Monday, 27 February 2017

MPM: 27th February 2017

During the month of March, we will be cooking our books. Which is to say, we've both selected two recipe books (or magazines or websites) and, each week, will pick a minimum of three recipes to make.

This week: Diana Henry's "A Change of Appetite". I love Diana Henry's writing and all of her books look utterly delicious but I don't think that I've ever made anything from this one so I'm very much looking forward to our selection of meals.

We'll be fasting for two days after a break last week, and D is out one night. So the plan looks like this:

Tuesday: it's pancake day! We will be having ours with bacon, maple syrup and chilli.

Friday: Burmese chilli fish with hot and sour salad

Saturday: Lamb scottaditto with fregola salad

Sunday: Roast sea bass with spiced aubergine, lemon and honey relish.

Have a fabulous week folks and I will report back with regards the book.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

A sojourn by the sea

Huh.  Well the Great Slowdown continues apace so I have no particular updates on the weight loss front. 

But, but, but!  I have got over my fit of the sullens because tomorrow we are hightailing it down to Brighton for a long weekend of fun by the sea.  I have never been to Brighton before and can't wait to explore.  We have, of course, done some research into the restaurant scene down there and I'm very excited.  I fully expect to see a gain on the scales next week but I also fully expect it to be thoroughly worth it.

In the meantime, I leave you with a picture of my cat in a bag.  I know not why she chose to get in the bag but the resulting shot made me smile.

A plutard, mes amies!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Disappointment (nearly) all round

Disappointment 1

We should probably have known better than to go out for dinner on Valentine’s Day. It’s asking for trouble. Our main plan was to watch a film about a pregnant serial killer* and take part in a Q&A session with the very talented writer / director / star** so we thought to make an evening of it and have something to eat first. The thing is, Valentine’s Day is a bit like New Year’s Eve or the week before Christmas; the kitchen is never likely to be displayed at its best. Still, when I first went to Oranaise (years ago now) I really enjoyed it and the menu has had me humming with anticipatory pleasure all week, so the fact that it was all a bit meh was a blow.

We shared a mezze platter to start – which was fine if generally a tad underseasoned. Main courses, though, were verging on the not fine. D had the Royal Couscous – he fished out the chunks of chicken, lamb and kofte (because he likes meat) but left most of the rest finding it not so much bad as profoundly uninspiring. I ordered vegetable brochettes which the menu claimed came with halloumi and baba ganoush. Neither appeared on the plate. The vegetables themselves were nice, (if a tad oily) but when you’re expecting halloumi and baba ganoush, the lack thereof is hard to take. I should have said something, but assumed I’d ordered the wrong dish until I checked the menu afterwards and saw that this was not so.

Romantic lighting...but where is the halloumi?
I hate to write negatively about places, and I am conscious that in choosing to go out on this particular evening I was positivly asking for mediocrity but, equally, no halloumi? That’s almost unforgivable.

Disappointment 2

The scales are showing a definite slowdown this week. Since the beginning of January, I have weighed daily and the direction of numerical travel has been almost exclusively downwards. This week, the drops are smaller and the bounce backs…less small.

Yes, I have been happy to blether that slow and steady wins the race, that I am fine with the idea of the rate of loss declining…and yet it still bloody stings. I’m a baby, I know. But it’s my blog so I’m allowed to stamp my feet and blow raspberries for a little bit. I think that the best thing to do is not to daily weigh for the rest of the week, which should avoid me getting even more petulant (that way madness and potential binges lie) and then reassess the position after the Official Result on Monday.

Not a Disappointment

*”Prevenge” which was very funny and very dark. If you have a stomach for gore and a sense of humour that tends towards the black, then I would thoroughly recommend it. **Alice Lowe, who you may know if you are a fan of “Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace” (AWESOME) or the film “Sightseers” (also vg) was a charming and engaging speaker and clearly, given the difference between her character and off-screen persona, a very talented actress.

Enjoyment at the film almost, almost made up for the lack of halloumi. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Notes on 4:3 and a Wet Weekend

You now that I've said that 5:2 is hard but doable? Well, 4:3 starts to tip over into too hard and not doable. We fasted on Monday, Wednesday and Friday last week and Friday felt like a slog from start to finish - especially when work was over for the day and we celebrated the start of the weekend with yet another bowl of soup.  Meh.

And perhaps as a result of that, or perhaps because constant virtue can be rather dull, Saturday and Sunday ended up being a bit off piste, specifically with regards a glass or ten of the good stuff.  I've been eschewing my usual beloved tipples over January but suddenly, all caution was hurled to the wind.  The result was plain to see this morning - despite all the fasting, I gained 0.6lbs.

It's not the end of the world and is unsurprising, perhaps, after a spate of good results.  It's frustrating certainly - especially since I don't feel as if I overate, but the scales don't lie and, after all, gram for gram alcohol contains almost as many calories as fat.  Lesson learned (although I don't doubt that the very same lesson will have to be learned again at some point in the not too distant future.)

Meal planning this week - well, one or other of us is out for three of the seven nights (yes, we are dining out on Valentine's Day) and then obviously there will be yet more soup.  That just leaves next weekend to plan:

Saturday:  Coq au vin* with mashed potato and roasted kalettes

Sunday:  Merguez sausages with a warm salad of giant couscous and roasted red pepper

*Because if you're cooking with wine it doesn't count.  Obviously.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Out and about - Pigs and Pyjamas

Let’s dispense with the diet chat for now and focus on something much more interesting – FOOD. Because the whole point of putting yourself through two (or three) fast days a week is so you can fill your boots with the good stuff throughout the other five.

We’ve been out for a couple of quick bites in and around Leeds recently, so here’s a quick round up.

The Cat’s Pyjama’s, Headingley

I was going to call this restaurant a relative newcomer, but since it has already managed to open a second branch in Leeds city centre in the last few months, that makes me sound quite patronising. Or, as if I have no grasp on the actual passage of time. Regardless, this has been on our radar to visit for a while. Its claim that it provides a celebration of Indian street food culture might be a cynical attempt to garner zeitgeist points, but the wonderful Bundobust has already proved that Leeds can take Indian food and take street food and make something amazing. We had high hopes.

I don’t think that it is quite as good as Bundobust, although, really, a like for like comparison is unfair given that CP has a much larger menu and encompasses main meal curries as well as street food sized snacks (not to mention the fact that it caters for meat and fish eaters). I did think that it was a cut above a bog-standard, high street British Indian restaurant, with a menu that resisted the tired old standards and clearly tried to do something a bit different.

Poppadoms and pickles were good. We shared a starter: Chicken 65, which is crispy fried chicken with chilli, garlic and a name with an obscure origin. The taste was good, the meat a little dry. Main courses were varied – the Saag Paneer, a great favourite of mine, was delicious (and tasted even better the next day) and the Goan Chicken Cafreal was a triumphant balance of spice and zing. However the Punjabi Chole, a pulse based curry, was slightly uninspiring.

For all that, I’d happily go back and sample the other options – the atmosphere was nice and buzzy, even on a Wednesday evening, the staff friendly and the food undoubtedly decent value, coming in at £30 a head for more than we can eat (they kindly packaged up our leftovers for us) and a bottle of wine.

If you find yourself in Leeds City Centre, I’d personally opt for Bundobust in the first instance, but wouldn’t have an issue with suggesting The Cat’s Pyjamas if they didn’t have any tables available.

The Cat's Pyjamas
53 Otley Road,

The Greedy Pig, Leeds

It has been a month of animal themed restaurants, as last Saturday we popped out for brunch at this, a veritable Leeds institution that recently popped up in a Guardian “Best UK Breakfast Spot” article, alongside Laynes which has recently had a refurbishment that I need to check out (note to self).

With regards the Pig - be warned; this is not a large venue and you may have to wait for a table. Also be warned, if you’re not lucky enough to nab one of the prime spots in the window you may well have said waiters looming over you while you eat your breakfast. I wasn’t particularly bothered, D found it disconcerting.

Having already stalked the place on Instagram, I decided that I couldn’t resist the pancake stack, which I ordered with bacon and maple syrup. The pancakes themselves were a triumph of the genre: thick but fluffy of texture and golden of crust. I did feel that two (smallish) rashers of (undeniably excellent) bacon was a tad disproportinate – perhaps one is meant to treat the bacon as seasoning but I did end up leaving the third pancake to ensure a decent bacon: syrup: pancake ratio throughout.

D went for a duck hash topped with a duck egg and kimchi. He was quite quiet while eating it which is generally a good sign, but I suspect that he suffered from slight food envy when he saw a pile of buttermilk chicken go past – to be fair, it did look amazing, and I think a return visit to confirm this analysis is inevitable.

Joint best breakfast spot in Leeds? I can’t speak for Laynes, but at the moment for me, I think Ox Club might just edge it. Further testing is most definitely required…

The Greedy Pig
58 North Street,

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Week of pain

The blog has become rather diet centric in recent posts.  I suppose that is just a reflection of what happens when one starts a new regime and it, briefly, seems utterly fascinating.  Give it a few more weeks and the novelty will have worn off.

Anyway, a very pleasing result this week.  I had already decided to quit with the weekly updates lest they become an utter yawnfest - but this was worthy of comment:

Weeks 1-4 loss / (gain): 10.6lbs
Week 5 loss / (gain): 4.8lbs
Total: 15.4lbs

I'm not quite sure what happened to create such a big loss.  I'm (sadly) far too experienced in this game to think that weight loss always occurs on a nice, straight line basis but even I was surprised.  However, this week, the scales are not showing any large movements - a plateau, if you will. 

The week of pain in the title refers to the fact that, a little while ago, D and I decided that it might be a good idea to throw a 4:3 week into the mix every month or so.  As it says on the tin, this consists of three fast days rather than the usual two.  It will be interesting to see if this busts the plateau or whether this week is just destined to be a bit of a slowdown.  It will also be interesting to see if I get through fast day number 3 (scheduled for tomorrow) without weeping.  The last two have been difficult - not because I've felt hungry particularly, more that I've been COLD and craving melted cheese.

Still, as I said in my last post, I feel cautiously optimistic that I have found a long term way of eating / dieting that seems to allow weight loss alongside a "normal" existence.  And that, for me, is the golden ticket that helps me to live with the temporary discomfort.  I wonder if I will be quite sanguine when (likely not if) the weight loss slows down and the victories are harder won?

In answer to Lesley's question, D, who has much less ballast than me has lost 7lbs in the past five weeks.  This is an excellent result and suggests that 5:2 can also work for people who aren't particularly overweight.  He tends to take a less moderate approach than I on non fast days and yet still has recorded consistent losses.  To take things to the next level though, and ensure long term consistency, both of us need to up the ante with regards to exercise - Lesley, do you think if I keep saying it that eventually I will do it??

Thursday, 2 February 2017

A month of 5:2

We have come to the end of January and thus a whole calendar month’s worth of intermittent fasting.

I’ve completed four full weeks – three doing 5:2 and one cheeky (and accidental) 4:3. So what are the final results?

Weeks 1-3 loss / (gain): 8.6lbs
Week 4 loss / (gain): 2lbs
Total: 10.6lbs

My intention was always to give this a fair shot and then assess whether or not it was worth carrying on. Based on those results, I am more than happy to keep going. I also I feel as if I’m in more of a position now to give a balanced opinion of 5:2. And here it is.

One - fasting is HARD. Some days it is quite hard and others it is very hard and there doesn’t appear to be any particular rhyme or reason as to why this is so. There may be some sort of biological (hormonal?) explanation, but certainly, I’ve not yet been able to identify a particular pattern as to why some days I bumble along slightly peckish but OK and others I want to chew my own hand off within a couple of hours of waking.

Two – if you, like me, have been on one diet or another for most of your adult life, being told to just eat “normally” five days a week is also hard. I feel like I’m having to learn that from scratch. Because it is January and because I’m all fired up to Bust some Lard, I’ve been erring on the side of caution which has clearly yielded results. Further down the line, I’m very conscious that the halo might start to slip and need to watch out for that.

Three – for all the caveats at points one and two, I would definitely recommend this to someone who was looking to breakout of the perpetual diet / binge cycle. Because, psychologically, it is just such a huge RELIEF to know that I don’t have to say no to everything and be in a state of constant, slightly unhappy denial. Last weekend, I saw friends. We had a meal out – there was pudding, there was a LOT of wine. The next day, there was an Indian takeaway. And yet I still did enough to record a 2lb loss because I practiced a bit of moderation and I completed my two fast days. That has all the hallmarks of a lifestyle that I can maintain forever.

Onwards and downwards!