Thursday, October 1, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
It has been a busy weekend - the book signing on Saturday, the Bristol Half on Sunday followed by a lovely post half lunch at friends and then my birthday (for which Mark cooked a delicious...no, I mean really really delicious roast beef). On top of this of course there have been the normal kids activities - a rugby match against Taunton School and a football match plus rugby, football and swimming training. Not wanting to go too overboard singing my husband's praises, he dealt with all the kids stuff this weekend brilliantly...except the washing of the kit of course (claims he doesn't know how to work the washing machine).
For my birthday the kids gave me Rick Stein's Mediterranean Escapes, a beautifully illustrated book packed with tasty dishes, many of which you can actually cook quickly and easily. I'd say my knowledge of Mediterranean cooking is pretty good, but this book has definitely got some delicious ideas, even if some of the recipes contain ingredients that you wouldn't normally find down the local supermarket or deli. What's more, the majority of them are healthy, wholesome and low fat. As I was a bit fed up with couscous, rice and pasta having spent the past week carbo-loading, I was yearning for some delicious potatoes, so last night we had the Fennel Sausages braised with Lemony Potatoes and Bay Leaves out of Rick's book (or rather our local butcher's Cumberland sausages to which I added a tablespoon of fennel seeds) . It was dead quick and easy and truly delicious. We ate it with a scrumptious lollo rosso salad in a mustardy dressing made with cider vinegar and pumpkin seed oil and it made the perfect accompaniment. I think it would also be good if you replaced the sausages with a nice pork chop or a piece of chicken. This is my rather bastardised version of Rick Stein's recipe:
- 500g nice quality meaty sausages - Rick Stein's recipe uses fennel sausages, but I've no idea where you'd get them in Bristol, so I added:
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, finely sliced
- 4 garlic cloves (2 if the sausages are garlicky), finely sliced
- 750g waxy potatoes - they must be waxy ones or the dish won't work - I used pink firs, which I just washed and didn't bother peeling and cut into long halves or quarters depending on their size
- zest and juice of a lemon
- 4 fresh bay leaves
- 4 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaved parsley
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Brown the sausages gently in 1 tbsp of the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish or roasting dish. Set aside.
- Gently saute the onion, garlic and fennel seeds in another tbsp of the oil until they are soft and then add the potatoes, the sausages, the bay leaves, the lemon zest and 1/2 the juice, 2 tbsp of the parsley, a good pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
- Pour on the rest of the oil and add some water - about 120ml or to about 1 inch depth. Cover tightly (I covered it with tin foil as I used a roasting dish) and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are just tender.
- Add the rest of the parsley and squeeze the rest of the lemon juice over before serving.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Come and say hello to me at Borders, Queen's Road, Bristol on Saturday 5th September, 11.30 - 12.30, especially if you're about to run the Bristol Half - I'll be offering advice on nutrition and recipes for training and signing copies of my book.
Here's the link to the Borders site http://bristol.borders.co.uk/events/bristol/6/
Looking forward to meeting you!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Griddled lamb cutlets with chickpea and sweet potato pilau
We're getting to the end of the kids Summer holidays and stocks are getting pretty low. I've been delaying a big food shop in favour of much more interesting activities like long runs, bike rides with the kids or trips to buy new school shoes (?!) and so last night was most definitely a "scratch" meal....but sometimes they are the best. Within 10 minutes, a most delicious aroma had filled the house and supper was ready - not only a tasty and speedy meal, but a perfect low G.I., high carbohydrate dish for my preparation for the Bristol Half Marathon on Sunday.
I had some fresh chicken stock and so decided on a risotto to accompany some lamb cutlets which had reached their best before date - it was only when I started to saute an onion as the first stage of the risotto that I discovered I had run out of risotto rice. When you're running sometimes you have to be flexible and change your goals when things don't go to plan - this can happen in just the same way with cooking and a quick change of plan was needed - it had to be a pilau with basmati rice. I threw in a sweet potato, some chopped celery, a spoon of madras paste, some crushed cardamom seeds and a tin of chickpeas. I added the rice to this mixture, mixed it all up and then covered it with the hot stock. Ten minutes later the pilau was ready - finished off with some finely chopped green chilli and a big handful of fresh coriander, a healthy, energy-giving and tasty meal for five had been prepared in a blip....and subsequently demolished in about the same amount of time!
Ingredients - serves 5
- 10 lamb cutlets ( I seasoned mine with herbes de provence and a little moroccan spice mix)
- 350-375 g good quality basmati rice (about two big handfuls per person)
- 1 onion, finely sliced
- 1 stick celery, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 1 scant tablespoon madras paste (I use Pataks)
- the seeds of 3-4 cardamom pods, crushed in a pestle and mortar
- 400g tin chickpeas
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
- chicken stock
- large handful of fresh coriander, chopped roughly
- 1 large green chilli, finely sliced into rings
- yoghurt sauce - mix a pinch of salt, pinch of sugar, pinch of chilli powder, pinch of coriander or ras-el-hanout spice mix into about 5 tablespoons natural yoghurt
- Prepare the lamb cutlets - coat them in whatever herbs and spices you have decided to use and heat up the griddle.
- Gently saute the onion and celery in the oil and then add the sweet potato after a couple of minutes. I use a large, deep frying pan with a lid - this sort of thing is perfect for a pilau. Add the madras paste, the cardamom seeds and the chickpeas and then stir it all around for a minute or so.
- Add the rice and stir so that all the ingredients are well mixed up.
- Add enough hot stock to cover the rice by about 1/2 cm. When the stock comes to the boil again, turn down the heat to very gently and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Basmati rice cooks really quickly so check to see if the rice is cooked after about 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile griddle the lamb cutlets. A good trick is to leave them on the griddle without turning until the fat goes really crisp, then turn them and finish them off on the other side.
- When the pilau is cooked, add the fresh coriander and the slices of chilli and serve with the cutlets and the yoghurt sauce.
- I found half a bag of watercress in the fridge which I livened up with a mustardy dressing - this went really well with the lamb and pilau.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I've been invited onto Radio Bristol's Dinner party Hour on Saturday morning (9-10 if anyone's interested!). I've got to choose 4 people, dead or alive, that I'd like to invite to dinner, what I'd serve to eat and drink and what music I'd play. Of course, Haile Gebrselassie has to be up there amongst my favorites. I think he might be a vegetarian so I'll have to have a think about something delicious for him, or maybe even try out some Teff, an ethiopian grain which is rich in minerals and which the great Haile says contributes to the success of ethiopian runners (along with genes, poverty and sheer determination). Haile Gebrselassie runs with a crooked arm, which is apparently due to the fact that he spent his childhood running 10km to and from school, carrying his books under his arm.
While researching Haile, I came across an amazing site called runnervision.com which is packed with videos on endurance - watch endurance on-line. It's got hundreds of videos, including Usain Bolt's world record at the World Championships last week, plus an interview with the great marathon record holder Haile Gebrselassie:/p>
Sunday, August 23, 2009
The past two weeks have been spent camping in the wilds and kayaking down the River Wye, hence the lack of blogs. I don't have internet on my mobile phone and there was absolutely no question of taking my laptop on the kayak, so I have been free from any contact with the outside world, apart from the odd newspaper....I like that!
Here's some pics of the Wye trip. Huge salmon jumping around us (unfortunately not into the boat!), otters, herons, buzzards etc, heaps of blackberries and delicious field mushrooms to forage. Campfires every night. Happy, contented children. And it only rained for one morning. Paradise really, although quite hard work.
Better pics to follow once my 73 year-old mother-in-law, Sylvia a.k.a. extreme grannie, has worked out how to email them to me.
I hope I can get back into running fitness for the Bristol Half Marathon on 6th September and the Inverness Monster Duathlon the following weekend as the canoeing was very good for the upper body strength, but not so good for the legs! We managed to get out for a few early morning runs, but went no further than about 6 miles.
We've returned to a bumper crop of apples in our garden so I've been hard at work picking, peeling, coring and storing the things. It's a great excuse to delay other houshold chores like the dreaded washing that makes coming home from a camping holiday such hell! I know there are countless exciting ways of using apples (and we have a range of varieties from bramley cookers to eater such as cox's orange pippin) but what we and the kids really enjoy is a good old apple crumble or apple and almond bake. Here's my recipe for a delicious (and very simple) apple and almond bake. It's not just a treat for the kids, it also makes for a tasty, filling and healthy dessert for athletes. The almonds provide good, cholesterol-reducing monounsaturated fats and also contain significant amounts of the antioxidant vitamin E, plus magnesium and potassium and of course the apples are packed with low G.I. carbohydrate, dietary fibre and anti-oxidants, plus vitamin C.
Here's the recipe:
Apple and Almond Bake
- Bramley cooking apples (about 4-5 medium sized)
- 1 tbsp runny honey
- 1 tbsp demerara sugar
- pinch of ground cinnamon
- 175g ground almonds
- 1/2 tsp baking powder (optional)
- 175g caster sugar
- 175g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 3 medium free range eggs
- zest of half a lemon
- Heat the oven to 180C.
- Peel, core and chop the apples.
- Place the apples in a saucepan, cover, and then heat gently with the cinnamon, a tbsp water, a tbsp honey and a tbsp sugar until purreed.
- Pour into an ovenproof dish (about 20cm diameter, but don't worry if it is a bit smaller or larger).
- Beat the sugar, lemon zest and butter together with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each one is well incorporated.
- Gently fold in the baking powder and almonds.
- Pour mixture onto the apples and spread it evenly so that all the apples are covered.
- Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes, or until golden and risen.
I know I'm a sucker for shoes, but when I was offered a pair of Skechers Shape Ups to review by the guys at fitness footwear, I was slightly dubious about what my reaction might be towards them. With their particularly shaped sole, they do look a little "space age" . However, when I opened the box I was very pleasantly surprised by how stylish they were...and how incredibly light. My Shape Ups are in a black suede finish (Sketchers Shape Ups Optimize) and I have to say they do look really good with jeans, which I suppose if I am being honest is my standard dress when not in my running kit!
So what's so special about Shape Ups? Shape Ups are the new range of fitness shoes from Skechers which are designed to give you a better workout while you walk by mimicking the effects of barefoot walking. Apparently if you wear your Shape Ups regularly you benefit from better muscle tone - firmer buttocks(!), better posture, faster fat burn, improved blood circulation, tighter abdominals, reduced cellulite....this list goes on...and this all happens just while you're walking around as part of your normal day!
As a fairly lean runner, I don't really have much of a problem in the muscle tone and fat burn department, but my incredibly active cyclist/kayaking mother-in-law (or, as some say, "extreme grannie"), absolutely swears by these shoes. What they don't mention in the promotional information is that I think you can actually walk further before your legs start to feel tired. This is really important for me - after a 10 mile run sometimes the thought of walking the 3 mile round trip to school to collect my children seems rather daunting....but not with my new Shape Ups!
The best suprise for me of these Shape Ups is the all-important comfort factor. I could wear them for ever and ever. In fact, once you have put them on you just don't want to take them off. They may mimick the effects of barefoot walking, but they are certainly a lot more comfortable. We have a rule in our house that you must take off your shoes but I just want to keep my Shape Ups on, especially as most of my time at home is spent standing up in the kitchen - what I really need is an indoor and an outdoor pair!
For more information, take a look at the on-line guide to Skechers Shape Ups.
Monday, July 27, 2009
My 10 mile run yesterday was wet and windswept, yet for some bizarre reason it was the best run I've had in a long time. I felt really strong and managed to speed up for the whole of the last mile despite the howling gale into which I was running. I met some friends 'mid-run' and rather than stopping for a long chat I invited them for tea and cakes later. It was a great opportunity to try out my 'runners version' of the sticky date putting I had so been wanting to bake. I found this recipe in a lovely blog called Citrus and Candy and immediatly thought about adding a few extras to make it a really good treat for recovery after a big workout. The original recipe is soaked with a butterscotch sauce but we found this too sweet and decided the cake was much nicer with a good dollop of creme fraiche instead.
So why is this cake a good recovery treat?
Well, there's plenty of carbohydrate to replenish the glycogen levels in those tired muscles; dates are one of the few dried fruits with a high G.I., which means that the carbohydrate in them is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, there's protein from the eggs to help repair any muscle trauma, the added ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory and the walnuts are a great superfood, containing heaps of omega-3 and anti-oxidants. And it takes only a few minutes to make and tastes gorgeous!
Here's my version without the butterscotch sauce. If you were making this for a dessert, you may want to make some sauce to go with it:
- 140g pitted dates, chopped coarsely
- 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 190 ml boiling water
- handful of walnuts, chopped coarsely
- 2 lumps of preserved, stem ginger, chopped quite finely
- 90g softened unsalted butter
- 110g soft light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 medium free range eggs
- 130g self raising flour, sifted
- 1 tbsp preserved ginger syrup
- Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 20 cm square cake tin
- Put the dates into a bowl with the bicarbonate of soda and pour over the boiling water and leave for 20 minutes
- Beat together the sugar, vanilla extract and butter until pale and fluffy
- Add the eggs and beat well
- Fold in the date mixture (inc.water), the walnuts and the ginger and then fold in the flour
- Pour into a cake tin (the mixture is meant to be quite runny, don't worry)
- Bake for 30 minutes until the cake is risen and golden brown
- Cool in the tin for five minutes and then turn it out onto a wire rack
- Warm the ginger syrup, prick the cake all over with a skewer and pour over the syrup so that it soaks in and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I've been busy this afternoon making little lemon tarts and and a rather tempting-to-the-eye apricot tarte tatin...delicious. Well, they probably are, but they're for a friend so I mustn't touch unfortunately!
We've had a really fun weekend of activity. I went along to the Bristol Half Marathon Training weekend, held by Run Bristol and the team at Full Potential, sold a few copies of Go Faster Food, and then did a 9 1/2 mile run in the evening....in the sun (I think that was the last time it peeked out from those heavy rainclouds we've got here in Bristol at the moment). I felt really good and even sprinted at the end! Nick at Full Potential recommends that you should incorporate a few race pace sessions of 10 minutes or so into your weekly long run, so that your body learns to know what to expect. That makes sense to me and it gave the run a nice focus point.
On Sunday, Mark took hold of my book and cooked up some of my American Blueberry Pancakes which he served up as a late breakfast with maple syrup and some crispy bacon...yes, the kids are away!! He misread the abbreviation 2 tsp as 2 tablespoons - of baking powder (!)- but I managed to thwart his attempts at sabotaging my recipe and the end result was completely delicious. We were nicely stoked up for our cycle along the Bristol to Bath railway path for lunch with our lovely friends there. Door to door is only about 20 miles but the rain was torrential from start to finish and what is normally a gorgeous cycle ride was pretty unpleasant really!
The American Blueberry Pancakes are in the breakfast section of Go Faster Food - Page 60 - (maybe I'll make them recipe of the month at some point?). They are actually fantastic for post exercise recovery; a great fun and tasty way to get some high G.I. carbohydrate and protein into your system after a serious workout, with the added kick of the blueberries, now classed as a superfood and bursting with nutrients. It is really important to feed your tired muscles with some fast-acting carbohydrate to replenish your glycogen stores after exercise, and you need some protein to help repair any muscle trauma. What's great about these pancakes is that you can make the mixture before you leave the house, dream about them when the going gets tough on your run and then cook them on your return, even while you're doing your stretches. Hey presto, you'll be sitting down and pouring maple syrup over your first one within the 15 minute magic window of recovery!