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.