The Green Tea Thing

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I’m on the challenge wagon again, and this time it’s Green Tea. Green tea is from the same plant as your standard black or white tea, just harvested at a different stage of growth, and it is widely held to contain a good amount of antioxidants and diuretic metabolism boosting properties. It is basically eastern magic in a mug and will make me a skinnier, happier, faster running guru of intestinal peace, allegedly. And it’s not as bad for you as coffee is.

I drink a lot of coffee. Too much coffee. I have been know to hurt people who suggest that I cut down on it because it’s mine and I like it and can’t you just LET ME HAVE THIS ONE THING!!!!!!!!!

OK so it isn’t the coffee that is bad, rather the caffeine. For quick reference- caffeine is a naturally occurring compound which directly acts on the central nervous system as a stimulant. Basically this means it wakes you up and gets you going with a jolt to your general alertness. It is a drug, and in excess can cause headaches, insomnia, stomach problems, muscle tremors and a rainbow of anxiety issues. In a sensible amount, as in maybe 2 cups of coffee a day, it isn’t a big deal, but it is still a drug. Green Tea contains roughly 1/3 as much caffeine as coffee does with the added bonus friendly chemical EGCG which is currently showing signs of anti viral, anti carcinogenic and cholesterol lowering behavior in medical research programmes. Bonus.

So in the name of self abuse of the highest foodie order, I’m going to try to dump my coffees for green tea because it might be really good for me and after my own recent rant on food waste I can’t really in good conscience ignore this open box of Knightsbridge tea bags on my desk any longer. Here Go.

Day 1:
Coffees drunk- 1 nespresso first thing, 1 instant in the office.
Green Teas- 2
I remember again why I dislike green tea so much, it just tastes of No. Sour, rotting old grass, bleaugh. The key to success today is going to be remembering to take the bag out promptly and not let it get too strong.

Day 2:
Coffees drunk- just the 0630 nespresso
Green Teas- 2
My brewing method is improving, by which I mostly mean shortening and I am reminded of previous green tea interludes when I became convinced that it was dehydrating. I laughed that off as anecdotal/a good excuse to stop before but must overshare with you today that I seem to be peeing very little. Any metabolism boosting properties were certainly not evident on my Wednesday night run.

Day 3:
Coffees drunk- 1 nespresso first thing
Green Teas- 3
I am desperately thirsty today. Still not much action in the pee department. Mild compulsion to kill at 2pm. According to the Livestrong guide these 3 green teas have equated to the caffeine I would have had from a single coffee, so perhaps this is some sort of withdrawal rage though I suspect it might be more to do with men being idiots.

Day 4:
Coffees drunk- Half the early nespresso because I got up late
Green Teas- 3
I cannot stop peeing and my mood has improved, though this is likely to be entirely Friday related.

Day 5:
Coffees drunk- 5. It’s Saturday and there’s no green tea in the house.
Doses of caffeine containing cold and flu medication taken: 4
Hours slept- roughly none.
Incidents of suspected heart palpitations: 3 (but Ben Barnes was on the telly so…..)

Day 6:
Coffees drunk- 2, both weird ginger spice variations with almond milk.
Moscow Mules used to soothe Snow Fear and isolation- too many.

Day 7:
Coffees Drunk- Half an early nespresso
Green Teas- 3. I already hate the taste much less than I did last week.

In Summary:
You know, as much as I love a cup o’ Joe, I think my obsession/addiction/over consumption issue is actually just hot drinks in general. I am something of a massively habitual creature, and an early coffee is something I enjoy pretty much every single day, usually in the company of the morning headlines and there is no acceptable substitution for this. Ever. However, once this initial caffeine fix is met I am actually quite happy to rock on through the day with all manner of warmed hydration fixes and I’m going to ditch my weekday workdesk coffees for good. I’m also going to put some limits on myself on the weekends too, when my worst caffeination damage occurs.

A week isn’t time enough to prove that the tea did it but I’ve lost just over a pound in weight this week without much real effort and managed to rid myself of a uncharacteristic acne outbreak.  I’ve also put my general fluid intake up by about 20% as I now don’t fear that mid afternoon cuppa will keep me awake all night. All good things, but the biggest player in my coffee dump decision came from a joyless night home alone over the weekend. Saturday kicked off with a back to back americano binge which then clashed in the afternoon with a full on attack of the Manflu. Having shit to do and places to be, I dosed myself up on cold and flu tablets and tried to soldier on. Each of the 4 doses taken added effectively another espresso on my intake. By the time I lay twitching in bed at 1am with a godawful stomach ache, staring at the ceiling and contemplating life, love and whether or not Dorian Grey would be able to share his selfies in a modern day interpretation, it occurred to me that actually caffeine is really not very nice for you.

So I lost a bit of weight and some spots, what else? I wont say I feel desperately more energetic or clean or any of that but with the exception of that skittery night of roughly 90 minutes rest at the weekend, I have slept better in the last week than I have for some time. More specifically I am getting to sleep a lot sooner, having retained the same bedtime, and consistent quality of sleep is something that impacts on many aspects of health and in particular successful weight loss. Also, sleep, hello! I like sleep! And I want to kill the Mr much less if I’m not awake to be disturbed when he starts snuffling and talking about saucepans in his dreams, which he actually does quite a lot. So there you go, Green Tea may also be proven in time to be a martial aid of sorts.

I still like coffee too, so that early nespresso is staying but other than that, it’s going to be mean and green all the way.

 

Some extra reading if you fancy it: https://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/the-face-off-coffee-vs-tea 

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Grow Your Own! A Winter’s Tale

Looking out at my garden this morning after our second proper frost in sunny Essex, I am (perhaps over dramatically) put in mind somewhat of tales of winters on the Somme.
There’s a lot of mud, you see.

My planning was a bit out this year in terms of maintenance and removal of edibles and pretties alike, and we seem to be paying for it now if only in aesthetic terms. There is very little going on in my veg patch as I put the winter cabbage seedlings out a bit too late for them to really get going and they have all died bar one skinny little plant who is soldering on but frankly not looking like he’s going to do a Steve Rogers any time soon.
I did remember to cut my rhubarb back, roughly shredding up the massive leaves he managed to grow to dig straight back into the rest of the patch for some nutrition so he’s but a sad, compost covered clump at the moment.  The two sections of late potatoes that went in with Christmas dinner expectations were ripped out again when it became clear we have a blight problem.

roasties from my homegrown pumpkins, delicious and organic!

The pumpkins were a massive success however, and their patch is now full of weeds resting empty until the spring.
My chard plants are finally slowing down, it’s too cold and too dark for them now I think but there is one small harvest left to be had before I give up on those until next year.
My 50p rescue sage plant is positively booming, and the rosemary and parsley pots are showing no signs of retreat but my mint transplant (out of the beds and into a huge pot) is flagging. I’m being polite by saying ‘flagging’. It is suffering and straggly and in need of euthanisation, STAT.
There is life from my late onion planting though, some of those are a good six inches clear of the topsoil now and we all know you can’t kill an onion so hooray! I also made a budget buy of beans from the garden centre in early October on the assurance that they were frost hardy down to about minus 4 and they are doing pretty well, not much shy of doubling in size since they went in the ground which is most pleasing. My first attempt at a home-made frame is holding up for them which is a matter of some pride after certain on lookers felt the need to comment on its lack of symmetry and troublingly low quantity of string ties. In your face, non believer!!!

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Beans getting on well in the winter

This might sound like a lot but it is pretty sparse and scattered about, and since we took the budlejas back down to the ground the rest of the garden is looking very low, dull and muddy and I’m kind of glad I only get to see it in the daylight for two days a week or else I would find it endlessly depressing. But we must not depress, for it is Saturday and I’ve had more than six hours sleep so I’m full of beans and ready to inspire myself for next year! Starting on what to fill out those mud blocks with and I’m currently leaning towards some kind of mass rosemary planting and lots of osteospermum to fill out the ground. Project Feathers is also in need of advancement, as we have seriously reduced bird activity since taking out the rotten little plum tree over the summer and they really don’t seem to trust our new upright iron feeder holder thing. I have upgraded our seed supplies and added a jaunty green feeder (his name is Gerald, obvs) in the hope of attracting them back and that all needs a clean and some arrangement. Don’t forget to defrost your bird baths, fellow cold dwellers!

It was a cold start today for Gerald The Gentleman Grashopper

I shall be donning my gloves and three extra jumpers to get out this morning after another cup of coffee. Boring tidying and trimming out the dead tops of all the stuff I hope will survive under the soil for another winter because I forgot to dig it up like a good person last month. This leads to my inevitable research of how and what to cloche before I get scared of the masses of spider webs covering my cloche stash in shed and laughing it off for another year because screw it most of the pots did OK last winter.
I will also be humming some suitable battlefield soundtracks as I break out my recent delivery of Silent Roar and go once again into the breach against that ****er Moby Dick The Phantom Crapper. Let’s see how he likes coming across a little stack of lion poo in his toilet spots. There is something rather poetic about taking revenge on cats by filling their favourite poo spots with poo that they are frightened of. Bastards.

So see, there is actually quite a bit to do, and yeah it’s freezing but it’s dry and frozen solid cat turds are much less of a fuss to shift so I’m going to get to it so I can move on to phase two of the day- the dread Christmas shopping! Which isn’t too dread as I get to go to the garden centre, again, as the Older Male Silbling has expressed an interest in getting his own home-grow on next year and has requested a starter kit *insert sibling rivalry eyeroll here*

If you have a lush and lovely winter garden, good for you! If you have a frozen muddy mess like me, do not despair, put some seeds out for the robins and cuddle up with a good volume of Monty and we can work out together how to make it all better next time.

And remember, mud is better than weeds any day of the week!

The Skinny Thing- Flex Off!

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*sweary rant warning*

So, after banging on about how I had the hang of smartpoints finally and Weight Watchers was no longer making me want to periodically hang myself, the buggers went and changed it all.

All legit plan followers- so those using the official app or attending group sessions- will have been introduced to Flex by now, the allegedly upgraded, easier plan with more wiggle room and a general steer towards ‘healthier’ choices. Allegedly.

I’m not a fan.

In the broadest of terms, the plan has made more food free but dropped how many points you can have a day. New freebies mostly make sense as they are low/no fat and either high protein or highish-fibrey-protein. Some potentially sugary veg like peas and sweetcorn are also now free to eat as much as you like but parsnips are still pointed (geddit?). From the various forums and buddies I have gained in Weight Watchers World, the most well received changes seem to be that eggs and chicken breast are now free. The re-grading of most legumes to no-points has also sparked a huge chickpea curiosity movement which can only be a good thing.

As before, I’m not a fan, for a number of reasons and I’ve found that I’m not alone in this from anecdotal social media rants to an organised petition to reinstate smartpoints immediately. A lot of bread and butter plan members are really pissed off, because they were getting on quite well before and now those bastards have taken all their points away, and I’m with them.  I’m used to having 30 points a day. Now, when my app goes on in the morning, I have 23. Just twenty three. Yes, yes I do have more weeklies to spread out but in psychological terms weekly points are damage control. My goal is 23 points a day, and I was hungry before on 30. Boo.
Many affiliated WW types and enthusiastic rich people scoff at this dip in points and suggest that we all just chow down on a couple of dozen chicken stirfrys a day and get over it. Well they can fuck off, because I’m not budgeted to put away fresh meat for two meals a day and if you say ‘eat more eggs’ I am going to punch you in your stupid face, as may many other IBS sufferers. Oooh plain white fish that’s free, and obviously handy to pack in a lunchbox to take to an office devoid of both safe fridges and Rick Stein. Do you know where this leaves me, friends? Beans. Bean salads to be precise. Bean salads devoid of dressing because I don’t have the points to spare on a splash of ranch any more. Five days a week. Guess how long it takes for that to get boring, not to mention gaseous? Yup, you’re there.

So I think surely they thought I could lose weight on the old smartpoints plan, so I can stick to that and it will work out, right? Meeeeeeeeh, not quite right. You see where some foods have also dropped in points to fit with the new total (utterly pointless marketing scam anyone?!?!?!), nothing really good has. So where I’m still eating roughly as before, I have totally lost my treat budget which actually went on life essentials like a dribble of cooking oil to fry with or a gin and slimline after a particularly stressful Wednesday at the day job. Oh, and the new handy rule that lets you pay forward up to 4 unused points per day into your weeklies is great, isn’t it?  Just in time for Christmas, so we can purposefully starve ourselves every day to stock up enough points for an extra sausage roll at the work’s party.  That always ends well.

Dieting is so much about psychology and thinking yourself into the options that will make you thinner, and when it is dark and cold and there is pumpkin-spiced everything around you it is hard to make good choices 100% of the time. OK so the weekly stash of extra points becomes a buffer bank for when you accidentally get smashed on Peroni watching the match on Saturday or grossly underestimate how much coconut oil goes into that curry take out, which is good. But what it doesn’t do is help on a hungry day when you are down to 3 points left for dinner and inevitably say to hell with it all and just eat what you want without pointing it because it’s just all too bloody depressing to see how far over goal you have gone.

So what’s good about Flex? There must be some stuff, right? Well ok all the free making of lentils and tofu and whatnot has made the plan much more friendly towards vegetarians and it is unarguably sensible that there should not be any kind of limit on how much lean chicken breast one tries to incorporate into a weight loss plan. But the change, people, THE CHANGE!!!!!!!!!!! Change is horrible, especially when you only use the WW app and not the old books and now have absolutely no access to what was working for you before and have no choice but to go on with this new egg-heavy lentil regime of doom. Then why have they done it?

Ask Madonna.

Reinvention is the key to remaining current, and this over complicated shake up has everyone talking about Weight Watchers and pulling their noses out of the Slimming World pages to check out all the new free omelette recipes. It is psychology again, focusing on the abundance of ‘free’ foods rather than the reduction in points allowance to make you think you can fulfill every fatty’s dream of eating loads and getting thinner. You can’t.

Maybe I like to moan, maybe I am too focused on the pitfalls of Flex and the frankly cynical marketing ploy of a Christmas party frock season release but in the short term I am calling BS on this particular WW rebirth. I’ve never believed that anyone at WW HQ gives more of a shit about my health than they do about my money, this is a multi million dollar business after all, but I really feel like this is a big set up for people to fail just in time to pile on some festive pounds then run screaming back to the program in January only to sing it’s praises again once they drop the five festive pounds that would have come off when the Quality Street ran out anyway.

I think this might be it for me and the double dubleyas. Myfitnesspal is still free and the faff of logging everything on there is not going to wind me up as much as being told to eat a sodding chicken breast for breakfast every day.

Boo.

Easy Food Waste Wins

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There’s been a lot of press grumble recently about the horrors of food waste in the UK, culminating this week in the East Of England Co-Op food stores announcing that they will now continue to sell dried and canned food past it’s best before date. This is a great move by the Co-op, for altruistic and PR reasons alike.

You may have heard the stats- more than 7 million tonnes of food waste is getting chucked in the bin every year in the UK and this has spawned all kinds of celebrity chef books and interweb offal recipes but why do we care? It’s only food, right?

Right. If you don’t despise the idea of paying to put stuff in the bin (weirdo) there is also the consideration to make that we are running out of landfill space. Your lovely government types also seem hellbent on removing every scrap of public service that they can get away with, and this includes your friendly neighbourhood binman. If I lived in a house roughly ten miles to the right of my own, my rubbish collections would be halved for austerity measures written by a bunch of suits who get a fully stocked free canteen every day. Any idea how much gets chucked out from there on a daily basis?
I digress.
Food waste is also potentially really shit for the environment- especially when you start pouring your out of date pint of semi skimmed down the sink or consider the extra CO2 miles involved in transporting all of your manky carrots and mouldy bacon to the local tip.

I could go on but I won’t, instead I’m going to chuck out a few ideas of how you can easily reduce the amount that you waste in your home without resorting to a biomass burner or bonebroth and gruel heavy diet. Make a change, man in the mirror, all that shiz. Here go.

Compost.

My compost bowl getting filled up!

As a gardening bore, compost availability is a direct indicator of my general quality of life. No, I don’t get out much actually, why do you ask???
On a serious note, if you have a garden then you have some call for compost and kitchen bits can really boost it by varying the nutrients and fibre availability from rotting down your garden waste alone. To be very clear, I am only talking about veg waste and eggs shells you do not want to put any meat, bones, dairy or bready produce into compost because it will go rancid and stink and attract rats and maggots and other such beauties. Any kind of raw or cooked fruit or veg, coffee grinds and some teabags* are fine compost fodder, eggs shells and the odd sheet of newspaper are also winning additions for your home made dirt. I’m not just talking about potato peelings and carrot tops here either. Forgot about that box of mushrooms in the back of the fridge for two weeks and now they look like they’re covered in ectoplasm?  Compost. Discarded lime wedges from your G&T? Compost. Peas, swede and cabbage left over from Sunday lunch plates (because there’s always room to finish the yorkshires)? COMPOST.
And don’t tell me compost is a pain. It isn’t. If you have 2 square feet spare in the back of the garden you can compost. Just buy a bin it won’t be more than £15 if you google shop and put it on some bare earth in the back and away you go (get one with a little hatch at the base).  Then keep a tasteful, over priced Compost Caddy handy for your trimmings or, if you are a Luddite like me you can just use a bowl and empty it out as you go. If it isn’t enough that you get to give a little bit back to your begonias next spring, you will also support worms and similar buggers in your garden and save yourself money on those horrid food waste bin liners.
Go extra- if you are a gardening fan save your cheese rinds, broken biscuits, cake scraps and apple cores for the bird table.

*check manufacturer info for these as some teabags contain plastics

Shop smart and shop late
I do the famed British ‘Big Shop’ once a week and by Wednesday I’m usually stopping in at our local convenience store of choice for top up items. Over the past six years of coupled bliss I have learned three many things from the Mr, including the unbridled joy of Vulture’s Corner- that little end section in the fridge aisle of yellow stickered wonders. Thanks to the often non-science used to calculate the BB4 date you will find all sorts of treats here with significant savings due to being within 24 hours of the fictional turn of the clock when all food turns to evil fairy dust. Not sure what to do for dinner? Look here first, and save yourself some money and the rest of us another couple of inches of landfill.
I feel it necessary to add that this tactic does not work if you buy stuff you don’t need or won’t use just becuase it has 80% off. Like 5 pints of milk for 30p when you live alone or three kilos of turkey mince that no one likes. Do however opt for anything that you can freeze but remember to do so as soon as you get home.
Go extra- stop buying stuff you don’t really like. Just stop. Life is too short to waste on quiona salads that never get finished. 

Go Flexitarian
I am honestly not one to push that V word on anyone, but there is mounting evidence out there that making a modest reduction in your consumption of animal produce has a significant impact on your own immediate health and that of the planet we all live on. I love meat and you can take my cheese from my cold dead hands but I stopped buying meat for weekday consumption about five months ago and I can’t say that we have suffered for it. In fact our weekly shopping bill has come down by about fifteen quid/ 25% for this and we very rarely find scary furry stuff in the fridge any more. It’s dead easy to let a broccoli rot away in the drawer when you have all that tasty chicken to put in a curry after all. By swapping out meat in most of our dinners we use a lot more long-life items like canned beans and lentils and never, ever miss our five-a-day veggie goal. This does not make us the vegan police, it has made us a bit better off though as most vegetables and pulses are cheaper than meaty options and last a lot longer.
Go extra- make an active choice to cut fresh meat from your Monday-Friday menu unless you have found a yellow sticker deal, then enjoy your Sunday roast all the more for it. 
Check Your Storage
It is amazingly easy to decrease the shelf life of your shopping with how you store your grub, and also easy to avoid. Take your veg out of the wee plastic bags before it goes in the fridge to keep air moving and avoid early slime spoilage. If you can’t keep your potatoes in the dark then at the very least avoid any direct sunlight on them and don’t keep bananas alongside your other fruit (unless you are trying to ripen them quickly).
Go extra- always keep strong tasting stuff in good quality sealed tupperware boxes in the fridge to avoid them tainting other foods. The worst offenders are onions, cooked eggs and strong spices. Chocolate is particularly susceptible to taking on bad tastes from the fridge too so make sure you eat it all at once or, if you do store it, keep it well sealed. 

Give It Away.
Give it away give it away now.
Ahem.
Remember that multi buy deal cereal thing you fell for only to discover that you actually hate museli? How about your home made hummus phase that died out before your chickpea stockpile was even slightly depleted? Get nine boxes of biscuits for Christmas when you’re starting a strict low carb regime on new years day?
Don’t chuck it. Please. Poverty is a shocking and consistent problem in the UK with a heart breaking number of families reliant on food banks and breakfast clubs to ensure that they hit three meals a day and while you might argue that this isn’t really your problem you can still be part of the solution. If you have in-date and hardy items in your cupboards that you are not going to eat then please,  please don’t throw them in the bin. Foodbanks provide essential aid to families who may well not be that far removed from your own and will accept that pack of pasta that you can’t eat on your Atkins plan with open armed glee. Many supermarkets have a foodbank collection point or you can look up your local one here: https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-help/find-a-foodbank/
Go extra- some food banks will also accept donations of cleaning items and toiletries if you can bare to part with that 1996 bottle of radox that you keep knocking off the end of the bath. 

 

a couple of additional links for the extra inspired:
http://www.wrap.org.uk/
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/may/06/more-than-8-million-in-uk-struggle-to-put-food-on-table-survey-says
http://www.approvedfood.co.uk

The ACV Challenge- The Write Up.

vinegar read the first part here

I have to start with both a disclaimer and an apology on this challenge report, which is some weeks late now. In my defense, I extended the period to two weeks as basically I wasn’t sure that anything had had the chance to change in just seven days. In further explanation to my tardiness, basically: NaNoWriMo. My free keyboard time has been otherwise engaged recently.

But here we are and here I am and what was I doing again? A tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in a glass of water, first thing every day with the hope of some relief of IBS symptoms and potential other health boons as per acres of Broscience and circumstantial bumf on that there internet.

What happened? The diary notes started painlessly enough:

Day One: My shot of vinegary water at 0620 hours this morning was, perhaps shockingly, not something that I would call a pleasant experience. One tablespoon of ACV in a tumbler of cold water, blasted back all in one go. I thought this wouldn’t be so bad what with my usual affinity for food and drink on the winkier end of the flavour scale. Not so, my friends, not so. It’s minging. The general unpleasantness clears quickly, however.
Some hours later at the day job I am receiving a little bit of noise from the stomach area and a borderline unpleasant and mildly stripped sensation in the mouth not unlike when one eats too much grapefruit. My coffee tastes like crap, but that might be a user error (I’m looking at you, kettle colleagues).
As starting reference points, I had a craptastic nights sleep last night so it is hard to imagine that my start of week selfie wont be vastly improved upon later in the week. I am clad in my little red Next frock which was very snug in the tummy first thing. All is normal.

I am going to add at this point that I’m not sharing those selfies with anyone, I look like crap at half six on a Monday morning and no end of vinegar drinks is going to fix that. You don’t need to know.

Day Three: After another astringent start to the day yesterday I was not looking forwards to my shot this morning and I thought I might lessen the pain by diluting my ACV in a bigger glass of water. This was a mistake, as it just resulted in more stinky harsh vinegar water to get through before I could hit the crumpets, and I must admit to discarding about a fifth of it into the sink when my gag reflexes threatened to kick in. This must be why some people advocate making some weird kind of tea with warm water and honey to mask the taste but I will not be taking this step because A) Adding sugar to the mix defeats the object of the taking the vinegar as a a tonic to an empty stomach and B) I don’t have time for that shit, I already get up early enough thanks.

I can’t say as the day by day account goes that there is much more to add to this. Drinking vinegar water is not palatable and hangs around for long enough to spoil your first coffee of this day. This should may be enough to put most people off the regime entirely. The one thing I do note is that on almost every day I took the acid test, my morning appetite seriously reduced. A quick scan back over my food diary shows that pre-lunch snacks just stopped. I ate breakfast before I left the house at 7ish every day and then didn’t think of anything else until my main day job break, some time between noon and 1-30.  Did I lose a ton of weight over these two weeks then? Er, no. From the looks of it my calorie intake stayed about the same but I don’t remember being particularly hungry on those afternoons. More likely, as a smartpoints counter, I just used up those snack points with my dinner instead so all in all, no real net effect there.

My bloat has buggered off though, in fact typing this now almost three weeks on, my day to day humdrum symptoms (nausea, pain, massive hard belly that plays like a snare drum etc) are completely gone. Before you reach for the bottle, I had a single and severe, erm, let’s call it ‘attack’ five days ago so I am certainly not touting it as a cure either.

Today, my little red Next dress fits just fine and my sexy jeans don’t hurt to sit in for more than half an hour BUT I am over a kilo up on the scales from my first day on this experiment. Huh. My summary on the whole thing? A solid Meh out of ten. All this observations could have happened on their own or because of something else and having given up the morning shots of sour glory I have not reverted to my previous discomforts. I’m not about to fix the Vinegar Drinkers banner to my battle steed just yet.

Apart from being an unpleasant start to the culinary day, chucking back constant lugs of acid can have proper undesired effects on one’s teeth, gullet and stomach over the long term though I am not against investing in some of the capsule form ACV products the next time I find myself in gastro-trouble and see if there is any helpful effect from that.

I’m sorry not to have a more conclusive, um, conclusion but basically I think that the way ahead is to keep the vinegar in the salad dressings, lay off the sliced white and remember to keep more gut friendly grub like kimchi, saurkraut and natural yoghurt on the menu even on the good days.

Well that was boring wasn’t it? As you were.

 

 

Albatta

You know that funny restaurant story that everyone has from a 90’s holiday to Cyprus or somewhere similar, where you eat at a safe middle-of-the-roady place for twelve dinners in a row then on your last night, scraping out all your coins before you fly home, you take the potential gut biome defence challenge and head out to that ropey looking taverna by the supermarket and low and behold it’s only the best bloody meal you’ve had all holiday!!

Albatta in Colchester is basically the domestic equivalent of this, and I mean that in a much more complimentary way than it might initially sound.

Albatta has been on my dinner resolutions list ever since I had to actively change my walking route home to avoid suffering involuntary salivation attacks every time I passed their door in Sir Isaac’s Walk. You see Albatta smells AMAZING, and their menu looks pretty top notch too but suspiciously good in value and then you look in the window and…………..well…………it’s pretty dark, and not always very busy and I’m in touch enough with my inner Posh to admit that I’m not thrilled to eat out somewhere with a shisha yard in the back and a high Just Eat rating. Kind of a kebab shop with table service.
Well I swallowed my middle class (HA!) prejudices when one too many trusted oracles told me that I was being a middle class dick and I really needed to go and eat there, especially since I bang on about how much I love mezze all the time.

Reader, I went and ate there. And I’ve bored everyone about it and been back quite enthusiastically since and curse the day I ever moved out of their delivery zone (thanks a lot, Brightlingsea!!!).

As dining areas go, it is clean and functional with fully working aircon and some nice exposed brickwork that aesthetic types will likely appreciate. Yes, there is a big old shisha yard in the rear which can be busy of a weekend evening but seems to be a pretty separate domain from the restaurant and is barely noticeable if you are sitting in the main space. What definitely is noticeable is a glass fronted fridge marking the kitchen pass, stacked with all kinds of nutty pistachio pastry delights which you should really purchase to take home when you’ve eaten far too much hummus to contemplate dessert.

The menu is either standard or exotic depending on your reference base- but breaks down basically into mezze/starter type plates, salads, big grill plates and some kids/boring mate options of various wraps and sandwiches. And those nutty pastry things you can’t fit in.

From top left- dolmados, the mixed mezze, a quenching Almaza, chicken wings, spiced lentil soup

The mezze is impeccable, and best sampled by their mixed platter if there are a couple of you. Extra points for presentation here in some lovely painted plates with a scattering of pomegranate seeds for the instagrammers. This is easily a lunch for two in itself with the house labneh, hummus, baba ganoush, dolmados, bread and pickles plus various hot options depending on your cheesey/meaty/vegan preferences.

Let us take a moment on those pickles. Yeah, olives and gherkins, who doesn’t love those but OH look at that bright pink stuff which I have since learned is turnip. I just, the words, I can’t quite, dammit. They are so good- crunchy, piquant and ever so slightly sweet they are absolutely perfect to cut through richer and deep fried options that come along with them. Wonderful. I want all of them. Now.

The hummus and baba ganoush are full on in flavour and nicely chunky without any skimping on the garlic. Special mention also to their falafel which comes with some serious poke and the plain but perfect little fried bundles of delight known as a cheese sambosa. As one might expect from a Lebanese joint they throw out a more than acceptable fattoush but smart shoppers might opt for their chilli salad for a bit of a wake up call or go safe with a text book Greek salad or tabbouleh.

God, I’m hungry.

The bigger plates are exactly that- big- and meat heavy with the expected options of lamb, chicken and kebabs with a pleasingly spiced house rice or fries. If you are able to share food without ruining your friendships, my advice would be to stick to masses of mezze and perhaps an order of the chicken wings but then I’m someone who loves a chips-n-dips style dinner.

No filters or enhancement here, that pickled turnip really is that colour and it is AMAZING!!!!!

So the food is great, the ingredients are good and the assembly is classic but most winning is how freshly it comes to the table. As in, you can hear then shortly after smell them chucking it all on the grill just after you order and no, because not everything cooks in the same time, not all of it is served to your table in a handy two minute window but with food this good who the hell cares?

So leading on from that, service is not the shiniest ship in the galaxy, but always on the friendlier side of casual and usually free flowing with recommendations and the odd freebie to compliment what you are ordering.  The wine list is, erm, short, but you can get red, white or pink as you like or sift through a brief list of bottled beers and ciders and the smart money will take an Almaza to go with all the eastern goodness that is coming to your table.

You will order too much at Albatta. It’s just going to happen. And even with a couple of beers it isn’t going to cost you more than £20 a head, which is value that you will not find for this level of fresh and tasty food locally elsewhere (feel free to correct me on this with an invite!). Whilst a bargain dinner is always on the happy end of the scale, what I like most about Albatta is the comfort level, it really is just like tucking into a great meal at home with your mates without all the bother of learning how to cook properly and set a table. It’s a mass takeaway only there’s loads of veg and goodness in amoung the chicken wings and speaking of veg you can literally take any kind of food twat here and know they can fill their vegan, dairy free or strictly carnivorous boots.

It’s great. I love it. The end.

They aren’t online in their own right at Albatta but you can find them on Sit Isaac’s Walk in Colchester a couple of doors down from The Purple Dog pub or check out their menu here:  https://www.just-eat.co.uk/restaurants-albatta-co1/menu

The ACV Challenge!

vinegarIt’s been a while since I put myself through some kind of funny eating regime for the sake of science/personal development/something to talk about. With the winter kicking in proper and my general lack of enthusiasm for salads at the moment, my contemplated raw adventure is off the cards and I’ve already given up animal stuff and carbs in challenges past, so what now?

Apple cider vinegar.

This is exactly what it sounds like- fermented apples and acid. People talk about all kinds of benefits from this stuff from reducing bloating to correcting pre-diabetic conditions and many other appealing bonuses in between. The science is somewhat sketchy, which is why you still buy your ACV in Waitrose and not at Boots, but what the hell let’s give it a go. I must confess at this point that as much as I love science, I love me more, and have an entirely self serving motive for this challenge. Thanks to oldish age, bad genes and a fondness for bread based produce my innards have started misbehaving in the last year or so, especially during and after what one might refer to as periods of stress. At best, I get a bit grumpy and sluggish. At worst this becomes sleepless nights, chronic stomach and back pain and bloating to the point that my clothes won’t do up. It’s not fun, and rather obviously as it is a guts-based disorder I have looked at food related triggers and treatments. I have found that my symptoms ease somewhat if I avoid eating fibre, dairy, eggs, meat, fish, green veg, starchy veg and 90% of fruit. Yeah. Porridge, over boiled carrots and honey, for the win!!!!! Urgh. Whilst I do have some lovely tablets from my lovely GP to help during attacks, I forget to take the bloody things, and since some utter fucktard smashed into my car on the way to work the other week I have again found myself in a prolonged period of suffering and in need of a form of relief more reliable than my own ability to remember to swallow a pill.
So they tell me that ACV as a fermented product is of great benefit to those who suffer with The Bloat, and as I’m walking around like an over-blown balloon at the moment then what better time to put this theory to the test for a week.

At best, according to a bunch of unqualified experts, I can expect painless guts, reduced appetite from improved blood sugar control, a healthier gut biome, clearer skin, a reduction in snotty sinus related issues, lowered cholesterol, banished indigestion, boosted immunity, better energy levels and fewer sweary leg cramp episodes (another fun thing those bad genes have given me. Thanks for that fam.).
At worst, I’ve given a couple of quid to the nice people at Aspall’s and that’s that. Longer term use obviously opens up a much wider range of potential issues, you are of course taking a shot of acid first thing in the morning, but we will worry about looking at those next week.

So what am I doing? Quite simply, a tablespoon of ACV in a glass of water first thing every morning, for a week. That’s it. Everything else will be service as normal.

See you on the other side.

read the follow up here