Apologies for the lack of posts here of late. I lost interest in food, food in general including cake.  Cooking was happening here, mainly by Husband but I did my fair share (I don’t think its fair in a relationship for it to always be one partner who ends up having to do a particular thing – although we do both agree that it’s pointless asking me to map read !) but I just had no desire to write about it, because my heart wasn’t in it.

I did make an effort for special occasions such as Spider’s 5th birthday, but there were so many other things going on that I forgot to take a picture – fortunately my Mum turned up complete with camera and managed to capture the gigantic beast in the kitchen, shortly after having his neck stuck back on (with water !) and some time before it was consumed by a hoard of hungry party goers…

I still have no interest in food – but that may be about to change. We have spent most of today reclaiming our back garden and filling a skip with builders waste (old wood, broken doors and windows etc) – We kept some wood for making raised beds and I have a big box full of seeds, Nigel Slater’s “Tender v1” (which incidently is currently half  price at Amazon) and a sneaking feeling that if I want to shift his next stone of weight I probably should major on the vegetables this summer as well as the exercise (4 mile walk last night and 5 hours of shifting builders rubbish today).

Tonight though I’m feeling too tired to do anything but collapse…

Tender: Nigel Slater


Tender came out in October 2009. I have, from time to time fondled it in various bookshops and admired the usual beautiful photographs, carefully chosen paper and print style and of course his wonderful wonderful words…I didn’t admire the price though (£25 full price – amazon currently have it half price). So thinking carefully about it I resolved, no more recipe books. I have enough. Maybe in the future if I see it secondhand…

Mum, thankfully, ignored my resolve and for that she had a special hug on Christmas day…which surprised her as she was in the middle of taking the turkey out the oven !

Thankfully since Christmas we have been living on leftovers which has given me plenty of time to hideaway with my beloved Nigel, pouring over his beautiful prose and planning the vegetable garden. Maybe this year I will get it off the ground – last year my seedlings withered in the kitchen when we were let down over the promised allotment.

It’s timely too as one of my plans this year is to get more vegetables into our diet…I have a sneaking suspicion that it may lead to less colds and a general feeling of well being.

Despite the fact that the kitchen is currently our of commission (see previous post) I do have a vegetable soup on the go (The usual end of life fridge soup, loosely based on a Covent Garden caramalised root vegetable recipe (because I have turnips in the fridge)…and a vague plan to stop at a Farm Shop on the way back from Banbury later today.

There is a problem with this however, as by and large I cook for a family and my family are not really into vegetables – although Spider is getting better – he ate the maple syrup parsnips (p383) I did with the roast beef.

My impressions on the book though are that it is beautifully written but not that it makes me want to get into the kitchen – this is not because Nigel hasn’t served up his usual selection of fabulous ideas but because everytime I read something part of me is thinking “oh so and so won’t eat that” – what is does make me want to do however is get out into the garden and plant things !

Current plans however involve the chapter on Sprouts (Husband oddly, does eat sprouts) and all the Soup recipes which are in season. The book is, unsurprisingly, rather short on cake recipes, and of the 3 there are I have already made 2 of them as they were previously published in the Observer – however in view of the drastic need to reduce calorie intake in this house, this lack is no bad thing…

But first I must finish off painting the kitchen, otherwise we will be living off pizza and cheese on toast for the next few days.

Tomorrow, is the first day of the rest of your life…

Tomorrow is the first day of my campaign to get me eating healthily – I would like to get the rest of my family eating healthily but that might be slightly more than I can manage (Spider has potential he eats the more colourful members of the vegetable world).

Yesterday I tackled the building site of the back garden – its going to be a long job but at least I’ve strimmed the grass and made a start at stacking all the dead wood in one place

back garden pre tidy

back garden pre tidy

I have also organised the shed, camping and toys on one side and my gardening equipment on the other. Am contemplating drawing a chalk line down the centre…have threatened dire penalties towards anyone messing up my “sanctuary” if a dark dingy cobwebbed infested place can be called a sanctuary.

All my tools are finally in one place, soon to be joined by all the various seed packets that inhabit every spare drawer in the house.

Unfortunately all the plants I grew in February and March have died off as I had nowhere to put them after the allotment fell through so I am looking for free or cheap plants of whatever sort I can get my hands on.

Later today I shall make the last cake (other than my Mum’s birthday cake) that I intend to eat until I have got my waist measurement down to 28 inches – still cooking for other people though..

I am also part way through 2 soups. There was a report on the BBC website last week that scientists thought that soup might be the key to dieting as it makes your brain think you are not hungry for longer – sorry can’t find the link. I am part way through as one of the recipes involves soaking beans overnight and then cooking them. I don’t have a lot of luck with dried beans so I doubled both the soaking time and the cooking time and I think they are now “cooked, with a little bite left”.

The recipes in question are Nigel Slater’s “White Bean and Tarragon Soup” replacing the borlotti beans with haricot and the tarragon with possibly thyme (I actually grew some borlotti beans last year and they were very easy and so beautiful to look at). The second recipe is from a blog I read Glittyknittykitty (Potage Crecy with Peppers – January 16th) and is purely because I have been given a jaw of Peppardew peppers and have a large bag of carrots in for Spider.

Waste of a waist

As I meandered into work yesterday my mind was toying around with converting 81cm into inches and was so shocked with the results that I had to double check with a calculator when I finally got to work.

Now it was always a consolation and of great comfort to me to know that despite for most of my life having a backside the size of East Anglia, I had a very small waist. When I was 21 I had a 24 inch waist.

Discovering therefore that I now have a 32 inch waist has been the kick up the backside that I have needed to look seriously at the amount of exercise I get and the quality of my diet.

So as of today I am cutting down on my alcohol intake and improving the quantity of vegetables in my cooking. On the veg side I made a start last night with a chow mein that was heavy on the frozen vegetables – which are apparently just as good for you as fresh ones – and since I like a well stocked freezer I have no excuse for not eating large quantities of vegetables…

I do not exercise. I don’t get any enjoyment from exercise for exercise sake and there is no way I’m wasting my time down a gym. However I have until recently always been reasonably fit because I have never minded walking and I don’t consider anything under 2 miles to be an unreasonable distance. Unfortunately since having Spider I have been a little more reliant on the car for logistical reasons and lack of time. I am therefore trying to work more exercise into daily life.

I know I am fooling myself to think that without a lot more effort on the exercise front I will ever get my 24 inch waist back and if I’m honest I think trying to get rid of 8 inches of blubber is probably not achievable. I am therefore aiming for 27inches and if the first 2 inches come off easily then I might increase the exercise regime to something more intensive.

Having scanned through my recipe books for inspiration I have come to the conclusion that Leon: Allegra McEvedy might be a good book to use for menu planning as it appears to have less reliance on butter and cream and does seem to have a high content of vegetables in the recipes.

I was interested to note that Allegra has a new recipe book coming out in August co written with Paul Merret (whose Losing the Plot: Tales of an Allotment Chef I received for my birthday last week) called Economy Gastronomy which is concentrating on eating well, eating healthily but eating cheaply…sounds very timely.

Goodbye to our winter friends

  “Families are composed of  men, women children, the occasional animal and the common cold”  Ogden Nash

Spider announced this morning as he bounced onto our bed that he was “a Roman Soldier with a cold” – he never claims to have a cold until he’s almost better and is worried that we won’t be quite so concerned over him – he has obviously grasped the concept of man flu earlyin life.

I am hoping that this will be the last of the viral warfare we’ve suffered from this past 6 months and that I can finally get some things done and get some energy back – if so I may finally have a garden rather than a building site.

I have given up again on the allotment for another year now – the land agents have told us not to start without the formal letter and they can’t say when they will be in a position to release that.

So this weekend I will be once again planting up my containers and the strip of land along the fence I claim is a veg patch… oh and painting that wall I didn’t manage last week due to a severe bout of “I can’t get my bottom of this sofa- itis”.

The boiled eggs are coming along fine, thanks for asking !

Never say never

Spider, like a lot of pre school children can be unreasonable, stubborn and strong willed. It really used to upset me when I went to the trouble of making a healthy meal from scratch only for him to completely refuse to touch it…

I’ve stopped getting upset, now I just insist that he at least tries 1 spoonful of it, whatever it is, whether its something new or something that he has eaten in the past and has decided he doesn’t want any more. It all comes down to control freakery – food is the one area of his life that he can control, because short of forcing the food down his throat I cannot actually make him eat…where as with most of the rest of his life he is having to do as he is told by people bigger than him.

By insisting he has 1 spoonfull honour is satisfied on both sides. Spider keeps trying new things and as far as he is concerned eating 1 spoonfull is not giving in, as he hasn’t eaten it all.

I will get my own way in the end as he will end up liking a wide range of food eventually. It worked with me…I even ended up eating olives, although it did take until I was 28, but I kept trying them every 2 years or so, just to see if my tastes had changed…it has even worked eventually with radishes (although they do need to be cut thinly) which is a good thing as I’ve just discovered 2 packets of radish seeds in my seed box (think I got them because I wanted something easy to grow to get Spider interested in plants)…and somehow I think its going to be a long time before Spiders taste buds make that leap…

O is for onions and alliums in general

I had been planning on missing out “O” until I’d written the post for “P” as “O” was going to be all about Onigiri but since these would be for my lunch over the week it seemed pretty pointless making them and writing about them on a Friday…but then this weekend has been so busy that I haven’t had chance to cook (except for a long thin sponge) or write until now.

As it is the news about the allotment has perked me up enough to start thinking about what to grow and first on the list is onions/garlic/shallots/spring onions as most of my non baking cookery tends to start with “take 1 onion, chop” – certainly if I don’t know what to cook for dinner I’ll usually start chopping and onion and waiting for inspiration to strike.

The other thing onions have going for them is they are the only thing the slugs in my garden don’t seem to touch. Last year I lost the tops of the onions, garlic and shallots to the slugs but the bulbs themselves were ok – got a bumper crop of shallots but the onions I think may have been too closer together in their container…

I had vague plans to either make french onion soup (my mum’s recipe) or an upside down onion tart which I have vague memories of from a Nigella recipe.

As it was we spent Sunday morning pottering around the wet wasteland at the end of our houses trying to work out what size the allotment should be and where…and now here we are at sunday evening when I have to think about packed lunches for the week and and could both make and write about about rice balls, but I find myself with a fridge of leftovers and no need to make something specifically for lunches. My parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this weekend…looks like we are in for another week of creative cooking.

I may make the Leon lentil soup in the next few days…it got a good write up on Lacer’s Life…and once again my stomach is in turmoil from anxiety and I need something gentle to calm it down…thank god its payday this week !

ps been a bit of a week for people passing away, John Mortimer on thursday and Tony Hart this morning…

Orange Coloured Day

This is a temporary post but I had to shout it out loud


Its only taken a about a year of chasing the owners and then a further 9 or 10 months hassling the land agents…but yes Flapjack Queen and I are about to share the joys and torments of an allotment, starting with having to clear it as the land has been disused for almost 10 years…but then that’s what god invented Husbands for…