Goodness, gracious, great balls of…. power!

food-philippagarlicSOMETIMES we envy Philippa Davis for her varied life as a travelling chef – and sometimes we are just in awe of the skillful way she deals with every unlikely request, demanding client or latest fashion and food trend …

I have had a very exciting (manic) week cooking for a fashion shoot involving one of the world’s superest supermodels and one of the UK’s most fabulous designers. I had been called into action rather last minute so at double speed I whipped up some menus, started the ordering, booked my flights and began to pack. With a couple of hours to go before leaving I get a call.

“Hi Philippa, is it possible to make a few changes to the menu….?”

“Sure,” says I. “ What would you like ?” (flexibility and not being easily flustered are a must in my line of work).

“You know all the food has to be vegetarian?”

“Yes, sure, that’s no problem.”

“…and can you make some vegan?”


“…and some sugar free”?

“….? Ok.”

“…and can you make some gluten/wheat-free, sugar-free, chocolate vegan quinoa cookies?”


foodmenu-philippaThis job was clearly going to be a fun challenge and very much involve up to date food trends and interests. Alarm bells began to ring as the location was rather remote and I imagined the local shop would not stock ingredients such as quinoa and goji berries. Time to call in some expert help to do a last minute emergency shop.

My mother, who is knowledgeable in these matters, was happily eating her Sunday lunch until I bounced into the kitchen and kidnapped her to drag her to Waitrose.  Giving her a job brief on the way I instructed her to grab anything I may find useful for the week and humbly apologized for not listening closer when she had told me about all this stuff before.

I had never used half the things she was popping into the trolley – coconut oil, soy yogurts, these things called chia seeds (apparently they are all the rage) agave syrup (vegan sugar alternative), almond milk (who knew they had breasts?) … I tell you I have never had such a trendy looking trolley. It was bizarrely exciting to think of the new possibilities ahead.

Having done a fast pick in the local woods of tender wild garlic and knowing I had ordered enough other fruit and veg to start a market stall I felt in a good position to combat any requests that could arise during the week.

With any job I like to have an arsenal of tricks up my sleeves, and particularly with fashion and film shoots there is an array of people to feed. Members of the cast and crew are likely to sneak into the kitchen at any time hoping you have this or that. There are the more health-conscious models, actors, designers, make up artists who crave healthy treats (like aforementioned quinoa chocolate wheat-free vegan cookies) and then there are the hard-grafting runners, technicians and location managers who really need big bowls of pasta and lumps of caramel chocolate to keep them going from dusk till dawn. With many of the crew used to city life where you can get anything pretty much at any time it is always best for the catering department to be well prepared.

food-philippa4So upon arrival first on the to-do list was to make this stash of treats and snacks. My mother had shouted at me before I dashed through airport security not to forget “it’s all about power balls!” (Yes, odd looks from fellow passengers did ensue). For anyone who doesn’t know, they are healthy balls that can replace sweet treats made of nuts and dried fruit. They are sugar-free, vegan-friendly, paleo-positive, and yet supposedly delicious… I’ll be the judge of that I thought!

It turns out that power balls are delicious (actually vegan chocolate quinoa cookies aren’t half bad either).  So I made a stash of each and waited in anticipation for someone to pop into the kitchen looking for something special…

Within one and a half hours of arrival the charming tailor came in. “Hi darling, don’t suppose you have any energy bars, we are starving!” “Well as a matter of fact,” I beamed, “How about some power balls?” “Oh super!” he cried, grabbed a handful and dashed off back to the shoot. The power balls were clearly a success as a runner was sent in for another handful only half an hour later and I realised my mother was right, it is all about power balls.

Power balls

These are really are a tasty healthy treat and with no sugar, gluten or dairy they are basically guilt free. The measurements are a rough guide as you will see when making them if they need more dry or wet

Date, brazil nut and goji berries
250g dates (stones removed)
75g brazil nuts
75g whole blanched almonds
1 tbs goji berries
50g desiccated coconut

Soak the dates in boiling water for a couple of minutes till just soft. Drain well. Blitz the nuts in a food processor till finely ground then place in a bowl. Blitz the drained dates till roughly a paste. With your hands mix the dates with the almonds and add the goji berries till you have a manageable “dough.” Add more nuts or dates if necessary. Shape into balls (slightly smaller than a golf ball) and roll in the coconut. Then they are ready to eat! Store in a cool dry place in a sealed container.

This recipe has huge possibilities so once you get the hang of them try different ingredients like mango, ginger, lime and almond, or apple, fig and hazelnut.

For more of Philippa’s postcard recipes visit her website