Lattice-topped tart

Lattice-topped tartI made a batch of Vegetarian Mincemeat before Christmas, and although it will keep well enough to make more mince pies next year, it is a lovely, rich filling for a dessert tart.  

I didn’t want to make the mincemeat filling too deep – just enough to cover the base of the tart, so then I topped it with a couple of apples, quartered, cored and finely sliced.

Lattice-topped tart

I have inherited a little wooden pastry wheel (you can buy them incredibly cheaply, made from box wood), so rather than making a completely open tart, which tends to overcook the filling, I enjoyed making these wavy edged strips to create a lattice topping. Lighter than a pie, but rather elegant!

Lattice-topped tartYou may have a lattice tool that you can use, but otherwise, just cut strips with an ordinary knife.

Lattice-topped tartI like to roll my pastry out really thin, so there was enough left over to make a dozen mince pies as well! 

This was lovely served with some custard. Tomorrow I will serve it with either vanilla ice cream or Greek style yogurt.

Lattice-topped tartSeeing as we are doing a dry January, I don’t feel even remotely guilty about having a dessert like this – no more calories than a couple of glasses of wine, I’m sure – and all good home made food from organic ingredients.

Lattice-topped tart

I made the pastry from 250g of Bio Type 65 flour and 125g unsalted butter and a pinch of salt. My flan dish is 25mm diameter. I used a little more than one jar of mincemeat for the tart and the small pies. My mincemeat was based on a Delia Smith recipe. Ok, I’ll work out the calorie counts later!

I’ve got a lovely bunch of – Coconuts!

It’s coconut day! I am often tempted by a fresh coconut, especially if when I shake it, it has plenty of water inside. But then it sits in the fruit bowl, waiting… well today is the day!

Here is our coconut friend. 

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I start by making holes in and draining out the coconut water. This makes a fabulous electrolyte-balancing drink on a 5:2 fast day. In the UK you can buy coconut water ready prepared, probably made from green coconuts, which have a lot more liquid. But I can’t buy that here in France, so getting it from a coconut is the only way…. They have to be fresh though; if they have been sitting on the supermarket shelf for weeks, the liquid dries out and the flesh can go bad. So always give a coconut a good shake before buying it.

I put the coconut in a zipped plastic bag and smash it onto the concrete outside, until it is broken into several pieces. I was really lucky with this one, the shell broke off cleanly, leaving the flesh with it’s skin in a few big chunks. Rinse in cold water.

Then I take a few pieces (about 60g) and make slivers using a swivel potato peeler. These go on a baking sheet, to be toasted in the oven.

The remaining flesh is peeled – I find slicing it off with a small sharp knife the easiest way to do it. Then cut into chunks. A few chunks get set aside, just for the joy of eating some fresh coconut.  Put the rest into a blender along with about 250ml water and blend until the coconut is finely chopped and looking creamy, adding some more water if it seems a little dry. 

Turn out the flesh and liquid into a sieve lined with a piece of muslin, over a bowl. Add a little more water to the blender and whizz up to get the last bits of coconut, then add that to the sieve. Gather up the cloth and squeeze to get out as much liquid as possible.

Turn out the remaining coconut flesh and spread over a baking sheet.

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Heat the oven to 160c (fan) and toast the coconut flakes and flesh, turning occasionally until dry and lightly golden. The flakes will only take a few minutes, keep an eye on them. The flesh will take longer; just turn and spread out again a few times, until pale golden and almost dry.

Now you have coconut milk, coconut flakes and dry (dessicated) coconut, as well as a small glassful of coconut water. The dry coconut doesn’t have so much flavour, as so much of the fat has gone into the milk; but it is a great source of fibre and is a good addition to curry or dhal, or a great topping for a dessert.  I store it in a plastic box with a lid. You could grind it up to make coconut flour too. I haven’t tried that yet.

dscf6349I’m going to use the milk in a coconut and lime ice, which will be served topped with toasted coconut flakes. Yummy! The milk is not as creamy as the cans or packs you can buy, as they usually are thickened with guar gum; but the flavour is lovely. Instead of a sugar syrup I will use a few teaspoonfuls of Agave syrup, which will just take the edge off the sharpness without adding a lot of calories. 

How many calories in all these various coconut things is a bit of a puzzle. A typical coconut is 1405 calories. I weighed the flakes before and after and they work out to less than 8 calories per gram. Dessicated coconut is less than 7 cals per gram and I have ended up with about 100 grams of that. So by a process of elimination, I reckon the coconut milk is about 600calories. But hey, it’s not a fast day, so we don’t need to worry too much. Coconut is full of good things and is said to be a boost for our immune systems, helping to protect against viral and bacterial infections. With the number of people around that seem to have suffered from something or other these last few weeks, I think we will be glad of some extra support in that.

A midwinter treat, that reminds us of far off shores and sandy beaches, heat and sunshine. I should coco…. 😉

 

Steps towards a more plant-based diet

The research in nutrition has been finding, again and again, that a diet that is high in plant-based foods (fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains), rather than the Standard American Diet (ironically, the acronym for which is SAD), reduces the risk of the most deadly and disabling illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, to name just a few — as well as mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. 

Mara Karpel

There are lots of good reasons to transition towards a more plant-based diet, and this interesting article by Mara Karpel, The Small Steps Needed To Making Life-Saving Changes To Your Diet aims to help you make the changes to a new healthier eating habits. Do read the whole article, but here for convenience is my take on the key points.

  1. Eat mindfully — keep a food diary, or take photos of everything before you eat it. Check the labels and avoid foods that have a long list of ingredients, or that are high in added sugar, refined carbs (e.g glucose-fructose syrup) and hydrogenated oils which contain trans-fatty acids.
  2. Eat more whole foods – such as whole grains, rather than refined flour. 
  3. Increase your intake of plant-based foods and include many different coloured vegetables, as well as beans, nuts and seeds. 
  4. Eliminate soft drinks and replace them with water.
  5. Gradually decrease sweets, such as cakes and cookies.
  6. Reduce your intake of dairy products. Use full fat, rather than any that are reduced fat. Choose stronger flavoured cheese that you need less of. The combination of sugar and fat can be a trigger for increased appetite and cravings, so beware of ice cream!
  7. Decrease meat consumption by eating smaller portions of it and trying to have some meals throughout the week that don’t include any meat or animal proteins. Expand your repertoire of vegetarian and vegan dishes by finding inspiring recipes.
  8. Mix with like minded people – there may be people in your life who will not be supportive of your new choices. “Keep calm and truck on.” Stick to non-food-related activities with those friends and connect with others who are on the same path. 
  9. Don’t feel guilty if you go off track. Every day is a chance to start over again. Reward yourself for successes and be kind to yourself when you run into obstacles. Just making the effort is a sign of courage.
  10. Be excited about your new healthy life-style and about how great you’ll feel by taking such good care of yourself, rather than feeling fearful about making bad choices. Create a positive emotional connection to your lifestyle change. The rewards of more vibrant health, energy, and mood, will surely keep you moving along this path with even greater enthusiasm and ease.

For tortoises and slow losers….

Following on from a post on the 5:2 Intermittent Fasting Diet group on Facebook about slow losers, I thought it would be helpful to share some suggestions for those who are following 5:2 but get stuck without losing any weight for 4 weeks or more.

Provided you are actually managing to do 2 fast days a week of under 500/600 calories, and you really do have some weight to lose – well there are lots of things that you can do to make a difference.

In general, we aren’t overweight because we don’t eat enough (though not eating enough on a regular basis may confound our attempts to lose). Fast days will help us to cut back – maybe enough to stop us gaining any more, but for some of us, not enough to make a noticeable difference to weight loss.

Intermittent Fasting is excellent at helping you to burn dangerous visceral fat, so that at least should be shifting, as your body transfers resources to more easy to access locations. So you may realise that you are changing shape, even if the scales don’t budge.

You may be happy enough with the long term health benefits to continue with little or no weight loss, and that is absolutely fine. But if you are frustrated enough to want to change things, then here are my suggestions (in no particular order, pick whatever appeals to you):

  • Option 1. Add in an extra fast day. Try 4:3 for a couple of weeks and see if it makes the difference. That may be enough to kick start the process again, so then go back to 5:2. You may learn through doing this that non fast days are your problem and that you need to cut back, just a little, on your portion sizes or particular types of foods in future.
  • Option 2. Mindful eating. Consider what you are going to eat before you put it in your mouth. So much of what we do is habit and nothing to do with appetite or hunger. So much of what we eat isn’t really food! Close the fridge/cupboard door again and come back later. Leave some on the plate. Put less on your plate in the first place. Mindful shopping is a good adjunct to this – if you don’t buy it in the first place, it won’t be there to tempt you. Planning ahead so that you have a week’s worth of well thought out menus to choose from before you go shopping can really help too. With mindful eating, if you think about it, really want it, and are hungry, then go ahead and eat – but stop before you are full. Eat slowly enough so that your fullness sensor has a chance to detect that you have eaten!
  • Option 3. Portion control. Using the hand guide to portion sizes can be a simple way to limit your intake, especially of things like pasta and other starchy carbs. No more than a fistful of those. See the graphic for more info.
  • Option 3. Start tracking. Track everything that you are eating and drinking for a week or two – it can be really illuminating, showing you where you eat those little extra things that are really high in sugar, or just generally high in calories. Once you have a handle on what you are really having, you can target things to cut back on. 
  • Option 4. Cut back on non fast days**. We may be shocked to discover how little we really need to stay the same weight, and gaining weight slowly over the years, is testament to that. Check your sedentary TDEE – If it is the average of about 2000 for a woman, then fast days alone will give a 3000 calorie deficit (we need to drop 3500 calories or so to lose a pound, as a rough guide). But you need to not exceed your TDEE on the others! It can be helpful to vary your intake, so some days can be lean and mean, and others can be more indulgent. ** Please note, I say cut back (to normal), not calorie restrict as you would with other diets. Intermittent Fasting requires that you refuel properly on non-fast days and eat normal amounts, which gives a good contrast to fast days and help keep your metabolism working normally.
  • Option 5. Avoid snacking. Make your 2 or 3 meals a day truly satisfying and nutritionally sound, so that you don’t need to top up between meals or afterwards. Snacks are often calorie dense and nutritionally poor, so ditching them can save lots of potential excess and leave room for adding some extra deliciousness to your meals – have a starter course instead of crisps, have a dessert instead of reaching for the sweets and so on.
  • Option 6. Cut out added sugar. Lots of prepared and packaged foods have hidden sugar that we really don’t need. If you make your own sauces, dressings, desserts and so on, you can easily avoid the unnecessary extras. Don’t be tempted to substitute with non-nutritive sweeteners, or even natural alternatives; it is better to let your palate become accustomed to less sweetness. Fruit is naturally sweet. Vanilla, Cinnamon and other spices can enhance the natural sweetness in our foods. Lots of root vegetables are naturally sweet too and the more you stay away from sugar, the more you will notice and appreciate them.
  • Option 7. Ditch highly refined foods. Refined foods like white rice, white pasta, white flour, white sugar and anything made from them, not only rack up your carb intake and spike your blood sugar, but for lots of people they cause bloating, inflammation and water retention. Cutting back on these sources of carbs can help enormously. Don’t be tempted to cut back on carbs too far, they are a much needed source of energy and you will end up feeling tired and cranky if you go too low. Aim for mostly low GI carbs and go for whole grains, pulses, vegetables and fruits.
  • Option 8. Ditch processed and packaged foods. Go for fresh, seasonal, local and home-made whenever possible. You will know that what you eat is full of good ingredients and you can add liberal amounts of love while preparing your meal. Read the labels! Long lists of ingredients and unpronounceable names are a warning sign. Not all ready meals or packages are bad, but many of them make up for poor ingredients and short cuts with additives and fillers, plus ingredients and techniques to extend the shelf life, that rob the food of its intrinsic qualities. Home-made doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Remember that 2 days a week you are eating less anyway, so your shopping bill should be lower and give you a bit of leeway for buying fresh, organic, good quality food and supporting local producers.
  • Option 9. Ditch the low fat and light products. It may seem counter-intuitive, but fat is not the enemy. Fat helps to add flavour, texture and satiety to many foods and lowers the glycemic load of carbs when eaten together. Better to eat a small amount of the real thing than something that has been modified with fillers, flavourings and sugar to make up for what has been removed. Yes, fat has a high calorific value, with 1 tsp of oil coming in at 40 calories, but there are plenty of techniques to help you make the most of using just a little. Use a little strong cheese, such as parmesan, some real butter, flavourful olive oil, rich seed oils, full fat greek yogurt and so on to enable your body to benefit from fat-soluble vitamins.
  • Option 10. Add Activity. Exercise alone is not a good way to lose weight, but as an addition to your Intermittent Fasting regime, it will make you feel good, boost your metabolism, firm up your flab, help you get into fat burning mode on a fast day and may stave off hunger. Many of us have found that a small amount of weight loss has made us feel a whole lot more enthusiastic about various exercise activities. So go for it! Do be aware that starting a new activity may temporarily increase your weight, as your muscles retain water to repair and grow. Stick with it and you will get the benefits.

I hope this has given you some ideas to encourage you to stick with fasting and to realise that maybe just a small tweak here and there may be all that is needed to make the difference between staying the same and seeing the scales going down…

This may seem more like following a ‘diet’ for a bit I guess, but the way I look at it, this is a way of eating, something you are going to follow for the rest of your life, so you may as well make some small, permanent changes that you can really live with, that will give you the results you want – and enable you to look and feel good.

 

Hand Guide to Portion Control

 

Consider what you eat, not just how much….

I actually think that what you eat is really far more important than how much, so if anyone wants some guidelines on what to eat on non fast days, to encourage healthy weight loss and not worry about calories, here are my 10 top tips:-

1. Eat mainly plants and eat all parts of plants – roots, stems, leaves, fruit, nuts and seeds
2. Eat reasonable amounts of protein (no more than 0.8g per kilo of body weight per day), from organic sources as far as possible
3. Keep carbs to low GI or low GL
4. Avoid added sugar (but fruit is ok)
5. Minimise consumption of refined foods, like white flour, white rice, white pasta and use whole grains instead
6. Minimise consumption of processed and packaged foods
7. Avoid all diet, light and low fat foods
8. Eat good fats, avoiding trans and hydrogenated fats
9. Eat some raw food every day
10. Have an occasional day when anything goes!

It’s pretty easy at this time of year for us, when the garden is the source of most of our meals, but eating seasonally and from local sources where possible, is a great way of keeping costs down and avoiding food miles.

gaarden produce

Decluttering the Spice Shelf – mmm, tasty!

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Over the last few weeks I have worked my way through my fridge, freezer and store cupboards, figuring out what I have and putting together a plan each week to use up some of the things that have been in store for the longest. It’s working well and I’m saving lots of money (at least in the short term) – and trying out some new ideas.

Next, I approached the spice and herb shelf. Oh dear, it is groaning. I have over 50 jars! 

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An article by Marie Kondo, Japanese tidiness expert, led me to approach my spice shelf with a new perspective. See 10 steps to make you more tidy now.

Each jar was looked at – do I love it? Does it bring me joy?

Out went anything that was really old, flavourless or unappealing, including some dried rosemary – I have fresh growing in the garden, all year round, so why bother?

Of the remaining spices, mixes and herbs, there were only two that I wasn’t sure about, juniper and fenugreek seeds.

The juniper must have been bought for something specific, but I have forgotten what. I tried using some at Christmas with cranberries, but the flavour was far too strong.

The fenugreek seeds are something that I occasionally use for sprouting; they have a bitterness and a distinct curry aroma, that can make an interesting addition to a salad or as a garnish.

I got some wonderful suggestions from the lovely members of the 5:2 Intermittent Fasting Recipes from Around the World group (a real mouthful in more ways than one!)

  • Juniper as a partner for game, such as venison or wild boar.
  • mmmmmmm a chopped shallot soup with thyme, juniper, garlic and bay leaf…
  • a rub for pork, using salt, dried rosemary and juniper (damn! retrieve the dried rosemary 🙂 )
  • Juniper berries for braised red cabbage

and I found some interesting recipes on line:

I am encouraged to try growing my own, as fenugreek, also known as ‘methi’, is used widely as a herb in Indian recipes. An interesting addition to my micro leaves selection!

So, with spices in mind, what am I cooking this week?

I bought a whole free range chicken, which I jointed. I made the breasts into Butter Chicken, following a Rick Stein recipe, which was succulent and absolutely delicious. The joints are marinading in spices and yogurt. I will dry bake them in a hot oven for our fast day dinner, with leftovers for lunch another day. 

Having thrown out my old garam masala, I had no alternative but to make my own. In a hot dry pan, I roasted some cumin, cardamom and coriander seeds with cinnamon bark. I added peppercorns, fenugreek, salt and chilli powder and pounded all together in my pestle and mortar. Mmmm, wonderful aromas! This became an ingredient in the sauce for the Butter Chicken as well as a garnish for the dhal. It should keep well for at least a month.

The chicken carcass has made a lovely asian-flavoured stock, with star anise, chillies, peppercorns and lime leaves, and the tops of some fresh leeks – I have retrieved a surprising amount of meat from the bones, and with the stock this will make a wonderful soup, with the addition of some finely sliced mushrooms.

Hot and Sour Chicken and Mushroom Soup

My ‘treat’ purchases this week – a small whole camembert: bake until melted, then dip into with toasted pita bread; and a basket of small pears.

Sat lunch: Pizza and Salad; fresh fruit
Dinner: Butter Chicken with Naan and Red Lentil Dhal; Ice Cream

Sun lunch: leftover Pizza with Salad; fresh fruit
Dinner: Roast Rib of Beef, Dauphinoise Potatoes, Yorkshire Pudding, Carrots and Peas; Cinnamon-spiced Cherries topped with an Oat Crumble with chopped Hazelnuts

Mon Fast Day: Spicy Chicken and Mushroom Broth; Tandoori Chicken with Cauliflower Rice and Dhal; sliced Oranges with Dates and Pistachios

Tue lunch: Thai Style Roast Beef Salad with roasted Peanuts and a vietnamese dressing; fresh fruit
Dinner: Toulouse Sausages with Potato and Celeriac Bake; Fig Frangipani tart with custard

Wed lunch: French Onion Soup; Coronation Chicken Salad; fresh fruit
Dinner: Black Bean and Sausage Burritos; leftover Fig Frangipani tart with yogurt

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Thurs, fast day: Morrocan Cauliflower Soup; Salmon Teriyaki with Leeks and Mushrooms; Spiced Poached Cherries with Yogurt

Teriyaki Salmon

Fri lunch: Egg Mayonnaise Salad; fresh fruit
dinner: Baked Camembert with Pitta crisps;  Red Mullet with Coconut-Lime sauce, spiced puy lentil salad, Pears with Chocolate Meringue topping

Pear with Chocolate Meringue   

 Plenty of lovely meals to look forward to, and a spice cupboard in which I can almost find what I am looking for… still over-crowded, but at least I know what’s in there.

Anyone got any ideas for using dried rosebuds?

 

Growing your own – sprouted seeds

DSCF1838Around this time of year, we haven’t really got anything growing in our garden that we can eat, apart from some hardy herbs. So while we are waiting for the first asparagus and broad beans and for the ground to warm up enough to plant some salad crops, this is the perfect time to do some windowsill gardening.  You may be lucky enough to find cress, or even better, mustard and cress, in a supermarket – and a wider variety of sprouts in a health food store. But sadly so often these delightful packages of nutrition are hard to find, so it’s grow your own or go without.

This week I have been growing puy lentils, mung beans and alfalfa seeds.

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I love the light crunchy texture of the lentils, which have the flavour of fresh peas. Mung bean sprouts are perfect to add at the last minute to a stir fry.  Alfalfa sprouts make a great addition to an egg mayonnaise or a peanut butter sandwich. 

You don’t need to be a gardener or green-fingered, and you don’t need a lot of space or time to make a success. You can grow them in a jar, or in a special sprouter, as I have here:

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There is a huge variety of seeds that are suitable for sprouting. The act of germination and growing of seeds creates a wide variety of changes to the nutritional value and sprouts are reportedly more easily digested and contain higher available nutrients and protein than the seeds from which they are grown. Lots more info here –  http://www.sproutnet.com/Sprouts-for-Optimum-Nutrition

Next time I am going to do fenugreek, mustard and aduki beans.

You can buy a salad sprouter here at Nicky’s Nursery along with a huge array of seeds (for those in the UK only).

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Growing tips: Make sure that your kit is scrupulously clean. Some larger seeds will benefit from being soaked overnight initially. Then rinse and drain. Rinse the sprouts at least twice daily and do not leave in standing water. Keep in the light or the dark (grown in the dark are more crunchy I hear), but ensure good air flow around them. Keep out of direct sunlight. Aim for a reasonably even temperature of 15 – 20c. Harvest just as the leaves start to show. Sprouts that are ready may be kept in the fridge for a couple of days, but do not store well for longer.

Breakfast ideas

There’s been a lot of buzz about high protein – low carb, especially since the BBC Horizon programme ‘What’s the Right Diet for You?’ recently. This programme explored some of the science behind why people put on weight and how they can best lose it. They divided a group of obese people into 3 types – Feasters, Constant Cravers and Emotional Eaters – and devised specific diets to suit them. 

Smoked Trout and Scrambled Egg _MG_3123 _MG_0303 Hot and Sour Chicken and Mushroom Soup

Each dieter underwent a series of scientific tests to find out the main reason for why they put on weight. The Constant Cravers have genes that mean they feel hungry all the time, the Feasters have a misfiring gut hormone that stops them from knowing when they’re feeling full. The final group, the Emotional Eaters, eat in response to stress.

They picked participants for the 8 week trial on the basis that they were quite strongly characteristic of one of the 3 types.  There is an online test which can help you to determine your own type. Most people actually are a combination of the 3 types to a greater or lesser degree and many people may not be significantly aligned with any of the types. The test can be found here http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z2csfg8, along with other related resources.

For the Feasters, a diet high in protein and low GI carbs, helps boost the lacking gut hormone and increases feelings of fullness

For the Constant Cravers, an Intermittent Fasting diet that restricts calories on two days a week, combined with very low carbohydrate intake on those days, helps to retrain the appetite and enables you to become more accustomed to not snacking or grazing.

For the Emotional Eaters, controlling intake by limiting high fat/high sugar foods and counting calories, combined with being part of a support group to help keep motivation levels high, is very helpful.

In my view, all the types will flourish by following an Intermittent Fasting diet (i.e 5:2), combined with limiting processed foods and cutting back on simple carbs such as sugar and white bread/pasta/rice. A diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, good fats and a variety of protein sources, with nuts and seeds, pulses and whole grains, is the way to go.

We have to be a little careful with the idea of high protein, as pointed out by Michael Mosley in ‘the fast diet’, as research shows that protein, and animal protein in particular, raises our levels of IGF-1, which is needed when you are young and growing but appears to accelerate ageing and cancer in later life. We should aim to keep our protein intake to within 0.8grams per kilo of body weight (per day) and aim to get as much as possible from plant based sources, says Prof Valter Longo. However, protein is very good at keeping you feeling full and so it is a very good choice for breakfast. 

So “revenons a nos moutons“, getting back to our sheep, or the main subject…. here are some ideas for sustaining breakfasts which have ample protein but are low in carbs or use low-GI carbs. I prefer not to have breakfast at all on a fast day, but I think it is a useful tactic when you are starting out with fasting and on any normal day it can stop you from reaching for the croissants mid-morning….

  • Get those little offcuts of smoked salmon and stir them into scrambled eggs… yum
  • How about going oriental and having a spicy broth with tofu?
  • Don’t forget nuts! Some oats soaked overnight in water with toasted chopped nuts and seeds and some fresh grated apple added in the morning makes a fab Bircher muesli
  • Make your own grunchy granola with whole rolled oats, wheat and rye flakes and add plenty of chopped hazelnuts. Stir in some honey or malt extract for a little sweetness and bake in the oven until golden. Then add in some luscious dried fruits. Serve it with natural yogurt.
  • Full fat greek yoghurt, with berries and nuts, or made into a smoothie with a banana 
  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese, on a thin slice of rye bread or crispbread
  • Cottage cheese with sliced pear and chopped walnuts
  • One of my favourites – wholewheat toast with almond butter
  • Another frequent one for us, as our chickens are producing so many – a boiled egg, I usually have it with a slice of wholewheat toast, but you could have asparagus spears to dip in for a low-carb alternative
  • egg and bacon, or egg and ham
  • bacon and mushrooms
  • smoked haddock with a poached egg
  • banana pancakes (banana whizzed up with an egg, made into scotch pancakes), use a little coconut oil or butter in the pan
  • veggie pops – grated pumpkin or squash with some parmesan cheese and ground almonds, mixed with a beaten egg, add some chilli or spice for variety and bake in silicone moulds or cupcake cases

I hope this helps you to avoid the elevenses….

Tangle Pie – a lighter way to top almost anything!

Tangle PieThis idea came to me via the Hairy Dieters, whose recipes are enormously popular with many 5:2 fasters, as they are generally straightforward and family friendly.  I am a great fan of filo pastry, as one of the things you often miss when you cut back on starchy carbs and fat (i.e pastry) is a contrasting texture. Here is a way of adding something light and crispy as a topping.  In this example, I was actually using more of my Christmas leftovers so this is a Turkey Tangle Pie, which also used up the last scraps of gammon, some mushrooms, some cream and some brandy. I’m going to be trying some variations of this for sure – imagine some roasted veg and a rich mushroom and sherry sauce, or layers of sliced celeriac and carrots with spinach and a herby sauce…. or something fruity like apples, mincemeat and marzipan with just a drizzle of honey or maple syrup or a sprinkle of icing sugar when serving…

So to the method: 

  • One sheet* of filo pastry per portion and half a teaspoon of vegetable oil, I used sunflower oil.
  • Lay the sheets on top of each other and cut into 3. Lay those on top of each other, and then cut into 3 in the other direction, so you end up with 9 small rectangles from each slice.
  • Now, scrunch them up and lay them on top of your pie to cover the filling completely and very lightly brush with the oil.
  • Bake in a hot oven for 15 – 20 minutes.

* I have discovered that filo sheets vary a lot in size! The ones I use measure 30 x 38cms, there are 8 -10 sheets in a 250g pack, so each sheet would be between 70 and 90 calories. ½ a teaspoon of oil is about 20 calories. So adding a topping like this will be add approximately 100 calories per serving. Compare that to a puff pastry topping, which would be about 300 calories!

Sweet nothings…..

I’m finding that portion sizes of recipes are usually way too large and there seems to be a complete obsession with adding sweetness to things in recipes, even on the BBC Good Food Healthy recipes section.

Case in point: yesterday I cooked braised red cabbage. The recipe called for a tablespoon of brown sugar! It didn’t need it, a drop of aged balsamic brought out the sweetness. I made a parsnip dish, the recipe called for a tablespoon of honey! Parsnips are naturally sweet, they don’t need any extra! I made a pear dessert, the recipe called for a tablespoon of honey per person! Again, pears already have natural sugars, but I did add a teaspoonful between us. No wonder so many people are struggling with their weight!

If I had followed the recipes without thinking, we each would have consumed 1/2 a tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoonful of honey. I don’t think the food would have tasted any better for it.

If you can stop having sweeteners in drinks like tea and coffee, then it becomes possible to appreciate the innate sweetness of fruits and vegetables and then the amount of sugar that you need everywhere else in your diet can be dramatically reduced.

Sweet nothings…. Black coffee, herb tea, mineral water, lemon and ginger tea, rooibosh tea – that’s what I’m looking forward to today. Try and leave out the artificial sweeteners altogether, they don’t do your body any favours. Sugar-free does not mean impact-free, your body can still respond as if it was having sugar. Leave the diet coke on the shelf.

Try and make fast day a day of sweet nothings.