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.