Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Some dirty words

I got an email today that contained some dirty words. Three dirty words in fact. Those words were weight-loss and diet.  The email came from Woman’s Health, an on-line magazine that generally I find very useful. This is what they said:    

This is what I wished they’d said:
1.       Accept yourself

There was a gorgeous woman in my dance-class today. She looked strong and fit.

We chatted between songs as you do in a class. She said she thought she had a fat-arse.

It was like hearing a lovely, shiny Labrador wishing it was a Whippet.

2.       Seek pleasure
Find your joy. Some people like digging potatoes in their allotment.  Some people like kickboxing like my friend Berenice who can do 100 military style press-ups in a row. Some people like walking their dog along cliff tops. Some lovely people I know like yoga.  It’s all good.
3.       Be normal

It is normal to eat when you are hungry. It is normal to eat at mealtimes. It’s normal to enjoy your food.  It’s normal to eat sitting down at a table with a plate.
4.       Be balanced
Sometimes we eat cake, sometimes we eat soup. Sometimes we drink wine, sometimes we drink water. Sometimes we work up a sweat and sometimes we lie down in front of the TV.
5.       Don’t be unkind to yourself

Don’t watch programmes like America’s Top Model. Don’t weigh yourself.  Don’t compare yourself.  Don’t diet.  

6.       Be grateful
I was once fortunate to meet a special man who stood for justice, freedom from oppression and equality for all.  He literally gave his right arm for something he believed in.  Before anyone complains about their body being the wrong shape, think about what Albie Sachs achieves with his.

7.       Cook

8.       Accept responsibility

You decide what you eat, not a diet sheet, or a diet book or a diet method or a diet company.  It’s up to you what you put in your mouth, not anyone else.

Fried rice
This is the most useful recipe in my repertoire. It’s our classic Sunday night supper.
My children love to eat it. All the ingredients are always in my kitchen at all times.
It’s quick and easy and all food groups are represented.
This is that recipe.
Cooked basmati rice (one cup per person)
Sunflower oil
Eggs (one for each person eating)
Half a cup frozen peas
Half a cup frozen sweet-corn
Soy sauce (loads)

Oil in frying pan.
Rice in frying pan. 
Make well in rice. Fry the eggs in the well. Add veggies. Stir around till all cooked.
Add Soy sauce.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The big picture

 On Friday night I bless my children.  Weirdly, my teenagers who usually scowl at me love this one moment of intimacy.
Instead of shouting at my 17 year old daughter (“watch out for cars”) when she leaves for school in the morning, on Friday night, I whisper in her ear “May God bless you and keep you”
Instead of the usual morning checklist I yell at my son(“glasses, phone, Oyster card, wallet and lunch card”) on Friday night I stretch up and whisper, “May God shine his face upon you and be gracious to you”
Instead of yelling at my little one (“switch off the TV now, no you can’t have more ice-cream, and have you practised the piano?”), I put my arms around her and whisper: “May God turn his face to you and establish peace for you”
I am the one who is blessed.

Chicken soup
I could only make this soup properly when I went out and bought myself an enormous soup pot.
Slug of sunflower oil
Four chicken carcasses
(Go to a butcher for this, not a supermarket)
Three carrots sliced
Three sticks celery sliced
Bunch of fresh parsley
Two leeks sliced
One turnip sliced
Two Telma chicken stock cubes
Lots of boiling water
First put oil in the pot, then veggies, then carcasses, then stock cubes and finally water.
Boil on low for three hours.
Pour soup through a sieve.  Add salt to taste.
Make kneidlach from a pack. Boil kneidlach in salted boiling water. Add to soup.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

What 10 000 hours of practise have taught me

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, suggests that we acquire unique expertise through 10 000 of practise. So I was thinking about the 10 000 hours I have spent as Londonmom and what unique expertise I have from that.
But before I tell you mine, I want to hear about yours.  What do you know that you’ve learned through practise? What do you know that you almost take for granted that other people might find amazingly useful?
Ok, now I will tell you one of mine. I know how to get rid of lice. It doesn’t exactly fit into the focus of this blog, but I can bend the rules a bit, after all you can’t live well with nits in your hair.
This is the secret:
At night, before bedtime, take a huge tub of Queen Helene conditioning cream.
Slather it over your child’s scalp, row by row onto the scalp. (You need to use loads)
Wrap child’s head in Clingfilm. Put a bath cap over that.  Put child to bed.
In the morning, rinse the child’s hair and comb.
Repeat process within eight days to catch the little hatchlings.

In my 10 000 hours, I have learned less disgusting things too, but more of that another day.
To conclude on a nice note, I will give you the best stew recipe I know:
Lamb Tagine
One tablespoon oil
600 gm pack of lamb shoulder chops (at least two per person)
Three stalks celery sliced
Three carrots sliced
One onion sliced
One tin of Canelli beans
One tablespoon Ras El Hanout spice mix
One tablespoon tomato puree
One tablespoon honey
100 apricots halved
Fry lamb in oil till brown both sides
Put lamb in oven dish. Fry veggies. Put in oven dish. Add 500ml cold water, tomato puree and seasonings and put in medium oven for about one and a half hours.
Add honey and apricots and continue cooking for another 30 minutes. Serve with rice.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

What I think about when I'm running

I was thinking about the most useful thing I know
The most useful thing I know is the power of breathing.
In particular, breathing out.
When I think I can’t go another five minutes on the treadmill, I breathe out long and audibly. 
When I think I can’t do another rep on the shoulder press, I breathe out as I pull down. 
When I gave birth, I used breathing out instead of medication. 
It’s a mystery to me why this is, but it works for me every time. The out-breath makes me stronger and allows me to endure more pain.  Has anyone else noticed this? Does anyone know the scientific reason for this?
The other thought was what shall I make for supper.

Eggplant stew
One eggplant cubed
One onion chopped small
Some capers
Some black olives stoned
Some chilli flakes
Teaspoon of sugar
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Sunflower oil

Fry onions in oil till very soft, add egg plant and fry for about ten minutes. Check if you need to add oil, as egg plant needs loads of oil to taste yum yum delicious.  Add all the other ingredients and cook for another ten minutes.  
Although this is my favourite way to eat eggplant, I don’t expect the kids to eat this, but I will offer it to them.  
I am also making cod baked in a hot oven.  As I write this, the fish is in a buttered dish , dotted with butter and salt and I've squeezed the juice of one lemon over it.  The fish will cook for no longer than thirty minutes. 
I also made vegetable soup with barley.  And rice.

Monday, 8 March 2010

where I confess some things


I have an insanely sweet tooth.  
I love sugar in all its yum yum delicious forms including liquorice, toffees, Turkish delight, ice-cream and chocolate.  I only have two rules for myself. I eat the most premium, most delicious, freshest version I can find. And I refuse to think about the teeth, calories and health effects.  I enjoy it with every fibre of my being.
Of all the sweet things I like to eat, this is probably the thing I like to eat the most. For obvious reasons, I only make it very rarely.
My mother’s fudge
 Two tins condensed milk
Three to four tablespoons of syrup
Four cups of sugar
Half a pound of butter
Two teaspoons vanilla essence
One tablespoon vinegar

Stir first four ingredient in a pot on high heat till it comes to a boil. Little brown bits will emerge but don’t panic. Turn on low and bubble softly for about twenty minutes. Now the secret to success: You are only done boiling this when the fudgy mass comes away from the side of the pot. You will know it for sure when it happens. Be patient. It will now be a gorgeous brown colour.  
 Now pour in the vanilla and vinegar and beat the mixture firmly with a wooden spoon to show it who is boss.
Pour into a buttered tray and scrape out sides of the pot. (You need three hands for this)
Cut before it’s entirely cool. Give it away  as quickly as you can.

Another confession
One of the things I liked to do with my body besides running, dancing, eating, hiking and playing badminton, was breast-feeding my children.  
 I loved the closeness with my baby and the fact that I had to sit down and relax for 20 minutes.   
And I like that from the beginning, my children have enjoyed good food made by me.  
 I also read that breast-feeding helps against childhood obesity.   
 I hope my daughters grow up to love their bodies too.
 (This is the article I read but I have to admit I skipped down to the conclusion:

Friday, 5 March 2010

Great food rules (if you've got the time)

Is healthy living a luxury in a time-poor world?
 “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”  Says Michael Pollan in his book “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual,”
As prevention against obesity, his other rule is “cook”.
Great,  but let’s say you’re a full-time working mother coming home from your job at seven and with a family of five to feed. Chances are, you’re no stranger to take-out food.
So who shall we demonise for the obesity epidemic? 
Shall we blame McDonalds?
or our children that love takeouts?
or the time-poor mothers?
or the system where unsupported women have to work so hard to earn so little?
As an old boyfriend once explained to me, it’s all about who owns the means of production

Comfort yourself with this yummy soup.
Butternut soup
 Three tablespoons sunflower oil
Two onions chopped
One butternut peeled and diced
One apple peeled and chopped
Three tablespoons flour
Two heaped teaspoons garam masala
Two telma vegetable cubes
Three cups boiling water
One cup milk
Zest and juice of one orange
Salt and one teaspoon sugar

Fry onions in the oil. Add the butternut and apple. Fry for another five minutes.
Add the flour, the crushed cubes and garam masala and stir. Add the liquids, zest, salt and sugar.
Cook for 25 minutes. Blitz with wand.

Take a look at some more great rules here:

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

A fresh look at exercise

Oh I just remembered another word I don’t like
That word is Exercise.  Exercise is such a killjoy word.
It smells of P.E at school and duty. 
There is no pleasure in Exercise.   
With all the wonderful things to do with our bodies - dancing, running, rolling down a hill, hiking, walking, cycling, playing badminton and body surfing, to mention just a few of my personal favourites, Exercise doesn’t come into it.
I take great pleasure in chatting, listening to music and being in nature. 
If I combine any one of those with a run, it’s not exercise, it’s ecstasy.

This is what I'm making for supper tonight.  
I'll probably also put rice and spinach (with garlic and cumin) on the table.

Chicken kebabs
 Five chicken breasts, cubed
Four tablespoons oil
Two tablespoons wine vinegar
Four tablespoons honey
Two crushed garlic cloves
Salt, one teaspoon mustard powder
One Telma chicken stock cube
One teaspoon oregano

Thread the chicken cubes onto skewers.
Mix the marinade ingredients and pour over the kebabs. Marinade until needed.
Cook in hot oven for twenty minutes.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

A story about a girl and a fish


Once upon a time
Once upon a time there was a lovely fish called Kingklip that tasted yum yum delicious. Sadly it was over-fished and is now endangered.
Also there was once a blogger who used to live in Cape Town and now she doesn’t.  So I have to make this recipe with haddock or cod but I still call this recipe golden-topped Kingklip in honour of the fish I used to love to eat.

Golden-topped Kingklip
 One and a half pounds of any firm white fish fillet.
(Ask fish-monger to take out bones, cut off head, de-scale but leave skin on)
Half a cup of Salad Cream (or mayonnaise)
One tablespoon chopped capers
One tablespoon chopped chives or parsley
Half a cup grated cheddar cheese
Salt and cayenne pepper
One egg white

Butter an oven-proof dish. Put the fish in the dish with a little more butter and salt on top.  
Put it in the middle of an oven with medium heat and grill for 8 -12 minutes.
Mix the Salad Cream, capers, cayenne, chives, parsley and cheese.
Beat egg white till stiff and fold into cheesy mix.
Spread on the fish that you’ve allowed to cool down
and grill for another five minutes or until topping is golden and puffed.
Serve with rice. 

Another word I don’t like to use

Healthy is a bad word in my book. 
I don’t believe in counting five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. I don’t believe in super-foods. 
I really don’t believe in fat-free.
I believe in delicious.   
I believe in delicious spinach, delicious egg-plant, delicious lentils and delicious food enjoyed at a table with others.  
 I believe in the pleasure of good food with all its glorious colours, textures and tastes.   
And I believe we are the fortunate ones.

Monday, 1 March 2010

A big soup and a tiny rant

Meat soup

Three carrots fine sliced
0ne leek fine sliced
Two sticks celery fine sliced
One turnip fine sliced
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 beef shins (with or without bone)
Two litres water
Two Telma stock cubes (ground up)
One tin (410 g) Canelli beans, drained
Two tablespoons barley
One tin chopped tomato
One butternut peeled and chopped
Salt and one teaspoon sugar

Fry vegetables till softened. Add meat and fry for a few more minutes both sides.
Add water, stock cubes, barley and beans. Cook for 40 minutes. Add tomatoes and butternut and
sugar. Cook for at least two hours or until the meat is very soft. Take out the meat, cube it and return to the pot with salt.

Permit me a tiny rant

There are three words I will try not to use in this blog. Two of these words are fat and thin.

On the other hand, I recognize many people are fat-in-the-head. They see themselves as fat. They weigh themselves every day and judge themselves by the numbers they read. They eat in the car. They eat at the movies. They eat standing up. They eat when they’re bored or feeling stressed or resentful. They miss meals. They diet. They drink diet-coke every day. They deny themselves cookies and cakes and chocolate. They describe themselves as fat.

I don’t think that’s useful. What they really are is fat-in-the head. If your clothes are too tight, wear bigger clothes. Stop weighing yourself. Stop depriving yourself. Stop judging yourself. Stop eating in the car. It’s enough already.