Kick Ass Chipotle Ketchup

Kick Ass Ketchup

I have a love hate relationship with ketchup. Like I love it, but it is just sugary gak that have been near a tomato at some point. Plus, I personally prefer mayo or tartare sauce on my fries, but I am currently sans food processor (insert crying emoji here), so making my own mayo will have to wait until I rectify that situation. But dry fries are not my favourite either, and I make a lot of fries if you count baked sweet potato, baked parsnip, baked carrot, baked celeriac, baked any root veg as fries. I do. Calling them fries instead of baked veg makes them seem sexier and more indulgent. Language is important. Plus they all taste delicious, better than actual fries in some cases. Plus, they are did easy- heat over, melt oil in baking tray, cover sticks of veg in oil and salt. Put in oven. Take out. Done.

I have tried spicing them up with chilli flakes and other spices- ras al hanout or smoked paprika, and that works well, but I am missing dips, so I thought, why not make my own ketchup? Well, because I don’t have a food processor I am never going to get the smooth texture of shop ketchup, but I could something like the flavour? Yes, as it turns out. I read a lot of labels to see what people like Heinz were putting in their ketchup, and checked out some recipes online from paleogrubs and paleo leap, and then I put in the flavours I like. For my birthday I got a pot of chipotle chilli flakes, amongst other things, so I decided they would definitely be going in. This makes a chunky satisfying and slightly spicy ketchup that I have eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it will definitely become a regular food prep feature.

Ingredients

400g tinned chopped tomatoes

1 Tbsp. tomato puree

2 tbsp. agave syrup (I use The Groovy Food Company light- in colour)

2 tsps. Garlic granules

2 tsps. Salt

2 tsps. Onion granules

A couple of pinches of chipotle chilli flakes.

 

All of the above can be adjusted to suit your taste- salty, sweet or spicy.

Put all of the ingredients in a pan and warm over a low heat. Let it simmer until thickened to the desired consistency.

Put in a container.

You are done. It’s basically as easy as walking to Tesco and buying some ketchup, and my nearest Tesco is a two minute walk.

 

 

Rants and recipes: chocolate chilli with veggie option

I have been writing a lot this week- two whole blogs! One I wrote about my issues with the constant flow of positive mental attitude quotes and memes in my social media. While I fully accept this is my fault because I follow a whole host of people who make their living from being motivational, I also have concerns about the impact of seeing this kind of thing every day. Secondly I wrote about the importance (or not) of measurable targets in education. Both of these things are things that make me mad, irritate me, grind my gears, but neither of them, obviously, are about food. When I first really started blogging, it was all about food. But now it isn’t, and I started to think about why. It isn’t as though I have stopped cooking delicious food- check my Instagram account, which is essentially just food, but I have stopped writing about it. I have been added to a group of UK Health Bloggers and I am feeling a bit of a fraud, as I haven’t blogged about food in forever. But why? I think the answer comes from the role that food, and cooking, plays in my life. My relationship with actually eating food has and continues to be a difficult one, but my relationship with cooking has always been easy. It is my meditation, my place of mindfulness and my stress releaser. It soothes me, and in times of stress or difficult situations and experiences it is my go to thing to do. That and wine, but cooking is healthier really. So I started blogging about food last year while I was dealing with my dad dying. For a long time my relationship with dad has been, at best, complicated, and at worst non-existent. I had boxed up my feelings and put myself in a place of emotional safety for a while by doing so, but I had never really resolved any issues, and with his death, that suddenly became impossible, at least impossible for us to reconcile together. So, as usual I turned to food and the cathartic element of writing about it really helped me to move through the days.

But I write my best when I am angry, pissed off, irritated and a little bit (a lot) sweary. And food just doesn’t make me feel like that. By the time I have cooked my mind is settled, I feel better, and the need to write/rant has disappeared. So, what’s the solution? Delete my foodblogger status and just use Instagram for its only real purpose- pictures of food, exercise videos and cats? Or change my attitude like all those fucking memes tell me I should be doing? Funnily enough it is the second one. Many food blogs I read (ok I don’t read that many) actually don’t write that much about food. It is all about other stuff happening in their lives- fashion, tv, travel, yoga, daily frustrations. So, why shouldn’t I blog like that? A sweary rant and then a recipe? Maybe I should rename my blog? Rants and recipes is so pleasingly alliterative.

So there you go, from now on I will be ranting before my recipes. I’ll enjoy it, and if nobody else does…meh.

Chocolate chilli. I made huge batch of last week, ate some and froze a load so I have ready meals agogo in the freezer. So much easier to stay healthy that way, resist temptation blah blah blah. Except I pass Tesco on the way home and if I feel tempted it’s really not that hard to succumb. But yeah, if I can resist going into Tesco, I’m all good.

Ingredients:

1 red onion cut into chunks

1 yellow pepper cut into chunks

2 green chillis sliced (add more or less depending on your spiciness tolerance)

250g pork mince (mine was 5% fat if that kind of thing interests you) If you want to be veggie then this ingredient should be omitted, obviously.

100g chestnut mushrooms

400g kidney beans (not paleo so don’t include if you are living the caveman life)

2 tbsp cocoa powder

2tsps garlic powder

2 tsps cumin

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp tomato paste

200ml stock (I used beef, but you could use veg or chicken if that’s what you’ve got).

1 tbsp coconut oil (or whatever oil floats your boat)

Method:

Add coconut oil to a large frying pan over a lowish heat. When it has melted add the onions and fry until softened. Add the pork and use a spoon or spatula to break it up. When it has browned through, add the rest of the ingredients to the pan. The order doesn’t really matter, you are only going to stir them altogether anyway. So, once they have been added, you should stir until they are all mixed up, and then turn up the heat a little until it is simmering along the lines of the Goldilocks principle- not too little, not too much, but just right. A Baby bear porridge of a simmer if you like. Then just leave it for about 20 minutes. You might want to stir and check at some point like I always do. Once the stock has reduced and thickened to your desired consistency then you are good to go.

I have served this in the following ways:

  • On its own. Simple.
  • With avocado.
  • With fried plantain.
  • With cauliflower rice.
  • With white potato chips.

You can serve it however you like. Over a big plate of green would be good, sprinkled with feta if you do dairy, or with squash or sweet potato.

Italian? Pasta? Yes please!

This is not a cuisine I usually pay much attention to, but something must be changing because I had pizza on Friday and tonight I ate pasta. The pizza was delicious and if you are in London and you can get to Franco Manca then you should do so. I can eat gluten without any obvious reaction, unless I eat too much at once and then I feel bloated, but that goes for eating too much of anything. If you don’t like to eat gluten, or it actually makes you sick because you have Crohn’s or celiac’s then clearly pizza is not for you, even Franco Manco pizza. I am doing a sad face as I type. But there is pasta that is for you (and for me) created and made by Nomad Food- it is gluten free and fits in with a paleo diet (if that is what you like). I tried the sesame pasta tonight which has 3 ingredients- sesame, tapioca and egg. Vegetarian but not vegan. It ticks a lot of boxes anyway! Super simple to cook- drop in salted boiling water for 3-5 minutes and drain. Done and dusted. It kept it’s shape, with a pleasant firm texture and a slightly nutty and delicious flavour. Had someone served it to me without me seeing the packet I wouldn’t have known it wasn’t just pasta, although the fusilli shape is slightly less chunky than I remember. As I am currently training to do a half marathon, I am quite excited to have a really quick and easy option to add to my diet- nobody wants to be hanging about waiting for food after a long (and at the moment, very cold) run. So I recommend you grab some for yourself and let pasta be a part of your life again.

I served it with my new favourite Italian ragu recipe which is rich and tasty and paleo and whole30 and glutenfree and all those things! Youi can also get ahead on making this if you make up the base from my last blog, as that is where it all starts.

Ingredients (serves 2):

250g turkey mince

1 red onion diced

4 cloves garlic minced

1 ½ fresh chillis chopped small

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

300ml stock (compliant if doing whole30)

3 tsps dried oregano

3 tsps dried basil

Olives (optional)

Coconut oil

Method:

Melt the coconut oil in a heavy frying pan over a low heat and then add the red onion, garlic and chilli and cook for a few minutes until softened. Add the turkey mince and break it up with a spatula, pushing it around the pan and cook until lightly browned. Add the balsamic vinegar, sometimes I add more because I love the richness and piquancy it gives, and the herbs. Add the stock and bring to a vigorous simmer, then turn down the heat so it is a more relaxed simmer. Leave for about 10-15 minutes, depending on how much ‘juice’ you want. If you are going to add the olives, then add them at this point. Once it is simmered to your liking it is ready to go. Buon apetito!

PS Please check out my insta @experimentalmonkeyfeeder for pictures! My computer is playing up and won’t let me upload them 😦

 

Variety is the spice of life: meal prep.

Turkey and Butternut Chilli

turkey-and-butternut-chilli

It feels like I haven’t really done any proper prep and cooking for a while. I was cat sitting over Christmas and New Year (looking after a cat rather than literally sitting on it), and for some reason living in someone else’s place for a short time makes me really lazy, even though they clearly have all the same things in their kitchen I do, plus a fridge as standard, and a local supermarket that sells all the food I would usually buy. I ignore all of that and buy fripperies and snacks and camp out. It has also been a difficult and confusing start to the year- 2017 is definitely going to be one of change. Then last week I was ill and food was the last thing on my mind, unless I wanted to vomit. But this week, I decided I have to get my shit together. I enjoy cooking, I enjoy the process and the eating and having healthy stuff all around. Plus, when I eat it, I feel better. So I went shopping and I prepped. One thing I have stolen from somewhere- I can’t remember where because it was a random video on my facebook was about prepping mince. Normally I would just make a load of burgers, a massive bowl of chilli or some stir fry and that is what I would be eating for the week. I know some people can do that for weeks on end, but I cannot. I get bored and then I go out and buy something different for dinner, which results in food waste and pointless prep. But if you make a simple base that you can add different flavours to throughout the week, then you can still have quick n easy meals on demand, but you also get to mix it up according to your mood.

Base:

Minced meat (I believe it is called ground in the US). You can use beef, pork, chicken…I used turkey this week because it was on offer. It was 500g but you can use different amounts and adjust your flavours accordingly. It depends on how many people you are cooking for and how spicy you like your food.

Fresh chilli chopped up small (I used one and a half).

Red onion or shallots (I used one).

Garlic crushed (I used 4 cloves).

Coconut oil (I used about a teaspoon full).

Heat the oil in a heavy based frying pan (skillet) on a lowish heat and add the onion garlic and chilli. Cook for a few minutes, stirring, until they are softened. Add the meat and turn up the heat a little. Use the spoon to break it up and turn until it is cooked through.

Your base is done- well done you!

At this point I emptied about half the meat into a storage container and stuck it in the freezer.

Turkey and Butternut Chilli:

To the base add the following spices:

  • Cumin
  • Nutmeg
  • Smoked sweet paprika
  • Hot paprika
  • Cinnamon

I usually add about equal amounts of each- about a teaspoon, but feel free to omit any you don’t like, or add any you do.

Add 400g of tinned tomatoes and a big squirt (about a dessert spoon) tomato paste to the mix and then about 200ml of water and stock cube. Stir over a low heat and leave to simmer.

Dice up about half a butternut squash and add to the pan, cover with a lid and leave for about 20 minutes until the squash is tender. Meanwhile dice up a yellow pepper and add to the pan after the twenty minutes is up. Leave uncovered about let simmer until the sauce is at your desired consistency. There you go! One more meal. Mix it up even more by serving it with different things e.g. cauliflower rice, zoodles, lettuce scoops, cabbage ribbons…. You know what you like!

Meal 2: Asian cabbage rolls.

You will need:

1 Lime- zest and juice. I used half the lime zest and half the juice.

Cashew nuts

Fresh chilli- I used about a quarter

Red onion thinly sliced

Fresh herbs- your choice! Lots of people go with coriander (cilantro) but the taste makes me want to puke, so I don’t. You could use basil, mint…

Cabbage leaves (I used sweetheart cabbage).

If you froze the other part of your base then defrost it. I was cooking for one tonight so I only used half the base (leaving me another meal for tomorrow). Add to a small pan with a splash of water and heat. Add the lime zest and half the juice to the pan and stir through the base. Leave it to simmer until the water is almost gone and the meat is hot.

In boiling bubbling water cook the cabbage leaves for about a minute and then leave to steam dry, or pat them dry.

Lay the cabbage leaves out on a plate and pile up with the base, top with a sprinkle of fresh chilli, cashew nuts, red onion and fresh herbs.

Wrap the rolls and eat- messily!

Tomorrow I will probably make up something more Italian inspired with the leftover base I have left. But let’s see how I feel!

 

 

Spicy green chicken and cashew nut salad

So I was going to follow someone else’s recipe for buffalo chicken salad (paleOMG’s recipe to give the credit) because it sounded delicious, but when I read it again it said minced carrot. I don’t know why but this put me off, well I do know. I don’t really like grated carrot, and that is what minced carrot sounds like, so I checked the fridge. The fridge is full of green things, specifically, avocado, celery, cucumber, spring onions and little gem lettuce. Plus, there is spicy mayo that I made at the weekend, and there is always cashew nuts in the cupboard. Obviously I had chicken because I was planning to make buffalo chicken, and so the salad was born.

For two:

I had skinless and boneless chicken thighs. I prefer the flavour of chicken thighs to chicken breast, plus it is usually cheaper, but these came from Waitrose, so obviously I took out a mortgage in order to pay for them. You could use left over chicken, or ready cooked chicken.

Heat some coconut oil in a big frying pan, then roll the thighs out flat and place them in the pan. Sizzle until cooked through- turning them over once helps. Once cooked remove from the pan and place on kitchen roll to absorb some grease. I don’t like too much grease in my food. If you do like grease, then feel free not to place on kitchen roll.

At this point I added some parboiled sweet potato and parsnips to the pan because I like them.

Slice the celery, cucumber, avocado and spring onions and throw them in a bowl. This requires no skill or artistry, unless you are feeling flair then you could juggle the ingredients (juggling optional).

Slice the slightly cooled chicken and throw in the bowl with the green things.

Add as much mayo as you like. If your mayo is not already spicy (because you did not get a bit free and easy with the cayenne at the weekend like I did- sounds more exciting than it is), then add some heat with a few squirts of sriracha or a sprinkling of the aforementioned cayenne.

Lay out some little gem lettuce leaves on a plate. Fill each lettuce scoop with the chicken/green/mayo mix. Sprinkle with cashews, or not. Add the parsnips and sweet potato on the side, if you know, you made them earlier. If not, don’t.

Eat.

If you want to make your own mayo then check my blog, or google whole30 mayo.

 

 

Making mayo and other life lessons

When I was 15 I started my first diet. I was a little chubby maybe, curvaceous perhaps, even voluptuous (as one male friend described when I was staring at a depressed looking salad from the school canteen and complaining my jeans were too tight to eat chips). But I grew up in the era of heroin chic; a young Kate Moss was the ideal of female beauty, and my boobs were eminently unfashionable. Yes! Boobs can be unfashionable- Vogue said so. Not old enough to know better, I bought into this idealisation, and accepted that because I couldn’t meet the standards set by the magazines of the time (Just 17, Belle, even the occasional Cosmo) I was ultimately a flawed human being who would never ever be considered beautiful. All of this was, of course, utter bollocks. But it surprisingly difficult to get rid of these insecurities. I can still stand in front of the mirror for multiple outfit changes before leaving the house; sometimes I even think about not leaving the house. Objectively, this is ridiculous. I am a healthy weight, a healthy dress size, fit and I even have a little muscle tone here and there. I can do more than run for a bus and I can lift weights somewhat heavier than myself. But there is always that little voice that whispers (and occasionally shouts). I have mostly learned to tell it when it needs to shut up, occasionally over compensate, and sometimes I give in and where the baggiest clothes ever.

What the has this got to do with mayonnaise? I hear you ask politely, while in your head screaming get to the point, you insecure bint. The point is that just like my boobs where hugely unfashionable while growing up, so was mayonnaise- in my house anyway (and I wanted a rant about media based insecurity). Putting mayonnaise on your salad was the equivalent of saying I am really, really, really trying to be unhealthy here. Oddly the same did not apply if you wanted to make a pastie barm- this is a particular northern delight which is essentially a pie sandwich. The difference is that now, I am better at quieting the insecure voices and I am also going to eat all the mayonnaise I like, and never (well probably), eat a pastie barm.

Home-made mayo is delicious, takes about 5 minutes and adds an element of luxury to anything I eat with it. I particularly love to dip parsnip chips in it. It is also really versatile. Once you have your basic mayo, then you can add any flavours you like.

My mayo recipe is based on an amalgamation of Whole30 mayo and creamy sauce recipes. I make it in my magi mix food processor and it has never failed me yet.

1 warm egg (I put mine in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes)

1 dessert spoon of red wine vinegar

½ tsp. of salt

A couple of pinches of cayenne pepper.

1 tsp. Onion granules (if you like)

1 tsp. Garlic granules (if you like)

150ml of light Olive oil.

Put all the ingredients (except the oil) into the mixer and blast for a few seconds. Then, while the mixer is mixing, slowly, very slowly, like a tortoise moving through treacle slowly, add the oil. Do NOT panic if it doesn’t thicken immediately. If you add the oil slowly enough, then it will by the end.

Once all the oil is in, you should have a thick and creamy mayonnaise ready to use there and then, or to put into little pots to use each day.

The next step is to lick the bowl. You will want to and that is ok. Good fats right?

 

Whole30 Day30: why does it feel like an anti-climax?

Today should be a day for celebration right? I did it! Well, barring falling face first into a bucket of donuts and wine with my mouth open in the next few hours, I did it. I managed a month without alcohol, gluten, grains, dairy, legumes and soy. I probably listed those in order of importance didn’t I? I was going to write about the NSV’s, the leaner, fitter me and the demons I might have conquered on the way, but that’s not how it has turned out. But I did it! So why am I not celebrating? It all feels like an anti-climax to be honest. I was expecting to be feeling great, happy and proud but instead I feel depressed, worried, sick and anxious.

I started today in the urgent care walk in centre. I have had a cough for about five weeks now, and it has ebbed and flowed in its severity, but last night while on my own, I had a few ‘attacks’ where I didn’t feel I would ever breathe again. It was so hard to suck air into my lungs that it was audible, probably about a mile away. I obviously survived and regained control of my breathing but it was horrible. So this morning, I skipped work (with the kindness, grace and care of my colleagues who covered me) and went to the urgent care centre. I waited for a bit, saw someone, waited again and saw someone else. I was diagnosed with a chest infection and given antibiotics and told to rest up, keep hydrated and take painkillers as necessary. It wasn’t the kick ass finish I wanted for today. I wanted to be seeing my students, going to the gym and ending on a high. We don’t always get what we want.

Do we?

The other thing that is stopping me celebrating is the current state of the UK. I am grieving for the result of the referendum. I am heartbroken at the rise in racist attacks, bemused at the backtracking from promises to possibilities, fearful of the lack of leadership from those who ‘won’, and scared by the uncertainty. Zimbardo famously carried out what has come to be known as the Stanford Prison Experiment. In it he randomly assigned a sample of normal, psychologically healthy young men to either the role of guard or prisoner. He put them into a mock prison, and watched the events unfold. The story goes that the guards became increasingly sadistic, the prisoners increasingly withdrawn and psychologically disturbed, until the experiment was ended eight days earlier than planned. Zimbardo argued that we learnt that the roles we give people dictate their behaviour. Much more recently this experiment was ‘repeated’ but with different parameters. This time the guards released the prisoners and they planned to live together as a commune. This result seemed much more humanity affirming. Perhaps we had, as societies might do, made progress in how we treat each other. The guards and prisoners recognised the inherent inequality in their assigned roles and decided they would not accept it.

However, it didn’t end there. Within 24 hours came uncertainty. Not all the members of the commune were doing their jobs, some of them were lounging, expecting others to work in their place, some were demanding more of members than had originally been asked. In the early hours of the morning, in response to this, some members decided to stage a coup- they would institute an authoritarian regime and police it how they saw fit. The ethics committee watching events refused to let this situation play out, fearing psychological damage to the participants. This included those who wanted the regime and those who passively supported it. What would they think about themselves when they stepped out of the experimental situation? What would others think of them? After all, this was being filmed and shown on the BBC.

I fear that the conclusions drawn from these experiments may now be tested in the real world. That we have assigned roles to the leave and the remain sides, that those who see themselves as ‘guardians’ of Great Britain feel empowered to become more sadistic as they enforce their ideals, now seemingly with a mandate from over half of those who voted. These ideals seem to embody a racist and xenophobic dehumanisation of those ‘not like us’. Just as the prisoners in Zimbardo’s experiment were purposely dehumanised and de-individuated, and the guards were given permission to enforce their order upon others, so those ‘not like us’ are experiencing a rise in abuse both general and specifically personal. It is dangerous and it is a society of fear.

I am fearful that the uncertainty that is pulsing across the UK, Europe and the world will end with people looking for authority, for a regime that offers certainty, regardless of the conditions attached to regaining certainty, as those who are supposed to lead hesitate, refuse to take action, and make contradictory and inflammatory statements. . In the real world we cannot simple halt what is happening because we do not like how our participants are behaving, or because we fear the ethical and moral consequences of that behaviour. What can we do? Look to the research into the processes of social change, minority and majority influence to convince people to behave differently? Again, there lies uncertainty.

So my personal achievement seems small, insignificant and almost worthless in the face of the enormity of what seems to be happening around me. On the other hand, tomorrow I will be able to drown my sorrows for the first time in 30 days, and blame the shitty feeling I wake up with on a hangover. Is that a silver lining?

 

Whole30 Day23: Braised lamb with pepper and paprika

Cooking is my yoga.

One week to go! And I think it is time to start reflecting a little on my experiences. I started this because I wanted to check out the hype for myself. I didn’t think it would radically change my diet because I thought I already ate pretty paleo. To a certain extent that was very true, and people haven’t noticed a big difference- even my partner comments that it doesn’t really look any different to what I eat anyway. So I wasn’t expecting big differences, but a little part of me was hoping this would be the food equivalent of finding world peace. I haven’t found world peace, but I have found out some things. One of those things is my emotional responses to the Whole30 are not really about the Whole30 or food, but very much about other things that are happening in my life. This probably isn’t a huge revelation, but in the moment it is difficult to remember it isn’t all about food. After all, even the Whole30 plan says it starts with food. Food is easy to blame, as is a clean eating plan you decided to do. Here is how my thought process goes:

  1. Today was shit.
  2. I feel shit.
  3. I want wine.
  4. I can’t have wine.
  5. Fuck you whole30, if I could have wine then I wouldn’t be feeling like this.
  6. I can’t have wine.
  7. This fucking diet is stupid.
  8. I’m not having wine.
  9. Fucking fizzy water/herbal tea is fucking rubbish.
  10. I’m going to bed
  11. Brain, “ Hey Victoria, let’s go back to step number one, and while we’re at it why don’t we take a step down memory lane and re-visit everything bad that’s ever happened ever”.

Substitute wine for chocolate/bread/cheese or all three (plus wine) and this has been a sometimes quite circular and repetitive process. However, when I have calmed down and thought about it (which can take minutes, hours or days) I have realised it isn’t Whole30 I am angry with, it is a situation and/or my response to it. It is much easier to get angry with food than it is to think about a difficult situation and/or a difficult response. These reflections have not become automatic; I am not a Zen master. I still rant and rage and swear vociferously (and I think creatively), but the reflection is happening. Slowly.

I have also stopped using food/wine as an emotional crutch. Sort of. I think this statement needs to be qualified. Food has always been part of my emotional response to situations. But I don’t necessarily comfort eat when I am stressed or upset (although sometimes I do). I comfort cook. This first became obvious to me when I was on study leave for my GCSE’s which was many moons ago. I baked every single day. It started with recipes I knew well, and regarded as simple and were family favourites such as Victoria sponge. And I had to make them all by hand. Creaming butter and sugar by hand is surprisingly hard, but it was very therapeutic and it took my mind elsewhere. My mum went to the shops daily to re-stock the fridge with eggs and butter, less frequently to stock the cupboards with flour and sugar, but she did start bulk buying. Creating food that other people could eat and enjoy was also very important, and my brother still reckons that I make the best Victoria sponge he has ever tasted. As time went on, the food became more complex, peaking with a tiramisu cheesecake that, including hand-making the chocolate stars to decorate it, took 5 hours. (As an aside, none of this seemed to detract from my GCSE results, they were pretty good). The first items I bought after separating from my ex were two mixing bowls, wooden spoons, a set of scales and a hand whisk just like my mum had in the kitchen drawer. And I baked.

Clearly I haven’t been baking on Whole30, but I have been cooking. A lot. And I have spent a lot of time thinking and reading about cooking. My new wind down at the end of the evening is to think about new recipes, or plan new combinations of flavours. So food is still an emotional crutch, but it is not the kind of crutch that feels unhealthy. Doing something you enjoy to relax and focus is a very healthy way to deal with stress. Cooking is my yoga.

One of the things about cooking that is relaxing is the aromas that drift around while you prepare, and while the cooking is happening. Smells and sensations ground you in the here and now. If you don’t believe me try cutting up a juicy lemon just after you gave yourself a paper cut, or rubbing your eye just after chopping a chilli. You will be very focused on the immediate, very immediately. Preparing a slow cooking dish enables those aromas and sensations to float around for several hours, which has the added benefit/torture of making you hungry. Cooking focuses the mind on the present, gives you space and requires concentration and physical action to create.

Braised lamb with pepper and paprika.

Usually I would cook this in the oven, but mine is broken, so I used a heavy bottomed frying pan with a lid.

Ingredients:

  • A nice big chunk of lamb neck fillet.
  • Coconut oil- about a tbsp.
  • Water- about a pint
  • 1-2 tsps. Smoked sweet paprika
  • 1-2 tsps. Hot paprika
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1-2 tsps. Nutmeg
  • 1-2 tsps. Cinnamon
  • 1-2 tsps. Garlic granules
  • 1-2 tsps Onion flakes
  • 2tbsps tomato paste

In the big frying pan heat up the coconut oil and place the lamb in the pan- it should sizzle in a comforting crackly log fire in a story book sort of way. Let it snap and crackle until the edge is seared caramel brown, and turn it over. If it is sticking to the pan, you might want to give it a couple of minutes longer- meat seems to know when it is ready to turn and conveniently stops sticking to the pan with so much determination, bowing to the inevitable. Once your lamb is seared, turn down the heat and add the water and spices and paste to the pan- the liquid should come about half way up the lamb. Stir them around. Bring to a simmer and then leave with the lid off, to puff wisps of steam around, diffusing warm and spicy comfort through the air. Let this happen for 45 minutes, maybe an hour and the liquid should have reduced significantly. It should be thick and reminiscent of terracotta in colour. Remove the lamb and slice into thick chunks. Place the chunks on a plate and spoon over the sauce. Serve with whatever you like. I like this with sugar snap peas and baba ghanoush. The best ever baba ghanoush recipe is Nigel Slater’s, and I’d like to add a thank you to Mr Slater. Not only has he taught me to make the most amazing baba ghanoush, he has been an inspiration.

Whole30 Day17.. Crackling Coconut Chicken

I am writing this on day17 of my first Whole30. Overall, this whole30 process has gone reasonably smoothly, but perhaps this is because it is not radically different from how I usually eat. I have been following a pretty paleo diet (pretty as in mostly, not as in attractive) for a while now, and I have been eating low carb for a long time (apart from when I was in South America where carb is king. Seriously, you get a separate plate for your carbs, usually rice, potato and fried plantain). Anyway, food wise I haven’t found this particularly hard. I have, of course, had cravings and you can see this in my previous blogs. It has however, made me examine the emotional reasons for these cravings as well as the physical. Why do I want a glass of wine at the end of the day? Do I need it? What purpose does it serve? And can I get by without it? The answer is obviously, yes I can. Do I want to? That is a question I am finding more difficult to answer. I like wine. I enjoy drinking wine with friends. I even enjoy a glass by myself with a good book. Is this something I want to change permanently? No. But how do I decide when the difference between enjoying something and that’s ok (food freedom) and when it is an emotional trigger response. Do I want to think about it all that much?

I can’t see that I have lost any weight while doing Whole30. I know I am not supposed to be thinking about the number on the scale, but I am. I am thinking more about the number on the tape measure- have I lost any inches? If not, I am going to be very disappointed, but I think I will have to face that disappointment in 13 days as my clothes seem to fit exactly as they did two weeks ago.. Are non-scale victories enough for me? At the moment I don’t think they are because I am overweight and my body fat is far too high, so I am trying to reduce both through a healthy diet and exercise. If following the Whole30 principles doesn’t help me to do that, then I need to do something else and the only thing that has really worked for me is calorie counting. I am going to wait until the end, however, I know that my body usually takes 3-4 weeks to show any real change when I make changes in my diet and exercise. I should also take into account the cough I have had, which has reduced my cardio to almost zero for several weeks. I know people say you don’t need cardio to lose weight/inches, but I find it really, really helps.

So what are my non-scale victories?

  • I have more energy. My work outs have become more intense and I am working out more often, as well as lifting heavier. I feel like I am properly full of nutrients that are helping me to perform.
  • I have had some difficult moments and I have reflected upon them, and got through them. These have been personal and food related. Some have been more difficult than others. Smelling the fresh baked bread in the supermarket made my mouth water, but I was able to resist tearing off a big chunk and stuffing my face. Victory is mine!
  • I am able to be more alert and in the moment.
  • I am sleeping better. It has become normal to feel tired at around ten pm and I am falling asleep much more quickly and waking much more naturally at around 5.30-6.00am. This might be something to do with my physical tiredness, but my natural patterns are no longer interrupted by sugar highs/lows or affected by alcohol.
  • I have proved to myself that I can do this. I don’t need to wine-d down at the end of the day, I can resist temptation, even when a student buys me a massive box of Lindt chocolate truffles, I put them away in a drawer. Now I am thinking about them. Damn!

Now one of the things that has helped is making food I really enjoy, and Crackling Coconut Chicken is one of them. This is based on Cracklin’ Chicken by Michelle Tam @nomnompaleo which is great by itself, but I was looking for something a bit more saucy and I had coconut milk to use up.

 

Ingredients (for 4 meals)

  • 4 large chicken thighs (skin on, bone on)
  • Ghee (about ½ tbsp. more if you like)
  • ¾ can of coconut milk
  • ¼ pint compliant chicken stock
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • And inch and a half of ginger
  • Tumeric (about 1tsp.)
  • Cayenne pepper to your taste (I used about ¼ tsp.)
  • Green veg (I used sugar snap peas, green pepper, red chard, baby spinach)

Method:

This starts as nomnompaleo’s crackling chicken, but you don’t need to remove the bones. Instead use scissors to snip along the line of the bone so that you can flatten out each thigh. Turn over and salt the skin. Melt the ghee in a heavy bottomed frying pan and place the chicken thighs in the pan skin side down and let them crackle. This should take about 7-10 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the coconut milk, stock and spices into a food processor and blitz together. Taste. Add more of anything you feel like. Once the crackling chicken is all crackled, remove from the pan and remove the skin from the top. I give it away to be eaten, but if you like it have a quick chicken snack. Let the pan cool a little and return the chicken to the pan, uncooked side down. It might frizzle a little but that’s ok. Add the coconut milk mixture to the pan and bring to a simmer. Leave the chicken to cook through (about 20-25 minutes). While this is happening, prepare the green veg you are going to add. Once the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is reduced a little, add the green veg and cook for 3-4 minutes until tender enough for your taste  (like mine quite crunchy).

Et voila! Tasty and Whole30 compliant. Oo la la!

 

Ps it keeps pretty well in the fridge and tastes great heated up the next day..or even the day after, so great if you like to meal prep.

 

 

Whole30 Day14…Self Awareness and sausage recipe

Day 14 could be considered the polar opposite of day 13. I feel so much better. I was still up at the crack of dawn, but I didn’t mind. I had coffee and breakfast in bed and read a bit, then I got up and went to the gym where I had a cracking work out that I really enjoyed, although it was challenging. I also managed to do ten minutes of cardio without coughing up a lung which is progress, even if it was incredibly low level and very slow.

I also spent a little time thinking- the gym is a very good place for that. Yesterday was rough for reasons that go way beyond the whole30 thing. It was the anniversary of my mum’s death, in case you are wondering, made all the more poignant by my dad’s death earlier this year (which raised its own emotional minefield) Usually I deal with those things by having some wine, perhaps a bit of a cry and going to bed. But yesterday I couldn’t do that. I had to actually think and feel and make a decision about how I was going to do that. I externalised it- partly consciously and partly unconsciously as I didn’t want to acknowledge that I could be affected. So, is that an NSV? Being made to think and feel? I don’t know. There are a lot of boxes to unpack if that is the case, and I am not altogether sure that I want to. However, I also decided that my mantra for today (and it should be everyday really) is to be kind to myself. So I have tried to be. And you should too. Everyday.

So, back to the positive vibes I woke up with…and the pork ‘sausages’ in the title. I haven’t found any whole 30 compliant sausages in any shop I have been in. They all contain gluten or rice flour, but I have found a million recipes for breakfast sausage spice for minced pork (or ground pork in American). They are really burgers, but I prefer sausages for breakfast, so that is what I call them.  They would be equally good for lunch or dinner though. They are really easy to make and they freeze well once you have cooked them.

Ingredients- makes about 6/7 burgers depending how big you make your balls..nudge nudge.

500g pork mince

Onion very finely sliced- I have used both red (about ¼) and spring ( approx.. 4) . Either work equally well.

1-2 tsp. smoked paprika

1-2 tsp. nutmeg

1-2 tsp hot paprika

1-2 tsp. garlic granuals

1-2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

I say 1-2 tsps. because it is really up to you how much you like each flavour.

1 egg beaten.

Method:

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and smoosh them altogether with your hands. When they are thoroughly mixed, take a handful of the mixture and make into a burger shape.

Once you have used up all the mixture, heat some oil (I use coconut) in a large frying pan and cook over a medium heat until browned on one side, flip them and cook the other side.  They will be firm when they are pressed if they are done. Eat them straight away or let them cool a little and put them in the freezer.

Meal prep. Done.