Embracing My Inner Vegan

Happy New Year! Bit late for all that I know. But I’ve been busy alright!? I totally failed at the healthy eating, running and general improvement on my attitude to weighing and measuring my food in the last month of 2017. I did manage to loose weight, which is a tiny upside. I did it through stress, surviving off caffeine and barely sitting at my desk long enough for my lardy arse to absorb any of the three and a half calories I remembered to eat each day. So probably not an entirely healthy way end to the year. It was worth it though. What an absolute blast December was. Work was totally jam-packed every day, we were run off our feet, but god it was good! Stressful, crazy busy but undeniably the most rewarding Christmas season I’ve ever worked.

Aaaaaand that was that.

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I did discover this one thing though. Roasted kale ‘crisps’. Yes it’s gimmicky. Yes it’s vegan. And yes, oh yes it’s even good for you. I saw these in Gizzi Erskine’s Healthy Appetite book ages ago and then I saw LizzieLovesHealthy doing it them on Instagram. But could I find Nutritional Yeast…. Could I hell! In hindsight, had I just thought about going into a health food shop I probably would have found it. But these shops aren’t generally on my radar. Anyway, I found it. Eventually. I’m not claiming this as my own recipe – I did it from memory from Gizzi’s book and from Insta stories, so it might be the same but it might not.

This will make a small bowl of ‘crisps’ to snack on with an evening vodka and tonic.

4 stalks of fresh kale

1 heaped tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tbsp good quality olive oil

a sprinkle of chilli flakes if you fancy it

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180c
  • Line a baking tray with tin foil
  • Wash the kale and strip it from the stalk – you just want the leaves for this as they go crispy, the stalks will just dry out and won’t be nice to eat
  • Put the leaves on the baking tray and pour over the olive oil followed by the nutritional yeast
  • Gently rub the olive oil and the yeast onto the leaves so everything has a light coating
  • If you are using chilli flakes or any other flavour addition (you don’t need salt for this the yeast has a salty / cheesy flavour) now is the time to add it
  • Pop the tray in the oven for 10 minutes – no more otherwise your crisps will become so dry they will disintegrate at the slightest touch
  • Once out of the oven tip them into a bowl to serve as crisps with a crisp glass of wine or gin or vodka.

There you go. Something healthy for my first post of 2018. Hopefully this will (re)kickstart my blogging habit…. I still haven’t done any running or any food measuring. That will come later. Maybe.

Cauliflower Rice with Hot Smoked Trout

It had to start somewhere… Monday night saw an omega 3, vitamin B12 and vitamin C rich dinner. Never thought I would type that sentence, ever. I did just spend a good 10 minutes googling the health properties of cauliflower, eggs, kale and smoked trout.

This is one of those types of dish that you make on a ‘we really need to eat more healthily’ whim and it’s not a bad dish, but I couldn’t eat it more than once a month. It’s all just a bit too good for you. If one of the elements was a little less healthy it would be a much more satisfying dish, hence my suggestion below of frying an egg in butter to add not just crunch, but happiness as well.

Yes I know cauliflower ‘rice’ is a naff, gimmicky and generally reserved for smug hashtag clean-eating promoters that everyone loves to hate.

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Cauliflower Rice, Smoked Trout & Kale Bowl
Serves 2

450g Cauliflower rice (around one medium cauliflower)
125g Hot smoked trout
1 tbsp sesame oil
4 large leaves of kale, stalks removed & finely sliced
2 eggs
1 tsp miso paste
1 Spring onion

To make the cauliflower rice:

  • Force your face into the smugest, healthiest #cleaneating position you can
  • Cut the florets off the head of the cauliflower and put them in batches into a food processor and pulse it a few times. Remember, with each pulse you must create a new obtuse smug and healthy hashtag or a clean eating fairy will die
  • That’s it. It will resemble mismatched rice. Deliciously Ella, The Hemesleys and countless others are trend setters because they pulsed cauliflower and came up with ridiculous hashtags. There is hope for us mere mortals yet

For the rest of the recipe:

  • Put the cauliflower rice into a non-stick saucepan over a medium heat with a tablespoon of water. Stir, and stir and stir until all the water has been soaked up / evaporated and the cauliflower is cooked
  • Stir through the finely chopped spring onion
  • Pop it in a bowl and set aside
  • In a separate pan EITHER
    • Boil a couple of eggs for 6 minutes so they are soft boiled and then plunge them into a bowl of iced water to stop the cookingOR
    • Fry a couple of eggs with a bit of oil / butter – this is the better option as the oil / butter will make the edges of the egg crispy so adds a bit of crunch to the dish, otherwise it’s all a bit denture friendly
  • Put the kale into the same saucepan you did the cauliflower in and gently fry it off adding the miso paste and sesame oil.
  • In your posh ramen bowls (everyone who has an Instagram account has one of these right??) place the cauliflower rice in the bottom, the kale on top taking up a third of the space. Then the smoked trout in another third and finally one egg per bowl however you cooked it.
  • If you have them a sprinkle of sesame seeds would be great on the dish.
  • Set in front of your husband and reassure him that he can have the leftover cottage pie with a heart attack’s amount of butter in that he was eyeing up tomorrow for dinner
  • Calmly work your way through it trying not to think about the better version you made six months ago with a crispy fried egg, wonderfully salty sautéed pork mince with chilli and ginger and some spiralised cucumber

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How not to make pizza…

IMG_5299After my first post in a while with the promise of some healthy recipes, I confess that I am a firm believer that Sunday evenings are not, and never shall they be the time to start being healthy. So it was that we made our own pizzas complete with homemade dough. I followed a Jamie Oliver pizza dough recipe and made up my own passata – i’m not going to give the recipe for anything because, well, just keep reading.

Here is the definitive guide on how not to make pizza.

  • Do not, when following Jamie Oliver’s pizza dough recipe that makes 8 pizzas; assume it’s for 8 very small pizzas so only half the quantities even though you’re only cooking for two. It is for 8 normal sized pizzas
  • Do follow the recipe when you’ve done your quantities, it works rather well and the dough rose beautifully
  • Do not fry any green bits you plan to put on the pizza such as kale or spinach in butter beforehand – it’s too rich for a pizza and will go soggy
  • Do not, under any circumstances open the packet of mozzarella before you need it. That stuff is way too easy to snack on – thankfully we had more as the first ball didn’t last until topping time
  • Do not fail to flour your kitchen surface appropriately leading to your pizza getting stuck
  • Do not try and drag a heavily laden un-floured pizza onto a hotter than the sun oven tray. it will sizzle and tear and generally get very messy
  • Do not then, in desperation, flip the whole thing to create the worst Calzone ever made with leaky bits that you can’t block because the sodding oven tray is so hot

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  • Do not then attempt to remove said molten oozing ‘calzone’ from the foil – just eat around the foil. Trust me it’s easier and less painful for all concerned
  • Do not believe that the inside part of the dough is cooked – you made enough pizza dough for four pizzas – of course it’s not effing cooked. Just because the tomatoey bits are like molten lava, doesn’t mean the dough is even vaguely cooked
  • Do not then blog about giving yourself food poisoning and spending the next couple of hours locked in the bathroom having nibbled on the not-entirely-cooked sausage meat topping bits and eaten too much undercooked dough

Lessons learnt…

Recipes are there for a reason
As are oven gloves
A pizza stone would have been useful as would making the pizza on some foil to just slide it onto the oven tray

More pearls of wisdom and hopefully a more successful recipe soon…

Here’s the thing…

Last weekend this Modern Wife was taken to The Pig in Brokenhurst for an ever so romaaaaantic birthday weekend. It was a complete (ish) surprise and was such a wonderfully relaxed weekend that I think I shall take a leaf out of Her Majesty The Queen’s book and have at least two birthdays a year.

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Before another massive dinner on Saturday, I was wallowing in a searing hot bath, half filled with bubbles and half with my own middle-class smugness. While sipping on my third, probably organic, vodka and tonic I came to a conclusion about this blog. The conclusion was then backed up after dinner when I couldn’t lean forward or sit up straight without the genuine worry that the button on my jeans was going to pop off  and knock someone out.

Turns out I’m not really any good at writing about things other than food. And, having written a whopping 5 posts in 2016 I may have got a little distracted from writing about restaurant. I’ll leave that to the professionals and the bloggers who do it much better than me. Samphire and Salisfy is generally my go to. Don’t worry – I’m sure there will be still plenty of badly lit, drunkenly half remembered dishes on the instagram page.

I’m going back to what (I think) I am good at. Writing about food. Food that I love and that I cook. But, this time there will be actual measurements on the recipes and portion control will be a thing. My trousers are way way too tight and my husbands shirts are also too tight. It’s mainly my fault as I do most of the cooking and I can’t be arsed to measure stuff, precision bores me.

Don’t fret, it won’t all be brown rice and chia seeds, but the scales and carb free dinners are coming out. As are my trainers, the post run selfies and the spectacular falling off the wagon dishes that will clog even the healthiest of arteries.

Brace yourselves chaps. We’re in for a bumpy ride.

Fishcakes for Frazzled minds

I don’t think I’ve ever felt less relaxed after what my colleagues referred to as a holiday. What it should more accurately be described as was four days out of London while still doing Christ knows how many e-mails, monitoring bookings and answering my phone to what felt like a million pointless questions (never put your mobile number on your business card)!! Consequently I built up such an irrational head of stress and worry about how much I hadn’t managed to get through (I was on leave for f***s sake) that when sleep did eventually find me last Monday night it was punctured with terrors and sweats on how to get through some of the unreasonable phone calls that I knew I would have to deal with on Tuesday.

On a lighter note… It isn’t all whining about e-mails and anxiety issues in my life y’know.

As you might imagine cooking or shopping for food was pretty low on my list when we got back yesterday but 4 days with my parents was enough for us to crave a bit less of the meat’n’two veg kind of meal and just have something a little more simple.

This little recipe for an excellent fridge / freezer raid made life much much easier last night.

Makes 8 fishcakes (they freeze well)

For the Fishcakes

2 x Smoked Haddock fillets (240g pack from Sainsbury’s)

2 x Skinless salmon fillets (260g pack from Sainsburys’s)

2 baked potatoes (done in the microwave)

A small bunch of flat leaf parsley

1 x egg

1 x bay leaf

A pinch of cayenne pepper

2 x shallots finely diced

200 ml milk (that’s all I had in the fridge – it’s not really enough but you’re not going to use much of it afterwards so it would have been a waste to use more)

Juice of half a lemon

For the coating

150g plain flour (with a grind or two of salt and pepper in it)

Panko breadcrumbs (I used about 1/3 of a packet)

1 x egg lightly beaten

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with tin foil (if the fishcakes stick a little this makes life a lot easier with the washing up)
  • Stab the baking potatoes several times (good for stress relief) and pop them into the microwave for 10 minutes – yes I know this is sacrilege but frankly I didn’t have time to wait the hour and a half it takes to bake a potato properly and I didn’t need the skin to be crispy either.
  • While the potatoes are ‘baking’ with a dribble of light olive oil or whatever oil  you usually use to cook with gently soften the shallots until they are translucent. Put them into a big mixing bowl once they are done.
  • In the same saucepan put the salmon, milk and bay leaf and gently bring to the boil. Simmer very gently for about 5 minutes. Then with a slotted spoon transfer the fish to the mixing bowl with the shallots.
  • Repeat in the same milk with the haddock.
  • Once the microwave has pinged hollow out the potatoes and add this to the mixing bowl with the fish and shallots
  • Finely chop up the parsley and add that along with the juice of half a lemon to the mixing bowl. Stir all the ingredients so it looks like a big mush basically but also with some slightly larger lumps of fish.
  • Now for the coating. I find the least messy way of doing this is to shape your cakes. Lay them on a board and then coat them. If you shape then coat straight away you’ll end up with your final cake being full of eggy breadcrumby bits.
  • Shape your fish mush into 8 round patties that are about the diameter of the palm of your hand (I have small hands) and place them on a chopping board.
  • Wash your hands. In three separate bowls put a lightly whisked egg, seasoned floor and panko breadcrumbs.
  • Take each fishcakes and coat it in flour, then in egg then in the panko and place it on the tin-foiled baking tray.
  • I froze 4 and cooked 4 as soon as I’d made them. The four I froze sorted us right out last week!
  • Pop the tray with your chosen 4 into the oven for 25 minutes (35 minutes if cooking from frozen).
  • Serve with a courgette ribbon, edamame bean and peashoot salad with a squirt of lime juice and a squeeze of Siracha or whatever greenery you have in the fridge!

I treated myself to a naughty addition we used to do at school to make the mostly potato fishcakes more edible. Once out of the oven take a little corner of salted butter and let it melt on top. Took me right back to my days at prep school and Mrs Gittins (I think that was her name) peering out of the kitchen hatch to check we’d not left anything on our plates.

 

Bikini Retirement Project

It is time, I feel, to hang up my bikini. Possibly for good, possibly not. But definitely for the moment.

My massively over-structured, brightly coloured boob-hammocks are to be consigned to the back of the knicker drawer for the rest of days. Or until such time when I win the lottery and I can have a personal trainer 3 days a week then I’ll be fit and lean. I shall then prance around without any worry of my muffin top knocking out a small child in the vicinity or the elastic on the highly-engineered-ultra-strained bikini top finally giving way and displaying my norks for everyone to see.

This is purely a vanity thing. I’m not fat. But I am bored of being in a bikini and walking around with one arm around my slightly wibbly-wobbly tummy bit. After a wedding, a couple of weeks ago, there was only one way to cure the next morning’s hangover and sitting in a sun lounger in 28 degree Isle of Wight sunshine wasn’t working. So, I slipped on one of my mother’s swimming costumes. “Slipped” ha! Whatever! Squeezed and hoped it didn’t split is a more accurate description (mother is a svelte, slender lady). Off I toddled down to the beach for a dip in the Solent. Despite the costume being a combination of every colour that doesn’t go with gingers and mum not having quite the, umm, front that I have inherited it was blissful to not have to worry about any form of belly wobble.

So, having spent many years searching for the best bikini for someone of my shape, the search begins for a swimsuit style that won’t make me look 103 years old or like I’m wider than I am tall. The problem is, I don’t have a thigh gap. Frankly I don’t want one, I’d look weird, massive boobs and then no fat anywhere else… It would be odd. But swimming cozzies look so good on skinny people who who’ve had their thighs photoshopped and can stand like this. Because we all stand like this at the beach don’t we girls…

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I’ve bought this one. The lady in the picture looks great. Her thighs haven’t been turned into breadsticks and her boobs look normal. Question is, can I get away with a plunge this deep without looking like I’m on the beach touting for business. I’ll let you know.

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The luxury of anonymity

There is something quite smugly satisfying about internet anonymity. I’m not talking about or indeed condoning trolling or that side of things. I’m talking about the ability to vent in writing about whatever the irritation of the day is and knowing that no one you know, or no one at all, is reading it. It’s the modern day equivilent of posting a letter in a blank envelope – did anyone ever do that?

This new blog had, until about an hour ago only two people I know who read it but Instagram has done something funny and there are names I know following me… Que minor panic about what people will think, oh god will I be judged. Probably not, but what if I am….. I’m still working out the road I want this blog to take, I’ll get there, I think.

Bear with me, it’s been a slow start. I’ve got a couple of things in the pipeline that I’m currently writing that I’ve not quite got the courage to finish, let alone post. They need tweaking to hopefully not come across as big fat narcissistic moanathons.

I’m getting braver as you will see from an honest and possibly rather stupid Instagram post yesterday. With some of my anonymity lost I’m trying to decide whether to remove or not before my work sees it… Should I remove it? Or keep it, we all have crap days…. Don’t we?

Sausage Fiasco

 

There was a clear intention for this post – to show how great and frugal and fun making your own sausages can be.  Don’t get me wrong. It was fun. But, it took forever… The entire afternoon and into early evening to more exact.

I learnt a couple of vital life lessons last Saturday.

1. Don’t buy something on Amazon that looks like it’ll fit your KitchenAid. It was only £9. But that’s £9 of plastic nozzles that are realistically fairly useless for anything else. Unless you lot can come up with any suggestions (keep it clean chaps).

2. Check your equipment is set up properly and that you aren’t missing any vital parts. I discovered (only after I had finished) I was missing the blade from my grinder. This meant what would have been 10 – 15 minutes of turning the pork loin into mince into 2 hours of trying to shove it through the mincing holes without any form of cutting before it got to said holes. Two hours?!? You’d think I would figure out that something was wrong before that wouldn’t you…. Apparently not.

3. Poldark. Yes, I’m late to the party on this one, but it’s great. If you haven’t watched it, you should.

They say a picture says a thousand words… So, below, so you don’t have to read any more badly constructed sentences with too many … at the end; here is a little collage of my attempt at making sausages. Six hours and some nice tasting but really quite dry. sausages….

Faking it on Instagram

I thought I would start with a bit of classic Instagram fakery. It’s not complete fakery, in that it wasn’t intentional. Well it sort of was. Ok, let me explain.

It all went a bit wrong at the weekend. I’d cocked up the Tesco delivery (don’t judge me darlings, Ocado don’t deliver on the Isle of Wight apparently) so I dragged my poor husband up to Tesco-topia on a Bank Holiday Saturday and popped into the butcher on the way back to purchase 3 enormous bits of beef. I obviously pretended to know exactly what to do with them and to not be completely intimidated by 2.6kg of meat. The standard instagramming and hashtag frenzy began once we got home. #beef #bbqgoddess etc etc.

The plan was simple; BBQ the beef, finish it in the oven, then bask in the praise and glory from my guests. It didn’t work. The beef looked epic and after a few filters, some image sharpening and general tinkering I popped it on Instagram for my followers to see. With the obligatory squillion hashtags of course.

In reality, it was tough as old boots with quite an unpleasant amount of fat that hadn’t rendered down. Our guests were very polite and polished off all the salads, ate some of the beef and made all the right compliments. They did all then quite rightly agree that it would have been useful to have had an axe or chainsaw to cut through the meat.

But hey, Instagram didn’t know and even my boss referred to me as the BBQ queen when I got to work on Tuesday. Such is the ease of faking it on Instagram. #modernwife

Welcome. Welcome. Welcome.

A year ago, if you had suggested I write a blog entitled ‘The Modern Wife’ I would have probably grabbed whatever bottle of paint stripper you were drinking from and whacked you over the head with it… I mean really; the modern wife, me! Ha! Never! I’m old school. I cook for my husband (most of the time), I don’t take the bins out and I always do the ironing.

There are, well, moments, however, when my traditional middle class idyllic SW18 lifestyle gets a few cracks in it. And there are also moments when the whole lot falls apart completely.

I cook quite a lot, so there will be many food related posts like roast pork with amaaaaaazing crackling that somehow didn’t set the oven alight for once, I cheated… I may also allude to the disastrous carbonara I cooked after 3 gin martinis (I don’t like gin apparently) that was so rich we couldn’t eat more than about 4 mouthfuls before we began sweating cream through every pore.

This little blog is aimed at those of you who, like me, can’t do it all, all of the time. If there are moments when you just think, sod it, and collapse on the sofa with wine and a marathon of ITV3 Miss Marple (yes – Miss Marple, not House of Cards or the 15000 episode series of the latest Netflix original) this is the blog for you.

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