Saturday, May 19, 2012

Vegetable Tagine

A colleague at work made a wonderful vegetable curry this week and brought it to work for lunch, so my Columbian friend was the inspiration I needed to go home and do something with vegetables.

If I had taken curry into work, it would have seemed like I was competing, although I wasn't, OK maybe just a little bit, but I didn't want to make curry anyway. Who wants to eat the same things two days running ? Certainly not me. So, I remembered I had some sumac in the cupboard that I bought a while ago and came across the other day unopened, and I had already made a mental note to use it; Here was the opportunity. I could make a vegetable tagine!

I didn't have the time to go searching a recipe, so I googled one and found a great recipe here: When I looked closer at the blog, it seems that the writer of this blog is UK-based, and is just an hour away from me. Small world huh ?

The recipe made an amazing tagine: here 's a piccie to whet your appetite.
My modifications are next to the original in italics


  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped I used one red and one white and they weren't that finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped - I used 2 large ones, 1 small
  • 1/2 a large butternut squash, peeled and diced - I used a whole small one
  • 1 red pepper, large dice - I didn't have any, so I left it out
  • 2 medium carrots, large dice
  • substitute other vegetables as desired, eg spinach, chard, courgette, etc - I used some kale- about a handful; one parsnip; a handful of green beans;; half an aubergine.
  • 1 can plum tomatoes
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 250ml vegetable stock
  • 50g (1/2 cup) dried apricot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon each: cumin, paprika, cinnamon, cayenne/chilli powder, chilli flakes and harissa (North African chilli sauce – optional)
  • 2 teaspoons each: ras el hanout and za’atar or sumac (If you don’t have any of these North African spices in your cupboards, a teaspoon each of thyme and oregano would imitate za’atar, a squeeze of lemon juice will give a sourness like sumac and a teaspoon of mixed spice gives some of the flavours of ras el hanout. Or add 1 tsp of each if you have them all.)  I was out of ras el hanout, I had had some, but it was out of date, so I had thrown it away. Instead I used a little bit of nutmeg as I had no mixed spice.
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Mix the dry spices together and divide in half. Mix half the spices with the diced squash and a bit of olive oil, place on a tray in the oven and cook until softened and starting to brown, about 20-30 minutes.
  2. While the squash is cooking, soften the onion in a bit of butter or olive oil over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the rest of the spices, the other chopped vegetables and garlic, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the canned tomatoes, honey, dried apricots and stock, heat until boiling.
  5. Reduce the heat and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes until the vegetables have cooked and the sauce has reduced slightly.
  6. Add the roasted squash and chickpeas, stir to combine and heat through for another 3-5 minutes. 
The veggie website recommends that you serve this with couscous, but I was taking this to work so I had it with some bread on the side to dip into the lovely juices. This was an amazing, spicy and healthy dish. The roasted squash which is added at the end, means the squash retains its texture and it's strong spicing. The chickpeas give you  plenty of protein, so no need to add meat. Also, you can use any vegetables that you have to hand.

I hope you like it - I will definitely be making this again very soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sports Nutrition

Well here's a lovely picture of some sports nutrition that I've eaten recently... I'll be honest here, I'm not over keen on the mass-produced sports drinks and food. I'd rather have a banana and an orange juice/water mix with a dash of salt. However, this also is not that palatable and not very practical either. Gatorade is very tasty though!

Getting your nutrition right is a matter of trial and error, with the banana thing I find that after running for about 30 minutes the banana starts to repeat and stays with me for the rest of my run. Nice it ain't. I like the idea of malt loaf, which I know a lot of people use. However, I have discovered that I'm not very good at chewing and running at the same time.

So, what do I use? The answer? Gels. Gels are revolting, some are as thick as jam and make you want to retch as soon as you put them in your mouth from the texture and the over-sweetness, so two tips to get round this:

1) Take them with 2 or 3 large mouthfuls of water
2) Don't try and 'eat' or 'taste' them. This isn't your dinner. Just wash it straight down.

It is possible to find some gels that have a more watery texture, and whilst these are more palatable, for my last two marathons (makes me sound dead good that does, no?) I used GU gels. They look like this:

You can buy them from: They come in various flavours: lime, berry, strawberry. The chocolate one above is surprisingly nice, although lime is my favourite as it tastes slightly 'fresher', and therefore stops me feeling nauseous which for me kicks in at about three hours in a marathon.

I took one of these every forty minutes - so for a 4hr marathon time that's about 6 gels. Nice.

Try it in your training and see how it goes. This is a rather important part of your race plan, so to quote a cliché, Fail to Plan=Plan to Fail. Enough said, and the very best of success to you in your sporting adventures.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

My top ten Condiments

One of my favourite things to do over the weekend is read The Saturday Times, today I actually got chance to read it. Right at the back of the magazine Robert (Bob) Crampton gave his list of top ten condiments, which got me to thinking what mine would be... which led me straight to here to share them with my lovely readers. What d'you mean I don't have any readers.. ? Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked.

The best way to focus my mind on which condiment is most 'important' to me, is to consider the one that I miss most when in France. The answer? Number 1: Mustard.. whether the multi-grained French style or the sinus-clearing Coleman's  it has a veritable plethora of uses. Firstly, it is an essential ingredient in your salad dressing - just mix a teaspoon of it with olive oil, a little honey, a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper. Then adjust to taste. It is divine. I make an awesome salad with the tomatoes in France, which are so much more juicy than the ones you can buy in the UK, I mix the tomatoes in a 60:40 ratio with just blanched green beans (so they're still 'squeaky'), toss the roughly sliced tomatoes in with the green beans and then toss them with coarse grain mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper. The heat from the green beans, along with the juice from the tomatoes melds wonderfully with the mustard and makes a fantastic warm salad with cold meats or with roast sausages and a hunk of bread. Delish ! Not to mention a mild American mustard on a hotdog with ketchup. How lovely is that ?

On to a close Number Two and that has to be Mayonnaise, I'm never really very far from a jar. I love a splodge with pizza, with chips eg french fries, in a tuna sandwich, with new potatoes... it livens up everything. I only ever eat the low-fat variety, and I never, ever make it myself as I find the homemade version a little greasy.

Number Three has to be Tomato Ketchup aka red sauce or tomato sauce. Of course I love it with french fries, but really I use it mostly as an ingredient in cooking. I add it to spaghetti bolognese sauce, chilli, cottage pie, anything with a tomatoey base and it tastes all the better for it. I nearly forgot, it's excellent with sausages too!

Number Four - Wasabi and Horseradish cream I'm lumping these two together as they're both made with horseradish root. Wasabi is a must-have with sushi, horseradish with my roast beef. I love that sinus-clearing sting and the taste. Nothing beats it. I cannot eat beef or sushi without this accompaniment.

Number Five - Brown Sauce - I cannot eat a bacon sandwich with tomato sauce, for me bacon has to be paired with brown sauce. I love it. I also really like it with scrambled eggs. Which might sound like an odd combo but I love it.

Number 6 - Sweet chilli sauce  - Perfect with nachos, added to salsa, with gammon steak and mashed potatoes. I guess I could probably eat chilli sauce with anything.

Number 7 - Tartare sauce Another must-have, but this time with fish. I love this with scampi or battered cod. It's basically mayo with tangy capers. Delicious.

Number 8 - Burger Relish There's something about burger relish that just adds a little something to a burger. I will eat a burger without it, but really I would rather not...

Number 9 - Salad Cream It's made my top ten, but the truth is that salad cream has gone quite out of fashion. I love it on new potatoes, on a cheese sandwich, and on a fishfinger sandwich. I eat such classy things don't I  ??

Number 10 - Mango Chutney Delicious with poppadoms with an Indian curry, but equally lovely mixed with yoghurt or added to a spicky chicken dish.

That's my top ten - and I haven't even mentioned picalilly, branston pickle, vinegar. I love all of them, but they're not my top ten. What's your favourite condiment ?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The School Run

Dusty Dog (DD) and I have been doing the school run together.

When we arrive at school he puts his little feet on mine, and stands between my legs. Finally got a photo of this today - see below. How cute is that ??