It's been 2 months since my last blog post and life couldn't be more different. I’m in an annoyingly good mood most of the time. I saw my doctor yesterday and I was bouncing off the walls – he looked positively surpirsed...but delighted. As am I. I’m in a good place for a number of reasons. Work is going really well and I have some lovely new colleagues, my kitten adores me, I'm learning to ride a scooter at the weekend and I’ve finally, FINALLY climbed back on the diet wagon.
OK, it’s early days – day 6 to be exact – but I’m feeling really good about it. I’ve decided to try something new. Well – two things. Firstly, smaller plates. This is going remarkably well; I have already reduced my evening portion of carbs by 50% and by trying to eat a bit more slowly, I'm still feeling satisfied. Secondly, I’m calorie counting rather than trying to adhere to a strict diet plan. I’m not being religious about it. I’m allowed around 1,400 calories a day – some days I’ve gone way under, on one I went a bit over, but I’m not going to worry about it too much. When I see how I eat within 1,400 calories, I figure that I must have been consuming a minimum of 3,000 (probably more) every day, so anything has to be better than that.
I’m going to try and get my head around this being a long haul thing. No quick fix. I’m not going to be a size 12 in 3 months. In fact, I’ll never be a size 12 – my boobs and hips and arse simply won’t allow it.
So the “diet” is as follows:-
- ALWAYS eat breakfast. Currently I’m eating Rude Health’s Morning Glory Porridge and it’s brilliant – delicious and it fills me for ages.
- Stop buying lunch in the City. Everything is horrible, mayonnaise filled, overly bready. The last couple of days I’ve had a Food Doctor pot – they’re fairly horrid, but I like the idea of easy bulgur wheat salady things. And I am also teaching myself this: I DON’T HAVE TO LOVE EVERY MEAL TO THE POINT OF ORGASM. I really don’t. Sometimes I should just eat for fuel, whilst remembering that dinner will be delicious.
- Dinner: quick and easy, protein and carbs and veggies. I’m firmly against cutting out any food groups. It makes me miserable.
So here are a couple of things that I’ve made this week. Both have made me happy. They both serve one.
Smoky squid with giant couscous
150-200g squid bodies
Oil (something flavourless, ideally)
60g giant couscous
½ chicken stock cube (I like the maggi ones)
1 banana shallot, diced very finely,
Tomatoes, around 3-4 smallish ones, probably 8 cherry, chopped small
½ large can of mixed beans or chickpeas
Smoked salt and pepper
- Open out the squid bodies so that they are flat and score diagonally both ways to make little diamonds. It’s best to use a blunt knife for this so it doesn’t slice all the way through the squid. Drizzle over a little oil and then coat the squid in smoked paprika. I went a bit wild and used A LOT – I’d go a little lighter if I were you. Leave it to marinate for as long as you can.
- Put the couscous in a small saucepan with a tiny bit of oil and fry for a few minutes so that some of the grains go golden and it smells a bit toasty. Add 120ml of chicken stock, reduce to a gentle simmer and cook with a lid on for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on it – when I did it yesterday it had absorbed most of the stock after 7 minutes so I added a little more water.
- While the couscous is cooking, very very gently fry off the shallots, again in a tiny bit of oil. When they’ve softened, add the tomatoes and cook down for just a minute or two, add some smoked salt and black pepper and the mixed beans and leave to one side.
- When the couscous is nearly ready, heat up the griddle until it is smoking and throw on the squid bodies. These should take a matter of minutes – probably around 3. Turn them a few times as they’re likely to curl up a little bit.
- Stir the tomato and bean mixture into the couscous (which should have absorbed all of the stock), add a squeeze of lemon.
- Serve the couscous with the squid on top with a wedge of lemon. And a big glass of something crisp and refreshing (I had diet coke. SHOOT ME NOW.)
Incidentally, I made this with steak in place of the squid last night...man alive, it was delicious.
Za’atar chicken with crunchy quinoa salad
I first had za’atar when I was in Israel over a decade ago. In most restaurants we’d be given a basket of bread and, instead of the usual dish of oil and balsamic vinegar, we were presented with two dipping bowls; the first contained oil and the second za’atar. Za’atar is a spice blend which usually contains sumac, oregano, thyme, sesame seeds and salt. It tastes lemony and fresh and it’s delicious. I’ve never found it that easy to get hold of and was very lucky when the gorgeous @miss_jordi gave me a bag to take home (although I had The Fear that I was going to get stopped by the police, it looked like a big baggy of weed) but it’s now readily available at this absolutely brilliant new website run by @souschefnic - www.souschef.co.uk (I warn you, this website is dangerous – I want everything. I limited myself to a bibimbap bowl today but I have an extensive wishlist!)
1 chicken breast
½ chicken stock cube
2 medium tomatoes, chopped small
A handful of sugar snap peas, each sliced into around 5 pieces
Salt and pepper
- Butterfly out the chicken breast, coat with a little bit of oil and pat over a generous amount of za’atar. Leave to marinate for a little while.
- Wash the quinoa and put it in a pan with 120ml of cold water. Bring to the boil, crumble in the chicken stock cube, stir and then simmer gently with a lid on for 20 minutes.
- When there’s about 5 minutes cooking time left for the quinoa, griddle the chicken on a seriously hot griddle pan, turning every minute or so. It won’t take long because it’s so thin, but check that there’s no pink in the fattest bit of the fillet before serving.
- Stir the tomatoes and sugar snap peas into the quinoa with a good squeeze of lemon juice and lots of black pepper.
- Serve! The crunch of the peas works really well in this. Plus they taste so much better when they’re raw.
I’ve rediscovered my love of chicken breasts through this recipe. I always think they’re dry and boring...and often they are. You HAVE to cook them like this – make them thin and griddle them fast and they stay so tender and moist.