Saturday, 28 May 2011

13.1 miles...

The last time I ran 13.1 miles, it was in March last year at the Bath Half Marathon. My time then was 2:35, which I was really disappointed about because I'd trained for a sub-2:30 time and was really hoping to get one. Since then, as you know, we've been seriously focusing on our running, and this week Pete and I decided to go for it and run our own half marathon. And here's our time:

2:08.16! I actually can't believe it! I'd hoped for sub-2:15, and as I was feeling really good for most of the run (apart from the hilly bits!) I was quietly confident that we'd do it, but I never expected 2:08! I am beyond chuffed. It's actually quite strange trying to get my head around it - running a half used to be A Big Deal. They were things to be trained for and worried about; things that would probably require a day off work in order to recover. But now I find myself in a situation where I can just go out on a Saturday morning and run 13.1 miles! I almost feel like we must have 'cheated' in some way - but I mapped the route meticulously on Map My Run, and it was definitely 13.15 miles, and we were held up for a full two minutes trying to cross a big main road!

Friday, 27 May 2011

A little bit wet...

It's been ages since we've had proper rain here in London. We've had a few drizzly showers, but it's mostly been dry...until yesterday!

I was on my way to meet a couple of friends - when I left work, it was raining, but not too heavily. Two minutes later, the rain had turned torrential, so I took shelter at a bus stop. Thirty seconds after that, there was thunder, lightning, torrential rain and hail. My shoes filled up with hailstones!

And to top it all off, when the hail and rain had subsided a bit and I decided to make a break for it and leg it to the Tube station, a taxi went past and splashed most of the biggest puddle you've ever seen all over me. My feet still hadn't dried out by the time I got home at 11.30pm! Yuck!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Loafing about with lentils...

A while back, a friend sent me a package of vegetarian cookbooks, which had been hanging around on my desk at work ever since. Then this morning the office computers went down and we all had to log off for three hours, so I ended up looking through a couple of them to pass the time. And I spotted a yummy-sounding recipe for lentil paté - it was in a book called Cookshelf: Vegetarian, which seems to be out of print, but you can probably still get it on Amazon. There are some really good ideas in it!

I didn't hold out much hope when I put it into the oven - I'd followed the recipe to the letter, and it does say to 'drain any excess water' once the lentils are cooked, but there was a LOT of excess water. I'd probably use half the liquid in the recipe! Even when I'd drained the lentils, the finished mixture looked seriously runny. But it baked up beautifully, and it tasted amazing! I had it with some salad and roasted asparagus, and it made a gorgeously light and healthy supper.

Lentil paté

1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground coriander
850ml veg stock (I'd cut this down to around 500ml and see how it goes!)
175g red lentils
1 egg
2 tbsp milk (I used Kara coconut milk, thus rendering the recipe gluten- and dairy-free)
2 tbsp mango chutney (I used Blue Dragon sweet chilli sauce, which was fab)
2 tbsp chopped parsley (I didn't have any so I left this out)

1. Fry the onion and garlic in a little oil until softened. Add the garam masala and coriander and fry for another minute.

2. Stir in the lentils and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils are cooked and softened. Drain off any excess moisture.

3. Blend the lentils in a food processor with the egg, milk, mango chutney and parsley (I didn't bother, I just stirred it all together in the pan as the lentils were nice and mushy!)

4. Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin, spoon the mixture into the tin, and bake in a preheated oven at 200C for 40-45 minutes, until firm to the touch.

5. Allow to cool in the tin for 20 minutes, then transfer to the fridge to cool thoroughly (or eat it warm, as I did!)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Miserly meltdown...

Er...yes. I'm actually more than a little bit embarrassed about posting this! Miserly May was meant to carry on until next Wednesday, but it was pay day on Friday, I had some time to kill in the afternoon, and I had a voucher for 25% off at Dorothy Perkins (it's probably a bit late to head to the shops now, but it's still valid online until the end of today) and, well, it all went a bit wrong. Dorothy Perkins isn't somewhere I'd usually think to shop at, but they've got some absolutely gorgeous dresses at the moment. And you know I'm a sucker for a dress! So I ended up with this:

...and this:

And then I happened to go to Zara, and they had these gorgeous little stripy jumpers in a whole range of colours:

So I bought one in orange, and one in black. I love stripes, they're absolutely perfect for the slightly chilly spring days we've been having, and I can see myself wearing them to death...but OH MY GOODNESS, the SPENDING! I will be living on beans from here on in.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Morris dancing along the canal...

As you may know, I have a friend who lives on a narrowboat. She's currently moored up in Rickmansworth, and she invited us up to visit and to see the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust festival that was on this weekend. We had a beautifully sunny day for it, and after a spectacular burger at The Feathers (I had the homemade falafel burger with guacamole and Cheddar, which I'd thoroughly earned after another 11-mile run!) we headed up to the canal. There was Morris dancing, a narrowboat tug-of-war, and lots of food stalls and bands and all sorts of other things. It was great fun!

And then in the evening I went to my friend's birthday drinks do, and snapped a (slightly blurry) Tube mouse on the way home!

Friday, 20 May 2011

It's Friday, I'm in London...

Living and working in west London, it isn't all that often that I actually go to other parts of town. But I headed to London Bridge to meet some friends for dinner, and on the way I snapped a few interesting sights! The weather really has been glorious just lately.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Miserly May: Week Four

Hmm. Not such a great week this week. I had a bit of a slip and bought some shoes! However, they were shoes I'd wanted for ages, and they suddenly appeared in the sale, so they were 'only' £12.49. And I can think of a million things they'd go with. I haven't actually got them yet, because I ordered them online and they're being delivered sometime next week, so I could yet decide that I don't like them and send them back!

Apart from that, it's been a good week - I haven't bought anything else apart from food! Mind you, I've been eating far too much of that, so I'm on a 'get back to a sensible diet and stop these silly bad habits' kick as well as a no-spending one!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Solo running take two...

My running buddy Pete couldn't make our regular Tuesday night running appointment today, so I decided to get out there on my own. I expect you're all getting bored with the endless photos of my watch, so here are my feet instead:

And here's my time - 1:07.27, which is very respectable! I took a photo of my watch just to prove I'd done it, although I'm sure Pete will still accuse me of pressing the 'start' button on my watch and sitting on the sofa for an hour and seven minutes!

The hardest thing really is getting myself out of the house in the first place. Once I'm running, I'm absolutely fine, but getting out there is really tough without someone else there to motivate me. I'm also constantly worried about my pace, but judging by my two solo efforts so far, I don't really need to be!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

I blame Hugh...

I've mentioned before that I sometimes see recipes and just have to make them at the earliest opportunity. Well, this evening I took that need for instant food gratification to a whole new level.

I was watching River Cottage Every Day, with good old Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and he made lemon curd muffins. I'd been wondering how I could use my lemon curd, so as to prevent me from sitting and eating it all by myself with a spoon, and all of a sudden there was a perfect lemon curd recipe on my TV! So I jumped up, switched on the oven, and (thanks to the wonders of modern technology) rewound the programme so that I could scribble the recipe down. Under an hour later, I've got lemon curd muffins cooling in the kitchen.

And here's the recipe - I decided to tweak it by using a little wholemeal flour along with the plain, and I had half a bag of dried blueberries in the cupboard so I chucked them in as well. I also don't usually have milk in the house, so my liquid was made up of 120ml of Kara coconut milk and a dollop of fat-free Greek yogurt. So these muffins are actually quite good for you!

Lemon curd and blueberry muffins (with a lot of help from Hugh F-W)

makes 10-12

75g butter
225g plain flour (or 175g plain and 50g wholemeal)
100g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
about 50g dried blueberries
2 eggs
125ml milk
lemon curd

Melt the butter.

Whisk the flour in a large bowl, add the salt and baking powder and whisk to combine.

In a separate jug, whisk together the milk, eggs and melted butter.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, working quickly and stopping when they are just combined.

Place a spoonful of batter into each muffin case and top with half a teaspoon of lemon curd. Then add another spoonful of batter to cover the lemon curd.

Bake at 180C for around 20-25 minutes, until the muffins are risen and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, 14 May 2011


Absolutely nothing to do with the rest of this blog post, but my beloved Manchester United have just won a record 19th League title (overtaking the 18 titles our bitter rivals Liverpool have won) so I'm rather happy!

Anyway, this morning started out like this:

That isn't a pathetically slow ordinary run - it's an 11-mile run! Slightly slower than I'd hoped (in my mind I wanted to aim for 1:45) but still a decent time seeing as it's over a year since we last ran that distance. At that point, 1:48 wouldn't have been disastrous for a 9.5-mile run, so you can see how far we've come since then!

Then this afternoon has been...well...eggy. Two fried eggs for lunch (with beans and wholemeal toast) and then another seven eggs for baking! First up was a Victoria sponge, which I've filled with that homemade lemon curd from last night and some lovely English strawberries.

And then some flourless chocolate brownies!

These are amazingly fudgy, rich and truffle-like. I can't remember where the recipe for these came from (it's one I've had for years) but it goes like this:

Flourless chocolate brownies

300g plain chocolate
150g unsalted butter, diced
50g cocoa powder, sifted
4 large eggs
200g caster sugar
100g chopped walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts (optional)
Icing sugar for dusting

Break up the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Add the butter. Set the bowl over a pan of steaming, not boiling, water and melt gently, stirring frequently. Remove the bowl from the heat, stir in the cocoa powder, and set aside.

Place the eggs in a mixing bowl and beat well. Add the sugar and whisk thoroughly until pale in colour, very light and frothy and doubled in volume.

Using a large metal spoon, carefully fold in the chocolate followed by the nuts (if using).

Transfer the mixture to a greased and lined brownie tin (20.5 x 25.5cm) and spread evenly. Bake at 180C (350F) for 25-30 minutes, until the top of the brownie is just firm to the touch but the centre is still slightly soft.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before carefully transferring to a cooling rack. Dust with icing sugar when cool and cut into 12 pieces.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Lemon curd...

I'd never thought of making lemon curd before - I think I always had a sneaking suspicion it'd be one of those difficult things that involved sugar thermometers and lots of boiling. But it turns out it's really really easy! Of course, I turned to Delia, and this recipe was fab - I halved the quantities and it made just enough to fill my jam jar with enough left over to top a cheeky slice of toast!

I have plans for this lemon curd, which will be revealed tomorrow...

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Sufjan Stevens...

I went to see the amazing Sufjan Stevens at the Royal Festival Hall and had the most fantastically fun time!

On the way there I took a few sunny photos of London looking gorgeous:

And then there were wings, and fluorescent outfits...

...and balloons!

To be honest I hadn't really heard a lot of his music before last night, but it really was a brilliant gig. This review sums it up better than I ever could!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Miserly May: Week Three

Another excellent week! I haven't bought any clothes, shoes or accessories at all. In fact, my only non-food-and-drink purchase has been my new kitchen scales.

I do think I've spent a bit too much on food lately, though - I found myself slipping back into a few of my old bad eating habits (not helped by the two long weekends!) so in order to remedy that I've been going to the supermarket and loading up on fruit and veg and healthy things. Which is a good thing, of course, but I've been tempted by too many interesting (and expensive) things - like Conscious chocolate - rather than sticking to the healthy basics. So this week I will try to focus on spending less on groceries and lunches.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Bringing my cookery into the digital age...

I've had this set of kitchen scales for a good few years now - I bought them from Morrisons and they cost a whole five pounds. And they were OK, but only OK - it was always really difficult to get them to actually read zero before you started, and they weren't at all accurate. The imperial bit just had pounds with four little markings between each number, and every time I used them I'd have to think ' many ounces in a pound again? 16? So each one of these markings is 4oz...?' which was a bit of a pain in the bum.

Over Easter, I used my mum's shiny digital scales and couldn't believe how quick and easy they were to use - and so today I decided to treat myself to a set. They were only £14.99 from Argos, but they're brilliant!

I love the fact that you can weigh things straight into the bowl you're going to use to mix them, and the fact that it measures liquids as well as dry ingredients, and the fact that you can weigh one ingredient, set it back to zero, and weigh the next ingredient in the same bowl. Less washing up! And they're much easier to store away than my old ones. I think they'll make my life so much easier - I weigh things like pasta and rice for everyday meals, which I know makes me sound like some kind of obsessive weirdo, but portion control is something I really struggle with and if I'm not careful I find that I end up with massive portions, which of course I then eat! And it's going to be much easier to just whip these scales out than it ever was faffing about with the old ones.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Independent woman!

This morning, I went for a run all by myself. My running mate, Pete, was away for the weekend, so I decided to give it a go. He's moving in a few weeks' time anyway, so I've got to get used to running solo! I was quite irrationally terrified by the idea of going out on my own, which was ridiculous because obviously I knew I could do it, but I was scared that I wouldn't pace myself properly, or I'd get bored, or I wouldn't have the mental toughness to get through 9.5 miles without wimping out and going home.

But I didn't just finish the run - I ended up with a new PB! Hoorah! I'm especially impressed because the weather was really warm (when the sun came out, it was boiling, and when the clouds came over it was horribly muggy and humid and sweaty) and my hayfever was awful - I could hear my lungs rasping every time I breathed in! So I'm feeling quite smug now, really!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Beany bake!

I spotted this recipe for a white bean and leek bake on Laura's blog, Keeping Healthy Getting Stylish, and I just had to try it! Most bake-type affairs involve rather a lot of cheese sauce, and while I am a huge fan of cheese in all forms, I do try not to eat too much of it! So the idea of a sauce made from cannellini beans sounded really interesting.

I didn't have any nutritional yeast (in fact, I've never tried it) so I added a little bit of Marigold bouillon powder, and I added some rosemary to the whizzed-up beany sauce as well. And I turned it into a pasta bake with some wholewheat penne (because I'm going for a run tomorrow morning and fancied some more carbs) and chucked in some broccoli that was languishing in the fridge. Oh, and I didn't have rye bread, so I crumbled up some Ryvita for the topping. It was lovely and crunchy!

Following Laura's lead, I had some gorgeous English asparagus with it (you've got to love asparagus season!) and it was totally delicious. And unbelivably filling, thanks to those protein-packed beans! I actually don't think I needed to put the pasta in - I'm stuffed! It really is a great recipe - it's vegan, it can easily be made gluten-free just by using GF bread for the topping, and there's barely any fat whatsoever (I just used a couple of sprays of sunflower oil from my spray bottle to fry the leeks).

Definitely a winner! Let's hope it fuels a good run tomorrow!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Big Ben...

I made a little trip to Westminster - and having battled through the crowds, in the spirit of 'If you can't beat them, join them', I decided to be a tourist and snap a quick photo of Big Ben (yes, I know it's the bell that's called Big Ben and not the tower!)

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Doctor Who?

Not quite! This is an actual Metropolian Police 'watch box', which lives right outside Earl's Court Tube station. Bizarrely, I'd actually walked past it a couple of times without actually clocking what it was, but then my friend Pete pointed it out and we had a proper look at it! Apparently it was installed in 1996 and was meant to be part of a new high-tech fleet of CCTV stations, but for some reason or another the idea didn't really work and so now it just sits there waiting for the Doctor.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Miserly May: Week Two

Or Week One proper, really, seeing as a) I spent money on clothes last week and b) it is actually now May.

This week has been very good indeed. Not only did I not spend money on clothes, shoes or accessories, but I returned the stripy dress I bought last week, so money went into my account! I did spend a bit more on food than I usually would, thanks to the Royal Wedding picnic, and I had my hair cut, but having my hair cut every eight weeks is an absolute necessity or I end up looking like Paul McCartney circa 1964.

So overall, not a bad week at all! Let's hope I can continue to resist temptation!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Afternoon tea...

What could be nicer on a Bank Holiday Monday afternoon than a mug of hot chocolate (I don't like tea - I know, take my British passport away right now!) and a couple of pieces of crumbly homemade shortbread?

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Eton mess...

I had some strawberries left over from our Royal Wedding picnic, and as well as just eating them as they are (yum) I decided to turn them into a delicious pudding.

I also got a bit bored and decided to do some baking - I'd been having a flick through my copy of Delia's Vegetarian Collection (I love Delia) and spied a recipe for Scottish shortbread. I had all the ingredients except semolina, but I decided to replace the semolina with fine cornmeal, and it worked perfectly.

Believe it or not, my Eton mess was completely fat free - I just crumbled a pre-made meringue nest into a bowl, added some sliced strawberries, and stirred in a dollop of fat-free Greek yogurt. Yum! Obviously the addition of the gorgeously crumbly shortbread made it slightly less virtuous, but you've got to have a treat on a Bank Holiday weekend, haven't you!

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