Category: Food & Drink

Baking with Chairman Mao

I love to bake. I mean bake anything. There is just something so satisfying about the whole process.  I did make sourdough bread last weekend, but to be honest, it was a bit crap, however, that will not put me off, and I will keep going until I get it right.  The instructions for the proving overnight in the fridge was good, but the dough collapsed when I was putting it onto the baking sheet.  The other loaf stuck to the banneton as I had used flour rather than rice flour, so that was crap too.  The other thing I had problems with was the heat in the oven. The instructions said for 500f which is mega hot, and as I was cooking it on a stone dish it just seemed to sear and the crust was tough, so tough it could be in the marines.  It was supposed to bake for 20 minutes at 500f then 30 minutes at 450f, again, mega hot.  I have never cooked any bread at this temperature so it would happen that it was cooked on the outside and slightly doughy on the inside.  Not a bad crumb though.  It also didn’t taste like sourdough does, so I think that was the fault of the leaven as it had not bubbled and matured enough.  So now I know or think I know what went wrong I will try again.  I may do a variation too so that I know I can control rather than using the heat of the sun.

First go at Sourdough Bread

As mentioned, I love to bake, so here are some photos of my other bakes, successful bakes too LOL

Strawberry Shortcake with Strawberry Coulis
Strawberry Tarts (Pate Sablee) with Chantilly Cream and Passion Fruit
Brioche
Irish Wheaten Bread (Soda)

Food Porn…

Today I decided to make Pumpkin & Bacon Soup, and what a triumph, so here it is for you all to enjoy.

Ingredients

Olive Oil
50g Butter
1 Onion – diced fine
150g Dry-cured bacon chopped – I used oak smoked dry cured
Small pumpkin, you will need about 800g of flesh, peeled and de-seeded.
1-litre chicken stock
100ml double cream
3 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds
Maple syrup

Instructions

In a large pan heat about a tablespoon of oil with half the butter, add the onion a good pinch of salt and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes.  Add about 60g of the bacon and cook for 5 mins more.  Increase the heat, add the stock and pumpkin and season.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, cover with a lid and leave for about 40 minutes until the pumpkin is soft.  Depending on how big the chunks are, changes this time.  Add the cream and again, bring to the boil then remove from the heat.
Whilst the soup is cooking toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan, not too hot, and beware as they can pop and jump about.  They need to be coloured browns but don’t over toast.
Depending on what equipment you have depends on how you do this, but I used a stick blender in the pan to turn the chunky soup into a smooth silky soup.  You could put it in a liquidiser, but do it in batches as the hot soup will expand whilst in the blender and no one looks good with hot soup all over them and the kitchen.
Next, return the blended soup to the pan.  Melt the rest of the butter in another pan and cook the rest of the bacon for about 5 minutes, remove and pat dry of the butter and fats.  Re-heat the soup if needed.

Put the cooked bacon in the bottom of the soup dishes and pour the soup over.  Scatter with the toasted seeds and drizzle maple syrup over the soup, not too much as you done want a sugary soup.  Add seasoning to taste.

I toasted sourdough bread and cut it into strips to serve with the soup.  It added another layer of texture to it and is delicious.

Enjoy.

Diet Change…

So, after our holiday I had managed to pile on 7 pounds and M managed to lose 2, how in hell that happened I do not know, I walked countless miles, swam in the Atlantic, ran about with the dogs, and generally never stopped from 5am each day.

We had decided to go Paleo after our holiday was over, so on Monday, we started.  I love paleo, it makes cutting out sugar and processed food easy.  I admit I do miss my coffee with full-fat milk and sugar in the morning, but in the same breath, I don’t miss it.  I think I miss the thought of the sweet richness that I have had for countless years.

We have done paleo before and managed to lose weight and ate so much.  But cut sugar and processed foods and you are bound to lose weight.  I want to lose fat, bulk up, build muscle and generally get fitter and with that healthier.  My previous diet was okay as I was calorie counting all the time, but in all honesty, I was still eating crap and too much sugar, as I love my sweets (candy), just within my calorie goal.

So far so good, I have had a moment when I really fancy something sweet, but then grab a piece of fruit to quash it.  I bought an electric spiralizer, and boy, what fun.  I decided to make a chicken stirfry and apart from chicken, garlic, fine green beans (grey area on this being paleo), chilli, green peppers, onions, and best of all, spiralized courgettes which added a different dimension to it rather than rice.  It was a success, and I intend to spiralize lots of veggies.  I think I will still include raw milk in my diet from time to time, that is whenever I get to the farm for it, and I was reading that some include the odd bit of fetta cheese as this being goats cheese is okay, but I am not too sure as yet.  I love my cheese, but am determined to keep to the basics and by that, I mean to stick to the rules of “what would a caveman eat”

I have tried to find magazines in the UK for paleo, and it really has not caught on so far, if anyone knows of one, please let me know.  I have found many American publications, which are okay, but they have lots of ingredients that you cannot get here.  My friend Anna has been paleo for about 6/7 years now, and I first had a go 5 years back, and loved it, but missed my milk and in the end, the cake cravings were too much.  There was little or no information about the diet, and lots of articles really contradicted each other which was not helpful at all.  The web seems alive now with paleo and primal diet information and lots of the shops are starting to cater for it.  I now get paleo bars from a local supermarket which are mainly dates but have various flavours and they satisfy the sweet need in the diet.  I have eaten these for some time, but now they will be a staple.  Cakes will not be a problem either as I have a few recipe books on my Kindle that have lots of lovely cake and muffin recipes to keep me going. YAY!

I have never drunk so much water since starting.  Each day I have consumed about 4 litres rather than my usual 10-15 cups of coffee and tea.  Over the weekend we bought lots of bad things to eat, and many I never got round to eating as I felt bloated and really not in the mood for stuffing my face, so those treats are still in the cupboard.  Let’s see if they reach the expiry date first or my temptation and willpower give way.

I hope that this lasts and I don’t go back to calorie counting.

Heddon Valley & Croyde Bay

Heddon Mouth

Monday we went to Heddon Valley and walked through to Heddon’s Mouth which is a lovely pebble beach that was completely deserted.  Paul said that most people don’t realise it is there and think it is a grassy bank and a National Trust centre along with a pub.

We got there at 8am and walked along winding paths following the flow of the river to the sea where the bay is surrounded by some of Englands highest cliffs.  To say it was beautiful is an underestimation.  The rocks forming the sides of the cliffs were enormous, and only being close to them could you really appreciate the sheer size.  Mazikeen and I went climbing up a few, but they were covered in sea moss and seaweed which made them quite treacherous to be on.  Harper decided to bound over to us and slipped over, then Mazikeen getting excited followed suit.  Both decided they had had enough and gingerly left the rocks to the more stable grounds of the pebble beach, which to us bipeds it was just as treacherous.  Mazikeen took off into the sea having a wild time, and I decided to join her, so trainers, socks and jeans off and in I went, only to realise it was bloody freezing and really hard not to fall on my ass into the sea, so out I went.  Whilst getting dried I looked over to see poor Mazikeen sat on the pebbles shaking with the cold.  I quickly dressed and moved over to where the sun was blazing down and into the warmth.

Heddon Valley

After taking some photos and building pebble towers we left to follow the trail back to the car.  The dogs were both glad of the rest in the car.

Croyde Bay From Baggy Point

Next stop was Croyde Bay and Baggy Point.  Both places I went to when I was a kid and have good memories of.  We walked part way up Baggy Point, but the heat was sweltering so turned back to the car so the dogs could cool down and rest again.  Quick ice cream then we were off again to find a place for lunch.

Lunch was at The Rock Inn.  The food was really nice, although I was torn between having plaice with crayfish or ribs.  I went for ribs, and although it was very nice, I feel I should have gone for the fish.

The Rock Inn

After all that we went back to the cottage for a well-earned rest, and I had a snooze as I was knackered again.

Weight Loss Challenge – End of May Update…

Just over two weeks ago (14th May) I started my challenge, but as with all plans, some things get in the way, this was a public holiday weekend, and for once the sun was out in full force, so much so we have only had rain yesterday, which means we have had 2 weeks of solid sun.  But the holiday weekend we ended up having temperatures of 30c, so the BBQ was in full swing, along with wine and a few beers, oh and some yummy desserts, but I did have salad too ha ha!

  • Start:   14 stone 3 pounds (200lb)
  • Today: 13 stone 6 pounds (188lb)
  • Loss:    11 pounds

I had dropped to 1200 calories, or thereabouts, but lately the past few days I have gone to 1000, and today I have not been hungry at all, and have only had 459.  I have decided that if I am not hungry then why eat and consume calories that I do not need.

I am happy with my efforts so far, but really have to make an effort to rehydrate more.  Today I have only drunk 300ml of water, and I should be aiming at 2.2 litres.  I have achieved it quite a few days, but boy it seems so hard to do, but it is a key to weight loss.

The other thing is that I am going on holiday to Devon next week for 8 days, and I know I will be enjoying the local produce, which includes Devon Cream Tea (Scones with Devonshire clotted cream and preserve), Cornish pasties (a little further to go to the next county), ice cream, fudge and cheese to name a few.  I will also be having lots of seafood as it comes straight from the Atlantic, so watch out all you shellfish, I am coming for you, especially the lobsters.

The drive is going to take about 7 hours to get to North Molton which is on the edge of Exmoor National Park, and as we are taking the dogs with us we will need to stop each hour to let them have a stretch, which means we will be stopping where we can eat and drink, so from next Friday I am going to be a bit of a bad boy, but I will try to reign it in and keep some control, no point letting all this time and effort go to waste is there.  My friend E says that I should just enjoy myself and not worry, but I have to be a little sensible, or it will be like when I came back from Rome, 8lb heavier and I walked each day about 10-15 miles (about 30,000 steps a day for 6 days solid).

Watch this space for my next update…

Weight Loss Challenge…

I am a little overweight and keep saying that I am going to diet, and half-heartedly attempt it.  Last week a buddy of mine who is overweight challenged me to do weight loss together and see who does the best.  I love a challenge and when I am competing with others I become quite bloody-minded.  So, the challenge is on, I have been logging everything I eat and drink, and am sticking to about 1200 calories.  I was thinking of going lower as this would have the best result, but I think 1200 is about right as I do not want my body to go into starvation mode.

I have been looking at the 5/2 diet, but the idea of fasting for two days really does not inspire.  This weekend I have been a little naughty, but I am keeping track of my calories and determined to stick to it.

One of the problems I have is that I love my food.  Although I am not a big eater, I do love to eat all the wrong things, like cake, puddings, sweets (candy) and jelly sweets like Haribo.  I also love to drink full-fat milk, and gallons of it by all account.  Milk is my biggest weakness if I am being honest.

M has decided to join in with the weight loss too, so that will be good.  I am just hoping I can drop weight faster than my mate as I would hate to lose the challenge.  My start weight on Monday was 14 stone and 3 pounds (200lb/90.7kg).  At the beginning of the year I was 14 stone 8 pounds, and did a diet and lost a decent amount of weight, but then it went to the wayside, however, I have more reason to do it due to being challenged.  Once I have lost my weight I intend to build some muscle.  I would love to have a six-pack, but not sure I will ever get to that, but as the saying goes ‘Dream Big & Aim High’

I will update here as I journey into my challenge.  My friend J was incredibly overweight, to the point of being clinically obese, and dare I say it dangerously close to having a heart attack.  She has documented her weight loss challenge on Instagram and it is amazing to see the change.  Although I will not be displaying my fat gut for you all, as I don’t want you to feel sick, but I may, if really successful do a before and after pic.

So, here goes…

Dog Biscuits, Homemade…

IMG_4373

Here the biscuits that I said I would be making in a previous post.  Needless to say, the dogs love them.  So, if you want to make your dogs some, here is the recipe I used.

Ingredients

  • 180ml Chicken Stock (Cold)
  • 120ml Light Olive Oil
  • 300g Wholemeal Organic Flour
  • 90g Skimmed Milk Powder
  • 25g Light Brown Cane Sugar
  • 1 Egg whisked

Add all the dried ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.  Make a well in the middle and add the egg, oil and stock and mix to form a dough.

Need for a minute or two until it is the texture of pastry, and roll out until it is about half an inch (13mm or about 1.5cm).

Grab your cookie cutter and get to work cutting, placing each of the shapes onto a floured baking tray.

Pop them into the oven for about 30 minutes at fan 130, conventional 150c/300f or gas 2.  Let them cook and then treat your best friends to some delicious biscuits.

You do not have to use chicken stock, you could use beef, pork or lamb.  I would avoid vegetable stock though as it would be a little bland for them.

The next ones I make I will be adding parmesan to the dried mix, and maybe a teaspoon of garlic granules.

As well as making the dogs their biscuits, I also made them lambs liver and made a doggy gravy, however, I cheated with the gravy as I can buy dog gravy granules, so after frying the liver, I removed it and chopped it all up into chunks, added about 350ml water to the pan, stirred it to get all the meaty bits stock to the bottom of the pan then added the granules, then put the liver back in to the pan to get a thorough dowsing of the gravy, then decanted it all into a dish and popped it onto the fridge to cool down.  I served this with carrots, sweet potatoes, green beans, peas, and a hand full of cooked rice as I still had some in the fridge.  Again everything was eaten in record time, so they obviously loved it.

Natural Food…

bowl_beef_squareMy regular visitors will know that our dogs are our lives, we quite literally live and breath for them.  When it comes to food, the same applies.  Years ago we did not know any better and thought that the leading brands of dog food were the best, and as such we always fed our dogs the top brands, along with dried kibble.  However, there has been large-scale campaigns, adverts and other media surrounding what is really in dog food.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the food that we were feeding the dogs was good, but when you look at the composition of it, it is meat/animal derivatives, lots of grains and, alarmingly things I would never give my dogs.  Lilu who was the first dog we had together, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, supposed to live only to 12, was 17 when she passed away, so we were doing something right.  She was given lots of other food apart from standard dog food, including tuna, salmon, cod, fresh meat, vegetables etc.

With the new campaigns, we have looked long and hard at what we feed our dogs which coincided with us getting Mazakeen.  We have moved from the so-called top foods that contain stuff we do not like to feed them, to a natural diet.  We have always fed the dogs both wet and dry food, let’s face it, no one would like to eat just dried food all their life, therefore we mix both.  Today I have taken the next step in the process and have been cooking kidney, rice, sweet potatoes and carrots to add to the store bought natural foods that have to be a minimum of 60% meat/poultry/fish the rest vegetables, minerals and vitamins, and gluten-free, oh yes, no derivatives, just propper meat etc.

Mazikeen is not the best eater as being an English Springer Spaniel, they are not food obsessive.  When training her I have been using 100% natural treats like sheeps lungs, squid, pigs intestines, tripe and other stinky dried items, and she loves them, but with her dinner, she’s never too interested, unless we make it into a game, or have Harper sit next to her and tell her that we’ll give Harper her dinner, and put the bowl next to Harper when disinterested, then Mazikeen eats.

Today was a triumph as I mixed some steamed rice, sweet potato carrots and some kidney in a dish with Scottish salmon oil (both have always had the oil for their coat and joints) and put it down for Mazikeen.  I have never seen her finish her food so fast in all her life.

As Mazikeen has had lots of protein in her diet she has always been very active, and of course, puppies need lots of it, but we are now adding more bulking foods to her dinners as she is very slim, and at six months she needs to put on size now.  Every four weeks I have taken her to the vets to see the puppy nurse for weigh-ins, check-ups and worming treatments, and she has put on weight each time, but I think she is still skinny.  Maybe I am used to large and bulky dogs rather than slender ones, but my 48 years of having dogs tell me that she is skinny, and it is not just that she was the smallest of the litter.  On saying that, if I was to run about as much as she does I would be skinny too, but alas I am not.

I have bought lambs livers for the next cook-up and will be adding more sweet potato, carrots and peas along with some rice for starch.  But I have also been perusing the internet for recipes for dog treats and other delights they will love, and at this rate, it may become a full-time job.  I may post some of the recipes I make if people are interested.

Back to Baking…

I have been dying to bake for quite some time, but the so-called diet has kept the urge at bay, but this weekend, I thought stuff this, I am making something. It was a toss-up between this cake or my beetroot and dark chocolate, however, since it was my first bake of the year, and due to the abundance of Easter cakes about I decided to make Cherry and Marzipan Cake.  It has a layer of marzipan running through it.  I make the cake batter, put half in the cake tin, covered it with a layer of marzipan then the rest of the batter, and covered it with flaked almonds.

Lately, we have been really bad, and this week I have gone overboard.  I went to Patisserie Valerie and bought luxury cakes which does not sound too bad, but when you take into account that I had a massive Chinese meal consisting of beef green pepper black bean sauce, salt and pepper chicken, fried rice, chips before the cakes then the fat boy pants really needed to come out.

I was going to bake a cheese and onion pie too, but M pointed out that I would be one meal away from a heart attack, so I will make that next week.  In the meantime, I made cheese macaroni with tomatoes, onions and curry.  M does not like that dish, and I had made enough for four people and ate quite a lot of it, so heart attack city here I come.

 

Diet Update…

IMG_2654I started my diet on 2nd January, weighing in at 14 stone 8 pounds (204 lbs).  On Thursday I weighed myself and have dropped 9 pounds, so far so good.  I have had a few treats along the way, but all in all, I have kept to it.  27 lbs to go.

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