Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Biscuits

Greek Biscuits:

My daughter is turning out to be a bit of an intellectual and a linguist. She is, in fact, just about to do her GCSE in Ancient Greek...something which I remember attempting only for about a term. Her lovely teachers held a 'Classical' Christmas party, to which the students all turned up dolled up as gods and goddesses, gladiators and lions and I made her my version of some Greek biscuits to take as a gift. We used to always buythem for breakfast from the local bakers when on holiday on the Greek island of Levkas...years and years ago in the pre-touristy days before an airport was built there. 

These bitesize biscuits melt in your mouth and are perfect for Christmas, especially if you add a little mixed spice or cinnamon to them....They are not particularly healthy as they contain butter, sugar and white flour, but it is Christmas and you could always keep them as a treat to eat after your run. They do also contain whole blanched almonds, toasted, which are a bit of a superfood, low G.I., high in vitamin E, magnesium and potassium and health-promoting mono-unsaturated fats. 

Here's the basic recipe:

250g plain flour
175g unsalted butter, softened
75g caster sugar
Large handful of whole blanched almonds, toasted
pinch of salt
1 tsp mixed spice/cinnamon (optional)
Mixture of 1 tbsp cornflour and 2 tbsp icing sugar
  1. Lightly grease a baking tray and heat the oven to 170. Lightly toast the almonds.
  2. Mix together the flour, sugar, salt and butter by gently rubbing together with your fingers until it becomes like fine breadcrumbs - just like you would do with a crumble mixture.
  3. Add the almonds to the mixture.
  4. Squeeze together small handfuls of the mixture to form little slug-shaped pellets (sorry, that is the only way I can think of describing them).
  5. Place on the baking tray and cook for about 15 minutes until golden.
  6. Remove and cool slightly and then roll in the icing sugar/cornflour mix.
  7. Eat...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Running on Springs

Why have I not been running much over the past two weeks when I have been so desperate to get out and try out my new New Balance running shoes from  fitness ?

I have either been
a)   working....and making Christmas goodies (blogs to follow)
b)   hiding under the duvet as it has either been too dark, too cold or too frosty to get out first thing
c)   discouraged from running on my own in the evening or early morning due to several rapes and attacks on women (including runners) in the area recently
d) driving children from pillar to post in the Christmas frenzy of sporting events, Christmas parties, concerts etc

Now things are about to change. My resolution is to run more or less every day so that I can get my fitness back up to scratch to start my marathon training after Christmas. I am going to stick to the roads for next few weeks as this is probably safer and a good deal less muddy than my usual tracks at the moment. 

I have to say that this will be an absolute pleasure in my new shoes - new balance 1062. Fitness footwear is a new website to me, selling all sorts of cool shoes covering practically every sport (even free running!) They also stock casual shoes -  take a look at the really gorgeous Emu and Caterpillar boots. I rarely buy running shoes over the internet as I do like to try them on first, but I had heard that these New Balance shoes were great for neutral runners with narrow feet so I decided to give them a go.  I asked a few questions through the  superb interactive help and contact link on the website which were answered very efficiently and I think with some knowledge. Before I knew it, I was putting my off-road Salomons in the cupboard and hitting the tarmac with my New Balance 1062 road runners. 

All I can say is WOW! I LOVE THEM. I am definitely going to get another pair as I like to have two pairs of shoes on the go during marathon training. The cushioning makes them incredibly comfortable and puts a bit of a spring in your step when you run, but most importantly they come in a narrow width, which for me, is an absolute godsend. I find that most shoes end up like boats on my feet. Up until now I hadn't found a good replacement to my old Asics gel nimbus 9's, as the new version is far too wide for me.  I like to have a little extra room in the length - it is most certainly my secret to finishing my marathons with unadulterated toenails - and this usually means compromising on the width. Not with these New Balance narrow width shoes. The B width holds the foot steady and gives sufficient support, while leaving plenty of room in the forefoot for you to wiggle your toes and keep them warm in this freezing weather.

I think I have finally found the perfect shoe for me. A comfortable shoe for me to clock up the miles in with, I hope, enough support and cushioning to prevent injury and enough length to keep my toenails intact for the Summer. Thank you! I just need to do some more training to get my speed up a little for that sub 3.30 marathon next year...!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Buckwheat Pancakes

I have found it very difficult to do any blogging over the past few weeks. The deadline for my book Go Faster Food has been drawing ever closer and I have been working flat out to get it finished. I am in the final throws of proof-reading, dotting i's and crossing t's and such like. I have been working so hard that running has been put on the back-burner as well. I have to say that rather than feeling unfit after a break, I feel that the old joints and muscles have had a nice well-earned rest and I am now ready to start again, afresh, ready for the next few months of hard marathon training. My plans are to do London, for which I have another Good For Age entry, and then to do Stockholm with Mark (long-suffering and gorgeous husband) and some friends.

And so to food, the stuff of life...and running...

I have been experimenting with buckwheat recently. Despite its name, buckwheat, or sarrasin, is a member of the rhubarb family and has absolutely nothing to do with wheat. It is naturally gluten-free and has a deliciously sweet, nutty flavour. It is traditionally used in Brittany in “galettes au sarrasin”, or buckwheat pancakes. Breton galettes can be filled with any number of fillings. You could try this recipe with traditional savoury fillings - slices of brie, goat’s cheese, smoked salmon, caramelized onions or eggs, or with sweet fillings - bananas and syrup is one of my favourites. Buckwheat is a very good source of manganese, magnesium and dietary fibre. It contains flavenoids and good quality protein and is said to control blood sugar levels. It certainly keeps you full of energy for hours. The Bretons not only tend to make their galettes with dry Breton cider rather than milk and water, but they also wash them down with a few glasses of the delicious nectar. By all means try this, but not if you are about to go to the gym or run a half-marathon. This is my non-alcoholic breakfast version, which I prefer with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, or ham and cheese and a crisp, green salad.

 As with traditional pancakes, the batter is lighter if you leave it to rest for a while.

 Serving size: makes 6-7 galettes


100g buckwheat flour

50g plain flour, wholemeal or plain

( The addition of plain wheat flour improves the texture of the galettes. If you want to make the pancakes gluten-free, just use 150g buckwheat flour instead)

30g melted salted butter

1 fresh free-range egg

200 ml water

100 ml semi-skimmed milk

Scant pinch of salt

Butter to cook

Slices of ham and grated cheese


  1. Mix the two flours together, add a pinch of salt and make a small well in the centre for the egg.
  2. Break the egg into the mixture and then add the milk and half the water.
  3. Beat together with an electric hand whisk until the mixture is nice and smooth. Mix in the rest of the water and the melted butter. The mixture should be the consistency of thin cream.
  4. If possible, leave the mixture to rest for a few hours or overnight.
  5. Heat a pancake pan or large non-stick frying pan. Add a knob of butter and move the pan around so that the butter melts to cover the base of the pan. Add a small ladleful of the batter and quickly swirl it around so that you have a very thin layer of batter covering the whole of the pan. You can use a palette knife or an egg slice if you have one to spread out the mixture. Let this cook for two minutes over a medium heat, or until it comes away easily from the pan when you shake it. Then toss the pancake over and cook for a minute or two on the other side.
  6. Flip the pancake back over and then pop a very small knob of butter, a thin slice of ham and a tablespoon of grated cheese onto one half of the pancake.
  7. Fold the plain half of the pancake over the filling and then fold in half again and cook on a very gentle heat for a minute or two to melt the cheese.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Maple Syrup Almonds

I've just found a really useful website for Bristol runners - take a look at it and plan your next run! . I've put a link to this blog in my links list for future reference.

Autumn is approaching fast and butternut squash and pumpkins are everywhere. Not only are they cheap to buy, but they are DELICIOUS and REALLY NUTRITIOUS, especially roasted in the oven with a little oil, salt, pepper and cumin. I made a really satifying roasted butternut squash risotto this week. It is low cost, dead healthy and easy to make. Give it a go....

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Maple Syrup Almonds
This is a wonderful midweek training dish for the autumn. Butternut squash is one of those vegetables that has an amazing array of nutrients – it is an excellent source of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory beta carotene (vitamin A), it contains good amounts of vitamin C, potassium and fibre, plus folic acid, omega 3 gatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, niacin….the list is endless. Add the almonds, parmesan and the risotto rice to this and you have a very tasty and nutritious low G.I. meal. I make the most of standing over the risotto by doing my stretches while I am stirring.

N.B. You can render this meal into a higher G.I. recovery meal by replacing the butternut squash with pumpkin.

Ingredients - serves 4
1 Butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into 2cm cubes
1 onion, finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Knob of butter and 2 tbsp olive oil
350g risotto rice – vialone nano or arborio, for instance
1.5 litres hot vegetable or chicken stock
Glass of dry white wine
1 tsp saffron strands
75g freshly grated parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Small handful of flaked almonds
1 tbsp maple syrup diluted with a few drops of water


  1. Put the squash on a baking sheet and toss it with 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle a tsp of salt and some freshly ground pepper over the top.

  2. Roast in the oven at 200°C for about 25 minutes until the squash is tender and golden. Stir it once or twice while it is roasting and start making the risotto while it is cooking.
    Heat up the stock in a saucepan so that it is ready to ladle onto the rice.

  3. Melt the butter and 1 tbsp olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan and gently sauté the onion until it becomes translucent. Add the garlic and gently sauté for a couple of minutes, without allowing it to brown.
  4. Add the rice and the saffron and stir until the grains become translucent and glossy.
    Add the wine and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add a ladle of hot stock and stir constantly until it is absorbed. Add the hot stock, a ladle at a time. You need to make sure that each ladleful is absorbed by the rice before you add the next one. This should take about 18-20 minutes. You may need more or less stock according to the type of rice and the rate of absorption.
  5. Meanwhile mix the almonds with the maple syrup and water and pop them in the oven for about 5 minutes until golden.
  6. The rice is cooked when it looks nice and creamy and slightly al dente. Taste it to see if you need more salt (it depends how salty your stock is as to how much you need), turn off the heat, stir in the parmesan and the butternut squash and a generous knob of butter. Let the mixture stand for a couple of minutes.
    Serve with the almonds and some fresh parmesan shavings.
  7. I think this goes really well with a crisp green salad (frisee or gem) with crispy bacon/pancetta pieces and tossed in a light balsmamic dressing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Run to the Rhythm

Its not often you get an interesting article in the daily papers about running. The Independent, however, had a good article on running to music today; a subject about which my husband, Mark, and I have totally different viewpoints. Well, you are either in the music camp or not. I definitely am. He definitely is not.

Music is one of the most important aspects to my training. After food, that is! I am sure that I run faster with music, especially if it is a long-distance run. According to Costas Karageorghis, a sports psychologist at Brunel University, most runners find the exercise more pleasurable than usual if they run with music. They also run further and for longer. He looks at it as a "legal drug" as it apparently blocks fatigue-related messages to the brain and reduces those negative feelings that I am sure all runners get from time to time! Even Haile Gebrselassie runs to dance music - Scatman? - click for the utube video.I know Paula Radcliffe trains to music as I have seen her playlist. I listen to a variety of music, from naf disco music to Bach, but I have to say that the best music to run with for me is Bach's Goldberg Variations, a recording by Stefano Greco, which is awesome.If you can find music which transports you into another world you can quite often forget the pain of the long run.

Mark is a purist and reckons that it takes the focus away from the running and that you should listen to your body. That is all very well, but sometimes if I listened to my body I would stop and walk!

Run to the beat.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Flora London Marathon 2009 or go for Boston? Not on a fig, nasturtium and goats cheese salad

I am starting to get itchy feet again and I do think it is time to start thinking about my next marathon. I have given myself a few weeks off to give the old legs a well-earned rest and I am also incredibly busy getting my book ready for the December deadline, so haven't had much spare time to do any long runs.

Today I received my Good For Age acceptance form for the London Marathon in April 2009, so I have to decide between running London in April, running Boston (also in April) or running Stockholm in May 2009. I want to run with my husband and a group of friends in Stockholm, but in my heart of hearts I want to do Boston and I feel I ought to do it because I have qualified for it. I think it is really the creme de la creme of the top 5 world marathons - London, New York, Berlin, Boston and Chicago. Boston is the only marathon you have to be fast enough to qualify for. I have done London, New York and Berlin and now I have qualified for Boston maybe it would be churlish not to run it. Then I would just have Chicago to go....

I made a really special salad yesterday for lunch. Not great for endurance, but delicious, healthy and full of flavour, vitamins and protein all the same. Figs are all over the place at the moment - they are even selling them 2 for the price of 1 in Waitrose - and I am such a useless gardener my garden is overrun with nasturtiums. I think they are fantastic in a salad. They look pretty and they have a lovely strong, peppery flavour. Combined with a light cheese souffle, the sweetness of the figs and the honey dressing, this little salad works beautifully and looks gorgeous:

Salad of figs, parma ham, rocket and nasturtium flowers with a honey balsamic dressing

Serves 4

Four large handfuls of rocket leaves
4 ripe figs
6-8 nasturtium leaves
4 slices of parma ham
2 tbsp olive oil
1 dessertspoon white balsamic vinegar
1 dessertspoon honey
salt and pepper

Arrange everything on 4 plates and pour over the dressing. Eat immediately.

Twice baked goats cheese souffle - Serves 4

225ml milk
1 bayleaf
knob of butter (25g)
tbsp self-raising flour (25g)
100g soft goats cheese
2 eggs separated
lots of freshly ground black pepper
  1. Do points 1 to 8 in advance and then point 9 just before you want to eat. Heat the milk in a pan with the bayleaf, a little grated nutmeg and plenty of black pepper and bring it slowly to a simmer. Strain and leave to cool slightly.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan and make a roux with the flour. Cook it very gently until it becomes a glossy paste and then gradually add the milk, stirring all the time. Cook gently for a couple of minutes until the sauce is thick and smooth.
  3. Beat together the egg whites in a clean bowl until they form soft peaks.
  4. Beat the egg yolks into the sauce mixture and then fold in the goats cheese. Taste for seasoning.
  5. Fold the egg whites into the mixture very gently to keep in the air and then divide the airy mixture into 4 - 8 really well buttered ramekins (depending on their size).
  6. Pop them into the oven on a baking tray and then pour about a cm of water into the bottom of the tray.
  7. Cook for about 15 minutes at 180 C.
  8. Take them out of the oven and leave to cool.
  9. When you are ready to cook the souffles, take them out of the ramekins, place them onto a greased baking sheet, sprinkle them with extra cheese if you want, and bake them in the oven at 180C for about 20 minutes, until they are puffy and crispy on the top. Serve them immediately with the above salad.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Crunchy Granola

I think I've just made the perfect granola. Sprinkle it over yoghurt and fresh fruits for a quick and easy breakfast, or just snack on it whenever you feel inclined. It takes minutes to make, it keeps for ages and it is light, healthy and sustaining! And it really is one of those things that tastes so much better than the sweet, sickly packet stuff.
I had this this morning before a quick 4 mile run. It didn't take long to digest and kept me going perfectly.
Crunchy Granola

200g unrefined porridge oats
250g mixed nuts – I like flaked almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, walnuts and pistachios. Pecans and hazelnuts are nice too
100g mixed dried fruit – raisins, crystalised ginger, dried apricots, figs and/or dates, chopped (optional)
2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp sunflower oil or melted butter
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger


  1. Heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Mix together the oats and nuts with the spices and the honey, oil and water.
  3. Spread the mixture evenly onto a large baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown, turning the mixture around every 10 minutes or so for it to brown evenly.
  5. Leave to cool and crisp up and add the dried fruit if using.
  6. Store in an airtight container.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Run for Recovery - 20th Reebok Bristol Half Marathon

After a combination of grey skies and drizzle here in Bristol for the whole of the summer, you can imagine my surprise when the morning of 14th September welcomed me with streams of sunlight pouring into the room.

I knew then that it was going to be a good one. I downed my pint of water, made my normal pre-race breakfast of porridge topped with walnuts, blueberries and greek honey – good slow-burning, low- G.I. unrefined carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals and bit of glucose - and sorted out my race number.

The start of the Reebok Bristol Half Marathon is only ½ mile away from my home which made for an unusually leisurely race morning experience, and gave me lots of time to pop a batch of white chocolate chip brownies into the oven for the post-half recovery lunch.

Of course, running past you own house twice during a race demands a certain willpower, especially when you know that the fridge is packed with cold beers and there is a casserole bubbling away in the oven!

Hats off to the race organizers of this year’s Reebok Bristol Half Marathon. They really excelled themselves. I have run the Bristol ½ for the past few years and I my enjoyment of it has always been marred by the sheer number of people running. The start, especially in 2007, was chaotic and busy, unpleasantly so, in fact. Crammed into the start pen like a sheep, I remember thinking “What am I doing. This is hell. I could do the same course tomorrow in peace without all these crowds”. There was hardly any space to run for the first few miles and it didn’t really open up for the whole race.

This year, however, was a totally different story. From start to finish everything appeared well-organised. The start was split into two waves according to predicted times with two different assembly areas. The atmosphere was calm, friendly, less congested and really rather pleasant. We easily met up with our friends, we easily found a good place to stand in the pen 100 metres from the start just behind the pack of elite runners, and we easily set off at a fast sub 8 minute mile pace. My husband, Mark, and I decided to run together for the first time ever. Mark is usually faster than me, but neither of us had trained properly so we decided to just enjoy the race together. This would have been nigh on impossible in the throng of runners last year but this year there was no question of losing each other - we had tons of space.

The finish was well-funneled and the goodie bag was perfect, containing just what a girl needs after running 13.1 miles – a Double Decker chocolate bar and a lucozade.

The run past Bristol’s major sites is very picturesque- the harbourside, the SS Great Britain, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the Avon Gorge - but what I find most inspiring is seeing the elite runners running back in towards the city when you are on mile 4 or 5. Everyone claps and cheers and your mind is taken off-focus for a bit as you gaze in awe at them sprinting past. After mile 9 the race suddenly becomes a bit trickier and there are a few nasties to deal with – too many corners to weave around, horrible medieval cobbles around mile 10 and then, just to finish you off, a nasty little hill at mile 11+….all character-building stuff.

Mark and I came in together at a not-particularly-respectable 1:46 and after a few very sweaty hugs (why do men always seem to kiss you on both cheeks after sprinting though the finish line!) we did a quick power-walk home to prepare for the post-half lunch.
No time to sit down and recover for us - after a quick shower I was warming up the two casseroles I had made the day before and preparing the couscous and salad while Mark sorted the drinks situation – plenty of cold beers and wine, J2Os for the kids and fizzy water.
A short while later I was sitting down with my guests, sipping a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and eating a tagine of spiced lamb with flageolet beans, green garlic sauce, couscous with roasted almonds and a lovely crisp green salad. It seemed to hit the spot with everyone. Pudding was a choice of tarts - date and cardamom and chocolate pecan or walnut and white chocolate brownies with cinnamon cream. Good puds full of high GI glucose to get straight to those tired muscles. I have never seen a tray of brownies disappear so rapidly.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Count-down to the Half Marathon...Time to Carbo-Load!

I have most certainly not done enough training for the Bristol Half Marathon to beat my PB and get a fast time (for me), so I have decided to 'enjoy' it rather than go all out for the kill. The Bristol Half is nice for a provincial girl like me because I know the route and so many of the spectators are friends, family or acquaintances. It makes such a difference and boosts the morale so much more than complete strangers cheering you on.

I have been drinking lots this week to keep my hydration levels up, in the anticipation that we will get a hot sunny day, but in fact the weather forecast is for perfect running weather - cloudy with light showers and 16 degrees. At this stage we should be eating about 60-70% carbohydrate so I have been testing out some new carboloading recipes. So far this week we have had:

griddled tuna steak on a bed of spiced, cranberry couscous, with mango and avocado salsa

salmon with basil oil with local baby new potatoes, and

slow-cooked lamb with green flageolet beans and spaetzle.

Friday night will be tagliatelle with spinach, bacon and green garlic sauce and Saturday night will be my good old pre-race vrey high carb. staple - spaghetti with fresh basil, parmesan and toasted pine nuts....and of course I will start Sunday morning with a bowl of Go Faster Porridge, with blueberries, honey and walnuts.

My favourite this week has been the griddled tuna on spiced cranberry couscous- it just oozes flavour, it is fantastic for training and it's packed with goodness. The salsa contains a wide variety of vitamins and the couscous is a good low fat, medium GI carbohydrate. It goes without saying that fresh tuna is one of the better sources of omega 3 fatty acids – good for you heart and good for your brain.
And it takes moments to make:

Ingredients for 4:
4 fresh tuna steaks
For the Salsa:
1 mango (not too ripe), cut into small cubes
1 avocado (not too ripe), cut into small cubes
Handful of firm cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 shallot (very finely chopped)
Bunch of mint, roughly chopped
Bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin

pinch of chilli powder
1/2 tsp coriander seed, crushed in pestle and mortar
Juice of one lime
1/2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
For the Couscous:
250g couscous
Small pack dried cranberries
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander

1. Prepare the salsa: combine all the ingredients, season and refrigerate.
2. Turn on the griddle and leave it to get really hot.
3. Prepare the couscous: add a drop of olive oil and about 150ml stock (check pack for exact amount - an approx. measure is an equal volume of liquid to couscous), stir and leave for 5 minutes. In a separate dish, pour boiling water on the cranberries and leave for a few minutes to soften. Strain and stir into the couscous when it is ready, fluffing it up gently with a fork. Season couscous according to taste.
4. When the griddle is smoking hot, season the tuna steaks with salt and black pepper and then place on the griddle for about 2 minutes each side, less if they are not very thick. They need to be pink in the middle or they will be tough.
5. Give the steaks a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, season with more salt and pepper and serve on individual plates with the couscous and the salsa.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

On the Blog again

Life has been very unsettled this month. The unexpected death of a very dear friend has put me, my family and my friends completely out of sorts and I certainly have not been up to writing a post on the blog. I feel that I have lived the last few weeks in a haze ; trying to keep up the routine of work, home life and running, finalising recipes for my new daily recipe feed on and for the book, alongside ferrying the children about......doing all this whilst really constantly thinking of my wonderful friend and her grieving husband and kids.

But life must go on. This kids are back at school, the blog must be written!...and my late friend would not have wanted it any other way.

For this reason, my training for the Bristol Half Marathon has been rather half-hearted. I started the Summer with great ambitions of getting a really fast time in the 1/2. I am such a steady runner that my 1/2 marathon time is pretty similar t0 my 13 mile split in a full marathon. In theory I should be able to get round the course quicker. I have sped up slightly - managed to do 6 miles at 7.5 minute miles, but I am not sure whether I can keep up that speed for the full 13, especially as it is next week. But we'll see...

On a positive note, we had the most fantastic holiday in France and, back in the UK, my 15 year-old daughter did the South Coast Triathlon and won a medal for the fastest girl in her age group. I have to say that I was very, very proud. It was her first triathlon - a sprint triathlon (750M sea swim, 21k bike ride and 5 k run) in the foulest weather ever.

The sea look about as uninviting as it can get - rough, grey, big current. My daughter came a close fourth in the swim, despite the fact that she managed to swim out to sea in the wrong direction after about 500 metres (the kayak marshals managed to redirect her!)...and she was the only female without a wetsuit. The bike ride was through the driving rain and then to run 5k after all that...well, that takes some effort. It also takes some practice to swap from swimming kit to cycling to running kit, something that my daughter lost huge amounts of time on. Next time I will make sure she has the proper gear and a decent bike! Triathlons really do make pure runnning look like the easy option.

My husband, Mark, and Louis, our 15 year-old French exchange boy was also game enough to give it a go. Louis won the fastest boy in his age group as well. Well done to all of them!

Carbo-loading two teenagers is great fun, especially when they enjoy their food so much - copious amounts of lasagne, green tagliatelle with bolognaise sauce, chicken and chickpea pilau and flapjacks were eaten in the days leading up the the race, but I have to say that they both had trouble eating a good breakfast on the morning of the race. The nerves had kicked in and it was as much as I could do to get them to eat a bowl of cereal...We celebrated their success with a blow-out Indian meal at lal-jomi, our local Indian restaurant (the first taste of Vindaloo for french Louis...and he liked it!).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Publishing Contract! Time for some celebration

Just to say that I am taking a break from the blog until the beginning of August. I am off to France, to a place in the hills with no internet connection and very poor mobile reception....absolute bliss.. ..I am really pleased that I now have a fantastic publishing contract for my book Go Faster Food, which is due to be in the shops in 2009, so I will be celebrating that in style, probably with a little champagne and wine tasting, lying about in the sun, visiting the markets and general relaxation! I suppose I will also be doing some running (early in the morning as it is a bit hilly and hot!) and I will definitely play about with some more recipes for my return....

Food waste? Be clever with leftovers

Apparently we waste 4.1 million tonnes of food each year in the UK and this adds £420 to the average family's annual food bill. I have to say that I absolutely hate waste. Nothing frustrates me more than watching someone leave perfectly good food on a plate , just because they have helped themselves to too much, been given too much in a restaurant, or simply because they are not particularly fond of what is one the plate.

According to Gordon Brown, if we reduce our food waste we will help towards reducing food prices. I am no economist, but I welcome anything that will help the family budget during these times of increased prices. I bet Gordon is pretty frugal....

Anyway, here are some of my tricks for minimising food waste in the home:

  • Shop daily if possible (this is great in theory, but many of us can only manage to do one big weekly shop. If this is the case, then it is a good idea to plan what you are going to cook each day)
  • Use up leftovers carefully - use bones, prawn peelings etc for stock, leftover meat and veg for pasta and risottos.
  • Think before you chuck away - be inventive with what is left in the fridge and store cupboard before stocking up again.
  • Put the dishes of food on the table rather than serve up individual portions. In this way each person around the table helps him/ herself to what they want according to how hungry they are.
  • Keep the fridge cold enough.
  • Don't take use by dates too seriously - they are often worst case scenarios and the food is fine for a few more days.

I was very kindly asked to lunch at a friend's house last week. She served up a very fine dish of twice-baked butternut squash and goats cheese souffle followed by a really delicious chocolate courgette cake - the courgettes and the squash were both "lying in the bottom of the fridge" and had to be used up. I thought that that was a really inventive way of using up waste.

We had three meals this week from two chickens:

This Sunday we had the family to lunch. Mark had bought two beautiful chickens from the local farm and he cooked us a delicious traditional Sunday roast (I had the day off to do a big run and the washing!).

On Monday, I picked off the excess left over chicken, boiled up one of the carcasses for stock, slowly sauteed some onions and finely sliced mushrooms, then added the stock, bay leaves, the chicken and some single cream (also left over from the pud on Sunday). We had a delicious soup for Monday evening. My daughter added pasta to hers as she was off for a big swim early the next morning.

On Tuesday, I used up the rest of the chicken on the boys on Tuesday- chicken baguettes with mayo, cucumber and salad leaves- and then boiled up the second carcass for a French onion soup with cheesy croutons. I finely sliced and gently sauteed a pack of onions which were on the brink of sprouting in some butter and olive oil, bay and thyme, salt, pepper and a sprinkle of sugar, then added the strained stock and a splash of white wine. I sliced some baguette which was starting to go stale, toasted it in some olive oil in the oven and then we ate the soup with these croutons and some grated cheese sprinkled over.

I can proudly say that there is no fresh food in the fridge today. Whoops, what are we going to eat tonight.....?

A great fun website for ideas with leftovers is

Monday, July 7, 2008

Bristol Half Marathon

I have set myself a fairly ambitious target for the Bristol Half Marathon. I feel that if I don't set myself a goal, I won't put in adequate training and I will disappoint myself. Bristol is the only race I have planned in the Autumn so I may as well go for I will try to get in in under 1hr 40, preferably 1:35:59, as my speedy marathon friend, Mark C's pb is 1:36. My best 1/2 marathon time so far is only 1:44. I have to say that I have never actually trained specifically for a 1/2, I have only ever entered them as part of my marathon training, or just because friends are running and it's nice to be sociable. If I could get to one of Liz Yelling's traiing camps I would be more confident about upping my speed, but unfortunately I will be sunning myself (with any luck) in France.

Liz Yelling is a real inspiration. I subscribe to her blog on Take a look at it, it makes very interesting reading. She is so incredibly fast, yet I am always surprised at how 'normal' she seems.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bristol Half Marathon, Rest and Recovery, Chocolate Pecan Tart

I have taken virtually the whole week off from running this week. Lots of excuses for this - my poor limbs were feeling a little weary after the Brecon Beacons, there have been lots of things happening with the book, I have had an article to's funny, you can always find excuses not to run sometimes.

Mark and I have entered for the Bristol Half Marathon in September and this will be my next challenge. Mark and my daughter are going to do the South Coast Triathlon in August, but I'm not a good enough swimmer to even consider this. The Bristol Half is not a favourite race of mine ( too crowded), but it would be churlish not to do it when the start is only a 10 minute walk from the house and the kids can come to the end of the road to cheer us on. It is also great to run with so many friends and actually recognise the supporters lining the streets for once. And the support really is amazing - the whole of Bristol seems to suddenly appear from nowhere to cheer you on. Here's a picture of Paula running past the end of my road! The course is such that you can see all the elite runners running in the opposite direction to you - it's quite inspiring!

I have decided to invite some fellow runners back for lunch afterwards and am already conjuring up something tasty in my head that can bubble away in the oven while we are running, something that will be good for recovery with a good proportion of carbohydrate, protein and vitamins. I am toying with the idea of slow-cooked moroccan spiced lamb shanks, perhaps a venison casserole or a Thai chicken curry. I made a great chocolate pecan tart at the weekend, which would a good post-run sweet treat- super for recovery with high GI golden syrup (to get straight to the muscles), 70% dark chocolate (lots of iron), good fats and plenty of minerals in the pecan nuts, protein from the eggs in the pastry. Pecans go really well with chocolate. I think I got the idea for this tart while in the States and we had it with cinnamon whipped cream. It is quite easy to make - if you can't be bothered to make the pastry, just buy some ready-made sweet pastry (tastes better with your own, though!)

I like to serve this tart with some strawberries or raspberries - you get the added benefit of some vitamins and a balance to the sweetness of the tart ...I would not recommend this pudding for every day of the week, but everyone deserves a treat once in a while and it is great when you can find good qualities in such decadent treats as sticky tarts! Of course, you are left with three egg whites - don't let them go to waste, go the whole hog and make some meringues at the same time.

I do not have a picture yet, but will be making another one shortly so will pop in a picture later. Anyway, here's the recipe for a 10 inch loose-bottomed tart dish:

Chocolate Pecan Tart
Sweet Pastry:
150 g plain flour
75g unsalted butter
75g caster sugar
3 egg yolks
pinch of salt

  1. Sieve the flour into a bowl, add the salt and make a small well in the middle.
  2. Cube the butter and place in the centre of the well with the egg yolks and sugar.
  3. Work in the butter, sugar and eggs with the fingertips of one hand and then gradually add the flour to the mixture until you have a ball of pastry dough. Knead it slightly to make it a bit smoother, wrap it up in clingfilm or foil and put it in the fridge for an hour.
  4. Roll it out gently (it usually falls apart with me and I end up cutting thin pieces off the ball and sticking them onto the tart dish - it works just as well) Don't handle the pastry too much or it won't taste as nice.
  5. Lightly prick the pastry base with a fork and let it rest in the fridge for half and hour.
  6. Line the pastry with greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake blind at 180 C (fan oven) for about 8 minutes. Take the lining paper off and bake for another 3 or 4 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool.

Chocolate tart filling:

125 g dark chocolate – good quality 70% or more
60 g unsalted butter
225 g granulated sugar
4 large eggs
330 ml golden syrup
pack of pecan nut halves

  1. Melt the butter and chocolate together slowly in a bain marie (bowl on a pan over simmering water). Stir and leave to cool slightly.
  2. Mix together the syrup and the sugar in a saucepan and slowly let the sugar dissolve over a very low heat. Bring it to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes - stirring all the time. Let this cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the filling into the tart and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or so until the surface has slightly set - this is so that you can arrange the pecan nuts on top without them sinking. Arrange the pecans beautifully on top, so that the whole tart is covered (I start from the outside and work in to the middle) and then put the tart back into the oven to finish it off - for about 20-30 minutes. Put a sheet of greaseproof paper over it to stop the pecans burning after about 10 minutes. The filling is done when it feels set. If you have cooked a quiche before, you will know when it is ready. It will start to rise slightly and the centre feels set if you touch it.
  4. Take it out of the oven and cool before you eat it and serve with whipped cream, or cream whipped with a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fell runners are made of tougher stuff - A gruelling 14 mile Brecon Beacon 3 peak Challenge organised by the British Heart Foundation

Where are these 3 peaks then?

There's nothing like a mountain (or 3) to bring you straight down to earth with a big bang. I consider myself to be a pretty fit mother of three. I ran the London Marathon this year in 3:37 with a swift recovery time, I regularly run my training runs doing under 8 minute miles and, living in Bristol, I feel fairly accustomed to hills. Well, that was my opinion before I recklessly decided to put my hand to fell running.

I ask myself now what made me get up at 4.30 am on a Saturday morning to arrive in time for the early 7 am start of the 14 mile 3 peak Brecon Beacons Challenge? Was it the promise of the free Salomon XT Wings and the Nokia GPS? Was it curiosity and the need for another challenge now that I know that I have mastered 4 marathons.......or was it just plain insanity?

As we approached the Brecon Beacons Mountain Centre my stomach started to churn. Shrouded in mist, the view of the 3 peaks over which we were about to run looked unbelievably daunting. Thank goodness we had to stick in teams -I knew I could rely on my ex-army superhero team mate, Andy, for his impeccable map reading skills (no, I hadn't had time to work out how to use the Nokia GPS, and quite frankly even if I had trusted it, I couldn't have used it as it isn't water-resistant).

The turn-out was low due to the vile weather - pouring rain, high winds and fog - there must have been about 100 of us die-hards waiting at the start line at 7 am. I was slightly concerned that there was only one other female runner - and she looked super-fit and half my age. I instinctively knew from the first mile that my training around the hills of Bristol had been positively laughable compared with what I was about to experience. The hills, for a start, are steep and relentless. Then there is the terrain to cope with, which on Saturday was not only rough (no track or path in parts) but also boggy and slippery. There are rocks to climb, streams to jump, tufts of grass to leap over and great areas of bog land to negotiate. I also knew it was not a good day physically and mentally - I had had several bad nights' sleep, a dodgy stomach and my legs had not felt strong all week. Despite my desperate attempts to look after myself and eat the perfect runner's diet, I was just not 100% and there was nothing I could do about it.

And then there is the navigation in the fog! No mile indicators here, just the odd safety check point. The Nokia, had it been waterproof, would not have been great for running up in the mountains - retrieving it from the backpack with frozen fingers (my fingers do not function properly during endurance runs at the best of times) would have been too difficult. I have to say that I relied entirely on my team-mate, chief motivator and running buddy, Andy. Expert map-reader he may be.....but he had left his glasses behind because of the rain! We only took a wrong turn at one point - at the top of peak 3, Corn-du. The wind was really howling here and I was frozen. We had reached the summit and last peak of the run, but I was still feeling pretty low. Up on Corn-du, if you err too far one way you drop off the edge. We were slightly too cautious and took a path too far away from this drop. In doing this we added an extra mile onto our run (and the steepest and rockiest, of course). It also meant that having been in third place until mile 10, we dropped down to fifth place. Never mind, we'll just notch it up to experience! We'll know which way to go next time (the winners had already paced out the course in training...clever!).

So...2 days afterwards, Andy and I have decided to give it another go in August. The target? To run all the way up to the top of Pen-y-Fan without walking....I had better get down to some serious training.

We were hoping to gain time on the downhill section of the race, and I have to say that it felt good on the legs. The Salomon XT Wings worked quite well here and had a certain amount of grip, but it was really too slippery and racing down was not an option unless you were after a couple of twisted ankles and a sore butt. We noticed that the team in front of us had spiked fell-running shoes - we could see the marks in the mud. Those spikes were probably ideal for the conditions. My XT Wings were incredibly comfortable - they have been since the first time I put them on. The special pull-string laces make it really easy to get just the right fit around your foot. They were, however, not at all waterproof, and there were times when I could feel and hear the water/mud squelching inside the shoe. I suppose this is the price you have to pay for a breathable shoe and I am sure they would have been perfect for a less boggy trail.

The GPS on the Nokia, as I have said, is not suitable really for fell running as it is not water-resistant. I did use the Sportstracker which monitors your speed and mileage and will download this to the PC, but I feel happier with the Garmin on my wrist - easy to access and accurate, it also motivates you to run faster because you can monitor your actual speed so easily. The camera and video on the Nokia , however, is absolutely brilliant - 5 mega pixels and really easy to use and download. I think these photos really portray the miserable weather of the day.....

It was also the first time I had run with a backpack. I bought a super lightweight original mountain marathon backpack from Up and Running. It sat on my back very comfortably, weighed virtually nothing and had lots of easy access side pockets to stuff in your waterproof etc quickly. I'm very pleased with this purchase and will probably use it for skiing and cycling too.

Recipe for the Chocolate Biscuit Cake which saved me on my return to follow in next post!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Iron Rations

Less than 24 hours to go. My legs still feel tired and I had another bad nights' sleep, despite the energetic rounders tournament last night. (I have to say that I am definitely more cut out for running than rounders - that little ball hurts when you try to catch it...and fail)

I actually believe I am also nervous and excited about my first fell-running race. I now have all the fancy kit - the Salomon shoes just brilliant and I have finally worked out how to use my Nokia N82 GPS phone. The camera on it is dead easy to use and it has 5 megapixels, which is pretty amazing for a mobile phone. I am looking forward to getting some good shots of the run if it is not raining too hard. I have also bought myself a fancy running backpack for all the compulsory kit and iron rations you have to carry with you.

Talking of iron, I think my legs might also be tired because I have not been eating enough of the stuff this week. Not many women are aware of this, but pre-menopausal women from the age of about 11 to 49 need almost twice the amount of iron per day than men - about 14.8 as opposed to 8.7 mg for men (11.3 for 11-18 yr old boys). And women who exercise need even more because iron stores are depleted when you exercise. People like Paula Radcliffe need to be really vigilant about iron in their diet - apparently Paula not only has a supply of Cadbury's chocolate - a good source of iron - shipped out to her training base in America, but she also uses a supplement and eats red meat, the best source of iron, at least three times a week (including ostrich and venison). This picture was taken by John Hardy, a friend and Consultant Specialist in Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery (luckily I haven't had to use his professional services yet!) and photographer extraordinaire - I think it was the 2006 Bristol 1/2 marathon.

Although I have been trying my best to keep up my iron intake this week (hence the steak and the lamb), I am wondering whether I need some more. I made myself some porridge (with unrefined organic oats...much tastier) this morning and drizzled over two or three spoons of molasses, which has a high iron content. Vitamin C is an 'iron enhancer', so I had 1/2 a grapefruit to help my body absorb the iron more easily. I have not yet decided what to make tonight for my pre-race meal, but it will definitely involve pasta. And I will keep on munching at the 70% chocolate...full of iron and very yummy. Mark and the boys are going canoeing/camping down the Wye Valley for the weekend, so they will certainly need some sustenance considering the grotty weather forecast.

I am writing another article for the Sunday Times aboutdifferent types of iron and women who exercise, including some iron-rich recipe ideas, so more of this later.....

Monday, June 16, 2008


I have been tapering my running this week, in preparation for Saturday's hard slog. In fact, I think the taper has been a little excessive, as I have run a total of six miles since Monday, but that is all I have been able to fit in. I'm a bit worried because today my legs felt like lead today. I did not sleep well and I just don't feel great. Let's hope things perk up for the school rounders competition tonight! Total rest on Friday is in order, I think.

I have changed my allegiances and started buying the majority of my meat from my local farm shop - Gatcombe Farm (no website for a link unfortunately). The meat is deliciously tasty and most of it is from the farm. They do the best bacon and sausages too, but last night we had some lamb chops - any carnivorous readers will know what I mean when I say that we chewed every last morsel from the bone, it was just so tasty. The kids did not seem to bat an eyelid when I mentioned that it had come from the sweet little lambs over the hill. We ate these with some spaetzle, a German wheat flour and egg pasta, which I had bought over in Germany in April (Original Hausgemachter Grossmutters Kueche). Spaetzle is great running food - low GI, quite substantial with at least 68g carbohydrate per 100g pasta. I just boiled it for 7 minutes and then served it with some herbs, farchioni extra virgin olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. We ate the lamb and the pasta with a fresh organic green salad with a dijon mustard dressing and a bottle of rioja (between 3 and I only had two small glasses, so not too bad). A pretty balanced meal, all in all.

Salomon challenge

I have finally received my Salomon XT Wings - just one week before the big day: my 14 mile 3 peak Brecon Beacon run. I was contacted way back in April with this fantastic offer of goodies (shoes and a GPS system) in return for talking about training for the challenge on my blog. They have been so popular that my size was completely out of stock in the whole of Europe until now. I can see why. I have now run about 12 miles in them and I have to say that they feel good. They are supportive, very comfortable, are nicely cushioned and they fit like a glove. The colour, however, is not good - as a neighbour commented - they look like I have vomited over them!

I have also received my Nokia GPS with 5 mega pixel camera, which I have been given to log my training. Well, it is a bit late for that, but I will work out how to use it over the next couple of days, and hopefully I should manage to get some good shots of the Brecon Beacons and the progress of my run.

I am not sure whether I am fully prepared for this fell run, as I don't really know what to expect. If I were to run 14 miles on Saturday, I know that I would be absolutely fine. But 14 miles up and down three mountains....who knows? I really don't want to have to walk and I am feeling a bit apprehensive...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thai Green Mango Salad Thai Basil Chicken with noodles

I have just made a great discovery. I am starting to gear up to the race on 21st June and thinking about increasing the carbohydrate in my diet. While searching (still in vain) for some cassava to make some sweet potato and cassava patties (a recipe from Yasmin Alhibi-Brown I want to try), I nipped into Wai Lee Hong, our local Asian supermarket and found something else I had been looking for since my holiday in Thailand - green mangoes. Green mangoes have a firmer flesh and are not as sweet as the ones we are used to eating here in the UK. Unripe mangoes are prized in many South-East Asian countries and in Thailand they are often used to make the most delicious salads. You can probably buy them quite easily in London, but this is the first time I have seen them here in Bristol, even in the Asian supermarket. I bought some immediately to make a green mango salad as a starter before our Thai basil chicken. If you have the ingredients, this meal really takes no time at all to prepare. It is fresh and healthy and provides a really good balance of carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals - great for running, great for anything really!
Green Mango Salad followed by Thai Basil Chicken with noodles - A delicious and healthy way to carbo-load...

Green Mango Salad - serves 2

Mango is one of those fruits which seem to have everything! Rich in dietary fiber and carbohydrate, it also contains antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E, B vitamins, potassium, copper and amino acids. It is a pain to peel and ripe mangoes can be really very messy to eat, but it is definitely worth the effort... Don't worry too much about exact quantities, just throw it all together. if you want to make this salad more substantial, you could mix in some prawns or thin slices of roast duck or serve with a fresh tuna steak.

2 green mangoes
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp thai shrimp paste
1 tbsp finely ground roasted peanuts (you can use peanut butter or satay sauce for the sake of speed)
2 tbsp thai fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar (palm sugar or soft brown sugar)
1 tbsp chilli paste
a little finely chopped fresh ginger
bunch of mint, chopped
bunch of coriander, chopped
small fresh chilli, chopped finely
2 finely chopped spring onions
Crisp green salad leaves (Romaine or Cos for instance) to serve
  1. Peel and core the mangoes and slice very finely into thin shreds.
  2. Gently combine all the ingredients and tasted to see if you need a little more sugar, lime juice, fish sauce or chilli to balance the flavours.
  3. Serve on the salad leaves and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

Thai Basil Chicken with Noodles - serves 2

Our Asian supermarket sells two different varieties of basil - Holy Basil and Thai Sweet Basil - both are delicious and have a more aniseed flavour than the mediterranean variety. You could use either in this recipe. If you use the med. variety, you will not get an authentic flavour but it will taste nice all the same! As a vegetable, you could use green beans, or chinese greens. I used Heen Choi, which is very much like spinach.

2 tbs oil
5 tbs fresh thai sweet basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, sliced finely
1 tsp freshly chopped red chilli (add more, plus some whole chillis, if you want it hot)
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into very thin strips
4 chicken thigh fillets or 2 chicken breasts (I pefer to use thigh, as the meat is darker, more juicy and contains more iron)
1-2 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar (palm sugar if you have some)
50g chopped peanuts or tbsp satay sauce
2 handfuls of green beans, cut into pieces, or a couple of bunches of chinese greens
125 g noodles - amoy bean strip is good- cooked according to pack intructions
  1. Heat in oil in a frying pan or wok. Add the chilli, ginger and garlic and fry for 20-30 seconds.
  2. Add the chicken and stir-fry for a minute or so until sealed.
  3. Stir in the sugar, satay sauce or peanuts and the fish sauce and then fry the meat until it is cooked through. Add a little water or stock if it looks a bit dry.
  4. Add the vegetables and cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Stir in the oyster sauce and the noodles and then add the basil leaves. Taste for seasoning. You may want to add more chilli, fish sauce, sugar
  6. Serve garnished with basil leaves and a wedge of lime.

If you are stuck for the ingredients, my local oriental supermarket has a website - - and does home delivery nationally. Take a look at the website - there are cooking tips and really useful information about all the different exotic ingreadients.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pork and Apricot Tagine

It has been hot and circumstances have been such that even doing a short run has been a bit of a struggle...yes, my children have caught some kind of sick virus and I have been stuck in the house for a couple of days.

However, this weekend they made a swift and magical recovery (!?) and were suddenly up for a trip to Devon to my sister-in-law Sally's wonderful house in Salcombe. It is a former hotel/guesthouse which they have converted into a most beautiful holiday home (it sleeps about 17, plus there is an annex for the staff, or more guests!). And luckily for us, my sister-in-law lives in the States and is incredibly generous - we can basically have use of the place whenever we want.

For me, the best thing about Salcombe is the kitchen - it has, loads of worksurface, every gadget under the sun, an aga, a conventional oven, a big fridge etc etc. And while you are cooking, you can look out at what must be one of the world's the best views. There is a herb garden to die for, with every herb you could possible want. Yesterday, we caught some pollack (my heart always sinks when I see pollack on the line, rather than mackerel) which I livened up with a mixture of fennel fronds and lemon grass from the garden.

We were chased off the beach on Saturday by a thunder storm, so I delayed my long run until the evening. The coast path around Devon really is one of the most perfect places for training. What could be more delightful than running along a cliff top with the sweet smell of gorse mixed with the freshness of the sea air, wild rabbits hopping out of the way as you take them by surprise. Before you know it, you have clocked off miles of hard, uneven and hilly terrain. I was running along writing my blog in my head like this when suddenly....BUMPPP...SPLATTT...I had fallen on the ground, still slippy from the thunder storm - straight down, headfirst, catching my left knee and chin. It is a bad feeling when you fall during a run, especially when you are on your own. There is always that fear that you might have injured yourself. I sat on the ground feeling rather sorry for myself for a while, until I caught sight of another runner in the distance and immediately pulled myself together, jumped up and continued, too embarassed to be seen in my misery! In fact I was fine, just a little shaken.

Back in the super-duper Salcombe kitchen, my mother-in-law had been preparing supper for the whole extended family (I think there were 20 of us). Little did she know it but she had put together a perfect runners meal - a simple but so very tasty stew of pork with apricots which she served up with some fusilli pasta and a delicious green salad. All I had to do was to make the salad dressing! It is great being a guest sometimes!

Pork and Apricot Stew
This is a hearty sweet and sour stew which goes very well with a fresh green salad and pasta, couscous or even mashed potato. It tastes nicer the next day. If you make it in advance, leave adding the fresh herbs and almonds until you serve it up.
1 tbsp Olive Oil
½ tsp Ground Turmeric
½ tsp Ground Black Pepper
½ tsp Ground Ginger
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper

1/2 tsp ground cumin
pinch of ground cloves
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 kg boned shoulder of pork, cut into cubes
2 Onions, sliced
Chicken stock , cider or water
300g Dried Apricots
1 tsp Honey
splash of Orange blossom water
1-inch Cinnamon Stick
2 tbsp toasted Almonds

Bunch of fresh parsley or coriander, roughly chopped
  1. In a plastic bag combine meat with some seasoned flour and shake about to cover the meat.
  2. Heat up a tagine or casserole dish, add a splash of olive oil and brown the meat.
  3. Remove the meat and set aside. Add a splash of brandy if you like, to deglaze the pan.
  4. Add some more oil and then gently saute the onion until it is nice and golden. Add the spices, the garlic and the pork and then top up with enough chicken stock to cover the meat.
  5. Bring to the boil, cover and then simmer gently for about 45 minutes, until the meat is tender.
  6. Add the apricots and the cinnamon stick and cook for 10 minutes or so until the fruit is tender. If the sauce is too runny you may have to add a little flour to thicken it slightly.Ad
  7. d the orange flower , the honey and the herbs and toasted almonds. Taste for seasoning. If you think it is too sweet, try to add something sour like a spoon of dijon mustard, worcester sauce or some lemon juice.
  8. Serve with some plain pasta shapes or couscous and a green salad, dressed with lemon and some tasty olive oil.