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The tragic case of Dylan Seabridge and why home education is not the problem

In 2011 an eight year old boy named Dylan Seabridge died of scurvy. This was undoubtedly a tragic and utterly preventable death which was caused by this child’s parents failing to feed him properly and then misunderstanding his condition as ‘growing pains’, something they continued to maintain even after the child’s death and post-mortem exam. Even though this happened over four years ago, the story appears to have re-emerged last week and most of the coverage is now centered on the fact that the eight year old boy was home educated. This has raised concerns with some people, who say there should be stronger measures taken that would give the authorities more power over  home schooled children, with all home educated children being listed on a ‘register’, presumably with the occasional compulsory check up.

A lot of sources are reporting that the child was ‘invisible’ to the authorities because the child was home educated, even though it has recently come out that the child was known to the authorities for a year before he died. Concerns were raised by two people, a teacher and a lawyer and the education officials visited Dylans home, but were turned away by the parents. Apparently there were no further attempts to see the child. According to some of the press coverage, as the child was home educated under ‘current law’ they had no legal right to demand to see the child, and therefore he ‘slipped under the radar’ and they could take no further action.

As far as I understand, parents are not legally required to have regular check ups with the social services or education offices, and they can refuse to allow the education officers to see their child (as these parents in question did). However, the education authorities do have the power to take things further if they decide to do so.
According to http://edyourself.org/ , a website which offers legal advice and information to home educators: “Under paragraph 3.16 of the Government Guidelines, it states that “if it appears to a local authority that a child is not receiving a suitable education it may wish to contact the parents to discuss their ongoing home education provision. Contact should normally be made in writing to the parents to request further information. A written report should be made after such contact…stating whether the authority has any concerns about the education provision and specifying what these are…
Paragraph 3.16 of the Guidelines goes on to say that if a local authority considers that a suitable education is not being provided and the parents, having been given a reasonable opportunity to address the identified concerns and report back to the authority have not done so, the authority should consider sending a formal notice under section 437 before moving on if needed, to the issuing of a School Attendance Order.” Paragraph 3.5 – which only applies after it seems there may be a problem, and not from the outset – does not say that the authority “must”contact parents or even that it “should”, rather that it “may wish” to do so.
The concerns were voiced by a lawyer and a head teacher, who were worried because Dylans mother was mentally ill and as the child was home educated they were presumably unsure she could provide a suitable education for her child. The information above shows that whilst the local authorities did not have to pursue the matter, if they were concerned about the child’s education and the parents were not able to provide assurance, they could have gone on to issue a formal notice and if necessary involve the social services. I personally don’t believe that would have saved the child’s life, but they did have that power if they had chosen to use it. To say they had no further power because the parents refused to let them see their child is wrong. They did not have the obligation to take it further, but they did have the option to do so. http://edyourself.org/ also has another section of interest to this case. According to them: “4.7 The welfare and protection of all children, both those who attend school and those who are educated at home, are of paramount concern and the responsibility of the whole community. Working Together to Safeguard Children states that all agencies and individuals should aim proactively to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. As with school educated children, child protection issues may arise in relation to home educated children. If any child protection concerns come to light in the course of engagement with children and families, or otherwise, these concerns should immediately be referred to the appropriate authorities using established protocols.  Government’s Home Education Guidelines

The education officers have to give you a notice and give you some time to prove you are providing a satisfactory education, and if you do not then they can refer you to the social services. As far as I am aware, if the social services were concerned about child abuse (which would include neglect) they had the power to take the same actions they would with a child who attended school. The social services don’t seem to have been directly involved with this case, perhaps because the education authorities decided there was no cause for further concern, but if they had been they would have had the power to take further action if they deemed it necessary.
The idea this child was ‘invisible to the authorities’ is clearly untrue as the authorities visited his house and therefore clearly knew he existed and were, at least momentarily, concerned for his welfare. The idea they had no power to take action as he was home schooled is  incorrect, because as the information above shows it was within their power to take further action if they had decided to do so. They did not have the obligation to do so, but if they had been unduly concerned they had the option to issue the parents with a notice and, if they did not receive a satisfactory response, get the social services involved. This was within their power, but they did not choose to take to exercise it.

There has been a lot of controversy regarding the social services in resent years, with cases like Baby P highlighting the clear failure of the social services to save a child’s life where they had the opportunities to do so and real cause for concern. Now, I don’t think any of us who do not work in the social services sector can fully appreciate how hard it must be to investigate these cases, and to toe the right line between taking enough action and not unduly interfering in a family’s life, both of which can cause a backlash if done incorrectly. There is an uproar if they fail to see the danger a child was in in time, and rightly so, but there would also be an uproar if they tore a family apart without adequate evidence that it was necessary. These are human people, and the ultimate fault must still lie with those directly responsible for the abuse i.e the parents/carers.
I do not feel that home education is really the issue here. There have been documented cases of children who went to school who were obviously being abused, which was either missed by the school or reported by the school and yet still was not adequately dealt with. The terrible case of Daniel Pelka comes to mind, as this child was also described as being ‘invisible’ to the professionals despite the fact he attended school. This child was starved and beaten at his home, became severely underweight and died as a result in March 2012.  It has been reported that the child arrived at school with visible bruises and was seen scavenging for food; a teaching assistant described him as a ‘bag of bones’. This was another tragic and preventable death, and it was said that because English was not the child’s first language (he was Polish), he lacked the ability to speak up about his treatment and his parents may have used it as an excuse not to cooporate.
I would not blame the school for this, as it appears teachers did report it. However, I would say that this case weakens the assumption that if Dylan Seabridge had gone to school it would have made a difference in the tragic outcome of his death. Scurvy is, as far as I am aware, not immediately noticeable or easily identifiable by a non medical professional. If he had attended school there may have been concerns about his welfare, but I am not sure the school would have been able to identify what was wrong. They may have alerted social services, but this does not mean adequate action would have been taken.

The parents are still have been intimately responsible for the child’s welfare regardless of his education. The sad and horrible fact is that some parents do terrible things, whether it be neglect their child, not feed them a healthy diet, or even physically abuse and starve them. Child abuse is a real concern for our communities and authorities, and I agree there should be an over-view of how social services treat different cases and that they are fully aware of the powers they have and what action to take in which instance, although clearly it is not a simple issue with a one answer fits all solution. What I would say though is that home education is not the cause for concern, and it is not to blame here. The authorities appear to already have authorization to take action against home educating parents if they believe the child is being abused or not receiving a satisfactory education. I would maybe suggest that rather than leave it to the authorities discretion,  if they have valid cause for concern that the child is not being educated and/or is being abused they would be required to take further action rather than simply have the option to do so, but that would require a change in wording and a requirement that they use the powers they already have, not a change in the law.  If they are concerned, they already have the power to take action. Registering all home educated children on a database would not change the rights that the authorities already have, but it may be a stepping stone to allowing more state interference in the education side of home education.

I think the basic concern lies in the idea that home educated children could be ‘locked up’ from the outside world and have no interactions with people outside of their family and thus it may be easier to abuse them as no one would ever hear about it, but in reality this isn’t what happens, nor was it the case here. Dylan’s parents were known to several people who reported their concerns, so clearly they were not unknown to anyone outside of their family.  The vast, vast majority of home schooling families go outside regularly; to museums, art galleries, parks, home educating events and clubs, friends houses, historic buildings etc. There is a vast and active home educating community all over the world, it is not a collection of anti social individuals who never go outside. You may say that a compulsory register could help save the few home educated children who may have abusive parents, and should not affect the majority of families who home educate to the best of their ability and do not neglect their children, but the fact is that there is a genuine cause for concern which has nothing to do with abuse. If being registered means the authorities can come and inspect your ‘progress’ on a regular basis, parents may be concerned that this would allow the authorities to dictate how their children are to be taught, and popular methods like autonomous home education may not be deemed ‘appropriate’ as there is not a universal way to test it, even though it can and does work well for many children. As the authorities already have the power to tackle abuse, I see no reason to put extra measures onto home education in itself, or to say that home education is in itself to blame. These parents are to blame, the authorities who did not take action and then tried to cover it up by saying the child was un-known to them (even though it has since come out that he was) are partly to blame as well. But the majority of responsible home educating parents are not to blame. I hope the full report sheds further light on all that happened in this tragic case, and I hope the powers that be use their common sense and look into this case properly before taking any measures that could harm the innocent and do nothing to help children who are actually at risk.

Further reading:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/12114339/Social-services-warned-about-boys-health-a-year-before-he-died-of-scurvy.html

http://www.cps.gov.uk/wales/news_and_views/dylan_seabridge_death__charges_against_glynn_and_julie_seabridge_dropped/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-24106823

http://edyourself.org/articles/socialservices.php

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/22/concerns-raised-about-boy-who-died-of-scurvy-a-year-before-his-death-leaked-report

http://edyourself.org/articles/FAQ.php

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/dylan-seabridge-concerns-raised-welfare-7222922

http://educationalfreedom.org.uk/information/social-services/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3410742/Concerns-raised-boy-s-welfare-year-died-scurvy-aged-eight.html

http://www.vaccineriskawareness.com/Home-Education-And-Your-Legal-Rights

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-24107377

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-24107377

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/22/concerns-raised-about-boy-who-died-of-scurvy-a-year-before-his-death-leaked-report

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-23349527

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Roasted eggplants with tahini-garlic glaze (Vegan)

Re-blogging so I remember to try this recipe. Awesome gluten free alternative

Tea and Tales of a Wanderer

This is another delicious, healthy and quick recipe! This is what I make when I get home late. It requires just 5 minutes preparation time, I put it into the oven, get changed and my food is ready. I love roasted eggplants so much, and with the ginger-garlic paste (which you can buy at Asia stores) on top it tastes like heaven. When I discovered this combination, I made this dish 5 times in a row…

Ingredients (serves 1):

  • 1 eggplant
  • 3 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 3 tbsp tahini paste
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  2. Cut the eggplant horizontally into more or less 5-6 pieces. Lay them out on a tray lined with baking paper.
  3. Using a knife, spread the ginger-garlic paste and the tahini paste onto one side of the eggplant. Use as much as you want!
  4. Sprinkle some dried basil…

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Lazy Vegetarian Meal Ideas #24 Tofu stir fry

I know I’ve posted several stir fry recipes in the past, but this one was so tasty I just had to share it. Rather then go through the long process of drying, frying and re frying the tofu I bought some ready marinaded Cauldron tofu pieces. They tend to be slightly more expensive and a bit harder to find, but as they are so much quicker to cook it’s worth it, and they are far harder to cook wrong and end up soggy and horrible in the way tofu sometimes does.
Stir fries are great because its such a quick and easy way to cook your favorite vegetables, and as this meal has the protein factor it’s an all round easy, healthy and tasty vegan meal ideal to ward off the winter germs.

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What you need: A large frying pan or wok, olive oil, one large chopped onion, one pack of ready marinaded Cauldron tofu, a few chopped broccoli florets, half a pack of trimmed mangetout, some chopped cabbage leaves, a few handfuls of chopped mushrooms, two finely chopped chilies, basmati rice. I would normally add peppers and bean sprouts, but unfortunately I was too lazy to go shopping so had to make do with the contents of my fridge. If you have any peppers/other vegetables lying around feel free to add those.

Spices: Salt, Pepper, Chinese 5 spice, Vegetarian stir fry sauce, Soy Sauce, Sesame seeds

1: Heat olive oil in a large wok/frying pan and add the sesame seeds.  Lightly fry them for a few minutes (or as long as it takes to chop the onion), then add the onion and fry on a high heat for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a low heat and saute whilst you chop the rest of the vegetables

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2: Add the marinaded tofu and a few sprinkles of Chinese 5 spice, a few dollops of stir fry sauce and soy sauce and a few more sesame seeds, and fry for about 5-7 minutes.

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3: Whilst your frying the tofu, cook the rice as per cooking instructions. To make sure the rice doesn’t go horribly wrong simply pour the basmati rice and a pinch of salt into a small pot, then and add boiling water until it just covers the rice. Cover with a lid and keep on a high heat until the water starts boiling, then turn to the lowest heat and keep covered for around 10 minutes.

4: After frying the tofu for 5-7 minutes, add the rest of the vegetables and stir fry on a high heat for about four minutes whilst stirring constantly. Add some more of the spices and soy/stir fry sauce to taste, but don’t add so much that you drown out the taste of the vegetables

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5: Serve and enjoy

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Donald Trump and the banning debate

A section of British MPs have debated whether the controversial republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has caused worldwide outrage for his comments regarding Muslims including the call for Muslims to be banned from the US, should be banned from visiting the UK. This is a result of an online partition calling for Trump to be banned from the UK which currently has 576, 447 signatures SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh claimed that the ban could be justified on ground of ‘religious harmony’, but others have said that the ban could actually create more support for Trump because it may give him ‘martyr’ status, and even those who would usually abhor his claims would support his right to free speech.

I do not think Trump should be banned from the UK. This is not because I agree with Trump; frankly I still can’t quite believe the guy exists, let alone that anyone would consider letting him run a country. However, the worst thing you can do with a bigot like this is deny them their right to speak. If you do this it gives them ammunition. It gives someone whose views are normally ridiculous a genuinely valid argument, because we are denying them the free speech we often fight so hard to protect. And we would also be denying ourselves a golden opportunity to ridicule this man and show his ideas for what they are.
We should not ban him, rather we should try and set up a televised talk with a live audience and panel who would be given the opportunity to challenge Trump, to put him on the spot and to make him squirm. I remember years ago the UK wanted to stop Nick Griffin participated in a BBC debate. The debate went ahead anyway, and Nick Griffin was put on the spot and he showed himself for what he was, which gave him opponents even more ammunition to criticize and challenge his views.
This is precisely what we need to do with Trump. Rather then deny him free speech, we should use free speech against him. Clearly no matter what we do we won’t change his or his more hardcore supporters beliefs, but we can try to trip him up on his logic enough that maybe the more intelligent potential supporters will question him. This is not guaranteed, but it can’t hurt. We shouldn’t be scared of these people, we should show that rather then just try to hide from them and pretend they don’t exist we can and we should challenge them, not just from behind a keyboard but in real life. The call to ban him was a valid form of protest, and is good because it shows that a large number of UK citizens disagree venomously with his assertions, but we need to go beyond that. We can’t just say we disagree because we don’t like what he says, we need to take that and then show why  what he says is wrong. To simply disagree isn’t enough, we need to engage with these kind of views in so much that we can break them apart, ridicule them and prove them wrong. That is the only way we can even hope of defeating someone like that.

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Lazy Vegetarian Meal Ideas #23 Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese

When you think of vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese,  do you think of Quorn?

A lot of people tend to assume that if you are making a sauce that would normally have meat in it, such as spaghetti bolognese or chilli con carne, then you must be substituting it with Quorn. The idea that Quorn is the essence of vegetarianism, and all vegetarians must eat the stuff can be a little annoying when every place you go to throws Quorn at you because, clearly, that’s all vegetarians eat. As a lacto-vegetarian Quorn isn’t particularly appealing to me, and even without the egg factor it normally tastes a bit wrong. For those of us who aren’t particularly enthusiastic about this genetically modified mushroom hybrid, there is always soy mince. However, from my experience it often looks like bird food and has a disturbingly chewy texture. I am sure there are better vegetarian mince alternatives out there, but if you haven’t got the time (or the money) to look for them remember that lentils are not only the right shape for traditionally mince based dishes but they are also tasty, healthy and very cheap.

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What you need: A tin of green lentils (I don’t think dry would work in this case), two tins of chopped tomatoes, half a pack of small chopped mushrooms, a chopped red pepper, one finely chopped chilli, a few basil leaves, one chopped onion, a few crushed garlic cloves, olive oil.
Spices: Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Salt, Pepper, Chilli Power, a sprinkle of chilli flakes

Note: This recipe is really cheap to make. One tin of lentils is around £0.55 and the chopped tomato is around £0.35. Your average decent shop bought jar of bolognese sauce is going to be around £1.00. Even if you don’t normally cook from scratch, just give it a try. You will save money and gain on taste.

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1: Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan and chop the onion and crush the garlic. Drop a little  garlic in the heated oil and if it sizzles (but doesn’t burn, don’t let it burn!) it is hot enough for the onions. Add onions/garlic and fry for about five minutes. Then turn to a lower heat and cook for a few further minutes until translucent.

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2: Add the chilli and basil and cook on a medium heat for about two minutes, then add the peppers and mushrooms and sprinkle in the spices. Fry for a bit longer to let the peppers soften then add the lentils, stir together, and fry for about five minutes, then transfer to a low heat.

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3: Add the tinned tomatoes and some more spices, stir and cook on a low heat for about ten minutes/whilst cooking the spaghetti. Make sure it doesn’t start to boil as that will impair the taste

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4: Cook the spaghetti as per pack instructions. To add some extra flavor to your spaghetti add a stock cube to the water and remember to salt!

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5: Enjoy with cheese and olives!

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Lazy Vegetarian Meal Ideas #22 Zoodle Stir fry

Image-1 (5)I’m not going to lie, I love grains. I love bread, pasta and rice and I doubt I’ll be anywhere near gluten free for the foreseeable future, although gluten free pasta and bread is actually pretty good. However, I also overdid the eating and overeating and yet more eating at Christmas, so in an attempt to lose 50000 stone and also fight off the winter cold that’s been trying to take me down for a few weeks now, I’ve made an all vegetable stir fry.  I’ve always been a little dubious about zoodles; although courgettes are good, surely they can’t pass for noodles. However, when fully cooked and drizzled with soya sauce they are actually pretty good and take on a noodle like appearance and texture.

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What you need: 3/4 or one whole courgette/zucchini,  chopped mushrooms, two chopped peppers, two chopped chillies, half a packet of bean sprouts, half a packet of trimmed mangetout, one chopped onion, one spoonful of garlic paste, a few chopped broccoli florets, olive oil, a spiralizer, a wok or large frying pan.

Spices: A few dollops of Chinese five spice, a sprinkle of crushed chillies, pepper, soy sauce, vegetarian stir fry sauce, pre-made packet of black bean sauce (optional)

1: Spiralize the courgette/zucchini so it takes on the shape of regular noodles, then set aside

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2: Heat oil in wok/frying pan and chop the onion; spoon in some garlic paste, add the onion and fry for a minute, then add the chinese five spice and fry for a few more minutes. Turn to a low heat and continue to cook whilst chopping the other vegetables

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3: When the vegetables are chopped, turn up the heat on the onions and add the peppers, chillies, mushrooms, broccoli and mangetouts and bean sprouts, fry for a minute or two then add the stir fry sauce, soy sauce and (if using) the black bean stir in, then add the zoodles and fry for a few more minutes.

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4: Enjoy, you healthy fiend.

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Lazy Vegetarian Meal Ideas #21 Fried Aubergine and Chickpea delight

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If you’ve read any of my previous recipes you may already know that I have a deep love for aubergines. Although I used to think they were really hard to cook, and it’s true that they do require a bit of preparation, when these fabulous fruit/vegetables are cooked right they really are fantastic. This super easy recipe combines two fabulous and healthy foods, aubergines and chickpeas, to make a tasty (if a bit oily) meal that you can enjoy with rice, in a wrap or even as a filling for delicious Indian inspired pies.

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What you need: A large aubergine or several baby aubergines (this was my first time cooking with baby aubergines as our local Tesco ran out of the big ones, and I think they are actually a little nicer than regular ones), a tin of chickpeas, two chopped chillies, olive oil (you will need quite a lot as the aubergines absorb it like a thirsty drunk), one medium/small onion.
Spices: Asafoetida, fenugreek, tumeric, cumin seeds, garam masala, Coriander seeds, a little pinch of chilli flakes, salt, pepper, curry seeds, mustard seeds

1: Thinly slice the aubergines and soak them in cold salted water for around twenty minutes.

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2: Fry a few dollops of asafoetida in olive oil until starting to warm up, then add the mustard seeds. After a minute or two add the chopped onions and fry for a few minutes, then add the chillies. Turn to a low heat and sauté for about five more minutes until the onions are translucent and reduced in size

3: Add a bit of all the spices (I tend to add more than you probably should, but damnit it just tastes so good!) and then add the aubergines. Add oil as required as the aubergines will lap it up, and fry for about five minutes.

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4: Add chickpeas, fry for a few more minutes and then turn to a low heat and cook for a further ten minutes. Season to taste

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5:Enjoy with soya sauce

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A place for vegetarians: Diwana Indian Vegetarian Restaurant in Euston, London

A place for vegetarians: South India in London!

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Diwana Bhel Puri House is one of my favorite restaurants of all time. Located close to Euston train station in the Camden borough of London, this authentic Southern Indian restaurant is cheap (the daily buffet is £6.95, and most meals are under £10), it’s BYOB so you save a lot on alcohol (restaurants normally have ridiculously over-priced beer) and best of all it’s all vegetarian! The buffet only runs during lunch time Mon-Fri and slightly longer on the weekend, but if you miss it don’t be too upset as you can have one of the many menu dishes at a very good price (please see below).

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This isn’t your regular curry house, and you won’t find things like Korma or Masala on the menu. This is Southern Indian food, which includes dosa’s, thali’s and poori’s as well as the more well known dal and bombay aloo. Although I do love a good korma, I personally prefer south indian as a: there is far more choice for vegetarians (in fact it tends to all be vegetarian!) and b: I find there is more variety in dishes and flavor.

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I’ve been going to this restaurant for over 16 years now (I was very young), and I really recommend that all London based vegetarians (or carnivorous that won’t run screaming at the idea of a meatless meal) give it a try. This place will prove that a purely vegetarian diet can be far from boring, and will make you want to visit South India so you can eat this delicious street food every day. The seats are a little cramped and some people have complained about the sparse setting, but the food more than makes up for any complaints.

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The waiters are friendly, the setting is understated but has an authentic feel with Indian music and decorations, and even though whilst you are there you will probably eat so much food you won’t feel human for a few hours, you won’t regret it. This restaurant proves that vegetarian food is far from boring, that there are many things you can do with beans, and it sells delicious dosa’s and thali’s that are unfortunately quite hard to find in most British Indian restaurants.

Image-3This is a deluxe Dosa priced at only £7.05! Dosa’s are rice pancakes which can either be eaten by themselves with an array of sauces or with a potato filling. I remember when I was in Singapoor around 8 years ago we went to this fast food place which, rather than burgers and chips, had dosas and other Indian dishes. I was in heaven! I’ve been meaning to try and make a dosa for some time and even bought a packet batter thing for the pancake, but in the mean time I will make do with these bad boys.

Image-9Thali’s are a set meal with rice, chipatti’s or poori’s, dahl, vegetarian curry and desert. £8.95!

Check them out at http://www.diwanabph.com/ or wonder down Drummond Street in Euston sometime, it has this and at least two other authentic Indian Vegetarian restaurants at delicious prices and authentic quality.

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Hasselback Potatoes with Thyme

I need to try this!

Cooking at Sabrina's

After making hasselback potatoes a few months ago for the first time, I wished I had them in my life sooner.


Hasselback Potatoes with Thyme

Now hasselbacks are definitely my go-to potato over your typical baked potato. All of those thin slices get irresistibly crispy on the outside, while the insides are soft and creamy.

Hasselback Potatoes with Thyme

The combination of olive oil, butter and thyme provide amazing flavor. Rosemary is my other go-to herb for these potatoes. I like to finish them off with an extra drizzle of olive oil or butter for moisture and a good sprinkling of chunky salt. Potatoes love salt, so it’s hard to overdo it here.

Hasselback Potatoes with Thyme

This simple potato recipe goes well a multitude of dishes and is great for any season. If you don’t already have hasselbacks in your recipe arsenal, this is the time!

Hasselback Potatoes with Thyme


Hasselback Potatoes with Thyme
Hasselback Potatoes with Thyme

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