Sunday, 29 April 2012

Fakeaway 2: The Teesside "Parmo"

Should you ever find yourself wandering the mean streets of Middlesbrough you might notice something a little bit peculiar. The chip shops (of which there are many) all advertise the sale of Parmesan. I couldn't work it out at all the first time I came across it. Why would you put Parmesan on fish and chips? Or was it some kind of deep fried cheese dish?

The first thing to know is that Parmesan is actually pronounced Parmo (I made this mistake so you don't have to my friends). And the second thing to know is that a Parmesan is actually breaded chicken, fried and then topped with béchamel sauce.

I've been wanting to try and recreate this at home for a while now. The feedback from the Boro native was that it might not be 100% authentic (not enough grease I suspect) but it was exceptionally tasty.

Serve your Parmesan with oven chips and a sharp little salad of cherry tomatoes dressed in balsamic vinegar.


2 skinless chicken breasts
1 slice of bread from a medium white loaf
10g Parmesan, finely grated
Tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp crushed dried chillies
1 egg white
10g butter
10g plus 1/2 tsp flour
200ml skimmed milk
35g Cheddar, grated
Scant tsp of mustard

Serves 2, 10 pro points per portion

First, bread your chicken. Under a sheet of clingfilm, pound out the fillets until they are roughly a centimetre thick all over.

Make the breadcrumbs mixture by blitzing up the bread and combining with the thyme, chilli and half the Parmesan plus seasoning.

Sprinkle the chicken with the half teaspoon of flour then dip in the egg white and then the breadcrumbs. Turn the fillets several time in the crumbs, patting the crust on firmly. Leave the fillets in the fridge for half an hour or so to firm up.

Meanwhile, make the béchamel. Melt the butter over a low heat and add the remaining flour. Now add the milk, little by little, stirring briskly to ensure no lumps. When all the milk is incorporated and the sauce is smooth, season and stir through the mustard, the Cheddar and the rest of the Parmesan.

Preheat the oven to 200. Now, in a non stick pan over a medium high heat pan fry the chicken for a couple of minutes on each side then transfer to an oven proof dish and spoon over the cheese sauce. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the sauce is browned and bubbling.

Serve and eat while reflecting on the vagaries of language.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Mid week check in

Two and a half days in to this slightly curtailed week and I am rocking it (as the kidz say. At least they might do - at thirty one I don't really know; I eschewed Radio 1 for Radio 2 a good while ago).

Anyway, after a tough day on Tuesday getting back into the swing of things, things have become easier - as they always do. I'm feeling positive, strong and happy, sticking to points and meal plans. A loss on Monday would be nice but it sometimes takes time to get things moving so we'll see how it goes.

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend - try to be good, and if you're going to be bad then for goodness sake do it properly!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

On losing that losin' feelin'

Well, weighed in this morning after a frankly nail biting weekend at the London marathon and for the second week in a row the scales crept upwards.

There will be no beating up of self, no tears and recriminations, however there will be some musing as to why I've floundered.

So #1 - a long weekend away after a week of holiday meant that I never quite got my head back in the game. Which is daft in the extreme - I had a Sunday, a Monday, a Tuesday, a Wednesday AND a Thursday to be on track and that might have mitigated any weekend shenanigans. Lesson learned - don't ever hesitate to get back to tracking even if you know it will only be for a couple of days.

#2 - People running a marathon are supposed to carb load in the run up to the race. People who are only watching a marathon probably should not do so with QUITE as much enthusiasm. If you want to eat like a runner you have to, y'know, run.

I've been on track today and it has been really, really hard. There was some proper, light headed, wobbly hunger this afternoon and a misplaced fancy for one of the bottles of lager currently lurking in the fridge on the journey home - overcome by a banana and a cup of tea respectively. Baby steps, but as long as they are in the right direction this week that'll be enough.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Meal Planning, er, Tuesday

One day late....

After last week's pasta glut, this week it appears to be the turn of the humble spud to take centre stage. Not what you might call entirely balanced but never mind. I like potatoes.

So - meal plan:

Tonight - chicken Kiev with mash and veg. I had a retro craving! I'll make extra mash to go inthe fridge for...

Salmon fishcakes later this week. With salad.

I'll also be serving seabass in fennel butter with new potatoes and, if the fennel bulb in the bottom of the fridge is still viable, braise it as an additional side.

Friday sees the return of the fakeaway! This week I will be taking on the (in)famous Teesside Parmo.

And then my weekend treat will be haggis - with neeps (mashed) and tatties (roasted) on Saturday and in toastie form on Sunday.

As always, head over to Mrs M's for more meal planning fun.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

This is what a two pound gain looks like...

Want to see some Instagrammed pictures of food? Of course you do! I just wish I could apply an Instagram filter to my life and wander around slightly sepia tinged and out of focus…

So. All good holidays start with lunch. Ours started with lunch in one of our favourite restaurants in the world, J. Baker’s – (D needed sustenance for the seven hour drive the next day). I have waxed lyrical about this place before but I’m astounded that after years of going there to eat we haven’t had a duff course, let alone a duff meal. I just wish I could eat there every day.

Lunch #1
The delicate cauliflower whip with curry oil (pictured above) was followed by a superlative dish of mackerel with a giant couscous salad, then “Blood Balls” with a pork and potato “pie”, an excellent plate of cheese and finally a flourless chocolate cake with raspberry and stout foam. All blissful, although the lightly spiced mackerel just about won the best dish of the day prize and had me frantically scribbling notes on the back of a napkin as to how I could go about recreating it at home.

Lunch the next day was perhaps more rustic, but delicious nonetheless. This is the second year running that we have stopped off at the Clachaig Inn on the drive up to Ardnamurchan and it didn’t disappoint. We ordered a selection of starters (“Scottish tapas!” laughed the barmaid – “Exactly!” said we) of excellent quality produce.

Lunch #2
And here we see smoked salmon, black pudding, haggis and venison pastrami all served with the ubiqutous oatcakes. I do love a nice oatcake, particularly if it is topped with some form of spiced offal.

While for the majority of the week our lunch consisted of picnic sandwiches and possibly the best brownies in the world ever (or slices of a very interesting beetroot cake that my parents had picked up from a Dumfries’ farm shop) we did manage to squeeze in a trip to the very lovely Café Fish on the Isle of Mull. Again, I think that this is a venue I’ve praised before but it is well worth a trip – and the Good Food Guide agrees with me, calling it their fish restaurant of the year 2012!

Lunch #3
The beauty of Café Fish is that it treats the excellent local produce with respect. There’s not a lot of flashy cooking going on here, but really, when you have beautiful ingredients, there doesn’t need to be.

Of course three indulgent lunches alone do not a two pound gain make (at least, I don’t think so) but factor in some whisky and some wine, some excellent Scottish cheese and (whisper it) a homecoming pizza and you begin to see where that pesky 32 ounces might have come from. Still, onwards and downwards eh, comrades?

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Recipe corner - whisky and stem ginger brownies

I can’t really take credit for these brownies. Which is a shame because they are seriously, seriously good.

They came about because of an unsatisfactory Starbucks brownie. D’s, not mine I hasten to add, I’m not that bad at weight watching! Anyway, the brownie was disappointingly dry so I rashly declared that I would bake some myself that we could take up to Scotland with us and that they would be as satisfyingly damp and fudgy as brownies should be. “If they’re going to Scotland,” said he, “They should have a Scottish theme.” And so the whisky and ginger brownie concept was born.

I’m not the biggest fan of alcohol and chocolate in combination – odd when you consider how much I adore the two things separately. But the whisky here is not in your face, it just adds a subtle spiciness that works incredibly well with the chocolate and the little zinging pieces of ginger. You could add a little ground ginger to the flour if you wanted to make the taste slightly more overt.

At 6 pro points a piece, these are obviously not the lowest point option treat in the world but they’re about the same as a chocolate bar – and well worth the expenditure in my opinion. Fortunately they keep excellently well – for at least two weeks in a tin, or even freeze, so one is denied any excuse to scoff the lot in one sitting.


185g unsalted butter
185g dark chocolate
85g plain flour
40g cocoa
50g white chocolate chips (I used buttons here)
50g stem ginger, chopped
2tbsp whisky
3 eggs
275g golden caster sugar

Makes 20, 6 pro points per brownie

Prepare your (approximately) 20cm square tin (I spray mine lightly with oil and put baking parchment in the base) and preheat your oven (180 or 160 for a fan).

For this recipe you’re going to require three bowls. In your first bowl, place your dark chocolate, butter and whisky. You are going to melt these together – you could do this over a bowl of simmering water but I think by far the easiest way is to use the microwave. A couple of minutes at a medium setting should suffice – give it a brisk stir every thirty seconds or so to ensure that nothing untoward is happening. Once the mixture is melted and glossy, set aside and allow to cool slightly.

Now you can sieve your flour and cocoa powder together in a second bowl. Add any spices at this stage, and perhaps a decent pinch of salt.

The eggs and sugar will require whisking together until pale and doubled in volume – this took about a minute in my beloved Kitchen Aid.

Gently, gently take your cooled chocolate and fold it into the whisked eggs: a rubber spatula works well here. You need to be very careful and fold as opposed to stir so that you retain the air you have whipped in. Once the chocolate is incorporated, sieve (again) the cocoa and flour mixture into the mix and again, fold it gently in. Perseverance is required here as it will take a while to come together. Finally, stir through the chocolate chips and ginger pieces.

Pour into the tin and bake for 25 minutes. The difficulty with brownies is to know whether they are ready or not – a skewer inserted into the cake should have some crumbs clinging to it and the top should be shiny and crisp looking and starting to come away from the sides of the tin. I also found that as I removed it from the oven it had the slightest hint of a wobble to the middle of it which had disappeared less than a minute later. The resulting brownies were the perfect amount of squishy.

I’m linking this up to Mrs M’s April Recipe Link party to spread the word – boozy brownies for all!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Meal planning Monday - and a post holiday encounter with the scales

Just a quickie this morning - the wanderer has returned and her inbox is quite full.

So, post holiday weigh in – done, and two pounds on. For over a week of indulgence that’s not too bad at all and with a bit of effort on my part should swiftly disappear.

Meal planning – well, it’s a short week this week as we’re off down to London on Thursday. I don’t think I’ve mentioned on here yet, but D is running the London Marathon. He has therefore requested plenty of pasta on the menu which suits me – I love the stuff.

I’m planning a shop for tomorrow so today need to cope with the rather meagre contents of the cupboard, so that old faithful standby macaroni cheese will make an appearance tonight.

I’ve got some of these meatballs in the fridge – I was intrigued to know what a Tees Valley meatball tasted like, so we’ll have them tomorrow with spaghetti. A pack is only supposed to be one portion, so I’ll bolster the meal with a rocket and Parmesan salad and some garlic bread.

And on Wednesday I’ll be trying this yummy looking sausage pasta dish from Jenny’s lovely blog – sausages, cream, mustard – can’t be bad!

As always, plenty more meal planning fun going on at Mrs M’s.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Out of Office

In a couple of days time we'll be here!

Ardnamurchan - the place is prettier than the name

I'm so looking forward to this holiday.  I really need a good blast of fresh air to get rid of all those cobwebs.

Hopefully all the walking will offset all the eating and I will not come back significantly heavier.

So adieu for the time being, and may you have a very happy and peaceful Easter.

Scottish sheep!

Monday, 2 April 2012

2012 Quarter 1 - Review

It's hard to believe that we are one quarter of the way through 2012. Well, it is for me, but then I am perpetually surprised to discover that it is no longer 1996 and that Robbie has returned to Take That and left again.

Time for a progress review I think and time, too, to look back at the resolutions I made in January. Or was it December? See, perpetually confused.

Firstly - what was the news from the scales this morning? Well, a (nearly) booze free week and three gym trips paid obviously paid dividends as I tracked a four pound loss. That means last week’s gain is knocked squarely on the head and an extra two and a half pounds come off for good measure. It also means that I have achieved my aim to lose a stone and a half for Easter. Cue an excited little jig.

Looking back at my results since January (all of which are tracked on a spreadsheet – of course I’m that sad!) I see I’m averaging a loss of 1.7 lbs a week, which is just where it should be.

I wish I could understand why it is that I’ve managed to make such steady, consistent progress over these last three months, unprecedented in the history of this blog. Certainly, the fact that there has been no particular pressure on me seems to be a good thing, so I shall continue with my policy of little or no goal setting. I’ve also, looking back, noticed that I’ve never before actually regularly quantified my gains or losses on here – so I’m going to keep up with that as the accountability obviously helps.

What else? Well, meal planning – that needs to be continued. Although there is no meal planning post today (one or both of us is out most evenings this week) I’ve done this most weeks and that structure has made it a lot easier to keep away from the takeaway menus. What’s fascinating as well is the variety of food that we have been eating – there aren’t many meals have been served twice in 2012.

My gym attendance is still not quite where it could be, but at least I am attending. I’m getting to the stage now where my overall fitness is reasonable enough that I’m thinking about going back to one or two of the classes that I used to enjoy on a regular basis. I’ll never love exercise – and, to be honest, I think I could lose the weight with WW alone, but there is no question that it does give one a virtuous glow.

Overall, sterling work across January, February and March. Not perfect – but then I’ve stopped requiring perfection of myself and it seems to make life a hell of a lot easier! Roll on quarter two…