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Friday, 29 June 2012

Summer dresses

Even though the weather has been so crap I wanted to share a quick pic of me in my new white summer dress from Joy (I know, I know Joy again) but I just can't get enough of their clothes. Whenever I go in I always find something I want. This dress came with it's own little brown belt and is great for a day in the sun (or in my case a day in the office!) Here are me and Camden at work featuring on Michelle's new blog: http://originalsaatchi.tumblr.com/


If you want to pic up your own I got mine from the branch on Tottenham Court Road, but I'm sure they do them at other ones. Can't seem to find it on the website though!! My sandals are from Office this year. 




Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Mizuna

My friend Claire from work first took me to this lovely little place. It looks a bit shabby from the outside, but it does the most amazing salads - perfect for a hot and sticky day in the office like today. They are based on Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia, one of my favourite places in London. 


It's a family run business and they obviously care a great deal about what they are serving. Today for instance, they ran out of enough parma ham for my salad so happily replaced it with an extra load of soft and buttery avocado. I was more than happy as you'd normally need to pay an extra 50p for add ons. 
They do other things like paninis, jacket potatoes, special rye bread sarnies and lovely fresh hot soup. But what I have been hooked on since I went there a few months ago for the first time are their salads.
Their menu can be found on their website here http://www.mizunasalad.co.uk/ but they are always doing specials and changing things about. 


All the ingredients are as fresh as anything, and they are definitely not stingy with the good stuff- each salad is perfectly balanced. 


Prices are pretty good too - for a large bowl of cous cous, avocado, parma ham, artichoke, sundried tomato and spinach I paid £4.65 which is probably what you'd pay at Eat for something half as good. Plus they're always happy to cater for the choosy people (like me!) that want to swap this for that or have an extra something else. They do a great selection of lovely dressings too which are all made in their little kitchen. My favourite is the Cyprus Lemon; smooth and fruity with a citrus hit which goes great with their salmon salads.


It's the tastiness and freshness that's kept me coming back here, as well as the friendly service. Due to it's popularity there can be a queue though, so go a little early (say 12pm ish) if you are in a rush.


Now it's just a shame I have to take this back to my desk and cannot sit and enjoy it in the sunshine with a glass of wine!



King prawn & chorizo tagliatelle

For a simple and speedy supper when I am too tired to cook anything epic, something like this dish is ideal. It's packed full of flavour and is relatively healthy (ok so the chorizo is quite fatty, but the rest is good!!) It probably takes about half an hour to prepare and cook. 
I find prawn pasta can be a little dull if it's not covered in cream and cheese so this little smokey addition can be perfect to give it an extra kick, plus a shed load of chilli, lime and coriander finishes it off brilliantly. Actually I used parsley and basil in this one because the boy is not so keen on coriander, but if I was free and single this would be the herb of choice. 


So these are all your lovely little ingredients:

Pack of tagliatelle (you could use any pasta really but this is a favourite of mine - I like slurping up the long ribbons dripping in red garlicy oil)
2 packs of king prawns (it can get too carby so having lots of prawns is essential)
Bunch parsley & a good handful of basil leaves (or coriander if you are sans picky man!)
5 cloves garlic
1 or 2 red chillies depending how hot you like it
Bunch spring onions
Lime
Glass white wine (the rest of the bottle would be for the chef!) 
Salt and pepper to taste



Begin by peeling and chopping or crushing your garlic until it's nice and mushy.


Put on your pasta to boil (I used about 3-4 little balls of pasta per person).


Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil into a small pan and heat gently. 
Finely chop your chillies - if you want it even spicier then keep the seeds in, this is where most of the heat comes from. Then chop your spring onions and pop into the pan with the crushed garlic. 


The great thing about this dish is the colour! Sizzle your mixture until the garlic is just turning golden - take care not to burn and keep stirring it. Add salt and pepper to taste.




When your onions and chilli are softened and smelling amazing, cut your lime and squeeze it all in. Pour in your glass of wine and reduce until you can't taste the alcohol any more. 


Taste the liquid - it should be smooth and warm from the chilli, but not too acidic. If it is too acidic, gently simmer for a bit longer. The chorizo will give it more body so don't worry if you think it is missing something.
Chop your herbs and stir in with the prawns, and turn up the heat for a minute or two, just so the prawns are heated but not cooking too much. We don't want to give them too long or they'll be too tough.


When that's done, put in a bowl to one side and chop and fry your chorizo. This is my favourite part, because one or two slices always happen to make their way to my mouth. :) The pan should be spitting from the hot paprika-coloured oil and the edges of the sausage going nice and crisp. 


Add the prawn mix to the chorizo pan to give a final burst of heat. The liquid should taste amazing now. 
Once your pasta is done, drain and put back in the pan. Combine the chorizo & prawns and give it a gentle toss around. 
Tear up some extra herbs to put on top and serve with some extra pepper on top and voila! 




Monday, 25 June 2012

Hangover breakfast cure with a kick

One of my most favourite places to munch away any god-awful hangover would be the Breakfast Club. My local one is in Angel and it is amazing. When I go next I will be sure to take a few nice pics for you to look at, but here's a link to them in the meantime. 
They serve everything you can possibly think of for your morning hunger pangs from burritos, pancakes, smoothies, plus all the regulars. They have several locations in Hoxton, Liverpool St, Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road and Old Street, but the one in near-crawling distance from my house is this one. On a Saturday, it can get pretty busy so you might have to queue for a while, but it is definitely worth the wait! Service is always great when I'm there and the staff are all very trendy. 

This image is taken from their website
One of my all time favourite dishes from their jam-packed menu is this little beauty- I can't actually find it on there right now... which may mean they have stopped serving it(!!!!) So even more reason to make my own at home.
This is my version (which to be honest is just an exact copy with the ingredients I my boyfriend could get from Waitrose. 
The first time I had it I couldn't stop raving about it (my housemates will tell you I think I mentioned it about 10 times in one day). And here it is again! It's a lovely fresh, filling and zingy alternative to your regular egg and bacon brekkie. 


To make you will need: (Serves 2)
Loaf of unsliced brown granary bread. (Just choose whichever one looks the most nutty and gorgeous)
You won't need the whole loaf, but if you are like me and are a bit crap at slicing bread neatly then you will need some extra for crumble control!
4 nice large fresh eggs (we are going to be poaching these so they must be fresh
1 red chilli (more if you like it hot!!)
1 pack bacon (I would use something quite thick cut and smoked is my favourite)
1 large ripe avocado
Lime juice, salt and pepper


Lay out the bacon to grill (you can fry if you are really in need of extra grease, but this makes it a bit healthier).
Cook while you do all your other bits until however crisp/floppy you like it.
Cut your bread into nice thick slices (mine wouldn't fit in the toaster so had to do it under the grill) so this would be last minute as it only takes a few minutes either side - pop the bacon right at the bottom so it stays warm while you do this. 
In a separate bowl, peel, de-stone and mash your avocado with a good squeeze of lime juice and a bit of salt and pepper and place to one side.
Thinly slice your chilli - watch your fingers don't go in your eyes afterwards! Wash your hands!
Put on a shallow pan of water to boil for your eggies. There should be enough water to cover an egg while still in it's shell. 
Poaching eggs can be a bit hit and miss, but my sister's method seems to work pretty well so I will share this. :) I use gas so it's much easier to control the heat (I tried it on my mum's electric oven and it was a bit of a nightmare. If you really don't want to poach your eggs, fried would probably be just fine). 
Get water up to a gentle boil, so it's bubbling but not a rolling boil. Crack the egg into a little ramikin dish before you tip quickly into the water. I can do about four at once, but if you aren't confident then one at a time is fine. 
Leave to cook for a few minutes (they should look solid as it cooks, if the whites have dispersed too much then try again- here is where the really fresh eggs come into play!)
I always prefer a runny yolk, so I will wait until the white is solid and then take them out and pop onto some kitchen towel. They will carry on cooking as they sit there. 
Now is the fun part - build your sandwich! 
Take the crispy bread out the grill and layer up mounds of your avocado mash mixture. Then add a good few slices of bacon and your lovely runny poached egg. Top with slices of chilli, another squeeze of lime for good measure and a good crack of black pepper. 
Need I say more? Get yourself a great big cup of tea and enjoy. 








Sunday, 24 June 2012

Interrupting negative thoughts

Now this tricksy little thing called weight loss has had me baffled for years. I've watched it go off (sometimes with tears) and (with even more tears) watched it creep back on again. Why the hell isn't the healthy eating and exercise thing working? Answer: because those even tricksier things called emotions get in the way. 
Chances are if you are overweight, there is something going on that we are trying to "solve" with food. For the certain cynics out there who think this emotional stuff is a bit fluffy, I know it sounds a bit far fetched but bear with me. The fact you are reading this might suggest you have struggled (like me) with weight in the past so what the hell have we got to lose I say. Yes it might be a bit fluffy or a bit uncomfortable, but it's no way more uncomfortable than having a pair of jeans that fit a month ago and are now digging into a roly poly tummy, right? Exactly. 
Now I'm not going to go into all the details of Rodger Gould's method (shrinkyourself.com) as that's probably copywrite or something, but what I can give you are the moments I overeat as examples of the different types of thinking this approach gives you. 


So... here is me talking to myself:

Abby: I'm going to read a blog online

Abby's head: Ooh yes let's read that fancy http://www.thelondoner.me/ blog that we love
Abby: Ooh she's so gorgeous and pretty and slim and rich and well dressed and well travelled and she loves food... she can even cook and write and........make things.
Abby's head: I feel a bit shit now
Abby: Me too. I'm not as good as her and I probably never will be
Abby's head: It's not fair. I don't know about you but I need cheering up. How about a biscuit?
Abby: And cake. 

And so it goes- me and my head get ourselves so down and depressed about something that we think the only way to make ourselves feel better is eating something yummy. If we were being good on our diets we sure as shit aren't now. This would be where a week of healthy eating and exercise goes out the window. 

Then the conversation probably carries on something like this:

Abby's head: That wasn't very good was it? Think about all that work we did to try and lose weight. Now we've blown it. 

Abby: I know. I feel even worse now.
Abby's head: Me too. I can never do anything right.
Abby: Fuck it let's get more cake. 

So in moments like this we have "blown" our diet, but not because of lack of will power or because we are weak, but because of something happening which causes our silly self doubts to go into overdrive. Food then becomes not something lovely to fill our hungry bellies, but something more like a friend to comfort us. We feel powerless in some way, and the only escape (for me, mostly for me from my own negative thoughts) would be a jar of peanut butter!
So in this instance, I am learning to interrupt this internal conversation, so it goes a bit more like this:

Abby: I'm going to read a blog online
Abby's head: Ooh yes let's read that fancy http://www.thelondoner.me/ blog that we love
Abby: Ooh she's so gorgeous and pretty and slim and rich and well dressed and well travelled and she loves food... she can even cook and write and........make things.
Abby's head: I feel a bit shit now
Abby: Well don't feel shit - we've got a lot of good things about us you know. She is thin and gorgeous and rich and everything you said - but we've all got good things about us.
Abby's head: Like what?
Abby: Well, our job's pretty great, we've got lots of lovely friends, and some really hot dresses from Joy which look awesome. 
Abby's head: I suppose.
Abby: Still feel shit?
Abby's head: A bit... not as much as before though.
Abby: Why don't we do something nice like go swimming or see a friend instead of feeling sorry for ourselves instead of eating that cake?
Abby's head: Yayy swimming

So this is obviously at a really basic level- but the whole premise of this system seems to be catching negative thoughts when they arise, and turning them around so we have a more realistic and positive view of a situation.

Don't get me wrong, it takes work and practise - but have a go, next time you catch yourself suddenly wanting to eat something unhealthy, try and step back, figure out if something is going on underneath the desire for a pack of cream cakes. 


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Weight - the other side of my love of food

So this blog will also be a bit about me losing weight. I know there are thousands of diets, schemes and different ways that people claim is the "right way" to lose weight (finally, for good, hurrah!) But for me, (and believe me I've tried them all) these would never work long term. 
I've tried Slimming World, Weight Watchers, insane calorie counting and  healthy eating - this would annoy me the most when people would gleefully say they had lost weight just by eating less doughnuts and cake (err no shit). 
A few years ago I began to realise that being overweight is caused by emotional eating. This is eating when you are not hungry, (but often it can feel incredibly close to real hunger) which is triggered by an event, which then causes us emotional eaters to try and suppress certain emotions (caused by the event) which are uncomfortable or difficult to deal with. So what we do (and me in particular) would be to eat a piece of  entire cake if we are upset for example.  

So folks, this is me. After moving to London 2 years ago, I put on 2 and a half stone. Because I was in a strange city, would argue often with my sister and generally feel a bit lonely (that would be the me on the left). I was getting hopeless because nothing I seemed to do would be working. As I've said in my intro, I just love food and the worst thing for me would be that thin people seemed to be able to eat whatever they wanted, and not gain an ounce, whereas I was always (in my head) starting yet another diet. 


Me in my beautiful new dress from Joy (I also have an obsession with Joy clothes)

I was always interested in emotional eating, and one day I stumbled on this website: www.shrinkyourself.com
This website is written/created/devised by an incredible man called Rodger Gould. Although you have to pay money for it, to be honest it was the first website/programme I found which actually dealt with emotional overeating and how to stop it, so I was sold. 
Throughout this blog I will share with you my weight progress (as well as recipes and things I eat), the obstacles I hit and the problems I face. 
In the meantime I'll show you some more of my weight loss before and afters and a few stats about my weight loss.

Weight in October 2011: 13 stone 11lb 

Weight in June 2012: 11 stone 3lb 
Height 5 foot 7
Goal weight: 10 stone 8lb 















Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Garlic & Basil Chicken

Last night my Godfather was coming to stay over so I thought I'd rustle up something a bit special for a Monday night. It doesn't have a specific name, so I have just called it Garlic and Basil Chicken. Excuse the photos- I used my Iphone but am hoping to buy a swanky new camera when I get paid.
Anyway... back to the chicken. 




Ingredients: 

(I would have said it would serve 4 people, but two hungry boys meant it only served 3!)


12 small chicken thighs (I bought the ready boned ones, they're a bit more expensive, and if I have time I don't really mind doing it, but sod it, it was a Monday)
Fresh basil (I really believe in using fresh herbs if I have a choice - some are okay dried, but for extra flavour and zing use fresh!) I bought a whole pot of it just because I love it so much, but a small - medium bunch is fine for this recipe. 
Bunch of fresh sage (you can use anything you want if you don't like sage - I think tarragon would also work well)
Half a garlic bulb - more if you want it insanely garlicy
1 pack of Parma ham
Olive oil for drizzling - I used my mum's home-made basil infused one for a heavier flavour, but any extra virgin will do nicely (you can always add more basil)
Black pepper - fresh ground is the best but I didn't have that

Salad & potatoes to serve:


I served mine with 'Potatoes Anna' and crispy salad. For these, take a bag of white all purpose potatoes (I used King Edwards), peel and slice quite thinly and sit in a rectangular casserole dish. 
Pour over a jug of stock (about a pint, and I used 2 chicken stock cubes) so the potato slices are swimming in liquid. 
Pop in the oven for at least 45 minutes while you prepare your chicken, until nice and soft, and slightly brown and crispy on the top. (Apologies for awful photo I think I got too excited to worry about technique as I was starving!!)






Preheat oven to around 180 degrees

So, first take the thigh and lay it out flat- you'll see the way it was wrapped around the bone, so try and lie it skin side down (not like I have here). For each chicken thigh, I used half a slice of Parma ham, if they were bigger or I had all the money in the world I would wrap it in all the ham I could find. I kinda love Parma ham if you hadn't guessed. 



Place a nice big fat leaf of sage in the middle and a few juicy leaves of basil. These will wilt right down so be generous. Then, sprinkle some black pepper over  (I didn't use any salt as the Parma ham is quite salty anyway) and roll up neatly.  


Next, start at one end of the strip of ham and roll your parcel up with the ham so it makes a pleasing little bundle like this.



In the dish you are going to bake your chicken in, crush the cloves of garlic and mix with a few good glugs of the basil/olive oil. This will be for the chicken to sit in for extra flavour as it cooks. 





Take your little beauties and roll around a bit in the garlicy oily goodness so they are all covered and packed in so they maintain their shape. 
Whack in the oven for around 30-45 minutes so they are still tender. The ham will help to keep the chicken moist and should go a little crispy.


Serve up and enjoy! Preferably with a nice bottle of rose wine.








A place to share my experience of food

For Carrie Bradshaw it was shoes, for me it is food. An affair which will last a life time, from handling raw meat, pulling apart old sticky pages of musty cook books, trawling the aisles of Waitrose and spending my hard earned wages (and my boyfriend's) on more bulging bags of groceries than we can possibly eat. 
Food can become more than something to satisfy hunger. It's a celebration, a big hug on a cold day, a place to bury your face after the boss gives you a bollocking, and a way to travel back to the simplicity of childhood. One look at a jar of my Mum's amazing home-made jam or one of her special bottles of basil oil and it's like the worries of the day just fade away. 



I will definitely share this wonderful berry-bursting recipe later in the blog - I'll have to get it from my Mum- but for now I am just going to sit and sigh and imagine all the things I can dip into this big fat jar of jammy goodness when everyone has gone to bed.




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