Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pancake Day

Pancake day again. I must say that I wouldn't run a marathon on a pancake breakfast, but to me there is no better treat than a traditional pancake rolled up with lemon and sugar....great for this evening's post-workout treat! 

We make so many different varieties of pancake in my family that I've invested in a proper pancake pan...in fact I have two so that we can have a rolling stock of pancakes arriving at the table. I have a range of "healthy and sustaining" pancakes comng out in my book in July, but on pancake day there is only one choice for me -the bog-standand traditional english pancake recipe...you can't go wrong with it:


100g flour
1 egg
pinch of salt
300ml milk, or 250ml milk plus 50ml water
Sugar and lemon juice to serve
butter to cook

  1. Make a smooth batter with the flour, egg, milk and salt - blend together with an electric blender. If you can, leave this to stand for 30 minutes or so (I made my mixture last night for this morning's pancake feast).
  2. Heat a knob of butter in a large frying pan until hot and then pour enough batter to thinly coat the base of the pan. 
  3. Cook for a couple of minutes each side.
  4. Sprinkle with sugar and lemon juice, or whatever your prefered topping is...jam, maple syrup, sugar....roll up and enjoy.

Monday, February 23, 2009

9 miles

My longest run for a few weeks and, fingers crossed, no achilles pain. Went to London on Saturday and then to my parents to eat on Sunday, so no cooking this weekend...a very strange feeling. It has been such great running weather this week; sunny, not too cold, just beautiful. 

These are pictures of Sand Point, a wonderful place to run near Weston-Super-Mare, and a million miles away from the less scenic Weston-Super-Mare seafront...

Why go to a sweaty gym when you can be outside in scenery like this!

I am going to try Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's chocolate biscuit cake this week. I am very fond of choc biscuit cake, and it is an especially good high G.I. snack to have straight after a big endurance session. I usually make mine with digestive biscuits and stem or crystallised ginger, plus other goodies such as nuts and dried fruit, but HFW's uses stem ginger cookies and golden syrup which, if it is not too sweet, could make it even better for replenishing those tired muscles. There is a lot of talk about the importance of sticking to slow-burning, low G.I. foods to keep energy levels at a constant level, hence the advantages of eating porridge before a big race or training run,  so why do we need high G.I. foods when we are training? 
Carbohydrate is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. Glycogen levels become depleted after a workout and the quicker they are topped up again, the quicker your recovery will be and the better you will feel for your next session. The higher the G.I., the quicker the glucose will get into your system. What's more, the sooner you tuck into something the better, as your muscles are at their most receptive directly after your workout. Eating something high G.I. directly after exercise helps your body to recover and tops up your glycogen levels for the following days' endurance. Training intensely on a regular basis means that you need to recover from the previous session, that is, your body’s glycogen stores need to be replenished as quickly as possible, so that you can start again on the next. If you fail to refuel properly over a period of time, the glycogen reserves in your working muscles will become progressively depleted – you will feel lethargic and your muscles will feel heavy and tired. Maintaining your carb-rich diet on rest days, you will delay the onset of fatigue and help avoid those dreadful days when your legs feel like lumps of lead.    

Do you need any better excuse to eat a delicious slice of chocolate biscuit cake?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sweet Potato, Coconut and Orange Cake with Orange Ricotta Cream

I've been trying to develop my repertoire of "healthy" cakes to eat as training snacks and I have to say that this one ticks most boxes. For a cake, it is pretty high in 'good' calories and it has a medium glycaemic index so it will keep up your energy levels for a while longer than, say, a traditional victoria sponge. Based on sweet potatoes, it is not packed with too much sugar and other nasties, as the potato provides enough sweetness in itself. And what's more, sweet potatoes can be included as part of your five a day! It is also made with unrefined wholemeal flour and soft brown sugar. I have to say that dessicated coconut is pretty high in fat, but it really adds to the flavour and we marathon runners need a little bit of fat or we might fade away completely!
 Some may balk at the idea of sweet potato in a cake - my 15-year old daughter, for instance, said "Yuk! Sweet potato is just not meant to be in cakes, mum, why don't you just make some wedges (sweet potato chips), they're delicious" -
 but I noticed her helping herself to a second slice and quite openly admitting that, actually it was delicious...

There is a lot of talk about the importance of sticking to slow-burning, low G.I. foods to keep energy levels at a contstant level, hence the advantages of eating porridge before a big race or training run.  Carbohydrate is stored in the muscles as glycogen. If you are training intensively and for long periods,  you need to keep these glycogen levels  "fuelled up" at a constant level or the glycogen in your muscles will start to gradually become depleted, you will tire and your stamina will start to wane. It will also keep your blood 
sugar levels steady, reduce those mighty hunger pangs and sugar cravings and help maintain your energy levels. More of this later, or take a look at my eat well, run well posting, but here's the recipe for the delicious sweet potato cake:

Sweet Potato, Coconut and Orange Cake with Orange Ricotta Cream

Use a 20cm round spring form tin

110g butter
200g sweet potato (about 2 medium-sized potatoes), peeled and finely grated
50g desicated coconut
140g soft brown sugar
140g wholemeal self-raising flour
3 large free-range eggs
zest of one orange
juice of 1/2 orange (about 50ml)
25g pecans
50g sultanas
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of  salt

  1. Turn on the oven to 170 degrees (fan oven temp). Grease the tin lightly.
  2. Cream together the butter, orange zest and sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, beating well as you add each one.
  4. Fold in the grated sweet potato and the coconut.
  5. Add the orange juice and then fold in the flour, nuts, sultanas, cinnamon, salt and bicarbonate of soda.
  6. Pour into the cake tin and bake in the oven for about 45 mins. You will know the cake is done as the cake will come away from the side of the tin and if you place a skewer into the middle of the cake it will come out clean.
  7. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Spread the ricotta cream on top when cool and enjoy!
Orange Ricotta Cream 
25g unsalted butter, softened
1 250g pot ricotta 
1 tbsp icing sugar
finely grated zest of one orange

  1. Beat the butter until smooth, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix until combined and smooth.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Up and Running again

I can finally start running again. THAT IS REALLY GOOD NEWS!  I seem to have made a miraculous recovery and there was not even a slight twinge in my acchilles during my 4 1/2 mile tester run on Sunday. Perhaps this was because of the fab sauna I had at the Canons gym  where we made use of a very nice free weekend offer.

The bad news is that I'll have to make that sweet potato cake again...it's not quite right and certainly not good enough to post on the blog. I'll try it again today with some more sugar - that should do the trick.
Now that my training is going to start again I need to get myself a new pair of running shoes as there is no way I can run a marathon in the current ones...they've just done too many miles.  

I certainly do NOT want to impede my running with a pair of unsuitable shoes, so I am going to make a trip to my local Up and Running shop

If you are not sure what kit to use, these guys at Up and Running really know what they are talking about (well, the place is run by Bristol's very own Nick Rose,  holder of the British Half Marathon record). They also have a free video/treadmill gait analysis which means that they can give you a pretty good idea of the sort of shoes you should be wearing... they can analyse how your foot hits the ground, discuss with you the type of running you do and pick the right pair of shoes accordingly...quite reassuring when we are bombarded with the jargon of biomechanics, cushioning, midsole cushioning, heel padding etc, not to mention the hundreds of different brands and qualities of shoe on the market now.  

Let's face it, running is a pretty cheap sport...what better justification to spend a bit of cash on some gear once in a while!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Achilles problems are a right pain

It has been a frustrating two weeks. I have had a pain in my achilles which became particularly acute on my first attempt at a long run for my London Marathon training. I think I did the first damage on a very cold, steep walk in North Wales wearing my brand new 'Christmas walking boots', then running on it continually after this must have aggravated the injury....just so annoying! Having always been rather smug about my lack of running injuries, aches and pains, I have found it hard to actually admit to the fact that I actually have got an injury and the only cure is rest. So I've had 10 days complete rest now and did a little jog around the docks yesterday. I set off slowly and sensibly but I could feel it after just running a mile - so it's back to the drawing board. I've decided to withdraw from London and carry forward my lovely good for age entry to next year. That will give me a little extra time to rest before starting training for Stockholm....so it's stair exercises and swimming for me for a while. And I think it is definitely time to visit my friend John Hardy, orthopaedic surgeon, (thank you so much for the pheasants, by the way, John, they really were delicious), although I think my hopes of a miracle cure will be dashed and he'll probably recommend good old r and r.

Oh well, all the more time to 
create some new yummy running recipes. 

Today I made a sweet potato, coconut and orange cake, the ultimate high G.I. recovery cake to replenish those tired muscles after a big long training run....absolutely packed with fantastic nutrients to keep your vitamin and mineral levels topped up and to help prevent progressive glycogen depletion for all those lucky people who are doing serious training! A blog with the recipe will be posted over the next few days.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Split Pea, Bacon and Leek Soup

Everyone loved the soup I made last night - split pea, bacon and leek soup - tasty, healthy, a doddle to make and a meal in itself when accompanied by some nice crusty wholemeal bread.
Good for your everyday training diet:
This soup is not like that heavy, thick pea soup which nails you to the floor and gives you terrible wind. It is surprisingly light and yet highly nutritious. It makes a fantastic addition to your everyday healthy training diet, especially if you use fresh, home made stock. 
Split peas are packed with goodness - cholesterol-lowering fibre, a decent amount of low G.I. carbohydrate,  important minerals, protein and B-vitamins...and virtually no fat.

Stock for the soup
I think this soup really has to be made with homemade stock - chicken is best. I happened across a reduced chicken in the supermarket yesterday - £2.49! - and took it home (feel a bit bad about this, as I usually only buy free-range), chucked it in the saucepan with an onion (unpeeled but cut in half), some celery and a carrot, a few whole peppercorns, a few bayleaves and some coriander seeds, covered it with water, brought it to the boil, skimmed off the scum and then simmered it for hours. I don't put salt in my stock until I actually use it, as the amount you need varies according to what you're making - actually this soup needs little salt as the bacon provides a good deal of salt in itself. You can make stock with fresh meat or with any old carcass or left-over bones and it is well-worth keeping it in the fridge. You can freeze it for later if you like, although stock in my house seems to get used immediately, mostly in soups and risottos. Top tip: the next time you are at the butcher counter, ask for some left-over bones.

The soup
This soup reminds me a little of the "Erbsensuppe" I used to eat when living in Germany. It is my version of a really old "Good Housekeeping" recipe from my ancient Good Housekeeping recipe bible. I think it is much lighter than the German version, which I seem to remember sitting in my stomach like a lump of lead and also repeating on me for days!

120g split peas ( more if you like, it doesn't have to be exact) - soak overnight or for at least 2 hours
100g smoked bacon, chopped
2 big leeks (100g), sliced quite finely
2 pints stock
Good handful chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Soak the split peas for two hours and then rinse and drain them.
  2. In a saucepan, fry up the bacon gently and then add the split peas and the stock.
  3. Bring to the boil, cover, and then simmer for 40 minutes until the peas are tender.
  4. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper according to your taste.
  5. Add the leeks and continue to simmer for 1/2 hour, or until the leeks are tender.
  6. Add the parsley and serve with crusty bread on the side.