Moroccan Chicken

This is one of my own recipes inspired by a delicious salad I had in a restaurant in Hove.  It works equally well as a cold or warm salad and despite the word ‘salad’ it’s actually really filling and comforting whilst still being healthy and nutritious – win, win!

Ingredients (serves 2):

1-2 tsp Harissa paste (depending on how spicy you like it)

2 chicken breasts

80g pomegranate seeds

100g cous cous

Large handful of rocket

Large sweet potato, peeled and cubed

For the dressing:

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tbsp plain yoghurt (use low fat to keep this extra healthy)

1 1/2 tsp honey

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

 

Moroccan Chicken

Drizzle the sweet potato in olive oil and place in a pre-heated oven (200 degrees fan) for approximately 30 minutes or until tender.

Spread the Harissa paste onto the chicken breasts and wrap in foil.  Place in the oven for approximately 15 minutes (depending on size of the chicken).

Meanwhile, cook the cous cous according to the packet instructions.

To make the dressing,  whisk the lemon juice, yoghurt, honey, cumin, cinnamon and ginger in a bowl until combined.  Slowly whisk in oil so that the dressing becomes smooth and emulsified.  Any leftover dressing will keep in the fridge for 2 days.

Once the sweet potato is cooked, combine with the cous cous, rocket, pomegranate and dressing.  Slice the chicken breast and place on top of the cous cous mix.

Enjoy!

New year, new me?

Hands up.  Who has made New Year’s resolutions and barely two weeks’ into January hung up their shiny new trainers, binged on chocolate and as for dry January…well, it is the weekend!

I came hurtling into the New Year with great intentions of getting back on the clean eating wagon and smashing it in the gym.  After all, 2015 was just practice and 2016 is the real deal, right?  I was doing well too.  New diary in hand I planned my workouts, my meals and even threw in a few motivational quotes for good measure.  Back in the gym I felt good, I was enjoying eating fresh, clean food and the feeling of being satisfied rather than stuffed full and sluggish.

Then I got the mother of all colds (I’m surround by tissues, blurry-eyed and red-nosed as I write).  This was enough to knock me, prematurely, off my perch and seeking out carbs and sugar wherever I could find it!  At first I berated myself for failing so quickly on my resolution to get back to a healthy lifestyle.  With the promise of new beginnings that the New Year brings, I also wanted to make changes to my work life only to be disappointed, a week into the year, of the apparent lack of opportunity to do so.  Then I realised the problem was not these ‘failures’ but the words themselves – ‘resolution’ and ‘failure’.

By resolving to make, often big, lifestyle changes we are immediately putting immense pressure on ourselves and setting ourselves up for failure.  No wonder then that the first week of January feels the longest of our lives and with the weekend looming we think “oh, sod it, one glass of wine won’t hurt!” And let’s face it, that usually becomes drinking the whole bottle and feasting on takeaway!

Far better, I’ve realised, is to set goals.  If you’ve never been to the gym before, saying you’ll go 5 times a week is unlikely to happen.  Rephrase this to “I aim to go to the gym twice a week” is much more realistic, achievable and anything over this is a bonus.  Once twice a week becomes routine then try 3 times a week and so on.

Likewise, my key goal this year is to get back to clean eating (it’s why I started this blog in the first place), yet today the leftover box of Celebrations got raided.  But it’s ok.  I’m human.  I’m not perfect.  Now and then I am going to indulge and that’s ok.  So long as it stays as a moment and doesn’t become a regular habit.  I’ll draw a line under it and tomorrow go back to clean.  Working to a 70/30 principle also means it’s ok to do this occasionally.  After all to deprive yourself only makes you crave the thing you can’t have even more.

This time of year also sees us re-evaluate our lives and the phrase ‘new year, new me’ gets bandied around a lot.  Let’s be honest – there is no ‘new me’, we attempt it with the whole ‘resolution’ thing but by February most of us are back to our usual selves and habits.  What’s wrong with that?  Absolutely nothing I say, because really why do I need a new me?  The 2015 me was pretty awesome already.

A very British holiday

Cornwall.  The home of cream teas, surfing, Cornish pasties, seagulls the size of small dogs, and of course, Poldark.

We often pass over our beautiful coastline in favour of sunnier, more exotic climes.  Having earlier in the summer spent a long weekend in Cornwall I think many of us could be missing a trick…

The weekend began with a 4am start after realising we had foolishly decided to head down the M5 on the first weekend of school holidays!  After several hours of singing and dodgy joke-telling to keep us awake we arrived in Cambourne where we would be resting our heads for the next couple of nights.  A reviving cup of tea and eggs on toast and we were ready to head out on our first Cornish adventure – a trip to Falmouth.

Being summer we decided to take advantage of the park and ride to discover Falmouth offers something pretty unique – float and ride!  A ferry, rather than bus, that takes you around the bay, past row upon row of small white yachts, bobbing around on the glistening water.  Sadly for us, the ferry doesn’t run on a weekend!

Falmouth is a gorgeous, coastal town bustling with activity – markets, buskers, watersports and festivals – there’s something for everyone.  Even Rick Stein has expanded beyond Padstow to set up shop here.  It was soon time for a break from wandering the streets so we stopped at Harbour View for a chilled glass of wine and to soak up the British sun.  This small cafe has an inviting terrace with views across the harbour – the white masts of boats crystal clear against the lush green hills across the bay.

Falmouth

The next day we took the train to St Ives – possibly the most picturesque train journey I’ve ever been on and I’m not the only one to think so!  Shortly after boarding the train it became clear that something was going on.  After craning our necks to see we realised we were sharing the carriage with Michael Portillo who was filming Great British Railway Journeys.  Perhaps not the most glamorous of programmes but a small claim to fame nonetheless!

St Ives can be summed up quite simply as absolutely beautiful.  If you only go to one place in Cornwall make it here.  Tiny winding streets, quaint little cottages once inhabited by fishermen, pristine beaches with crystal clear waters…there’s a real romantic charm about this bustling tourist trap.

It’s here that the seagulls have become infamous for their bolshy confidence, thinking nothing of stealing the delicious Cornish pasty from your hand!  But it’s not just the gulls to watch out for – the little ones are just as cheeky with one tiny bird tucking into my left over cake outside one cafe on the harbour front.

St Ives

As holidays often do, this one revolved around food.  The absolute gem of a find was in St Ives.  Tucked away above the hustle and bustle, is the Vintage Store and Coffee Shop, with a beautiful view of the harbour.  Inside has a retro, yet effortlessly cool vibe, with shelving on one wall displaying vintage games and kitchenware that evokes warm feelings of nostalgia.  Miniature milk bottles from school days past, pick up sticks, enamel mugs and dominoes to name a few.  If that wasn’t enough each table has one of these games such as noughts and crosses, to entertain you while waiting for your crisp and ham sandwich (even better than you remember!) or perfect Cornish cream tea.  Definitely my kind of place!

Vintage shelving 2 Vintage shelving

So next time you’re considering a summer break don’t forget what’s right on your doorstep!

Monkfish curry with Indian spiced cauliflower rice

If you are after a quick curry then this is the perfect recipe.  Although the original recipe calls for Monkfish I actually substituted this for chicken as I had some readily available.  The cauliflower rice keeps this low-carb or just add your favourite rice!

Serves 4:

400g monkfish or chicken, cut into bite-size chunks

2 tsp turmeric

3 tbsp fresh grated ginger

1 tbsp coconut oil or butter

1 onion, finely sliced

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 x 400ml can coconut milk

Juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp mustard seeds (I didn’t have any of these and it still tasted yummy!)

1 handful fresh coriander, finely chopped

salt and pepper

For the Indian spiced cauliflower rice:

1 cauliflower, stalk removed and roughly chopped

1 tbsp coconut oil or butter

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

fresh coriander, to serve

 

Put the chunks of fish or chicken in a bowl with a pinch of salt, the turmeric and the ginger.  Massage the spices in to the fish/meat and marinate.

Heat the coconut oil or butter in a large pan over a medium heat.  Add the onions and a pinch of salt, and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add the chilli and garlic.  Stir-fry for a minute, then add the coconut milk, lime juice and some freshly ground pepper, and then let this all simmer for 5 minutes.  Finally, throw in the fish/meat and simmer gently for 10 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove from heat.

In a small frying pan, dry-roast the mustard seeds for 1 minute, then crush them slightly.

Sprinkle the fresh coriander and mustard seeds over the top of the curry and serve with Indian spiced cauliflower rice or regular rice.

Indian Spiced Cauliflower Rice:

Put the roughly chopped cauliflower into a food processor and process for a few minutes until you get a rice-like consistency. TIP: be careful not to process for too long otherwise you end up with cauliflower purée!  This can happen quite quickly.

Heat the coconut oil or butter in a pan over a medium heat for 1 minute, then add the spices and stir for 1 minute more until fragrant.

Add the cauliflower ‘rice’ and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until cooked through.  Serve sprinkled with some fresh coriander.

Enjoy!

(From: Madeline Shaw’s Get the Glow)

Lemongrass and coconut prawns

Eating healthily can be a struggle when entertaining friends or when that weekend feeling strikes and you feel like treating yourself.  This is a great dish for those moments – friends will never guess that this indulgent tasting dish is clean and healthy!  The recipe calls for Tiger prawns but as my local supermarket doesn’t seem to stock these I just go for any that I can find and alter the quantity as needed.  Enjoy!

To serve 4 people:

20 tiger prawns, raw and unpeeled

2 tbsp sesame oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 lemongrass sticks, very finely chopped (Cheat: Use crushed lemongrass in tube, such as Very Lazy)

5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (Cheat: Use crushed ginger in tube, such as Gourmet Garden)

1 green chilli, finely sliced

50g creamed coconut

2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded

2 tbsp tamari soy sauce (if you can’t find this and don’t need to avoid gluten then use regular soy)

1 tbsp fish sauce

250g glass rice noodles

a bunch of coriander, to garnish

1 lime, quartered, to garnish

 

Rinse the tiger prawns under cold water.

In a wok, heat the oil and gently fry the garlic, lemongrass, ginger and chilli, until well softened.  Add the creamed coconut and 120ml boiling water, and the kaffir lime leaves.  The sauce should be of thick consistency.  Simmer for approximately 5 minutes; do not allow to boil.

Add the prawns and continue to cook until they have turned pink.

Add the soy sauce and fish sauce to taste.  Add more of both if needed to adjust the flavour.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the packet instructions.

Serve the prawns over the noodles, sprinkled with coriander and a wedge of lime on the side.

(From Clean & Lean Diet Cookbook, James Duigan)

The Kayla Phenomenon

Today I started the Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide (BBG) in earnest.  And  boy, what a tough workout!

For those of you who don’t know (where have you been?), Kayla is an Australian personal trainer who is currently taking the fitness word by storm!  She has amassed a huge following on Instagram (3.3m and counting, known as the Kayla Army – check out KAYLA_ITSINES), completed her first world tour offering free bootcamps and has several of these workout and nutrition guides.  Most importantly, she’s really lovely too (I randomly bumped into her in restaurant toilets in Melbourne earlier this year!).  So if she’s this popular these workouts must, erm, work, right?

Kayla 2

BBG 1.0 is a 12 week programme that gradually increases in intensity.  It’s a mix between HIIT (high intensity interval training) and the slightly less familiar LISS (low intensity steady state cardio).  The workout guide alone is 189 pages long! And no, its not all workouts.  In fact, Kayla has developed this programme so at just 28 minutes long, each workout can fit into the busiest of schedules – no gym required.  I get the feeling she’s a ‘no excuses’ kind of gal!

So what, I hear you ask, is in the other 131 pages?  Well, that’s the great thing.  Whether you are a complete exercise newbie, seasoned gym bunny or new mum (sorry new dads!), the principles of the exercise programme are fully explained along with clear, step-by-step instructions for each move.  This means you really learn about what it is you are doing rather than just being told the exercise is good, meaning you can apply these principles to future workouts of your own.

BBG guide

After session one of 12 weeks it looks like I’ve got a tough road ahead.  I may not end up looking like a ridiculously toned, bronzed Australian goddess but I hope to be the best version of myself.  As the saying goes “No one said it would be easy, they just said it would be worth it”.

Strawberry cake with coconut whipped cream

It’s been incredibly busy here at The Little Cotswold Kitchen recently so apologies for the lack of posts!  To tide you over here is a great sweet treat that I baked with a friend visiting from Switzerland recently.  Hard to believe that something so delicious can be free from modern food nasties, but it is.  If you want to serve with the coconut whipped cream make sure to chill the can of coconut milk overnight first.  Alternatively it’s just as delicious with regular whipped cream!

Cake

For the strawberry cake:

170g of butter or coconut oil (I used coconut oil as I’ve never baked with it before and was curious)

300g ground almonds (or gluten-free flour)

1tsp baking powder

170g coconut sugar or honey (honey is easier to find in your local supermarket!)

1tsp vanilla extract

3 large eggs

300g strawberries, hulled and cut in half

 

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas mark 3. Generously grease a 23cm cake tin with butter or coconut oil and line with baking paper.

Mix the ground almonds or gluten-free flour and baking powder in a large bowl.  Put the butter or coconut oil, coconut sugar or honey and vanilla into the food processor, and blitz until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing to incorporate, then slowly add the flour.  Transfer the cake mix to a bowl, and fold in the strawberries.  Stir well together, pour into the cake tin and bake for 45 minutes.

 

For the whipped coconut cream:

1 x 400ml can coconut milk

1/2 tsp cinnamon

 

To make the coconut cream, place the unopened, upside-down can of coconut milk in the fridge, and leave it overnight. Place a bowl in the fridge next to it.

Open the can and drain out the coconut milk that has separated from the cream.  Place the milk in a glass (this can be used to make smoothies, or drunk while you make the cream).

Scoop the cream out of the can and put it into the chilled bowl. then whip it with a handheld electric mixer until it fluffs up.  Add the cinnamon, and whip again.

You can also add honey, raw cacao or vanilla to the whipped coconut cream for more flavour and sweetness.

 

(Both recipes from Madeline Shaw, Get the Glow)

A land Down Under

It’s true.  I’m in love.

Not with a man, with a country. Australia.  To those that know me this will come as no surprise.  The smell of the eucalyptus, the heat, the vast landscape and the beautiful cities, the friendly and diverse faces passing you on the street, the food, the wine, the people in general, the culture…

12 apostles

I’ve been lucky enough to visit this country four times, spending the best part of a year there in 2011.  On my latest trip in January this year something became very clear for me.  I’d always enjoyed my trips and had a fantastic time living in Melbourne – I wasn’t ready to come back to the UK but hey, that’s immigration for you!

Flinders Street

This time however, I flew up to Sydney to visit an old school friend.  As we were coming in to land I looked out the window at the sprawling city of Sydney.  And that’s when it hit me.  Australia felt like home.

 

Sydney Harbour Bridge

 

I’d never had this feeling before but I just knew, and for a moment, couldn’t imagine going back to my home in the Cotswolds.  Madeline Shaw in the introduction of her book ‘Get the Glow’ sums it up perfectly for me:

“From the minute I landed in Oz I felt at home.  It was the strangest feeling.  A sense of calm washed over me and I knew deep in my gut that I had to live there – that somehow this place would help me uncover the true me.”

I think no matter where I find myself in the world, my heart will always be in Australia.

Motivation – getting it, and keeping it!

It’s true, I’ve fallen off my perch when it comes to motivation at the moment.  Not so much with the change of diet although I’ll admit, I’ve had a few lapses back into that sweet, sweet world of refined sugar.  No, this is more about my fitness.

Call me crazy but for years now I’ve enjoyed going to the gym and the satisfaction of a hard, sweaty workout.  There have been times where I’ve not gone as regularly as I’d like but it’s still played a part in my life.  When I think back to this time last year though, I was incredibly motivated.  Three or four times a week (and before work no less!) I’d hit the gym, throw in an evening Body Balance or Kettlebells class plus go horse riding twice a week.  I had a routine.  Even if I felt tired or not in the mood I still got myself out of bed, laced up my trainers and got out there – 9 times out of 10 I actually felt better for it.

Now it’s the complete opposite – I barely make it to the gym once a week, and only because I have a session booked in with a trainer, and it’s been months since I last rode.  So what’s happened?  Well, my motivation has walked out the door, shutting it firmly behind itself.  I’m sure it’s not helped by a new job with a longer commute, that’s more stressful and sees me spending frequent periods of time away from home.  If you’d told that to my uber-motivated self last year I wouldn’t have accepted that as an excuse…

In 2013 I was lucky enough to meet Olympic Gold-medallist Victoria Pendleton.  I took the opportunity to ask her how she stayed motivated, allowing her to reach the pinnacle of her career.  She told me it was all about having goals and something to aim for.  It’s not just about the big, obvious goals either – that alone isn’t enough.  You need mini goals that take you on the path to the Big One.  If anyone should know if this works it’s Victoria.  If you’ve read her autobiography you’ll know she didn’t find much enjoyment in cycling.

So what about us mere mortals? I asked several friends about motivation and it’s not so dissimilar.  Most said that setting goals helped them whether it be getting in shape for a holiday or wedding to 10k runs and marathons.  Others said that they were motivated by their passions and hobbies – dancing, horse riding – or remembering how good they felt when they were in a healthy routine and looked good in their favourite pair of jeans!  Having a plan seems to help some too – making sure to decide when to hit the gym and what to eat at the start of the week, essentially making an appointment with themselves.

Whatever it is, when any of them feel things starting to slip, they just think back to the original reason for doing the things they do and just press the reset button allowing their motivation to get back on track.  So what’s my trick for getting motivated? Well, I’m still trying to work that out but I can honestly say I’ve been inspired by these wonderful friends of mine!

When the going gets tough…

…the tough get going?  No, I’m not about to post about the Billy Ocean song (or Boyzone, depending on your music taste!)  I’m actually having a really tough week on my journey.  I’ve been off the antibiotics for a few weeks now and just as I thought my skin was really beginning to clear, bam!  Another awful breakout.

Imagine, if you will, getting three or four pretty decent sized spots on your face.  Hmm, not great you may be thinking, perhaps even, yeah, been there.  But they aren’t spread out, no, they’re all on your chin.  Sounding a bit worse, right?  Well, now imagine these spots are actually so close together you can barely tell where one stops and another begins.  Yep, that’s what I’m dealing with right now.  I don’t think I’ve ever had it this bad, so frequently.  So why is this happening?

In the July/August issue of Women’s Health (UK) there is an article ‘Have you got the guts for good skin?’  It explores how sensitive your gut is and how what we put into our bodies really affects this delicate balance of good and bad bacteria, resulting in, hey presto – skin problems.  Of particular interest to me was that antibiotics get a mention.  Whilst they do great things to help fight infections they actually don’t distinguish between the good and the bad guys – wiping them all out instead!  And this really throws your body off kilter.  It can take months after a course of antibiotics for your body to get back to its optimum balance.  Despite this, I’m not sure I’m ready to completely forego medication just yet.  Knowing now how sensitive the gut is though, it does make me wonder if that’s where the answer lies. Elsewhere, Madeline Shaw also believes, and writes in her book Get the Glow, that your skin is a reflection of your inner health.  Well, if that’s true, I think I’m in trouble!

As I said at the beginning, this is proving to be a tough week.  This latest breakout has left me feeling self concious, upset and lacking some of my normal confidence.  Not to mention the spots feeling uncomfortable, tender and sore.  I’m avoiding some social situations and piling on the make up in the hope that it’s less noticeable, I’m even wearing it to the gym!  People say they can’t really see the spots but I think they’re either good liars or perhaps blind!  Don’t get me wrong, I know they are being kind and I’m not after the sympathy vote either.  This blog is about charting my journey to clear skin, which means not just the highs, but the lows too.

I’ve been eating a lot cleaner for a few weeks now.  Just because I’m not seeing the dramatic improvements I’d hoped to by now, doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up on this.  Eating clean is beneficial for my health in general and I believe it can take a few months to really see a difference.  After all, my body needs to rid itself of the toxins that have built up over years of a less healthy diet.  It’s just unfortunate for me that this comes out on my face!