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
Leith
EH6 6LX
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
Soup
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.

DOUGHNUT FRENCH TOAST
Photo from www.nigella.com
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 www.theguardian.com 
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.