Thursday, October 1, 2009

New Website

I am now blogging on my new-look Go Faster Food website Click here to link through to my latest post - Apple Power Pancakes with Spiced Apple Syrup - you've got to try them - they are totally delicious!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fennel Sausages with Lemony Potatoes & Bay Leaves

It has been a busy weekend - the book signing on Saturday, the Bristol Half on Sunday followed by a lovely post half lunch at friends and then my birthday (for which Mark cooked a, I mean really really delicious roast beef). On top of this of course there have been the normal kids activities - a rugby match against Taunton School and a football match plus rugby, football and swimming training. Not wanting to go too overboard singing my husband's praises, he dealt with all the kids stuff this weekend brilliantly...except the washing of the kit of course (claims he doesn't know how to work the washing machine).

For my birthday the kids gave me Rick Stein's Mediterranean Escapes, a beautifully illustrated book packed with tasty dishes, many of which you can actually cook quickly and easily. I'd say my knowledge of Mediterranean cooking is pretty good, but this book has definitely got some delicious ideas, even if some of the recipes contain ingredients that you wouldn't normally find down the local supermarket or deli. What's more, the majority of them are healthy, wholesome and low fat. As I was a bit fed up with couscous, rice and pasta having spent the past week carbo-loading, I was yearning for some delicious potatoes, so last night we had the Fennel Sausages braised with Lemony Potatoes and Bay Leaves out of Rick's book (or rather our local butcher's Cumberland sausages to which I added a tablespoon of fennel seeds) . It was dead quick and easy and truly delicious. We ate it with a scrumptious lollo rosso salad in a mustardy dressing made with cider vinegar and pumpkin seed oil and it made the perfect accompaniment. I think it would also be good if you replaced the sausages with a nice pork chop or a piece of chicken. This is my rather bastardised version of Rick Stein's recipe:

  • 500g nice quality meaty sausages - Rick Stein's recipe uses fennel sausages, but I've no idea where you'd get them in Bristol, so I added:
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves (2 if the sausages are garlicky), finely sliced
  • 750g waxy potatoes - they must be waxy ones or the dish won't work - I used pink firs, which I just washed and didn't bother peeling and cut into long halves or quarters depending on their size
  • zest and juice of a lemon
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaved parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Brown the sausages gently in 1 tbsp of the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish or roasting dish. Set aside.
  3. Gently saute the onion, garlic and fennel seeds in another tbsp of the oil until they are soft and then add the potatoes, the sausages, the bay leaves, the lemon zest and 1/2 the juice, 2 tbsp of the parsley, a good pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Pour on the rest of the oil and add some water - about 120ml or to about 1 inch depth. Cover tightly (I covered it with tin foil as I used a roasting dish) and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are just tender.
  5. Add the rest of the parsley and squeeze the rest of the lemon juice over before serving.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Book Signing -Go Faster Food

Book Signing -Go Faster Food

Come and say hello to me at Borders, Queen's Road, Bristol on Saturday 5th September, 11.30 - 12.30, especially if you're about to run the Bristol Half - I'll be offering advice on nutrition and recipes for training and signing copies of my book.

Here's the link to the Borders site

Looking forward to meeting you!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Griddled lamb cutlets with chickpea and sweet potato pilau

Griddled lamb cutlets with chickpea and sweet potato pilau

We're getting to the end of the kids Summer holidays and stocks are getting pretty low. I've been delaying a big food shop in favour of much more interesting activities like long runs, bike rides with the kids or trips to buy new school shoes (?!) and so last night was most definitely a "scratch" meal....but sometimes they are the best. Within 10 minutes, a most delicious aroma had filled the house and supper was ready - not only a tasty and speedy meal, but a perfect low G.I., high carbohydrate dish for my preparation for the Bristol Half Marathon on Sunday.

I had some fresh chicken stock and so decided on a risotto to accompany some lamb cutlets which had reached their best before date - it was only when I started to saute an onion as the first stage of the risotto that I discovered I had run out of risotto rice. When you're running sometimes you have to be flexible and change your goals when things don't go to plan - this can happen in just the same way with cooking and a quick change of plan was needed - it had to be a pilau with basmati rice. I threw in a sweet potato, some chopped celery, a spoon of madras paste, some crushed cardamom seeds and a tin of chickpeas. I added the rice to this mixture, mixed it all up and then covered it with the hot stock. Ten minutes later the pilau was ready - finished off with some finely chopped green chilli and a big handful of fresh coriander, a healthy, energy-giving and tasty meal for five had been prepared in a blip....and subsequently demolished in about the same amount of time!

Ingredients - serves 5

  • 10 lamb cutlets ( I seasoned mine with herbes de provence and a little moroccan spice mix)
  • 350-375 g good quality basmati rice (about two big handfuls per person)
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 1 scant tablespoon madras paste (I use Pataks)
  • the seeds of 3-4 cardamom pods, crushed in a pestle and mortar
  • 400g tin chickpeas
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • chicken stock
  • large handful of fresh coriander, chopped roughly
  • 1 large green chilli, finely sliced into rings
  • yoghurt sauce - mix a pinch of salt, pinch of sugar, pinch of chilli powder, pinch of coriander or ras-el-hanout spice mix into about 5 tablespoons natural yoghurt
  1. Prepare the lamb cutlets - coat them in whatever herbs and spices you have decided to use and heat up the griddle.
  2. Gently saute the onion and celery in the oil and then add the sweet potato after a couple of minutes. I use a large, deep frying pan with a lid - this sort of thing is perfect for a pilau. Add the madras paste, the cardamom seeds and the chickpeas and then stir it all around for a minute or so.
  3. Add the rice and stir so that all the ingredients are well mixed up.
  4. Add enough hot stock to cover the rice by about 1/2 cm. When the stock comes to the boil again, turn down the heat to very gently and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Basmati rice cooks really quickly so check to see if the rice is cooked after about 8 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile griddle the lamb cutlets. A good trick is to leave them on the griddle without turning until the fat goes really crisp, then turn them and finish them off on the other side.
  6. When the pilau is cooked, add the fresh coriander and the slices of chilli and serve with the cutlets and the yoghurt sauce.
  7. I found half a bag of watercress in the fridge which I livened up with a mustardy dressing - this went really well with the lamb and pilau.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

100 Essential Health and Nutrition Tips for Avid Runners

100 Essential Health and Nutrition Tips for Avid Runners

Click on this for some really informative links, including information on stretching, nutrition, footwear and running blogs.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Haile Gebrselassie marathon hero

Haile Gebrselassie

I've been invited onto Radio Bristol's Dinner party Hour on Saturday morning (9-10 if anyone's interested!). I've got to choose 4 people, dead or alive, that I'd like to invite to dinner, what I'd serve to eat and drink and what music I'd play. Of course, Haile Gebrselassie has to be up there amongst my favorites. I think he might be a vegetarian so I'll have to have a think about something delicious for him, or maybe even try out some Teff, an ethiopian grain which is rich in minerals and which the great Haile says contributes to the success of ethiopian runners (along with genes, poverty and sheer determination). Haile Gebrselassie runs with a crooked arm, which is apparently due to the fact that he spent his childhood running 10km to and from school, carrying his books under his arm.

While researching Haile, I came across an amazing site called which is packed with videos on endurance - watch endurance on-line. It's got hundreds of videos, including Usain Bolt's world record at the World Championships last week, plus an interview with the great marathon record holder Haile Gebrselassie:/p>

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Apple & Almond Bake Recipe

The past two weeks have been spent camping in the wilds and kayaking down the River Wye, hence the lack of blogs. I don't have internet on my mobile phone and there was absolutely no question of taking my laptop on the kayak, so I have been free from any contact with the outside world, apart from the odd newspaper....I like that!

Here's some pics of the Wye trip. Huge salmon jumping around us (unfortunately not into the boat!), otters, herons, buzzards etc, heaps of blackberries and delicious field mushrooms to forage. Campfires every night. Happy, contented children. And it only rained for one morning. Paradise really, although quite hard work.

Better pics to follow once my 73 year-old mother-in-law, Sylvia a.k.a. extreme grannie, has worked out how to email them to me.12082009835

I hope I can get back into running fitness for the Bristol Half Marathon on 6th September and the Inverness Monster Duathlon the following weekend as the canoeing was very good for the upper body strength, but not so good for the legs! We managed to get out for a few early morning runs, but went no further than about 6 miles.

We've returned to a bumper crop of apples in our garden so I've been hard at work picking, peeling, coring and storing the things. It's a great excuse to delay other houshold chores like the dreaded washing that makes coming home from a camping holiday such hell! I know there are countless exciting ways of using apples (and we have a range of varieties from bramley cookers to eater such as cox's orange pippin) but what we and the kids really enjoy is a good old apple crumble or apple and almond bake. Here's my recipe for a delicious (and very simple) apple and almond bake. It's not just a treat for the kids, it also makes for a tasty, filling and healthy dessert for athletes. The almonds provide good, cholesterol-reducing monounsaturated fats and also contain significant amounts of the antioxidant vitamin E, plus magnesium and potassium and of course the apples are packed with low G.I. carbohydrate, dietary fibre and anti-oxidants, plus vitamin C.


Here's the recipe:

Apple and Almond Bake

  • Bramley cooking apples (about 4-5 medium sized)
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 175g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder (optional)
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 3 medium free range eggs
  • zest of half a lemon
  1. Heat the oven to 180C.
  2. Peel, core and chop the apples.
  3. Place the apples in a saucepan, cover, and then heat gently with the cinnamon, a tbsp water, a tbsp honey and a tbsp sugar until purreed.
  4. Pour into an ovenproof dish (about 20cm diameter, but don't worry if it is a bit smaller or larger).
  5. Beat the sugar, lemon zest and butter together with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.
  6. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each one is well incorporated.
  7. Gently fold in the baking powder and almonds.
  8. Pour mixture onto the apples and spread it evenly so that all the apples are covered.
  9. Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes, or until golden and risen.

Skechers Shape Ups Product Review

I know I'm a sucker for shoes, but when I was offered a pair of Skechers Shape Ups to review by the guys at fitness footwear, I was slightly dubious about what my reaction might be towards them. With their particularly shaped sole, they do look a little "space age" . However, when I opened the box I was very pleasantly surprised by how stylish they were...and how incredibly light. My Shape Ups are in a black suede finish (Sketchers Shape Ups Optimize) and I have to say they do look really good with jeans, which I suppose if I am being honest is my standard dress when not in my running kit!

So what's so special about Shape Ups? Shape Ups are the new range of fitness shoes from Skechers which are designed to give you a better workout while you walk by mimicking the effects of barefoot walking. Apparently if you wear your Shape Ups regularly you benefit from better muscle tone - firmer buttocks(!), better posture, faster fat burn, improved blood circulation, tighter abdominals, reduced cellulite....this list goes on...and this all happens just while you're walking around as part of your normal day!

As a fairly lean runner, I don't really have much of a problem in the muscle tone and fat burn department, but my incredibly active cyclist/kayaking mother-in-law (or, as some say, "extreme grannie"), absolutely swears by these shoes. What they don't mention in the promotional information is that I think you can actually walk further before your legs start to feel tired. This is really important for me - after a 10 mile run sometimes the thought of walking the 3 mile round trip to school to collect my children seems rather daunting....but not with my new Shape Ups!

The best suprise for me of these Shape Ups is the all-important comfort factor. I could wear them for ever and ever. In fact, once you have put them on you just don't want to take them off. They may mimick the effects of barefoot walking, but they are certainly a lot more comfortable. We have a rule in our house that you must take off your shoes but I just want to keep my Shape Ups on, especially as most of my time at home is spent standing up in the kitchen - what I really need is an indoor and an outdoor pair!

For more information, take a look at the on-line guide to Skechers Shape Ups.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sticky Ginger, Date and Walnut Cake

Sticky date pudding from Citrus and Candy
Sticky date pudding from Citrus and Candy

My 10 mile run yesterday was wet and windswept, yet for some bizarre reason it was the best run I've had in a long time. I felt really strong and managed to speed up for the whole of the last mile despite the howling gale into which I was running. I met some friends 'mid-run' and rather than stopping for a long chat I invited them for tea and cakes later. It was a great opportunity to try out my 'runners version' of the sticky date putting I had so been wanting to bake. I found this recipe in a lovely blog called Citrus and Candy and immediatly thought about adding a few extras to make it a really good treat for recovery after a big workout. The original recipe is soaked with a butterscotch sauce but we found this too sweet and decided the cake was much nicer with a good dollop of creme fraiche instead.

So why is this cake a good recovery treat?

Well, there's plenty of carbohydrate to replenish the glycogen levels in those tired muscles; dates are one of the few dried fruits with a high G.I., which means that the carbohydrate in them is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, there's protein from the eggs to help repair any muscle trauma, the added ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory and the walnuts are a great superfood, containing heaps of omega-3 and anti-oxidants. And it takes only a few minutes to make and tastes gorgeous!

Here's my version without the butterscotch sauce. If you were making this for a dessert, you may want to make some sauce to go with it:


  • 140g pitted dates, chopped coarsely
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 190 ml boiling water
  • handful of walnuts, chopped coarsely
  • 2 lumps of preserved, stem ginger, chopped quite finely
  • 90g softened unsalted butter
  • 110g soft light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 medium free range eggs
  • 130g self raising flour, sifted
  • 1 tbsp preserved ginger syrup
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 20 cm square cake tin
  2. Put the dates into a bowl with the bicarbonate of soda and pour over the boiling water and leave for 20 minutes
  3. Beat together the sugar, vanilla extract and butter until pale and fluffy
  4. Add the eggs and beat well
  5. Fold in the date mixture (inc.water), the walnuts and the ginger and then fold in the flour
  6. Pour into a cake tin (the mixture is meant to be quite runny, don't worry)
  7. Bake for 30 minutes until the cake is risen and golden brown
  8. Cool in the tin for five minutes and then turn it out onto a wire rack
  9. Warm the ginger syrup, prick the cake all over with a skewer and pour over the syrup so that it soaks in and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

American Blueberry Pancakes

I've been busy this afternoon making little lemon tarts and and a rather tempting-to-the-eye apricot tarte tatin...delicious. Well, they probably are, but they're for a friend so I mustn't touch unfortunately!

We've had a really fun weekend of activity. I went along to the Bristol Half Marathon Training weekend, held by Run Bristol and the team at Full Potential, sold a few copies of Go Faster Food, and then did a 9 1/2 mile run in the the sun (I think that was the last time it peeked out from those heavy rainclouds we've got here in Bristol at the moment). I felt really good and even sprinted at the end! Nick at Full Potential recommends that you should incorporate a few race pace sessions of 10 minutes or so into your weekly long run, so that your body learns to know what to expect. That makes sense to me and it gave the run a nice focus point.

On Sunday, Mark took hold of my book and cooked up some of my American Blueberry Pancakes which he served up as a late breakfast with maple syrup and some crispy bacon...yes, the kids are away!! He misread the abbreviation 2 tsp as 2 tablespoons - of baking powder (!)- but I managed to thwart his attempts at sabotaging my recipe and the end result was completely delicious. We were nicely stoked up for our cycle along the Bristol to Bath railway path for lunch with our lovely friends there. Door to door is only about 20 miles but the rain was torrential from start to finish and what is normally a gorgeous cycle ride was pretty unpleasant really!

The American Blueberry Pancakes are in the breakfast section of Go Faster Food - Page 60 - (maybe I'll make them recipe of the month at some point?). They are actually fantastic for post exercise recovery; a great fun and tasty way to get some high G.I. carbohydrate and protein into your system after a serious workout, with the added kick of the blueberries, now classed as a superfood and bursting with nutrients. It is really important to feed your tired muscles with some fast-acting carbohydrate to replenish your glycogen stores after exercise, and you need some protein to help repair any muscle trauma. What's great about these pancakes is that you can make the mixture before you leave the house, dream about them when the going gets tough on your run and then cook them on your return, even while you're doing your stretches. Hey presto, you'll be sitting down and pouring maple syrup over your first one within the 15 minute magic window of recovery!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Marathon des Sables

I've just found a really interesting blog out there in the running blogoshere - Rich Merry's account of the Marathon des Sables and the training involved - take a look at his blog.

Click here for an inspirational video on the Marathon des Sables

So what does the average person take for a six day, 151 mile endurance race in the desert when he has to carry all his own stuff and needs at least 200 calories a day? The last person I spoke to was an Italian guy, Alberto, from Victoria Park Harriers, who was planning on taking a parma ham and lump of parmesan cheese in his backpack, plus some dried pasta and rice - good for protein, salt and carbs, but not sure about carrying all that weight...

Rich doesn't talk too much about nutrition in his blog, so I asked him to give me an account of what he took with him. It sounds like he got it pretty well organised, especially as it was his first time. This is what he said:

"Food-wise on the Mds was a mixed bag (not literally). My menu was divided up into days depending on the expected calorie expenditure and that we needed to have at least 2000kcal everyday. The weight was also an issue and my total food for the trip weighed in at 5kg.

I took mainly boil in bag meals (expedition foods), which covered breakfast (800kcal), food for when I stopped (about same - Spag Bol, Tikka, chilli etc) and then a dessert in the evening before sleep. Having said that by the end of the week we were swapping meals as we got a bit fed up with them and most started to taste the same.

Snack-wise I took honey roasted cashew nuts, beef jerky, skittles and these again were shared out as the week progressed. I also took pouches of coffee and hot chocolate, which made a big difference and lifted the day when it got tough.

Dehydration wasn’t a problem for me, however I started to struggle drinking water and nuun drinks halfway through the long stage (91km non stop), as I found I couldn’t keep it down. This wasn’t an initial problem as it was 11pm when I started but, by the end of the stage I was really dry and ended up having an expedition foods muesli with extra water added to the milk powder just to get fluids in, and had to use this method as well as try to sip what I could. I never expected to be sick (literally) of water, after all the training I had done.

The only thing I would change about my time out there would be to have changed my variety of snacks and food. What seemed a nice snack back home soon became boring and not enjoyable eating day-in day-out. Also a small bottle cordial would have been nice, just to add flavour to water, but it is all a matter of weight that stopped me initially."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Feature in Running Free Magazine

Click here for my feature in Running Free Magazine – it’s on pages 22 and 23.

Running Free Magazine is a really informative and well-written magazine and although it is FREE, it is not absolutely stuffed with annoying ads! It is available in most running shops, on-line or you can subscribe and have it sent to your door.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Chicken tagine, artichokes and green olives with basmati and wild rice

This is a bit of a 'cheatie' tagine, but it is incredibly quick and easy, very very tasty and packed with goodness. All you need to do is pop the chicken in the oven, surround it with some nice vegatables and spices, maybe something tasty that might be lurking in the fridge like a few green olives and hey presto, an hour later you have a delicious and healthy meal for four. We ate it last night with Basmati and wild rice, a good low G.I. option for sustained energy...and it seems that the whole family needs that extra little

boost of energy at the moment what with the end of term rush with the kids, the launch of Go Faster Food and our new training schedule for the Bristol Half Marathon and the Monster Challenge in September. We like to eat this sort of dish with a green salad tossed with a nice dijon mustard dressing.

Cheat’s Chicken, Artichoke and Green Olive Tagine with Basmati and Wild Rice

Ingredients – serves 4

1 whole free range chicken

1 large onion, finely sliced

1 tin artichokes

1 tin chickpeas

a handful of green olives

2 sticks celery, sliced into 5 cm lengths

1 green pepper, chopped into chunks

1 green chilil, deseeded and slcied finely

2 tsp cumin seeds and 2 tsp coriander seeds, roasted and roughly ground with a pestle and mortar

1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika

1 cinnamon stick

Plenty of fresh flat-leaved parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil (c. 3 tablespoons)

Chicken stock (enough to just cover the vegetables) plus a tbsp plain flour to thicken sauce

Glass of white wine (optional)

Basmati and Wild Rice

  1. Heat the oven to 200 C.
  2. Take the chicken and turn it upside down. With a sharp knife, cut through the bone and lay out the chicken "spatchcock style", breast side up, on a large roasting pan. (If this worries you, take a look at the nice man in this YouTube video who demonstrates very clearly how to do it)/span>
  3. Scatter the onions, chickpeas and other vegetables around the pan.
  4. Put a tablespoon of plain flour into a jug and make a paste with a little of the stock, then gradually pour the rest of the stock into the jug.
  5. Pour the stock (and wine, if using) over the vegetables around the chicken but not over the chicken. Add the cinnamon stick.
  6. Drizzle the chicken with plenty of olive oil and then scatter the whole dish, including the chicken with the spice mix and season generously.
  7. Bake in the oven for about 1 hour, until the chicken is crispy on top and cooked through.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nutrition for Better Running

This week has been a complete whirlwinputting us though our pacesd of activity.

I gave a talk at one of the Full Potential workshops on Saturday which was specifically designed around the theme of Nutrition for Better Running. The day consisted of four talks on different aspects of nutrition - from the basics of nutrition for running, to putting all this into practice with food and meal ideas (that was my bit), views on supplements and then the latest advice on race nutrition from the Lucozade Sports Scientists. There was a totally brilliant coaching session in the middle of the day in which top class coach Nick Anderson put us through our paces - yes, I mean literally! He encouraged us to work out our 5k, 10k and threshold paces. If only I had a personal trainer like that every week....completely inspirational.

Now I'm getting organised for my book launch next week, which is going to be hosted by the University of Bristol Sports Medicine Clinic. If anyone fancies popping along, you are very welcome - 12.30 to 1.30 at the University Sports Centre, Tyndall Avenue. I'm going to give a little talk and then there will be some tasters of Go Faster Food and of course an opportunity to buy a signed copy of my new book.

Between all this activity, there's been the Cancer Research UK's Race for Life, and the British Heart Foundation's Bristol Harbour Run, my daughter's French exchange has arrived, the builders have turned up to plaster our bedroom so we have decamped to the sofa bed in the office and I made some nice little banana cakes - recipe to follow in next post...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A fresh approach to carbo-loading

I've just spent the past 9 hours doing a post-marathon clean of the house. What a workout! I have absolutely no need to run or go to the gym today! I have to say that when in training I do become a master of the art of "skim cleaning" - it is just one of those chores which gets put on the back burner as I hate it so much, so the place really needed some serious attention! 

We had our first taste of the new season's peas today. Exquisite and packed with nutrients, with good amounts of vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein. Popped directly from their pods, they taste unbelievably good. There are all sort of ways of cooking peas if you can manage not to eat them straight from the pod -  simply boil them in water for a couple of minutes and serve with a knob of butter and a few sprigs of mint or chervil, or with some feta cheese and bacon, or fresh tender baby leeks. You could also try them cooked in a little stock with a few fresh wilted lettuce leaves. But for us athletes, they make the most delicious summery risotto - fresh tasting, quick to make and really high in carbohydrate. The combination of risotto rice and fresh peas is pretty low G.I. and will keep you sustained for hours, fantastic for the night before a long training session or a race. 
Creamy Risotto of Fresh Peas and Chervil (use mint or flat-leaf parsley as alternative).

Serves 4

50g unsalted butter, plus a knob of butter for the end

1 onion or leek, finely sliced

1 stick of celery, finely chopped

80g pancetta cubes, or bacon, cubed (optional)

350g Arborio risotto rice

1¼–1½ litres vegetable bouillon or chicken stock

250ml white wine

300g fresh peas, podded

large bunch of fresh chervil, chopped

100g freshly grated parmesan

salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat up the stock in a saucepan so that it is ready to ladle onto the rice.
  2. In a large heavy-bottomed pan, gently sauté the onion and celery in the butter/oil over a low heat until translucent. Add the pancetta and sauté for another couple of minutes.
  3. Add the rice and stir until the grains become translucent and glossy.
  4. Add the wine and stir until it has been absorbed.
  5. Add a ladle of hot stock and stir constantly until it is almost absorbed. Add the rest of the hot stock, a ladle at a time, stirring constantly. You need to make sure that each ladleful is absorbed by the rice before you add the next one. This should take about 18–20minutes. Youmay need more or less stock according to the type of rice and the rate of absorption.
  6. When the rice is almost cooked, add the peas and the chervil or 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.
  7. 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 chervil or mint and a few grinds of black pepper. 
  8. Serve with a rocket salad and some fresh parmesan shavings

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stockholm Marathon

Mark and I had a most wonderful kid-free weekend in sunny Stockholm, marred only by the fact that we ran the Stockholm marathon in the blazing heat on the Saturday, when other more sensible people were picnicking in the parks or swimming on the Stockholm archipelago! 

No, it was good, really, and the support was tremendous, much better than expected...

Unlike most marathons which start early in the morning, the Stockholm marathon kicks off at 14.00, right in the heat of the day, which last Saturday was really quite intense (about 25-27 degrees), and just when the tarmac on the streets had had the chance to warm up nicely! A beautiful day for a picnic on the beach, but not for running a marathon! A girl from San Fransisco came in just after me and had almost expired with the heat and suffered serious cramping -  " Hey, we get up at 5 a.m. to run when it is hot, we don't sit around and wait until the hottest part of the day"

Having said that, I must say that, unlike the dire situation at the Edinburgh marathon this weekend where the water was stolen, there were loads of drinks stations with water, quite a nice grapefruit and lemon flavoured sports drink called Maxim, vats of water to throw over you and showers to run under. Towards the end of the race there were stations serving knorr vegetable stock drink (nice and salty but no thanks), gherkins/pickles (again, no thanks), flat cola and bananas (yes please). Next time could we have slices of orange to suck on please!

And the race is really pretty - quite slow, crowded and unexpectedly hilly but very, very beautiful. Take a look at the official video for a taster.

It was not a day for personal bests. I actually ran 20 minutes slower than my target time of 3 hrs 29 and so I was quite disappointed with that. I think I was more set on getting my drinking strategy right so that I didn't cramp. I actually stopped at most of the drinks stations and went to the loo twice (that must have wasted about 5 minutes!).
The result of that is that my recovery was almost immediate and I had no particular stiffness over the following days, unlike my normal state which usually entails the total avoidance of stairs etc! "Should've tried harder", my husband keeps reminding me. It might also be because there were lots of high G.I.carbs in the goodie bag, which I managed to get down me immediately to replenish my glycogen levels, within the magic 15 minute window when the muscles are at their most receptive.

I'm quite amazed and very chuffed to see that I came 38th in my age group and 227th overall (women, that is).

So, to the pre-marathon meal. This was fab! We found a delightful little Italian restaurant called Paparazzi and had the most amazing fresh pasta - better than I have ever cooked myself. I had papardelle with lobster in a cream and brandy sauce (I would normally avoid creamy sauces and seafood before a marathon, but I couldn't resist). Luckily it wasn't too rich and the lobster was very fresh. After the marathon we were taken to the coolest bar in Stockholm, apparently, the Lydmar Hotel, where we had the obligatory entrecote, delicious potatoes and salad, preceded by some of the best fish soup I have ever tasted. Someone once told me that Scandinavian food was nothing special, but I have to say that my experience of Swedish food was a very positive one. Perhaps that is because I avoided the hotdogs and meatballs (yes, just like you get in Ikea) which seemed to be on offer everywhere!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Go Faster Food Book Review

Just staggered in from running the Stockholm Marathon to find this lovely book review waiting for me from the resident runner at Fitness Footwear. Thanks a lot Adam, I'm glad you liked the book! 

Go Faster Food Book Review

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Go Faster Food already has a list of recommendations as long as your arm with endorsements from Olympians, running magazines along with a foreword by double Olympian Liz Yelling, but what stands out about this book is not only the excellent advice and recipes, but how wonderfully written it is.

From the very start, Kate Percy’s personality shines through, delivering helpful tips concisely, but in an everyday language that’s a pleasure to read. So not only are you taking advice from a real person with their own real life experiences, but this person is also being realistic about what to eat and when to eat it.

Even a nice cold beer is recommended as a recovering drink if you’ve been working particularly hard, simply because you deserve it.

Before getting down the recipes, Kate speaks about her own experience in running and how diet is such an important part of it. It’s not about just eating well, it’s about eating the right things in the right amounts and how to maximise the energy they offer to literally Go Faster.

The book is very well laid out and easy to follow, especially for someone who reads as impatiently as myself. As such, the book is divided into two sections, the first detailing nutrition and training, like what to eat and when, as well as the importance of hydration.

Meanwhile the second half is all about the recipes, which run from morning meals to midday and evening. With over 100 recipes, Go Faster Food deserves a permanent place in your kitchen.

Quotes from Kate’s running friends can be found throughout the book, recommending their favourite meals, all of which have been included within this 280 page volume. Naturally, these vary from steak and chips washed down with a beer to pasta and more exotic dishes, proving that to train efficiently you don’t have to eat nothing but sensible salads.

Go Faster Food is an essential recipe book that will turn runners into faster runners, food connoisseurs and maybe even master chefs. Who ever imagined that beautiful cooking could go hand in hand with health and fitness?

To buy the book, learn about the nutritional value of food which will help you go faster and read Kate’s regularly updated blog for her latest dishes and training methods, visit

Go Faster Food is available from the 2nd of July and is priced at £12.99

Report on Stockholm to follow in next post...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Steve Cram at Bristol Half Marathon Workshop

I can hardly believe that a whole week has gone by without me writing a post about the brilliant talk/Q & A workshop given for the Bristol Half Marathon. It has been a busy week; my book Go Faster Food has become available for pre-order, I've been getting ready for the Stockholm marathon on Saturday, my eldest daughter has started her GCSEs and the kid's half-term has crept up on me rather too quickly. 

It is not often that us mere mortals get to meet, run with and receive sound wisdom directy from top sports people, and the Bristol 1/2 organisers have really got it together this year, with talks from eminent Olympians and top coaches such as Liz Yelling, Steve Cram, Bud Baldaro, Nick Rose etc. Last week's session, hosted by top coach Bud Buldaro, was given by Steve Cram, along with Full Potential's Nick Anderson (who, by the way, coached the top three finishers in last year's 1/2 marathon) and Clare Callaghan, from Bristol University's Sports Medicine Cinic. For my part, the most interesting comment from Steve Cram was that he had really never enjoyed training, it was the winning that made it worth it! 

Tops points to go home with were:
  • Build up a good aerobic foundation before you start training hard
  • Train at least three times a week, with one long run, one speed session and one steady run.
  • Alternate your interval/speed sessions to make it more fun (fartlek, tempo runs, 1 min fast, 2 mins slow etc)
  • Warm up and warm down properly, think about stretching during and after runs (but not before the run) and stretching late at night before you go to bed
  • Listen to your body, don't overtrain or start doing too much too soon, as this will normally lead to injury 
  • Refresh targets, be realistic with your ambitions
Run Bristol have one more training camp before the Half Marathon on September 6th 2009 and it sounds like it will be absolutely brilliant - 18/19th July - you get advice from top athletes and you get to run with them, it only costs £10 per day and the lunch is always fabulous.