Thursday, March 31, 2011

Diary of a Nightmare

That is the title of my book - if I ever write it. Are you allowed to write books about people that give you hell for years, or could they sue the butt off you ? Maybe I could change the name to protect their identities. Ha.

Tomorrow I am off to France. Many people I know say 'Oh, you're off to French France', to which I think 'Is there any other France ?' or when they blaspheme, they say 'Excuse my French' and I think 'You're not speaking French though'. I'll bet there's good reasons for all of these 'French' sayings. I'll look them up. One day. When I lose the stick I've been using to poke myself in the eye.

As you all know by now I have a great love of all things French and France, which is why I am going there TOMORROW morning ! For the WEEKEND ! With GIRLFRIENDS ! to drink WINE and be a little CRAZY! (Yes, I'm shouting, I know). Which reminded me of a book that I bought which I left in France called '101 French Idioms'. Actually, it's quite a good book and I think I'll bring it back to the UK so I can learn a couple of benign phrases to try out when I go back in a couple of weeks. I might even share a couple here so watch this space.

My girlfriends and fellow travellers are two of the very best, Noodles and Lilly, Noodles and I travelled to Michigan together a couple of years ago for Lilly's wedding so we are well accustomed to doing girlie roadtrips together. I can't wait to show them Labour of Love and all the pretty parts of Limoux and the medieval city of Carcassonne and Mirepoix (the town, not the vegetable concoction) which is just beautiful (the town, not the vegetable concoction).

Well, I'd better go and finish packing. Have a good weekend everyone.

Fais des beaux reves.

PS> I got a new follower - welcome Warren - my 7th follower - makes me so happy - you couldn't even know. :o)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Should I run if I have a cold ?

Tomorrow I am due to run the Whole Foods Market Breakfast Run in Kingston, Surrey. The only problem is I have a cold... So, should you run with a cold ? Well, there are a few guidelines to follow in making your decision.

Firstly, it depends on the 'type' of cold. If you are running a temperature, definitely don't run. Your body is already obviously having a problem regulating your usual body temperature so don't give it even more work by running too. If you have a raised temperature - stay home and relax.

A rule of thumb that Biscuit Boy uses is that if the cold is above the neck (eg ears and nose and head) then you can run, but if the cold has moved to your chest then it is best to not run.

Last week when BB woke feeling ill on Saturday with Hastings half marathon to run the next day, he was sure he would be OK to run, but then when he woke up on the big day with a splitting headache he knew it was a non-starter. Instead of leaving for the race at 7am, he slept until 11am. This shows that we don't always practise what we preach and sometimes you just have to listen to your body.

So, what am I going to do tomorrow ? Firstly I am due to run 16 miles. Fortunately, the route consists of two 8-mile loops, so I already know that if need be I can transfer to the 8-mile race if I want to.. If it was a straight 16 mile out and back one loop then I would not be starting the race. Secondly, the cold has not reached my chest (yet!) I have the asthma inhaler on standby just in case, but my nose has been stinging right up in the sinuses ALL day. I haven't taken any meds which can sometimes make you think you are well when you are not, and I have made sure to stay hydrated all day.

I have also told myself that I am no longer racing the race. I did the race in 2009 with a result of 2hr 20-something minutes and I was totally pleased with the result. If I had been free of cold tomorrow I would have been confident about beating my time. Now, I will be treating the first 8 miles as a training run, running at a training pace, rather than a race pace and I'll be monitoring how I'm feeling as I go.. I will take my cell phone in my little pocket-pouch-carry-thingy and if I need to drop out then I will. I know it sounds cliched but you do have to listen to your body, and if it feels wrong just don't do it - it's not worth the risk to your health.

Finally, it's always a good idea to ease up on the training if you're feeling under the weather. With my cold on the scene all week, I haven't run since I did the 7.5 mile cross country championships last Saturday in the hope that the cold would have gone by now.. I allowed myself to do this for a couple of reasons - I would be tapering my training this week anyway with a big race coming, and also I know that I am not going to lose any fitness in a week.

Well, my kit is sorted, my gels are arranged, my compression socks are ready to put on. I'll add a postscript to this tomorrow and let you know how I get on. Wish me luck !!

POSTSCRIPT> I started the 16-mile race nice and slowly and increased my speed after a few miles to a decent pace. Around mile 5 my throat and chest started to feel more painful so I slowed down again and made the decision that I would be sensible and stop after 8 miles. I'm used to running ten miles on a Sunday, so fortunately this 8 mile loop was not a great challenge. I could have carried on, but I think I would have felt pretty awful if I had continued. Biscuit Boy told me my time was 1hr 20 mins which sounds about right.

Other than my marathon in October, I have no races booked, so I am on the look out for a new run. I will be doing some serious training in France in April so a nice fast 10K in May could be on the cards as it's been quite a while since I ran a 10K.

In the meantime, it's a day off the running tomorrow and more rest to see if I can shift this cold.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Library Books of the Cooking(ish) variety

I have this major, serious love of books, that, quite frankly, even by my own admittance borders on the ridiculous. My daughter also has the book bug, and so when we met a friend for lunch at the library last weekend we couldn't resist loading ourselves up with books, and we even bought a couple in the 'book for a penny' sale.

I enjoy reading around the subject of cooking, so I borrowed:

'Cooking Dirty' Life, Love and Death in the Kitchen by Jason Sheehan.
A book about a real-life chef, as opposed to a 'celebrity' chef. The back blurb mentions that the book contains 'what they don't show you on tv' and 'what you don't learn at cookery school'.

It reminds me of an expensive restaurant that I once worked in as a waitress. I remember with some dismay that the cheesecake was bought in cheaply and in bulk. When a customer ordered it, the waitress (I) had to scrape off the cheap topping and then scoop on some lovely fresh berries and add a spray of cream. I guess they could have just dished out the cheesecake with the sub0standard topping, either way to me it seemed to be cheating, or misleading the customers, passing it off as something it wasn't. I'll bet there are tons of restaurants out there who do a variation on a theme of this kind of practise though, and it's probably quite acceptable.

Anyway, I'm really enjoying the book and it's bringing back happy memories of those studenty, waitressing days.

I also borrowed

Cook your own Veg by Carol Klein

This book is fantastic ! I haven't had the book for long, so I can't go into too much detail, but I have been trawling the web and my own veggie books, searching in vain, for information on how and when to harvest the old Purple Sprouting Broccoli, and I found everything I needed in this book. Excellent.

I am in full planning mode now for the coming season for the garden, so I am looking forward to exploring the book further for more hints and tips.

Lastly (for now).. and I've been having great fun with this one..

Gastronaut by Stefan Gates

This is a little like Heston Blunmenthal's style of cooking. Wild and wacky. When cupcake had her pal over I told them both that the book not only had a recipe for Rabbit pie (Cupcake's pal has 2 rabbits), but there is also a recipe for boiled guinea pigs (Cupcake is a guinea pig pan.)  Actually it was 'Peruvian Grilled Guinea Pig' - I just checked.They couldn't believe it, they ran off with the book and looked up all the really gross recipes - which includes things like: 'Make your own Biltong' and a recipe for Pigs Ears and also Fish Sperm on Toast... All an acquired taste I'm sure..

I love the way this book also gives a music suggestion for each recipe, along with a reason for the choice. It'sjust totally out there isn't it...

I don't know why I like this stuff, but I guess I don't call myself Kooky Girl for nothing. Ha !

Monday, March 7, 2011

My Cookbook Collection - Book 2 The Marathon Chef by Michel Roux Jr and a Pancake recipe

I often go through my cook book shelves and dig out a cook book to browse my 'spare' time. 'Spare' is in single quotes, because I get so little spare time that the book I am about to write about has been on the coffee table all weekend and I haven't even had chance to pick it up yet - and that was the weekend ! What on earth hope is there during the week ???

I am going to pick it up in just a mo' and have a flick, but first where's the book from ?? Biscuit Boy was lucky enough to go to Michel Roux Jr's restaurant Le Gavroche  in 2009 with work colleagues for their Christmas lunch, and bless him, he bought me the book from the man himself, and guess what ? He signed it and wrote 'Happy Running'. Cool.
Click to view at
 The sub title of the book is 'Food for Getting Fit'. Shame of shame then that I have never made a recipe from the book. So, let's have a quick flick and see if I can't fix that this week.

As I may have mentioned, I will be running Kielder marathon in October, so once I am back from my birthday trip to France I will be doing some serious, serious marathon training. That's not to say that I have stopped running - hardly - yesterday I notched up a 2 hour run of about ten miles, and today Biscuit Boy and I ran in Hyde Park - a 4-mile loop in 34 minutes - which isn't bad. All of this is in preparation for my 16 mile run on March 27- not long now.. eek !

I've just had a quick flick through the book, and that is absolutely perfect timing. I realise why the book never grabbed my attention before, I would say that it is specifically for someone that is training for a marathon who still wants to enjoy tasty, but healthy food. That's me ! Or, it is now.... But, a word of warning, some of the recipes look quite complicated, and contain a lot of ingredients, and not ingredients that I would have in my well-stocked cupboard, which of course means I would have to make a special trip to the supermarket to buy the missing ingredients. You see ? Tedious already ? I probably won't get time for this if I am honest... Indeed, I have just read that some of these recipes are even on the menu at Le Gavoche.

I have much in common with Mr. Roux Jr. - first he's French and well, you know about my love affair with France by now, secondly he's a chef - my dream job kind of, well I love food and cooking and everything to do with cooking - and, to top the lot he's a runner. Like me !

if you like France, food and running like me  - get to Le Gavroche and sample the cooking, or buy the book and cook some yourself, or pull your trainers on and get running, and see what you're missing out on.

I was reading about Michel Roux Jr. at the weekend in The Times, he is a keen runner and is running in this year's London marathon and I wish him well with that.

I have just found a recipe to make from the book - it is perfect timing for Shrove Tuesday - tomorrow !

Baked Ham and Spinach Pancakes


12 pancakes
320g spinach (I'll need to buy this..)
80g stale white bread, crusts off (don't have this either ..)
120ml milk (tick)
4 shallots (nope!)
1tbsp olive oil (yeh, I got that..duh !)
280g lean, good-quality cooked ham (no)
80g gruyere (no, again)
salt, pepper, nutmeg (yes, yes and yes)

Well, the recipe just assumes you already made your pancakes, so basically (in my own words), do the following.

1. Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 30 seconds, refresh in cold water and dry completely.
2. Soften the bread in the milk, then squeeze out excess milk.
3. Meanwhile, saute the shallots in the oilive oil until transparent, then leave to cool.
4. Mix the spinach, bread and ham together and then finely mince all this. I don't have a mincer so I would probably chop it really small and then try putting it through my potato mill, or maybe in the food processor ??/
5. Once it is in a 'minced' texture (however you get there), fold in the shallots, and then season and add the nutmeg.
6. Take your pancakes and keeping a third of the mixtiure aside spread the rest on one half of each of your pancakes, fold the pancake over into a semi circle, and spread the remaining on half of your semi circle and fold over again to make triangle shapes.
7. Put triangle pancakes in an ovenproof dish, add grated gruyere over the top and bake for 15-20 mins until glazed and crispy on top and slightly puffed up.

I am thinking this would be lovely with a crisp green salad and a glass of very cold white wine.

As Michel himself put it: 'Happy Running', and also from me, 'Happy Pancake Day'

I was just looking for an image of the book to put with the post - my book cover has a photo of Michel Roux Jr; whereas the picture I found above on Amazon shows the very recipe that I just wrote about above - how spookily convenient is that, she wrote smiling.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Easy Chocolate Mousse

Biscuit Boy and Cupcake made this last night, and it was yum ! They also made me sea bream cooked with garllic and chillies, roasted new potatoes and we harvested some of the home-grown purple sprouting broccoli. It was a veritable feast, and I was truly spoiled.


175gr chocolate (dark, plain chocolate)
4 eggs (medium)
1 tbsp of your liqueur of choice (eg Amarreto, Cointreau etc.)


1. Separate the eggs. Lightly beat the egg yolks.
2. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water (or in the microwave), and once cooled stir in the egg yolks.
Add the liqueur now, if you are using it, we kept ours alcohol-free this time.
3. Whilst the chocolate is melting, whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
4. Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until fully incorporated.
5. Spoon into your desired receptacle(s). We used ramekin dishes.
6. Refrigerate for 20-25 minutes.
7. Eat with wild abandon.

NOTE: This recipe contains raw eggs. If you are pregnant or have an otherwise compromised immune system, then avoid raw eggs.