more widely available in the countryside meaning the red-breasted bird didn’t have such a need to visit our gardens.

The birdwatch is 40 years old this year and has grown hugely since youngsters were given the opportunity to get involved in a simple winter activity.

From counting the birds in your garden to determine which are the UK’s top 10 most common species, the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has become one of the most participated in nature events across the country, enjoyed by young and old.

Only a few hundred children were expected to take part when it started in 1979, but thanks to Blue Peter, more than 34,000 surveys were completed and results gathered.

Now schools turn their classes into conservation zones and help track the ups and downs in bird numbers through a variety of fun activities before, during and after the Big Schools Birdwatch which helps youngsters develop an interest in wildlife and the world around them.

Simple survey sheets are a great way to get started, helping you to count the birds with colourful worksheets designed for three age groups – five to seven years, seven to 11 and 11 to 14-year-olds. Focussing on the most common birds likely to be seen, youngsters are invited to record how many of each one they see and to draw any not included as well as recording any unusual features noticed.

Why not feed the birds as you record them and perhaps even entice a few more into your garden or school grounds? The RSPB has a range of recipe ideas that you can make too – pastry maggots, pine cone lardy seed feeders and a suet and nut log are just some of the tasty treats to encourage feathered friends to feel at home!

Games are also a great way for pupils to learn about the birds around them and recognise them as they take part in the count – try matching pairs of pictures with a fun memory game or how about a “top trumps” game comparing your favourite feathered facts?

However you enjoy the Big Schools Birdwatch, your help is essential to ensure the birds in our gardens and school grounds are protected. The Big Garden Birdwatch takes place from 26th to 28th January and you can submit your findings until Friday, 22nd February.

  To take part visit 


Choosing a school or nursery for your child can be a case of heart versus head…

At The Royal School, we understand choosing the right school for your child will be one of the most important decisions you ever make.

It is a decision that you will take with your head, having completed all the necessary research, but we know that you will really take it with your heart, based on your knowledge of your child and of his or her particular needs at any given time in their education.

There are many factors that a parent needs to consider. When seeking a nursery for your two-year-old, questions around sleep routines, food, toilet training and managing tears and tantrums will be high on the agenda. When seeking a primary or prep school, you will have questions about curriculum, homework, pupil-teacher ratio, friendships, lunches and wrap around care.

When it comes to selecting a senior school, considerations relating to the curriculum, examination results, behaviour management, ethos, class size, extra-curricular provision and the school environment will be on your mind. And when you are looking for a sixth form, you will want to know about university destinations, examination success, opportunities for the development of life skills and careers education. The list goes on…

Here in the south east, parents are blessed with a wide range of excellent schools and nurseries from which to choose and the choice can sometimes feel rather overwhelming, especially when friends and family also add their opinion into the mix. In the end, the decision is easier than you would think. Take time to visit the schools and nurseries in the area. Look beyond the first impression of bricks and mortar – is there a purposeful buzz of activity? Do the children or young people look happy and engaged? Do the teachers appear passionate about their subject? Is the head teacher approachable?

Choosing a school or nursery is rather like choosing a family home; it can all seem incredibly complicated, but ultimately, it is the one that has the right feel that will be the right choice. This is very personal; one size does not fit all!

By Mrs A Lynch, principal of The Royal School and Mrs K Daunter, head of the Junior School.


Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Here are some reasons why learning in later life is beneficial!

Yes, young brains are most adept at learning languages and skills, but the benefits of taking up a new skill after school age are many!

For those who are recently retired or considering a career change, a lack of direction can be demoralising. Embarking on an adult learning course and picking up new skills can be incredibly rewarding, and fun too.

Signing up to a new course, trying out a new sport, learning a new language or experimenting with a new instrument can boost . It’s important to step outside of your comfort zone from time to time and apply yourself to something completely new. Lifelong learning helps you to continually grow and develop as a person and it’s good for your mental ability if you’re always putting your mind to something new.

Adult education courses significantly benefit learners, a survey by the Workers’ Educational Association suggests. According to the survey of 2,000 adult learners, education boosts confidence about finding employment and benefits local communities.

Of course, we’re constantly told that physical exercise is important for keeping our bodies in good condition, but it’s just as important to keep your mind active, too. Taking in new information helps to stimulate your mind, and studies have proven that this can help to reduce a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

You’re never too old to learn, and with advances in technology making e-learning more accessible than ever, there are no excuses for not giving it a go.

   Visit for more ideas and check out the University of the Third Age.


Don’t be shy of taking your first step into the workplace!

Work experience can be a daunting prospect when you’re in Year 10 and more interested in playing on the X-Box or the latest gossip. But it’s more important than just a week off lessons…

It’s a great way to find out whether a certain type of career is for you. You’ll get the chance to learn new skills, make contacts and experience what it’s like working a whole day.

But where do you begin? A good place to start is follow your passions. Try to do something you’re interested in – if, for example, you love animals, contact any zoos or animal sanctuaries. If being on stage or behind the scenes is your thing, try local theatres.

Once you have a general idea start checking out the businesses and companies in your area as well as speaking to your school careers adviser.

And don’t be disheartened if places you contact aren’t able to help; there are plenty of options. Some companies offer structured placements but competition can be tough so make sure you know what you want and how to ‘sell’ yourself. Many places will expect you to complete an application form too so double check your spelling and grammar when doing so.

Having gained a place, hopefully with your chosen employer, put your nerves aside – a tricky one – and remember to make contact ahead of your placement to confirm details such as times, dress code, what to wear etc and a bit of research on them doesn’t do any harm, either.

You’re now ready for your first proper day at work – make the most of it, you never know where it could lead…

Saving Sumatran orangutans

Liz Nicholls

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Lucy Radford of Abingdon charity Sumatran Orangutan Society explains more about the plight of and how to help this majestic endangered creature.

On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, lush rainforests are home to orangutans, elephants, tigers and rhinos. Hornbills fly over the treetops and troops of monkeys leap from branch to branch. The air is alive with the buzzing, shrieking and singing of thousands of animals, from minuscule insects to jungle giants. The rainforest is an amazing place to be, and it is vital for species such as the Sumatran orangutan, which is critically endangered in the wild. Tragically, Indonesia has the fastest deforestation rate in the world, and the threats facing species like the orangutan are intensifying.

Thousands of miles away in Abingdon, the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) works to reverse the fortunes of the orangutans, their forest homes, and the other animals living there. In collaboration with Indonesian NGOs, SOS takes a holistic approach to orangutan conservation. This means tackling the causes of deforestation, as well as trying to cure the symptoms.

Orangutan habitat is sometimes chipped away a few acres at a time by rural communities who grow crops where the forest used to be. In other cases, forests are cleared on an industrial scale. Of the crops grown on Sumatra, the most familiar to us in the UK is palm oil. Palm oil is found in a wide range of products, from cosmetics to chocolate bars, so the global demand is huge. Wildlife cannot survive in oil palm plantations – Sumatra has four times as much land cultivated with oil palms as there is habitat for orangutans.

Orangutans spend their lives in the trees, so protecting and restoring their forest habitat is crucial. SOS works with Indonesian non-Governmental organisations to protect Sumatra’s last forests and restore damaged ecosystems. The health and prosperity of the people of Sumatra are also linked to the fate of the forests, so SOS works closely with local communities to develop conservation projects including forest restoration, and sustainable livelihoods like organic farming that offer a real alternative to the destruction of forests. SOS also supports the only active orangutan rescue team in Sumatra. As well as evacuating orangutans from dangerous situations and releasing them into safe forests, they tackle the causes of human-orangutan conflict, providing training so rural communities can protect their crops without harming wildlife.

One of the simplest ways you can help is to become a voice for orangutans: follow SOS online and share their news. The choices you make when you shop can have a real impact – look out for sustainable palm oil on ingredients lists and check for the FSC symbol on anything derived from wood. You can also donate to support the work SOS is doing on the ground or set yourself a fundraising challenge to raise money and awareness.

 For more information visit

Dancing: Witness the fitness

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Strictly star Ian Waite’s life was changed by the joy of dance and you can channel the same benefits thanks to FitSteps…

Best-known now for his previous appearances on Strictly Come Dancing, and more recently on It Takes Two with Zoe Ball, Ian grew up on the Whitley estate in south Reading.

Following his parents’ divorce when he was ten, friends suggested his dad try ballroom dancing as there were many single ladies there. He enjoyed himself, and soon enrolled Ian and his younger brother. Ian always had a competitive streak in what he did in sports such as badminton, and this he brought to competitive dancing and a new world opened up for him leading to him winning the European Championship aged 17. Now aged 47, Ian says he feels as fit as he has felt all his life. He says: “Dance is not only good for improving your physical self but remembering all the steps and moves keeps the brain active as well.”

Ian can testify to the physical side after touring with Oti Mobuse last year, and touring with Vincent Simone as The Ballroom Boys later this year. A few years ago, he teamed up with his former Strictly dance partner, Natalie Loew and swimmer Mark Foster to create FitSteps.

This is a dance workout combining the graceful steps of ballroom with the up-tempo steps of Latin to create fun-filled classes for all ages and abilities. “It’s so much fun that you don’t realise you’re getting fit!” adds Ian. He has many tales of people who have lost huge amounts of weight, including one who has lost almost four stone.

There are FitSteps classes across the UK including classes in Oxfordshire run by the friendly Debs. For more about her classes, please email or contact her on 07968 948007.

The “Joy of Dance” is something that completely changed Ian Waite’s life. Best-known now for his previous appearances on Strictly Come Dancing, and more recently on It Takes Two with Zoe Ball, Ian grew up on the Whitley estate in South Reading. Following his parents divorcing when he was ten, friends suggested his Dad try ballroom dancing as there were many single ladies there. He enjoyed himself, and soon enrolled Ian and his younger brother.

Ian always had a competitive streak in what he did in sports such as badminton, and this he brought to competitive dancing and a new world opened-up for him leading to him winning the European Championship aged seventeen. Now aged forty-seven Ian says he feels as fit as he has felt all his life, as he says; “Dance is not only good for improving your physical self but remembering all the steps and moves keeps the brain active as well”. Ian can testify to the physical side after touring with Oti Mobuse last year, and touring with Vincent Simone as “The Ballroom Boys” later this year.

A few years ago, he teamed up with his former Strictly dance partner, Natalie Loew and swimmer Mark Foster to create FitSteps. This is a dance workout combining the graceful steps of Ballroom with the up-tempo steps of Latin to create fun-filled classes where you don’t realise you are getting fit, Ian tells of one person who lost between around four stone.

For more information please go to

Cocklebarrow Races

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Celebrities galore and a great day out!

Whether it’s David Cameron, Jeremy Clarkson, Alex James, Giles Coren, John Inverdale, Jilly Cooper, Xander Armstrong, Zara Philips or Elizabeth Hurley, you are almost certain to see one or two A-list celebrities on Sunday, 27th January, at Cocklebarrow Races. Better still, everyone hangs out together, so it’s highly probably you will be able to rub shoulders and get that selfie in!

Cocklebarrow is the place to be and it promises to be bigger than ever, as well as a fabulously spoiling and enjoyable day out for all the family in the Cotswold countryside. The perfect cure to those January blues…

There will be pony racing at the beginning of the day followed by countless quality jump races to follow. Organisers have erected a massive heated marquee with space for you to enjoy a BYO picnic, a licensed bar, and a bucking bronco in case you need warming up some more! For children, there is a bouncy castle, bungee running and face painting. For all ages, there is dog racing, a “tough farmer challenge” and for those not content with their Christmas presents, there is plenty of retail therapy on offer too!

Gates open from 9am and admission is from £12.50 per person (16+) or £50 per car or £60 per car in the safe family-friendly premium car park in the middle of the track.

Use voucher code in your Round & About Magazine for your exclusive 20% discount when booking online.

  For tickets, please visit

Talking Point: Alice’s adventures

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Academic, writer and Digging for Britain broadcaster Professor Alice Roberts chats to Peter Anderson ahead of her speaking tour this month

Q. What intrigued you about the human body and anatomy to prompt you to change tack? “I’ve always been fascinated by the structure of the human body – and by evolution as well. I read books by Richard Dawkins and Steven Jay Gould voraciously as a teenager, as well as watching David Attenborough of course – his series Life on Earth had a huge impact on me. I slipped from medicine into academia, teaching anatomy to medical students, and I did a PhD comparing the skeletons of humans and other apes. I just found anatomy endlessly fascinating; I still do!”

Q. You come into the tour off the back of doing the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture. Do you hope to inspire teenagers to follow your career path? “Not particularly! I hope to inspire teenagers about the world around them, about the wonders of science and archaeology, about evolution and history. But I think, in terms of choosing what to study and then what to do as a career, children should be nurtured and offered unfettered opportunities, rather than being encouraged into one area or another. I’m uncomfortable with the real focus on pushing science-related subjects at school, for instance – I can’t help feeling that’s sometimes at the expense of other subjects which are just as valid, fascinating and important. I’m particularly worried by the marginalisation of art, music and drama in schools.”

Q. Who are your biggest inspirations? “The scientists and writers Richard Dawkins and Steven Jay Gould, and Attenborough of course. But it was probably my teachers at school who had the most impact on me: Mrs Wood, who taught Ancient Greek, which I took at GCSE, was a real polymath and a huge influence on me – and she introduced me to the writings of Gould. My physics teachers, Mrs Ross and Miss Jones, were very different characters, but both inspirational, too. They tapped into the enthusiasms of our group at A level, and somehow we managed to cover all the exam material while still having plenty of time to follow our own passions. The lessons would just spark off in all kinds of directions – and we had the glorious feeling that learning could be something that we could lead. Heading off like this, following our own ideas and the passions of our teachers, made for some incredible, memorable lessons. That kind of creativity in the classroom is so precious.”

Q. We now have a female Doctor Who. If you were in charge of the Tardis, which period of history would you travel back to and why? “The Bronze Age. I’d love to see people living in a Bronze Age village, like the one at Must Farm – in roundhouses built on stilts over the each of a river, paddling log-canoes out on the water and driving their cattle down to the riverside to graze. I’d love to know how they wore the beads we find on our digs, and what they cooked for tea! I’d also love to know about their stories – and what they believed in – but I’d need a translator!”

Q. What’s the most memorable discovery you’ve either made or reported on? “A few stand out over the years – and we’ve covered some amazing discoveries on Digging for Britain, of course. In 2016, we reported on very early Neolithic crannogs or lake dwellings in the Hebrides; in 2017, we had two extraordinary Neolithic mounds which had been presumed to be focused on burials, but were found to contain the remains of huge timber buildings. This year, we devoted an entire programme to the incredible Iron Age chariot burial at Pocklington in Yorkshire – that just blew me away. The deceased man had been placed in his chariot, in the grave, and there was a pair of ponies standing up – reduced to skeletons of course – just extraordinary. I love the way that archaeology gives us these wonderful glimpses of our ancestors’ cultures.”

Q. What can people look forward to in Digging for Britain’s Past? “I’m going to be talking about archaeological sites that I’ve dug at and filmed over the years – from my very first Time Team shoot back in 2001, when we were excavating an Anglo Saxon cemetery with a lot of buckets buried in the dead – all the way through to the latest from Digging for Britain – including that amazing chariot burial. There will also be clips from my Channel 4 series, Britain’s Most Historic Towns – and plenty of behind-the-scenes stories, and time for Q&A with the audience, and I’ll be book-signing after each show.”

Q. How do you relax away from work? “I draw, paint, go for long walks and I absolutely love kayaking, on rivers and the sea, whenever I get the chance. I love watching with films with my kids, and reading to them. Visiting friends is important too – I have a lot of friends who are also busy, working mums and dads – and it’s so important to make time for a good cup of tea and a chat.

Q. If you were stranded on a desert island, but could have two or three companions living, historic or fictional who would you pick? “I assume I’m not allowed my family? If not, I’d have to have Bear Grylls, of course, to make sure everyone was comfortable and well fed on the island. And I think Dave Grohl would be a very entertaining companion, and could play us all the Foo Fighters back catalogue as well, of course (I’m assuming he’d bring a guitar). And I would have loved to met Mary Anning, the famous palaeontologist _ so let’s have her along, too.”

  • Catch Dr Alice Roberts on tour from this month, including Richmond, Oxford and Guildford. For more details please visit

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Best of British: Political cartoons

Liz Nicholls

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Liz Nicholls reflects on a tumultuous year in world politics, thanks to Tim Benson and the talented cartoonists who have depicted 2018 in satirical pictures…

Few people might have relished the political drama served up throughout 2018… However, by way of positive spin, it has been a gift to cartoonists.

“It’s been fantastic!” exclaims Tim Benson, editor of Britain’s Best Political Cartoons and co-owner of The Political Cartoon Gallery & Café in London.

“Over the last six years you couldn’t have made up the world events… For a cartoonist, it’s been like a daily treat. And the characters; from Jeremy Corbyn to Jacob Rees Mogg, Boris Johnson to Kim Jong Un… so many subjects to have fun with! No one knows what’s going to happen next.”

We’re just kissing goodbye to 2018; a feverish year in which Brexit got serious, football fever, a UK heatwave and royal wedding mania gripped us all and Trump got transformed into a giant baby blimp (see above, by Peter Brookes of The Times)…

Times of political turmoil test the mettle of our nation’s cartoonists – the best in the world. “We’re very lucky in this country, because cartoonists have more freedom here than anywhere else, which is something to be proud of,” says Tim.

A historian with a particular interest in 20th century political history, Tim’s PhD was on Sir David Low’s relationship with Lord Beaverbrook, his editor at The Daily Express. He began collecting political caricatures and has written several titles on political cartoon art, a vital form of satire, from 19th century etcher James Gillray via wartime master Sir David Low to today’s top draw. As a die-hard fan of newspapers myself, it’s cheering to read that it is also a media that works best in print.

Tim rejoices in the art form, pointing out that, while cartoonists might be the “canaries in the mine” when it comes to budget cuts, it has survived the industrial revolution, print censorship and two world wars. “And we still have a culture of daily political cartooning in the broadsheet press: Evening Standard editor George Osborne recently reinvigorated his opinion pages by bringing back the political cartoon after a hiatus of 13 years.”

Along with his partner Julie Dangoor, Tim has bought, sold and exhibited original cartoon art for 15 years. Their gallery is the world’s only venue dedicated to original political cartoon art, ranging from The Guardian’s Steve Bell and The Daily Telegraph’s Bob Moran to yesteryear greats “Vicky” (Victor Weisz) and Carl Giles as well as original gag cartoons from Punch and Private Eye.

Tim has edited six Britain’s Best books, published by Random House. “It’s fabulous because I get to play God,” he tells me. “Selecting my favourites is hard because there are so many good cartoons. As for depicting people, David Low called them ‘tags of identity’ and politicians often play these up – Theresa May’s leopard print shoes, Howard Wilson choosing a pipe even though really he was a cigar man… To be in politics you need the hide of a rhinoceros but the higher up the greasy pole you go, the more vain you can get… When Steve Bell got wind David Cameron was really irked by being depicted with a condom on his head, it felt like winning the lottery. Cartoons are a wonderful in the ‘now’ but also, when you put them into context, become a kind of commentary.”

We have a copy of Britain’s Best Political Cartoons 2018 to give away! To enter, click here or visit our competitions page.

The Political Cartoon Gallery & Café, SW15 1JP

Vegan virtues: January recipes

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Star chef Dipna Anand shares some Punjabi-inspired vegan recipes to warm the cockles as we enter a new year.

alu gobi

(Prep: 10mins – Cooking: 20 mins – Serves: 4-5)

Not only extremely popular across India, alu gobi has also made its mark in Britain. It’s a customer favourite, enjoyed with a naan or a chapatti as a main meal or even a side dish. If you are looking for the perfect Punjabi vegetable dish which is quick and easy to prepare then look no further; it’s what I call simple food – hearty and tasty at the same time.


6 tbsp vegetable oil, two finger green chillies, finely chopped, one medium onion, finely chopped, 1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste, 2 tomatoes, finely diced, 1 ½ tsp salt, 2 medium potatoes, peeled, diced into ½ inch cubes, 300ml water, 500g cauliflower florets, 2 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp turmeric, ¾ tsp red chilli powder, 1 tsp garam masala, 2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves, crushed


1. Heat the oil in a sauté pan for one minute.

2. Add the cumin seeds to the oil together with the green chilli and when the seeds begin to sizzle, add the chopped onions to the pan and cook for three or four minutes until the onions begin to colour.

3. Add ginger and garlic paste and cook for one minute before adding the turmeric, red chilli powder, diced tomato and salt and cook for one further minute.

4. Add the diced potatoes to the sauté pan with 150ml water, cover the pan and simmer on a low-medium heat for about eight to 10 minutes (mix occasionally).

5. Add the cauliflower florets to the sauté pan with the remaining 150ml of water, cover the pan and cook for nine or 10 minutes (mix occasionally, if more water is required in between and the alu gobi is drying out, add as needed).

6. When the cauliflower and potato are cooked, add the garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves and fresh coriander to the pan and cook for a final one or two minutes.

7. Garnish with finely chopped ginger juliennes and chopped coriander stalks.


(Prep: 10 mins, Cooking: 20 mins, Serves: 6-8)

This is my mum’s version of the dish and it’s packed full of flavour yet does not use that many spices. Some recipes use a lot more ingredients and spices and complicate the method, yet Mum’s way is simple and straightforward and the result is hearty and flavoursome!


Two large aubergines (800g), 4 tbsp olive oil, two finger green chillies, finely chopped, one medium onion (finely sliced), 1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste, 3½ tomatoes, blanched, skinned and chopped 1 ½ tsp salt, 160g peas, frozen or tinned, 5 tbsp water, 2 tbsp fresh coriander (finely chopped) . Tadka (finishing touch!): ½ tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp coarse black pepper, 1 tsp turmeric powder, ¼ tsp white pepper powder ¾ tsp garam masala. Garnish suggestion: aubergine skin, rolled into tubes and roasted in the oven for 10 minutes


1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4.

2. Cut the aubergines in half, length-ways, lay them flesh-side up and roast on an oven tray for 45 minutes. Once cooked, let them cool.

3. Using a spoon scrape out the inside pulp of the aubergine avoiding scooping out any of the skin and put the pulp into a bowl.

4. Cut the stem from the skin and mix with the pulp, leave the aubergine pulp to one side and discard the aubergine skin or save for garnish.

5. In a sauté pan, heat the oil, add the green chilli, cumin and coarse black pepper and onions. Fry the onions until golden brown and almost caramelised, this should take about seven or eight minutes on a medium heat.

6. Add the ginger and garlic paste and cook for two minutes.

7. Add half the chopped tomatoes and cook for four or five minutes.

8. Add the salt, turmeric and white pepper powder and cook for a further three or four minutes.

9. Add the peas to the masala and cook for 4-5 minutes.

10. Add the aubergine pulp and stems to the masala sauce together with the remaining tomatoes and water and cook for eight to ten minutes.

11. Add the final touches of garam masala and fresh coriander and cook for a further two or three minutes.

12. Serve with a fluffy buttered chapatti, spread like pâté.

• Dipna Anand is the founder of London restaurant Dip in Brilliant – visit

Gardening: Veggie patch

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Another year beginning and I can’t think of a better task than to sit in front of a roaring fire scanning the new seed catalogues! I am often asked what veg can I grow NOW?

Make a Plan

Each season is a challenge and often very different from the year before but certain veg need a long growing season whereas others only take a few weeks to reach maturity. It’s important to grow what you like to eat and if you have never grown veg before go with the tried and tested cultivars from seed or buy some already started for you from your local garden centre.

Consider whether you wish to grow in the ground, raised beds or even pots, all are very effective with a little know how.

There is nothing more satisfying than picking and eating your very own produce.

Brassicas If you want your very own sprouts for the Christmas table it is important to start now. Seeds germinated in a heated propagator is ideal but a window sill will do. Brassicas need a long growing season. If you sow the seeds in the next few weeks you are well on your way to picking your own next Christmas! Try to prick out when large enough to handle and then pot up into individual pots before planting out in the Spring. The bigger and more robust your plants are the less they will succumb to pest and diseases. 

Salads There are many varieties of lettuce and radish available, some of which are totally hardy. They do need a little warm to start them off but if you are clever you can have them all the year round.

Onions There are sets for Autumn or Spring planting and seed for Spring sowings. Leeks can be started early and can give you a fabulous winter crop next year.

Roots Need a slightly sandier soil but Spring sowings of Parsnips can be left in the ground to be lifted after frosts, another one for the Christmas table!

Beans and peas This year I have grown pea shoots in the greenhouse which would work just as well on the kitchen windowsill in shallow seed trays or pretty pots. Broad beans are good to go in the ground shortly but you will have to be patient before starting the runners and French because they don’t like the cold!

Potatoes Consider growing these in large pots of multi-purpose compost, can be started early inside or Spring outside.

Sprouted seeds and micro greens So many available to grow on the windowsill all year round!


Cathie’s Gardening School Services now taking bookings for Spring

Email for more info on Cathie’s Gardening School

Hal Cruttenden: Middle ground

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One of Britain’s top comedians, Hal Cruttenden brings his stand-up show to Maidenhead’s Norden Farm this month.

Keen to involve his family in the planning as well as being one of the subjects within the act, he asked his teenage daughters what he should call the tour. Hence “Chubster”, which also gives a clue as to other subjects – his battle with weight! Now Hal’s back on the 5:2 diet and onstage in a hilarious show that not only touches on his usual moans about being a middle-aged, middle class father of fat-shaming teenagers but also introduces us to new problems like his struggles with IQ tests, political zealots and the trauma of supporting the England rugby team.

So, who were the people who inspired Hal in his career that has often seen him nominated for awards? It seems those middle-class doubts needed satisfying as he says his inspirations were people like Eddie Izzard: “He convinced me that you could do stand-up successfully and be middle-class. I thought it was so impressive and it taught me that it was more the joke than the person telling it. I just so love Bill Connolly’s charisma, I just want to sit down and listen to him. Comedians like Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridges, I think for me it is more a case of jealousy rather than inspiration.”

Having given his family the chance to name the show, do they also get a chance to see their dad in action? “Oh yes, they always see the shows. As to what they think of them, my children are now asking for a raise in their pocket money and calling it research costs!” Hal says. Speaking of research, how easy does he find the writing? Not, it would appear! “I am anything but disciplined, I am rubbish – if I did not have a deadline to work to I doubt I would get anything done. I have the upmost respect for Lee Mack, I have absolutely no idea how he writes all the comedy scripts and stand-up shows that he does.”

Having toured the world, it seems the bright lights of New York still beckon for Hal, he says: “I would really love to perform in New York, I really fancy doing Carnegie Hall or the Radio City Music Hall.” Your chance to see him at Norden Farm Arts Centre is on Friday, 11th and Saturday, 12th January.

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