Thursday, 25 December 2014

Have a merry, Minxy Christmas

All best wishes to all the lovely people who have stopped by this blog over the past year.

With lots of love from Seren, D and Minx

Now, what to write next year.....?

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Recipe corner: super quick cucumber pickle

I hesitate to call this a recipe.  More of an extended tip.  But it is absolutely perfect for this time of year when, if you are anything like us, you will have a fridge groaning with cold cuts and cheeses.  It is a wonderfully simple, sweet-sour foil to anything from leftover turkey to gammon to wodges of Cheddar.  And, unlike most chutneys, it is quick to make.  Just allow about an hour for the salting and, if possible, a half hour at room temperature for the cucumbers to soak up some of the liquor.


1 cucumber
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp dill*
Salt and pepper

Serves 4, 1 pro point per portion

*I always tend to use dried dill because the real thing is so delicate that is doesn't last. Considering its delicacy, the dried stuff is really pretty good and provides excellent flavour.  I wouldn't be without it in my store cupboard.

Using a potato peeler, or an appropriate attachment on a food processor, reduce your cucumber to fat ribbons (rather than slices or shreds).  Peel down until the seeds just about start peeping through - the seeds themselves can be discarded.

Place the ribbons in a colander and sprinkle over several hefty pieces of good salt.  Toss well/  Then, cover the ribbons with kitchen paper and weight down with a bowl or plate and a couple of tins.  Leave for about an hour so the salt can draw the water out.  Meanwhile, you can whisk together the vinegar, sugar, dill and a couple of grinds of pepper.

When the cucumber is ready, rinse off the salt and then wring it out as thoroughly as you can - I tend to do it in small fistfuls, transferring it to the vinegar once it is, er, wrung.  Then, stir through and, if you have time, leave it to sit for a while to absorb the dressing.

That's it!  C'est tout!  You could try varying the herbs, perhaps adding a pinch of dried chilli flakes for background heat, and you may wish to alter the ratio of vinegar to sugar to suit your own tastes.

Let the Christmas feasting commence!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Hibernation and a tremendous steak sandwich

When a blogger goes quiet for a while it is traditional to start the next post with an apology.  Since I doubt very much that the dearth of ramblings in this little corner of the internet has impacted anyone adversely I am sure that my beloved band of readers will forgive me and allow us all to move on.

So, nearly Christmas: how on earth did that happen?  For me, the majority of presents are wrapped, the lights are up in the living room, giving it a pleasingly grotto-esque feel, but we haven't yet started prep for the lunch we are cooking on Christmas Day.  We'll be getting on to that tomorrow.  How about you?

If you're looking for something a little different but incredibly indulgent to nibble - perhaps on those grey old days between Christmas and New Year, then I have a lovely recipe to commend to your attention.

Basically, you hollow out a loaf of bread, fill it with layers of seared steak and a garlicky mushroom duxelle, smear the lid with mustard before replacing and then press it for a good few hours.  The result is a kind of cross between a beef Wellington and a steak sandwich.  Fabulous.

More precise instructions to be found here.  You're welcome - and merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Temporary abeyance

It's not going to come as any great surprise to any readers of this little blog that the author is currently struggling with the whole weight loss thang.  In fact, 2014 will not be going down in the annals as a year in which great strides were made.  My tracker tells me that I have lost one stone and 6 lbs in total since January.  I'm sure that I could work out the average weekly loss based on that but it would be far too depressing.

Or would it?  OK, I'm not where I wanted to be.  But I am ending the year lighter than I started it - that's good and I'm going to give myself credit for it.  And if I can do the same next year then that will be good too and I'll be closer to goal.  OK, I'd like to be at goal but let's talk baby steps if they're all that I can manage.

There's still time between now and the 1st January to do some good but I'm going to be realistic about it - that's unlikely to happen.  I have an exam coming up in the next couple of weeks which is currently absorbing a lot of my mental energy.  Once that is over, I have work deadlines that I need to manage before I take leave for Christmas which will potentially mean a tough couple of weeks.  There are Christmas parties and festivities forthcoming.  Throwing point counting into the mix is, I think, just one step too far and there's no point setting myself up for failure.

So, here's the plan for the next few weeks.  I'm going to continue to keep a food diary to make myself accountable as to what I'm eating.  I am going to try and eat sensibly, stick to WW portion sizes, plenty of fruit and veg and basically just fuel myself adequately and well.  I will also continue to weigh daily so that I can try and make adjustments if the numbers start to creep up.  But hopefully I can just manage to keep them stable for the time being and then, once January rolls around, it will be back to meetings and a renewed push.

There will be those that say that I am copping out to which I reply, why yes I am.  But knowing when you need to press pause, and doing it in a considered way, is a life skill in itself.  Honest.

Monday, 24 November 2014

MPM: 24th November 2014

Epic fail on the meal planning front last week.  We had the seabass dish, as planned on the Monday, and it then kind of degenerated.  Next week WILL be better.  Actually, starting from today will be better (it is Sunday as I write this) and the plan is to have a lovely roast shoulder of lamb for dinner which will give plenty of leftovers for the coming week.

The pork and plums dish got bumped again but is now scheduled for tonight and nothing save unanticipated natural disaster will prevent us from eating it, goddamit.

Other than that we have:

Warm lamb salad with caramellised onions and houmous dressing
Macaroni cheese
Mussels with cider and bacon
Burmese chicken soup (thank you, Mr Waitrose)
A good old fashioned, stick to your ribs lasagne

That may be subject to a bit of change and tweaking but we'll see how we go.

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Foodie Abroad, The Kitchin, Edinburgh

I've been a bit slow to write about this and I wasn't entirely sure why until D and I were talking yesterday and he said that I was hesitant because I didn't want to write something lukewarm.  I said that it was more like I didn't want to come across as blasé and spoiled.  Because I really liked The Kitchin.  It is a one Michelin star restaurant and it produces amazing food and exemplary service.  But it felt a bit...I dunno, akin to lots of other one Michelin star restaurants producing amazing food and exemplary service.  Which is the sort of comment that is going to get you accused of being blasé and spoiled.  You see my dilemma.

The Kitchin is all about produce and provenance and, maybe when it first started and Tom Kitchin became one of the youngest ever British chefs to earn said Michelin star, that was unusual.  But nowadays, even McDonalds is keen to tell us that it makes burgers from cows who live in the next field over.  Still, The Kitchin do take it impressively seriously - when we sat down we were handed a map of Scotland with many of the main suppliers marked out on it (and were delighted to see that the langoustines come from our beloved Tobermory.)

Let me talk about some of the stuff that I really liked then.  A whipped blue cheese dip topped with toasted buckwheat that was served with flatbreads as a pre dinner snack was so good that we used our fingers to get up every last morsel (and in the picture you get to see my chubby little arms in the background.  Lucky you.)

We both raved about the oyster ragout with salsify tagliatelle.  I think it was the first time that I had eaten a cooked oyster and enjoyed the way in which the cooking process mellowed the intense salinity.  Paired with the buttery tagliatelle, and shot through with confit lemon, this was perfectly balanced, seriously enjoyable and showed a delicate touch at work.

What else.  Oh, well we had the seasonal tasting menu (as opposed to the "classic" tasting menu) which included a delightful sweetbread dish that just sang of rich, smoky autumn.  The pearl barley risotto was a revelation - I didn't think I liked pearl barley!  This was good enough to change my mind.

There was a seriously old school cheese trolley, of which we both heartily approved (although at this point we were flagging and had to share a portion).  And desserts were again, quite old school (when was the last time you had a chocolate "gateaux" that wasn't from a box?) but none the worse for that.  I like puddings to be proper puddings.

So this then was unashamed old fashioned good cooking.  It was the first time in a long time that we felt so full after a tasting menu that we had to roll out of a restaurant (although I suspect the fantastic but ill advisedly late breakfast had something to do with that).  But it wasn't...exciting.  I suspect that this is my problem rather than The Kitchin's - exciting food shouldn't be a prerequisite of running a good restaurant.  It should be about quality, and this The Kitchin had in spades.  If you find yourself in Edinburgh then I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it, I just don't necessarily think it is somewhere to which we would rush to return.

The Kitchin
78 Commercial Quay
0131 555 1755

Monday, 17 November 2014

MPM: 17th November 2014

The meal plan degenerated slightly towards the end of last week, to the extent that last night we had sandwiches for tea.  Which is fine, I like sandwiches, but as meals go they are hardly likely to win me any Foodie of the Year titles.

So, this week, the plan is to stick to the plan.  D's sister and her fiancee are visiting us on Friday so we're going out for dinner at North Leeds' answer to Polpo.  And tomorrow night I'm off to book group which generally means a hastily scarfed Subway en route.  Otherwise, we are at home and the meal plan looks like this:

Sea bass with saffron braised broad beans and peas, parsnip puree
Corned beef with roast potatoes, swede mash and parsley sauce
Chinese braised pork with plums (bumped from last week)
Slow roast lamb shoulder with boulangere potatoes

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Weigh in Wednesday: running on the spot!

Previously on WWF: -49lbs
This week: -0.5lbs
Total loss: 49.5lbs

I'm sorry but AAAARGH. What did I say about bouncing around the 50lb mark? This is getting ridiculous!

That is not to say that I am not pleased with this week's result. I have been an angel, a WW angel. I have 24 weekly points left, unheard of! But I suspect that the truth of it is that I gained 2-3lbs during the extended birthday celebrations and then managed to lose them again this week, so the result is (sort of) more impressive than it looks.

I'm missing my meeting yet again this week and am really feeling the lack of that nice structure that it gives the WW week. I knew another week without an official weigh in might prove dangerous so went to an early morning drop in session instead but it isn't quite the same. Still, hopefully things will calm down soon, on all fronts.

Aims for this week: well, a pound will take me to a new meeting low-weight. So that would be nice.

Onwards and downwards, comrades!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Foodie abroad: Out and About in Edinburgh

We had an amazing couple of days in the Scottish capital.  It's such a wonderful city that I'm only sorry that we couldn't be there longer.

Food wise (and anyone who reads this blog will know that it is the main wise there is when it comes to my travels) the main event was a lunch at Tom Kitchin's place in Leith so a more detailed account of that to follow.  Here, then, are a few other quick notes.

The Scotch Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile is well worth a trip if you have a passing interest.  Yes, it's a wee bit touristy, a wee bit gimmicky, but I for one loved the fact that we got to ride on whisky barrels while learning about how the spirit is made.  And the bar at the end is amazing - so many different whiskies by the glass to try!

We went for a dinner at The Witchery - also on the Royal Mile.  No photos I'm afraid - I know readers will be used to a high standard of photography on this blog and the ambient candle light, while beautiful, was not conducive.  The food here was really excellent: my monkfish with cumin spiced lentils and curry veloute was a particular highlight.  We had a bit of an issue with service - our starters took nearly an hour to emerge from the kitchen - but they were knocked off the bill with nary a murmur.  Things happen in professional kitchens, and as long as they are dealt with appropriately then I am not going to hold it against a restaurant, especially when the food is of a good standard.  We told the maitre d' that we would happily return and we meant it.

More excellent food the following morning - at Mimi's Bakehouse in Leith.  A truly AWESOME breakfast - D went for a bacon and black pudding roll which turned out to be the size of a mini submarine:

While I partook of French toast with sausages and roasted vine tomatoes which I am desperate to recreate at home:

The cakes here looked like things of very great beauty indeed and if it hadn't been for the fact that we had to roll out of The Kitchin later that day we would have headed back to get a cheeky slice to enjoy for supper.  And there was bunting!  And lovely, smiley staff who plied us with tea.  If you find yourself in Leith then get yourself along here for a real life taste of the Great British Bake Off.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Happiness Delivery System

Interesting article in The Guardian this Saturday (you can read it here) about women, many of them highly intelligent, successful, slim individuals who regard themselves as feminists and yet hate their bodies and spend vast amounts of mental energy on monitoring their food intake.

My first reaction was "Thank God it's not just me!"

My second was that in writing a blog which is (in part) about, er, monitoring one's food intake, I'm just helping to propagate this completely anti feminist stance that to be valid as a woman you have to meet twenty first century society's rather limited definition of beauty.  Which can't be good.

I suppose the big difference between me and the women in the article is that I need to lose weight in order not to be beautiful (although I would be lying if I said that physical appearance wasn't a motivating factor) but to be healthy by NHS standards.  I have never had any major (physical) health issues weight related or otherwise, and I would like to keep it that way for as long as possible.

And, really, when I sat and thought about it, I realised that the beauty side of things is not the driver for me now, at 33, that it was ten years ago.  Actually, ten years ago, I was pretty slim.  I also was extremely strict about what I ate and took very little pleasure in food a lot of the time.  I think now the goalposts have changed - health is first and foremost and, as part of that, having a relaxed relationship with food.  I love food - I mean, really love it, but I don't want it to take up every waking second.  There are other things to do and other things to be.

Wonderful blog post about said article here as well - in particular, I love the quote:

 I recognise my body for what it is: a magnificent delivery system for all sorts of happiness, big and small.

And as I sit here, with a purry cat nuzzling at me, and a hot cup of Yorkshire tea to hand, I feel profoundly grateful for the small happinesses that make up every day life and that, sometimes, we are in danger of missing while in pursuit of that elusive perfect.

MPM: 10th November 2014

I have NO plans for this week beyond work and study.  Gosh, that's sad.  I do not think November is going to number amongst my best months of the year.  I shall have to distract myself by planning my Christmas shopping.  I saw an amazing fluffy tube the other day that I want to buy the cat but I suspect that she will get more excited about all the balls of chaseable wrapping paper than its contents.

Anyway, seven out of seven dinners at home and seven out of seven planned:

Moules frites
Roast chicken (Sunday leftovers) with cauliflower cheese
Pasta puttanesca
Chicken katsu soup with quinoa (thank you, Mr Waitrose)
Cardamom butter chicken with rice
Chinese braised belly pork with plums
Corned beef with parsley sauce

Yum!  More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The perfect birthday breakfast

For years and years now - certainly as long as I've been with D - I have always had the same breakfast on my birthday.  Smoked salmon, scrambled eggs.  D shreds some of the salmon through the eggs so that it lightly cooks, then drapes the rest over a toasted bread product (which for preference would be an English muffin) and tops with the golden, buttery scramble.  Mimosas and fresh Yorkshire tea on the side - utter bliss.

This year, D decided that it was time for him to find his birthday breakfast.  A traditionalist, previously he has tended towards the bacon or bacon and egg sandwich, but felt that this was not quite celebratory enough. And so began a quest.  We made a list of potential contenders and for the last few Sundays I have cooked my way through it in order that he could make an informed decision.

We started simple with a deconstructed sausage and egg McMuffin - now, come on, you know they're delicious really.  Toasted English muffin topped with cheesy scrambled eggs and grilled sausages.  V tasty.  V high in points (obviously, points do not count on birthdays, but they do count on most other days of the year.)  The key is to go for quality ingredients.  If you don't have a good local butcher, Waitrose sausages emerged victorious in a recent supermarket taste test that I came across.

Photo from
Next up, something completely different that I adored, although D was less enamoured - French toast.  I used Nigella's recipe which suggests sprinkling the hot fried bread with granulated sugar to give it a doughnut quality.  With berries on the side I thought this was a real contender.  One tip - slice the bread and leave it out the night before you intend to make it - this will dry it out which in turn means it absorbs the milk and egg mixture better.

omelette arnold bennett
Photo from 
Omelette Arnold Bennett was another completely new one on me - had heard of it, never cooked it.  It basically consists of omelette topped with a smoked haddock bechamel and cheese and then grilled until bubbling.  I stuck pretty closely to Nigel Slater's recipe although subbed out Parmesan for Gruyere which I thought would have a meltier texture (and on reflection, strong Cheddar would work well too).  I made the fish sauce element the night before so that it was relatively quick and easy to assemble in the morning.  Another one that was utterly delicious although I need to make it again to perfect it - my sauce was not quite thick enough which meant the resulting dish was a little sloppy.

No search for the perfect breakfast dish could ignore that brunch menu staple, Eggs Benedict.  I cheated and bought a jar of Hollandaise rather than attempt to whip it up first thing (I am never at my best in the mornings).  Now I love Eggs Benedict, but this is a dish that I would rather have cooked for me than produce it myself - it's a bit of a pain to try and juggle the grilling of the muffins and the poaching of the eggs all at the same time.  This scored high on D's list, but I suggested that next time we divide and conquer - he will be in charge of the eggs and I'll assemble the toasted muffin and ham base for them.

You may have already seen my smoked salmon kedgeree post so you'll know that this was a great success.  I loved it, and again has the advantage that much of it can be done the night before.  Another serious contender - I thought it might edge it.

We discussed the possibility of a Full English - as with the Eggs Benedict, I tend to think this is one to have out rather than try and cook at home.  D made himself a bacon, egg and black pudding bap while I was in London as a nod - good, he said, but not quite celebratory enough.

We also tried out a Welsh Rarebit for something a bit...left field.  Or as left field as breakfast ever gets.  I stuck pretty much to the Hairy Bikers' recipe, swapping Cheddar for Lancashire, and thought it was delicious but even I, devotee of melted cheese in all its forms, conceded that this was better as a supper than a breakfast. What a supper though - I need to get it on the meal planner soon.  

And so to the final choice - which surprised me, although as D says he reserves the right to change it year on year.  It turns out that the perfect birthday breakfast is....

...Pancakes with grilled bacon, maple syrup and chilli!  This is an April Bloomfield recipe from her excellent book, "A Girl and Her Pig".  It is kind of fusion cooking in the sense that the bacon and maple syrup combo, classic American diner food, is served with crepes rather than the more traditional buttermilk pancakes.  Sterling stuff.

So go on, I'm intrigued - did we miss out on anything good?  Does anyone else "do" birthday breakfasts?  And having done them, am I the only person who promptly requires a digestive nap?  Answers on a postcard please.

Monday, 3 November 2014

MPM: 3rd November 2014

Greetings meal planners!  As you read this (assuming the scheduling function has worked) I will be on a train somewhere between Leeds and the fair city of Edinburgh for a very mini break.  Hurrah.  We have left the cat with her grandfather - hopefully she will get over her phobia of, well, people and emerge from under the bed to see him occasionally.

So both tonight and tomorrow night are taken care of in terms of meal planning - which is to say someone else will be doing the planning and the cooking and we'll be paying for the privilege.  But back into routine as of Wednesday, and the rest of the week looks like this:

Chilli con carne with jacket potatoes (proper Bonfire Night fare)
Leftover lamb biryani
Isle of Mull sausages with mashed potato and onion gravy
Roast chicken with various trimmings

It looks very rather red meat-ey, so not the most balanced meal plan in the world but the chilli, biryani and sausages are all currently residing in our freezer which we are trying (and, generally, failing) to eat down.  Will aim for something a bit more exciting next week.  As ever, more meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Failure to weigh in, failure to care

There was no weigh in post last week because I didn't make it to my meeting.  I could, possibly, have got to a different meeting but I didn't.  Instead, I not so much fell as threw myself off the wagon and lay in the dirt laughing while it retreated into the distance.

My mojo is definitely missing.  I have...I dunno, WW fatigue?  Actually, the problem is more along the lines of a build up of work and study related stress that is leaving me very tired and very low and I am struggling, hard, to keep up momentum in...well, come to think of it, anything at all.

This is hardly sensible since I know full well that I tend to cope better if I am on top of the food and exercise side of things but knowing what is good for me and doing it, as ever, prove to be two entirely different things.

Things are not likely to ease up on the work front for a while so I need to just put my head down with regards to that - I've got a few days away now so I will try and put the office out of my mind altogether and relax (always easier said than done), rejuvenate and come back fighting.  I will go to my weigh in on Wednesday and take the result on the chin and...well, just keep going.

This isn't a very cheery post to welcome in November, is it?  Sorry, blog friends.  Back soon with tales of foodie adventures in Edinburgh which will make much more pleasant reading.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Recipe corner: Smoked salmon kedgeree

Love, love, love this dish.  There is already a classic kedgeree recipe on the blog which I also think is fabulous, but this smoked salmon version just has a little touch more luxury. We had this for a Sunday breakfast (which was when kedgeree was originally served.  Breakfast, I mean, not Sunday) but it would be perfect for supper too.  The portion is on the dainty side which is fine first thing in the morning but I would consider doubling up if I was going to serve it for a main meal.


90g basmati rice
Small onion, chopped
10g butter
Tsp cumin
Tsp ground coriander
Tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder
120g smoked salmon, shredded
3 tbsp half fat creme fraiche
Zest of half a lemon, plus a squeeze of juice
Small bunch of fresh parsley, chopped*
2 medium eggs

*A note on herbs.  The leafier green herbs, such as parsley and coriander, do not last well if purchased in bunches and I often found that if I was buying them for a particular recipe I ended up having to throw some away.  Waitrose, and I imagine other supermarkets may do as well, sell them in blitzed up form in the freezer section which I find incredibly useful to have on hand.  You can add them to a dish direct from frozen.

Serves 2, 9 pro points per portion

First cook your rice according to your normal method.  You could even use one of those little microwave pouches if you felt so inclined - I certainly wouldn't judge.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and then add the onion, turn the heat right down and allow it to cook until translucent and soft - about 10 minutes.  You can do this while the rice is cooking.

Now it's an assembly job - add the spices to the onion and cook out for a couple of minutes until they no longer smell raw.  Then stir through the cooked rice, ensuring that it gets well coated.  And then add the smoked salmon, the lemon zest and any seasoning (this dish loves black pepper).  If you're making the dish in advance (perhaps for the next morning) this is the stage at which you can stop.

Place two eggs in a pan, cover with cold water and set over a medium heat.  Bring to the boil and then cook for 4 minutes which will be a hard boil but with a suggestion of fudginess to the yolks - perfect for these purposes.  While this is happening you can stir the creme fraiche, the lemon juice and the parsley through the rice.

Peel the eggs under cold running water, cut in two and then serve the kedgeree with the eggs perched cheekily on top.  Wonder why you don't eat spicy food for breakfast more often.

Monday, 27 October 2014

MPM: 27th October 2014

This week, it is D's birthday.  He is in his mid forties.  He does, however, have a small child's capacity for stretching out his birthday celebrations for as long as possible and then a bit beyond.  Hence we have the day of his birthday itself when we are out off to the theatre in Harrogate, the Birthday Breakfast which we are having on Saturday so that I don't have to get up at six to cook it before dashing off to work, and the Birthday Trip which will be two nights in Edinburgh next week.  Phew!

Before the celebrations begin, we have a fishy start to the week and a bit of midweek slumming it as I am off in Newcastle learning all about the tax treatment of Research and Development claims and when I get home a) it will be late and b) I will most likely be a gibbering wreck.  The meal plan in full:

Home made fish finger sandwiches (the fish fingers being the home made constituent.  Although, clearly, the sandwiches will be assembled at home as well).
Salmon fillets with pasta pesto (perennial favourite)
Pizza and salad
Veal and Parmesan burgers (freezer clearing continues).
Coq au vin with mashed potatoes and curly kale

Not sure about our Saturday plans so am leaving it blank for now...since it is the Birthday Weekend something celebratory seems likely.

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Weigh in Wednesday - the rollover edition

Previously on WWF: -50lbs
Last week: -1.5lbs
This week: +2.5
Total loss: 49lbs

I don't understand what it is about the 50lb milestone that I find so very difficult to get past.  Both earlier this year and now I seem to bounce around it as if it is some sort of weird WW lodestar.  And from chatting to some others on the WW UK messageboards it doesn't seem to be all that uncommon to get a bit stuck at the big 5-0.

One (very sensible) lady (who lost around eight stone to get to goal) said that she found her motivation waned when she began to look more "socially acceptable" and I sort of know what she means.  Although still demonstrably Weeble like I am significantly less Weeble like than I was this time last year.  But still too Weeble like for anyone's aesthetic comfort.

Perhaps it is just unfortunate timing and I need to grit my teeth and keep on going.  I always knew that I would have a difficult few weeks (diet wise) mid to late October what with a long weekend in London just gone and then D's birthday trip to Edinburgh which will be in little over a week.  November is looking much quieter socially so will be an ideal time to knuckle down and really push past this 50lb barrier.  And I have no excuse to not get a decent loss under my belt over the next seven days.

Further adventures of the Russell Norman Appreciation Society

D and I love Russell Norman and all who sail in him.

We first went to Polpo back in November 2011 and rather enjoyed it.  Since then he has opened a number of other venues, most of which we have also visited and liked very much.  I had a top notch Reuben sandwich at Mishkin's (this was back in the days before we made these regularly at home), adored the truffled egg toast at Spuntino's, and had a rather good pink gin at Ape and Bird.  This latter venue is worth a visit if only to go and listen to episodes of Blackadder while you make use of the facilities.  Mr Norman seems to be very good at creating appealing and interesting places to eat at a price point which is not too ridiculous for Central London.

On Saturday, finding ourselves at a slightly hungry loose end come half past two, we popped to the Covent Garden branch of Polpo for a few reviving plates.  It's a great venue if you're peckish but don't want a full on meal because you can order as many dishes as suits your appetite.  And given the fact that the venue was still full and buzzy at the tail end of lunchtime, clearly we were not the only people who thought so.

We had a selection of cicheti:

Pig's head crostini:

Fritto misto:

Linguine vongole:

And a couple of dolcetti, chocolate salami and honey ricotta cannoli, with coffee:

It's not flawless food: the pig's head could have been a bit more porky (as it was, the capers and mustard overwhelmed the meat element slightly) and the fritto misto was marginally under seasoned (although I do tend to over salt fried food so this could just be personal preference). But the linguine, in particular, was excellent and overall the food here is fun to choose and fun to eat.  We approve.

Polpo Covent Garden
6 Maiden Lane
020 7836 8448

Monday, 20 October 2014

On being the least successful weight loss blogger that ever there was

I forgot to do a weigh in post last week - sorry.  Another steady loss, as predicted.  This week I am almost certainly going to see a gain on Wednesday because I have spent the weekend in London and have eaten and drunk far more than was good for me.  I seemed to have a monster appetite on me and no inclination to practice temperance.  Since we had a lovely time, catching up with old friends in the autumn sunshine, I will take whatever the scales say this week on the chin and not let it worry me too much.

At this point, do feel free to have a collective eye roll as I yet again demonstrate how not to be a weight loss blogger.

Of course, when one starts writing a weight loss blog one probably hopes it will be a short term project.  Certainly a finite one.  I have been writing here for four years, and still don't have it sussed.  That is quite the prolonged failure.

I think, though, that every year that has passed has seen me learn and that eventually all these learnings will translate into results.  I sometimes feel that I hold all the threads in my hand to finally find peace in my relationship both with eating and with my body but just still struggle slightly to bring them all together in a single yarn.  And, actually, when that analogy occurred to me earlier on I thought that it was quite an apt way to describe my life in general.  Which is probably why a weight loss blog is never really a short term project because when we write about trying to lose weight part of what we are writing about is how we learn to navigate life without hiding behind a painstakingly constructed wall of food and fat.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Meditations on the scale

I think I might have to give up the daily weighing for a while.  I've never been entirely sure whether it is healthy way of keeping an eye on things or whether it tips over into slightly obsessive behaviour; either way, when the number has an impact on your daily mood (and my mood is never good at ten past six in the morning anyway) it's time to back away.

This particular morning I am sulking slightly because although I have been tracking a 2-3lb loss all week, this morning there was a slight bounce and that has reduced to a 1.6lb loss.  Today, as regular readers will know, is my official WW weigh in and so the day when the big numbers count.  Since the WW scales measure to the nearest half pound, that 1.6 will more likely be a 1.5.  And 1.5 does not sound like an adequate return for my sterling efforts this week.

Really, I need to slap myself around the face with a wet kipper and get over it.  A loss of 1.5lbs is at the upper end of the healthy range so is a good result by any sensible standard.  Yes, I have been completely on plan this week, (hurrah for me) but there was still beer and wine at the weekend, and chocolate most days, and a delicious Welsh rarebit for breakfast on Sunday morning, so deprivation has hardly been the order of things.  And bitching about 1.5lbs really gives the lie to every single time I have told someone, in all sincerity, that any loss is good and should be celebrated. 

I was pondering this in the car this morning (who doesn't love a bit of cod psychology before 7am?) and wondering if what I am really disappointed with isn't the fact that it is taking me time to lose the weight but the fact that I gained it in the first place.  If you are overweight, or, indeed, have any sort of issue with food, you can never, never escape it.  Every mealtime becomes a string of finely balanced decisions, every time you look in the mirror you are reminded of your failure to be moderate.  And when you finally, finally take yourself in hand you just want that fat gone so you can get on with a life in which every single moment does not revolve around what you can/can't, should/shouldn't eat. 

Melodramatic?  Oh, almost certainly.  As I keep saying, I am never at my best in the morning.  And the thing about having a blog is that sometimes you need to use it to dump out all the over thinking and all the self pitying whingeing and everything that is making your brain feel slightly itchy.  Anyhoo, I'll be back later on with the official report and in the meantime will try and focus on things other than the number that represents the gravitational pull of the Earth on my person like, y'know, the day job.

Monday, 13 October 2014

MPM: 13th October 2014

I don't know whether it is the darker nights and mornings or the slight change in routine or the fact that I am one of the sleepiest people that you will ever have the pleasure of meeting, but goodness I'm tired at the moment.  Yesterday I had a three hour nap.  I don't know if you can even call it a nap if it is three hours long.  It feels like such a waste of a day when you look back and realise that you've spent a large proportion of it unconscious; I wonder if I would have been better served going for a brisk walk on a moor somewhere. 

Anyway, meal planning for this week.  Well, D is out on Wednesday and both of us are away next weekend so it is a short and sweet entry from me.

Monday: moules mariniere - it's mussel season at the moment and these plump little beauties are so cheap and so delicious and so low in points - glorious!

Tuesday: roast beef and horseradish sandwiches (leftovers from the Sunday roast.  Chicken or lamb may make the best roasts, but I think beef might make the best leftovers - a roast beef sandwich is a thing of absolute beauty).

Thursday: Soup Night!

More (and, hopefully, more extensive) meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Weigh in Wednesday: 8th October 2014

Previously on WWF: -48.5lbs
This week: -1.5lbs
Total loss: 50lbs

Hurrah! I've reclaimed my 50lb milestone. This means that slowly, inexorably, I'm chugging towards Fresh Fat with just 4.5lbs to go before I hit a new low.

Clear week this week, so the definite possibility of a good result. My main challenge will be avoiding outlets that sell Cadbury Snowmen - have you tried these?? They are very sweet and very, very addictive. Damn them.

Monday, 6 October 2014

MPM: 6th October 2014

I seem to start the first Meal Planning Monday of every month by going, "Wow, [insert appropriate month name here].  How did that happen?"  So I was determined not to do that this month.  But, OK, October, really?  It just doesn't seem likely.

Aside from anything else, if it's October then it means that we've had this little one for six whole months!

And she's still alive!  And thriving in a furry, purry sort of way.  Although D did wake me yesterday morning to inform me that "my" cat had been sick downstairs but that there was no need for me to get up immediately, he could ignore it for a little while longer.  Thanks, D.  And, indeed, thanks Minx.

On to meal planning.  Both of us must recently have had a slow day at work since we have sketched out a tentative plan not only for the rest of October but also November as well.  People, that is how much my husband and I like to think about food.  This week:

Sweet chilli glazed salmon with cucumber "pickle" and wild rice

Chicken and leek pot pies with mash

Mushroom risotto

Coq au vin

Roast beef and all the trimmings

That leaves one night for soup and one night D is taking over the kitchen - dish tbc he informs me.  How very exciting.

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Recipe corner: Pepper crusted tuna with mustard cucumber "spaghetti"

Most of the recipes that I am posting at the moment are pretty high in points which is indicative of the way in which I eat and it is getting problematic.  When you have a daily allowance of 32, an evening meal in the late teens or 20, as this one is, is a bit too high and makes for very hungry days. If I'm hungry, I'm grumpy.

We try and counter this as best we can; once a week we have "soup night" where tea consists of...well, soup.  And generally fresh supermarket soup rather than homemade soup as well, the point being to have a night off from kitchen duties and to have a low point evening meal to allow more flexibility during the day.  Which is nice.

But we keep coming back to the simple fact that most of the meals that we like to cook and eat are a bit pointy.  And we don't really want to compromise at dinnertime which can sometimes be the absolute highlight of the day. So, we're back to hunger...the only other solution being that I could get off my wobbly arse and earn some activity points to supplement my daily allowance (this, like Scott Mills winning Strictly this year is unlikely to happen.  Sorry, Scott).

I begin to wonder, incidentally, if I am just plain greedy.  I never thought so but I'm noticing an increasing number of people on the WW message boards who claim that they cannot possibly eat all their points and they cannot believe how much FOOD they can eat and still lose weight and they don't want to eat a chocolate bar for the sake of it.  When I see posts like this, while grimly drinking tea and trying to "fill up" on an apple it makes me want to throw something (possibly the apple) at the computer screen.  Perhaps they should make this recipe for their tea?

I’m going to share this with you anyway, and will no doubt cook and eat it again because it is delicious and probably worth a few hunger pangs.  Plus, it was a dish that D first cooked for me many years ago when we were newly living together, so it is something I associate with youth and romance.  Not two words you often hear applied to tuna. 

When I was looking at the ingredients list, I thought it doesn’t read as if it should work…too many flavours all vying for attention.  It somehow does though.  I love it. 


2 tuna steaks
Zest and juice of half a lime
Tsp of dried thyme
1/2 tsp of black peppercorns, crushed
1/4 tsp of salt
Tsp olive oil

2 cucumbers
Tbsp Dijon mustard
Tbsp coarse mustard
60ml olive oil
1/2 tbsp maple syrup
Shallot, finely chopped
Tsp fresh dill, minced

110g (raw weight) wild rice (to accompany)

Serves 2, 20 pro points per portion

First of all we are going to salt our cucumbers to draw the water out.  Take a potato peeler and reduce them both to long, slender ribbons (hence the spaghetti of the title).  Place in a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt ad set aside for at least half an hour.

Meanwhile, combine the lime zest, thyme, pepper and salt in a bowl.  Brush the tuna steaks with olive oil and then coat with the spice mix.  

You could also prepare the dressing for the cucumber; combine the mustards in a bowl, add the maple syrup and then gradually whisk in the olive oil until you have a loose dressing.  Stir through the dill and shallot and season to taste.

When ready to serve, bring a non stick frying pan up to a high heat.  While this is warming up, rinse the cucumber ribbons to get rid of excess salt, and then wring out.  It won't be bone dry by any means, but you should be able to squeeze out a decent amount of water.  Add to the dressing and toss well.

Place the tuna steaks in the hot pan and sear for 1 minute on each side.  Pour over the lime juice while it is still in the hot pan and allow it to bubble down to almost nothing.  Serve, with the dressed cucumber and some wild rice.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

An unofficial Weigh In

Tonight I am eschewing my WW meeting in order to go to book group (we're discussing Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" this month which I think is FAB).  It would have been a bit of a struggle to get to both and when I hopped on the scales this morning the decision was made when I saw a home scales gain of 2.2lbs.  Yes, friends, I officially wussed out.

It was always going to be tough to get a result this week, what with being away for a couple of nights but I'm not going to make any excuses - I used it as a licence to veer off track even when I was home and that was daft.  Hopefully this week that will all get turned around.  No, strike that, no hopefully about it.  Onwards!

Monday, 29 September 2014

MPM: 29th September 2014

I spent the weekend at a Guardian masterclass called "Free Your Creativity" (possible subtitle: get off your bloody arse and get writing, you noodle).  It was good fun but I feel terribly tired today.  Apparently, two days of being creative in a room full of supportive strangers really takes it out of you (rolls eyes at self).

Part of it is that I'm a terrible homebody; I find being away from my safe environment not a little stressful.  As I arrived back, D had the gin and tonic ready poured, and the cat, gratifyingly pleased to see me, started chirruping from the top of the stairs, and only then did that little knot of anxiety start to melt away.  I think the scent of chicken stew, which is one of the most comforting smells in the world, probably helped too.

Anyway, back to routine and back to meal planning, albeit hopefully with routine slightly adjusted to allow me some time every day to sit and doodle in a my expressly-bought-for-the-purpose Moleskine.  I am tired of saying that I want to be a writer - what I actually mean is, writing is what I want to do and if it remains a personal indulgence that is never inflicted on the rest of the world, then that is absolutely fine.

Yes, meal planning - I keep getting horribly distracted, don't I?  It's all that freed creativity zooming around...

Mussel paella
Macaroni cheese

Chunky pea and ham soup

Cardamom butter chicken

Confit duck leg

Revisiting a few old blog recipes there which should be nice, as well as having another run through of our Christmas day dish on which I shall report back if things go to plan.  Have a lovely week all, and, hopefully there will be more meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Call yourself a foodie?

I have often thought about including daily food diary posts on here. There’s a blog linky called What I Ate Wednesday dedicated to just that and I think they’re fascinating – I love to see what people are eating.

I’ve never worked up the nerve to do it though, and the main reason for this is the title of the blog which was invented on a whim without any real thought whatsoever. I made the mistake of referring to myself as a foodie. Which is probably giving a false impression.

I love to eat and I love to cook and I spend such an inordinate amount of time thinking about what goes in my gob that it is a wonder that I remain gainfully employed. But I’m not a foodie, as anyone would realise the second they actually saw my daily eats. Here are some very good reasons why:

I do not bake my own bread. I am quite frightened of the bread making process. This year, I successfully managed to bake pretzels and steamed buns but I have failed to use this success as a springboard into the further delights of the homemade loaf. (NB: I am going on a bread making course in November to try and combat this because it’s one of those things I really feel I should master).

Oh, pastry also scares me. When I successfully make pastry I get inordinately proud.

I eat ready meals. Or “prick and ping” as Peridot once so delightfully called them, which phrase I have shamelessly annexed. I think some of them are quite nice, especially if they come from M&S. Although M&S have a rather nasty habit of discontinuing my favourite things. The day they stop making my beloved turkey and pastrami flatbread we shall have a falling out.

I eat fast food. I eat in chain restaurants. I think a Big Mac is a thing of beauty, even if it does make me feel slightly dirty afterwards. When we lived in York, we regularly ordered pizza from Dominoes at my instigation. Whatever it is that Dominoes produce it is not pizza in any true sense of the word, but I scoffed it anyway and generally enjoyed it even though it was guaranteed to give me heartburn. Now we live in Leeds we have found a local takeaway firm that makes really rather nice pizza indeed. Sometimes though, I miss a stuffed crust.

When I lived on my own I ate an inordinate quantity of sandwiches and seldom cooked. Cooking for one seemed pointless and sad. My skin (and waistline) suffered.

I’m sorry, but I can’t taste the difference in organic produce.

I drink Diet Coke like it is going out of fashion. I know it is rotting my insides, but I can’t bring myself to give it up.

Other ridiculously processed items of food that I actually like include (but are not limited to): Babybels, Laughing Cow triangles, wafer thin turkey ham, Doritos (cool original, obviously), Haribo Tangfantastics and Dairylea Dunkers. Hmmm, apparently I have a penchant for pallid, rubbery imitations of cheese.

Sometimes, I don’t want to eat expensive 70% cocoa solids chocolate. Sometimes, I just want a bar of Dairy Milk.

Go on, make me feel better! Confess your foodie sins!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Weigh in Wednesday (on Thursday)

Previously on WWF: -46lbs
This week: -2.5lbs
Total loss: 48.5lbs

Good lord but this feels like a slow and tedious process.  I know that slow and steady wins the race, is more likely to stay off, is healthier, is better, etc. etc. ad infinitum.  But when you're in it, when you're in the middle of the process (or rather, not quite the middle, the mid point remains, tantalisingly, out of reach) it feels interminable.

And it is hard to complain about it feeling interminable because the thing is, you let it get that bad in the first place

It is also hard to complain about it feeling interminable when you regularly take the day "off" to indulge your fancy restaurant habit or sink a drink or five.

But this is my blog.  And today I feel crotchety.  So I am going to complain.  I am going to whine.  And then I will get over myself and just keep on going.

Monday, 22 September 2014

One for the Yorkshire foodies

Back in April D and I enjoyed a meal in Harrogate's Van Zeller which we rated as one of our best of the year.  Lovely to see then that the very esteemed Guardian restaurant critic Marina O'Loughlin has made similarly appreciative noises about the place this week.

While reading that I noticed a link to an earlier article in which Ms O'Loughlin recommends other Yorkshire venues that might be of interest.  Some places in there that we are determined to check out as soon as possible and, as ever, I'll be sure to report back. 

MPM: 22nd September 2014

I am beside myself with excitement this week, as on Saturday and Sunday I am going down to London to do a creative writing masterclass - one of the programme run by the Guardian.  Of course it means leaving Minx to the tender ministrations of D for a couple of nights but I'm sure they'll both cope.

We cooked a gammon joint in the slow cooker yesterday and so that features a couple of times this week.  I'm not actually sure what one of the iterations will be, although I'm thinking a simple plate of just ham and buttery scrambled eggs, maybe a slice of toast for good measure.  Simple, homely food.


Salmon in chraimeh sauce with couscous (the Ottolenghi recipe that we were supposed to be making last week got bumped to tonight - I'll be sure to report back)

Tagliatelle with a haggis ragu - this was originally planned out as lasagne but I have fresh pasta in the fridge that needs using, and a piece of haggis in the freezer and I love the idea of doing a sort of haggis bolognese.

Chunky pea and ham soup

Honey mustard chicken and parsnip one pot with mashed potatoes - a lovely, simple stew to greet me off the train on Sunday.

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Man Behind The Curtain, Leeds

We went out for dinner the other night, to celebrate three wonderful years of marriage.  Three years, anyway.  Bits of them were wonderful.  The meal itself didn't quite fall into the wonderful category which is a shame, and I'm often tempted not to write about experiences that I don't really enjoy which is probably why I'd never make it as a bona fide restaurant reviewer.  But there was enough to like to make it worth a post.

There are no pictures, by the way - for which regular readers, used to the dismal standard of photography on this blog, may well breathe a sigh of relief.  Hey, people, I paint pictures with words, yeah?  But TMBTC requests that mobile phones and cameras are "left at the door" so that one can enjoy the food and the company free from distractions.  I respect them for asking, even though I have never really understood why some chefs object to people taking photographs of food so much - it's generally a compliment.  Plus, when you drink as much as I do, a useful aide memoire.

So, The Man Behind The Curtain.  They actually have a philosophy section on their website (you can read it here) which is sort of admirable.  And a dress code (which most of the diners seemed to ignore).  The chef has worked at Noma and, more recently, at a York venue called The Blind Swine about which we had heard great things and were sorry to have missed.  So all the signs were good.

I just found, personally, the food didn't quite support the weight of expectations.  And, to be honest, when it really comes down to it, the food is what I am interested in.

Venue - modern, trendy, wins extra points for being only accessible through one of Leeds most upmarket department stores (we looked at shoes while we waited for the lift up there).  Waiting staff - friendly, professional.  There is a long table set up at one side of the room where the chefs plate up, which is fun to watch and, although not a new conceit, certainly the first time I have seen it done outside of London.  The chefs themselves bring the dishes to the table (very Nomaesque) and were more than happy to chat about the food, which is great.

Some of the dishes were tasty.  We particularly loved the fish course which was halibut with a crust best described as crushed salt and vinegar Quavers - which might sound insulting but is the only way I can possibly begin to describe it to you and, rest assured, it was lick the plate good.  Ox cheek was nice too - cooked to absolute perfection so that it dissolved into a luscious memory of meaty goodness as soon as it was placed in the mouth.  These chaps can most definitely cook.

I felt that sometimes they got a weeny bit over excited.  Some of the combinations, to my mind, just didn't work brilliantly (maybe I am just not progressive enough, but I found chocolate and cep, for example, to be pretty unpleasant.  And I adore both chocolate and mushrooms.)  And some of the courses were a touch...insubstantial.  Stylish, yes.  But lacking in...roots.  Some of the most memorable meals we have had recently (Eleven Madison Park, Five Senses) have had a very strong sense of tradition and place running through them, and I felt that was lacking here.  I didn't quite understand what the chef was trying to achieve, what was in his heart when he designed the food.

I am keen to go back for the next iteration of the menu to see if the personality becomes more apparent; after all, this is still quite a new restaurant and it may yet settle down.  There is clearly talent enough to make it into something very good as long as it finds the story it wants to tell.

The Man Behind The Curtain
68-78 Vicar Lane
0113 2432376

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.