Thursday, 28 February 2013

Put your fashion foot forward

I have a presentation tonight at the London College of Fashion, discussing a career in consulting and how it could apply to those studying Fashion and Management. Whether or not this is of interest to those students, I have no idea. But, the big thing for me wasn't what I was going to say - it was what I was going to wear.

A quick trolley dash down Oxford Street resulted in this...

Terrible photo of me and my room!

Anyway, the jumper is the Annie Sparkle Crew, £65 from Whistles.
Skirt is the Summer Shower Skirt, £110 from Whistles. (both available here)
Worn with my kitten heeled 'Vamp' shoes from Zara (see this post).

Usually I'm not a fan of spending this much on one or two items, BUT, there are two offers you can take advantage of:

1. If you have an AMEX, sync it to your foursquare account, and then 'check-in' at House of Fraser to receive £25 off any purchase over £50. (although quick as this runs out today)

2. Whistles (in store only, not concessions I believe) has 25% off with Grazia magazine. Either show the coupon in store, or if buying online, the code is "wh25ss13", so you don't even need to buy the magazine.

So, I bought the jumper in HOF (£40, saving of £25), and the skirt from Whistles (£82.50, saving of £27.50). I'm not pretending it's cheap as it still totaled £122.50, but much better than the £175 at full RRP!

Go to work (or bed) on an egg

I absolutely love eggs. Not only are they cheap, they're supremely tasty, and incredibly quick to cook. Some people seem to struggle with associations that they're a breakfast food only - but more often than not, I eat them for dinner after a long day at work, when I'm starving and desperate to have something nutritious for dinner.

Here's two egg-based recipes that I've made recently. Neither of them took longer than 15 minutes to make (from start to finish), although I have to confess and say that for the second recipe, I did already have roasted squash in the fridge.

Baked egg souffle-type dish. Recipe here (scroll down the page a bit!). I added smoked salmon underneath the egg too.

Nigel Slater's spiced squash and fried egg. As you can probably tell, the picture is not mine! Recipe here. I roasted the squash in advance though and then just reheated in a frying pan with the spices.

The second recipe as well has the benefit of being suitable for the 5:2 diet - use low-cal spray to fry the butternut squash, and add a couple of sprays when roasting too. (or steam as per the recipe and no need for oil). You could serve with a green salad on the side or some steamed broccoli if you're still hungry.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


Sorry for another post without photos. I have lamented the poor quality of photos from my blackberry before, but this time it's just that I don't know what to photograph. I suppose blogs with photos are more readable, but I suppose I'm writing this more for me than for anyone else. (And maybe for my Mum to read as well).

Anyway, the purpose of this post was to give an update on the 5:2 diet. It was a great success in January, less so over the past few weeks as I've been busy, it's been super cold, and critical eating events (like Valentines, ha!) have cropped up. Still, I've managed to maintain a weight loss of about 8 lbs, give or take. I suppose the reason I haven't lost more is two fold:

1. I don't actually need to lose weight. I'm probably a comfortable size 8 now (rather than an 8 - 10 as previously)
2. My calorie restriction willpower wavers in the evening. I can happily skip breakfast and have a small lunch, and then a healthy dinner. But then I got the munchies and need sugar and end up eating minstrels or snickers or something.

I know 2. is probably psychological and that if I was truly hungry, an apple or plum would be equally as satiating as a chocolate bar. But, referring back to 1., this reduces my willpower to resist as I guess I don't care enough.

So in conclusion, I suppose the diet has definitely been a success. I'm going to half-kind-of keep it up (two days week try and eat light meals and fewer < 1,000 calories) to help maintain the weight loss, but not going to go out on a limb to eat 500 calories. I didn't really have a strict goal in mind when I started the diet, so I can't really measure success against that, although I am much happier with my body now. So that's definitely success by some measure!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

A supermarket-free Lent

Even though I'm not super religious, I always give something up for Lent. Usually, it's a good reason to stop eating chocolate, or meat, or bread, or wine, in an attempt to get healthier. This year however, I've decided to give up supermarkets! So that means no Sainsbury's, Tesco, Morrison, Asda, Waitrose, M&S or Co-op. I'm allowing myself to go to the local, independent 'mini' supermarkets as I think using those still counts as contributing to the local economy.

So far, I've done two food shops. The first one, I did via Hubbub, which is an absolutely brilliant home delivery service. I think they're only based in N1 and E8 at the moment. The basic premise however is that you order your food online from a pretty good selection, and then they go to lots of different independent shops to collect it for you.

The food is always very good quality, if a little more expensive than going to a regular supermarket. They also charge £3.50 for delivery, however given that it saves you time that's really not too bad. Another great plus point is that as well as offering plenty of fresh food, they also have cleaning products, shampoo, and other household goods that I'm likely to need.

My second shop was a little more creative and I went to five (!) different shops for my weekly shop. I went to Newington Green Fruit and Vegetables, which is possibly my favourite greengrocers ever. They have a fantastic range, plenty of unusual vegetables, and also a good selection of things in jars, like capers and vine leaves. I cook a lot of food that requires unusual ingredients, but here they had tahini paste, artichokes, galangal and salsify, as well as plenty of things I couldn't identify.

My fish for the week came from a local Turkish fishmongers. I wasn't quite as impressed as although the fish appears to be good quality (I've not eaten it yet), there wasn't such a big range and it was dominated by the more standard fish types such as salmon and cod.

Other shops include the Wholefoods store (for creme fraiche and fresh soup; the latter was very expensive and so I need to find another stockist), L'entrecote for wine and Percy Ingle for bread. All in all, I spent about £30, although that includes £10 on a bottle of wine.

I'm looking forward to discovering new shops and new ingredients, although actually shopping in person is obviously quite time consuming as not only are these shops further than Sainsbury's, you have more to visit. I do like Hubbub but miss being able to choose my own food so that's not a perfect solution either. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

January pick me up

I'm supposed to be saving up for a big holiday later this year, but a gloomy January and a bored week day evening meant that my credit card took quite the battering last week! Here are my latest purchases...

Chocolate and pear scones

I absolutely love scones. I think they are one of the most underrated baked good around, people's opinions blighted by memories of rock hard scones brought back from cookery class, or those horrible chalky crumbly things, punctuated with bright red glace cherries (not that I don't love glace cherries!). Last weekend in Greenwich, Harry and I had wonderful afternoon tea at the Fan Museum, with excellent small, warm scones. The weekend before we had an absolute behemoth of a scone from Euphorium bakery, with a inch of clotted cream slavered on top.

So gor those of you not dieting, this recipe is for you! I realise that I've only really posted low calorie recipes recently, so here is one without a calorie count, one to just enjoy.

The original recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, whose blog is far more eloquent and photogenic than mine. Nevertheless, I've got a couple of photos to show you and I made a few changes to the recipe. I also didn't use a dough hook to do the mixing, doing everything by hand instead, and it worked out absolutely fine.

Chocolate and pear scones


3 small pears, peeled, cored and cut into chunks*
140g dark chocolate, cut into chunks
290g plain flour
75g caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp for sprinkling
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt, plus a little more for the egg wash
125g cold butter, cut into chunks
90ml double cream
2 medium eggs

*I actually only had 2 pears so I substituted a small apple instead

1. Put the pears on a baking tray lined with parchment and roast at about 180 degrees (fan) for 15 mins or so, until the pears are starting to brown.

2. Place the flour, baking powder, caster sugar, salt and baking powder into a bowl and give a quick mix with a spoon. Add in the butter, one egg, and cream. Mix a little with the wooden spoon. You'll find that it very quickly becomes difficult to stir the mixture. At this point, get your hands in, and start rubbing the butter into the flour, moving it around, kneading it, until it's starting to look uniform.

3. Add the pear chunks and chocolate and knead some more till you have a relatively homogeneous mixture.

4. Flour your work surface and tip the dough out. It will be a little sticky, but not inordinately so. Work the dough into a sheet about 4cm thick. You don't need to use a rolling pin, you should be able to shape it with your hands.

5. Using a cutter (or your hands), cut the scones out. I made  9, plus a small one of scraps. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment.

6. Using the other egg, add to a bowl along with 1tsp water and a pinch of salt. Whisk together with a fork until it's relatively uniform. Brush the scones (I used a pastry brush) all over the top and sides.

7. Bake in an oven at about 190 degrees (fan) for about 30 minutes. They should be golden brown.

8. Leave to cool and then eat. Or eat while still hot and the chocolate is all melty...

10 minute dinner

I got back from a weekend in Cambridge this afternoon, and having eaten lots of delicious (but unhealthy) food, I was desperate for something tasty, but quick. Usually I'm happy to spend a while preparing food, but as I'd spent the previous hour making scones - not really in keeping with being healthy! - I couldn't be bothered to slave over my dinner.

This is the concoction I came up with, something that is inspired by various recipes and ideas, but not enough to really attribute it to anyone else. It also has the benefit of being very low calorie.

Grilled field mushrooms with green crush

2 large flat field mushrooms
1 egg
100g frozen peas
50g frozen broad beans
small handful spinach
1 stock cube
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
salt and pepper to taste

1. Turn the grill on high and put the mushrooms on a baking tray. Place under the grill for about 10 minutes.

2. Boil the kettle. Put your peas and broad beans in a pan with the stock cube and add the boiling water. Cook for a few minutes or until cooked.

3. Put the spinach in a sieve / colander and drain the peas and beans in the same colander. This way, the hot stock cooks the spinach.

4. Poach the egg as you like.

5. Add a tablespoon of creme fraiche to the pan you cooked the peas in, and add the drained vegetables. Whizz with the blender to get a green paste, as chunky as you want.

6. Place the cooked mushrooms, flat side up, on a plate. Top each with the green crush and add the poached egg. Season with salt and pepper.

I estimate the calorie count for this to be 238 calories, so ideal for a fast day for those of you on the 5:2 diet.

Mushrooms - 30 calories
Peas - 68 calories
Broad beans - 40 calories
Egg - 65 calories
Creme fraiche (half fat) - 35 calories