Fuller longer and it ain’t no lie.

Yes it’s high protein, balanced carbs and 375 calories per pack and yes, as you can see by the black squiggle, it is mine.

It may shock you, dear reader, to be told that I generally enjoy eating. No really, I do, many times a day and many things. What with loving food and being a woman of a certain age who doesn’t exercise an awful lot, I go through stages of hyper awareness of food lables and find myself obsessively compelled to count any or a mixture of calories, fat grams, syns, points, GI scores, F values and other ridiculous food counting units- 99% of women in their 30s know exactly what each of those are by the way.
It may also shock you to learn that I don’t always have the time/memory function to prepare a healthy, filling and low calorie lunch to take to work with me every day. Yes, sinful as lifestyle gurus tell me it is, I eat at my desk more often than I don’t. I’m busy and our staff room is full of babbling teenagers. But it’s not a bad thing, as it keeps the inbox down and frankly if I’m not eating at my desk on a school day I’m probably in the pub next door having a fishfinger sandwich and chips.

So why should you care about my lunchtime habits? Just what is my damn point? Well I’ll tell you, some weeks ago I found myself on route to the office without prearranged sustenance and as so often happens in these situations, I stumbled into M&S. Because it’s neatly placed between my home and place of employment and I love an M&S sandwich. Ooh and their parsnip crisps. And a smoothie. Maybe a carrot cake bar too. Granola slice? If I must. Oh, but the guilt, THE GUILT! The weekend had been boozy and full of diet damning lovliness, and I had been at the gym already that morning was I really going to throw all that work away on an over indulgent sugar heavy lunch?

You shouldn’t eat lunch at your desk you know. But if you have to, make it a good one.

*drum roll please* Enter the M&S super wholefood salad. I’ll say I was sceptical on the ‘fuller longer’ tag as no matter what my lunch consists of I am always, always hungry again between two and three pm or as I like to call it- The Kit Kat hour. But super wholefoods, they have to be good right? And no bread, for me, is something of a no brainer when it comes to lunchtime saintliness. Plus it was only three quid and a much better wallet option than my usual scavenger hunt through the bakery and food to go sections. I bought it (yeah fine, and a smoothie too) then wound on my merry way to work, put it in the fridge and forgot about it. Lunch time came, and I wanted that sandwich I don’t mind admitting but ho hum, here we go. Remove cardboard sleeve, spend three minutes removing cellophane layer which only comes off in teeny tiny shreds, pour on creamy lemon and mint dressing, realise have left fork in kitchen, go back for fork, and consume.
Wow.
And I don’t say that lightly. Wow. There’s a bunch of these super salads available (they could make their own Super Food Avengers film) but the one I had was a mix of edamame, borlotti and cannelleni beans, quinoa, feta, lentils and pomegranate seeds. Sounds horrific, right? I mean, beans and chalky cheese and my long time nemesis quinoa? And we all know that edamame beans should only be served steamed and salted in a little bowl from Wagamama, right? Wrong. Yes, I said it- wrong. This was one of the nicest and most satisfying desktop lunches I have ever had. Ok, nicest and most satisfying desktop lunch that didn’t involve 75% of my daily calorie allowance I have ever had. But this, THIS, is my real point. Despite enjoying every protein rich superheroey mouthful, I struggled to finish it. Don’t panic, I did finish it but I could have left a bit. I was full. And not bloaty, gross, I’ll need three espressos to make it to five thirty full, just comfortably full. Refuelled. Ready to stop eating and ready to go through the afternoon.

My friends, I did not have a kitkat that day. Infact I didn’t even think about eating anything else until well past home time. On 375 calories. I must be honest, I’ve not lost an awful lot of weight since that day and there have been a couple of granola slices since then but I have to give this salad a little plug. Because it’s tasty, it’s not a bank breaker and most importantly, it’s not going to lie to you. Fuller longer. Super wholefoods, super yum. Consider it for your lunch, even if you don’t give a toss about your waistline.

Did someone just say kitkat?

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Are you going to eat……Eggs?

For those of you used to seeing the more exotic foodery in Are you going to eat that? I should confirm first off that I am just talking about your bog standard eggs. Hen eggs. Chicken embrya. Un-fertilized pullus zygotes. Yeah, eggs.

Eggs have been a topic of hot debate in the food/health pages for some time, and the question is this- are they ok to eat? Well then, how many is it ok to eat? Are they dietary evil? WTF is salmonella anyway? Some say one a day, some say four a week, some say as many as you want but never more than one at a time. Some say every day but never the yolks. And on it goes.

I’m inclined to be on the pro-egg side of the argument. They’re quick to cook, high in protein, no in carbohydrate and pretty filling in relation to their size. Hey they keep the breakfast calories down too if only you can resist the obvious pairings of toast or bacon or benedict. *drooool* Ok fine, I love eggs and I’ll admit it freely but they worry me. I don’t usually go with foodie frightners, generally published by peddlars of alternative foodstuffs- I eat plenty of tuna sandwiches and don’t have mercury poisoning yet. Take that internet bullshitters! But you will end up taking on cholesterol from all the eggs you eat, and cholesterol is bad. Worse it seems as one enters the second decade of one’s twenties. Ahem.

Perhaps as with most things, moderation is the key. I’m not giving them up, I likes them. But I’m conscious of too many, particularly as I’m prone to monthly low carb projects in a (vain) attempt to control the expansion of my derrière, and they are an obvious and easy choice. I’m going with no more than 5 a week. I think. My Mr eats them pretty much every day, and has been nagged about it previously when I still believed that this made any difference. As with many things, these chains of thought and mini nags on The Male lead to some googling. There is some interesting stuff out there about eggs. Now for some debatable examples of that claim:

  • One egg is 12.6% of your average adult’s recommended protein intake, and that protein is high quality- which we like for muscle growth and weight management
  • Eggs have a lot of choline, which makes you a better baby vessel and could make your babies have better memory skills when they are no longer babies. Please note, that they will still always be your baby 🙂
  • The yolk of an egg gets it’s colour from pigments called lutein and zeaxanthin.
  • Zeaxanthin is a cool word and I will try to use it more often in general conversation.
  • The colour of an egg yolk is all about the diet of the bird it came from and isn’t a reliable sign of quality contrary to popular foodie nonsense
  • Your average hen lays 300 eggs a year. Ouchy. 
  • Eggs contain all your 8 essential amino acids plus phosphorous, calcium, iron, vitamins A, D, E, B1 and B2. No C though, so get that elsewhere or risk scurvy. 
  • The study of eggs is called Oology. No really, it sounds like a made up word but it’s true. 

The perfect scrambled egg breakfast, showing in my house most Sunday mornings.

At this point, I’ll answer myself and say that yes, I’m going to eat eggs. However I don’t believe that all eggs are created equally and origin is very important, in my humble. I say a firm and resounding NO to battery eggs. If you come from another planet and don’t know why, check out a google image result list for ‘Battery Hen’. But it’s so much more complicated than just avoiding eggs that come from an abusive avian slave trade- free range, uncaged, barn hens, organic, free range organic but wait, hang on- if they are free range and go where they want and hence eat what they want how do we know it’s organic? Exactly how free is free range? Is a wet muddy field a place to make a chicken happy? Once again, doing the right/healthy/moral thing becomes a veritable minefield of options.
Until recently I went for barn eggs. The chickens can move around, dust bathe and roost properly and they don’t cost a fortune. I’m all for barn eggs. Then I read a book that told me lots of frightening things about the crap that builds up in animal fat if said animal has been anywhere near a pesticide and I stick to organics, which cost more but also tend to be free range so I can feel smug and self righteous about the decreased moral cost. I must also admit that the organics do tend to be somewhat tastier and have a fantastic colour which is so appetizing. So yes, a box of tesco mixed weight organic eggs here please. Assuming I don’t have any of the offerings from my step mum’s hens who all have jaunty names but I can only remember Sunday Roast, as named by the younger male sibling.

Heheheh, Sunday Roast.

Sorry, where was I? That’s right not really anywhere closer to knowing how many eggs I’m allowed to eat, but I am going to eat them, just not every day.

I robbed many of the above facts from the following website: http://www.incredibleegg.org

Farmer Brown, Food Hero

I love a good food festival. Food, festivities, what’s not to love? And my home town certainly isn’t short of a culinary celebration in the summer months. Or any other kind of celebration being held in lower castle park with a bit of room for some grub stands.  I wont lie to you, they aren’t always stuff to write home about. Just last weekend there was some kind of, well, I think it was about the Philippines. Or Filipinos, but the route of the cause was lost in a sparse and non specific scattering of little gazebos either flogging insurance, flights to Manilla or some kind of non specific meat BBQ dish. All in all something of a non starter.
But in contrast there was this year’s Co-Op sponsored food fayre which yielded some marvellous finds including previously penned about Tess’s Cakes and my first taste of Kangaroo. There was also an oppressive amount of people and some very bad sangria, but let us not dwell on these minor asides.

Pedlar of oils in the co-op tent

I’d have to say I would have missed Farmer Brown and his omega 3 and 6 rich wares as they were in the Co-Op tent which to me appeared to be a startlingly cynical marketing opportunity for the bloody co-operative food people who’s logo was already banded across something highly visible approximately every 20 yards. I’m not against them or anything, but I wouldn’t have bothered going inside as there was new and live foodie action everywhere else. However, two out of three companions were Co-op employees, eager to, well, go in and have a look, so we did. And here we had an unenthusiastic and kind of grumpy man doing his best to get people to buy rapeseed oil. Hmm. Poor salesmanship really isn’t enough to put me off of a free food sample- a wee bit of cracker and a free dip.
Here’s the dietary science bit quickly- rapeseed oil (or canola if you’re on the wrong side of the Atlantic) is plugged as being heart healthy as it’s the lowest saturated fat cooking oil going and trans fat free. It’s a good source of vitamin E and omega oils for people who aren’t big on oily fish, it’s lighter in taste than olive oil and it has a high flash point, making it good for a really crispy frying result. All interesting stuff but nothing ground breaking here or even particularly tempting. Except that Farmer Brown’s do a smoked variation. Ooooh. Smoked stuff is becoming increasingly tempting these days and I have to say I’m a fan. And the FB smoked oil is yummy, and despite the best efforts of Mr Grump I was happy to part with my cash for a bottle. It was about a fiver I think.

A couple of months on, and I’m sold on this wonderful stuff and elevating it to food hero status not just because of the aforementioned debatable health benefits but because it’s yummy, and it makes making smokey tasting stuff easy.  You see, what with being so trendy, smoked stuff isn’t necessarily cheap to buy and you’ll never know until you get home if it’s any good. Asda smoked mackerel pate is a great example- it’s minging. The majority of supermarket smoked cheeses are plastic and unpleasant too, and if you don’t have an enormous garden and a lot of spare time it’s not so practical to smoke-your-own at home. This stuff takes away all the effort and fore-planning. Its light but definite smoky finish means you don’t need a lot to add some depth to whatever you’re cooking, and I do mean whatever. It’s great for your fry up mushrooms, adds a really lovely kick to a pasta sauce and a tiny drizzle to dips or salad dressings gives a tasty but subtle difference. I’m not going to roast my potatoes in it, but you can’t beat it for thrifty treat value.

And you can buy it in your local co-op food store! For considerably less than I paid at that bloody stall, but I’ll know for next time.

Kedgerish

Ah, Kedgeree. Famed anglo-indian brunch dish of curried fishy ricey stuff. It’s a personal favourite of mine I must admit. A bit like yorkshire pudding. Obviously, Kedgeree is nothing like yorkshire pudding in a literal sense, but as with the famed yorkies I have never made a traditional kedgeree that I was completely happy with. I blame my on going yorkshire pud failure on having a particularly crap oven. Yes. Everywhere I have lived for the past 14 years has had a crap oven, ok?

Anyway moving on, as I believe I have mentioned previously, long grain rice and I aren’t really friends so I may never hit this dish completely on the culinary head, but last weekend I got as close to Kedgeree as I have ever done. And it was pretty damn good let me tell you, though what with having it for dinner rather than breakfast and adding some of my own little twists and the rice issue, I can’t quite bring myself to pimp it off as a proper kedgeree. Instead please find here, Boomboom’s Kedgerish. It’s loverley, not kedgeree.


Kedgerish
Serves 4

Sunflower or vegetable oil to fry
2Tbsp curry powder
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp tumeric
1 white onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic- minced
6 closed cup mushrooms, chopped
400g paella rice
1L vegetable (or fish) stock
1 cup frozen peas
3-400g smoked haddock
Milk to poach
Fresh coriander.
4 eggs

To start with make up your stock.
In a large pan, fry off the spices for a minute then add your onion and minced garlic, cook until the onions begin to soften but are still opaque. Yes, it will all look very yellow. It’s supposed to. Put some Coldplay on if you must, but I can’t promise that this wont spoil your enjoyment of the cooking experience. Add in the mushrooms and cook for another minute, add a spoonful of stock if it starts to stick to the pan. When the mushrooms are about half cooked, throw in your rice and combine thoroughly then put in all of the stock. Simmer, cover, ignore for a little while.

In a separate pan place your haddock and enough milk to about half cover it. Heat gently until the milk is just simmering and cook through. This will be 3-4 minutes for fresh fish, 8-10 for frozen. Take the fish out, remove the skin and press the flesh into loose flakes with a fork. DO NOT CHOP IT! Now get yet another pan on with some water to bring to the boil for your eggs. Keep an eye on the rice, stir if you feel the need. After about 20 minutes the rice will start to get to an al dente (firm but edible) point. It is now you should add the flaked fish and frozen peas, stir it all very well then cover, cook for another minute then turn off the heat.
Put your eggs into the boiling water and cook for three minutes. No more. No less. Turn off the heat on this one too but leave the eggs in the water. Chop up your coriander and set aside and get your serving dishes ready.

It is at this point that those with sensitive fingers should employ a hardy friend/assistant/henchman to peel the eggs. They will still be squidgy, so take care not to break them.

It’s not easy to make it pretty I’m afraid.

Stir the coriander into the rice mix then serve, cutting your egg over the dish and placing on top to finish. I would also reccomend a healthy grind of black pepper. Now sit down with a big glass of something refreshing and enjoy, and at no point refer to this dinner as kedgeree if you are in the company of hardcore or pedantic foodie types. That is very important.

Variations: Some people, for some reason, may prefer hard boiled eggs but I will always vote for the oozing of a soft boiled yolk into my rice. Mmmm. Fish stock will give it some more punch but tends to dull down the curry tones a little. Arborio (risotto) rice will work equally well or go traditional with the long grain but check your stock volumes if you’re going to do this, and be prepared  to pay more attention to it as it cooks. For the love of god don’t try to go with a glutinous or ‘sticky’ rice, it will kill all flavour and leave you with watery yellow mush. I know this first hand. By all means put some actual music on in the kitchen rather than Coldplay. 

And finally if you’d rather attempt the real deal, go here and read this first: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/10421/kedgeree

Cookshelf- Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook

If you only buy one fantasy themed cook book this year……

A long time ago, in a galaxy about three and a half miles away, a young girl was in the running up team in the local school’s debate contest, and she took home a ten pound book token (remember those!) as reward for her general argumentativeness.
Based on the recommendations of a then considered hot boy, this token wound it’s way to Red Lion Books in merry Colchester, and was exchanged for not one but two Terry Pratchett novels.
‘Mort’ to this day remains one of my favourite books in the history of ever and I have it in paperback, hardback, pocket size and graphic versions. It’s a laugh out loud funny and ever so slightly ridiculous story telling the story of Death (you know tall chap, carries a scythe) taking on an unlikely apprentice in order to have a little bit of downtime with the finer things in life. It’s wonderful, and it introduced me to the addictivley brilliant Discworld series by Mr Pratchett. I shan’t harp on too much, this blog is about edibles not readables, but one of my favourite things about the Pratchett novels is that despite the involvement of dragons, wizards, six foot dwarves and were-police ladies- it’s is all so recognisable. You can really realate to it. Perhaps because the most basic of human features issue in all characters and stories (especially the un-human ones) or more likely because Discworld is so complete in it’s creation- down to the cuisines of the various districts of this flattened fictional realm. Fans will be all too familiar with the ‘red hot ice cube’ consistency of a Klatchian Curry, or the dubious greasiness of some of Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler’s dodgy street food which is almost always served innabun.
No great surprise that someone made a cook book from it really, and as shameless merchandising goes, it’s bloody well done. Any Pratchett reader will love the little editor’s notes and communications with your marvellously naughty author, Nanny Ogg. You could happily read this from cover to cover with no intention of ever cooking or eating any of it, it’s a fun read. Similarly if all the in jokes and references mean nothing to you, there are some really cracking recipes hidden away in all this genre geek compendium.

It goes from the stupidly simple Special Nibbles to the day long saga of preparing Wow Wow Sauce, something for any level of cook and plenty of clever jokes in between. And there’s variety- hot stuff, sweet stuff, bakes and even a hangover draught, it’s a lovely little book. If I have to choose one favourite, it must be Lord Downey’s Mint Humbugs, a shockingly easy recipe for making your own hard boiled sweets which are really good fun to put together. As long as you leave out the arsenic. Ok you’ll get that joke when you buy the book, which you should. A must have for Pratchett superfans, and a really interesting and different addition to the kitchen arsenal of serious and recreational cooks alike.

Check it out.

 

Are you going to eat………………Celtuce?

Ever wonder what would happen if celery and asparagus came together in some kind of stemmy hybrid horror film? Celtuce would happen.

The homegrown stash! Garlic, baby carrots, the elusive celtuce and a monster spring onion.

So what is celtuce, you may ask, as it does rather sound like a made up word. Ask you should and ask I did when a friend of mine told me that her husband had a bumper crop and was keen to donate some to my household.

It turns out that celtuce is an unhearting form of lettuce with flimsy but edible leaves that grow from a fleshy stalk rather than a central bundle like an iceberg lettuce or cabbage.  The stalk is where the action is at, and it can be eaten raw or gently cooked- much like celery or asparagus. It is easily grown in one’s garden from April onwards- high fibre, low calorie, reasonable vitamin A and C content too.

Celtuce stalks, ready for butchering.

I took my celtuce, gave it a damned good rinse to avoid poisoning by slug pellet, and took a little nibble raw.
Crunchy. Fibrous. Texturey. Tastes like…….um…….
Ok so maybe it’s better cooked. Cut up and thrown in a stirfry, roasted with some onions, the finishing touch to a casserole perhaps. Note that these are all suggestions of having celtuce with something else. Because celtuce tends to taste of whatever you cook it with. Celtuce itself tastes of nothing. No sweetness of asparagus, no peppery tang of celery, not even the ghost of an aromatic like fennel or a cabbagy soft heat. Nada. Nothing. Doesn’t even taste like chicken and pretty much everything that doesn’t taste of anything else tastes like chicken as we know. It does however retain a lovely crunch when cooked and add some very low calorie bulk to whatever you wish to throw it into. I’ll bet my kingdom that it is free and encouraged on pretty much any well known weight loss program and could work in a chutney to give texture to stronger flavours like ginger or garlic.

Sadly that’s all I have to say on the subject. Am I going to eat celtuce again? No, not really.

Home Sprouts Part 3: Black Beans.

Le sigh.
The Black Bean Pile
Yes, here it is kids, another week of hard rinsing and nurture (I even sang to them for a little while) and pictured above is my triumphant, single black bean sprout.

Turns out that my staggering lentil crop of earlier weeks was a freak positive result rather than an easily swinging open doorway to sprouting success. I don’t really know why, the quinoa was a total bust but when a couple of little nubs of white started to show in the increasingly slimy black bean pile, I had some hope that my luck had turned. There were four at one point, shedding their split black shells and swelling up to push out the tiny beginnings of a proper shoot. Sadly the pictured sprout (I like to call him Big Jimmy) is the only survivor, resisting the urge of his fallen brothers to suddenly shrivel up and turn brown. Somehow I don’t quite have the heart to eat him.

So once more, abandon bean. In the short term, I’m back to the aforementioned puy lentils. I really wanted to try some peas, I really lurve sprouted peas, so much so that I’m not sure I can take the hearbreak of failure with them. So today, I shall finish this coffee, whizz up dessert for my pending dinner guests, then put in some quality time with google and the possibility of proper sprouting apparatus.