Monthly Archives: June 2012

On running

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I am so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open; partly due to a meeting about a consultancy job this morning (which meant I was dreaming of Facebook pages all last night); being woken (mid dream) by DS1 4 times last night between 12.45 and 2.15 for various loo/water issues; but mostly (at least physically) due to having gone for the Hardest Run Yet this afternoon.

Until my late thirties my default state was as still and sedentary as I could get away with. I then had a year or so living in central London where I walked everywhere and discovered that doing a slow jog round Regents Park helped me lose weight and gave me the occasional options for Deep and Meaningful Looks with sporty groovers (for whom I naturally sped up a bit). Then I got pregnant, and pregnant again, and we moved to the country where contrary to how it should be, everyone drives a car and no one moves at all unless you get in your car to go and do it.

But as I ate my way through about 4 packets of chocolate HobNobs a week after the birth of DS2, just to get the energy to cope with the day, the pounds piled on (nobody really warns you about getting fatter AFTER having the baby) until I reached a teary peak in March where my long-suffering friend said, as I wept over a Bourbon biscuit in the model village cafe, “I don’t know what else I can say RK other than just get off your arse”. I knew then that A Moment had come. Either I was going to get off my arse and start moving, or I was going to stubbornly continue to sit on it, and thus continue weight gain past the Maximum I had Ever Been At. It was one of those weird moments when you’re superconscious that you’re having a moment, but are looking on it so dispassionately you really have no idea which way you’re going to go.

Thankfully, I came home and said to DH that evening that if I didn’t go for a run the next day, he must not let us go into London for dinner in the evening (it was, it turned out, a very Significant evening so it’s a jolly good thing I managed to). I logged on to Google maps and found a route, and read the summarised version of Ruth Field’s Run Fat Bitch Run approach which I’d had cut out from The Times (basically it’s put one foot in front of another, and just don’t stop), and the next morning before breakfast set off. I don’t think I did much running the first day, but 2 days later I probably sped up a bit, and by the third attempt (when I fell over a tree root and injured myself heinously yet Did Not Cry) I think I was probably shuffling more than walking. And now…

  • I’ve been out – it seems a slight over-exaggeration to call it running as it is a slow but steady shuffle – every other day for the last 3 months.
  • I’ve also been trying to count my calories & limit them to 1800/day (ok, hardly Boot Camp level, but it did require a HobNob reduction).
  • I have lost about 5kgs, which is quite exciting (though alarming to see how quickly it goes up after 3 days stuffing one’s face on Danish pastries in Copenhagen).
  • My right knee feels swollen when I get back, but not enough to make me return to my previous sedentary ways, so I’m just icing it with peas.
  • I have forked out on a new pair of trainers in an effort to provide more cushioning and reduce knee issues (made no difference).
  • I am now alternating a Long Run (about 4.5 miles, including a hideous bit over a moor where dogs bark at me and chase me. I’m sorry, but I really Hate Dogs) with a shorter one (about 3.5 miles, where I try to go a bit faster).
  • I go before breakfast, which is the only chance I have as DH can look after the boys. I realise though that 4.5 miles is prob the max I can run sans sustenance.
  • I have signed up for a half marathon in September. Not quite sure why, apart from the fact it goes down the end of our street so I can duck out if it’s unbearable.
  • I have signed up for a half marathon Training Plan (see here), and today got to the stage where the training plan overtook what I was already doing. As I found it impossible to make myself stick to interval training when I was measuring it myself (if I was trying to run fast for 3 minutes, for example, I’d be so busy looking desperately at my watch I’d either crash into a fence, or think I’d achieved it only to realise I was looking at the seconds and nanoseconds, rather than the minutes), I have found an excellent iPhone app which includes a trainer who you can programme to tell you what to do.
  • As a consequence, this afternoon (boys at nursery) I ran 6 sessions of 5 minutes ‘fast’ (ie increasingly slow and desperate) with 3 minutes of ‘slow’ (ie a staggered walk by the end). It was along the river bank but to be quite frank it could have been through Mad Max’s Thunderdome as I barely glanced up from the path to ensure I didn’t fall over again, or want to waste energy lifting my head.
  • My pelvic floor is still in need of a few more exercises. I do not yet feel ready to endure a Paula Radcliffe moment.

Anyway, in summary, I like running but it is very tiring.

And squeeze…

On cooking a Michelin starred meal

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A week or so ago I was lucky enough to attend the The Art of Michelin Star Cookery course at the Waitrose Cookery School on the Finchley Road with my Oldest Friend. Apart from my obvious delight at being able to stand at a hob without a toddler tugging at my apron strings and biting me intermittently on the thigh, it was a genuinely great day; we did lots of cooking under the tutelage of a swoonworthy Glaswegian pastry chef, made some lovely food, accompanied by some gorgeous wine, and managed to get home on time (well, I would have done if I hadn’t left my phone behind and then missed my train as I ran around Marylebone station unfairly accusing random herberts of pickpocketing).

Last night I recreated our gastronomic oeuvres for my DH, mother, and MiL. The menu was:

  • Starter: Gazpacho jelly, dressed crab, avocado [puree, with cucumber and pepper garnish, melba-style toast, cress]. Wine was: Chapel Down English Rose 2010
  • Main: Roast loin of lamb with fondant potato, shallot puree, jus nicoise [with spinach, and roasted artichoke]. Wine: Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cab Sav 2006
  • Pudding: Pavlova with rhubarb confit, lemon yoghurt sorbet, basil [plus sesame tuiles, lemon syrup, and a passion fruit curd]. Wine: Brown Brothers Special Late Harvested Orange Muscat & Flora 2009

Thankfully, I managed to pull it off – at least everyone made very satisfactory noises and no one got food poisoning. About two thirds of the way through the prep, however, I did change my mindset from a high-achieving ‘I’m going to present such a kick-ass beautiful meal that it could genuinely win a Michelin star‘ belief , to ‘OK this doesn’t look much like it’s supposed to but if I keep the lights low they might not notice‘ disaster limitation.

So, for my Roaring Record:

  • This is not the kind of meal one would knock out every week. I ended up spending a shocking £100 on all the ingredients and wine (plus 2 packs of 4+ Active Fit nappies). It took 2 days to prep* and cook, and would have been impossible without MiL there to look after the children. The quantities of butter used would give one a cardiac just to look at.
  • Nevertheless, one might WANT to eat it every week. It was – even my version – gorgeous, and that came from a delicious mix of flavours and textures. The Michelin star skill was not so much in the technicalities of cooking, but in the way the plates were put together, with so many different components (each of which required particular cooking techniques), and the way they were presented. Having said that, it wasn’t quite a piece of cake…
  • I forgot the cress and basil garnishes. (Nobody missed them.)
  • My gazpacho jelly was supposed to be a clear consomme, but because I used a liquidiser to mash up the gazpacho before straining, a bit too much stuff (technical term) got through the muslin, so the jelly looked as if it has tomato-coloured coral floating in it. To be fair, Waitrose said don’t liquidise, use a food processor, but as we’re not getting one of those until (hopefully) W-day next year I had to make do.
  • My dressed crab was supposed to be white meat only but it came mixed with brown. I gave up at this point and just tried to ensure my mix didn’t involve crab shell or eyeballs, and had lots of mayonnaise.
  • The melba toast would have worked better if I’d used proper white bread rather than some inch thick slabs of soda bread which was the only white stuff we had. Took an age to bake.
  • My potatoes were probably the let down of the meal, as I’d turned them in advance and left them soaking in water, which when they were shallow fried just created a sort of chewy film round them which got blacker and blacker as they cooked.
  • I was proudest of my lamb loin, as I really went to town sharpening my knife and turning a quite nice-looking rack of lamb covered in fat, into a beautifully shaped cylinder of lean meat, which just took a bit of searing and 7 minutes in the oven to turn into something really delish. I made some lamb stock from the bones, which I needed for the jus; a Jolly Good Thing as Waitrose was out of it when I did my shop.
  • I’ve just noticed from looking at the photos that the main was also meant to include roasted artichokes. Had completely forgotten about those (not on the Official Recipe). It might have satisfied my mother’s sole complaint that there were never enough vegetables… Darn it.
  • The recipes Waitrose gave us to follow on the day were quite haphazard in their volumes. I now have a fridge full of shallot puree, which tastes yummy but looks like bread sauce. Only blue. Please tweet me if you’d like this and I’ll wheelbarrow it over.
  • As a pudding aficionado (-da?) I like to think I’d be as good at making them as I am at eating them. Yet I still have to practise on my piping. It didn’t help that I broke my superduper cloth piping bag on the day by trying to squeeze out the last lot of hardened vanilla icing left over from the recent bake-a-thon known as the Jubilee weekend, and in my urgent gluttony burst its seams. So to pipe my Michelin meringue nests I had to use a freezer bag with the point of the corner cut off. I’ve seen them do this on the TV, but it’s a bit trickier in practice unless you fold it properly and don’t cut too big a hole. I also baked them on some new superduper no-stick paper from Lakeland onto which they stuck like glue. I baked the reject versions on normal greaseproof paper and they were fine, so it was definitely the no-stick paper’s fault. It meant my meringue nests were beige instead of snowy white, and dry inside instead of being marshmallow. Learning point there, don’t try to be too clever.
  • The official Waitrose recipe called for lemon curd (with ingredients for 2 jars worth), but the chef at the time made it mostly from passion fruit juice with a touch of lemon. I bought 4 passion fruit and that wasn’t enough, so ended up adding the juice of 1.5 lemons, and half an orange which had been in the fridge for a while after some zesting a week ago. This was my other error, as to my (admittedly totally naive) palate the curd now has a flat taste of old orange. Everyone else has been noshing this down without complaint, but I think the compost would have been a better bet for l’orange.
  • The lemon yoghurt sorbet was the only component I caved in and bought. This was absolutely the correct decision.
  • Waitrose ovens are significantly hotter than mine. Their tuiles looked caramel brown from the start. Mine looked pallid until they’d been cooked 5 times at ever increasing temps. I put too much vanilla in the lemon syrup and it looked like someone had had an accident with a pepper mill (though by this time my ‘if I keep the lights low they might not notice‘ philosophy was proven appropriate).
  • The vino was all gorgeous.

The official and DIY pics:

Not bad, Roaring Kate, if I say so myself. Would anyone like some shallot puree?

* On day 1: I made the gazpacho and left it to strain overnight, made the passion fruit curd and left it to set, made the lamb stock (because Waitrose didn’t have any, and I handily happened to have half a carcass due to my loin trimming) and chopped a kilo of shallots to puree.