Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Back in a bit...

Had a few days down in Cornwall.  Gymmed twice and ran once!  (drank every day, but not loads, ate a fair amount)  Came back, said hello to house-sitters and cats.  Heading back down to Cornwall on Friday for a week.

Feeling the size of a house and retaining fluid like a doodah, but still in thermometer jeans and tiny dresses, so.

Gym at the hotel was tiny, but I managed to do two different routines with significatly heavier weights than the last time I did them (squats with clean and shoulder press with 12kg dumbbells and squat and overhead swing with 18kg dumbbell :o)) and we ran for 40 minutes, which is the furthest I've run in a year...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


I made a phaal tonight, for tomorrow night and for freezing down.  It's pretty warm but not deathly so...

Lamb Phaal

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 bulb Garlic, broken into cloves and peeled
  • (at least) 5 Chilli Peppers (or more, depending on how hot you want this to be)
  • 3 Tsps Cumin Seeds
  • 3 Tsps Coriander Seeds
  • 1 Tsp Peppercorns, Black
  • 2 Tsps Turmeric Powder
  • 25g Root Ginger
  • 40ml Grapeseed or Sunflower Oil
  • 1 Tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 1 Tsp Fenugreek Seeds
  • 4 Tbsps Tomato Puree, Double Concentrate
  • 1 huge Onion (350-450g), peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 Tin/400g Plum Tomatoes in juice
  • 30g Tamarind
  • 550-600g Lamb Neck Fillets, cubed


First make the paste -

1. Toast 2tsp coriander seeds, 2tsp cumin seeds, 1tsp peppercorns and 1tsp mustard seeds in a pan.

2. Turn out into a mortar, add 1tsp sea or rock salt crystals and grind up until you have a powder.

3. Add that into a suitable vessel for hand blending or into a blender.
4. Add 2/3rds of the garlic cloves, 1 roughly chopped chilli, 1/2 the lump of ginger, all of the tamarind (either as-is or a paste) and half of the oil.

5. Blend into a thick paste and set aside.

Now for the curry -
1. Chop half of the remaining chillies and slit the others down the middle.
2. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onion, stir over a medium heat until golden.

3. Add the lamb and cook for 2 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the turmeric over the lamb.  Add the paste, the rest of the cumin, coriander and fenugreek seeds, finely sliced ginger and garlic and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Sprinkle in some water if the mixture begins to stick.

5. Stir in the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and the chillies and bring to a gentle simmer; Cook for a further 15 minutes or until the lamb is cooked through.

6. Check the seasoning and serve with plain rice, naan or a cool daal.  Remove the whole chillies before serving if desired and add a dollop of Greek yoghurt if it is a touch on the warm side.

It does get better with sitting in a fridge overnight, or freezer for a few days.  So if possible, make it a day or two before you want to serve it.

Nutrition Data Per Serving
Calories (kcal)450.1
Carbohydrate (g)25.6
Protein (g)31.5
Fat (g)25.3
Fibre (g)4.4
Alcohol (g)0.0
Fruit & Veg2.8

Purple breakfast

I had purple breakfast this morning. Maybe I'll take a picture tomorrow or Friday when I'll definitely have it again because it was soooo nice:-
  • 40g porridge oats, organic
  • 50g blueberries, frozen
  • 200ml water
  • 10g agave nectar, organic
  • 20g raisins, organic
  • 35g Total Greek Yoghurt
I soaked all of that in a bowl in the fridge over night (except for the yoghurt)  and plopped it into the microwave this morning for 2 minutes.  The blueberries expanded and softened to mush.  I stirred in the Total and the blueberries squished and turned everything a lovely shade of purple.  1 minute more microwaving and serve.  Sooooo creamy and pretty :o)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Feeling lovely... just lovely

Not cycling since Friday appears to be agreeing with me.  Also the new bed linen :o)  The extra hour in bed due to taking the tube and not needing to beat the rush on the roads is a huge plus too.  I think that maybe I should just bite the bullet and try cycling in later to see how bad the traffic really is at 8am vs. 7am.  Walking to the tube this morning, the traffic looked pretty OK, but that's only a very small sample of the whole route.

I gymmed yesterday, increased some of the weights since I started with this routine (up to 45kg on the Smith machine for squats, from 30kg, for example) and it's going quite nicely.  I'm not bothering with any cardio at the end as with all this cycling there's no point really thrashing myself to bits even more with that.  That said, the overhead swing and lunge with ViPR gets my heart rate up to 185 (dropping to 135 within 1 minute), so that's cardio enough for me.

Also, not having the MP Max Total Breakfast is nicer too.  "Eating" that every morning was getting a bit much, it's quite sickly, thick and difficult after 3 mornings of it on the trot, so I'm quite pleased to be back to Total Greek yoghurt (2% - which is really really nice for the extra couple of kcals per portion vs 0%) with MP Max True Whey, Cookies and Cream flavour, and a good dollop of fruit compote.  Lovely, sweet, fruity, proteiny, creamy... just blimmin' nice!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Catching up with me?

I should throw away the bathroom scales... 2kg heavier than this time last week -isn't- real, but it's got me in a sulk.  I worry that it is real, or at least a bit real and that I am very slowly gaining weight.  Every time I think that, it goes down again after a couple of days.

Having a total rest day today, same as yesterday.  And I'm not cycling next week at all.  2x gyms is the size of it.  It's a short week for us, so.

Something that might be interesting to investigate when we come back from hols is cycle commuting and what other people do.  My gut feel is that I should be able to get 120km tidied away every week as a background level of activity rather than special and extra - it's commuting, not exercise.  But Mr TOTKat reckons that most cycle commuters don't do 30km a day round trips and that actually it's quite a lot.  I can see both sides of that argument, but surely it would become a background thing with time?

Friday, 10 September 2010

Commuting by bike in London

So one of the things that you have to contend with in London, as a commuter on the roads, is the high number of traffic lights compared with the distance travelled. My route in to the office is 15km and mostly on one main road.  In that 15km there are 75, yes, seventy-five, sets of traffic lights.  Some are in clusters of two, three or even four within a few metres of each other.  e.g. a cross roads with lights, followed by a set of pedestrian lights and then maybe a T-junction all within 100m section of road.

So, on my pretty typical ride home, 24 sets of those 75 were at a red signal when I got to them, resulting in almost exactly 9 minutes of being completely at a stop vs 39 minutes on the move (including speeding up away from lights and slowing down to them) in a 48 minute total journey time.  Now, that was a slow trip home for a combination of reasons; tiredness, weak legs, gusty wind and some reasonable traffic.  But that's an awful lot of actual stopped time, plus a lot of related slowing down and speeding up.  I can see why some people jump red lights.  If I could save at the very least 9 minutes off my journey, that'd make a huge difference (and that's not even taking into account the loss of speed to get to a stop and the ramping back up to speed again).

But.  The law, and common sense in very many cases, says stopping at red lights is what you do.

For comparison, the ride up to Hertfordshire the other week took 03:20 to cover 76km vs. 00:47 to cover 15km.  So, if I'd hit the same average speed for the long ride as for my commute, it would have taken 03:58 to get up to Herts.  Or, if I'd managed the same average speed for my commute as I did on the long ride, I'd take 39 minutes to get home.  (looking at my ride in, I've managed that in 38 minutes once, including 6 or so minutes stopped at lights... the ride home is never that quick)

Metoo with the sloppy :o)

I have had rather a sloppy day today, but I just needed it, so.

Breakfast of Total Breakfast with fruit and skimmed milk is getting a bit tedious, but that's what I have when I cycle in the morning as it's the fastest way to get enough releasable energy in place for my commute in the morning.  So, that's what I had.  Then I had second breakfast when I got into the office, showered and changed, of Greek yoghurt, strawberries, banana and honey.  Nom!  Lunch of the usual roasted chicken in a salad of various things like lettuce, celery, sweet pepper etc..  Then, the afternoon just went pear-shaped and I cracked at 4pm and went to the coffee shop across the lane from the office, where I'd had a meeting in the morning and coveted the cakes on offer, and bought a slice of treacle tart.  But for once I was brave and I asked them to tell me how much it weighed.  So they got out some scales and weighed it for me!  They were totally understanding!  I'd checked on WLR before I went for a rough idea of how many kcals it might cost (I had loads to spare at that point.  Like... loads!) and hoped it was around 130g of average to heavy treacle tart.  And lo!  It was 137g!  So, that way 500-600 kcals of refined sugars and fat in an incredible dense delivery mechanism.  And it tasted -amazing-.  I think I can honestly say that it was the nicest treacle tart I have ever eaten.  And it meant that instead of eating my fruit&nut bar, I donated it to my boss, who'd not managed to have any lunch by 5pm and I relied on the treacle tart to get me home.

Now, either the treacle tart had worn off, or I was a teensy bit fatigued from the quite extensive cycling this week, but I had no legs pretty quickly on the way home and it was really hard work.  It took 47 minutes and felt quite difficult.  I did have a nice chat with a Welsh guy on a motorbike at a set of lights though, so that was nice.

Dinner started out as chilli with couscous, peas and sweetcorn.   Which turned into chilli with pitta bread as I'd run out of steam by dinner time.  And then I was still hungry after that.  So I had another pitta bread with chorizo and cheddar with mustard.  And a couple of glasses of wine to finish off a bottle that was in the fridge.

But... you know what?  I've put in 4,400-odd kcals of exercise this week, so *raspberry* to it all.  I'm under maintenance and there's plenty of room for a nice dinner out tomorrow night as well.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


Not really feeling it at the moment.

Random thoughts...
  • At an average of 1500kcals over maintenance per week vs. calorific output including exercise, I'm slowly losing a little weight
  • Lots of cycling during the week is getting easier (even with the frustrations of a gazillion extra cyclists and cars on the road today due to the tube strike)
  • My core strength has come on hugely (I did some reverse crunches at the gym yesterday and they were -phenomenally- easy, so I did them for a count of 5 per crunch at 3x15 reps and it was still easy!)
  • I've really enjoyed playing about with Greek yoghurt recipes, adding it into porridge for an extra kick of creaminess and there's still a couple more to come - the ice-cream was a HUGE hit with me - it tastes like it's been made with clotted cream
  • I'm really enjoying making curries from scratch without using pre-made pastes, never mind sauces from jars
  • I'm very much looking forward to Mr TOTKat coming home on Saturday (huge understatement!)
  • This week is going to be possibly the biggest week for routine exercise, with the exception of the week we went skiing
  • I'm really not keeping up with reading blogs at the moment... it's not you, it's me.  (honestly!)
And so, almost time to bed.  With tea.  And a kitty.  Or two.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Good curry

Anjum Anand's Tarka Dal... I took the recipe and instead of using ground coriander, I toasted the seeds and ground them myself - much fresher, zingier flavour, I find.  I took out the leaf coriander because I can't stand the stuff.  Then, to serve for dinner, I mixed in some chunks of roasted chicken breast that I'd heated up.

I think next time (i.e. tomorrow or Wednesday when I have more of this stuff, reheated :o)) I'll also add in some toasted almonds and desiccated coconut for extra flavour and texture.  It's blimmin nice without, but I think it'd also be great with!

So here it is (serves 4):-


  • 250g Red Lentils, Dried
  • 45ml Grapeseed or Sunflower Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Cumin, Seeds
  • 2 Tsps Coriander, Seeds, toasted and ground
  • 4 large cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tsp Garam Masala
  • 250-300g Tomatoes (not plum, as they're too sweet)
  • 1 Tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 6g Root Ginger, finely sliced
  • 1 smallish Onions, finely chopped
  • 2-3 medium Chilli Peppers, pricked
  • 1litre Water


1.  Place the lentils and 900ml of the water into a pan, stir well and bring to the boil. Skim off any froth that forms on the surface of the water with a spoon. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring regularly, for 30-35 minutes, or until the lentils are just tender, adding more water as necessary.
2. When the lentils have cooked through, remove the pan from the heat and use a whisk to break down the lentils. Set the mixture aside to thicken and cool.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry for 20-30 seconds, or until fragrant.

4. Add the onion, chillies and ginger and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until golden-brown.
5. Blend the garlic and tomatoes to a purée in a food processor. Add the purée to the pan and stir well to combine.

6. Add the ground spices and 100ml water to the pan and stir well to combine. Season, to taste, with salt and simmer over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the oil from the sauce has risen to the surface of the sauce.
7. Add the cooked lentils to the sauce and stir well, adding more water as necessary to loosen the mixture. Bring the mixture to the boil and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Calories (kcal)349
Carbohydrate (g)43.3
Protein (g)16.8
Fat (g)12.6
Fibre (g)5.0
Alcohol (g)0.0
Fruit & Veg2.3

Saturday, 4 September 2010


Patience required... I'm making ice-cream by hand i.e. using the freezer and mashing it about rather than an ice-cream maker which would get used once a year and gather dust and take up space in between.

Simple recipe (makes 9 100g servings):-

Nutrition Data Per Serving
Calories (kcal)236
Carbohydrate (g)18.8
Protein (g)4.8
Fat (g)15.7

  • 250g good lemon curd (Duchy Originals works well)
  • 150ml double cream, lightly whipped
  • 500g TOTAL Greek Yoghurt
Whisk together the yoghurt and lemon curd in a bowl, then whisk in the double cream (already lightly whipped).  Transfer into a freezable container and pop into the freezer for a total of 5-6 hours.  Remove from the freezer every 1.5-2 hours and whisk with a hand or electric whisk then return to the freezer.  Then leave in the freezer until required.

When serving, transfer into the fridge 15-30 minutes beforehand, to allow it to soften a little.

And it really is that simple.  Unless you manage to throw a large pot of yoghurt all over the kitchen; floor, door, walls, fridge, cupboards, mat, dishwasher, sink, arm, legs, belly, chest and eyes...  Not that I just did that with the remaining large pot of TOTAL 0%  *cough*

Friday, 3 September 2010

More yoggit

So we're making a real dent into the pile of TOTAL yoghurts that arrived last Saturday.  So far, we've had:-
And I'm now looking at some potential curry recipes which involve full fat Greek yoghurt marinade and/or vegetable curries with Greek yoghurt based sauces.

So the yoghurt has mostly featured in breakfasts, which is a turnaround from where I was a couple of years ago. I'd see things like the Weetabix advert that suggested using yoghurt in breakfast and my reaction would be that it'd be horrible because of the tangyness.  I've had quite a change of heart since then and incorporated it into non-cycling day breakfasts (with whey protein, fruit and flaked nuts - it's sweet, tangy and lovely) and when I do cycle in, it's part of my second breakfast when I get to the office (with fresh fruit and crunchy museli - helps refuel after a 15km thrash on the bike).

With cooking, I've often found that yoghurt splits with certain cooking methods and when mixed with certain ingredients.  Greek yoghurt, due to the way it's made, suffers far less from that even a much lower fat contents than normal plain yoghurt.  I've also found that compared with supermarket branded "Greek style" yoghurts, that TOTAL does perform better in cooking and has less of a grainy texture than some others - it's much creamier and smoother textured.

More recipes to come, methinks... we're almost through the 0%, made inroads into the 10% (full fat) and already scoffed the ones with honey.  There's all of the 2% left and half of the full fat to go, so curries are coming and maybe some more sweet things too.