Thursday, January 31, 2008

Conchiglioni with roasted tomato sauce

Last night we had a very delicious pasta dish which I would recommend as a good meal for the night before a race. The pasta and the tomatoes have a low glycaemic index and so will release energy to your muscles slowly and gradually, the tomatoes are a rich source of several nutrients, including a vitamin C, vitamin A, and B vitamins (niacin, riboflavin, magnesium, phosphorous and calcium). They are also a good source of fibre and the antioxidant lycopene (good for fighting disease). This pasta is light on the stomach and it is quick and easy to make!

I like to slow roast tomatoes at this time of year because it gives them a lovely deep flavour. They are so disappointing eaten raw at the moment. The children love this pasta because you can pop the sauce inside the shell and then eat it with your fingers - messy but fun. My daughter likes to pop fresh spinach leaves into the shell with the sauce, my son likes to add pieces of feta cheese or mozzarella...whatever makes them happy!

Conchiglioni with roasted tomato sauce
Serves 4-5

500g Conchiglioni
8 decent sized vine tomatoes
1/2 bottle of sugocasa (just to add a bit of bulk, you can use more fresh tomatoes instead if you have them)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
glug of olive oil
1tsp demerara sugar
Plenty of salt and black pepper
1 flaked dried chilli (optional)
big bunch of basil, chopped, saving a few leaves for decoration
feta cheese, cubed or slices of buffalo mozzarela
5 rashers streaky bacon or prosciutto (optional)

  1. Cut the tomatoes in half and place on a baking sheet.

  2. Sprinkle over balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper and place in the oven at about 170.

  3. Add the garlic about 5 minutes before you remove from the oven - after about 30-40 minutes.

  4. Transfer to a saucepan, scraping off all the caramelised bits as well, add the sugocasa and chilli if you are using it and cook very gently, covered, for another 20 minutes or so, stirring every now and then.

  5. Add more balsamic, olive oil, seasoning, maybe some lea & perrins etc to taste. Add the chopped basil at the last minute.

  6. Grill the bacon until really crispy

  7. Cook the pasta shells in salted water according to pack instructions - warning, you need a really big pan if you are cooking 500g! When you drain the pasta, leave some of the cooking liquid to stop it getting sticky, and add some olive oil.

  8. Serve the pasta in large individual pasta dishes with some sauce on top. Place a slice of bacon on top with some basil leaves and pieces of feta/mozzarella sprinkled over.

  9. Enjoy

Off to do 11 miles today...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

3800 calories - that's a lot of doughnuts!

I've worked out that I probably burnt off about 3800 extra calories last week - that's a rough estimation of 100 calories per mile for my speed and size. I ran 38 miles.

No wonder we are constantly hungry when we are training!

One of my running colleagues was lamenting that he had actually put on weight since he started training for the marathon. He then said that he ate two M & S cream buns to keep him going and to fuel him for his evening run after work. He said he couldn't help eating cakes and biscuits because he was so hungry all the time!

It is really important to keep all this in perspective. If we are spending so much time and energy running we do, of course, deserve the occasional treat. It is virtually impossible to just eat three meals a day, but we really ought to concentrate on replenishing lost calories with healthy snacks rather than doughnuts and cream buns.

Nuts are brilliant! They are full of good calories and lots of them! At the moment I am snacking on a mix I put together of dried cranberries, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and walnuts. A handful of nuts and a piece of fruit will not only keep the wolf from the door for a while, but it will also provide lots of good calories, vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants etc. If you are into cakes, then make sure you go for the ones with some goodness in them - carrot cake, fruit cake, flapjacks, date and walnut cake, malt loaf are some good examples. If you run after work, take a peanut butter sandwich, fruit or some fruit and nut flapjacks to fuel your evening run...much better for your endurance, your heart (and your soul) than a few biscuits or a doughnut.

Monday, January 28, 2008

15 beautiful miles

This Sunday was 15 miles. What a beautiful run…for the first 10, that is! I ran along the river from Bristol towards Bath with two (rather fast) running chums. It was early on Sunday morning, the sun was shining, there was little wind, the rowers and dragon boats were out training which gave us something to look at. It was only when we got to the clay-like mud that the footpath became rather hard work, making the last few miles pretty heavy-going. Stoked up the night before on some delicious fresh prawns, fried in butter, garlic, a little finely chopped fresh red chilli and parsley with plenty of fresh bread to mop up the juices, followed by spaghetti with mussels. Sorry, I forgot to take a photo, so I’ll have to make it again! I wouldn’t eat mussels, or any type of seafood for that matter, before a race, but I love them so much, I am prepared to take a risk otherwise. Also, I feel much more confident about eating seafood if I have bought and prepared it myself.

I usually buy my fish from a chap who delivers the freshest of fish at a pretty reasonable price to my door. His fish tends to be fresher than buying it in a shop, as the middleman is cut out. His mussels were from Cornwall. Otherwise, I buy from Fishworks in Bristol.

This dish is equally good with clams, which, along with mussels, are great for boosting iron levels - very important for us female runners.

Spaghetti with mussels.
Serves 4- 6, depending on hunger

500g spaghetti
1.5 kilos mussels, scrubbed and prepared. (?)
1 dried chilli chopped small, or to taste
2 big cloves of garlic, crushed
good splash of white wine
big bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
big dollop of crème fraiche
extra virgin olive oil
loads of black pepper
salt to taste

  1. Prepare the mussels.
  2. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil for the spaghetti.
  3. Place the mussels in a large pan, with the wine, ½ the parsley, garlic, chilli and pepper and cook on a high heat, with the lid tightly on. Shake them or stir them so that the mussels at the top get the chance to cook in the juice at the bottom.
  4. After about 5 minutes, when the mussels are cooked (they will have opened and will start to look plump), turn off the heat. If you can be bothered, take about half of them out of their shells (I never do this…far too much like hard work).
  5. Cook the spaghetti. Drain and then pop it back into the pan, with a little of the cooking liquid. Keep on a very low heat, add the crème fraiche, the mussels and all their juice (you may want to check that there is no grit in the mussel juice – if there is, you may want to strain it). Taste and season.
  6. Throw in the rest of the parsley and then a really decent glug of nice extra virgin olive oil.
    Present in a large dish and serve up at the table. Some may like a little extra chilli to sprinkle on top

Thursday, January 24, 2008

11 miles steady fuelled by saffron rice!

I am sure last night's saffron rice really helped me to keep going this morning - 11 miles steady was a breeze. I also had a nice slow warm-up session with some running buddies for the first 3 miles (they then disappeared for a coffee and a chat and left me to it..... lightweights!), but it did make the next 8 miles much easier.

Here's how to make the saffron rice. It is dead easy to make and so much tastier than plain rice. We had it with some salmon steaks and fresh spinach, but it would be really good with lamb, a tagine, or other oily fish. It could also be a meal in itself.  Basmati rice is a great fuel for athletes. It is low in fat and an excellent source of vitamin E, B vitamins (thiamin and niacin) and potassium. It has a medium GI, which means that it breaks down slowly during digestion, releasing glucose gradually into the bloodstream and therefore supplying energy to the muscles more gradually...and it is easy to digest. The almonds are full of magnesium and potassium and the cranberries are a great antioxidant and full of vitamin C.

Saffron Rice - serves 4

First rinse the rice really well until the water runs clear. If you use brown basmati, you will need to cook it for a bit longer and add a little more water.
100g unsalted butter
cinnamon stick
6 cardamom pods, crushed (I used 1 tsp powder last night, as I had run out of pods)
crushed black peppercorns (about 4)
bay leaf
250 - 300g basmati rice
50g flaked almonds (pistachios are also nice as an alternative)
small pack of dried cranberries
pack of dried saffron (0.5g) soaked in a few tbsps. boiling water and left to infuse for 10 minutes
freshly chopped parsley or coriander to sprinkle on top
  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf and black pepper. Gently saute over a low heat for a few minutes until the spice aromas start to be released.
  2. Add the rice, stir to coat in the butter.
  3. Add the nuts, cranberries and saffron water and then pour over enough water to cover the rice by about 1 cm. Add some salt at this stage. Bring to the boil, cover tightly and simmer very gently for 10 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. The rice will soak up all the water, so you will not have to drain it.
  4. Serve in a dish sprinkled with fresh herbs.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Garmin - friend or foe?

I am sure that anyone who runs with a Garmin will agree that it can really get you down sometimes. On Sunday, I found it almost impossible to run at a reasonable pace. I kept looking at my Garmin to see if I had improved my pace, but no, I just couldn't summon up the energy. Yet yesterday I managed an 8 mile run, with 4 miles at a really good 1/2 marathon pace - my Garmin was most definitely my friend! But why should yesterday's run feel so different to the one on Sunday. I have reflected on my preparation for the two, and in hindsight it is really quite obvious!

  1. 13 miles steady(only managed 12)
  2. Evening before - out with friends to Thai restaurant, 3 glasses of wine (at least), late night
  3. Evening meal - Thai sticky rice (not slow-burning like basmati), various shared main dishes, went home still hungry
  4. Breakfast - porridge, nuts and Manuka honey
  5. Conditions - hilly, windy and raining, muddy
  6. No music - chatted to husband (which was good!)


  1. 8 miles with 4 miles at 1/2 marathon pace (7.5 - 8 minute miles)
  2. Evening before - early night, no alcohol
  3. Evening meal - lamb and chickpea stew, greens, fresh homemade seed and nut bread, fruit and a bit of the kids sticky toffee pudding
  4. Breakfast - muesli, natural yoghurt, large crust of above bread with Manuka honey
  5. Weather - no wind and no rain, fairly flat course but still muddy with large puddles
  6. Plugged into ipod - Santana and Bach Goldberg Variations
Well, I suppose there is no comparison. It just goes to show that decent weather, no alcohol and a "go faster" evening meal and breakfast really is worth it. But Saturday evening was such fun....

Monday, January 21, 2008

FLM Course

I have just downloaded the course for the London Marathon and am relieved to see that it is not too hilly. It seems impossible to find a flattish course for a long run in Bristol that is not completely waterlogged and I am getting quite fed up with hills. I know it is good for you to do hill training, but I would love to do a nice flat run for a change. Yesterday's 13 miles was hard work. In fact I can safely say that it was one of the hardest runs I have ever done! It was raining, very windy and hilly. My legs felt tired after about 7 miles. Luckily, Mark (hubby who has taken on the role of my personal trainer...and does it brilliantly, I have to say) was with me to keep me going.

Got home feeling a bit sorry for myself and was faced with piles (literally) of very muddy rugby kit x 3, no hot water and a broken tumble dryer. Plus lunch to prepare, followed by helping the kids with their homework and music practice. At 4 pm the extended family was due to arrive for a post-Christmas present session and Sunday roast. Lunch was dealt with by my fantastic 14 year-old daughter, who managed to rustle up bacon, tomato and watercress sandwiches on the fennel and poppy seed bread I made on Saturday and some butternut squash and sweet potato soup. Yum. It is funny how food can make you feel so much better...the washing got done and somehow I managed to produce a roast leg of lamb, roast pots, parsnips, some delicious veggies and homemade mint sauce, followed by rice pud and baked apricots in the evening. Feeling pretty exhausted today though.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Importance of eating well on rest days

Training is starting to get easier now I have finally got over my jet-lag and my legs, or rather knees, are recovering from the pounding they suffered due to 8 solid days of challenging sking in Jackson Hole. Did 9 miles yesterday, a general aerobic run. I need to get faster if I am going to get anywhere near my target of 3:35, but things are going in the right direction. The weather is still dreadful, in fact I had to stick to the pavement as off-road is just too water-logged.

We all know that it is crucial to eat well during training, but remember that rest days are just as important as work-out days. Your body not only needs to recover from the previous day, but energy levels must also be topped up for the following days' endurance. I am really into Cavolo Nero at the moment. There is a new veg shop here in Bristol (Charlie Hicks), where they sell great bunches of the stuff. You can get it in the supermarket as well, but it is generally not quite as tender. It looks so beautiful that you could almost give it to someone as a bunch of flowers. But, of course, it is much better to eat....and packed with vitamins. I made a delicious healthy pasta dish for my rest day - the night before my 9-miler.

Green spinach tagliatelle with cavolo nero and lardons:
Serves 5-6
Pack of spinach tagliatelle (I used supermarket fresh, which I was disappointed with. Try a better quality version, or some decent dried taglietelle...or make your own!)
Bunch of cavolo nero
Red pepper, sliced
Couple of spoonfuls of creme fraiche and a splash of milk
Crushed garlic clove
Black Pepper
Glug of good extra virgin olive oil
  1. Cook the cavolo nero gently in a large pan but with a small amount of water until tender.
  2. In a large non-stick frying pan, fry up the lardons and red pepper. You could add some mushrooms as well.
  3. Spoon out the cavolo nero with a slotted spoon and add to the lardon pan.
  4. Add the garlic.
  5. Bring some salted water to the boil for the pasta (I use the cavolo water as well) and cook the pasta according to pack instructions.
  6. Meanwhile add a couple of spoonfuls of creme fraiche and a splash of milk to the lardons pan, bring to the boil and turn down to a low simmer.
  7. Season well with salt and black pepper, spoon the pasta into the mixture with a pasta spoon and combine. You may want to add a little of the pasta liquid to keep a nice consistency.
  8. Finally pour over a glug of olive oil - it will go beautifully glossy - and serve decorated with a couple of basil leaves.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

8 miles general aerobic training

8 miles yesterday, general aerobic training with 10 x 100m strides, in the worst weather you could possibly ask for - driving rain and a howling gale. I really hope the weather improves soon. I had to stick to the road because off-road was so water-logged it was impossible to run. I also didn't want to get my brand new running shoes dirty! I have just made THE most fantastic purchase from a new running shop in Bristol - a pair of Asics Gel Nimbus shoes. UpandRunning has just opened in Bristol and I must say that the advice and service I got there was really excellent. Find them on the web at http://http// The shoes are so comfortable, cushioned and supportive. I did the run just before lunch and so managed to sneak in a bowl of porridge with walnuts and demerara sugar at about 11 o'clock. Supper did not go to plan. I made a delicious (or so my children said) post-run risotto with some left-over roast pork, but unfortunately had to go out to my choir practice before getting the chance to eat it, and of course, the kids polished it off without thinking of saving any! Instead, Mark (my husband) and I nipped out to our local Thai restaurant afterwards, where we had Thai basil seabass and jasmine rice, which I am certainly going to try out at home.

I made the risotto by frying chopped onion, celery and red pepper and mushrooms very gently in some olive oil and butter for a few minutes. I then added some carnaroli risotto rice and fried it until it became transluscent. I just added a spoonful of hot chicken stock (homemade stock would have been much better, but we are talking about a Tuesday supper of what was left-over in the fridge from the weekend) and cooked it on a medium heat until it was absorbed and continued to do this until the rice was cooked. About 5 minutes before the end I added the chopped cooked pork (I think if you added it earlier it would become tough), some ground cumin and a good bunch of fresh parsley or coriander. It is best to stir and then leave for a few minutes before serving, perhaps sprinkled with some more fresh herbs and some salted peanuts. Not very Italian, but very tasty for some midweek carbs.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sunday run

Went for my longest run since the Berlin Marathon in October - only 12 miles - and it wasn't too bad, except that it got dark by about 8 miles. As we were running in the woods, I was rather glad that I was not alone! It is the first time I have run in the pitch black and it is quite disorientating. I am considering doing the 100km in Bern, Switzerland, this Summer, which is apparently a run through the night, so I suppose running on our dark winter evenings will be good training for that.

I had sushi for lunch before my 12 miles; a little protein and plenty of carbs in the sticky rice and I cooked a good, low GI evening meal the night before - Fragrant chicken and lentil curry with basmati rice. Lentils are such a good way to add goodness and slow-release carbs to your meal. All you have to do is rinse them and then cook them until tender (usually about 20 minutes). Or you can use them straight out of a tin if you want to be really quick. I just fried up some organic chicken thighs (from the Sheedrove farm shop in Bristol- delicious) with some madras paste, a cinnamon stick, ginger and some roasted cumin and coriander seed. I added a tin of tomatoes and a drop of water and cooked this covered until the chicken was done, popped in some green lentils which I had boiled for 20 minutes and then finished off with a dollop of greek yoghurt and some fresh coriander. I'll post the proper recipe and a photo down in my next blog. Just off for a short run today, in preparation for 8 with speed work tomorrow.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday 11th January

There is something really satisfying about getting up early and running in the pouring rain! It is certainly good for speed work, as you do not really want to hang around - the faster you can get back into the warm and dry the better! 5 miles today was very easy. Maybe that was due to the delicious gnocchi I cooked last night. Gnocchi has a medium GI of 68 and I served it with a very soothing low GI mushroom sauce. After three weeks of being serious carnivores in the US, we are having a few very welcome meat-free days. You could add some lardons if you don't want to go vegi. Here it is the simplest meal to prepare and dead easy (unless you decide to make your own gnocchi, that is!):
Gnocchi with mushroom sauce
For 2-3 servings

500g pack of fresh gnocchi
250g organic chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
small, mild onion
olive oil, finely chopped
clove of garlic, crushed
250g creme fraiche
splash of white wine
handful of coriander or flat-leaved parsley
1 fresh bayleaf (optional)
salt and pepper
  1. In a large frying pan, saute the onion with the bayleaf gently in the oil for 5-10 minutes, until soft. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt, cover and sweat on a low heat for another 5 minutes or so.
  2. Take the cover off, turn up the heat, add the wine and reduce for a few minutes. Then add the creme fraiche and herbs and cook for another minute or so. Season.
  3. Cook the gnocchi according to the pack instructions and then spoon into the mushroom mixture and serve in nice big pasta bowls. Decorate with some more coriander/parsley.
  4. This dish goes well with a fresh green salad with a mustardy french dressing.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My first blog

Hello and welcome to my first blog, which will be a combination of a running blog and a food blog.

My name is Kate Percy. I am a marathon runner and a cook. I adore running and I adore cooking, so I have decided to write a recipe book for endurance sports people called Go Faster Food which combines imaginative, delicious and energy-boosting recipes with practical nutritional tips to help amateur athletes increase their stamina and achieve their personal best. It is not published yet, but when it is you'll be able to buy it on my website

I have just got a "good for age" entry into the
Flora London Marathon 2008
and I intend to blog the progress of my training for this and talk about different foods and recipes which are helping me along the way. I have achieved a faster time with each marathon I have run - it is a learning curve really - but this time I want to really go for it. My friend Adam who runs marathons in 2:40 has lent me a book call Advanced Marathoning (Pete Pfitzinger & Scott Douglas) and I am going to follow one of the training schedules in this book - it looks pretty tough but I'll give it a go....

I am starting my training a bit late - I did a little training before Christmas but then went skiing in the States (Jackson Hole - fantastic) and I am afraid that the last thing I wanted to do after a full day of demanding powder skiing was to run in the hotel gym. So now I am back in the UK, I only have 13 weeks left to go and I had better get my finger out! I had a big bowl of porridge with walnuts and honey for breakfast and then did an 8 mile run in a howling gale. I think the jet lag has got the better of me, as I was pretty slow. Let's hope tomorrow gets faster and easier with a little more sleep.

Keep posted and I will pop in a couple of recipes next time.