Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Autumnal Delights

Life has gone crazy again at the moment, with barely time to brush my teeth - let along write a blog ! So, with that in mind we decided to give athletics a night off and come home straight after school, and chill. Of course for me that means cooking. I honestly hadn't meant to cook anything that required much effort at all really what with my eyes feeling like they are out on stalks, but there you go.

First up, was what to eat ? I ventured out to the freezer in the garage at the bottom of the garden and found a packet of turkey sausages. Cupcake is notoriously difficult to feed. It's not that she's fussy, although she *is* fussy. She won't eat any form of pasta, she won't eat most meat, ham, she won't eat most fruit. She will eat rice, veg and cheese so most of the time she is practically vegi, which is fine by me. So, I thought maybe she'll eat the turkey sausages maybe she won't, as it was she managed half a sausage with homemade potato wedges and carrots.. her kind of food...

Now on to what I wanted to do with the sausages, well I was half way through baking them in the oven when I suddenly thought about throwing some veg to roast in with them. I took the sausages out of the oven, put them in a larger roasting tin and did this:

I took some tomatoes off the vine outside, I picked a couple of the last of the small yellow courgettes, a manky yellow pepper that has been in the fridge for I don't know how long !, ditto a carrot, a red onion, a white onion, chopped them all chunkily and nestled them in amongst the sausages. I topped this off with a handful of fresh thyme, a blitz of lemon juice, oilve oil, a blitz of balasmic vinegar, a spoon of sugar over the top and some salt and pepper. Then I let all of this meld together in the roasting dish. By the time I had finished it looked like a mix of Autumn, Halloween and Bonfire Night all mixed into one giant dish, hence the name of this post.





Then I preheated the oven to 200deg. and baked the lot for thirty minutes. I served it with garlic bread. See photo below, when I get chance to upload it !




For dessert, I was again using up store cupboard/fridge ingredients for a totally modified Bread and Butter pudding. I got out a nice big pyrex dish and teared up some old, stale croissants, some previously frozen chocolate brioche from France and a chocolate brioche hanging around from the weekend. I put this in the pyrex in layers and between each layer I chucked in a half-handful of chocolate chips, and a half-handful of raisins.

In a jug I had also whisked 2 eggs, about half a container of single cream (About 200ml), some drops of proper vanilla essence, some sugar and added enough milk to make quite a runny textured custard (I knew I had a lot of bread to cover).

Then I tipped all of the creamy custard over the bread. .
 

Then I melded it down a bit with a spoon until it 'squidged'.



I baked this in the oven at 200 deg. (seems to be my failsafe temperature!) for 30 mins. You don't need to serve this with anything it's gooey and decadent enough as is..

Perfect Autumnal Delights !

Here's a final picture of this lovely pud on the plate:




WARNING: A word of warning, I think I left this in the oven either too long or on too high a temperature (maybe both) suffice to say, the top was VERY brown. I would rather it had been a 'lightly toasted' colour. ?So do check this after 20mins, and every 5 mins after, so it doesn't 'catch' (as my mother would say).
PS> I was just thinking to myself how fattening all this food looks. I ate this after walking 2 miles to work and running four miles, so I feel I can eat this. Believe me, if I did not do that exercise, I would NOT eat the food.

Anyway, that leaves me with nice cleared out cupboard ready for when the shopping arrives in a couple of days. Result.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Park Run - Banstead Woods

I have mentioned Banstead woods before and the weekly Saturday morning runs that are free and organized by Park Run - they are great - find your local run in the UK here: http://parkrun.com/home.aspx

Earlier this week I decided I would give this a go this Saturday, my 8th park run race actually. This week has been an odd week of running. Monday I didn't run as I was recovering from last Sunday, Tuesday I ran 4 miles, Wednesday I had the day off, Thursday it was really pouring with rain so I took a day off, and Friday was not quite so pouring with rain, so I ran the 4 miles through the woods anyway...

To cut a long story short, I did not beat my PB (Persnal Best) this time. I was 16th woman and 78th finisher out of about 145 runners. Previously I have managed to finish as 9th woman. Actually, I was actually quite pleased with 16th especially as I was fully aware that I did not run at my best.

Here are my reasons why I did not get a PB today, and how I can do better next time.

1) I skipped breakfast this morning - Biscuit Boy usually always makes me eat at least a piece of toast before a run, but this morning I decided to skip breakfast as I was only running 5K, I had a coffee and a couple of gulps of Lucozade Sport instead. Next time: I will make sure I have at least one piece of toast before I run.
2) I drank one glass of wine last night - Did this have a negative effect ? I'm not sure, but I think even in terms of hydration it has to be better to give the alcohol a miss before a race. Next time: I will drink no alcohol before a race, only fresh juice with water.
3) Yesterday, the day before the race, I ran 4 miles in the rain. - Next time: I will not run at all the day before a race, even if I missed the day before that, so I am fully rested.

You see the highs and lows of running ? My last post was all buoyed up because I won a prize, this week I am all depressed (except I'm not !) about being 16th woman and not getting a PB. As Biscuit Boy pointed out I was going to stop getting PBs at Banstead Woods at some point, and he is right.

The most important thing for me about running, regardless of positions and prizes, is that I bother to turn up at all and run on the day. I run because I can.

Tomorrow we are in Lydd, Biscuit Boy is doing Lydd triathlon. That means leaving the house at 0530am, so off to sleep now for me.

Good Night Everyone.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tough Tracks - I was 5th woman !!!

I was quite organised for the race I did on Saturday. I ran only 2 miles on Thursday and took Friday off completely as a 'rest' day. On Friday evening, I consumed no alcohol and made a healthy soup for the next day (thinking I would probably be tired after the race...) and I got an early night, having sorted out all of my kit first.

I got up early on Saturday morning and we drove for an hour down to Ashdown Forest near East Sussex. The race was taking place in Pippingford Park (http://www.pippingford.co.uk/) and is right next door to a Llama farm - of all places !



So, I got there and registered, and got my race number and race chip. I nearly made the same mistake that Biscuit Boy made a few years ago and forgot to put the race chip around my ankle - and then I remembered right at the last minute - Phew ! The weather was nice and mild, so I wore short shorts, a new running top. I would have preferred to use a race belt rather than pin the numbers to my running top- but that was one item that I did forget - but as it happens, it didn't matter...

I also decided to wear my off-road Solomon trainers as they have a greater grip and support around the ankle. Although I hadn't run this terrain myself before, Biscuit Boy has and more significantly I have seen the state he has been in after a run here..
It's true to say that you really never can say how popular a race is going to be until the day, and I have to say that this was a very small turn out. In fact, there were onlly 38 runners in total. The event also consisted of a dualthlon and triathlon so I guess many people had signed up for that instead of the 8K run.

I won't give you a blow-by-blow of the race, suffice to say if you hadn't done your hill training you were going to be stumped. There were LOTS of hills. I have been doing my hill-training, so I was ok (sort of). Although I did walk some of the hills, but not for very long before I started my slow jog again, which although slow is a lot quicker than walking. The terrain was very rugged too, with plenty of tree roots to trip over (which is usually one of my favourite pasttimes), but this time I was ok. :o)

Looking back, I made one mistake, I thought the race finish was further away than it actually was.. so at one point I was walking and conserving energy, when had I known the end was so near I would have been running a lot faster.. well, I would have been running not walking let's put it like that.  I was trying desperately to find out how much further there was to go, and in fact I had asked the last 3 marshalls on the course how much further to the end, and all I got was either an 'I don't know' or 'Don't worry, you're nearly there...'. To be honest, and maybe this sounds harsh, I didn't need the encouragement -  I just wanted to know how much further it was, and I can't believe the race marshalls didn't know.. surely they should know !!!  So, I guess one of my lessons learned for this race (it seems every race has a darned lessons learned), is to check the course out properly, specifically familiarising myself with the end so I know when it's coming and can pace myself appropriately.

That said, it was nice to know that the end was so close and I managed a nice rapid run to the end. You can only imagine my TOTAL surprise when as I crossed the line I was handed a white envelope ... 'You got a third place prize'. Well you could have knocked me over there and then (quite easily actually, as I was exhausted!). Looking at the race results today, I saw that I was the 5th woman to finish (out of just 15 women), the 25th overall finisher (out of 38 runners) and 1st in my age group, so I don't know how the 3rd prize comes into all that, and I don't really care. My time was 47mins36secs. I had thought I would do around 50 minutes, Biscuit Boy knew it was a tough course and thought it would take closer to 55mins. So I was happy to beat myself ( if you know what I mean...)

It seems the compression tights worked their magic yet again. I raced in them for the first time during this race and took them after the run, and I have absolutely no pain in my calves at all. My thighs are another matter, but that is the result of coming down very steep hills at speed. For the same reason, my left hip also feels quite jarred. So I gave myself yesterday and today off the running and will get back into it tomorrow.

Nutrition wise for breakfast I had pancakes and nutella (all that sugary energy - oh yeah !) and I drank a bottle of Lucozade Sport Energy drink on the journey down) and a few sips of cold water just before the start (to get rid of that stressy dry-mouth feeling).

All in all, a fantastic start to the cross country racing season, and I can't wait for the next race !! Yippee !

FOOTNOTE: Biscuit Boy kindly made a video of the footage of the race. Here it is for your viewing pleasure (o:


video


Friday, September 17, 2010

Simple Soup

Well, we 're back in the swing of things with school, work and all of those after school activities so blogging has been sadly neglected - and I have so much to write about too! Tons of recipes and race reports. So, although I have a veritable list that I could write about I am going to write about something that is fresh in my mind, and that is the 'quick soup' that I created tonight as I felt in the mood for a little light chopping.

On the sport front, tomorrow I am doing this race: http://www.humanrace.co.uk/events/triathlon/tough-tracks-2010 I have entered  the 8K run, rather than the duathlon. I am looking forward to the race, it will be the first time that I race wearing the CompresSport socks, rather than using them in training or recovery. I will give a full report on how the race goes in due course, but for now on with the soup ! I purposely didn't call this 'Minestrone' as I didn't want to upset anyone with my inaccuracies in my recipe. Although having just had a little peek it does look like Minestrone with a mild beefy tomato base, cabbage, pasta and numerous vegetables. I guess one big difference was my addition of a dollop of a harissa. I always have this need for HEAT!

I also wanted to use the ingredients that I had hanging around in the fridge - the courgettes, the pepper, the pak choi... Also, as I've been so busy this week I've committed the ultimate foodie sin and skipped meals and substituted the odd meal for chocolate all week. Not good is it ? Even worse with a race looming ! So I figured if a had a nutritious vat of soup available in the fridge all week then I can take that to work, and maybe next week will be better....

Here's the recipe. A photo will follow as I haven't even served this yet ! Chop all of the veg into small pieces, 'dice' I suppose you'd call it.. (Update: You can now view the photo at the bottom of the page.)

1.5 yellow peppers
1 red onion
1 yellow courgette (what else ? ha!)
1 beef stock cube
4 pak choi (aka bok choy) cabbage
1 garlic clove, minced
1tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 fresh tomato, skinned and chopped
1tsp harissa
3 handfuls of small pasta
1 small tin kidney beans
3 handfuls of edamame beans

Method

1) Chop up all of the veg to 'dice'.
2) Heat the olive oil and saute the chopped onion and garlic.
3) Add the courgette and pepper and continued to saute on a moderate heat until the veg are slightly softened. Add the harissa and stir.
4) In a jug, add boiling water crumble the stock cube into it, stirring as you go.
5) Add the stock to the vegetables and top up with water until the vegetables are completely covered with water, you know what I mean.. like soup right?
6) Bring the soup to the boil, add the pasta and then turn down to a simmer.
7) Add the fresh tomato to add a little acidity
8) Leave to simmer until the pasta is cooked.
9) Add the kidney beans, pak choi and edamame beans. These beans are already cooked so they do  not need excessive simmering and the pak choi takes just a moment to heat through.
10) Serve nice and hot with some sort of crusty bread. I also like the idea of a 'kind-of' pistou served on the top of the soup,or you can stir it into the soup.

This soup, of course, tastes better the longer you leave it as the flavours develop.
Pistou (KG-Style)

A handful of basil leaves
olive oil
Lemon juice
Grated Parmesan
Salt and Pepper


1. Mix all of the above in a pestle and mortar to a creamy texture.

This pistou is completely versatile, so taste as you go adjusting with the ingredients and seasoning to your personal taste.

Enjoy !

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chocolate Brownies

Cupcake and I are still on the chocolate theme and wanted to make some simple brownies. I had no 'extras' to add, cupcake doesn't like nuts (walnuts are always a nice addition), so plain brownies it was... Can a brownie ever be plain ?



We found a recipe in our book called 'Chocolate' under the 'Practical cooking' label and published by Paragon. As usual the recipe was modified to suit what we like or had in the cupboard ...

Ingredients

150gr dark chocolate, roughly chopped
225gr butter (softened) - I used PURE soy margarine (as usuall...)
225gr Self-raising flour
125gr caster sugar (I used unrefined caster sugar)
4 eggs, beaten
75gr pistachio nuts (I left this out)
100gr white chocolate, roughly chopped (I left this out)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 deg or gas mark 4.
1. I lined a brownie tin with baking paper - I love this stuff, it takes all the hassle out of greasing and lining.
2. Melt the dark chocolate and butter in a bowl set over hot water. I must admit I just melted it directly into the saucepan on a low heat..
3. Sieve the flour into a separate mixing bowl and add the caster sugar.
4. Stir the eggs into the melted chocolate (make sure the butter/chocolate isn't too hot, or you'll end up with chocolate scrambled eggs - Eurgh !)
5. Pour the chocolate and eggs into the flour and sugar, mixing well.
6.Add the pistachios and white chocolate, if using.
7. Pour the mix into the tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until springy to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin, and then turn onto a wire rack to cool, before cutting it into 12 (or however many..) pieces.



I'll bet you don't end up with 12 brownies in your cake tin and that one/two/three escaped... you have to test the baked goods right ?? This is how they turned out. Yum !

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Chocolate Flapjacks

Cupcake wanted to do a bit of cooking so we decided to do something with a bit of pouring and stirring and mixing. Nothing too long-winded, complicated or time consuming. (Nine year olds get bored quickly!) So we went for Chocolate Flapjacks.

We followed the recipe in a book that my brother bought me called 'Willie's Chocolate Factory' cookbook. It's the story of a chap called Willie Harcourt-Cooze who bought a farm and grew his own cacao beans in the Cloud Mountains of Venezuela. I've had the book quite a while now, but as I recall it was an enjoyable read and it did prompt me to go and buy some of his lovely single-estate cacao from that lovely department store in London that is Selfridges.  You can find out more about him and his cacao endeavours here: http://www.williescacao.com/

The cacao is pure cacao. It tastes heavenly. With the addition of golden syrup, these flapjacks are still very sweet with rich chocolaty undertones.

Of course, as always, I modified the recipe to match what I had in my cupboards.

Here is what we used:

100gr margarine (Recipe states butter, but I know you can substitute marg in a flapjack)
100gr unrefined caster sugar (Recipe states light soft brown sugar - this would give a richer resulting flapjack.. but I didn't have any ...)
6tbsp golden syrup (Yup. That's a lot of syrup.)
50gr cacao, finely grated (I used Willie's 100% cacao - yippee ! As I had some.) The book says you can substitute with other high-percentage chocolates. I would probably use an 85% cacao chocolate in this and use about 10-20gr less margarine.
300gr porridge oats (OK.. I know lots of recipes always say to use a certain kind of oat, although this recipe didn't .. I only had jumbo oats and those worked .. )

Method
This is so easy - I love it.

1. Preheat the oven to 180 deg (fan oven). Lightly grease or line a square tin (25x20cm approx)
2. Heat the sugar, golden syrup and margarine (or butter) in a saucepan, over a moderate heat, until all is melted and smelling sublime.
3. Grate in the chocolate. Stir.
4. Mix in the oats. Stir until all nicely combined.
5. Put into tin.
6. Press the mixture down with the back of a spoon. I always find the mixture sticks to the spoon when I do this. So, I take a small piece of my baking paper and put that on the flapjack mix and then use my fingers to flatten it down. The paper doesn't stick to the flapjack and nor do my fingers. Perfect.
7. Bake for 20-25 mins until golden.
8. Once cooled, remove from the tin and cut into 12 slices. These will keep in an airtight Tupperware box.

Perfect for a midweek treat.




Here's one I ate earlier with a cup of tea. These will go down well with your family and friends. Guaranteed. Bon Appetit !



Friday, September 3, 2010

Kitchen by Nigella Lawson

I just love ordering from Amazon. I pre-ordered Nigella Lawson's new book 'Kitchen' a while ago, and it arrived today. According to this link : http://www.nigella.com/books/view/kitchen-33 the book will not be released until September 6, so I am chuffed to have my copy already !

This is what it looks like...



I am sure there will be recipes in there that will whet my appetite. Other Nigella titles on my heaving cookbook shelves are: 'Feast', 'Nigella Express', and 'How to be a Domestic Goddess'. They have all been well read and well used. The great thing about Nigella's books is that since she is not a chef, she takes a home cook's approach to cooking. Also, Nigella is a great journalist and writer, and her writing style here is nice and familiar. Indeed her books are as good to read, as they are to use as a recipe book.

Well, I hope Nigella appreciates the publicity...

Recipes coming soon on my blog...
Chocolate flapjacks
Chocolate brownies
Falafel (made with edamame beans and chickpeas.)

Now, on with making a start on the book.