Cookshelf- Skinny Weeks & Weekend Feasts

gizzi

Skinny Weeks & Weekend Feasts

A couple of weeks ago I was banging on, as I do, on Instagram about my general eatings and in particular on a favourite Gizzi Erskine recipe when a cyber buddy asked me if I rated her book Skinny Weeks & Weekend Feasts as she was trying to level out her eating but didn’t get on with conventional plans. I sat up straight, smiled smugly to myself and went about sliding in a seamless link to my blog where she could read all about my gushingly embarrassing girl crush and all the reasons I love this book.

Oh, bugger.

I absolutely cannot believe that I have failed to write about SWWF until now.

I came into possession of this book 2 Christmases ago by way of the older male sibling and kez-in-law. I have to admit I had not heard much about her at the time other than masses of grumbling when we went to Meatopia that she was there and cooking but we weren’t important enough to go and see her. With retrospect this is a double blow as back then I might have been able to maintain an iota of cool about it where I can only apologise now for the horrific fangirl outpourings that will ensue if I bump in to her in the future.

She really did have me at Hello. Or more accurately, she had me at the intro passage of her book where she says:

“I need to eat good food regularly or I’m not the same person. And, like so many of us, every so often, I get carried away and eat too much. I find it hard to control what goes in my mouth because frankly, I want it all.”

Ever see Velvet Goldmine? Remember the fantasy sequence of Christian Bale jumping up and down and pointing at the liberated snotty glam rockers on the TV going ‘That’s me!’? Well that was me on reading the opener blurb for SWWF- it is one of the most relatable and sense talking cook book openers I’ve ever read. SWWF is about eating healthily without gimmicks or deprivation and incorporating the 80/20 rule of being strict 80% of the time so that going slightly off the rails the other 20% of the time doesn’t lead to weight gain and health problems.

To be clear, SWWF is not a diet book, but a self proclaimed book of two halves with the intention of giving the reader a bank of tasty, nutritious recipes to call on without breaking the calorie bank because in this day and age girls don’t just want to have fun, we want to eat loads and not get fat. Boys too.

Skinny Weeks is the half of the book dedicated to your Monday-Friday, or your 80% with 100 pages of breakfasts, lunches and dinners including some light desserts and *fanfare* some really brilliant dips that you don’t have to feel bad about demolishing infront of your next Netflix binge. My first call of praise to this book is her Courgette Baba Ganoush- a really delicious tasty dip which is technically 57 calories a serving so it doesn’t matter when you eat the entire 4 serving recipe load of it in one go. It’s delicious, and you’d never know it was a skinny option.

Weekend Feasts brings you around to your 20%, your friday night blow out dinners, lazy brunches, epic sunday lunches and innocuously labelled ‘sweet treats’ where you will find the steamed puddings, gypsy tart and peanut butter cornflake brownies (I LOVE YOU GIZZI). Whereas all the skinny weeks recipes give you a handy calorie breakdown, in the weekend feast pages you simply get a ‘Wicked Rating’- a score of 1-10 which will indicate exactly how far into  indulgence wonderland you are going. I really like this as a menu planning strategy if I am cooking from this book as often it helps to skinny down a menu without getting too hung up on counting calories and a lot of the time something that looks utterly evil from the pictures and ingredients actually only scores a 5 so to hell with it, let’s have that. I should add this scoring doesn’t detract from your treat times as lets all face it there could be a score of a million and it doesn’t matter because sometimes you are going to have a big fat southern fried chicken dinner and that’s that.

dressing

Easy and versatile base salad dressing from SWWF and subject of the instagram chat that has prompted me to finally write this review.

Although I love a big fat southern fried chicken dinner as much as the next person, I spend a lot more time in Skinny Weeks section and have to say this has seriously aided my more recent efforts at dieting as it really doesn’t feel like dieting. People say that about a lot of mainstream plans but in my experience that is BS. Slimming World feels like dieting. Ultra low carb potato counting methods feel like dieting. Spending 8 hours in the healthfood shop trying to find organic cracked arantha grains feels like dieting. Whacking together a mocha shake for breakfast every morning before I leave the house does not feel like dieting and yes, unless the Mr has finished all the whey again without telling me (I hate him) I have a Gizzi recipe shake every morning before I go to work. It’s quick to do and fuss free (other than remembering to order in your whey) and keeps me as full as many other breakfasts I have tried over the years at higher calorie, lower satisfaction levels. I also use her base dressing on my lunch salads probably 4 out of 5 days a week and I think it is the healthy fat content of this that makes these lunches seem to last a bit longer and help stave off the dreaded Kit Kat hour of the afternoon at my desk. Other notable favourites of this section are the fattoush salad and yoghurt chicken curry bowl- which I have to say is so good that it is often our Saturday treat dinner despite being in the saintly range of recipes.

It is  worth saying that SWWF is a beautiful book, with wonderfully shot food porn as well as some fun illustrations. I struggle with word heavy food tomes and SWWF is perfectly broken up with the pretty pictures for my millennial mind. A lot of said food porn is also easy to re-create without a load of fancy lights and a gastro stylist, making a lot of the dishes in this book appropriate for your competitive dinner parties/instafood hashtag.

So yes SWWF is delicious and nutritious and gloriously free of any kind of food associated guilt, and much of it is very simple. The ‘working lunches’ chapter in particular is great for fuss free plates. There are however some more techy and time consuming recipes in there and the selection of Asian themed dishes might require a tiny bit more shopping that you might be used to but it is all worth it. I remember seeing Gizzi comment recently that she has been accused of fussy recipes but she doesn’t apologise for this because she likes cooking- and this also sums up this book for me: it is a pleasure to cook from if you enjoy being in your kitchen to create. And it is a double pleasure to eat from regardless of your desire to lose or maintain your weight.

Also, this book is by Gizzi Erskine. Hello!!!!! Talk about lifestyle goals, she is bloody fabulous and although I’ve said all of this level and food relevant stuff about her cookery book just look at her! She’s fantastic and together and has a brilliant wardrobe and lovely hair and she can do that sexy flicky eyeliner thing I can never manage and all of my shallow materialistic wantings are reflected in her as well as her kick ass kitchen style. Her social media accounts are worth following for her attitude and humour as well as all the foodie goodness. Gizzi is an all round good egg and you should listen to her. Girlcrush rant over.

Gizzi does have other, and newer, offerings available and although I am very excited to get my hands on her next release due in September (Season’s Eatings)  SWWF comes with my highest and more urgent recommendation it really should be on your Amazon Wish List if you like modern, tasty and healthy food that isn’t depressing.

10/10, topnotch, brilliant.

Love you Gizzi.

 

 

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Grow Your Own- A Cruel Summer

The sad demise of The January King

There are lessons in life for all and from all things, however the lessons from trying to manage my new garden seem to have turned into something of a beating.

It’s all going wrong.

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The sad demise of The January King

The WTF tree previously thought to be an apple is now heavily endowed with bright and utterly rotten plums, oozing with sticky juices and grim blasts of mould. Even the wasps stay away from them. Study shows that this is a fungus issue best treated at the blossom stage by thinning out flowers to allow airflow between the eventual fruits. I’ll see you in April 17 to test this theory.

The cabbages have been stripped down to their sad skeleton by what I believe to be a infestation of black fly that took up residence in the lettuce patch. They weirdly didn’t seem to eat the lettuces just live on every single inch of them while they weren’t eating cabbage, that is. This has also rendered the lettuce inedible as it is so hard to wash the buggers off without shredding the leaves as they cling so well. In a somewhat tarnished silver lining this has left me one glorious, unharvested and almost four foot high lettuce which is now flowering.

I started a small planter of radishes, they grew really quickly then the black fly struck, there is a small and sad amount of leaf area left so we will see how they go.

The oregano is really dead from the overwatering incident and the potted mint is also dead due to a case of me never eating mint and forgetting it was even there. The Rosemary struggles on but doesn’t look happy.

The onions are towards the end of flowering and are very, very small.

Some of the figs looked like they were starting to ripen though we are yet to find one not at one extreme end of the scale that runs from rock hard to pink mush. Also, we both hate figs.

budding blackcurrants

Before we all just up and invest in a concrete pourer, there are some bright spots left. Remember that frothy pink bush from the spring? Now covered in young Blackcurrants which will hopefully harvest around the same time as the heavily burdened and fungus free pear tree for some jam and/or crumble. I’m also confident that the diggings of Moby Dick the Phantom Crapper have left me one single but monster sized carrot.

Let’s talk about that bastard cat quickly shall we, although there is not much to tell other than that he gives me condescending looks from the roof of next door’s shed once in a while. Note the location- next door. I don’t see him cross our borders these days and we are a poo free zone since installing my new supersonic motion activated flashing screaming solar powered cat scarer. Quite possibly the best seventeen quid I ever spent.

Best wrap up here, on a high note as it were. Maintaining a garden is bloody hard work and even if you weed and water and throw around bone meal mix like it’s going out of fashion, nature happens. Sunshine and water kill the same stuff they feed. Pesticide free produce is likely to get eaten by pests. Several months of planning, planting, thinning and scummy fingernails feels like too much work for the net effort of a small and uninteresting salad.

I don’t know where I go from here, maybe a successful pear harvest will perk me up. Maybe I will try another run of cabbages and test the theory of a light misting of washing up water to put off the rogue eaters. For now, I’m going to enjoy the sunshine and my as yet unscathed BBQ patch and marvel at just how loud the masses of bees that hang out in the non farmed end of the garden are. So much for the great British bee decline, we have loads of them and many butterflies too which really add to the simple joy of having a quiet, green space all of your own. Who knows maybe we will level the veg patch and swap it for a hive!

Until next time.

happy bee visiting the french lavender

A Little Plug- The Loft at Sudbury


The last few weeks have been insanely busy with work and house repairs and family occasions of all flavours. Family occasions leads me to my birth month, which I share with both parental units (pretty selfish of them I think) and thus leads to annual busyness and diary synchronisation. This year I had it all planned to fit in everyone and bugger off to Norfolk for a couple of days chips and sunshine afterwards to lessen the pain of being well into my official mid thirties. Then Work happened and dictated a paring down in festivities. Sad face. Sad employed face however, which could be much sadder afterall. To bring this long story short I spent the last day of 35 with the older male sibling being fed untold delights of immeasurable wonder before setting off on day one of 36 for an action packed day out in the cutesy market town of  Sudbury in Suffolk. Sadly most of this was also pared down due to an unscheduled stop on the M25 but again one must not moan. One must get cleaned up and go for dinner. 

The Loft came about as to complete this trio of birthday mishaps, the very eatery I had been desperate to try, and had thus prompted this visit to Sudbury in the first place, was so incredibly rude when I tried to book a table that this plan too changed abruptly. I won’t name names but unusual bovines by the river won’t ever be seeing any of my hard earned dinner monies. So a last minute Tripadvisor trawl came up with a lot of curry houses and a highly rated Polish place. I’ve never really done Polish food properly and it was close to our lodgings so that was that. 

What a ridiculously marvellous turn of fate to end up here for dinner. 

You will find The Loft on Gaol Street, a few minutes from the main town centre, and when you do find it you will be treated to a comfy, airy space made bright with large picture windows to the front though somewhat surprisingly it is a ground floor establishment. There is a rather charming split of furniture- classic solid, glossy wooden  tables and high backed dining chairs in one end morph seamlessly into more rustic constructions of old palettes and sack cloth around the bar. Very nicely done and a summary of the food on offer here which is both quality and relaxed at once. 

The Mr and I got ourselves a menu and got stuck into a couple of gloriously cold Tyskies to get started. The food here varies around the general theme of meat and cheese as you might expect, leading us to begin with a ham wrapped baked Camembert and the seriously understated ‘pork dripping’. I must admit it was the house pickles that came with the latter that prompted me to order this, I do love a pickle and this is certainly something we know the Polish to do well. The pickles were brilliant- sweet, sour and crunchy and the perfect cleanse to a mouthful of rich and surprisingly meaty dripping smeared over some fresh white bread. It was akin to a light and exquisitely silky pate- simple, filthy and divine. I hope I don’t need to tell you that a parma wrapped baked Camembert is a very good thing too. 

top schnitzel, bottom chicken with sun dried tomatoes and Polish cheesecake


The Mr won when it came to the mains as he stuck to the golden rule of going somewhere new by going with the house special- in this case pork schnitzel. And what a schnitzel, taking up most of the plate so as to literally be served on top of some seasonal veg with a thick ketchup and aioli on the side. I had a noteworthy chicken breast cooked sous vide with sun dried tomatoes and herbs and some excellent roast potatoes. The addition of coleslaw to this dish seemed an odd choice until serving as it complemented the rest very well providing a creamy crunch to go with the soft chicken. A lot of places are touted as ‘homely’ cooking but The Loft really was like a special meal we would have at home, a Saturday dinner if you will, and plenty of it. Desserts were wonderful but ill advised in terms of physical comfort- we skirted the recommended waffles for a traditional and slightly odd Polish cheesecake made with quark and raisins and a very thin cake base for me and a full serving of pancakes and stewed cherries for the boy. Ooof. 

It wasn’t busy but it was an early Sunday evening service with 2 other tables eating but this had no impact on atmosphere as such. The staff were incredibly friendly and warm, we spent most of the evening with service from the manager/owner whose chatter and warmth only added to the homely feel of the evening. It was pretty perfect for the occasion and in an untraditional way my heaven of utter indulgence- the summer dining holy trinity of beer, meat and cheese made comfortable without losing the general feel of still having a treat night out. With cheesecake. 

Value at The Loft is astounding when considering the volume and quality of the food on offer with three courses for two plus several large beers coming in at £50 plus a little change, although this was at a small discount as the manager refused to prepare our bill until I had a look at their Twitter page which prompted me to speak a password for a ten percent discount! 

As the preceding too many words would indicate, I can’t praise The Loft highly enough and I can’t wait to go back, particularly when the weather turns and I may feel more inclined to try out some goulash and the vast range of flavoured vodkas on offer, many at less than three quid a go, not to mention the waffles. 

Great value, lively people and brilliant food you may well not have had call to try before so go there’s do try them out, even if it isn’t your birthday.