Monthly Archives: January 2014

Healthy eating – the imperative read on the matter!

Whether you are training for the London Marathon, putting an end to Dec/Jan excesses or just keen to stay in shape, Healthy Eating is for you!

Here I have compiled a list of the important tips and food lists to keep in mind and of the sort of meals you should be eating to feel great throughout winter and look even better when summer arrives! I get quite evangelical about all this, as my long suffering kids and husband know only too well…

The best place to start is with the Harvard Healthy eating plate:

The Harvard eating plate

The Harvard eating plate

Basically, half of your plate should be covered in vegetable, fruit and plant -based food and the other half divided between whole grains (carbs, cereals, wholewheat flours) and lean, healthy protein – some of which can again come from plant, and some from animal sources. If you stick to these ratios, you can pretty much add anything to your plate and eat a variety of food – so long as you respect the general ratios on this mock plate you will be fine!

Food is generally what makes us ill as research shows all cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and even most cancers have their roots in unbalanced eating habits; so by the same token, food can become our medicine and should be treated as such.

Make sure you eat plenty of raw and cooked vegetable and that your intake of fibre is at least 15 to 30g per day: This means eating two slices of wholegrain bread, a helping of cooked sweet potato and a handful of nuts every day as a minimum.

Smoothies are great for vitamins but juicing and blending breaks up the fibre so it is important to have enough of the whole plant as well as the juice! Meat and animal based food contain no fibre so make sure you eat fibre with it in order to help digestion and to clean the fat deposits off.

Protein should come in the shape of fish and especially fatty fish because you need the good omegas and the real thing is always better absorbed than the supplement. Try sardines, salmon, haddock and more. You can also find essential oils in nuts  and olive oil. Lean protein include tofu, chicken, fish, eggs. Liver is a good source of amino acids and some important vitamins and minerals.

Avoid white flour and white bread for the “fibre” reason again: wholegrain and brown grains contain more! So use brown rice, bulgur, oats, brown couscous.

Choose fibrous vegetable such as kale, chard, cabbage, parsnip, celery, sweet potato, spinach and green beans. There are plenty of recipes on this blog!

Try to avoid eating animal protein and carbohydrates at the same meal and rather combine veg with meat or carbs with veg. It is also one way to make sure you will be eating enough plant based food at every meal. There is only so much greens you can add to a plate full of steak and fries!

Try and limit cheese and dairy, reserve red meat to special occasions, limit alcohol and sugar.

To give you plenty of energy, make your own healthy flapjacks and nut balls, bake cakes rather than buy them, try using honey or agave in yogurt or no sugar at all and drink pure and filtered water. Swap black tea for green or white and use herbal tea in the evening. I love an infusion of rosemary or lavender…

The advice seems to be that unless you are exercising a lot, 6 glasses of water is enough – beyond that you might just use it for water retention!

Embrace good fats such as olive oil, ghee, goose fat, rapeseed oil, linseed and avoid low-fat products which tend to be full of sugar and/or preservatives and seem to encourage an enlarged waistline, according to some recent studies.

If you exercise, drink as soon as you are thirsty, eat bananas to recover and make sure you eat enough carbs (in the form of pasta, rice, quinoa etc…) on the days that you train. Remember also that the rest days are as important for your overall fitness as the exercise days and do not overdo it,  that is the best way to avoid injury.

Also, give your pancreas a proper eight to nine hours rest by eating early in the evening and nothing until the morning. Something I am definitely working on…

At the moment I am gearing up for a big personal challenge and training for the London Marathon so as I learn more I might be able to let this new found wisdom trickle into this blog! I will keep you up to speed with what I will be gleaning on this journey: I still have 10 weeks before the big day…

So that my efforts might benefit a good cause, I am raising funds to fight abuse and child cruelty so if you want to help, please donate on this page to the NSPCC or click the link below. Anything you can give will go towards helping a vulnerable child and there is no better cause, I think. Thanks for visiting.

I hope you enjoyed this post. And if you have, please sponsor me!

 

By the serpentine, at the week end - love this bird!

By the serpentine, at the week end – love this bird!

 

Creole Bread and Butter pudding with rum sauce

This very decadent and irresistible recipe was given to me by my friend Marie-Lorraine who herself got it from a friend: the sort of word-of-mouth recipe that makes you salivate as soon as you hear about it… It is thought to have originated in New-Orleans but there are enough similar recipes in the UK for it to earn its place on this blog.

I used the stale brioche made the week before, which was lucky timing, but you can use any stale sandwich bread or a bought brioche. The trick is to cover the slices with the liquid and let it steep for a while- which I sadly did not have time to do!

Comfort food at its best...

Comfort food at its best…

Ingredients list:

  • Eggs,2
  • Caster sugar, 150g
  • Whipping cream, 230ml
  • Full fat milk, 700ml
  • Butter, 100g
  • Vanilla extract, 1 drop
  • Bitter almond extract, 1 drop
  • Currants raisins, ½ cup or small handful
  • Nutmeg, 1 tsp
  • Stale white bread or brioche, 225g or about

First weigh the bread and cut it up in thick slices.

In a bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, milk, cream, butter, vanilla and almond extract, currants and nutmeg. Whisk to blend well.

Stuff the slices into the bowl and let them steep in ideally for 30 minutes or more. Or you can also just dip each slice into the bowl, then arrange them snuggly and pour the rest over. Once you have arranged your slices  in a buttered dish, such as a rectangular pyrex or gratin dish, add more milk if necessary to cover it well and press down with a fork to absorb most of the liquid.

They should all fit tightly and without leaving any space.

Reserve in the fridge for a few hours or a night.

Put the dish in a hot oven at 160º C.

Bake until the top is golden so about 30/40 minutes. Let too cool down then dust some icing sugar on top before serving. Given the sugar content, this is obviously optional but looks good!

Prepare the sauce.

Ingredients list for the sauce:

  • Sugar, 200g
  • Butter, 60g
  • Whipping cream or creme fraiche, 45ml
  • Egg yolk, 1
  • Rum (or brandy) 60ml

In a thick bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, cream and place over the hob to bubble until it is all melted. Remove from the hob. Whisk the yolk and add it to the mix. Stir in your favourite rum!

Serve the bread and butter pudding warm in shallow cups or bowls with a side helping of the sauce. It is a cross between French toast and a spoon cake: moist and regressive… Enjoy, it’s winter…IMG_5346

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A brioche fit for the Kings

Monday is the Epiphany, the arrival of the Kings and the last of the Christmas festivities.  For the occasion, the tradition in France is to choose a king by way of eating a crown-shaped-cake where a little figure (in older times a bean) has been hidden. Whoever has the symbol is the king for the day!

Half of France eats a cake made of frangipane and half eats a brioche based one. Being from the South, I chose this year to go for the brioche version. It is a moist brioche, filled with lemon peel, candied fruits and flavoured with orange blossom water. You can decorated it with more crystallised fruit or ground up  sugar.

Crown for the Epiphany

Crown for the Epiphany

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients list:

  • Fine flour (00), 300g
  • eggs, 4
  • Sugar, 75g
  • Bakers yeast, 1 tsp (or 15 gr of fresh yeast)
  • Butter, 150g
  • Orange blossom water, 2 capful
  • Milk, 100g
  • Candied peel and fruit, one cupful
  • one egg yolk

This is so easy to do in the Thermomix, I can’t resist to give you the step by step here but you can always make it in a bowl if you like!

Mix all the ingredients (but the egg yolk and candied fruit) in the Thermomix for 5 or 6 minutes on dough setting then empty the dough in a bowl and cover with cling film to raise for 1 hour.

Once the dough has raised, punch it back into shape by kneading air out of it. Mix the candied fruit into the dough and shape it into a crown. Use a silpat re-usable mat or a tray covered in oven proof paper. Decorate with crushed sugar and more fruit. Don’t forget to hide a “fève” or porcelaine figure in the cake and leave it to raise again for about one hour under a loose plastic bag – cling film would stick to the surface and ruin the look.

When it is risen, brush the top with a little yolk, decorate and bake at 160° for 25 minutes on the middle rack of the oven.

PS: I have to warn my readers it is pretty difficult to get good quality candied fruit in London, apart from lemon or orange peel and even that is hard to come by… I import mine from Provence where they produce the very best ones: Lilamand in Saint Remy de Provence or Maison Villaret in Nimes sell the “crème de la crème”: th variety is impressive, from apricots o chesnuts to wonderful melons. Though I have found good candied oranges or clementines in Italy too…  A good excuse for a bit of shopping abroad.

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These food-borne traditions are wonderful and  I am a sucker for all of them: I have to confess I do enjoy every one of them, from Christmas to Epiphany! I especially love sharing it all  with children around this time, especially the younger nephews and nieces for whom Christmas is still a new, fresh and magical time…

A beautiful wreath make for us by Peppermint Poppy alias Kenza

A beautiful wreath made for us by Peppermint Poppy alias Kenza

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Apricot-Cherry Compote | David Lebovitz

Sorry to be a little bit lazy on this new year: my excuse for re-blogging this is that yogurt cakes are truly adorable classics and this recipe is excellent. I know quite a few – mostly americans – fans of Mr Leibovitz and I gave this a go during the holiday: I was sold! The blog is friendly, good looking and practical; which are three essential qualities in both men and blogs, as far as I am concerned.

So here it is, shamelessly pressed from David Leibovitz Parisian site: Lemon Yogurt Cake with Apricot-Cherry Compote | David Lebovitz.

Go and check the site too for great Paris insights: An american in Paris recommended by a French-woman in London.