Week 3: Fruity hair

I started this week with really good intentions.  I planned all my meals and decided to try some of the weirder sounding recipes just to mix things up a little (tuna and flaxmeal fishcakes anyone?!)  THIS is how organised I was:

Menu plan

Monday didn’t start so well.  I’d slept badly and was in a zombie-like state.  As such, I managed to get two, rather different, things confused:

smoothie

On the left, curl cream.  On the right, lime, raspberry and avocado smoothie.  No prizes for guessing which I slathered on my hair.

An additional hair wash and half a day at work later, I got a last-minute invitation to a gin and seafood event at the Gherkin from my friend Janie.  So much for getting my mincer out and thai-ing up some chicken, this is what I actually had:

Monday dinner

Clockwise from top left: smoked halibut, a 12-year old scallop, blackened mackerel and confit salmon.  Not technically on the plan, but it wasn’t very carby, so I’m not sweating it too much.

Tuesday was scheduled to be my first HIIT day for the week.  I really wasn’t feeling it after another terrible night’s sleep and getting home late, and yet I did it and I killed it – it’s definitely becoming a little more manageable, although I’m yet to work my way up to 15 rounds rather than 12.  Ralphie wasn’t feeling the HIIT either – apparently my exercising induces extreme rage in her, as she flung herself at me and attached herself to my leg using her teeth halfway through a set of boxing punches.  Fun times!  After dealing with her, I was rewarded for my efforts with 5-spice chicken with brown rice and rather a lot of toasted sesame seeds:

Tuesday dinner

Wednesday was planned to be off-plan again as I had dinner at Brawn which was BRILLIANT.  Loved, loved, loved it.  I more or less forgot to take pictures, so here are some half-eaten snails and some totally eaten clams:

Brawn

(Pretty sure that these pictures are the sole reason why I’m not a successful restaurant blogger.)  For what it’s worth, the snails with the garlic and mushroom goos were PHENOMENAL, and Marina O’Loughlin was right when she said that Brawn’s pannacotta was the best she’d ever had.  Game-changing.  Ditto the black pudding and squid.  It was a happy-making meal – go, go, go.

Thursday was supposed to be a HIIT day but, frankly, I couldn’t be arsed so decided to shift it to Friday.  I was meant to be having steak and sweet potatoes, but I forgot to buy steak and no exercise = no carbs, so that dream ended there.  Happily, I had remembered to defrost chicken breasts which I turned into mince and did my favourite spicy chicken mince with double avocado, because I hadn’t fancied my breakfast smoothie.  No picture, you’ve seen it all before.

I was in a rotten mood on Friday.  Work was manic and in the afternoon, illness in the form of throat, jaw, ear and head pain crept up on me.  I left work in a terrible grump and, by the time I got home, there was no way I could do any exercise.  I had lost all of my beans.  Even more anger-inducing was the fact that the chicken breast that I’d got out in the morning hadn’t even vaguely defrosted, so there was to be no dinner.  I conveniently forgot about the fact that I’ve owned a microwave for the last 18 months (genuinely – I’ve only just remembered) and so I stuck two fingers up to the plan and ordered a takeaway.  Suffice to say, two hours later I was struck down with terrible remorse, so I shan’t be doing that again, even though the salt and pepper squid was SO delicious.

Saturday started with a liquid breakfast because there was no food in the house other than a now-defrosted chicken breast, which wasn’t appealing much.

liquid breakfast

Lunch was meant to be the tuna fishcakes, but my sister (who is also doing this plan and is a week ahead of me) had texted me this earlier in the week:

text

I may be a glutton for punishment, but slimy bloating is a step too far, even for me.  Luckily, I had a little more energy than on Friday so I did my HIIT and rewarded myself with something other than chicken.  Steak!  And sweet potato chips!  It was ace.

Steak1

Dinner was satay chicken – you know how that goes.

Sunday started with some HIIT so I had a giant protein pancake for breakfast.  This meant that I wasn’t so hungry at lunchtime, so I tried something from the plan that I hoped would be a little lighter – the tuna salad.  It was nice enough but mammoth in size and something wasn’t quite right with the dressing – it just wasn’t punchy enough – and my avocado was rubbish so it was a bit off-putting.  Definitely a recipe that needs some developing.

tuna

Finally, beef stir fry.  This was GOOD:

beef

All in all, not the best of weeks.  3 meals totally off-plan and only 3 HIIT sessions, so I’m a bit disappointed in myself.  That said, I think that my shape is changing.  My arms look to me like they’re getting smaller, as do my legs.  Even better, Janie greeted me on Monday, with: “You’re wasting away!”  and when I saw Andrew on Wednesday, his first words were “Where’s the rest of you?”  HUZZAH!!!  I must be doing something right, right?.

However, something that I’m struggling with is the HIIT.  My knees aren’t feeling great and the outside of my calves hurt from the star-jumps and I don’t know how to stretch them.  Basically, I just can’t jump.  Running on the spot seems to be fine with a knee support on.  Boxing punches – fine.  But what else can I do?  I think burpees, mountain climbers and squat jumps will absolutely annihilate my knees, so I’m a bit stumped. My back feels like it might go any minute.  I don’t think I was born to exercise – it really doesn’t suit me much – and yet when I decided to do an exercise video on Saturday morning, I got frustrated because it was just too slow and not exhausting enough, so I abandoned it for my normal HIIT.  What’s happened to me??

I could definitely do with some non-knee-ey HIIT suggestions, so if you have any (bearing in mind that I don’t have a gym membership at the moment) please let me know!

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Fish parcels

One of my very favourite things to cook when I’m dieting is fish parcels, yet I forget to do them at any other time.  I’m actually doing them a disservice – they’re not diet food, they’re basically delicious.  You can put pretty much anything in them that you like and they’re both tasty and really low in calories/fat/points – whichever way you’re counting, they’re good for you.

fish

Ingredients (serves 1)

White fish – I usually use cod loin or sea bass/bream

1 nest of egg noodles

½ red chilli, chopped finely

3 spring onions, cut into chunks on the diagonal

A teaspoon of finely chopped ginger

1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

Soy sauce (according to taste – I use about 1 tbsp)

1 tsp sesame oil

Lime segments

Vegetables – you can use pretty much anything but good ones are:

Tenderstem broccoli, blanched for 2 minutes

Asparagus, blanched for 2 minutes

Sugar snap peas or mange tout, sliced on the diagonal

Baby sweetcorn, halved lengthways

Pak choi or spinach

You will also need a piece of baking parchment, about 50cm long.

Boil the egg noodles for 5 minutes, drain and rinse in cold water.  Transfer to a bowl and mix with the sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil.  Stir in the spring onions, ginger and chopped red chilli and then turn out into the middle of a length of baking parchment.

Top with your vegetables and then lay the fish on top – if it’s still got its skin, lay it skin side up so you can peel it off easily once cooked (I don’t like soggy fish skin).  Pull all the sides of the baking parchment together to make an airtight parcel and pop it into the oven at 180c for about 20 minutes.

I’ve never managed to make this without the noodles sticking a little to the bottom of the parchment and the fish sticking a bit to the top (quite useful when its skin is still on as the skin will stick to the paper and you can just pick up the flesh) which means that it’s not the most beautiful of dishes when served, but god damn, it tastes good.  Serve with a couple of lime segments to squeeze over and a fun size bag of Maltesers for pudding.

fish1

Week 16

At the risk of repeating myself (again and again and again), this has been a naughty week.  I’ve been busy – busier than I generally like to be.  I’m a bit of a homebody at heart; I actually enjoy spending time alone at home, resting and relaxing and recharging my batteries.  If my diary gets too full I get a bit panicky and overwhelmed.  I have a constant battle balancing my need for solitude and rest with actual neediness – sometimes I get a bit sad if I haven’t seen friends for a while.  I spent a lot of time with friends this week but this always leads to me misbehaving with food as we tend to eat out when we meet up.

On Tuesday I finished off the n’duja with this delcious n’duja pasta bake.  The best thing EVER happened too – I discovered that 25g of n’duja (which is plenty when stirred into pasta) is only 4 points on Weight Watchers!  This is literally game-changing; I’m SO happy about this because it’s about the least diet-tasting food there is.  Make this pasta bake – it’s easy, delicious and, it transpires, not that bad for you.

close up

On Wednesday, I had some pork mince that needed to be used up.  I raided my Chinese food cupboard (I genuinely have one) and made these spicy, garlicky, Sichuanesque ho fun noodles (recipe to follow soon).  I took the leftovers in to work the following day – this was NOT successful.  We don’t have a microwave and it transpires that congealed, room temperature noodles are not so good the following day.  I abandoned them and ate cereal instead.

ho fun

On Thursday evening, I went to the launch of the Ginger Pig Farmhouse Cook Book (available here) where we were stuffed with sausage rolls, pork pie, ham, corned beef…basically a whole lot of meat with a token bit of cheese on the side.  The launch was fun – Shed was brilliant (isn’t it weird when you see your friends being all professional?!) and the book looks great.  Here is a picture of an enormous pie:

pie

On Friday, I had an impromptu night out with my friend Janie to Honey & Co.  Honey & Co is a tiny Middle Eastern restaurant tucked away in the rather strange location of Warren Street.  Janie called up early in the morning and managed to bag us the last two seats at the counter.  For £26.50 per person, you can get a selection of all the starters bar one (the octopus was excluded – we ordered it anyway and it was amazing) plus a main.  Starters included carrot and butternut squash fritters, a spring salad of peas, broad beans and manouri cheese, falafel, mashawaha (like hummus but nicer), homemade pickles, labneh and breads with olive oil to dip.

starters 1starters 2

There was so much starter and we made the mistake of doing it a bit too much justice.  We ordered poussin with sumac and freekeh and lamb shawarma as the mains and shared them.

poussinlamb

Amazingly, we found that our pudding tummies were still open to suggestion so shared what turned out to be the star of the show – cheesecake with kadalf pastry and honey.  This was incredible – I’m not really a pudding person but I’d go back to Honey & Co just for this.

pudding

Honey & Co was excellent.  We had a 2 course set menu at £26.50, a 3 course at £29.50, an extra starter and 2 bottles of wine and we paid £60 each including service.  Great value, delicious food and lovely service – I can’t wait to go back.

On Saturday, my friend Jassy opened the cafe at Stepney City Farm which coincided with their first Farmers’ Market.  I went down to help out on the cafe’s stall selling cakes, pastries and vegetables from the farm which was a big success and a lot of fun.  The Farmers’ Market was a huge hit and will hopefully become a regular thing.  The farm is always looking for more volunteers, particularly in the cafe, so if you have a bit of time on your hands, I can really recommend it.  Plus, they have the best owls (seen below with my friend Cherry) and the goats are INCREDIBLE.

owlgoat

That evening we went for a celebratory dinner at Bob Bob Ricard.  I’ve been for drinks in the (temporarily closed) bar on a number of occasions and loved it – it’s expensive but it’s just such a lovely, luxurious experience.  This was the first time I’ve eaten at BBR and although it was perfectly OK, I shan’t rush back.  I had potato and truffle vareniki to start followed by lobster macaroni cheese.

verenikilobster

We decided not to stay for pudding and went to Gelupo instead where a mere £4 scored me a cup filled with blood orange sorbet, bitter chocolate and caramel ice creams.  The blood orange was seriously good.

gelupo

I spent Sunday cooking for the freezer and made Chinese beef in the slow cooker, bolognese and chicken and tarragon casserole.  Dinner was the Chinese beef with rice and tenderstem broccoli drizzled with a little sesame oil.

20130519-200845.jpg

Finally, on Monday I had pilates with my neighbour and needed something quick afterwards and, as it was nearly 10pm by the time I ate, I had a fried egg sandwich.

egg

PHEW.  It’s been quite a week.  I haven’t weighed myself today, partly because I just can’t face it (can you blame me?) but mostly because I have my first Weight Watchers meeting on Friday and I will start from scratch then.

Week 15

I’m not feeling good about myself right now.  I’m still feeling a bit below par and lacking in energy which translates into feeling like I’m losing the will to live and certainly having no inclination to cook and look after myself.  I’ve been eating the wrong things, I’ve been eating too much of them and I just feel a bit out of control.

So – last week.  Tuesday was dinnerless.  I was feeling sick and weird so I just curled up on the sofa and felt sorry for myself.  On Wednesday I had a pretty substantial lunch of noodles with chicken and peanut dressing so I just had scrambled eggs in the evening as I was out late at an appointment.

noodles

On Thursday I went to Beagle for dinner with a few friends.  Beagle opened recently in the railway arches next to Hoxton Station.  We sat next to the kitchen and everything that came out looked amazing, so we were pretty excited.  To start I had a salad of crab, monk’s beard and preserved lemon.  It was nice enough – the crab was very good – but it wasn’t terribly exciting and I couldn’t taste the preserved lemon at all.  Other starters of asparagus with chive butter and boiled egg and cauliflower soup were better.  My main course was lamb shank with pearl barley and mint which was incredibly disappointing as it was completely overwhelmed by the mint and tasted of little else.  Puddings were good; my pannacotta with poached rhubarb was lovely and Jassy’s chocolate malt pot was nothing shy of a triumph.  Overall though, Beagle didn’t quite do it for me which was a shame.  I loved the place, loved the cocktails and desperately wanted to love the food, but I couldn’t.

crablambpannacotta

On Friday I made pasta with n’duja.  Now, I really love n’duja – spicy, porky loveliness…BUT WHY DID I BUY IT?  I shouldn’t be buying something that is made almost entirely from pig fat.  BAD.

pasta

On Saturday I had friends over for dinner.  My starter, which I completely forgot to photograph in its finished state, was James Ramsden’s duck rillettes.  Here’s a picture of the duck legs to illustrate just how bad for us this was:

duck

The rillettes were seriously good and actually far easier to make than I’d anticipated.  The flat smelt of duck fat for a few days post-leg roasting but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I served the rillettes with a dark sourdough (wrong – I should have chosen either a lighter, less sour sourdough or just something crusty and white) and cornichons and there was nothing left when I cleared away the plates.  The main course was poached chicken with freekeh from Jerusalem and was a big hit.  Annoying (drunkenly) I forgot to serve the cucumber yoghurt that I’d made to go with it, but I don’t think it suffered too much.

chicken

Pudding was Nigella Lawson’s no churn pomegranate ice-cream (which is just gorgeous and incredibly easy – I make it with a cup of Pom pomegranate juice in place of the 2 juiced pomegranates) with strawberries and persian fairy floss (or ‘pashmak’).  By this time I was pretty sozzled so, again, no photos.

On Sunday I was hungover and feeling pretty miserable so, as I always do, I self-medicated with food and had some salt & pepper squid delivered.

squidThe salt & pepper squid led to a whole world of self-loathing yesterday.  I had to work late so by the time I got home at around 9pm, I was starving and needed to eat RIGHT NOW.  I had some sea bream fillets that needed using up so I  had those with a squeeze of lemon and some bread and butter.

bream

I wish wish wish I bought into Kate Moss’s statement that ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’.  I would dearly love not to like food.  I hate that it’s the first thing that I turn to when I feel bad or sad as it just makes everything so much worse.

I lost a pound this week which, in the grand scheme of things, is unexpected and lucky, but I’m just constantly hovering around this weight rather than losing anything significant.  Since I started this weekly blog 15 weeks ago, I have lost 1.5lbs.  Yes.  One and a half.  I think it’s safe to say that whatever it is that I’m doing at the moment just isn’t working, so I’ve decided to go back to Weight Watchers meetings, starting this Friday.  Joy.