Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Wow, two posts in a week! Two recipes, no less! Made this tonight and thought I’d blog it, because it was tasty.


  • 200g tagliatelle
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
  • 1 packet of oyster mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 packet shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • Small glass of wine
  • 1 chicken stock cube


  1. Put the pasta on to cook.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan and gently sautee the mushrooms, shallots and garlic.
  3. When the mushrooms are cooked, add the wine to the pan and simmer till the pasta is ready.
  4. Drain the pasta water into a jug with the crushed stock cube, and add a glug or two of the pasta water/stock to the pan with the mushrooms. Simmer while you set the table etc.
  5. Season the mushrooms with black pepper.
  6. Toss the pasta in the mushroomy mixture.
  7. If you like, grate over some Parmesan and devour.

I think this would be great with some fresh herbs, probably parsley, but I didn’t have any (I suppose marjoram, thyme or maybe sage would have worked, but our garden is under several inches of ice and snow!). A pinch of chilli flakes would give it a nice kick, too. And of course you could use some vegetable bouillion instead of the chicken stock cube.


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I made this today and thought I’d better blog the recipe before I forget it, because it was really tasty. It’s a jazzed-up version of a recipe a colleague gave me years ago. I’d made her recipe a few times as an easy side dish to go with curry, but I found it a bit bland. The version I made today was really good, and I thought I’d post it here for future reference!


  • 200g red split lentils
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Approx 450ml chicken stock
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbl vegetable oil
  • 2 tbl butter
  • A handful of chopped fresh coriander


  1. Put the lentils, all the spices and half the garlic in a pan and cover with the stock. Bring it to the boil and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, until the lentils are cooked.
  2. Meanwhile, gently fry the chopped onion and the rest of the garlic in the oil and butter. Pour over and stir into the daal.
  3. Just before serving, stir in the chopped coriander.

This made enough as a side dish for 2, plus enough left over for my lunch tomorrow. It would probably serve 2 as a main dish, with rice and/or chapatis.


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Every summer I get really tight calves. Uncomfortable, wanting-to-stretch-constantly, cramping-up-in-the-night tight. I put it down to the fact that I typically run more in the summer, and I tend to wear higher heels at that time of year (both my pairs of smart summer sandals are wedges, which are higher than my usual kitten heels). A couple of weeks ago it was getting particularly bad – I was getting cramp nearly every night, and eventually it blossomed into shin splints on both legs. I ticked just about all the “risk” boxes – tight calf muscles, increased mileage, increased speed…in despair I took my beloved Brooks Adrenaline running shoes into my local running shop. And got thoroughly laughed at for wearing motion-control shoes with orthotics.

In my defence, the orthotics I had when I started to wear the Adrenaline line of shoes were much softer and less supportive than my current ones. And the podiatrist never pointed out, when she gave me my current orthotics, that I should change my shoes. My natural gait is over-pronation, in which the feet roll inwards. Between the supportive shoes and the orthotics, my footwear was completely over-compensating for this, and my feet were actually tending to roll outwards. No wonder my poor shins were hurting.

So I left the shop with a nice, shiny new pair of Brooks Glycerin, which are nicely cushioned but not corrective; in other words, they will leave my orthotics to get on with the job of correcting my gait. I promptly went out for a muddy off-road run (as is my ritual when presented with a pair of bright white running shoes) and my calves and shins are both much, much better.

Quite a few people in my life recently have been talking or blogging about issues with weight and food. Most recently, Nicola started to blog about weight loss and exercise. Others have been struggling with a variety of patterns of disordered eating – whether over-eating or not eating enough.  It got me thinking about how running has changed my own relationship with food.

I love food. I’m a bit of a foodie. I love cooking, and trying out new recipes. I make my own stock, I bake, I have shelves of recipe books and a bulging virtual binder over on BBC Good Food. Luckily for me, I don’t have too much of a sweet tooth (I love cakes and biscuits, but I don’t enjoy sweet drinks). I don’t like processed food and the only fast food I can stomach is Subway (and I think that last time I had that was about 2 years ago). I’m 5’8” and for the last few years I’ve weighed in at around 10-and-a-half stone (147 pounds? I’m not very good with Imperial measurements…), but I don’t generally weigh myself very often as long as my clothes still fit me. I’ve never offically been On A Diet, but I do tend to cut down on cake, chocolate etc if I feel I’ve been overdoing it.

Last year I was edging towards 11 stone, but most of my clothes still fit and I was still fairly active and within a healthy BMI range, so I wasn’t too worried. I tend to put on weight almost exclusively on my belly, so I did occasionally get kids at school asking if I was pregnant! Just before Christmas I had a very hectic period at school, combined with the fact that I don’t tend to eat a big lunch, and I lost half a stone pretty much accidentally (it was only in hindsight that I realised that I was hungry all the time at school!).

So when I started marathon training I was down to about 10 stone, the lightest I’ve been for quite a few years. And consistenly running over 20 miles a week has redistributed the weight quite noticeably – much more so than when I trained for my last marathon, when I didn’t train nearly as hard. I still weigh a shade under 10 stone, but I must have lost a lot of fat and put on muscle, because most of my trousers and skirts are now too big for me! Even my watch is loose, which has never happened before (in fact, a while ago I was wishing I’d kept the spare links when I got it, because the strap was a bit tight!).

I’m pleased, because I have a flat tummy for the first time in…well, ever! And I’d like to stay this shape, ideally. But it is a bit disconcerting. Not least because I need a new wardrobe! Being lighter will help my race times, too. I’m now signed up for both Loch Ness and the Great Scottish Run, a half marathon in Glasgow a month before the marathon. Ideally I’d like to run a sub-2-hour half, but the GSR is sandwiched between two 20-milers on my training plan so I’m not sure what kind of state my legs will be in!

What I’m struggling with at the moment is what to eat in order to make sure that I get enough. I think that if I lose much more weight I’ll start to feel a bit…fragile, for want of a better word. But a 2-hour run can burn over 1200 calories and I need to make sure I’m refuelling properly. I eat pretty healthily, and I have a big breakfast and dinner, as well as a fairly reasonable lunch…but at the moment I’m hungry just about all day! Today I had a KitKat at break time, and then I was ravenous by lunchtime, when I had a baked potato with tuna and a nectarine, which didn’t fill me up, so I ended up getting a Twix from the vending machine in the staffroom!

Any idea for healthy snacks or lunch supplements??

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Penne cheese

I make macaroni penne cheese every so often, and I can never remember what quantities to use, so I tend to end up with a massive pile of pasta with rather too much sauce. But I just made what I consider to be a damn good attempt at it, and I thought I’d record what I actually did for future reference.


  • 200g penne (although I don’t see why you couldn’t use actual macaroni or another small pasta!)
  • 40g butter
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 500ml semi-skimmed milk
  • A bay leaf
  • Black pepper
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 120g mature Cheddar cheese
  • A tablespoon of breadcrumbs
  • A tablespoon of grated parmesan


  1. Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted water.
  2. Melt the butter in another large pan. Add the flour and stir to form a roux. Cook gently for a couple of minutes.
  3. Remove the roux from the heat and whisk in the milk, a bit at a time. Add the bay leaf and peppers and return to the heat.
  4. Cook on a medium heat, stirring well, until the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and stir in the Cheddar.
  5. Drain the pasta and mix it with the sauce.
  6. Place in a small casserole dish. Top with the breadcrumbs and parmesan.
  7. Brown under a hot grill or bake in an oven at about 200C for 15-20 minutes.

This made enough for 2 fairly large portions.

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Tuna and bean salad

A friend tweeted about making a tuna salad for her lunch, and after a morning working hard in the garden I decided that a tuna salad sounded like a really good idea. So I raided the fridge and the cupboards, and here’s what I came up with:


  • Approx 6 small salad potatoes
  • A handful of green beans, chopped in half
  • A tin of tuna
  • A couple of anchovy fillets
  • 2 spring onions
  • A can of butter beans
  • Half a packet of salad leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • A teaspoon of lemon juice
  • A teaspoon of seeded Dijon mustard


  1. Peel the potatoes if desired and cut into smallish pieces. Boil the potatoes and green beans for 10 minutes until cooked.
  2. Drain the butter beans and tuna and combine in a mixing bowl.
  3. Finely slice the spring onions and anchovy fillets and add to the bowl.
  4. Make a dressing by mixing the olive oil, lemon juice and mustard.
  5. When the potatoes and beans are done, let them cool slightly and then mix into the bowl.
  6. Add the dressing and the salad leaves, mix well and eat!

This made enough for a bowl of salad for my lunch today, and there’s some leftover for a packed lunch for my journey to visit my parents tomorrow.

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I’m a big fan of game. I don’t eat it a lot, because I don’t have a regular source of it, but I very much value the idea of eating animals that have lived wild. I buy all my regular meat from the local butcher, and most of it is outdoor-reared or free-range, but the ultimate has to be eating meat from animals that have lived most or all of their lives in the wild, right up to the moment of death.

A couple of weeks ago a friend gave us a pheasant. We hung it in the shed (from what I’ve heard and read, I wouldn’t recommend hanging a pheasant for two weeks unless you want it really gamey, but for most of that time the temperature has been around or below zero!). And yesterday, after we did a bit of research on the Internet and using the River Cottage Meat Book (a fascinating read I’d recommend to all meat-eaters), I prepared the bird. Here are some photos (I picked the less gruesome ones!):

First, I removed the wings, legs and head, and pulled out the tail feathers. The crop was full, which was really interesting – we could easily tell that her final meal had been barley and beechmast! Then I made a slit in the skin on the breast and skinned it – it was really very easy (and I’ve never skinned anything before!). The skin just came off, feathers and all, as if I was stripping off clothing – it was weird (but fascinating) to pull the legs through and see them all naked and pink! Then I gutted it, which was also easy – just a matter of scooping out all the innards. I saved the heart, because I’m actually taking a sheep’s heart into school to show to my second years this week, so I thought they might like to see a pheasant heart too!

When it was all prepared, I cooked it using a friend’s delicious method: shallots, cider, a bay leaf and some thyme, and simmered it for about 40 minutes. I added some chunks of apple about 5 minutes before the end (I was surprised by how quickly the apple cooked). Just before serving it I threw in some cooked bacon and stirred in some sour cream. It was lovely with some veg and mashed potato and there was enough left, with plenty of sauce, to have with bread as a sort of pheasant soup for lunch today.

I’m all fired up now to try cooking more game. I’m pretty sure the butcher in Bridge of Allan has wild venison. Apart from that, I’m not sure how you go about sourcing game – any ideas?

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The Fella is working late tonight, and I couldn’t be bothered to go to the supermarket, so I decided to make a pasta sauce based on whatever we had in the fridge. The result was so good that I thought I’d post the recipe (such as it is – it’s really very simple) for my own future reference as much as anything! Apologies for the lack of photos, the light is dull and it tasted so good I just ate it.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • Olive oil
  • Half an onion, finely chopped
  • A large clove of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 150g pancetta lardons
  • A small glass of white wine
  • A good handful of sliced mushrooms
  • A tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
  • A drizzle of double cream
  • A small handful of fresh basil, torn
  • Black pepper
  • 2oog spaghetti


  1. Heat up the olive oil and fry the onion, garlic and pancetta. I sauteed them all together, but a better way to do it would probably be to fry the pancetta on a high heat to brown it, then turn the heat down to gently soften the onion and garlic.
  2. Add the white wine and mushrooms and let it bubble for a few minutes (this makes the mushrooms taste deliciously winey!).
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree (come to think of it, you could probably add a pinch of sugar at this point). Let it simmer for about 20 minutes until it thickens.
  4. Stir the cream into the sauce and let it warm through.
  5. Cook your spaghetti. Don’t believe the packet. It takes 8 minutes.
  6. Season with black pepper and stir in the torn basil leaves just before you serve it.

Even better? I’ve got most of the bottle of wine left for tonight and half the pasta sauce for my lunch tomorrow!

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