Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oaty Rhubarb Crumble

I just couldn't resist the rhubarb in the veg shop today. It's the first I've seen this season and it was not cheap - £4.50 for 4 good-sized sticks, enough for a decent crumble though. I have to say that by the time we round to pudding there was only half a crumble left, as I had a little taster before my 5 mile run and then the vultures descended on it on their return home from school. Truly delicious and brimming with goodness, rhubarb is highly nutritious and packed with vitamin C, fibre and phytonutrients, and if you make your crumble with wholemeal flour and oats, the only real baddies are the sugar and the butter....great for a treat and a perfect dessert if you are training. Nice and substantial, the fruit and the crumble topping are low GI so in theory should keep you going longer than the average dessert. 

You can use this healthy oaty crumble topping with any fruit, but it work particularly well
 with rhubarb. 

700g rhubarb
2 tbsp (50g) sugar 
2 tbsp orange juice 
1 tbsp stem ginger syrup (optional)
1 tsp powdered ginger (optional)
150g self-raising wholemeal flour
60g Jumbo porridge oats
100g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
85g demerara sugar


1.    Turn the oven on to 180°C.
2.   Make the crumble mixture - rub together the butter and the flour until the mixture looks and feels like breadcrumbs. Stir in the porridge oats and the demerara sugar. 
3.    Cut the rhubarb up into 2 cm pieces and put it into an ovenproof pie dish. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp sugar,  the  orange juice and the ginger, if you are using it. 
4.    Pour the crumble mixture over the top of the rhubarb and cook in the oven for about 45 minutes.  

Friday, January 23, 2009

Achilles Tendonitis

Talking of Achilles injuries, I'm not sure I even did mine running. I have two new pairs of shoes - a new pair of running shoes and a new pair of walking boots. I've also been running and walking  in the freezing cold, so maybe it is combination of all these.  I've just found this site which looks really useful if anyone else is in the same boat:


Coriander and Mushroom Pilau

I'm feeling a bit down in the dumps today. Not only do I still have a sharp pain in my achilles which is stopping me from training, but last night, as I rushed across the road in the dark, I managed to almost poke my eye out by running straight into the aerial of a sports car which was sticking out into the pavement. I have really cut up my eye and it smarts like hell. 

Anyway, that's enough of feeling sorry for myself. I took my mind off being able to see out of only one eye last night by making a delicious and quick coriander and mushroom pilau, which we ate with some grilled organic sausages and a crisp green salad, accompanied by a glass of red wine to numb the pain!  My 13 year-old son is off on rugby tour to Dublin this weekend so I thought he could do with a good, low G.I. sustaining plate of basmati rice to set him up for the journey. For 4 decent-sized portions you need:

300g basmati rice
a leek
a celery stick
100g mushrooms
a tsp or so of coriander seeds crushed in a peslte and mortar
a tsp of turmeric
a great big bunch of fresh coriander
some really good home made chicken stock.

  1. Melt a knob of butter with a glug of olive oil in a large, wide saucepan. Add the sliced leek and the chopped celery and sweat this over a gentle heat for 5 minutes or so. Add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes then add the coriander seed and the turmeric.
  2. Add the rice and stir around for a few minutes to coat with the oil.
  3. Add the stock. It should just cover the rice by about 1 cm, no more.
  4. Bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer at a really low heat. Put a ring of greaseproof paper over the rice and then cover tightly with a lid.
  5. Leave to simmer for about 8 minutes. Uncover and check that the rice is just cooked. The stock should have all been absorbed by the rice by now. You should be hit by a deliciously aromatice smell when you lift the lid.
  6. Add the chopped coriander and plenty of black pepper. Fluff up the rice and serve.

Monday, January 19, 2009


I've been cooking gnocchi this week - simple comfort food at its best, whether you're in training or not.

If you are in training, you need to recover quickly from your big workouts so that you can continue on that seeminglyrelentless schedule. It is really important to have some high Glycaemic Index(GI) carbohydrate straight after a serious endurance training session. Simple, high GI carbs are digested quickly by the body and go directly to the muscles, fast. This allows our poor old muscles to recover and repair...ready for the next pounding. 

Well potato gnocchi is a nice tasty way of doing just that. Potatoes are on the higher end of the GI spectrum and so are a good choice for an evening meal after a big workout. What's more, the rest of the family will love them too, so you won't have to cook  something especially for yourself.  You can make them in advance and pop them in the freezer if you want...they still only take minutes to cook straight from the freezer. Here's how to do it:

Potato Gnocchi

6-8 good sized flour potatoes (about 1 kg) - King Edwards are good
300g plain flour (Italian 00 flour is best if you can get it, otherwise, make sure you sieve the flour first)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Boil the potatoes in their skins in salted water for about 25 minutes until tender.
  2. Remove the potatoes and when they are cool enough to handle, peel the skins carefully with a sharp knife
  3. Using a potato ricer, mince the potatoes. If you don't have a potato ricer, mash them or even grate them.
  4. Add the egg and then mix in the flour, a tsp. salt and plenty of black pepper. Do this all quickly and lightly as otherwise the gnocchi will be heavy
  5. Using you hands, bring together the mixture into a dough. Put the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently and lightly.
  6. Take a handful of the dough and roll it into a sausage shape. Cut into little gnocchi, about 1.5 to 2 cm long, with a sharp knife and put them into a floured container. Now they are ready to cook (or if you are freezing them, they are ready to freeze).
  7. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a rolling boil. Put the gnocchi into the water in batches for a few minutes. When they rise to the surface they are cooked. Remove them from the  water with a slotted spoon and serve immediately tossed in your favourite sauce or drizzled with olive oil, flat-leaf parsley and plenty of black pepper.
  8. When you've mastered the basic recipe (it honestly doesn't take much mastering actually) you can experiment by adding fresh herbs to the basic mixture or by using different root veg. - pumpkin is really good.
  9. Take a look at http://gofasterfood.blogspot.com/2008/01/friday-11th-january.html for a delicious gnocchi with mushroom sauce recipe.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Marmalade Weekend

This weekend has been all about long runs and marmalade. When I come back from a long run in cold weather I will invariably have a large slab of home-baked bread with either honey or marmalade and a cup of hot tea - it is a tasty and efficient way of replenishing the body with some fast-acting carbohydrate/glucose. Our supplies of my mother's tasty marmalade ran out weeks ago and I have had to make to with Frank Coopers - not bad but not a patch on the home made stuff. With my mother away on the other side of the globe I have had to make my own ...much to my daughter's horror as she still believes that only Grandmothers make things like jam and marmalade.

The ground was white and the trees  covered with hoarfrost (totally gorgeous), so the kids football and rugby was cancelled on both Saturday and Sunday...bad for them but great for me ... no taxiing around to do ... just wonderful! I did two runs - 4 miles on Sat and 11 miles on Sunday, with my youngest on his bike to keep me company. In fact, my 13-year-old came did 6 of the 11 miles with me on Sunday and I have to say that he is FAST...a very good pace-maker. I suppose by next year he will be outpacing me, so I had better make the most of it now.

My Sunday run was slightly marred by every runner's nightmare ... a hangover. I have been so good since I started my training schedule, 
but I just could not resist having seconds (or was it thirds?) of my friend Kate's Margherita ice cream on Saturday night - just whip up some cream, add a mixture of icing sugar dissolved into tequila, cointreau and lime juice - totally awesome - it really is my kind of pud I have to say....light, refreshing and alcoholic! The photo does not do it justice unfortunately. So I did not sleep because of the alcohol and them felt pretty lousy the next day. Oh well.

I was amazed at the extra time I had in my weekend without the normal standing on the rugy/football sideline and I finally got round to using the Seville oranges I bought in Sainsburys last week. It was one of those lovely family occasions - everyone sitting around the table, my 9 year old taking the photos and helping me, hubby reading the paper, 15 year-old daughter revising her Chemistry and adding clever (if unhelpful) comments. Here's the recipe I used in the end for those who might be inclined - it is a sort of marriage of two recipes - the "family" recipe and one from my good old faithful "Good Housekeeping" recipe book which my Mum gave me when I left home 25 years ago! It really is dead easy and it makes the house smell divine...

You need the following ingredients:
Seville oranges 
2 Lemons

Weigh the oranges and lemons. Remember the weight and write it down!

Put them in a big preserving pan and pour over enough water to just cover them

Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer until the fruit is soft.
Meanwhile carefully wash your jars in really hot, soapy 
water and then standthem on a roasting pan in the oven
to dry - this should sterilise them.

Leave the fruit to cool and then remove them from the water. Leave the water in the pan

Remove the pips from each orange/lemon and then chop it into  chunks - big ones if you like chunky marmalade and fine ones if you prefer a more delicate variety (which I do, but others in my family would disagree). Get someone to help you as this takes a while and it can be
 quite sociable. Use a chopping board with a gulley in it or a plate, as you need to keep the juices and the pulp. Discard the pips.

Put it all back into the preserving pan with the water and then add the sugar. You need about 1.5-2  times the weight of the fruit but it depends how sweet you want it. I used 1.5 kilos of fruit and 2.25 kilos of sugar 
because we all like our marmalade to be quite bitter. The Good Housekeeping recipe says 3lbs oranges to 6lbs sugar. My brother in Oz uses the same weight sugar to fruit but he has to use sweet oranges as Seville oranges are not available in Canberra.

Boil it all up and keep boiling until you reach setting point - 105 degrees if you have a sugar thermometer, or just put a saucer into the freezer for a mimute or two, then take it out and put a blob of marmalade on it, then leave it for a few minutes - it should wrinkle if you gently push it with your finger (if it doesn't, you need to keep boiling a little longer)

Ladle the mixture into your prepared jars (just take them straight out of the oven on the roasting pan) and tightly screw on the lids. Hey presto, you've made marmalade...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Oat Cuisine

Happy New Year and welcome to 2009! Numbered List

I am very excited about 2009 - my book is coming out in July, I have great plans for two further recipe books, I am signed up to run the London and the Stockholm marathons and I am on target to qualify for Boston in 2010.

This is the week when hundreds of runners start their marathon training schedule...and it is bitterly cold and icy out there. I ran 9 miles yesterday without even taking off my gloves. Running or not, there are few better ways to start the day than with a bowl of hot, steaming porridge.  I have carried out a small survey of a number of athletes, both amateur and professional, and porridge, often with fruit and/or nuts is most certainly the favourite breakfast by far, especially on race day. So why is porridge such a hit?
  1. Porridge oats are low in fat, low G.I. which means that the carbohydrate is released into your bloodstream slowly and will therefore sustain your energy levels and help prevent those eleven o'clock cravings. 
  2. A nice warm bowl of porridge will provide a little internal central heating for your body and make leaving the house for work or for an early morning run that much easier on these cold mornings. 
  3. Porridge oats are also a good, natural way of lowering cholesterol.
  4. If trying to tighten the belt financially rather than physically, porridge is a much cheaper breakfast than any of the sugary processed overpackaged cereals.
Everyone has their own favourite way of eating porridge. Some make it with milk, some with water, some eat it salty and some sweet. In my house, maple syrup, honey or dark Muscovado sugar seem to be the most popular. If I am running, I always make my porridge with water as it is lighter on the stomach.

One thing is really important though. Forget the quick-cook variety - use unrefined porridge oats, as they have an infinitely better flavour and texture and they are more sustaining. My favourite are the Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Jumbo whole rolled porridge oats. Even if you cook them with just water, they give a deliciously sweet, nutty and creamy result.  Cook them on the hob with plenty of liquid rather than in the microwave - it really doesn't take long and if you rinse the saucepan out with cold water immediately it cleans easily.

This is my fail-safe porridge recipe:

Go Faster Porridge, with Blueberries, Toasted Walnuts and Honey

Pop the walnuts in the oven while you cook the porridge and you will be sitting down to breakfast within 10 minutes. The amount of liquid depends on the type of porridge you use. The less refined the oats, the more liquid you will need.

Serves 2


100g porridge

550 ml water or milk or ½ and ½

Pinch of salt

Punnet of fresh blueberries

Handful of walnuts

Good quality runny honey (Manuka is very good but very expensive, Greek runny honey is delicious)



  1. Put the oats, water and/or milk into a pan with a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil over a high heat and then turn the heat down and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The porridge with become thick and creamy.
  2. Meanwhile, pop the nuts onto a baking tray and roast in the oven at 160°C for 5 minutes.
  3. Pour into two warmed bowls, sprinkle with the blueberries and nuts and drizzle over the honey.