Wednesday 26 December 2012

Jellied ham and parsley terrine

The problem with leftovers is that they can easily look like exactly that but this crafty way with cooked ham - an anglicised version of the French jambon persillé - looks like you've made it from scratch*. If you want it to look really fancy you can make it in a loaf tin and unmould it but I reckon that's far too much of a faff at this time of year.

Although I've given quantities you can adjust them depending on how much ham you have over. Or replace some of the ham with cold turkey as per the original recipe in the Frugal Cook book. You may not need all the stock.

Serves 4-6 depending what else you're serving.

450-500g piece of cooked ham
4 tbsp dry white wine (a neutral white like Pinot Grigio or Chablis is ideal)
6 sheets of fine leaf gelatine (or whatever amount is recommended to set 500ml of liquid)
425ml strained ham stock 
A large handful of curly or flat leaf parsley
Freshly ground black or white pepper
A pinch of mace (optional)

You'll also need a medium sized (about 1.2 litres) bowl

Put the wine into a shallow dish, add the gelatine and leave for about 10 minutes until the gelatine softens.  Heat the ham stock, remove from the stove and stir in the gelatine until dissolved. Leave to cool for 30 minutes.

Remove any fat from the ham and cut into largeish chunks about 2cm square. Finely chop the parsley and mix with the ham. Season with pepper and mace (no salt - the ham should be salty enough.)

Pour half the cooled stock into the bowl, mix in half the ham and parsley mixture and refrigerate until it just begins to set.  Add the remaining ham and stock** and refrigerate for a further couple of hours.

* Of course you can make it from scratch. A ham hock should contain just about enough lean meat to make a small terrine.

** If the stock has jellied you can warm it again gently.

Friday 14 December 2012

12 things you need to start your 5:2 diet

It’s pretty obvious that any diet is doomed to failure if you have the wrong things in your fridge but it’s slightly more tricky with the 5:2 diet where you eat ‘normally’ 5 days a week. The temptation to pitch in to that half open bottle of wine and leftover cheese can be overwhelming. To counter it you need to have some food - and drink - to hand that won’t cause you problems on fast days:

Assuming you have basics like eggs, spices and herbs anyway this is what I’d lay in:

Low fat yoghurt or fromage frais
Surprisingly low in calories so perfect for breakfast along with some fruit - though choose your fruit carefully (blueberries are a good choice). The yoghurt I’ve got (Waitrose organic low fat natural live bio yoghurt) is just 57 calories per 100g - which is a fair amount of yoghurt. Fat free fromage frais is even lower at 50 calories per 100g

Fizzy water
You need - or rather I need - something to drink at the time you might normally be having a pre-dinner glass of wine. Chilled sparkling mineral water on the rocks with a dash of angostura bitters and a slice of lemon does the job. Most of the time, though I found I was craving a sherry tonight.

In tea or water as above. Good for squeezing on stir-fries and salads too

You need something for the times when hunger pangs become intolerable (in my case about 4 in the afternoon). Low calorie crispbreads come to the rescue. I have two - Ryvita Multi-Seed Thins at 37 calories a slice and super-tasty Peter’s Yard crispbreads at 34 calories each which compensate for not having bread.

Some kind of low calorie dip or spread
Surprisingly there are more than you’d think - some not even labelled low fat like Waitrose’s oddly named ‘Distinctive crab patĂ©’ which is only 78 cals for 42g. So about 28 calories for a tablespoonful. Sainsbury’s annoyingly twee but quite tasty Be Good to Yourself red pepper houmus is 65 calories per 50g and Garlic and Herb Philly Light, for which I must confess a guilty weakness, 46 calories per 30g. So a crispbread and a smear of one of these will get you through a wobbly moment.

Cucumber - good for dunking in the above - just 10 calories per 100g

Red and yellow peppers - ditto though slightly more calorific at about 32 calories per 100g. Good for stir-fries too

Instant miso soup
Comforting when you’re starving and when a coffee or tea just won’t do. The brand I’ve got (Clearspring) is only 17 calories per sachet

Fry Light or other low calorie olive oil spray
One of the hardest things I find is doing without olive oil and salad dressings. (Think about it: a tablespoon of oil is over a fifth your daily allowance on a fast day.) This will at least make sure whatever you’re cooking doesn’t stick and give it a bit of flavour. And only 1 calorie a puff

Balsamic vinegar
I was really surprised at this one. Balsamic vinegar is only about 5-7 calories a teaspoon. Which will basically dress a small watercress or watercress, rocket and spinach salad which are virtually no calories at all.

A pack of frozen prawns
Preferably the small North Atlantic ones which will give you the illusion you’re eating more than 2 or 3 king prawns will. 61-67 per 100g.

Some decent tea
So long as you have it without milk, tea - and infusions - are the friend of the 5:2 dieter. Maybe make this the time you get into leaf tea if you’re not already. The whole ritual of making yourself a pot feels like a treat.

What would you suggest for the 5:2 storecupboard - or fridge?

Tuesday 11 December 2012

How do you handle fast days on 5:2?

Given the interest in my post on the 5:2 diet I thought I’d post again passing on the accumulated wisdom of . . . er . . . just over 2 weeks dieting.

So, how often do you eat? Seems to vary a lot. Some seem to manage an entire day without eating before they have their evening meal. Others including Michael Mosley don’t eat between breakfast and dinner. That has the advantage you can have a decent breakfast, a bowl of porridge, say or a couple of boiled eggs but I still find it a long time to go without food. Maybe that will ease over time but I find being hungry immensely distracting and can’t think about anything else.

So I eat - just as I normally would. 4 times a day. Breakfast, lunch, tea and supper. I’ve tried doing without anything between lunch and supper but get ravenous around 4-5pm. So I have a snack of a crispbread and some low calorie hummus. (Low cal red pepper hummus has less than the original kind)

For breakfast I’ve tried a boiled egg and a crispbread - a bit meagre even though the crispbreads are the wonderful Peter’s Yard’s. (A seeded Ryvita would be a cheaper alternative). I prefer a bowl of low fat yoghurt and blueberries, which keeps me going for several hours.

For lunch I’ve experimented with soup (low cal but not particularly filling), big salads and crispbreads, raw veg and hummus. Cheese, for me, is a no-no. You can’t really have more than 30g and I find that incredibly frustrating.

Dinner is a bit more cheering. Stir-fries work best I think (prawns are really low cal) or some steamed or baked fish and veg though obviously you can’t allow oil (119 calories a tablespoon) or butter (205 calories an ounce) anywhere near it. Or potatoes. Or rice . . . . (You can see one can get quite tetchy by this time of day) Large Asiany soups (without noodles) are also quite satisfying. And if you haven’t blown 300 calories already you could have a calorie-counted ready meal.

If you’re looking for inspiration there are some delicious recipes from food writer Xanthe Clay who is also on the diet here, some 200-400 calorie recipes on the BBC Good Food website and a good ebook I’ve discovered called The 5:2 diet book by Kate Harrison, downloadable from Amazon at £2.56. Money well spent.

Sunday 9 December 2012

5:2 - the perfect frugal diet

I told you I'd be back sometime and here I am. Back to frugal eating but with a slightly different slant. Semi-fasting 2 days a week, otherwise known as Intermittent Fasting, the 2 day diet and the 5:2 diet. Ironically I’ve actually lost 5 lbs (just over 2 kg) in the first 2 weeks which is rather apt.

A food writer friend of mine had lost a similar amount and was raving about it as perfectly suited to the indulgent lifestyle we foodies enjoy. (Not expecting any sympathy, obviously, but it’s taken its toll and my weight has been creeping up relentlessly over the last 5-6 years.)

Apart from a brief spell on Weight Watchers after the birth of my son I’ve never managed to diet successfully but 2 days a week - even with a limit of 500 calories (men are allowed 600) a day is totally do-able.

The theory is that fasting twice a week rather than 24/7 confuses the brain and prevents it conserving fat rather than burning it up. (Normally as you lose weight your metabolic rate slows.) it also apparently discourages it from producing the hormone IGF-1 which makes the body focus on repairing and renewing cells rather than making new ones. No, I don’t fully understand all that either but read this article by Dr Michael Mosley, whose Horizon programme kick-started the craze, for  clarification.

So what can you actually eat? Not a lot if truth be told, unless you want to save up your allowance for one relatively normal meal - as many do. Effectively no cheese, no booze, no bread, no butter, very little meat and not much fruit. You can however fit in eggs, fish, low fat dairy and dips and loads of veggies. And there’s always the cheering thought that you can resume normal eating the following day.

When I say 'normal' of course I mean most people’s normal not a massive blowout to compensate for what you missed the previous day. I find it’s made me more conscious of what I eat and so I’m reining back a bit generally although this two week period has included a hugely indulgent weekend in Portugal.

I haven’t felt dizzy - some apparently do - though I felt a bit light-headed on the first fast day. I have felt hungry so find I need 3 meals plus some kind of snack which means the maximum I can eat at a sitting is 200 calories. I've actually quite enjoyed devising ways of getting round that. I've also felt much more clear-headed and energetic.

The other benefit is you eat less therefore you spend less. So frugal in the conventional sense too.

I’ll be posting occasionally to let you know how I’m getting on and pass on any useful tips.