Thursday, February 27, 2014

Diet: Fuel your body for the Bath Half

Hi guys. This is a nutritional article I wrote for Total Bath, regarding what you should consume in order to optimise your performance in the Bath Half Marathon, which is ran every Spring. I will do it one day- I promise! Would like to train up to another 10k over the summer though- I don't see the point in training for a half marathon when I horrifically struggle my way through a 10k! A half marathon is over twice that distance!

Fuel Your Body for The Bath Half

Although many of you signed up for the Bath Half may be well-seasoned marathon runners and athletes, some of you may be running a half marathon for the first time, or may feel a bit nervous about the upcoming race.

Not only do you have to train regularly, you need to make sure what your putting in your body is helping you run, like the car analogy many of us nutritionists use- theres no point driving around all the time in a diesel car if it’s filled with petrol.

Many people know about the basics regarding nutrition- consume a plentiful and balanced mix of lean proteins (chicken, turkey, beef, soya), starchy carbohydrates (wholegrain when possible), and a plethora of different coloured fruit and vegetables. Those training may be skipping their usual cheeky weekly takeaways, and walking quickly past the full biscuit jar. However, many individuals are confused as to what they should be consuming in order to optimise their training runs, and sports snacking plays a very important part of this.

Snacking on the right foods at the right time is very important, and for active runners carbohydrates play a very important role in performance. As well as consuming well-balanced breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and drinking plenty of water, you should be consuming planned snacks and drinks a couple of hours before your training runs, during and after your runs. Here is some guidance regarding sports snacking:

On days that you are training for more than an hour (and with a month away from the race, you should be trying to train at least 3 days a week), these are the foods recommended in order to maintain blood sugar levels and reduce tiredness:

Consume 2 Hours Before the Training Run
  • 2 portions of fresh fruit (examples of 1 portion: 80g diced pineapple, 80g grapes, 1 apple) or
  • 1 slice of seeded or wholemeal toast, with low fat spread and peanut butter. or
  • 2 shredded wheat with skimmed milk
During your Run
  • Every 30 minutes, drink 200ml of any isotonic sports drink (such as Gatorade, Lucozade or PowerAde)
Consume within 20 Minutes After Training Run
  • 2 bananas or
  • 1 large granola bar or
  • 75g mixed nuts and raisins (like “trail mix”!)
This should help optimise your running and keep your body in top top condition ready for the big race ahead. Both I and Total Bath wish you all the best of luck!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Recipe: Coq au Vin

This was so delicious, that even with me being on my diet I had to go back for seconds! Coq au vin is a traditional French casserole dish, traditionally made with a whole cockerel, segmented into pieces, in a rich red wine sauce. However, with the boyfriend being funny regarding meat on the bone, with no idea where you could get a whole cockerel anyway, and being on a budget, I have used cooked chicken strips. Very simple but very delicious. If you want to splash out and make it a little more authentically, add some smoked bacon pieces, some fresh thyme, and use whole baby shallots instead of diced onions.

Coq au Vin (serves 3)

25g margarine
3 white onions diced
3 celery sticks, finely diced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
170g baby button mushrooms
2 bay leaves
400ml red wine
1 tsp tomato puree
300ml vegetable stock
300g cooked chicken strips (I used  Alfies frozen brand)
1 tsp flour, mixed with a little water
Salt and pepper to taste 

1. In a casserole, fry the onions, celery, garlic, mushrooms and bay leaves in the margarine for 10 minutes. Add the tomato puree and wine, and cook for a further 4 minutes.
2. Add the vegetable stock and chicken, and cook on a medium heat, stirring often, for 1 hour 40 minutes. Add the flour, and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring often until thickened. Season to taste, and serve!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Recipe: Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup

This isn't a budget soup recipe, this is a little bit of luxury- very rich and tasty. Roasting the tomatoes gives such a lovely sweet slightly caramelised flavour to the soup it's really delicious. If you want to make it vegan, use soya spread and soy milk. This makes a really nice tomatoey/red winey sauce as well- for pasta or meat dishes.

Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup (serves 8)
2kg fresh tomatoes, halved
2 tsp dried mint
Salt and pepper

45g margarine
4 large white onions, diced
5 celery sticks, diced
1 tsp dried mint
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
1 red chilli, seeded and diced
1 litre vegetable stock
100ml red wine
70g fresh basil (stalks and leaves) roughly chopped
100ml skimmed milk
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
Fresh basil for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the tomatoes facing up in a roasting tray. Sprinkle with mint, salt and pepper and cook in the oven for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in as large pan, fry the onion, celery, chilli, mint, fennel seeds and bay leaves in the margarine for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the roasted tomatoes, vegetable stock and red wine and cook for a further 30 minutes on a medium heat, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the milk and fresh basil, and cook for a further 3 minutes. Blend the soup until smooth, season to taste, and serve with some extra fresh basil on top.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Competition: The Great Bramley Bake In Competition

Hi guys. Another lovely competition, from the Bramley Apples facebook page, which I have entered the first phase of with my Turkish Lentil and Apple Soup. Grown only in Britain, the Bramley apple is famous for its tangy taste, its melt-in-the-mouth texture and for keeping its delicious 'appley' flavour when cooked. The Great Bramley Bake In competition is looking for recipes that celebrate these unique qualities. The grand prize is an all expenses paid weekend cookery course, and a goodie   can enter until the 28th February. If any of you could give my entry a vote that'd be absolutely fabulous! You have to like them on Facebook, go onto the bramley bake off section, and vote for my "Turkish Lentil and Apple Soup" recipe, Cheers!!!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recipe: Spicy Winter Root Veg Soup

The weather is so horrible at the moment, it's good to come home and have a big bowl of hot and spicy soup, with crusty buttered bread rolls. Honestly, so ghastly outside with the rain in the South west, we may as well start selling scuba diving tours of Bath! This "hot chilli powder" or "hot chilli flakes" that you may have noticed I put in a fair few of my recipes- you may think I'm a bit of a wimp because I tend to only use 1/4 or 1/2 tsp, but it's this special Malaysian chilli mixture I got from a local Asian shop, and knocks your socks off! I really recommend taking a trip to any local Chinese/Asian shop if you like your spicy food actually, they always have a big variety of scary looking hot dried chillies/ powders/pastes/sauces.

Spicy Winter Root Veg Soup (serves 8)

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
1 leek, diced
4 celery sticks, diced
600g carrots, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp asafoetida
2 tsp medium curry powder
½ tsp hot chilli flakes (plus extra for garnish if you’re brave!)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
2 potatoes, peeled and finely diced
2 tbsp single cream
2 litre chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Fry the onion, leek, celery, carrots and bay leaves with the vegetable oil in a large pan for 12 minutes. Add the asafoetida, curry powder and chilli flakes and cook for a further 2 minutes.
2. Add all of the other ingredients and cook on a medium high heat for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Blend, season to taste, and serve (garnished with extra chilli flakes if you like your heat!)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Recipe: Simple White Loaf

Does what it says on the tin really- a nice simple loaf of white bread, home made, and really easy to make. People think bread takes ages to make, and that it's really difficult to prepare, but literally all this recipe involves is 15 minutes of knocking a dough mix about, 2 hours of proving (chucking it covered in a warm place and leaving it alone) and 43 minutes in the oven. Fairly cheap to make too- I calculated the cost of each loaf as about 45-50p, which is pretty good. I tried and adapted this recipe about 6 times before I got to this recipe, I think I've really got it down to a tee now. I never really used to be massively into bread, always preferring pasta and rice and other carbs, because I felt that bread didn't really taste of anything. But once you've made your own bread and tasted it you realise fresh bread is awesome.

Simple White Loaf Recipe (makes 1 medium loaf)

375g plain white flour
7g packet of dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
7g salt
15ml vegetable oil (plus a splash more for greasing the tin)
210g warm water
Optional garnishes: fennel seeds, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds etc.

1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Knead (knock about a bit!) for 15 minutes. Grease a Victoria sponge tin with a little vegetable oil. Put the kneaded dough into the greased tin, cover with a damp cloth, and put in a warm place for 2 hours to prove.
2. Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the bread tin in a roasting tin, with 200ml of water in it (this steams the bread a bit and stops the top from burning). Sprinkle the top of the dough with seeds if desired, or keep it plain- and bake in the oven for 38 minutes.
3. Remove from the oven. Remove loaf from the tin, and put back in the oven, upside down, for 5 minutes (to brown and crisp up the bottom of the loaf slightly). Allow to cool a bit, slice and serve!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Recipe: Healthy Cottage Pie

Yummy comforting cottage pie, made healthy with swapping creamy buttery mash with mashed sweet potatoes, and putting plenty of onions, garlic and celery into the mince, in order to up the veg content a bit! Also bulks up the mince which is great. So funny- I say this serves 4, which it definitely does if you serve with a bit of green veg on the side- but honestly when I made this Brendan ended up eating over half of this dish, over 1kg of the stuff! He'd give that ManvsFood guy a run for his money!

Healthy Cottage Pie (serves 4)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 white onions, finely diced
4 celery sticks, finely diced
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500g lean beef mince
1 tsp mixed herbs
2 bay leaves
400ml beef stock
40ml Worchester sauce
1 rounded tsp flour, mixed with water
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
1050g sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper

1. Fry the onion, celery, garlic, minced beef and mixed herbs in the vegetable oil on a high heat for 12 minutes, stirring often. Add the stock, and Worchester sauce and cook on a low/medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the flour mixture and cook for a further 2 minutes, or until sauce is thickened.
2. Preheat the oven to 200C. Boil the sweet potatoes for about 25 minutes, or until soft. Drain, mash, and season to taste. Pour the beef mixture  into an oven proof dish. Spoon the mash on top of the beef, smooth over, make lines on top with a fork, and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
3. Put the oven onto grill, and grill for about 5 minutes, or until slightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and serve!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Recipe: Creamy Turkey and Mushroom Curry

Mmmmm I love anything with coconut in it- sweet or savoury recipes, I don't mind! You can get mixed chargrilled/roasted peppers from delis, you can get them packed or jarred in oil in the "world food" section, or you can do what I do- and pick out the peppers out of a Sainsbury's "Frozen Chargrilled Mediterranean Vegetables" (is that a little weird/OCD of me?).

Creamy Turkey and Mushroom Curry (serves 3)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large white onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, crushed
500g diced turkey breast (raw)
2 tbsp medium curry powder
300g mushrooms, sliced thickly
1 tin coconut milk
100ml chicken stock
150g chargrilled mixed peppers, diced
2 rounded tsp flour, mixed with a little water
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Fry the onion, garlic, turkey and curry powder for 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and fry for a further 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and chicken stock, and cook on a high heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the mixed peppers and cook for a further 2 minutes. Stir in the flour mixture, cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until thickened. Season to taste, and serve with rice if desired.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Recipe: Jerk Chicken Thighs with Sweet Potato Mash

Jerk chicken is a traditional Caribbean dish, usually cooked on an open fire/barbeque, that usually involves a lot of chilli! I have used hot chilli powder, mainly because of price, but if you fancy shelling out a lot of supermarkets these days sell "Scotch Bonnet Chillies", which is a type of Caribbean chilli that is traditionally used in this recipe. Go easy though, they have a nice fruity flavour but a hell of a kick!
Jerk Chicken Thighs with Sweet potato mash (serves 2)
7 boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 large white onion, diced very finely
4 garlic cloves, crushed
15g ginger, crushed
2 tbsp unrefined golden caster sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
½ hot chilli powder
½ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp mixed herbs
Salt and pepper
1.1kg sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1. Mix together all the ingredients (except the sweet potatoes and chicken) in an ovenproof baking dish, until well combined, to make a sauce. Put the chicken thighs in this sauce, coat in the sauce, and allow to marinade for 1 hour- 24 hours (as long as you can is good!)
2. Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the chicken in the oven for 35 minutes. Meanwhile, boil the sweet potatoes for about 25 minutes, or until soft. Remove the chicken from the oven, and drain and mash the sweet potatoes.
3. Season the mash to taste, spoon onto the plates, and serve the chicken thighs, and any leftover marinade, on top of the mash.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Recipe: Chicken, Mushroom and Spring onion Stir fry

I love Chinese food soooo much! As well as being an utter soy sauce junkie, I love cooking with my wok- after my time working at Wagamamas, I got really used to cooking food quickly, at high temperatures, which is important when you are cooking with Asian food. This dish has got quite a lot of sauce to it, but I serve it over beds of wholemeal noodles and the way the noodles soak up the sauce is so scrummy and moreish! Much cheaper than getting a takeaway, and probably healthier.

Chicken, Mushroom and Spring onion stir fry (serves 2)
2 tsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
20g ginger, crushed or finely chopped
2 large chicken breasts, sliced finely
200g mushrooms, quartered
90ml white wine (dry preferably)
165g spring onions, sliced thickly
180ml chicken stock
50ml dark soy sauce
2 rounded tsp plain flour, mixed with water
Salt sugar and pepper to taste 

1. Heat the oil in a large wok. Stir fry the ginger, garlic and chicken for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the spring onions and wine and cook for another 3 minutes.
2. Add the chicken stock and soy sauce and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the flour mixture and cook for a further 2 minutes, or until sauce is thickened enough. Season to taste and serve, with rice or noodles.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Recipe: Chicken Sagwala

This is one of my favourite Indian restaurant dishes so I thought I would have a go at perfecting it. This is pretty darn close, I'm not going to lie! I reckon the only difference is Indian restaurants tend to use a lot more fat (ghee) than I do, but that's because I'm watching my waistline! "Sag" or "Saag" means spinach in Indian. Feel free to add some chilli if you want, but what I like about this dish is that it's got a lot of flavour but no chilli heat. For me, nothing says winter warmer like eating a big bowl of curry and rice whilst the weather is ghastly outside- this is why I am entering this recipe into Co-operative electrical shop's winter warmer recipe competition. You've got until the 21st February to enter your winter warmer recipes, to win £750 grand prize (to spend at Co-operative electrical) or £250 runners up prize, check out the details here:

Chicken Sagwala  (serves 3)
480g frozen spinach
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 white onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Large handful fresh coriander, chopped
2 tbsp medium curry powder
3 large chicken breasts, diced
300ml chicken stock
3 tomatoes, finely diced
½ tsp lemon juice
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

1. Boil the spinach for 3 minutes, drain, and squeeze as much liquid as you can out of it. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, fry the onion, garlic and coriander for 5 minutes. Add the curry powder, reserved spinach and chicken, and cook on a high heat for a further 5 minutes, stirring often.
3. Add the chicken stock, and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and lemon juice and cook for a final 4 minutes. Season to taste, and serve, with brown rice if desired.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Recipe: Tomato, Olive and Leerdammer Scones

This is a delicious "Mediterranean" inspired fusion dish, smashing classic British scones with Italian ingredients and flavours. They are very nice spread with butter, or on the side of Mediterranean soups- like Minestrone! This Mediterranean inspired recipe is for the holiday company and YummyFoodBlog blogger competition, wherein the winner get's a Kindle Fire! You can enter the competition at their website:  , but you'd better get your skates on- the competition closes midnight on the 7th February.

Tomato, Olive and Leerdammer Scones (makes 10 scones) 

250g self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
100g diced black olives
50g sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
100g grated Leerdammer
Salt and black pepper
2 large eggs
100ml good quality olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. In a mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, olives, sundried tomatoes, Leerdamer and salt and pepper. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and olive oil.
2. Mix together the wet and dry ingredients, gently, but make sure everything is well combined. Roll the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface, and cut scones out with a 2 inch pastry cutter.
3. Place the scones onto the baking tray, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes- or until risen and golden brown. Serve alongside soup, or with cherry tomatoes and kirri on top.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Competition: Take a Break My Favourite Recipes- Recipe of the Month!

As many of you know, I am regularly published in Take a Break My Favourite recipes (I have been contributing since Issue #2, and have been published in 21/ 25 issues!). As well as getting £25 every time you are published, every time you get a recipe published in the mag you have the chance to become the next issues "recipe of the month", winning £500.

Last issue my butternut squash and paneer pakoras were published, and this month, to my utter surprise (I discovered this when I had a look at the mag in the co-op, not realising I was published, let alone won the grand prize, and thusly screamed and scared all the staff!!) I won £500! Thanks to everyone at My Favourite Recipes, which is a fantastic magazine and is growing from strength to strength. This £500 is so important, it should keep me going until I get a job after I graduate (I did tell them I wouldn't be a typical student and spend all the prize money on Sambuca, lol!)