Friday, 25 July 2008


When the weather's nice (or hell, even when it's tipping down) I often get an urge to go up to Victoria Street and the Grassmarket for a gander. For those of you familiar with this wee area in Edinburgh's Old Town, you'll know that it is home to some real gems. For those of you less familiar - this wee area is home to some real gems. You can find enough to keep you amused for hours so don't be surprised if you come away from it rich with new paraphanelia but a little more cash poor. This area is home to some of my favorite places, one of which being the Red Door Gallery. This boutique art space supports and exhibits the work of emerging and independent designers and artists, and sells an amazing collection of various bits from books and accessories to jewellery and cameras. It was in there that I came across The Locals' Guide to Edinburgh.

This brilliant book is a guide to the city compiled not by some tourist body in a bid to increase visitor numbers to the castle, but rather is made up of recommendations by Edinburgh locals. These are the places that generic guides forget resulting all too often in visitors missing out on some of the best places the city has to offer. It is beautifully presented and has the feel of a hand written journal which someone has put together just for you. Having gone through a recent phase of feeling little disenchanted with my city, this little book made me fall in love with it all over again. I have rediscovered wonderful places I had all but forgotten and I can see this amazing city again for the magical place it is. If you live in Edinburgh, I guarantee this book will delight and surprise you with places you didn't know existed. It would serve as an excellent memento of the city as well as an indispensible guide to the real Edinburgh for any tourist. If you have even the vaguest interest in this city then I urge you to get yourself a copy here or here. An absolute must.


I should admit to being somewhat neglectful of the strawberry plant. My attention has shamefully been elsewhere having been seduced by the amazing growth rate of the tomato plant. However, the strawberry plant has well and truly played the trump card by being the first to produce an actual strawberry. Not that the tomato plant stands much chance of producing a strawberry but you get what I'm saying. I am utterly amazed. I feel like a new parent. I want to compare notes with all the other strawberry growers to see how quickly theirs developed, how juicy they are and how quickly they have grasped their times tables. It seems wrong somehow to now want to stuff said offspring into my mouth but c'est la vie. And to make it that little bit more exciting, I am going to do it in real time. Oh yes, I sit here with the strawberry before me, ready to eat...

...Yep, it was marvellous. Now wasn't that edge of your seat stuff? Moving on...

The tomato plant was starting to look ridiculously big in its pot so I made the executive decision to repot it. This was not done without a hefty dose of trepidation as I was convinced this would be the thing which would cause its untimely death. However I needn't have worried because frankly it seems quite happy with it's new home and marvellous new sturdy crutches (or bamboo canes if you prefer). It now really has the look of an outdoor plant slap bang in the middle of my kitchen but not to worry. Actually, it has grown further since this picture was taken and is now threatening to grow higher than the canes already, which means I'll be perusing the shelves of the garden section at B&Q again tomorrow trying to look as though I know what I'm doing there as I search for longer canes. I ask you again - how big do these things get?

Tuesday, 22 July 2008


So there I was last night, nursing my third Mojito (double and a bit measures of rum, oops) and - contrary to what I've said about it before - seriously weighing up the benefits versus the hideousness of the Atkins diet. I wish I could claim it was the booze what done it, but alas, I must confess to having visited the protein-loving website earlier in the day.

I think I may be having some sort of early mid life food crisis in that I seem to have entirely lost my way in the world of nutrition, health and diet. As last Wednesdays menu so spectacularly demonstrates, at the crossroads marked 'healthy lean and nutritious diet turn left' and 'dirty wrong lardy diet turn right' I made a swift hand break turn a droite. I can't pinpoint exactly when this happened, but I think it was around the time of the days following the Glasgow 10k ('have a wee break from running Carine') which seemed to conveniently blur into weeks, and then Sylvie's hen event (cocktails, cake), and Denmark on business (airport food, Danish food), and Sylvie's wedding (champagne, yet more cake), and the weekend in Brighton (pizza), and.. and... and now I feel disgusting.

If I'm being perfectly honest, I think it happened less recently than all that. While I wouldn't say I was ever obsessed with what I ate, I used to pay real attention to what I put into my body. I have always been a believer that you are what you eat and your body deserves to be treated well. I wouldn't deny myself things on the grounds that they were unhealthy, but instead would indulge occassionally and in moderation. An active lifestyle and fairly regular if at times sporadic gym habit also contributed to my never really having had any major hang ups about my body - outside the normal standard firmer thighs, smaller behind type desires of most females. I've never been Kate Moss but have always been quite happy thank you very much.

A lifestyle where you're on your feet all night working in a nightclub and being 25 years old definitely helped. Not that I consider myself ancient now at the ripe old age of 31 years - I believe that age is a state of mind - however, my metabolism has its own ideas about ageing and it certainly seems hell bent on reminding me as I make my way into my thirties that I've definitely left my twenties behind. They say that as your metabolism slows down it is important to work harder and pay more attention to what you eat. But for reasons which mystify me, I seem to have done just the opposite.

And so it is that I find myself flirting with the idea of Atkins. But it goes against every thing I belive in. I belong to the 'diets don't work - eat less, exercise more' school of thought. Not least because it's all so boring. I don't want to be one of those women who obesses openly and at length about their weight, and fat content and net carbs and all that brouhaha (usually whilst filling their faces with cake I might add). It doesn't come naturally to me either. I love food. I don't want to deconstruct it until it's units of protein and fat and carb and not the luscious tasty marvellous stuff it has always been. The website uses the term 'sexy' too often for my liking too - 'See The Sexy Results You Get By Following The Program! - I hate being so blatently 'marketed' to. But I hate even more that despite being so actutely aware of this there's still a voice in my head whispering 'Oooooh yes, sexy! That sounds just marvellous'. Arrrgh.

I know people who have done it and swear by it, and who claim that they have slowly reintroduced carbohydrate into their diets without regaining weight. But the whole idea of having to cut out fresh fruit and vegetables seems insane, and so opposite to that which we hold as true about basic nutrition, doesn't it? There was Alex's stern warning about 'Atkins Breath' last night which didn't help the cause for the movement either it has to be said. Eurgh.

And so, while I ponder the state of my eating habits and will myself to get a grip, I thought it would be nicely inappropriate to post a recipe for something cheesey and lardy, given to me by Sylvie who is one of those lucky tall and skinny brigade of women who can eat this kind of thing daily for breakfast lunch and dinner whilst floating around serenly in all their waif-like loveliness without gaining so much as a pound. I, of course, am not bitter about this at all.

I am posting this recipe now so that I can share with you how wrong but oh so right it is, and so that I do not make it anytime soon, using the old blog fodder argument as an excuse.

So here ladies and gentlemen, is Gougere. Full of everything which makes you fat and about as anti-Atkins as you can possibly get.

Serves 3-4

185ml water
75g butter, diced
100g plain flour
half teaspoon maldon sea salt
4 eggs
50g gruyère, diced nto small squares
2 tbsp grated gruyère

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Put the water and butter into a saucepan over a medium heat. When it reaches the boil, immediately tip in all the flour and the salt.

Beat the flour into the liquid until well-mixed in, then carry on beating over a low heat for a further 30 seconds or so to dry the mixture a little. It is ready when the dough forms a ball. Take off the heat.

Beat in three eggs, one at a time.

Break the last egg into a separate bowl and beat lightly to mix. Carefully add about half of it to the choux pastry mixture and beat in. If the mixture is glossy and falls from the spoon, then you have added enough egg. If not, beat in the remaining egg until the desired consistency is reached. Mix in the diced gruyère.

Spoon the mixture in a ring around the outer area of a greased baking dish, leaving a hole in the middle. It's important to leave a hole in the middle otherwise it will rise too quickly and burn.

Sprinkle the grated gruyère over the dough. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until puffed up high and richly browned.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008


Yesterday I spent NINE HOURS in the car driving home from London after spending the weekend in Brighton with Carrie followed by a meeting in Enfield. Is there ever a day when there are no accidents on the M1/M6? Diversion followed by diversion followed by queue followed by queue followed by service station M&S 'dinner' followed by more than one can of Red Bull resulted in my getting home, finally, at 01:30.


Suffice to say, I was a little bit tired today after my Red Bull fuelled journey and subsequent fitful sleep. I was also hungry. Apparantly sitting on my arse for nine hours makes me very hungry the following day because today I have managed to consume:

a 250g packet of smoked salmon
three Rivita (oh, the irony)
half a lemon
50cl Evian
a cup cake
a cup of chamomile and lavendar tea
50 cl Evian
a whole baked camembert
half a salami
15 cherry tomatoes
half a large ciabatta
another cupcake
a cup of chamomile and lavendar tea
50cl Evian

I think I needed to see this in a list to fully appreciate how revolting I am. How long do you think it will be before they start selling home liposuction kits in Boots? Off for a run in the morning.

Thursday, 3 July 2008


Let me introduce you to my latest obsession: the edamame bean. In short, baby soya beans (I know, I know, Victoria Beckham eats them by the bucket load and she credits them with keeping her teeny tiny etc etc etc. Frankly I don't give a monkeys what VB deigns to eat - and if this is all she's eating that might explain why she always looks so bloody miserable - ridiculous woman. Ok, I'm glad we've got that out of the way.)

Yes, edamame are marvellous.

And they're a bit of a wonder food by all accounts too. Rich in fibre, they can help prevent mood fluctuations by keeping blood-sugar levels steady. They are also a great source of protein, which further helps stabilize blood sugar; and omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to combat depression. And they contain a high source of vitamin A, vitamin B and calcium to boot.

Add to this that they're tasty and filling and they've ticked all the boxes. Cooked in their shell, they're most often served salted, leaving you to just pop the wee beans out of their shells into your mouth for a tasty snack. However I found them in a recent trip to the supermarket, frozen and ready shelled. Very handy for a quick tomato and edamame salad with petits pois and fresh mint.

Related Posts with Thumbnails