Bryony's Blog

A WAKE UP CALL....A MONTH TILL CHRISTMAS

(22/11/10)

This is going to be an honest, direct blog - Christmas will be upon us in a month and I am fat. So much so that they had to weigh me before a recent operation on my knee because they didn't trust me. They needed to know how much anaesthetic would knock me out and since I would probably fetch three camels, a goat and a sheep in the souk they thought it wise to put me on the scales. Make that four camels.....I WEIGH THIRTEEN STONE>>>>> All right, I am nearly 5' 8" but there is definitely more of me out of the bath water than in it. Time to rectify the situation.

I am doing what I did about three years ago when I lost a great deal of weight and nearly (I use the term loosely) became a rock chicky, rock chick, rock chick. I am now more of a rock cake, rocky, rocky, rock cake. In my defence (in order to promote Angel in an Apron)my by line was 'never trust a skinny cook...' I refuse to chuck my magnificent wardrobe of jeans and gumboots into the skip in order to get bigger, fatter ones so it's DIET TIME. This is what we intend to do - because I am doing this in tandem with a friend.

1 Don't put anything into your trolley that is going to make you fat not healthy and don't shop for food when you are hungry!

2 Breakfast is easy: porridge made with water, a little semi skimmed milk and our own honey.

3 Lunch: home made soup or salad or baked fish and veg. No bread, no butter, no cheese, no custard, no cream, no fun!

4 If peckish DRINK A GLASS OF WATER TO FILL ME UP or have a piece of fruit.

5 Supper lots and lots of veg, either in stir fry (using no fat or oil) or grilled meat - eat one chop less than normal and not the fat, chicken - no skin.

This worked extremely well last time and I shed the fat over a period of time. The main thing with going on a diet is that you must not drastically reduce your calorie intake or your body will think it is being deprived and will hang onto fat stores. What you lose at first is muscle and water, which weigh more than fat. Anyone who has joined a gym may have been aware that they actually gained pounds - this is because they were replacing the fat with muscle which is heavier. Also, to cut back drastically could cause (in some people) heart problems - the heart, after all is a large muscle.

We want to lose inches over time and keep them off - this is going to be for the long haul and a change in life style - I want my figure back! Wish us luck!

A NAUGHTY THOUGHT...

(18/11/10)

Ihave just stewed some mixed frozen fruit for supper and had a naughty thought.
Why not use a bag of these ruby berries to make some jam which would provide a real treat in the middle of winter?

If you plan a day ahead, you will be able to enjoy a pot of absolutely delicious, fresh-tasting preserve in time for the weekend, maybe spread between the layers of a Victoria sponge cake or with some light, fluffy scones and double cream. With a blazing log fire and a pot of proper tea, life aint quite so bad.

Supermarkets sell bags or boxes of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries etc. and also mixed selections of several fruits, sometimes on special offer. There's no need to thaw the fruit first, simply pour it into a pan and add the same weight of sugar. Gently bring to the boil, stirring as you go to dissolve the sugar, and allow it to boil until it reaches setting point. Have a small metal dish ready in the ice box or freezer so that you can test the jam to see if it's ready. Boil a kettle of hot water and carefully fill a jam jar or two to the brim, leave for a moment and then drain. This will sterilise it. Allow to dry. When the jam is ready, pour into the hot jar(s), seal and leave to get cold. Nothing could be simpler and it won't end up any more expensive than if you had gone out and bought it - and it will taste a whole lot nicer!

BRRRRRRRILLIANT SCOTCH EGGS!

(17/11/10)

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I had a moment of madness this morning. Before going off for my flu jab I had a sudden urge to make scotch eggs - something I have never done before in my life. The idea came because I had a packet of some really nice, meaty sausages in the fridge. First, I removed the meat from the casings and put it into a bowl. While I boiled four of our own eggs, I mixed a good teaspoon of dried mixed herbs into the sausage meat, using my hands and squidging.

Once the eggs were cool, I needed to wrap them in sausage meat. If you have ever made these you will realise that it is a messy business. HOWEVER...follow my tip and you will be really grateful!

Peel the shells off the hard boiled eggs and set to one side. Then divide the sausage meat into four equal portions and tear off a decent sized piece of cling film. Put one lump of meat onto one half of the cling film, fold over the other and smooth out the meat with your fingers (or a rolling pin) on a chopping board. You want a disc/square/oblong (it doesn't really matter) of sausage meat large enough to wrap around each egg.

Put a spoonful or two of flour into a dish and use it to cover each egg. Then, peel back the cling film and place one egg on top of the flattened sausage meat. Close the cling film/sausage meat around the egg and gently ease it so that it covers the egg completely. By using cling film like this you can manoeuvre the sausage meat easily over the egg without it sticking to your fingers and coming away. Once you are satisfied that the egg is completely covered, remove the cling film and place the uncooked scotch egg onto a baking tray. Repeat the process until all four eggs are covered

Next, put some toasted bread crumbs into a bowl - earlier on I had cut off a chunk of white poppy loaf, tore it into pieces and baked it in a low oven until golden brown. A quick whizz and you have perfect, fresh breadcrumbs.

Crack an egg into another bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Dip each scotch egg first into the egg mixture and then into the breadcrumbs, making sure they are covered. Place on a baking tray, drizzle with a little oil and bake in a moderately hot oven until the sausage meat is cooked through and golden brown. This could take twenty minutes or a bit more - you don't want them to burn.

Allow them to be quite cold before you enjoy them with some freshly made English mustard, your own chutney (if poss!), spring onions and any other salady bits you happen to have handy.

Of course, you could deep fry them but think of the calories....

SUPER SATURDAY SUPPER

(14/11/10)

EASY RISOTTO

I have never tried to make risotto until last night because I once bought a packet of ready-mixed risotto and it was absolutely disgusting. However, I thought I would have another go so that we could sit in front of the television for an indulgent evening of Strictly followed by the X-Factor.

I had bought a chicken two days ago and for that evening's supper I took off the breasts, skinning them and filling the cavity with some Philadelphia cream cheese, garlic and basil leaves. Then I wrapped them in a couple of pieces of parma ham, into a shallow dish, a little salt and lots of pepper, dash of olive oil and a splash of white wine.

I baked them until the juices ran clear and served with them mashed sweet potato into which I had added a large knob of butter, s&p and some freshly grated nutmeg and a bowl of spring greens.

Since I still had the legs, thighs and carcase to cook I used them for the risotto last night. Earlier in the day, I put the raw chicken into a pan along with a couple of sticks of celery (chopped), a carrot (chopped) and an onion cut into quarters. Covered the lot with water and brought to the boil, then simmered until the chicken was cooked. I put the chicken to one side to cool so that I could strip the flesh off the bones and strained the stock.

When I was ready to cook the risotto in the evening I prepared the following vegetables: This amount served four of us.

Six nice fat spears of asparagus - cut into inch long pieces
1 red pepper - de-seeded and chopped into small chunks
1 cup of frozen petits pois
1 small onion - peeled and finely chopped
4 small spring onions I found lurking in the fridge - sliced
2 cloves of garlic - crushed
1 glass of white wine
leaves from a few sprigs of fresh thyme - about half a teaspoonful
butter
sunflower oil
parmesan
aboreo rice - MOST IMPORTANT! This is the special rice for risotto. Approximately 75g of raw rice per serving
1-2 pints of hot stock - keep the pan on the heat while you are cooking the rice

You can of course use absolutely any ingredients you like.

Start by putting a little oil in a large, flat pan - I have one which is about ten inches across and four deep - ideal. Add the onion and cook for about five minutes, stirring every now and again. Pour in the other vegetables and stir, cook a further two minutes. Add the rice and the butter, a cupful of stock, the wine and stir. Cook five minutes, stirring every now and again so that the bottom doesn't stick.

Add the chicken pieces and enough stock to wet the ingredients until they are fairly sloppy. Now comes the 'work' bit. Turn on the television if you have one in the kitchen and stir the risotto, which should be on a gentle bubble. The rice will absorb the hot stock as it cooks, so add it gradually, stirring as you go. You will be surprised just how much stock is needed. If you run out continue with plain, hot water from the kettle. I suppose my risotto took about thirty to forty minutes to cook through. Some people like a little 'bite' to their rice, but like pasta I don't like to feel that the centre isn't cooked.

When most of the liquid has been absorbed, the rice is cooked how you like it and the feel of the risotto is creamy and rich, grate some fresh parmesan on top, check the seasoning and adjust accordingly and serve on hot plates.

If you have any left over, don't reheat it the next day - you might get an upset tummy as second hand rice is not the best of friends!

FAIRY CAKES SURPRISE!

(11/11/10)

Toay's weather has been like the end of the world...The only antidote was to go into the kitchen and bake my heart out. I wanted a major sugar rush in an instant, no fuss, no bother and this is what I came up with:

I took one lovely brown egg and weighed it (in its shell) - it was just over 2oz. I then weighed the same amount of caster sugar, very soft, slightly salted butter and self-raising flour. I put them into a bowl, cracked in the egg and added a good pinch (1/4 of a teaspoon) of baking powder. Because the butter was very soft it all came together in seconds.

I put six paper muffin cases into a muffin tray and spooned a small amount (about 1/3 of the way up each paper case) and then added a good teaspoonful of home made raspberry jam. You could use anything you like: lemon curd, strawberry jam, even marmalade if you wanted to.

Next I spooned on the remaining cake mix sandwiching the jam between two layers of sponge and so that the cases were approximately 3/4 full. I put them into a moderately hot oven for about ten minutes - until they were golden brown and the point of a knife came out clean. I left them to cool and then dusted them with a little more caster sugar. The jam had mixed in with some of the cake and it was like biting into a light, fluffy doughnut!

My 2oz and a bit egg made five little cakes and they were delicious.

Dining with the Raj

(03/11/10)

It's been quite a week. I heard from my agent (Laura) that she has almost completed editing my new book, Dining with the Raj, and is on the point of sending it out to a couple of publishers who have shown an interest. I am so excited! It is a project which has been at the back of my mind for many years but until we went on line, I had no idea how to carry out the research. The advent of the 'interweb' has proved an absolute boon. I never thought I would ever write those words in a million years! As the book is fundamentally a recipe book I am having fun trying them. I made the Rumbled Eggs for breakfast the other day and they were delicious.


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RUMBLED EGGS

This is for one serving, double it for two, etc.

2 tomatoes (skinned if you want to - I didn't bother) finely chopped
1 largish piece of raw onion
large knob of butter
1 or 2 eggs depending on how hungry you are
salt and pepper

Begin by melting the butter and adding the piece of onion. Stir constantly to avoid the butter overheating and burning until the onion has taken on some colour. Remove this and discard.

Add the chopped tomatoes and stir until they have lost most of the liquid and are beginning to be jammy in consistency. Make a well in the middle and add the egg. The recipe says 'try not to break the yolk' but when it had set a little, I then carefully broke the yolk and spread it about in the pan to finish cooking. A light seasoning of salt and pepper and onto a warm plate.

As I do with Mexican Eggs (recipe in Angel in an Apron), I served it with half an avocado pear cut into slices. It was really tasty!

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