Tag Archives: Low-carbohydrate diet

The best mayonnaise (and tartare sauce) and it’s easy peasy too

21 Sep

There are far too many cookery programmes on TV these days.

This statement may surprise you, as I’m clearly somewhat obsessed with food and cooking. But cookery has become entertainment, and in my world it’s not the cooking itself that should be entertainment, but the resulting food. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the sociability and enjoyment of cooking alongside other people, but that isn’t what most of these programmes are about. There are too many competitive cookery programmes where the point of the programme is to see people mess up, to see a souffle flop; a bread become a brick; a sauce split.

But I do watch cookery programmes, usually ones I can learn from.

And I’ve been surprised this last week to find myself enjoying The Hairy Bikers Best of British. Yesterday afternoon I learned how to make a Pease Pudding, something I’d never really thought of as a real food before, just a line in a song. So sometime in the future I’ll be making Gammon with Pease Pudding and Mustard Sauce – warming food for the winter months.

This weekend I made scampi, with tartare sauce. And ate it in front of the TV, in homage to the 70s. It was divine. The tartare sauce was particularly lush, and I share it here.

Start off by making your own mayonnaise. If you’ve not made mayonnaise before then you might have an idea that it’s incredibly tricky. It’s not. And it doesn’t take long either, so long as you have a hand held beater, or muscles like Pop-Eye and a balloon whisk.

Making mayonnaise al fresco

Mayonnaise

  • 2 free range egg yolks
  • 1 TBsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard (smooth would be best, but my cupboards dictated I had 1 tsp smooth, 1 crunchy and it was fine)
  • 1/4 tsp caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 50ml olive oil
  1. Place the egg yolks, vinegar, mustard, sugar and salt in a bowl and start whisking. I recommend you use an electric beater. Keep whisking till the mixture is smooth
  2. Keep whisking
  3. Add the oil drop by single drop
  4. Keep whisking
  5. The oil will emulsify with the yolkie mixture, and after a wee while you can start adding the oil in a slow trickle
  6. Keep whisking
  7. If you’re feeling brave, start pouring the oil in (still relatively slowly, but steadily)
  8. Keep whisking
  9. Once all the oil is added, you should have some thick, smooth and luscious mayonnaise.
Making mayo
Making mayo

Put half the mayonnaise in a jar in the fridge and use within the next week. It is amazing on a wholemeal roll with smoked ham. Or with warm boiled new potatoes folded into it. Or on a white bread fish finger sandwich,

But you’re going to make tartare sauce with the other half that is still in the bowl.

Making tartare sauce
Making tartare sauce

Tartare Sauce

  • Half quantity of the mayonnaise you have just made
  • 2 TBsp capers, dried on kitchen roll and then roughly chopped
  • 4 cornichons, dried and cut in half lengthwise and then sliced finely
  • 1 large TBsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 small TBsp chopped fresh tarragon
  1. Gently stir all the ingredients together
  2. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste

Eat with scampi. Or fish goujons. Or go and buy a fish supper and eat it with your own fresh tartare sauce, and feel proud.

A bowl of perfect tartare saue
A bowl of perfect tartare saue

Going to work on an egg (or the arrival of my Greek heroes)

13 Oct

People who know me may know that for some years now I have wanted to have chickens. I don’t really know when this desire first rooted in my heart, but I suspect it was long long ago on summer holidays up at Marbrack, a Galloway hill farm where my Aunt Joyce lived (with my Uncle Frank and 5 of my cousins).

Marbrack had one of those lovely farmhouse kitchens, the real heart of the home. We all sat on a long wooden bench at the even longer kitchen table, with our backs warmed by the rayburn behind us. The same rayburn which occasionally would bring a wee cold dying lamb back to life in the bottom oven (or have I made that bit up?). And the same rayburn which produced all manner of delicious teatime treats, including scotch pancakes (drop scones) freshly made directly on the hot plate.

Anyway, I think we went to stay a few days every summer holidays. My memory is of being a hopelessly shy child, especially around all my big boy cousins, so I spent most of the time close to Aunt Joyce’s apron strings. Spending time in the kitchen was bliss – there was the huge bowl of fresh milk to be brought in from the back kitchen, so I could skim off the cream from the top. And there were cakes to bake. But best of all, there were hens. Each day we would take a pail of scraps out to the hens, and then would look for the eggs. Thinking about it, now I know why there were so many cakes – all those eggs to use up!

For years I lived in London and there was no possibility of having hens in a basement flat, so it wasn’t until my life changed a few years ago that I thought about being able to have my own chickens.

And now that I live in the country I have my own three wee chook chooks.

And thanks to The Song of Achilles being our recent book group book, two of the chickens are named after Greek heroes – well, one Greek hero and one Prince of Troy: Achilles and Hector. The third is called wee Tommy.

And yes, I know these are boys names.

Two things:

  1. I don’t suppose chickens know the difference between a girls and a boys name
  2. If by chance they do, I feel very comfortable with gender dysmorphic / transsexual chickens in my coop. And they seem very comfortable with it too.
l to r: wee Tommy, Achilles, Hector

And after three days I’m getting three eggs a day from these wee heroes. When I go out in the morning and call them they come running out of their wee hen house to see what treats I might have brought them, and they peck around my feet. I’ve learnt that shoes with shiny buckles are too enticing for chickens. And that a corn on the cob on a string is the best sport for chickens in a coop.

So, there will be many more pictures, and many recipes for what to do with an egg laid by a Trojan Prince. But for now, I give you my failsafe boiled egg for breakfast recipe.

The perfect boiled egg

Now, of course if you have access to a super fresh egg, straight from a Trojan Prince that is what you should use. Otherwise, just use an egg from an egg box. But I hope your egg is at least free range – those batteries are nasty places, and I hate to think of hens cooped up with no space to move about and be inately henny.

And where do you keep your eggs? Mine are kept at room temperature, so they are at the same temperature as everything else when I am baking cakes. I don’t see the point of keeping them in a fridge, they don’t need it. Or not in our cold kitchen anyway! If you have a larder that is where I would keep them.

The best place for eggs

Anyway.

Get a small saucepan, and pop your egg in the bottom of the pan. Pour water over the egg, so the egg is just covered with water. If your egg is super fresh it will sit on the bottom of the pan. If it’s been around a wee while one end might bob up to the top, which is fine. If the whole thing properly floats I would chuck it – it’s been around too long and may be icky.

Place the pan over the heat – a medium heat is fine – and bring to the boil.

At this point you should make your toast if you want any.

Once the water is properly boiling, put your timer on for one minute. The water should be properly boiling, not like wild rapids so the egg is being thrown about the pan, and not a wee soft simmer, but something in between.

After a minute, take the pan off the heat.

Get your egg cup ready and pop your egg on the egg cup; if you have an egg cosy, use it – it’s probably something that will make you smile, and we should never deny ourselves the wee joys in our world. Your egg should be at that delicious soft yolk stage. And all you need with it is a scrunch of black pepper, and a teaspoon for breakfast perfection. Of course if you made that toast, then a single slice of hot buttered toast works (perhaps with a scraping of marmite, if you’re feeling in need of a salty hit and some B vitamins).

For a low carb diet a boiled egg (or two) for breakfast is just perfect – in fact for everyone it is the best start to the day, with a wee hit of protein to get you up and keep you going till lunchtime.

Soft boiled egg – the breakfast of champions

Chicken chasseur

12 Jun

So, I’m trying to be really organised, planning meals in advance and doing a big shop once a week in Edinburgh. And this week I’ve got some of it right. I did the big shop (online, delivered yesterday evening) and then started the planning once I had the food in my cupboards and the fridge. Clearly that’s the wrong way around, but it’s ok.. it’s coming together. And next week I’ll be better and plan first, shop second.

The other problem with my shop is that I hadn’t been home in my flat for ten days, so the shopping was sort of done from memory. As a result I’ve got LOTS of flour, and am running out of washing up liquid. Ah well, first world problems!

Anyway, this evening my plan told me that supper would be made from chicken, mushrooms, potato. And perhaps carrot and courgette. This was all pointing towards a chicken chasseur. Chasseur recipes are meals that hunters might eat (I think) … although I suspect that no self-respecting hunter would eat the chicken I was going to cook. But I think it is the mushrooms that all chasseurs traditionally have. Or am I entirely wrong and that’s a chicken forestiere? Oh, I really must do some research before I start trying to write about things I think I know more about than I really do.

But this is my version of what I am going to call chicken chasseur. It’s relatively cheap, easy to adapt, and pretty healthy. I’m trying to lose weight at the moment. Trying? I’m succeeding! I’m on weightwatchers, and it’s working really well for me, losing between 1 and 2lbs a week. And this recipe works well on the weightwatchers system. So I’ll be having leftovers for lunch tomorrow with some bulgur wheat!

Chicken Chasseur

  • 600g chicken thighs (between 6 and 8 thighs probably). Either leave them whole, or cut them into chunks… cut off any fat, to keep it healthy
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half then sliced thinly, in half moon shapes
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped into wee chunks
  • 1 red pepper, cut into chunks
  • about 300g chestnut mushrooms, cut in half
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • thyme – either dried or fresh, or parsley
  1. Brown the chicken thighs in a large frying pan. If you have an oil sprayer, then use that, if you don’t then use a minimum amount of oil so the thighs don’t stick
  2. Remove the chicken from the pan and put to one side
  3. Lightly fry the onion in the pan for 3-4 minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients, and add the chicken back into the pan
  4. Add a half a pint or so of water. Ideally everything should be in the sauce, although it doesn’t need to be entirely submerged.
  5. Stir it gently, then cover the pan and let it bubble away for about 30 minutes. Less time if you cut those thighs into bits before you started.
And that’s it. Serve it with bulgur wheat. Or a baked potato. Or potato wedges, done in the oven with other roasted veg such as courgettes, and onions. That’s what I had this evening and it was super tasty.
And now I’m going to be really geeky and make a list of the foods I have in my cupboard, so I can tick things off when I need them and be more organised with my shopping, and eating. Yeah, go me, I’m so rock n roll!

Bready things

6 May

Some of you might know that I’ve been trying a low carb diet for the past few months. While I’ve been generally feeling less lethargic and slightly healthier, I haven’t continued to lose weight after the first month, so I’ve changed tack and am now trying weightwatchers again.

But that’s all dull. Diets are dull. People who talk about diets (as opposed to food) are dull. OK, they’re not all dull, but it’s the food that is inherently interesting, not the way my body or your body metabolises it.  Isn’t it?

Anyway, the low carb thing had meant that I’d stopped buying or making bread. I thought this would be really hard; I love bread. I love hot toast with butter. I love bread and honey. I love bread and butter pudding. I love toasted cheese on toast. I love croutons. I love fingers of toast with butter and marmite. And peanut butter. It’s really no wonder I’m overweight, is it?

However, I found giving up bread much easier than I imagined. It’s nice to have an egg for breakfast. Two is better.  Scrambled with a bit of butter and a teeny wee pinch of Maldon sea salt is divine, especially with a good grinding of black pepper once it’s served. And really, it doesn’t need toast to make it a superlative breakfast. Lightly boiled eggs for breakfast are also a winning start to the morning. And genuinely, since I started having eggs instead of toast or porridge for breakfast, I’ve found I don’t get hungry and want a snack mid morning. And that’s a good thing, as when I WANT a snack, I tend to have a snack.

But… all this is dull diet stuff.  The important thing is that I decided to quit this low carb regime, which meant a renewed interest in bready goods again. Now, if I’m going to eat bread, I’m going to eat the nicest bread I can have. And that, for me, means making it myself. It could also mean going to Strathaven and buying bread from Alexander Taylor‘s but I’m not sure I can justify the food miles every week. They were at the local farmers’ market yesterday, but I’d completely forgotten it was the first weekend of the month and forgot to go. Ah well, next month.

For a while I’ve been thinking about flour. I want artisanal flour. Yeah, I know how middle class that sounds. What I mean is that I want great quality flour which will make superb loaves almost without thinking. And, here’s the romantic in me, I want it to come from a proper mill. A watermill, or a windmill, I don’t mind. I want the wheat to be organic, and GM free.  I want to know that the millers are using time honoured traditional methods to mill my flour. Is that too much to ask?

Clearly it’s not. I researched a few places online and kept coming back to a Welsh mill, Bacheldre Mill. Take a look, I think you’ll like the cut of their jib.  They are artisanal millers of exceptional flours, so they say. And I would tend to agree.

So, this week we took delivery of 16kg of stoneground unbleached white flour and 4 x 1.5kg bags of their malted 5 seed flour. And oooh la la, I’m a happy baker. OK, I’ve only used the bread machine so far. Yup, I said it. I use a bread machine. And I am not ashamed of that. It is easy, it is quick (in terms of my time input) and it produces delicious bread with great texture. Most of the time.

So, on Friday night I made a 5 seed loaf. I’d forgotten there was fennel in it, which gives it that lovely almost aniseedy kick.  Great with smoked cheddar (from The Galloway Smokehouse at Carsluith) and home made apple chutney. Also great with home made blackcurrant jelly, allegedly.  I suspect it will add a new dimension to home made pizza too.

Anyway, such is my love for this proper flour that I am moved to make a new sourdough starter. I had a sourdough starter last year and loved it… but one fateful weekend I made a loaf and forgot to keep back any of the starter and that was the end of it. So, it is definitely time to make some more. I love sourdough. It doesn’t have the easy nature of the machine bread, but it rewards you with great flavour and texture. And in the end doesn’t really take up too much time, if you’re organised (which contrary to popular belief, I am).

Anyway, here is my bread machine recipe for Bacheldre Mill’s 5 Seed Loaf.

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp milk powder
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (I used half olive, half sunflower oil)
  • 2 heaped Tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups Bacheldre Mill’s malted 5 seed flour
  • 1 cup strong white flour
  • 1 tsp fast action yeast
  1. Add the ingredients, in the order they are listed, to the tin in your bread machine
  2. Cook on 1 1/2lb wholemeal setting
Voila! You have delicious tasty bread.
I think it’s steak sandwiches later. That’s if I can resist making some pizza.

Spicy turmeric chicken

2 May

I love recipe books, and have a relatively large collection. One I’ve owned for a while, but have cooked little from is Leon’s Naturally Fast Food. It’s a beautiful thing, lovely design (although will it seem very dated when I look back at it in 10 years time?) and some great recipes for making fast, fresh food.

This morning before I left for work I had a quick flick through the recipes and decided to make their South Indian Pepper Chicken. It’s a beautifully simple recipe, and pretty low fat, so it’s my kinda healthy too.

South Indian Pepper Chicken

  • A drizzle of olive oil (use the stuff from the spray bottle if you care, otherwise use about a teaspoonful)
  • About 500g skinless, boneless chicken thighs, diced
  • Maldon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • about 1″ root ginger, chopped fine
  • 1 large onion, cut in half, then sliced finely to give thin crescent shapes
  • a heaped tsp turmeric
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly diced
  1. Heat the oil in large frying pan, add the chicken pieces, then sprinkle on a good pinch of sea salt and LOTS of black pepper. Stir it about then add some more black pepper
  2. Cook for a few minutes, till the chicken browns. Then tip it out of the pan into a bowl and set aside
  3. Add the garlic, onion, ginger and turmeric to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes
  4. Add the tomatoes and a good glug of water and stir together
  5. Add the chicken back into the pan and cook with a lid on for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. Take the lid off and reduce the sauce down a little if it’s all too wet still.
Serve with rice and kale. I had no rice in the flat, so had it with noodles instead and it was bloody lovely. This is enough to serve 2 or 3, depending how hungry you are, and what you’re serving it with.

Gumbo party

14 Mar

Is it a soup?

Is it a stew?

It’s a gumbo!

One of my colleagues is in his early 20s and is really just learning about cooking properly. A few weeks ago he was very proud of the chicken gumbo he had made. He was surprised how easy it was to make something so tasty.

Fast forward to this Monday, and I was at a bit of a loss as to what to cook for supper. All I knew I had in the fridge was a chorizo sausage. So, my colleague suggested chicken gumbo. Perfect!

The basic recipe which inspired this is on the bbc good food website here. If you haven’t checked out the recipes on bbc good food, you’ve missed out.  Go on, have a browse – they have more pics than I usually do.

A top tip here: chop up everything else and put them in bowls (doubling things up that are being thrown in the pan together) before you cut up your chicken. That way, you just need to clean the knife and the board at the end.

Chicken Gumbo

  • 4 – 5 chicken thighs, cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smooshed up
  • 1 green chilli, sliced finely
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped finely
  • 1 TBsp plain flour
  • 1 large tin/carton chopped tomatoes
  • a chicken stock cube
  • a mug of boiling water
  • 1 courgette, cut into chunks
  • 2 red peppers, cut into chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a couple of stalks of fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • about 100g chorizo, chopped into chunks
  • a couple of new potatoes, cut into small chunks
  • a few handfuls of spinach
  1. Using a wee bit of oil, fry off the chicken in a large heavy bottomed frying pan
  2. Remove the chicken, and let it rest in a bowl till you’re ready for it again
  3. Add the celery and onion to the pan, and cook over a gentle heat till the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another couple of minutes
  4. Add the flour to the veg, stir and cook for a minute or so.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes, chicken stock cube and boiling water and stir together
  6. Put the chicken back in the pan, followed by all other ingredients, except for the spinach, and simmer with a lid on for about 20 minutes
  7. Add the spinach and stir through – it won’t really need further cooking as the spinach will just wilt into the gumbo
  8. EAT!
This is great the next day once the flavours have melded together. I had it on its own as there is plenty veg in there with the meat. However, if you want more carbs, it would be lovely with noodles or rice.
It’s a pretty flexible recipe – add peas, sweetcorn, even prawns or fish. And make it as spicy or plain as you want. But you knew that already.
Next year it’s Gumbo instead of pancakes for Shrove Tuesday!

Bringing home the bacon

16 Feb

Well, the plan is I won’t need to bring it home for much longer, as I’ll be curing my own!

I started my first cure this evening. Verdict in about a weeks’ time.

Dry sweetcure

Pork belly in a bag with sweetcure mix

Roasted peppers in a jar

14 Jan

A jar of summery goodness

I love roasted peppers in a jar.  Well, they don’t have to be in a jar, they can be in any container you want really, but they can look pretty so why would you hide them in plastic, or one of those lovely brown stoneware pate dishes?  As an aside, I’m very fond of those brown stoneware dishes – they conjure up happy memories of home. At lunchtime there always seemed to be something delicious in a brown stoneware pot: mackerel pate, pork rillettes, roasted peppers in olive oil, etc.

But, it’s glass jars all the way for me these days, apart from anything else, I can seal them up and take them with me on a Monday morning to the flat in Edinburgh, or the office for jazzing up tasty lunches.

Chop everything into a big bowl

Place in a single layer on a baking tray

Roast till peppers are soft and you have caramelised edges

Pop them in a jar

Slow roasted peppers in a jar

3 bell peppers – you can use any colours, but in my experience green peppers often end up looking a wee bit grey, so I prefer to use 2 red and one yellow.

At least 2 big cloves of garlic

2 small onions, or one large

a large sprig of rosemary

a couple of small bay leaves

a red chilli pepper

a glug or so of balsamic vinegar

a tsp honey, if you want it

any other herbs, spices that you fancy – eg thyme, cayenne pepper

a good pouring of olive oil (if you have any at the bottom of a jar of sun dried tomatoes, anchovies, or artichokes, or other such tasty goodies, then use that)

more olive oil – you’ll need enough to cover the peppers once they are in the jar

a grinding or two of black pepper

a mere sprinkle of maldon sea salt

  1. Chop the peppers into large chunks – I like mine about 1.5″ across. Put them in a big bowl.
  2. Cut the onions in half from top to bottom. Lay it on the chopping board on its cut side, and then cut it into wedges. Depending on the size of onion you’ll get 3 – 5 wedges. Add them to the bowl with the peppers.
  3. Place the flat side of a large knife on top of the garlic clove, and then smash it with your fist – this will release the garlic easily from its papery skin and will also give you a nicely smooshy clove.  You still want it pretty much whole(ish) but all squished so you benefit from the release of all that tasty juiciness. Yup, throw these in on top of the peppers and onions too.
  4. Chop the chilli and add as much of it as you want – if you don’t like heat, don’t bother.  I like heat in most foods, but this doesn’t need much, if any, so feel free to omit it.
  5. Strip the rosemary from its stalks and throw the leaves into the bowl.
  6. Add any other herbs and spices you are using.
  7. Now today I had a jar of honey that was solidifying in the jar, so I added a tsp or so of honey into a wee mug and poured a wee bit of boiling water on top and stirred till it was liquid. Then I added a big splish splosh of balsamic vinegar and a good glug or two of olive oil. Mix all this together and add it to the bowl.
  8. Mix all the ingredients together to coat everything in the dressing.
  9. Pour into a single layer onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with a grinding of black pepper and a wee sprinkle of maldon sea salt.  Don’t bother if you only have table salt.
  10. Pop in a medium oven (it was gas mark 3 ish I think).

You’ll probably smell when it’s ready.  Did it take about 45 minutes?  I don’t really know. You don’t want crispy burnt bits, but you do want soft peppers and caramelised brown edges on some of the onions and peppers.

Cool for a bit, then put into a jar. Pour over enough olive oil so the peppers are covered and keep in a fridge for a week or two.  You can eat it immediately if you want, but it’s really nicest after all the flavours have had a chance to infuse in the jar, so I would leave it a couple of hours at least.

In the summer months, you might want to add slices of courgette or aubergine to this. Or beetroot in the autumn. And if you want mushrooms, add mushrooms.

Eat it as a salad accompaniment, or with cold meats, in a sandwich with hummus, or added to a bowl of soup (if you’re doing this don’t do it straight out of the fridge or it will be a bit weird, although I know Nigel Slater would argue for that juxtaposition of hot and cold). Or I’m sure you’ll find other ways of using it to jazz up your meals.

A list for 2012

8 Jan

OK, here goes.  These are NOT resolutions.  Resolutions are wrong, but what is most wrong about them is the time of year we generally make them.  Who on earth has the energy in these cold dark January months (in Scotland at least) to change all those bad habits?  Not me.

Must update my things to do list...

  1. Lists I am going to write more lists in 2012. This is my shorthand for planning better, and accomplishing things I want to accomplish. I know, from experience, that once I identify a goal I am usually pretty good at achieving it. It’s the identifying bit that has always come hard to me. So, 2012 will be the year of accomplishment (through the medium of the list!)
  2. Fish I am going to cook and eat more fish in 2012.  And more varieties of fish too. Yes, Hugh Fearnley Whatsit, I’ve listened to you.
  3. Spice Another very specific one related to cooking and eating. I am going to sort through my kitchen cupboards, specifically the jars and jars of spices and herbs.  I’m going to throw out things that are way past their best, and only smell of dust now. And I’m going to start again from scratch. I’ll make a list of what I’ve got, and will use them regularly. I’ll be experimental, I’ll try things out for myself, and I’ll be inspired by new recipes and other cooks/chefs.  If I buy new jars of spices I’ll endeavour to use them over and over again so I don’t need to throw out a nearly full jar again in 3 years time. And, to make things easier, I’ll put wee labels on the lids of all the jars so I can easily see what I’ve got (they live in a twirly pull out corner cupboard unit thing below eye level).
  4. Craftiness OK, I’m going to get specific here.  I’ve already signed up to the Underachievers Group in Ravelry and am committed to knitting at least 6 things this year.  That means finishing 6 things, not just starting them and then moving onto something else when I find something new and shiny to do instead. I also want to sew at least 6 things and embroider (either by hand or by machine) at least 6 things.  Oooh, it’s looking a bit like the craftiness of the devil now, with my 6-6-6 goals. Hey ho!
  5. Weight I am going to lose 3 stone. There, I’ve said it.  So my first goal will be to lose 1 stone by the end of March.  That’s surely achievable? I’ll keep with my low carb diet, which worked well for me to start with, but (inevitably) led to a plateau once I became less strict with it. Over Christmas I ignored the diet altogether – I was relatively sensible, but ate the things I wanted to eat, as opposed to only the things I should eat if I want to lose weight. I put on 1lb, which I don’t think is too bad, but I want to reverse that trend again and get healthier.
  6. Being social I go out quite a lot through the week when I’m living in Edinburgh. I stay home in the Valley at weekends. I love my life and although living in two places has its drawbacks (the right accessory is never in the right home when I want it) it’s a pretty good balance between social and chilled. Some weeks I find I’d like to have another night or two in my flat instead of being out.  And I’d like to see more things, do more things when I’m out – yes, I love blethering with my mates, but I also love experiencing new things. So, I guess I need to put numbers on this.  I’ll aim low.  I’m going to go to the theatre/cinema (or attend ‘something’) at least once a month. And I’m going to have an average of at least 2 nights a week in the flat.
  7. Holiday I’m going to go somewhere this year.  Don’t know where, but I need to get away and see something new and different with these eyes.  And perhaps get the warmth of the sun on my back. Any suggestions?
  8. Progress Spreadsheets!  Oh, I do love a good spreadsheet.  And I’m going to spreadsheet my life this year. I already have one for my weight loss(gain!) but will also record all the other goals and see how I go.  I will also report back here of course, but perhaps not too regularly – really you don’t want to know about the minutiae of my life.
  9. The blog Last year I decided to really get going with this blog, pretty much as a way to record recipes as I went along. It’s intended for me more than for anyone else (sorry readers, but that’s how it was at the beginning!). Now I’m more aware that other people read it occasionally, in fact if I look at my stats quite a lot of you read it!  Thanks! So, I’m going to be a better blogger. I’ll try to blog something every Sunday. And, if I treat myself to a new camera at some point I will take better pictures of everything.  Occasionally you might have a blog which is just pictures.  After all, one’s worth a thousand words.  Think of all the typing I could save myself!

Right.  I think that will do it.  I like odd numbers. And 9 is one of my favourite numbers. I like numbers. I like that 9 is 3 squared. And I like that it’s part of 29 (a prime number) which is my favourite number.

Oh, and to keep my list at a nice odd 9, instead of a hideous decimal 10, I am leaving my books list elsewhere. But shall record it on my spreadsheets, oh yes.

August doesn’t count I’m not sure I need to say much more on that. It just doesn’t. It’s my month off. Some things can be achieved in August more easily (I hope I’ll go to more events in August than in the rest of the year put together) but others are trickier. I’m relaxed about that. I’ll achieve what I can, and not stress about the things I can’t.

Eat your greens… introducing the greenest soup ever

10 Dec

This morning I had the most delicious breakfast: buttery scrambled eggs and grilled rashers of smoked back bacon from our local butcher.  I really don’t miss my carbs at breakfast time!

My heliboy was out on a mission (fitting a friend’s dishwasher) so I was without a car and kicking around the house.  I could have gone out and put all the garden furniture back where it belonged, after Hurrican Bawbag did its worst on Thursday.  But my wellies were in the car, on the mission.

So, I knitted for a while (Christmas gifts to be made) and then poked around the fridge to see what soup I could make for lunch.  It wasn’t terribly inspiring I have to say, but there was a bag of spinach, and a leek and some onions and potatoes.  It was looking like spinach soup.

Spinach soup

A knob of butter

1 leek

1 onion

1 medium-large potato

1 bag of spinach

chicken stock cube

some grated nutmeg

  1. Finely chop the onion, peel and chop the potato into small chunks, and slice the leek.  I prefer to cut the leek lengthwise and then chop it, so all the slices are half moons.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan, and chuck the chopped veg in on top
  3. Sweat the veg, stirring regularly
  4. Grate in about 1/2 tsp nutmeg, adn throw in the chicken stock cube
  5. Pour in boiling water.  Oh, I don’t know how much, about 3/4 kettle full I think
  6. Stir, then leave to simmer for about 15-20 minutes (and I really don’t care if you leave the lid on or not while it’s simmering)
  7. Check the potato and onion are cooked, then add the whole bag of spinach to the soup
  8. The spinach will quickly wilt down – stir it through and let it simmer for another 3-4 minutes
  9. Zizz it up with a hand held zizzer.  Or do it in a liquidiser if you like washing up
  10. It won’t go completely smooth, but will be completely tasty
  11. Test for seasoning – add freshly ground black pepper and more nutmeg if needed
  12. It would look pretty with a swirl of cream, or a dod of creme fraiche.

This is a subtle, light soup and would make a lovely starter to a big rich meal.  Or even a not so big rich meal.  Enjoy.

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