Thursday, 25 August 2011

Home and Away

I’m back from the wilderness. That is to say, back from a week and a half at a training centre in the back of beyond (well, a couple of miles outside of Lincoln). My weight has remained steady, even dropped a little, despite the best attempts of the canteen staff to feed me and every other poor soul there into submission.

I’ve been trying to put my finger on exactly what it is that distinguishes my eating habits in my home environment; that is to say, why is it that when three three-course meals a day are on offer plus mid morning and afternoon coffee and biscuits I lose a lot of interest in food and just naturally find myself eating more intuitively. I eat what I want of what is available but don’t feel the need to clear my plate, or choose something because it is “good” or “bad”. If I’m hungry at three o clock then I’ll have a biscuit with my coffee, if I’m not then I won’t.

Like many lifetime dieters I normally have two states of being: on-a-diet and not-on-a-diet. The first means strictness, order, control. The second is the exact antithesis of that. Consuming with abandon. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die(t). Being away from home for a prolonged amount of time, in a situation where much of the control and choice is removed, I have managed to achieve something between the two.

Which is all well and good, but how do I now translate that back to the home environment?

Monday, 15 August 2011

Without a plan (or a clue)

No meal planning for me this week. I'm off to deliver a training course which means four days of school dinners and medicinal gin and tonics.

The government department that I work for has a large training facility a few miles outside of Lincoln. Who knows why they put it there; possibly because it is equally difficult to get to wherever you live. I've stayed there quite a few times and never once made it out to Lincoln itself; the place has a curiously institutionalised feel, a bit like open prison (I imagine. I've never actually been.)

The food is equally institutional and presided over by a uniformed Valkyrie with the kind of magnificent bosom that is only ever seen on a dinner lady or a Wodehouse maiden aunt. You will NOT linger over your pre dinner drink and you will most certainly NOT get potatoes with your curry if the menu ordains that rice is the correct accompanying carbohydrate. I saw someone try and help himself to an additional prawn toast once. Let's just say that the bosom swelled to still more magnificent proportions.

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Friday, 5 August 2011

Meal planning Monday 12

I write this while sitting on a train heading off to Manchester for a couple of days. Sadly for business rather than pleasure, although I do plan on spending at least some of my paltry eating-out allowance on a nice, cold beer or two this evening. And so I abandon D to leftover tandoori chicken and the caprices of an eccentric tabby cat.

Now. I note that of the four meals I have so far planned for this week three involve fish, and two fish in some sort of butter. Which is not particularly varied or exciting, is it? Never mind – it may not be the most balanced of foodie weeks but fish and butter are two of my favourite things.

So we have…

This last one is actually a Waitrose ready to cook jobby that was recommended in this month’s Good Food magazine and sounds perfect for a lazy Saturday evening.

On Sunday I think we will be firing up the barbecue. I quite fancy grilling some steaks for extravagant sandwiches (I’ve been watching a lot of Man Vs Food: The Carnivore Edition recently), or perhaps spatchcocking a chicken…but will see how the mood (and the content of the butchers) takes me.

As always, head to Mrs M’s blog for more meal planning fun.


Many years ago, facing the prospect of her two children flying the nest and a husband who had a long commute and regular late night meetings, my mother went out and bought a cat. I should explain at this point that my father, while he has many excellent qualities, is not an animal lover, and had expressly forbidden us to have anything larger than a hamster throughout my childhood (and I think even the hamsters were borne with extreme sufferance). But, as I said, the thought of the long, lonely evenings finally drove Mum to rebellion. She set off for the pet shop round the corner and came back with a tiny tabby kitten mewling in a cardboard carrier.

Minerva McGonagall has been the Queen of the household ever since. She is really too silly a thing for such a long moniker, and so she is generally referred to as Min or Minnie, although she will also respond to “Cat” (my father refused to address her by name for much of her kittenhood). She is an eccentric creature and not the greatest fan of people outside her family; she especially adores my mother and follows her around like a familiar. D has been trying, for the seven odd years he has know her, to train her to sit, unresisting, on his lap – but she has a stubborn streak and is not to be tamed. She will sit next to you, close as anything, and submit to the occasional cuddle, but a lap cat she is not. Their relationship is, as a result, slightly strained.

I write this from my parents’ house in Knaresborough – once again, we are spending a few weeks cat-sitting as they travel Down Under. I thought, as a little tribute to my beloved Min, that I would let you in on her absolute favourite recipe. Tip: if you happen to have a cat of your own, I would not leave anchovy butter out and uncovered or you may enter the kitchen to find a rather sheepish kitty, an empty butter dish and a mess needing to be wiped up.

This recipe comes originally from the Good Food channel website (not to be confused with the Good Food magazine website). I have reduced the amount of butter – this still is plenty enough to be utterly delicious, but not so much that you will have to eat dust for the rest of the day to accommodate. Serve with new potatoes and something green and worthy.


25g (half a small tin) anchovy fillets
Small handful rosemary, finely chopped
Small handful parsley, chopped
60g butter
Tbsp lemon juice

2 x tuna steaks

Serves 2, 12 pro points per serving

Put everything except the lemon juice into a blender and process until smooth. This can then be chilled until you are ready to serve.

Season and then pan fry the tuna for as many minutes on each side as you wish to reach a desired level of pinkness. I always like my tuna pink in the middle so would tend to go for little more than 1-2 mins depending on the thickness of the steaks.

While the tuna cooks, gently warm the butter in a small pan and add the lemon juice to taste. Spoon the butter liberally over the tuna before serving. Something (i.e. bread or potatoes) will probably be required to soak up all the butter (but remember to add the additional points for this if you’re pointily inclined.)

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

I survived

So, the hen night. Despite requesting a discreet, classy affair I nevertheless found myself walking through Central London in a pink tutu with matching sequinned cowboy hat on Saturday afternoon. I did what any girl of my generation would do in such a situation and channelled Carrie Bradshaw for all that I was worth.

It was a fabulous afternoon that started with afternoon tea and champagne and ended, via a cocktail master class, in a piratical themed burlesque club. I probably drank a fortnight’s worth of points, but if you could earn activity points for laughing it may well have balanced out. My beautiful girls did me proud.

Having abandoned D for the night, it was only fair that we have a little celebration of our own when I returned (slightly bloodshot, but unbowed) to Yorkshire. And so it is I bring to your attention a second York institution in as many weeks, Le Langhe.

We were first introduced to Le Langhe, which is a delicatessen and importer of Italian food, when they ran an evening at the York Food Festival a few years ago. The produce that they sell is simply exquisite, even if the owners, a husband and wife team, are a little scary. Don’t let that put you off. In a time where a lot of small businesses have been struggling, Le Langhe has actually expanded; moving from a tiny city centre shop to a much larger establishment set a little walk out of town. Not only do they sell fantastic meats, cheeses and breads, they also serve up coffee and light meals in an adjoining cafĂ© restaurant space. They have a fiercely loyal following among the people of York, some of whom make a weekly pilgrimage there.

D’s haul provided a stupendous Sunday night carpet picnic: olives and sundried tomatoes, slick with oil, ham cured in Barolo wine, braesola, a sharp, fruity cheese which had been aged in Chianti and an unctuous Gorgonzola, ciabatta and foccacia to be dunked in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and finally a luscious fig and almond tart.  We washed it all down with Prosecco. 


And there we go – a weekend full of laughter and friends and amazing food and far more vodka than is good for one liver.  Normal (WW) service had better resume shortly...