Cheap Ragu with courgette tagliatelle

I have discovered something amazingly wonderful and supremely satisfying – the reduced meat counter at my local Morrisons. Every day of the week, but Saturdays especially, they have offers for meat that is nearing is sell-by date. Every one, and particularly students, know of the reduced sections but not always what to do with the resulting trolley full of meat for £5.40.

I have been watching ‘The Two Greedy Italians” recently, and whilst their opinions are slightly dated, it is very life affirming to watch a couple of old men dodder around Italy eating whatever they can get their hands on. Reminds me of my grandfathers…There is one recipe on the program that really struck me in its simplicity, the Meat Ragu that Gennaro cooks.

It is basically a load of different meats that are browned, finely diced ‘mirepoix’ (carrots, celery and onion) are added along with a couple of bay leaves and tins of chopped tomatoes. Oh and basil, a big old handful of it. This is left to simmer away for a few hours until it becomes this delicious, meaty sauce. On the TV program larger cuts of meat were used, these are removed at the end of cooking to make a separate dish – starter of pasta in the tomato sauce, main course of the meat with a side salad. I really like the idea of doing one big cook and ending with two distinct dishes – very cool.

Mine wasn’t quite the same as my sausages fell to pieces and I used half a kilo of beef mince too which all mixed into the sauce – no worries I’d just have to eat both courses at once. I initially ate this with some Rigatoni although yesterday I tried again but this time with the wonder food that is Courgette Tagliatelle. Honestly the most simple thing to make, well on par with Cauliflower rice, I just peeled a large courgette, rotating it a bit after each peel, until I’d done the whole thing and had a core of seeds left. The ribbons were then fried in oil, a pinch of salt added and then treated exactly like pasta – amazing!

Image

A bit more fresh basil, a twist or two of black pepper and a grate of cheese - AH YEAH! The best thing about this dish was I got to use all the reduced meat I’d bought – mince, sausages, pork chops/ribs etc. It all goes in and everything adds to the overall flavour. Also making this one big dish – it filled my entire casserole pan and needed 4 cans of tomatoes – means I can probably live off it for the next week, score!

I think I feel the beginning of a new Saturday afternoon routine…..

The Bromlette

Ladies and Gentlemen, today I will introduce to you what is probably the cornerstone of my daily routine. The one thing keeping me from cornflakes and insanity – the Bromlette.

What is a ‘Bromlette’ I hear you cry?! Aside from being a surname, it is also short for Breakfast Omelette, and it looks like this:

Image

THAT is a Bromlette. A delicious combination of cheese, eggs, butter and chives, “Omelette aux fines herbes” if you’re French, or a “French omelette” if you’re everyone else.

It’s taken me a few attempts and an hour or so on youtube to perfect it, but, I now believe my bromlette to be second to none. The trick, I’ve learnt, is to quickly mix and agitate the egg/chive/cheese mixture as soon as its been poured it into a hot, buttered pan, to ensure the ‘curds’ (the folds of cooked egg) stay as small as possible, resulting in a smoother overall texture. Once it’s half way to scrambled eggs, stop mixing and spread it out with the back of a spoon as flat as possible over the pan.Let it cook for a few seconds longer, so it all binds together, then flick over one edge, roll it down to the opposite side of the pan and try and get it onto a plate with the seam facing downwards.

I like mine oozing in the middle, totally colourless, enough cheese so as to taste it but not become overpowering, and big enough (4 eggs) to sustain me till lunch. Served with a black coffee, its “the best a man (or woman) can get” – if Gillette did bromlettes… which they don’t.

It’s all going swimmingly…

So here I am, a few days in to my new start/routine/existence and it’s all going well.

Sunday afternoon I cooked my first roast dinner in quite a while, I did a large roast chicken smeared with a thyme/garlic/rosemary butter (also forced between the skin and meat of the breast) and stuffed with a warm, pricked lemon, garlic and more herbs, and some roast courgette and onions.

I normally roast a chicken in this big roasting tray I had but tried it in my casserole dish on a bed of onions. This made making the gravy easy peasy as just had to pick up the chicken once it was done and let all its juices drain back into the pan. The pan could then go back onto the hob where I added a chicken stock pot, some white wine and a bit of water. I scraped anything on the sides of the pan into the gravy and reduced to a nice consistency.

I did cheat and have a beer (homemade at least!) but I felt it was justifiable as I’d only eaten breakfast that day.

20140427_192044

 

After din dins I removed all the leftover chicken meat from the bones which I put back into my casserole dish with a glug of vinegar, a few whole black peppercorns and filled with cold water.

This I left on the hob for a couple of hours before straining the liquid off and adding in finely chopped onions, carrots, celery and peppers with a tin of tomatoes, tin of sweet corn and a chicken stock pot. Left this to simmer for an hour or so and – ta da! Soup for the week!

20140428_201001

 

I went for a swim on Sunday, I haven’t got my funky speedo’s with me at the moment so a pair of shorts had do to, they were a bit of a drag….! Did 60 lengths but I’ve definitely lost a lot of fitness over the holidays, I ended up doing a load of 100m sets, interspersed with kicking and stroking (?) sets using the floats thrown in, resting as needed between them all.

Stayed at my girlfriends that night and left my shorts and towel there, major bummer, so didnt swim Monday. On Tuesday I was a bit caffeined up and needed to go expend some energy. On campus now they have these outdoor bodyweight ‘gym’ machine things – tagline “Workout like your inside, outside!”. Only three offered enough resistance to be useful, the dip bars, then a chest press and shoulder pull sort of machine, did 3 sets going from one to the other, max reps each time. If I slowed the movement down (3s/3s) then number of reps was 8-12.

I had a membership (£5 a week!) in term 1 to a gym that was literally 5 minutes walk from my house, however with this new schedule I want to be in for exams (namely leaving the house around 7.30am and returning around 7.30pm) I don’t want to by gyming before or after. The gym on campus is amazingly new and modern but also expensive – I think ill try and do these outside exercises a few times a week, if only because they’re more fun than press ups and they’re outside and free!

Anyway, everything’s off to a great start and now its time to get back to revision!

Cheers!

 

 

This time I’ll succeed!

Hi all

I have known about the whole primal thing for a while now and have been a follower for almost 4 years, however, I have never been particularly strict. Being a 3rd year student I have literally been SURROUNDED by opportunities to cheat – casual beers with friends a few nights a week, parties, meals out, meals with friends, stress, take aways, etc etc. The usual for most people then, but the pressure is high and the temptation to go along with it all is very hard to resist. Also I’m not very good at resisting…

After telling my self numerous times to just have a bit more self control and discipline, I’d be getting into a good routine for a while then having it interrupted by something (holidays, exams, deadlines). Any positives gained are quickly lost after a couple of weeks of heavy drinking, late nights, stress, lack of exercise…

Anyway, I’ve had enough of being overweight in my early twenties, unless I take a bit of control I’ll end up being this way forever and turn out just like my Dad and Granddad – both badly overweight. For the rest of this year, deadline is Christmas, I’ve signed an agreement with my Dad to both loose weight. The target is 2kg weight loss per month, I am at 87kg now and have set an end point of 78kg but I want to sustain the lean body mass I currently have. Failure to meet this target every month will mean I have to send my sister £50 – something I DEFINITELY do not want to do (he’s got to do the same to his ex-wife – an equally unsavoury proposition).

I consider myself to be a good cook with an adequate understanding of nutrition – my biggest issues are lack of exercise and giving in too much. With this in mind I’ve devised a solid meal plan:

Upon first waking – Protein shake
Breakfast – 3 egg omelette and black coffee
Lunch – Soup
Snacks – Hand full of nuts, tin of fish (mackerel, tuna)
Dinner – Meat and veggies

I’ve experimented with I.F. and the like however I have come to realise that I do far better with regular feeding throughout the day – fasting led me to binge and over eat in the evenings, however strictly primal and fat containing the food was. I followed the above plan for a few weeks at the end of last term and felt GREAT, unfortunately it was all interrupted by holidays, going abroad and giving in. Seeing as term has just started again and I wont have any upsets for the next 6 weeks (aside from EXAMS ahh!) I really want to get back to this and staying clean.

Exercise-wise, I was really getting into swimming, going to the pool about 4 times a week doing 60 lengths each time, depending on energy levels I’d either do a good sprint routine I’d found:
16×25 warm up, 8×25 (30 sec intervals), 6×50 (1:15 intervals), 4×100 (2 min intervals), 8x warm down (1-2min rest between sets)
OR simply moderate pace freestyle, stopping every 15 lengths or so.

This is something I am very much looking forward to getting back into now I’m back at uni again. Also with spring finally here (YES SUNSHINE!) I can get back out on my bike. I plan to cycle to campus a few times a week (7 miles each way) and at weekends just go out for rides. There’s a cool mtb club here that does weekly rides and a decent 4x track, which is basically sprint training! ([url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqzIjtSjwzg]Jordan Lunn Leamington Spa 4X 2012 – YouTube[/url])

To monitor it all (I’m an engineer, I like numbers) I’ve got myself an Ozeri electronic scale and a fat caliper, ill take measurements every day I can and using a great spreadsheet I found on Scoobysworkshop ([url=http://scoobysworkshop.com/how-to-weigh-yourself-accurately/]How To Weigh Yourself Accurately – Scooby’s Home Workouts[/url]) I can track weight and body fat. I was once into lifting weights and hitting the gym however right now the first target is to shed some of my excess fat – I am currently at approximately 21% bodyfat and 191lbs.

Long post for starters, Ill use this journal to keep track of my progress, post meals, write daily summaries etc. Also hopefully as another motivational tool to help keep things all ship shape.

If you’ve made it this far then thanks for reading and wish me luck!

Alex

Thunderboys are go!

Guidebook…. Check!

Flights…..Check!

Things are slowly progressing here at HikeHQ (my bedroom). Apart from revising like madmen for our upcoming exams (mine start in 9 days!) we haven’t been giving much thought to this adventure although we are all slowly collecting bits and pieces of gear.

The major thing to report is we now have our FLIGHTS BOOKED! Whilst originally the plan was to hitch-hike there and back, due to disapproval from parents (they still need listening to every now and then….) we have decided to fly instead. It takes the stress away of actually getting to the start of the walk and by the end of the walk the idea of a comfortable trip back will be very welcoming.

The one thing it does do is slightly restrict us time wise. The guide book says that its possible to do the whole walk in 31 days. We were thinking every 6/7 days have 1 day off to rest and relax and finally we’ll hopefully have a day or two in Menton and Nice at the end before flying home. This all fits fine but we’ll need to keep extra aware now of where we are and how we are doing progress wise.

More updates will follow as we can devote more time to this trip but for now, back to work!

Summer plans!

As is usual for me at this time of year (basically when its not summer) I start dreaming about what I want to do with my summer.

Two years ago it was my motorbike trip around Europe. Last summer I spent 6 weeks in India with two of my best friends from home. This summer….. Hiking in the Alps!

I’ve known about long distance European hiking routes ever since I learned about the long distance trails in the USA (namely the Appalachian trail, the Continental Divide, The Pacific Crest trail  -  watch the film “Into the Wild” to find my inspiration!). The one that struck a chord with me the most is the GR5 – “Europe’s most rewarding long-distance footpath”. It is part of the E2 which cuts south from Scotland all the way to the Mediterranean (E2 Route Map). The section that really caught my eye connects Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean via the Northern and Southern Alps. It ends (the GR52) in Menton on the French Riviera.

In total it is a 400 mile, 5-week trek over and under and round and through the French Alps.

I have dreamed for a long time of completing a long distance hike, carrying nothing but my backpack containing everything I need to survive. I am very lucky on this trip to have a very close friend of mine, Ben, to accompany me.

Our plan – to hitchhike to Geneva (#cheapstudents) before beginning our epic 5 week trek to the beach.

My friend has a twin brother, Mike, who is currently out in Visakhapatnam, India, teaching English at an Orphanage. This is the second time he has been out there and he is really making a difference to the lives of the children he lives with. The orphanage is funded by Children of Faith Missions, an American charity who are providing a great service and have been since 2003. A second charity has been set up, Children of Grace Home with the aim of building another orphanage to house the 15 youngest children from the original orphanage.

Our walk will help to raise money for this cause with 100% of everything donated going towards the charity. We are aiming for £2000 – a very large target but one we hope we can meet. If 100 people sponsor us 20p/mile we’ll have made it. We can fund our own food/accomodation/travel/etc but we feel by having a good cause behind us we will feel even better about what we are doing and will help support the lives of some very special children along the way.

For more information about the charity we are supporting please watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hqOBr3o7Qg

The route for our trek: Route map

I will endeavour to update this blog with further plans and ideas and start putting together a kit list of things we’ll take with us. Also as soon as it is set up (waiting for the Government to give us the green light) I will include a link to our JustGiving page so any one who is interested and passionate about what we are doing can donate.

Stay tuned!

Life update – 01/03

Right so today is the first of March and I should be reporting massive gains having spent the last few (5 and a half!) weeks failing to keep this blog up to date but still hopefully working out. Unfortunately I have something grave to admit, I have completely fallen off the bandwagon. 

The injury I sustained all those weeks ago was/is a spasming trapezoid muscle, mainly on the left. I went to see a physio for a free 20 minute consulting session, fortunately his earlier patient had failed to turn up so I got a good half an hour with him. He gave me a very painful but relieving massage of sorts, digging his fingers into bits of my muscle that were the most sore. Something about the layers of muscle fusing together and them not being able to relax seemed to be my problem. 

Since then I really haven’t done much. The swimming has been completely neglected; the Thames swim has been put of until the summer. I’ve made half of my squash lessons and a couple of the circuit training sessions. 

What I have got though is a JOB. Next year I will be living above a bar, infamous in Leamington Spa for its Eliminator drink –  a concoction of vodka, rum, blue curacao, taboo and martini topped up with a pint each of orange juice, energy drink and Lambrini. Guaranteed to be a night ender if not handled with respect. Also the bar is just ridiculously cheap on a Thursday, £1.50 pints and double house spirit and mixer say what?!

Any way as we went in to sign our contract on the flat above it I casually asked if there was any work going. He replied with a big positive yes, they love the tenants upstairs working behind the bar, I guess because there’s no “ooh sorry the bus was late”. There is no real excuse if you live upstairs!

I am absolutely loving work. The other staff are a great bunch of people, the music is varied (between SICK and well hmmmm….) but the atmosphere is always lively (if only because drunken local A smacked drunken local B before both were forcefully removed). It pays minimum wage but if I can do 2 or 3 till close shifts a week ill easily be able to double my weekly spending money – hopefully I might even put some of it away for useful things!

One final great thing about this new job is that it keeps me out of the house. No more worrying what the ex girlfriend is up to, who shes having round etc etc I can just go out for work, get back at 4ish in the morning and pass out. The worst bit about work is that its turning me nocturnal, one shift ended at 5.15AM and I’m pretty sure I didn’t get out of bed the next day till about 4PM! Ridiculous time spent laying around in bed! Something I need to sort out really…

Final end to this update –  I am currently in a pub in Weymouth on the South Coast, I could just be leaving on surf tour with the club at Uni for a SICK weekend away but seeing as my mums booked a cute little place we’re all getting together as a family to spend the weekend going for walks and (fingers crossed!) munching some of the best battered fish and chips in the world!

In two weeks time term 2 will have ended and I’ll be leaving with some friends for a week in Les Arcs, gonna tear up some jumps and shred some POW!! Therefore I have two weeks to (try and) get into shape for the Easter holiday and also pull my finger out (read: GET BACK ONTO THE BANDWAGON) with regards to Uni work, shits starting to get serious!

Till the next update, which hopefully wont be over a month again, PEACE OUT!