manãna, manãna

I’m afraid to say that the words ‘manãna, manãna’ seem to have featured rather a lot in my life lately.  I know that while I have been resting my sore foot I should have been writing heaps but I just kept putting it off. And now here we are in November!  My foot is almost back to normal thankfully but wasn’t helped by my accidentally running on it at about week 9 of recovery.  How does one run accidentally?  Ah well, engrossed in my book on the train, I suddenly realised I was at my stop and, completely forgetting I had a sore foot (no crutches, no boot), ran to the door.  Oops.  Silly me.  Hence my rather delayed recovery.

Today I decided to try a new soup – a recipe from Elly Pear which I tore out of an InStyle magazine recently. Elly Pear (real name Elly Curshen) of the Pear Cafe in Bristol is InStyle’s food writer.  I didn’t make this butternut and cannellini bean soup for any Halloween celebrations, I just made it because the recipe sounded really good.  And it was!  There was smoked salt, sweet smoked paprika, bay, chilli and cumin to spice it up.  And it did!  I had a whole dried chipotle chilli which I blitzed in the spice grinder to get flakes.  Mmmm.  Powder more like.  Suffice to say it was fairly hot!  I added some extra squash and this reduced the heat.  I served it with some Greek yoghurt (0% fat) and some toasted pumpkin seeds as I didn’t want (or need) the calories of mascarpone!

delicious 'warming' soup for a chilly autumn day

delicious ‘warming’ soup for a chilly autumn day

I confess I noticed on the outside of the chilli pack it said hot, hot, hot.  I should have been paying attention!  Mmm.  I do believe chilli raises the metabolism.  Yes!  Every cloud etc, etc.

 

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mes vacances

No prizes for guessing where I’ve been on holiday this year but it really was the holiday with a difference ….

then ... and now

then … and now

Unfortunately I slipped walking down a very steep hill on the second day of our holiday in the south of France and broke a bone in my foot!!  My 5th metatarsal to be precise.  It was a very relaxing holiday for me but I’m afraid I can’t quite say the same for Graeme as he had to do the shopping, the cooking, the dishes and make sure I had everything I needed.  You know – water, sunscreen, book, sunglasses, phone … and the list goes on!  Let me tell you using crutches is not easy – only essential journeys were undertaken.  And whilst I was unable to swim in our lovely pool I was able to lounge about and enjoy the sunshine which was fantastic. Now I’m home the cast is off and I have the very sexy black boot which you see here (I feel sure it will be the “it” boot this season!).   I’m also able to get around without the crutches which makes a huge difference.  It’s not until you do something like this that you realise just how incapacitating it is.

I can’t remember the last time I went so long without cooking and so I really enjoyed making the simplest tomato sauce for pasta this week.  Back in the swing just as my our first courgettes are ready to pick.

round squash - perfect for stuffing

round squash – perfect for stuffing

These round yellow squash are a new variety for us – I thought they’d be good stuffed so hopefully they’ll be big enough soon.  Tonight we’re having regular green courgettes and I know they’re going to be delicious not to mention seasonal and very, very local.

 

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you shall have a fishy in your little dishy

Or rather, in my case, a bit of a fishy.  We’ve been eating more fish in our house recently and I’ve been trying to ring the changes so we’re not eating the same things all the time although we have had this dishy quite often recently.  I was going through my food cupboard (my yearly clear out) and found I had rather a lot of tinned beans.  (Well within their ‘best before’ dates too, I may add!).  I used them to make a delicious bean, spinach and tomato stew and served it with a portion of roasted halibut.  

What you need – for 2.

Olive oil, garlic – crushed, tin of beans (cannellini was my choice but only because I’d obviously thought we were going to have a long, hard winter when I couldn’t get to the shops!!), bag of spinach, 2-3 decent sized tomatoes, a lemon or two, fresh basil and some salt and pepper – also 2 fillets of fish

Heat some olive oil in a pan, add the crushed garlic and cook gently without browning.  Skin and deseed the tomatoes then chop into smallish squares before adding to the pan containing the garlic. Cook the spinach separately, drain well and set aside.  Drain the beans, rinse them and put them in with the tomatoes.  Add the spinach when it’s almost time to serve, along with some fresh basil. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over and season to taste.  Serve with the fish of your choice.

  
I don’t think the bean stew needs to be boiling hot – just nicely warmed through. This dish can be made with your favourite beans (preferably not the ones in tomato sauce) and your favourite fish.  You can roast it, steam it, pan fry it.  You choose.  This is a really quick and tasty supper, suitable for any night of the week.  

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bread, bread and more bread

I recently visited The School of Artisan Food on the Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire for a four day Artisan Baking Session.  It was fantastic!  Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, assisted by David Carter, showed us how to make everything from a plain white loaf to a rye sourdough as well as croissants and Danish pastries!  It was an action-packed four days and I did hope to write about each what we did each day but unfortunately I had no internet.  All the breads were made using a folding technique which makes it quite easy rather than feeling you’ve had a strenuous workout.  Although, if that’s what you want, go for it!

We arrived at 9 o’clock each day for breakfast (toast and croissants) then made bread from 9.30-5.00 with an hour for lunch every day.  Lunch was provided and each day they were more delicious.  Lamb and pomegranate salad, roasted vegetables, pulled pork (divine!), quiche, and more – accompanied, of course, by a selection of home made bread and cheese*.  Thank you girls!

A small selection of the bread I made …

 On the last day we made croissants and Danish pastries which looked so professional.  We all made the croissant dough and puff pastry but did a batch bake so I’m not sure if these were actually mine but I can assure you they all looked amazing and tasted scrumptious!  And that’s from someone who’s not really a pastry eater!  I took home two of each and for my supper I managed to devour a pain au raisin (my Danish pastry of choice – only if forced to have one you understand) and a pain au chocolat!

 

Now, I know exactly what you’re thinking – two of everything and two missing but not a pain au raisin or pain au chocolat.  Worry not!  The missing two went to the owner of the B and B I was staying at as they were her favourite and not into my tummy!

We did a photo shoot at the end of the last day ….. 

It was a brilliant weekend.  I met some lovely new people and I learned how to make better bread in beautiful surroundings.  The only downside for me was that I couldn’t take all my bread home because I was travelling by train.  I did manage to pack up my pastries for the journey home though!

*The Welbeck Estate is the home of the Stichelton cheese referred to in my post “cheese on toast”

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one for the girls, one for the boys

However much we’d like to think girls and boys are equal, we’re not.  Sadly, we’re not even allowed to eat as much on our 5:2 days!  The boys get an extra 100 calories!  Not fair, methinks.  So, for a 5:2 day you need to do some weighing and calculating (we’re not talking advanced mathematics here, just simple sums) unless, of course, you have something where the calorie information is listed for you.  I watched a programme on television recently which showed that the calorie content for ready meals might be more accurate for some than for others.  Equally, when you make something at home the calculation could be out by a little bit too – I found about five different calorie amounts for smoked haddock.

Depending how you like to eat on your MM (Michael Mosley) day, this dish could be lunch or supper. Smoked haddock, spinach and a poached egg – it is so low calories that actually us girls could have the egg too if we’re being especially careful the rest of the day.  

  

So here’s what you need and the calories.  For each person you need 100g smoked haddock (the very pale sort not the luminous yellow) and 125g raw baby spinach.  And for the man in your life, a large, very fresh egg.  Very fresh eggs are easier to poach because the white adheres better to the yolk, just in case you’re wondering.  Poach the smoked haddock in gently simmering water – not quite as tasty as when poached in milk but you can always have that another day – and keep warm.  Put all the spinach in a large saucepan with a little water and when it’s cooked, drain and season well.  I always think I’m going to have a huge portion of spinach until it cooks down to really not very much at all.  While you’re cooking the spinach, pop the egg into a cup with a few drops of vinegar.  Stir the simmering water using a spatula or wooden spoon and when it looks like a whirlpool, carefully lower the egg from the cup right into the very centre.  This way, the white is pulled toward the yolk.  Simmer gently for 3-4 minutes or until it’s cooked the way you like it.  Now assemble.  Spinach first, then the fish and the then the egg on top.  Approximately, 120 calories for the girls and 194 for the boys (or hungry girls!).  

Breakdown of calories: smoked haddock 88, spinach 24 (both per 100g), large egg 74

Note: I struggled for years poaching eggs and, because I really enjoy a poached egg on toast, I tried every method imaginable.  I had many disasters and weird looking eggs along the way.  I hope I’ve explained my method well enough so that anyone else who struggles with them might have some success. 

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cheese on toast

On a Saturdays  the guardian has a cook section which is currently running our ten best … recipes.  Last month one of the recipes featured in our 10 best blue cheese recipes  caught my eye and although its called cheese on toast, it’s a little bit more than that really. Bruschetta with Stichelton, purple sprouting broccoli and capers is what it is (recipe supplied by Damian Climsby, Petersham Nurseries).  I have to tell you I love cheese.  No, it’s more than that – I adore cheese!  But it has to be good cheese.  The best cheese.  The kind you buy from a specialist cheese shop like George Mewes where you just step in the door, take a deep breath and you’re in cheese heaven!  Apologies, I digress a little but cheese is the reason.  The Stichelton cheese is made from raw milk on a farm in Nottinghamshire and is stocked by George Mewes but having bought my cheese, Stilton, before reading the newspaper, I just had to make do.  This was no hardship I can assure you, Stilton is equally delicious!  

I toasted my ‘Levain de Campagne’ bread – a French-style sourdough made with white, wholemeal and rye flour (from my book by Emmanuel Hadjandreou) for the bruschetta and crumbled the Stilton over it.  (Actually I kind of spread it over the toast thinking that when the time came to eat, my Stilton might all fall off and this would definitely not be good!). The recipe called for the purple sprouting broccoli to be roasted but alas mine was in the pot with some water before I realised.  Oops.  (Note to self: read recipe fully before beginning to cook!)  Place the broccoli artistically on top of the cheese and scatter some lovely capers over the top and there you have the most delicious lunch, supper, whatever!  Just enjoy!



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colourful lunch

Having just said in another day, another cauli that I have soup most days for lunch, I am sometimes known to have a sandwich. You know, variety is the spice of life etc, etc.  I’ve also been trying to shop for my veg outside the supermarket.  I used to get an organic vegetable box until the place that supplied it sadly stopped doing them and I never quite got around to arranging another one.  I know, shame on me.  

Back to my sandwiches.  Just look at that beetroot – isn’t it just beautiful?  Not only did it look good, it tasted fresh, crisp, sweet and I was able to buy the just the amount I needed which meant no waste.  There was no packaging to dispose of either.  And so what else was between the slices of my delicious homemade bread (😇)?  Smoked mackerel and rocket but what gave it the edge was the crunch of that amazing beetroot from  Roots, Fruits and Flowers.  Delicious! 





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