Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The wedding anniversary

Today is our third wedding anniversary.

Our first occurred just a few days after D had announced to me that he wanted to separate.  The second, a fortnight after we had moved back in together.   This is the first one to occur in a period of domestic calm.  (Well, it is calm as I write this, but there are still two days to go...)

This blog struggled when I was single.  When I think of food, I generally think of sharing it with my husband.  He is, among many other things, my constant companion in all things culinary, be it eating out or cooking in.  In common with many other people, food is one of the ways in which we express our love, a medium through which we construct and remember our story.

And, also in common with many people, our story has neither been entirely straightforward nor entirely happy.  But it has been enduring, and that is to our credit.

Happy anniversary, D.

Monday, 15 September 2014

MPM: 15th September 2014

Well, so much for increasing the variety of posts.  I was all set to do something yesterday afternoon about the pleasures of a domestic Sunday but was struck down by a horrible, full blown, flashing lights and stabbing pain behind the right eyeball, migraine.  This morning I feel like I have been hit by a truck.  A truck made out of wine which is most unjust since I barely touched a drop all weekend.  I am, officially, sulking.

There is a meal plan, though.

Tonight: home made fish fingers and potato wedges.  I was thinking of making up something akin to a tartare sauce to go with it, although I think a legal requirement of fish fingers might be tomato ketchup.

Tuesday I'm going to NT Live and D is exercising his masculine right to go to the pub.

Wednesday is our third wedding anniversary.  We are going to a rather exciting sounding Leeds restaurant called The Man Behind the Curtain.  Intriguing, no?  More to follow on this one.

Thursday back to home cooking, and some of the Sunday leftovers will find their way into a lamb biryani.

Friday: we're back into mussel season, so it is moules with bacon.

Saturday: D is going to be cooking a dish from "Jerusalem"; I believe a salmon recipe has caught his eye which makes for a pleasingly fishy week.

Sunday: The plan is to slow cook a gammon joint which allow lots of meat for different dishes plus fantastic stock which will form the basis for soup.  I should think Sunday tea will be a simple plate of ham and roasties with some sort of zingy chutney on the side.  Lovely.

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Weigh in Wednesday: 10th September 2014

At some point, maybe this blog will become more interesting than a mere reportage of meal planning and weigh in results.  It's hardly scintillating stuff, is it?

See, even Minx looks bored.

After a certain point, losing weight does become...well, boring.  It's a long, hard slog that involves self denial (if you're in a successful phase) or self flagellation (if you're not) - and both of these things are probably rather tedious to read about.


Previously on WWF: -46lbs
This week: -0lbs
Total loss: 46lbs

Yep, that's right, the most vanilla result of them all, a big, fat zero movement.

To be fair, there was drink taken at the weekend.  And rather than slip up on Saturday and return to form on Sunday, I allowed the slip up to remain slipped.  Where I am going to take some small (very small) measure of pride, after a shitty start to the working week I had a very persistent divil on my shoulder suggesting that the blown week stay blown until the cleansing winds of Official WI had swept the slate clean (oh my what a painfully mixed metaphor.  This is what comes of blogging at ten in the evening).  But I stuck doggedly to daily points from Monday onwards and, as a result, did not pay too dearly for my weekend folly.

It goes without saying that this week I want to get a decent result.  I mean, I say that every week.  You can take it as read.  But a decent result this week would prove that I am not to be derailed, I am bloody but get the drift.

Right, off to bed - goodnight and sleep tight Blogland!  Onwards and ever, ever downwards.

Monday, 8 September 2014

MPM: 8th September 2014

Monday morning.  UGH.  And that is all I have to say on the matter.

Meal planning for this week - well, we continue our September policy of staying in for the most part, so nice and quiet.  The freezer needs a serious defrost, so most of the meals are predicated on what we already have in.  At least, that was the original plan, looking at what we're actually eating makes me wonder if I actually stuck to it.  Ah well.  The weekend is still slightly up in the air, with D muttering about fish and chips on Friday night (and who am I to stand strong in the face of Britain's favourite takeaway?  Fortunately, our local does sensible sized portions that don't break the points bank too much).

So, such as it is...

Thai chicken noodle stir fry

Lime and pepper crusted tuna steaks with cucumber "spaghetti" and wild rice

Cheesy toad in the hole with root vegetable mash, onion gravy and kale


Roast lamb with the trimmings

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Weigh in Wednesday: 3rd September 2014

Previously on WWF: -44.5lbs
This week: -1.5lbs
Total loss: 46lbs

Yay!  After last week's stellar loss, I wouldn't have been surprised to stay the same but a very respectable result indeed.  If I could hit the big 5-0 by the end of September (which also, conveniently, takes me into the next stone bracket) I shall be over the moon.  I have another clear week ahead as well (a quiet social life can do wonders for the points budget) so am remaining quietly optimistic.

Monday, 1 September 2014

MPM: 1st September 2014

While alarmed by the speed at which the year is passing, nevertheless, I get a little bit of a thrill writing the word "September" in the title.  We're now coming into one of my favourite parts of the year, that late summer, early autumn period where the light has a certain clarity, the air a little nip and the mind can (very slowly) begin to turn to (whisper it) the C word.

We have a meal plan in place for six out of seven days this week - our plans for Sunday have now changed so not sure what we'll end up doing.  Plenty of time to worry about that though, and in the meantime, I've picked a couple of "classic" dishes from this very blog to revisit, which, overall, gives the plan a wee bit of an Italian feel.  We shall have to redress this with a trip to another continent next week.  But in the meantime, the meal plan looks like this:

Kipper, bacon and new potato salad topped with a poached egg

Chicken (Sunday roast leftovers) and sage and onion stuffing sandwiches

Gnocchi with butternut squash, chilli and sage

Burmese chicken soup (thank you, Mr Waitrose)

Oven baked red pepper and chorizo risotto

Spaghetti carbonara

And that's us!  More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Weigh in Wednesday: 27th August 2014

Early morning weigh in for me today as I'm not around for my regular 6pm meeting.  This possibly means that today's result is slightly more...flattering than it ought to be.  I DON'T CARE.  I whooped the proverbial arse.

Previously on WWF: -38lbs
This week: -6.5lbs
Total loss: 44.5lbs

So, I blasted through the 40lb loss barrier and am cruising back towards the 50 point.  Also, this week sees my lowest ever recorded meeting weight.  Another 10lbs will put me just below my lowest recorded home weight.  I'm trying not to indulge myself in diet maths but I really, really want to get those 10lbs off as quickly as possible so that I feel that I am making forward progress again.  I don't for one minute think that this week's result will be repeated - nothing like.  But it is the start I needed, the boost that makes all those hungry, sulky moments almost worthwhile (NB: D may not agree).

I'm staying in a hotel tonight, so am somewhat at the mercy of the onsite catering facilities - other than that I have another clear run this week, which hopefully bodes well for another good result next Wednesday.  Fingers and paws crossed!

Monday, 25 August 2014

MPM: 25th August 2013

Last week saw us ease back in to routine after a splendiferous holiday.  It also saw me witness the, ahem, fruits of that holiday on a set of WW meeting scales - not pleasant.  Luckily, we had a delicious meal plan in place to make the transition back to strict pointing relatively painless.  I say relatively...I have had quite a hungry few days.  

This week - well, tomorrow night I'm out at my book group, so will just grab a quick sandwich beforehand, and Wednesday night I'm away for work (staying in a very glamorous hotel just off the M1) - this will leave D to fend for himself (and the cat) and mention has been made of retiring to the local hostelry for beer and a burger.  On Friday, he himself is out so I will probably be indulging in some of the M&S Food Hall's finest nibbles.  Last time I was let loose in there to get my own tea, I ended up with prawn dim sum and cheesy chips.  Happy days.  That leaves us only four days to properly meal plan.  

Tonight we are having whitebait - I am going to be experimenting with baking them rather than deep frying to see if it provides a similar, addictively crispy effect.

A Thursday night homecoming dinner of mushroom risotto.

Saturday, D is going to be cooking a couple of the mackerel that we caught while up in Scotland.  He is hoping to get his hands on some frozen gooseberries to make an accompanying sauce.  

And a Sunday roast - chicken, I think, with plenty of leftovers to form the basis for next week's plan.

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Recipe corner: Haggis stuffed chicken with carrot and ginger mash and orange and whisky sauce

As recipe titles go, it's not the snappiest, is it?  You will also, if you scroll down, see it is not the lowest points offering in the world BUT it is absolutely delicious.  And look, my food photography is as pitiful as ever, but the carrot mash was in a tower!  That's how I roll for Friday night suppers.

I have had a mild haggis obsession since our first trip up to Western Scotland - four years ago if memory serves (and it doesn't always, I drink a lot of gin).  This is the first time that I have used it as a stuffing and it worked marvellously well - it has a subtle, spicy warmth to it which is perfect as an accent.  Here, the mash and the sauce are both quite sweet (the sauce in particular, which I have vaguely based on a couple of whisky Cumberland sauce recipes that I found online, tastes a little like marmalade - don't let that put you off!)  But when eaten in conjunction with the meat they work brilliantly well.  I also roasted off some curly kale to sit underneath the chicken and I would recommend serving this dish with some sort of iron rich green vegetable for an additional savoury note.

To cut down on points you could use a skinless chicken breast and/or reduce the amount of butter used.  Don't skimp on the haggis though.  They don't call it the chieftain of the pudding race for nothing.


20g butter

2 medium, skin-on chicken breasts
100g haggis (we use MacSween's which is readily available in supermarkets)
Tbsp half fat creme fraiche

3-4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
Fresh grated ginger to taste (probably about a tbsp worth)

Shallot, finely chopped
Juice of 2 oranges
Zest of 1/2 an orange
50ml whisky
Tbsp redcurrant jelly
Tsp English mustard
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Serves 2, 16 pro points per portion

Weigh out your butter - you'll use this across all three aspects of the dish and can adjust what goes where to suit.

The carrot mash can easily be done in advance: boil the carrots until soft, drain and then roughly mash or crush - you are not looking for a smooth puree here.  Grate in the ginger and add seasoning and a knob of butter and combine over a gentle heat until the butter is melted.  Add enough ginger so that it gives your mash a mellow warmth but does not overpower the carrots themselves.

Prepare your chicken: carefully butterfly the breast.  Pop the haggis in a bowl, cover with cling film, pierce and microwave on high for 2 minutes.  Combine it with the creme fraiche to loosen slightly.  Spread the haggis on one half of the chicken breast and then fold up and secure with cocktail sticks.  Season the chicken skin well and set aside.

In a small pan, melt another knob of butter and gently cook the shallot until soft.  Add the whisky - you can light it at this point but, be warned, there is quite a lot of alcohol in 50ml and it will flame high and for quite a long time.  Act nonchalant.  Flamed or not, you want to reduce the whisky down to practically nothing.  Then you can add the other ingredients and stir over a medium heat until the jelly melts.  Don't reduce it here - you'll do that in a minute - you're just looking to get everything amalgamated.

Preheat your oven to 190.  Heat the remainder of the butter in a frying pan and place the chicken breasts skin side down.  Fry for about five minutes, so they get a good amount of colour and crustiness on the skin.  Then transfer, skin side up, onto an oven tray and thence into the oven for about fifteen minutes to cook through.

Keep the chicken pan over a low heat and pour in your orange sauce mix.  Use the liquid to scrape up all the lovely, crusty bits of chicken stuck to the pan and combine with the buttery meat juices.  Raise the heat and start to reduce the sauce down by around two thirds to a sticky, marmalade scented syrup.  If you have made the carrot mash in advance, be sure to reheat it at this stage.

Serve chicken, carrot and sauce preferably with some form of green vegetable.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Tobermory Tales

I don't think I'll ever tire of Tobermory and the Isle of Mull.

We are considering the possibility of visiting some of the other Inner Hebrides next year (Islay alone has eleven whisky distilleries - eleven!)  But I do get a slight pang at the thought of not seeing that beautiful main street sweeping around the bay, at not having dinner at Cafe Fish watching D take down great platters of shellfish with fanatical determination, at not sitting outside McGoghan's with a pint and, of course, not spending most of the week looking out for Tobermory Cat (or Ledaig to give him his proper name).

This time around, as well as spending a fair few hours stretched on the apartment's comfy sofa with a book and a mug of tea, we paid a visit to the Isle of Mull Cheese farm, the Tobermory Distillery and the Glengorm farm shop where we bought two of the tastiest steaks that I've eaten for a long while.  We went to Iona and walked across that tiny, holy island and hurled bright coloured stones into the rain-swept sea.  We fished.  We ate fish.  We drank pints in the pale, tremulous sunshine that appeared later in the week.  We ate more fish.  We went to see a folk artist from Kent who sang in an old fashioned bluegrass style.  We ate some cheese.  And then we ate some more fish.  And drank some whisky.

Good times, my friends.  Good times.