Category Archives: Blog posts

Here’s where I’ll post all my day to day musings and findings on eating local and organic on a budget.

Wa!? More like WOW Curry

Wa restaurantLast week I had the pleasure of trying out Wa! Curry at their restaurant in the Cinema complex near Kassam Stadium.

It doesn’t take much to twist my arm into a meal out at a curry house, but having spent 6 months living in Indian in my 20’s I can be difficult to please.

The best all you can eat India buffet in Oxford

Wa meat and vegetable selection of curryWa! Curry is an all you can eat Indian buffet with a difference. Founded by Prad Walimbe on the basic belief that we should help feed and nourish the less privileged, Wa! not only provides delicious curry’s to the public here in Oxford, it does its bit by feeding many needy mouths around the world every time you buy a meal.

Wa all you can eat buffetFurthermore, it also focuses on education in farming key ingredients to help the less fortunate to become self-sufficient. Don’t you just love the already?!? And if that wasn’t enough,  the curries supplied are nutritious, wholesome, locally organic and freshly prepared with minimal salt and no preservatives or sugar added; just packed with delicious fresh herbs and spices.

You may have seen Wa! Cuisine sold at delis, markets and food stores around Oxford? Their vegan and vegetarian soups, sauces and meal pots are a healthy way to get a cost effective ‘curry with a cause’ when you’re out and about.

Wa! Curry is situated to the left of the bottom of the escalator to the Vue Cinema – Ozone Leisure & Entertainment Park, Grenoble Rd, Oxford, GB OX4 4XP. You can’t miss it; it’s vibrantly coloured, yet slick and clean decor stands out. Plus you couldn’t possibly walk passed the wonderful aroma without noticing.

Wa PradWhen we arrived, we were welcomed by Prad himself and sat at a window booth. We ordered some drinks and took in the atmosphere.

The way it works is that you take a plate and help yourself. You can eat as much as you like, and come back for more, but you are encouraged not to waste food – after all, food is a precious commodity in many parts of the World. And here in the land of plenty we tend to forget this.

Wa Caroline eating curryIt took a while for us to choose what we wanted to eat. There was a huge selection of starters, poppadoms, rice, curries, bread as well as desserts!

Personally, I’m a fan of anything vegan and vegetarian, and it was a joy to see such a wide variety of choice for those that prefer to eat without meat. The Butter Paneer was rich yet delicately spiced, whilst the black dahl sumptuous and wholesome. But my favourite had to be the egg curry – reminiscent of my time spent in India. I had to have seconds – I’m eating for 2 at the moment after all!

Wa Alex and MelissaMy husband Alex’s favourite was the lamb Vindaloo. He said that it was the most flavoursome hot curry he had ever tasted! He also loved the prawn curry and selection of Indian starters including the pakora and poppadoms.

My daughter Melissa, who has been eating curry since she was in the womb, loved the coconuty chicken Korma and Peshwari Naan the best.

Wa Melissa strawberry icecreamShe was also delighted to see the a large selection of desserts including strawberry ice cream, chocolate pots and Gulab Jamon.

All the curries are gluten free so great for Ceoliacs, and there’s even a choice of chips and other British foods should you chose to come with a friend that prefers that.

We had the privilege of talking to Prad about his journey into the restaurant business. He said his passion for food developed from a young age while watching his mother create original infusions from wild vegetables and spices in their home kitchen in Karad, India.

Wa vegetarian curryIt’s obvious, from Wa! Curry that preparing and sharing food has been a huge part of his upbringing. And it’s clear that combining his zest for travel, history and culture as well as skills learned working in sales and marketing has proven to be a powerful and winning combination for Prad.

We wish him the best of luck and all our support in pursuing this worthwhile venture. As far as my family are concerned, every day is a curry day, and now I have so many more reasons to make it a priority to visit Wa! I hope that you do too.

If you can’t make it down to the restaurant, you may like to know that they will will soon be operating a delivery service. To book a table or discuss a party/event call
01865 395870 / 07713 942628 or email

Or to source meal pots, soups and sauces take a look in health food stores such as Gatineau in Summertown, The Athlete Centre in Oxford, The Market Garden, Eynsham, Cultivate Veg Van in Oxford, Farm Fresh Oxford, North Parade Market and the 1855 Wine Bar Bistro among other places.

For more information visit





Save our pumpkins!

photo (2)We all love a Halloween pumpkin lantern, but the mounds of pumpkins displayed outside large food shops for decorative purposes has been making me cringe lately.

Pumpkins are one of the most flavour-some and nutritious vegetables you can find. The yellow flesh is full of lovely anti-oxidants and beta-carotene. Plus you can get really creative with a pumpkin in the kitchen – for example – cumin roasted pumpkin, Pumpkin soup, pumpkin curry, pumpkin chutney, pumpkin scones, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake – the list goes on.

I’m loving local Oxford events that are making the most out of the discarded pumpkin flesh. Here’s a few you should check out!

Drop in to Potions and Pumpkins and taste our scarily delicious pumpkin soup by the fire and make some Halloween potions. £4 suggested donation per child, accompanying adult(s) free. No need to book.

Date/Time: Sunday, November 1 2015. 10:00 – 14:00
LocationThe Earth Trust, Earth Trust Centre, Little Wittenham, OX14 4QZ

Roasted pumpkinOr do as the lovely Hannah from Good Food Oxford suggests and ‘Squash food waste with the official Pumpkin Festival recipe book! Check it out for scrummy recipes to help you cook up that carved pumpkin flesh – everything from chutney to brownies’. The 2015 Oxford Pumpkin Festival runs from 24th October to 6th November. Here’s what’s on offer…..

Saturday 31st October

  • Pumpkin Carving at Sandford Market
    Times: 9am – 12pm
    Venue: Sandford Village Hall
    Cost: FREE
    Registration: Just turn up!
    Sandford are hosting a special pumpkintastic version of their Saturday market, with fun Halloween activities alongside the usual selection of scrumptious local produce and goodies from the cafe.
  • Food Surplus Cafe – Halloween Special
    Times: 12pm – 3pm
    Venue: East Oxford Community Centre
    Cost: Pay as you feel
    Registration: Just turn up or get in touch to volunteer.
    The third in a series of super successful Oxford Food Surplus Cafe pop up events, serving scrummy meals made by volunteers from food which would otherwise have been thrown away!The Oxford Food Surplus Café aims to help redress the imbalance in our food system by reclaiming surplus food and transforming it into delicious healthy meals accessible to all. Using the pay as you feel system, customers are able to contribute either what they can afford or what they think the food, space and idea is worth. They want to create an inclusive space to encourage community engagement and reconnect people with the food they eat.
  • Sunday 1st November

    • OxGrow Pumpkin Day
      Times: 12am to 5pm
      Venue: OxGrow Community Garden
      Cost: FREE
      Registration: Just turn up!
      Feeling hollow and empty post Halloween? Bring your empty pumpkins down to Ox Grow and get your inner lantern shining again! We’ll be turning old pumpkins into bird feeders, cooking up a feast, playing games and gardening galore.

Sesi Launching Cotswolds Flour

Sesi Launching Cotswolds flourPlease come and join me at SESI Cotswolds Organic Flour launch celebration. Where there will be free soup, bread and dips.

Superb talks by our guests from FWP Matthews and local authors and bloggers.
Free, family friendly and open to everyone. Click Here to book tickets.
22 Oct 2015 2pm-4pm
Cowley Rd Methodist Church
Jeune Street, OX4 1BN

Come and join us!

  • Hear the story of FWP Matthews Mill
  • Taste delicious bread baked with FWP Matthews flour
  • Enjoy homemade seasonal soup – ingredients from SESI and Cultivate Oxford
  • Dip into delicious organic olive oil from Granada in Spain
  • Make oatcakes with Anna Pitt, author of 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free
  • Learn to make gluten free treats with Caroline Mentzer of

Free apples across Oxford

If there’s one thing I hate it’s WASTE!!

Dene Road apple tree There are many hungry people all over the World – including Oxford. Yet on average, a family with children spends £680 every year on food that ends up in the bin. Nearly half of what is thrown away is fresh fruit and vegetables.

One way to help us value our food and minimise waste is to grow our own. Somehow slaving away in the garden, lovingly nurturing plants makes you appreciate how genuinely amazing nature is. It’s far harder to throw away a squished tomato that your child has sown from seed and endearingly cared for.

However, we’re not all lucky enough to possess a garden, and this is where foraging comes into play. Getting out on a sunny autumnal day and spending an hour or so picking gloriously wildly grown fruit, followed by cooking up a delicious apple pie, is one of the most satisfying sense of achievements a child can experience.

Where to find free fruit

Apple and blackberry crumble1) Nosey in your neighbours gardens.
It’d be a shame to let some juicy apples or brambles go to waste just because your neighbour doesn’t know what to do with them. You could offer a crumble in return for some free pickings.

2) Public parks in Oxford.
At the moment parks are brimming with apple trees, yet the fruit goes to waste. Don’t be scared pick away and put the fruit to good use. We’ve got a glorious apple tree in the park at the end of our road in Headington. The apples taste yummy!

3) Foraging maps
If you search on google for where to forage, you’ll often find plenty of information on public picking spots. Just click the link here to find one for Oxfordshire.

Happy pickings!!

Cow mead allotment on Abingdon Road #zerowaste

Cow Mead allotment donation sale oxfordOn an outing to central Oxford the other day, I came across Cow Mead Allotment on Abingdon road. They had an open house and were selling their produce for donation only. There was plenty to choose from – Fresh damsons, swiss chard and giant marrows which would just go to waste if not eaten and shared.

What a fantastic way to support ZeroWaste week I thought! So I snapped a few pictures and bought some beautiful swiss chard which we fried up with some garlic to have with our fresh farm eggs. Delicious!!

Allotments in Oxford

Garlic tossed swiss chardOxford has 36 allotment sites across the city. Oxford council manage each one in partnership with a different allotment association and the Oxford and District Federation of Allotment Associations (ODFAA).

To find your nearest plot, please see the map here. People are often selling their fresh produce or asking for a helping hand to harvest in return for some delicious fresh vegetables and fruit.

After all, it would be a shame to see anything go to waste.

Remember to always keep a spare carrier bag on your person – we want to save on plastic too!



Zero Waste Week is in its 8th year of running! It’s held next week from 7th – 13th September 2015. We’re looking for YOU to get involved and to pledge to reduce your waste.

This year’s theme is ‘REUSE’ – basically stop wasting money by saving resources!

Zero waste week

This could mean……

  • Reuse shopping bags
  • Reuse foil for zero waste lunches
  • Reuse jars for storage
  • Take clothes to a textile bank
  • Reuse leftovers as ingredients
  • Offer items on Freecycle, Freegle or Streetbank
  • Reuse blank paper for notes
  • Use a refillable bottle

I’m an ambassador for the week and my pledge is to buy food for a week without packaging. I’ll ‘reuse’ my old packaging when shopping. e.g take my own container when buying fish / meat / eggs / veg and fruit. No new packaging or plastic will be used!

I’ll be posting about my experiences here over the next few weeks.

You can sign up and make your own pledge here at – ZERO WASTE WEEK
Or alternatively just do your own bit at home for you your family.
Read more about Zero Waste Week and get inspiration here

Let’s fight waste together for a healthier future and planet!!!

What’s up for pickings in July?

July is one of the most abundant months for PYO and foraging.


raspberriesAs the strawberry season ends so the raspberry season begins! Vividly pink, juicy, fresh raspberries are a real late summer treat. Long Summer days in the UK help produce the most delicious berries. Get yourself down to one of my recommended PYO spots to sample some of the best raspberries in the country. Top tip – as with strawberries – sometimes you can buy ‘jam’ raspberries which are cheaper as they don’t look so pretty. Yet they make gorgeous purées served with yoghurt and are delicious in smoothies.

Beetroot and feta burgerBeetroot

Beetroot is an underrated vegetable that you usually find pickled in supermarkets. Yet this earthy sweet and vibrant purple root is delicious grated in the coleslaw, made into a feta and beetroot burger (recipe here) and even in Chocolate beetroot fairy cakes (recipe here) using the flesh to colour the icing a luscious pink.

Oxfordshire Icecream from Q GardensCherries

You all must have seen cherries being sold at the side of the road. Don’t miss out, you can get some real bargains, and they are juicy and sweet at this time of the year. Why not head down to Q Gardens in Steventon, nr Abingdon and pick your own. The also do home made cherry ice cream for a real treat!

From the hedgerow

Nettle pestoLook out for early blackberries. They start to juice up around now and make beautiful jam or blackberry and apple pie – yummy!

Elder-flowers are also in season and you can make a fragrant and refreshing cordial for next to nothing by steeping the flowers in sugar syrup for 24 hours (recipe to follow).

Melissa picking dandelionsDon’t forget to pick wild nettles and dandelion leaves to make your own iron rich pesto, sauté them in garlic and olive oil, or use them as a replacement for spinach in saag aloo – delicious!

Have you  been enjoying the pickings of July? I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to. Please drop me a line or leave me a comment.


Vitamin D is free

Vitamin D are we getting enoughSummer is finally here. After all the wind, rain, gales and even hail stones the sun is finally starting to push through. And with its rays comes much needed vitamin D. In the UK we can only really get vitamin D from the sun during the spring/summer months – April to October, and only when the sun is high in the sky around 12-3pm.

When you’re on a tight family budget there’s no money for expensive supplements, so you need to maximise the sunlight and also get it right nutritionally.

In the UK we apparently don’t get enough vitamin D because we don’t get enough sun! What I really think the problem is that in the UK we don’t get enough TIME in the Sun. We’re a nation of desk addicts that rarely take a lunch break as opposed to other Europeans who regularly take time off during daylight hours for leisurely lunches and siestas.

Our children have a more indoors lifestyle thanks to too much homework, TV, computers and video games as well as a fear of letting them play freely on the streets as I used to do as a child.

To top it off, skin cancer awareness has been heightened in recent years and sun screen is liberally applied at any sign of a small ray of sun for fear of burning. I witnessed this over last Summer at Melissa’s nursery where factor 50 was slapped on at every opportunity for an outside play.

This is despite data showing that skin cancer is in fact still on the rise, and that some sunscreens do not protect against the more dangerous UVA component of the spectrum that may cause malignant melanoma. Furthermore, some sunscreen ingredients have carcinogenic (cancer forming) properties, and also block production of Vitamin D resulting in deficiency which has been shown to increase your risk of other cancers.

Yet just 10-15 minutes a day of decent sunlight is all you need to get enough vitamin D! And unlike other nutrients it’s free this way; no need for expensive supplements or modified diets.

What is Vitamin D?

Summer in OxfordUnlike other nutrients, vitamin D isn’t really a vitamin at all; it’s a hormone, made by your body as you are exposed to sunlight. Its relationship to bone metabolism is more complicated than you might guess as it acts to increase calcium in the blood stream by increasing your ability to absorb calcium from foods and by reducing the amount of calcium you lose in urine.

So sadly, if you don’t have enough Vitamin D in your body, then all the milk and cheese in the world won’t give you strong bones.

How to maximise your vitamin D!

1) Get some SUN!

Expose yourself to 10-15 minutes of sun every day in the UK from April to October before applying sunscreen, covering up or simply getting out of the sun so you avoid burning. If you have dark skin you may need longer.

Eat Vitamin D rich foods.

beetroot mackerel salad10% of your vitamin D intake comes from the food you eat. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so you need to eat fat to get it. Fat is good for you as long as it’s the natural kind (none of these man-made margarines – that’s a whole another blog post). Fortunately oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, pilchards, herring and anchovies is pretty cheap as are farm eggs if you can find a good local source. Try this beetroot and mackerel salad for starters. Here’s where I like to buy fish and eggs in Oxford. So load up on these goodies and enjoy the sun!

Feed a Family Oxford got published!

Caroline Mentzer & Family (4)Earlier this year, after we’d completed the first few months of feeding the family for just £100 pcm, I contacted the Green Parent Magazine with our story. They decided they would like to publish us and here is the finished article which you can find in the June/July edition of the magazine – in the shops now.

‘Thanks to The Green Parent for taking such and interest in us, also to Mark Bassett , our local Oxford photographer, for snapping some lovely photos, as well as The Market Garden at Eynsham for letting us use your beautiful shop as a back drop for the photos’.

Mark did a good job to capture a happy Melissa, as moments after the nettle photo was taken she got stung and it was melt down and game over for us all. Anyway, if you’d like to read the article please click on the photos below to enlarge. We’re very excited to share it. I hope you enjoy reading it! Caroline x

Feed a family in the Green parent page 1Feed a family in the green parent page 1aFeed a family in the Green Parent page 3Feed a family in the Green parent magazine page 2

Congratulations to Oxford Food Surplus Cafe!

Cultivate Oxford Surplus Cafe Cowley RoadDid anyone make it down to the pilot of the Oxford Food Surplus Cafe at East Oxford Community Centre last Saturday? We certainly did, and what a success!!!

The Oxford Food Surplus Café was an event were wonderful volunteers, some from the Cultivate Oxford team are reclaiming surplus food and transforming it into delicious healthy meals for everyone to eat.

Using the pay as you feel system, customers are able to contribute/donate either what they can afford or what they think the food, space and idea is worth. The hope is to create a place that encourages the community to engagement and reconnect people with the food they eat.

Oxford Surplus Cafe Cowley RoadThe wonderful menu that was invented on-the-spot to incorporate all the donated ingredients, included a delicious vegetable tagine with brown rice, scrumptious black beans and a freshly foraged nettle and potato. I hear there were also some yummy puddings too. Here you can see my daughter Melissa tucking into the healthy delights.

I believe the event was a total success – feeding around 500 people. Here’s hoping it’s the start of many! WELL DONE EVERYONE!