Category Archives: Comestibles

The 5:2 intermittent fasting diet: 3 weeks in

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So I am writing this EXTREMELY hungrily and grumpily, on the second fasting day of this week, having had today:

  • 1 choc hobnob at about 11
  • soup + sandwich at lunch
  • 1 choc hobnob at about 4.

I forgot to take my multivitamin pill at lunch, the aim of which is to supplement the hobnobs, but I don’t think that would have made any difference to my mental state this evening. I know that using up about 30% of my calorie intake on chocolate biscuits is not ideal, but, hey, I’ve been in charge of 2 children under 4 (plus a sick DH lolling around the house), and it’s been pouring with rain, and tempers have been strained…

How’s it gone so far? Well on days like today I would chew off my right arm for a nutritious meal, plus chocolate, but I know it’s almost bedtime I and should just be able to stagger through until tomorrow morning as long as I’m horizontal and asleep. In weight-loss terms, it made a bit of a difference at the start, and slowly my average weight is still edging down. My hip/waist size shrunk a bit at the start, though still not enough to get me into the W-dress (which I’ve now bought!! da-daaa!! (another story)), but I’m going to start running and hula-hooping again and see if that makes a difference. Chart inserted..

Observations so far:

  • Mondays and Thursdays seem the best fast days; I couldn’t do anything with just 1 day’s break in between.
  • On non-fast days I’m finding myself a bit disappointed with the quality of food I’m shoving down. There’s a bit of a crisp craving that goes on, and then I think hoorah I can eat my weight in chocolate, and then I just feel a bit oily and have a Benecol. I’m going to try to ensure I eat some quality savoury stuff, and my meals are interesting.
  • I cannot see myself sticking to a 600 calorie limit, as inputted on my iPhone, twice a week for the rest of my life… I would like to be free to finish the children’s jambalaya at 5.30pm, if I’m hungry, and they don’t want it. But I can see that days when maybe breakfast is late, or dinner’s skipped, would be fine, without any raging cataclysm occurring.
  • It is HARD to fast when you’re at home, cooking and feeding children, and everyone’s getting cross. DH has a much easier time in the office, he says, as long as he keeps himself busy over lunch. This blog post was interrupted by a phonecall on a work matter, and suddenly my spirit improved (shows how bad today was, when talking about data analytics is a cheer-up), and 50mins had gone by without me uttering any sarcastic comments to DH or skulking around the kitchen picking up crumbs with my finger tip (“it’s so microscopic it can’t possibly have any calories”.)

So there we go. On to the next 3 weeks. Just hope my DNA is doing some good bloomin’ regeneration work.

Oh, another plus point – not eating in the evening does free up an enormous amount of time, and saves on washing up. Extraordinary!

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On starting intermittent fasting: Day 1

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Now that the half-marathon is done and dusted (did I mention that I was amazing?), it’s time to turn my attention to physiological challenges.

Since The Day of The Engagement (which happened to be the day of the First Run) in March this year, I’ve been running almost every other day, as well as trying to stick to 1800 calories/day (as assiduously logged through the myfitnesspal iPhone app). I’ve lost about 8kgs (a stone and a bit), helped by the odd stomach trouble and tonsillitis, but for the last month or so have been pottering reasonably happily around the 62-63 kgs level. The target, though, is 60kgs – the weight I was in my uncharacteristic Year of Fitness – a blip in my life when I walked and ran a lot, and met DH. Oh how drole his comments are that he took me on ‘under false pretences‘ as he pats the belly that has borne two of his babies.

Nevertheless, I will admit that there’s still quite a lot of cushioning around my lithe athletic core.

I hate dieting, and I didn’t count calorie counting as a diet, as I still rammed down lots of chocolate and HobNobs. My key changes were having puddings in a ramekin dish instead of a dessert bowl (it’s quite amazing how much sticky toffee you can cram in a little dish if you try), and weighing  out my cereal to the recommended 30g of Bran Flakes every morning (it turned out my default helping was about 60g, plus banana..)

However, it was slightly alarming to watch Michael Mosley in the BBC Horizon programme a couple of months ago, Eat, Fast and Live Longer discuss the impact that your weight and eating style has on your propensity to suffer from the primary diseases of middle-old age: cancer, heart disease, diabetes etc. OK, this wasn’t a great surprise – but I definitely wasn’t aware of the potential impact that fasting could have on your brain cells, in that sporadic bouts of hunger reportedly trigger new neurons to grow. Basically, sample mice on intermittent fasting were developing Alzheimers a lot later than those on a constant fast food diet (poor mice).

We have come to parenthood late in life and I would really prefer not to be a doddery old burden in years to come.

So here we go: two days of ‘fasting’ a week (ie a diet of 500-600 calories), and eat what you like on the normal days. This morning I had my blood pressure, blood glucose levels and cholesterol checked at the local pharmacies (Sainsburys of all places is offering free cholesterol checks at the mo); all were within the normal range so that was fine, and the pharmacists were happy with the plan. I’ve also measured my abdominal fat (nice) – basically my waist/hip ratio is bigger than it should be – so that’ll be the key thing I hope will improve, as that is a risk for future health.

And this is what I ate:

Breakfast: nothing (this did not sit well with me; I’m a breakfast like a king kind of person)

Lunch of pasta, a massive courgette from the garden, ham, a measley teaspoon of pesto, a sprinkle of parmesan, and LOADS of black pepper. 350 cals. After eating nothing all morning, this got me a bit overexcited and I then succumbed to two cubes of Dairy Milk (total 50cals). That was an error.

Afternoon tea. It would have been foolhardy to have eschewed all tea-time treats altogether (especially as I had a big report to write, and needed some cheering up). 100 cals.

Dinner. 100 cals.

Apart from forgetting to pick up DS1 from nursery, and then forgetting which DS I had to collect from DS2’s nursery, the day has gone reasonably well. The key is keeping yourself busy. It was definitely easier to manage not eating when out and about with the boys this morning, rather than a long afternoon in front of the computer. And what extra blogging hours have been freed up this evening without the chore of having to feed oneself? !

Huzzah!

And roll on breakfast…

On edible art. In cake form.

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One of the loveliest things about this wedding business is that it means you start talking to all sorts of local people offering various goods and services of the nuptial variety. At the barn we’re having our reception at, I picked up a postcard with some beautiful photos of sugar flowers that were actually good enough to eat. Short and Sweet’s stuff looked fab – but there was no website.

As I’ve got lots of spare time with just two young children, I got in touch with the cake maker extraordinaire, artist and baker Terry Wilson, and we’ve done a lovely deal: I’ve put together a WordPress site for her (shortandsweetstuff.wordpress.com), and she’s going to make me some flowery cupcakes for the wedding. Today I officially handed the blog over, with instructions as to how to post new blog entries, update photos etc. So Terry’s it is, and I hope that it’ll evolve and grow as she bakes, paints and blogs. In the meantime if you’re looking for some gorgeous cakes, or are just surfing over coffee, do have a browse. Yummylicious!

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.

Cream tea economics

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Even I balk at £4.75 for a large stale scone and not enough jam.

Obviously scone turnover in February is not what it is during the summer (hence stale-ness). But why the jam pots are never generous enough I have no idea.

And the price is extortionate for what you get, but on the other hand, is there any interest for [the National Trust, in this case] in reducing its food prices? Would it affect demand? In this context, I think not much: people have already paid to enter the Trust property; they expect to pay extra for teas (et al), and I don’t believe there are hoards of people who’ve paid to come in to the grounds but who wouldn’t pay for tea if they wanted it. There’s always the odd bod who’s brought their own sandwiches, but not enough of them that reduced prices would encourage them to switch in a sufficient volume to bring extra profits to the Trust.

A bit of competition, that’s what we need…