Food has always been important to me as I have given my body a very hard time in terms of physical demands I have made on it! For as long as I can remember, I have lived a life of perpetual motion and relentless sport, firstly rowing internationally and now competing internationally in endurance riding. So it occurred to me early that the fuel I put into my system was paramount and something I had complete control over.
At different times of my life I have been dairy free and vegetarian. Now I eat most things (organic, as far as possible) although I am gluten free. I have followed the Hays System of ‘food combining’ (not mixing protein and carbohydrate foods) for about 30 years, though I don’t stick to it so rigidly now – it was a way of maintaining optimum body weight as you can’t store fat with this system of eating, though it is not a diet. I also take lots of supplements (vitamins, minerals, enzymes) determined by muscle testing which is a way of tuning into your ‘smart body’.
With not a Waitrose in sight and being a long way from any big towns, I grow some of my own food and buy the rest locally. Nothing is processed. I cook everything from scratch, eat well and keep it simple and quick! Here are some of my favourite foods, from meals to snacks.
Lemon sole with something on the side!
Supper had to be wholesome, healthy, home-cooked and quick! Sadly, I am not able to catch Lemon Sole in my stream, so I either buy it fresh from the mobile fish man who visits the local town once a week or frozen via mail order. I like to add generous knobs of butter and an incy-wincy sprinkling of rock salt (blink and you miss it). It goes in a low oven for not very long, probably 10 minutes so it’s just cooked but soft and melts in your mouth. (It’s easy to overcook fish and then it goes rubbery!) I usually have rice to accompany and a vegetable such as spinach (I’m a big spinach fan) but it depends what’s in the fridge, so it might be a puree of a few veg such as potato, watercress, red peppers and courgette or sauteed potatoes (ordinary, sweet or both).
Organic gluten-free ginger, almond and something else cake!
175 g goats butter (melted)
200 g gluten-free flour
175 g soft brown sugar
125 g ground almonds
4 large eggs
1 heaped tsp gluten-free baking powder
A large amount of spliced and diced fresh ginger (the more the better and it’s very good for you but it depends on how much you like it)
NB. If the mixture is a little heavy, add a small amount of milk.
Throw it all into the Magimix and bake for an hour and 10 mins in a slow oven, less if a hotter oven (you’ll have to experiment). Variations include adding a mashed banana, or half a block of melted 70% dark chocolate or an orange (grated rind and half the juice), or sultanas, or coconut – basically, whatever you fancy. Be bold, experiment! Sprinkle with icing sugar to serve. Utterly delicious! A piece of organic white chocolate on the side to dunk in coffee and suck, is a must! Coffee is a home made equivalent to Cappuccino. I make a pot of real coffee, boil the milk until it froths and rises to the top of the pan and pour milk and coffee into the mug together. Cake and coffee is my ‘addiction’; it’s my carbohydrate fix after doing the horses and training, so there is always a cake in the tin. It’s also very sociable when you have guests and a great ‘thank you’ for people who help you out! For me, there is nothing better than baking on a Rayburn (except an Aga). I never tire of this cake. It’s totally non fussy.
This is my mum’s recipe with a few modifications.
- Place chunky lamb chops with plenty of meat and just enough fat in a baking tray with a little French mustard on top
- Add some veg chopped quite small, eg. onion, potato, maybe courgette (I use whatever I have. If you use potato, it’s a good idea to par boil before you bake, so cook quicker)
- Sprinkle with a handful of brown sugar
- Pour on a capful of white wine vinegar
- Add a squirt of soy sauce or Worcester sauce
- Add a few dollops of tomato sauce
Bake in quite a hot oven until everything is soft and sticky. The meat might look like it’s overcooked but you should find it’s just right. Yum!
Grilled lamb steaks
I am a bit of a ‘lamb junky’; it is my meat of choice. In fact, most of the time, I am probably eating something that was born in a field nearby! I have a wonderful local butcher who sells the best meat anywhere and I get him to cut very chunky steaks for me. I add several dollops of butter, a tiny bit of sea salt and lashings of mustard. I cook in a hot grill for the first side (until the fat and butter are sizzling and the kitchen is full of smoke – I did set the grill on fire once!), then flip the steaks over and cook on a lower heat. It probably takes around 10 mins but I get them out and cut them a little to check how they are doing when I think they are nearly done, as I like them medium-rare and don’t want to overcook them. Mash (potato, or potato and carrots), sautéed potatoes and a veg (usually spinach) go well with the meat. The steak is unbelievably delicious, or so say the people I have cooked it for!
Banana and ginger loaf
This cake is completely scrumptious and beautifully moist. I use organic gluten-free products but that’s optional.
- 1 cup of mashed bananas (two large or three small)
- 100g butter (melted is best)
- 150g soft brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 150g plain white flour
- 2 rounded tsp baking powder
- chopped fresh ginger (a decent size lump)
- a handful of raisins (mix in by hand after blending)
Blend ingredients together and bake in a greased loaf tin for 1 hour 5 mins at 150 C or until a knife comes out clean. I sprinkle with icing sugar when I serve it and add an obligatory piece of white chocolate to ‘dunk and suck’ in fresh coffee. Oh joy!
Banana and raisin
Banana and poppy seed
Only use two bananas for this cake and include 50g poopy seeds soaked in milk.
Bangers & Mash
So simple, so easy, so scrummy! My favourite are lamb sausages because that’s my meat of choice (as you can tell from my recipes). I roast them in the Rayburn so there’s no smell or mess. They go in the top of the oven (which is a similar temperature to grilling) if I want to cook them quickly, or in the middle of the oven to cook more slowly.
Prick with a fork and lightly grease the pan. Dab a small amount of mustard and a little butter on the sausages. Cook until done turning once, so they are crispy all over. Mash the potatoes with a generous amount of butter, some milk and a little sea salt.
As I am usually doing the horses around the time other people are preparing supper, I try to make things I can partially prepare in advance. I cook the mash before I go outside and put the saucepan in the plate-warming oven of the Rayburn until later and prepare the sausages beforehand too. I put them in the oven when I go out, so supper is ready the minute I walk back in. Marvellous!
Whatever is in the fridge but spinach and carrot is good with potato, then you have all your vegetables in one with the benefit of less pans to wash! I add a large nob of butter and a little salt and put in the blender as it doesn’t mash so well by hand.
This is such a versatile meal. I usually make a large ‘coldrum’ of soup that will last few days and use it in different guises for each meal. I use whatever vegetables I have (organic preferably) which might include potatoes / sweet potatoes, carrots, courgettes, peppers, spinach, celery.
- Sautee in coconut oil until starts to go soft.
- Add one and a half cubes of organic vegetable stock and water and bring to the boil. (Sometimes, I also add barley and lentils at this stage, which I have soaked for a few hours beforehand.)
- Simmer on a low light or put in the bottom of a low oven (to avoid smells) stirring occasionally until soft and smells delicious!
The first serving is usually simple, just grated parmesan cheese on top. Variations over the following days might include:
- grilled cheese on toast cut up into small squares which soaks beautifully in the soup
- 3 or 4 spoon-fulls of cottage cheese in the bottom of the bowl before you add soup
- A lamb steak or chop which has been fried in butter for a few seconds until brown (rather than raw) to seal in the juices, added to what’s left of the soup and cooked for about 45 mins to an hour in the oven until soft. Hey presto, you have a stew!
German apple cake
I loved this cake as a child when my mother used to make it. It’s a bit unusual and is lovely warm or cold.
- Peel and thinly slice a couple of large cooking apples. Then squeeze the juice of a lemon over them and leave until you have made the cake batter.
- Blend 5oz soft brown sugar, 3 large eggs, 125g melted butter, 2 level teaspoons of baking powder, 225g of plain flour and 5 tablespoons of milk.
- Grease and line a 9 inch cake tin.
- Pour the batter into the tin and arrange the apple pieces on top.
- Mix one an a half tablespoons of soft brown sugar and half a teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle over the top.
Cook in a moderate oven (around 175C) for 45 mins, or until a knife comes out clean. Serve with plain yoghurt. I leave this cake in the tin and keep it in the fridge until eaten!
This is an absolutely luscious Petit Four which is great for special occasions or as a gift. It’s a recipe I was given many years ago when I went ‘feral’ in Australian for a year, age 18….well, they call it going ‘bush’! It’s a bit of a fiddle but well worth the effort and no cooking is required. Your name will go down in history with all those who taste it! It’s at the opposite end of the spectrum to my simple eating regime these days as it’s very rich but it freezes well, so you can ration your intake. I mostly use it as Christmas and birthday presents.
Break up two thirds of a packet of digestive biscuits (a large packet, or use all of a smaller one) and put in a blender with half a cup of walnuts (also broken up) and one cup of coconut. Blend to crumbs.
Put half a cup of butter, half a cup of sugar and one tablespoon of cocoa in a pan on a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. It only takes a few minutes. Add a beaten egg and a teaspoon of vanilla essence, stir in and remove from the heat. Add this to crumbs and blend all together until it looks like a heavy ‘goo’ (one big sticky patty of it)! You might need to stop the blender a few times and move the goo around with a spatula (if you do this, turn off the power). Empty the goo onto a lightly greased baking tin (about 12 x 8 inches) and press down until it’s even. Put the tray in the fridge until it hardens.
Give your blender a wipe and combine half a cup of butter, 2 cups of icing sugar, 1 tablespoon of custard powder and 2 hefty slurps of Sherry. Blend together until butter like. Spread it over the chilled base layer and return to the fridge to set.
Combine 4oz of dark or cooking chocolate, 1 dessert spoon of butter and one hefty slurp of Sherry in a pan and stir over a low heat until the chocolate is melted. Pour over the hardened middle layer and spread. Return to the fridge to set.
Note: Cutting the Rocket Fuel into squares and removing it from the tin is the hardest part! Use a sharp knife (eg. a large vegetable knife) and have a cup of boiling water and some kitchen roll handy. After each cut dip the knife in water and dry, so the knife is warm and clean for the next cut. Same around the sides of the tin. Then gently start somewhere and try to get the first few out using a metal palette knife. Good luck! You just might have to eat a few rejects before you get going.
(Variations on a theme include using plain biscuits for the base, or adding a bit of cocoa to the filling. It’s all good!)
Pics: In the tin, waiting to be cut; Rocket Fuel (original); Rocket Fuel with added cocoa in the middle layer and a plain biscuit base.
Fruit, glorious fruit!
I have definitely gone ‘fruity’ since moving to rural Wales. Maybe it’s being in the middle of nature that’s inspired my earthy eating habits (or the sumptuous local organic fruit and veg shop) but I find myself eating a LOT of fruit which I hadn’t previously been that keen on. This is a fruit ration for one person (me) for the week (dried fruit and soft fruit in addition).
I have fruit and a few vegetables blended with seeds for breakfast, then a plate of fruit at some point during the day as a snack. Either a simple bowl of fruit with yoghurt and pistachio nuts. Or my winter favourite, which is a bowl of stewed apple with embellishments including yoghurt, nuts, grapes and soaked prunes. It’s completely satiating and no sweetening is required if you include raisins. (If you don’t like raisins, add a little honey rather than sugar.)
To make stewed apple, put a small amount of water in a pan, just to cover the bottom (so not very much at all) and add the peeled and cored thinly sliced cooking apples. Then top up with what you fancy and cook all together. I include raisins, nutmeg, pistachio nuts and cut up dried figs or dates. Cook over a low heat until the apple dissoves into a mush!
Poppy Seed cake
This is a moist, slightly crunchy, substantial cake. I love it!
- 100g poppy seeds. Put in a mug and cover in milk. Allow to soak for at least half an hour.
- 200g self-raising flour
- 175g melted butter
- 175g soft brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
- 100g ground almonds
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and turn into an 8 inch tin lined with greaseproof paper. Cook for 1 hr and 10 mins in a slow oven (around 150 gas). 45 mins to an hour in a hotter oven. Do the knife test – it’s cooked when it comes out clean.