Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Odenwald lambs lettuce tossed with sauteed apple and speck (bacon/lardons)

We had THE most amazing day skiing in about a foot or so of light powder yesterday, although it did not stop snowing all day. You couldn't really see where you were going, but sometimes that adds to the exhilaration. I made a coq au vin with fusilli pasta for our whole party of 15. It would have been good running food had I been able to run, but the roads have been completely snow-covered. Maybe tomorrow...

My German friend, Stefan, managed to put two great big legs of lamb outside on the balcony for the night......only to find that in the morning they had been swiped by the local wildlife! What a stupid thing to have done, especially for a 'supposedly' intelligent brain surgeon! We were really looking forward to that lamb.... To make up for it he made a speciality of his region, an excellent German salad which we ate with the coq au vin. It served as a great accompaniment but could also be eaten as a simple starter and I will certainly make it again when we get home. It is hard to find lambs lettuce sometimes in Bristol, but I reckon the salad would be good, possibly even better, with spinach or watercress.

Lambs Lettuce dressed tossed with sauteed apple and speck (bacon/lardons)

Lambs lettuce or spinach or watercress
Apple, chopped into small chunks (bramley cooking apple would be good)
Butter and olive oil
Bacon pieces
White balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
  1. Saute the bacon in a good knob of butter and some olive oil.
  2. Add the apple and cook until a little soft.
  3. Add salt and plenty of black pepper, plus a little vinegar.
  4. Add the mixture, scraping the juices off the pan, to the lettuce just before serving.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Too much snow to run

It has not stopped snowing for 24 hours, so my 4 mile run I planned this morning will have to be postponed - there's a foot of fresh snow out there and we are only 900 metres high. I'll have to save my energy for some great powder skiing instead and hope that the German Strassendienst clear the road at some point....The general consensus is that I should make a coq au vin tonight - apparently I made it the last time we went skiing with our German friends (13 years ago!). Let's I hope I can repeat the positive experience.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Running in Germany

I managed to squeeze in an 8 mile VO2 max (5x600m fast) run this morning (Saturday) but it was hard work. It is difficult when you are staying with friends as you have to fit in with their routine.....I ran before breakfast, after eating very little the day before and I really started to run out of energy at mile 6.

The run was pretty spectacular though. Icy snow on the ground, forest, sun shining through the trees. I suppose it was worth it, even though my legs were tired from 20 miles the day before.

It is now 8 in the evening and I haven't had a hot meal since Thursday night......but I can smell it cooking and I am getting desperate!!

We have spent the day watching my German friend's son motorbike racing in Hockenheim - he is only 14 and is no. 3 in Germany and is racing on 600cc motorbikes. I know absolutely nothing about motorbike racing and from today's experience I can say that it is very noisy and looks terrifyingly dangerous.........We are off skiing tomorrow and I can't wait. There is so much snow.

Last long run before the big day

I did my 20 miles on Thursday. I took it easy as I knew that my legs were pretty fatigued after the race on Sunday - managed to do 20 miles in 2hrs 50. It was pretty windy but it was good when it was behind you and I managed to avoid the rain for once. I treated myself to a bowl of porridge and a buckwheat pancake with banana and maple syrup before the run and took a couple of gels at 10 and 15 miles, but I was glad to finish - it's very lonely doing such a long run toute seule. I quickly forced down a honey sandwich followed by a peanut butter sandwich plus some fresh pineapple - a strange mixture I know, but we had emptied the fridge prior to our trip to Germany and it was all that was left in the house. Good high G.I. carbs, some protein and vitamins to go straight to the muscles to help them recover from their ordeal!

I spent the next few hours frantically packing for our ski trip to Germany, where we are meeting up with some old German friends who have bought an enormous farmhouse on the German/Austrian border. I know that it is really important to eat properly on your recovery day and I certainly have not been able to do this. We had a nightmare journey yesterday through snow, hail, sleet and sludge and enormous traffic jams and all I managed to get to eat was a sandwich and a packet of crisps. Had I been more organised I would have packed some decent food for the journey and made some flapjacks, but alas it was not to be. A proposal for work, the long run, plus packing for a ski holiday for the whole family took priority. We had to settle for really nasty (and expensive) motorway sandwiches!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nice soup, shame about the colour!

Ever since the half marathon on Sunday, I have been absolutely starving. I have been snacking on a delicious bowl of walnuts, raisins, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds and I have been munching my way through the fruit bowl, but for some reason this run has made me more ravenous than the previous 20 miler did. I reckon it is because I did not eat enough high G.I. carbs immediately after the race.
I have just received a great comment on the blog from the food and drink editor of The Londonist - take a look at the blog, the "health nut" section is a really interesting read with some great photos.
I made quite a nice soup last night - Roasted Parsnip with Cumin and Chilli - it was very warming and pretty nutritious. A dollop of creme fraiche and some fresh coriander sprinkled on top would be good, as the colour of the soup was not very appetising. This is because I roasted the parsnips first, making them extra tasty and caramelised but the soup is consequently rather brown. Parsnips are of course delicious and contain a good amount of vitamin C, folate and potassium. They also have a very high Glycaemic Index Factor, so the carbohydrate in them will raise blood sugar levels rapidly, making this soup good for a quick energy boost for after a big workout. I served the soup with some cheesy croutons, which I made from some leftover baguette slices.
Roasted Parsnip Soup with Cumin and Chilli
About 500 g parsnips
2 red onions, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
3 sticks of celery, chopped and stringy bits removed
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp crushed dried chilli
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
1 -1 1/2 litre water or mild chicken stock
  1. Chop the parsnips roughly, toss them in 2tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with the cumin seeds, chilli, salt and pepper. Roast them on a baking tray in the oven at 190 C for about 45 minutes until nicely caramelised .
  2. Saute the onion very gently in 1tbsp olive oil and the butter in a large pan for a few minutes. Add the leeks and celery, cover and continue to cook very gently for about 20 minutes until soft. Check that you do not let it burn by stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the stock, parsnips (remember to scrape out all the cumin seeds left on the bottom of the baking tray) and a good sprinkle of salt and simmer for a further 10 minutes or so. Cool and then liquidise. Check the consistency - the soup won't be nice if it is too thick, so add some more stock is you need to thin it out a little. Check for seasoning and serve warm with croutons.
  4. Croutons - using the same baking try for the leftover cuminy(?) flavour, brush the slices of bread with some olive oil and cook in the oven for about 5 minutes or until crisp and golden. Add some cheese halfway through the cooking if you like.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Go Faster Food .... Kate Percy, Marathon Cook: 15 beautiful miles

Forest of Dean Half Marathon

The Forest of Dean Trails Half Marathon, although this year a hilly slog through flooded paths and mud, wind and rain, was really quite enjoyable. I am not sure how many competitors turned up - probably about 1500 - but the start was quite crowded for the size of path and I was aware that I was only doing 10 minute miles for the first couple of miles. If we had been more organised and got to the front we would have avoided this frustration, but we were not and it was impossible to pass the crowd (due to very muddy ditches on either side of the path). The first 9 miles are virtually all uphill and the last 4 are more or less downhill, so it was great fun just letting yourself fly down the hills to make up for lost time here. I was a bit disappointed by the disgusting sweet and the fizzy lucozade as freebies at the end of the race...I'll remember to bring my own next time... but we all did a pretty good time considering the conditions. My running buddy, Andy Shelling, came within the first 100! I think it is good for your confidence to do a half marathon when you are all trained up for a marathon - it feels so good to still have something left in your system at the end of 13 miles.

Came home to a wonderful glazed roast leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary and all the trimmings - crispy roast potatoes and parsnips, leeks, carrots, purple sprouting broccoli etc, homemade mint sauce and delicious gravy . Mark, my husband, decided to forgo the 1/2 marathon and cook the roast instead. He glazed the lamb with "piment d'espelette" , some wonderful fragrant chilli we bought in the Basque country (France) this summer. I know a roast dinner is not the ideal meal after a long run, but it certainly hits the spot when you've been soaked through the the bone. Anyway, protein from the lamb, vitamins from the purple sprouting and veggies, plus parsnips and roast potatoes are high G.I. so the carbohydrate from them will have gone straight to our tired out muscles. We had a rice pudding to follow, which is also high G.I. The kids all fell upon the gooey chocolate puddings which I managed to rustle up enough energy to make and consequently I have no idea what they actually tasted like!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

17 miles finally

I decided that if I were to wait for the weather to improve, my 17 miles would be postponed forever, so I finally braced myself and faced the wind and rain. What a horrible experience! The rain lashed against my face for 2 hours and I was running into a howling gale for most of the time. I ran right down into the bottom of a valley to avoid the wind but then at mile 16 I had to run up a mile long steep climb to get back to the car. Anyway, I can tick that one off now. One more 20 and then I can start tapering down for the BIG DAY...just one month to go.

I made an exceptionally tasty stock with a guineafowl at the weekend, so we have had some delicious soup this week. I also used a ladleful in my very simple penang curry last night (sorry no photo as yet).

Quick Penang Prawn Curry with Soba noodles

Soba noodles are actually Japanese, so I am not claiming this recipe to be Thai authentic. The noodles do however go really well with this recipe, they are really healthy and have a low G.I. factor. Soba noodles are brownish buckwheat noodles, they have a nutty flavour and are rich in fibre and minerals such as selenium and zinc and contain 84% carb, 14% protein and 2% fat - see I used Clearspring organic soba noodles which contain wheat, but you can also buy completely wheat-free gluten-free versions.

This curry only takes about 15 minutes to make and although this combination of veg worked really well, you can use whatever vegetables you fancy really. The quantities are for 2 hungry people and the curry should have a soupy consistency:

50g penang curry paste (use red curry paste if you cannot find penang paste)
1 tin coconut milk
2 cups water or stock
Bunch of spring onions, chopped into 3-4 cm lengths, include the green stems
3-4 mushrooms
1 yellow/orange pepper
1/4 fresh pineapple chopped into 1-2 cm cubes
Pack of jumbo prawns
1 desert spoon fish sauce (add gradually to taste)
1/2-1 tsp palm sugar or brown sugar
5 kaffir lime leaves, sliced thinly into lengths (I buy these from the Asian supermarket and keep them in the freezer)
2 fresh birds eye chillis, sliced thinly into lengths
Big handful of basil or Thai basil
200g soba noodles
  1. Mix the curry paste with the coconut milk in a large pan or wok and heat until boiling.
  2. Add the spring onions and vegetables, add the water or stock and cook for a few minutes.
  3. Add the pineapple and the prawns and cook for a couple of minutes. Be careful not to overcook the prawns - you do not want them to be rubbery.
  4. Taste and then season with the basil, kaffir lime, chillis, fish sauce and sugar - you want to get a balance of sweet, sour, heat and salt.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the soba noodles and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse immediately with cold water. Add to the curry, reheat and serve in large soup bowls or big flat pasta bowls.
  6. Sprinkle with some kaffir lime and chilli that you have kept aside.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Good Mum vs. Good Running

There seems to be a conspiracy stopping me from doing my long run this weekend and I am starting to feel a little frustrated. Sunday was just too busy with children's rugby, music concerts, picking up from D. of E. weekends etc. to contemplate 17 miles, although if I were truly honest with myself, I could have got up a 6 a.m. for an early start. I decided to go on Monday morning instead, but with the storm at full rage, high winds and rain, I actually decided that it would be safer not to go (didn't really fancy a tree falling down on me at mile 15). And now my daughter is ill and at home from school, so nipping out for a 2 hour run seems a little uncaring! The roof has started to leak and rain is pouring into our bedroom, so there's that to sort out as well.....

Creamy risotto of broad beans, mint and pancetta

Photo by Sara Martineau

We had a good risotto last night. I have to say that this is one of my favourite risottos and although the run was non-existent, it is in fact a great meal to eat straight after a marathon or a big endurance run, partly because it is easy and relaxing to make, partly because it has a relatively high G.I. factor. Risotto rice has a G.I. of 69, the broad beans have a G.I. of 79. I ate this risotto in an Italian restaurant in Amsterdam after the Amsterdam Marathon and I am sure it helped towards my recovery. If I am having a vegetarian moment, I make it without the pancetta. It is also delicious if you add 50 g frozen or fresh peas.

Serves 4
You will need:
3 tbs. olive oil or 50g.unsalted butter plus a knob for the end
350g. Arborio risotto rice
1 onion finely sliced
1 stick of celery finely chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
300g. broad beans podded (remove outer layer of beans if they are tough), or a pack of frozen broad beans
1.25 -1.5 litres vegetable or chicken stock (I only use chicken stock if it is home made)
250 ml. white wine
Bunch of fresh mint, chopped
80g pancetta
100g. freshly grated parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Using a large heavy-bottomed pan, gently sauté the onion and celery in the butter/oil until translucent over a low heat, Add the garlic and the pancetta and gently sauté for a couple of minutes, without allowing it to brown.

  2. Add the rice and stir until the grains become translucent and glossy.

  3. Add a ladle of hot stock and stir constantly until it is absorbed. You may need more or less stock according to the type of rice and the rate of absorption. 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.

  4. When the rice is almost cooked, add the wine and the broad beans and the mint (save a little to sprinkle over the top). The texture should be nice and creamy. You may need to add some salt at this point, it depends how salty your stock is.

  5. When the rice is cooked, turn off the heat, stir in the parmesan and a knob of butter. Let the mixture stand for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining mint and a few grinds of black pepper.

  6. Serve with a rocket salad and some fresh parmesan shavings.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Hot Oatcakes - great pre-run breakfast

My daughter was off on a school camping weekend - yes the weekend with the storm warnings, but I suppose it'll be character-building - and my two sons wanted to run a mini-marathon (2.6 miles) - so I whipped up a bit of a decadent breakfast this morning. It is a really filling and nutritious breakfast, with slow-burning carbs to sustain you for longer, protein, calcium, great minerals and fibre - very wholesome and perfect before a big run or any strenuous exercise. I would have taken a picture bit the pancakes got wolfed down too quickly.

Hot Oatcakes with maple syrup and blueberries

150g self-raising stoneground wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g unrefined porridge
2 eggs, lightly beaten
150ml milk
pinch of salt
15g caster sugar
  1. Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the eggs and milk. Beat together until you have a smooth batter.
  2. Heat a frying pan, melt a little butter and then cook 3-4 oatcakes at a time - use about a tablespoon of batter for each cake. Cook for a minute or two until bubbles start to appear and then flip over and cook for a minute on the the other side.
  3. Serve with maple syrup and blueberries.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Paula Radcliffe pulls out of FLM - what a disappointment

I'm so disappointed that Paula Radcliffe has pulled out of the London Marathon. I remember her being such an inspiration when I ran behind her in the New York Marathon and I, along with thousands of others I am sure, will miss her not being there. We should all learn from her example really and recognise our limitations. It must be such an incredibly gutting thing to have to do as a professional. But running with an injury is a recipe for disaster and it would be a terrible blow if she were not better for the Olympics. I am meant to be doing 11 miles today but my excuse is not injury, it is time constraint; I have not got a moment spare. I made a tasty spaghetti dish - spaghetti with basil, parmesan and pine nuts - last night in preparation for a 6 a.m. early morning run, but I couldn't face it and I stayed in bed. Not good! I'll have to try to fit it in tomorrow instead, because I am spending the day preparing dishes for a photographic session this afternoon. I have two articles going to press now, and a regular 'recipes for runners' slot in Running Fitness to look forward to, so I really need some more professional photo shots of my recipes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

20 miles

I took Sunday off for Mother's Day and did my long run on Monday instead. My running schedule says that you should run your long runs about 20% slower than race pace; it is all about time on your feet, rather than getting a great time for every run. I was quite pleased with my 20 miles in 2hrs 48 mins. After the initial few miles when my legs felt like lead I started to feel good and I have to admit that I could have kept going for another 6 miles. I put it down to a good breakfast of porridge, walnuts and crunchy demerara sugar and my Mum's almond tart "Tarta di Santiago", which is basically a tart base with a filling of almonds, eggs and sugar. You find it in every cafe in Santiago di Compostella and it is very filling and quite delicious.

On the subject of Spanish food, I made a very quick and easy spanish-style stew after my run. It is a great meal for midweek if you have people eating at different times, as we do on Mondays in our household. It takes literally 15 minutes to make, a hour to simmer on the stove and it really hits the spot... the idea is that it is chunky, so don't worry about chopping the vegetables carefully.

1 Onion, 1 leek, 3 cloves garlic, 1 head of celery, 5 or 6 carrots - or whatever you have that is chunky in the fridge
couple of bayleaves
4 pieces of pork belly, chopped into 2 inch chunks
Chorizo sausage in chunks

a couple of tins of tomatoes, a tin of chickpeas and a tin or two of butter beans

vegetable stock
spices - ground cumin, coriander, chilli, smoked paprika, moroccan spice mix
Salt and pepper

  1. Chop onion and leek roughly and saute in some olive oil on a gentle heat with the bay leaves

  2. Roughly chop the other vegetables and the garlic and add them to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or so

  3. Add the pork belly, chorizo, tomatoes, chickpeas and butter beans and top up with vegetable stock

  4. Add the spices - play about with different mixes - I added caraway seed yesterday and that was nice

  5. Cover and simmer for about an hour until the meat is tender

  6. Eat with chunks of crusty bread