Week 36 – trying to meal plan again

img_7850Our little bundle of joy was four weeks old yesterday – I can’t believe that in four short weeks our world has completely turned upside down (and I can’t believe that I am still alive on so little sleep!). As a self-confessed control freak, I do find the  lack of structure a challenge, but want to embrace the pleasure of watching this human we created grow and thrive, so am trying to go with the flow. Reading books about how to be a good parent either scare me or make me feel inadequate, so I think it’s best just to go with my instincts … plus this blog has been keeping me sane in the wee hours.

I can regain some control in the kitchen though, so have decided this is a good time to re-introduce my weekly meal plans. If nothing else it should help save me some cash as I won’t be spending so much money ad hoc in the supermarket, and can plan my  weekly Ocado shop instead.

I need to fit preparing a meal into my day: I have been trying to get out and about every day with Ioan, to enjoy some fresh air (as the weather has been pretty decent) and meet up with friends and meet new mums. There is an added bonus of going out: Ioan immediately falls asleep in the pram and will have a lovely long daytime nap – the only other time he sleeps so well during the day is when he is curled up, clinging to my chest (which is rather lovely, except when I am busting for the loo!), or having a cuddle with one of the friends and family who come to visit him (he particularly loves my brother).

Because I lost a lot of blood during labour, I am still taking iron tablets. Anyone who has taken these brutes will know they cause digestive problems (to put it delicately) so plenty of fresh fruit, veg and fibre are essential. I have also been having a weekly steak (rare and bloody, which I missed so much during pregnancy) with spinach or kale to further increase my iron levels.

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Breastfeeding a hungry baby means I really need to eat regularly and healthily to make sure I have the energy to feed Ioan what he needs, and that’s another challenge. Feeding, changing (nothing can prepare you for the nappies!) and winding Ioan can be a never-ending task – when he has finally let loose a big burp, he’s made room for more food and wants to start again. This means that with Andrew back at work and Ioan and me home alone, I sometimes don’t get to grab some food and juice until after midday (after a broken night’s sleep and regular breastfeeding) – I need to do better so that I don’t end up reaching for the biscuits.

I still have a well stocked freezer from my maternity leave which will massively help with my meal planning. I have also recently received some products to review for the blog, including a new range of Special K cereal, which I think will make breakfast easier for me: cereal topped with greek yoghurt and fruit is quick and easy. I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks what I think of the new Special K range.

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To start to work on losing my pregnancy weight, I need to cut back on bread, so instead of the toast I have recently been relying on, I’ll start having salad for lunch, topped with smoked salmon, or ham and eggs, or beetroot and goats cheese (my plan is to make packed lunches for Andrew and me so I don’t have to worry about preparing my lunch when Ioan is screaming for me).

Dinners are planned as follows:

  • Monday – meat free Monday’s are back, much to Andrew’s disgust. I have fancied some gnocchi for a while, and hoped to make my own, but realistically will buy a packet … to have with tomato and basil sauce, with lashings of melted cheese.
  • Tuesday – when I was doing Weightwatches, I found a weekly stirfry was a great way to eat plenty of veggies but save on calories – I have so many different types of noodles in the cupboard to eat my way through. Beef stirfry will help bump up my iron levels, and I received some of this umami paste from Clearspring which I am keen to try.

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  • Wednesday – I was off curries all through my pregnancy, but I thought I’d give one a try this week (mild, considering the breastfeeding). I was thinking a thai green chicken curry or lamb massoman one could be the order of the day, served with brown rice. I pack my curries with plenty of veggies including aubergine and tomatoes.
  • Thursday – a freezer meal is what’s needed today: chicken and chorizo stew. Depending on how my boy behaves, I might make some cheese dumplings to bake on top of the stew, like a cobbler.
  • Friday – fish and chips to start the bank holiday weekend! But a homemade version to try and be slightly healthy …
  • Saturday – I don’t think we’ll be venturing too far over the bank holiday weekend, so I’d like to make some pizzas – this wholemeal pizza base is a tasty one.
  • Sunday – I think I could manage to cook a roast dinner today, but maybe something relatively simple like pork chops rather than a full on joint of meat.

I’ll tell you next week whether I actually managed to make any of this ambitious menu!

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Weeks 32-35 – the most amazing thing I have ever made: my baby

Here he is: introducing Ioan, our gorgeous little boy. Since he made his appearance on 24 July we have been living in a newborn whirlwind (and don’t even get me started on the hormones).

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He truly is the most amazing thing I have ever made (thanks in part to my ‘sous-chef’ Andrew!).

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And he is as greedy as his mum.

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The Sportsman in Seasalter, Kent (review)

img_6738To celebrate my 40th birthday, you may recall that we spent a few days at the Fisherman’s cottages in Whitstable. Andrew’s friend Emma had suggested that we visit The Sportsman pub in nearby Seasalter for a celebratory dinner, so I emailed them to make a reservation the week before we were due to visit.

I was surprised to hear that they only had one table left, which would have to be shared with another couple, but when they heard it was to celebrate my 40th birthday and our babymoon, they switched the tables around and allocated us our own table, which I thought was very kind of them.

The day before our reservation we drove to The Sportsman to check how easy it would be to get to from Whitstable (and, more importantly, how easy to drive home from as I’d be designated driver). Pulling into the car park, I have to say I was disappointed by what I saw: the pub looked frankly a bit grotty and absolutely not the kind of place I’d imagine spending my 40th birthday celebration meal.

Andrew and I looked at eachother, gulped, and tried to reassure ourselves that everything would be fine: Emma had recommended the place to us, it was fully booked on a Tuesday night, it has a Michelin star, reviews were excellent, etc. But we both admitted afterwards that we were very dubious about my birthday meal.

However, when we  pulled into the car park the next evening, the place seemed to be transformed, with candlelit tables and a welcoming bar. The staff immediately made us feel at home, and settled us into our corner table with a glass of champagne each.

We had chosen to have the taster menu, which, it turns out, is not actually a published menu, so you are provided with each course without knowing what you are going to get next. This was a fantastic idea as we were not pre-occupied with what was coming next, and left at the mercy of the chef.  What a fortunate position for us to be in.

First up was an amuse bouche of 3 little morsels, including smoked fish and homemade butter (oh my god that butter was amazing, and even more so because they’d made a pasteurised version for me!):

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Then a delicious little soup to cleanse our palettes – I can’t remember what the flavour was, but I think it was pea soup:

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As you can see, Andrew was feeling cleansed:

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Next up were the famous local oysters, which of course I cannot eat, so the restaurant had prepared salmon versions for me, which had the same toppings as Andrew’s oysters:

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I loved it that the food they prepared for me didn’t feel like a compromise for a poor pregnant lady.

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Next up, we were brought some homemade bread and their famous homemade butter (YUM!). Their soda bread was the most delicious I have ever eaten, and despite feeling the need for restraint because my tummy has been squished by the baby, I couldn’t resist eating my bit and half of Andrew’s too:

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Next up was a vegetable soup made with garden vegetables and edible flowers. This is the kind of thing that Andrew would expect to hate, but he actually adored. The broth was creamy and rich, and packed with delicate slices of al dente vegetables such as courgettes and broad beans – perfectly seasonal.

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Mmmmm, and the perfect opportunity to eat some more bread and butter:

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Next up was a crab and carrot dish which was lightly spiced and rich with hollandaise. I did find a piece of shell in mine, which I left on the side of the bowl, and the waitress was very apologetic, but it didn’t mar the overall experience.

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Then was the famous slip sole dish, coated in seaweed butter. Oh wow, this was my absolute favourite dish of the night. I had never eaten slip sole before: it’s a small fish and very easy to scrape the flesh off the bone. The seaweed butter was not at all greasy, and had a delicate flavour of the sea. It turns out the dish is the signature dish of the chef and we could see why, as the dish is pure seaside.

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Next up was another fish dish of braised brill with smoked roe sauce, served with asparagus. The sauce was richer than in the previous dish, and a beautiful pink colour from the roe. Luckily there was some more bread to allow me to mop up the sauce (although I was really starting to get full by this point!).

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Then along came little morsels of panko breadcrumbed lamb, served with a minty sauce. The sauce was a big favourite of mine as it tasted like mint jelly, which I much prefer to vinegary mint sauce. Andrew isn’t so keen on sweet sauces, so I ate quite a lot of the sauce with my portion. The lamb itself was crispy on the outside but lovely and juicy (and yes, a bit fatty but in a good way) on the inside. It was nice to have some meat after all of the fish.

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More lamb came next in the form of roast saddle, and this would have been my favourite dish had we not had the slip sole. More seasonal vegetables from the garden accompanied the lamb, including carrots and shelled broad beans. The gravy with the lamb was lovely and sticky and flavourful (mopped up with more bread – how did I find the room?!), and cooked slightly pink, which I didn’t mind as clearly the local lamb was of excellent quality.

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After a little break, we were brought a pre-dessert palate cleanser of strawberry ice lollypops. They were such a fabulous idea as they were just lightly flavoured and not at all sweet, and  really did cleanse our palettes.

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Then for the pudding after our epic meal, which was a rhubarb souffle with rhubarb ripple ice cream. Now, Andrew wasn’t keen on this because he’s not a fan of eggy puddings, but I thought it was utterly delicious. There was a lovely light crust on the souffle and it was light as a feather inside. The souffle again wasn’t too sweet and carried the earthiness of rhubarb so well. I even ate a little bit of Andrew’s so that the chef didn’t think we hadn’t enjoyed it.

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With mint tea next to help digest all of the amazing food, we even received some homemade petite fours which I must admit I did try a bit of. By this point I was totally full and knew that Gaviscon would be on the menu later, but I couldn’t help myself. And I had saved calories by not drinking more than a glass of champagne …!

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What else can I say about The Sportsman? It was one of the best meals we have had out in a very long time, and we felt guilty for our first impressions (although this subsequent article does suggest we are not the only ones with this pre-conception, and it has subsequently won best UK restaurant).

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We are already keen to go back and stay at the fisherman’s cottages in Whitstable with the little one, and return to The Sportsman for a family meal. Not only was the food spectacular, but the atmosphere was warm and friendly, and I would recommend it to anyone visiting the area.

Andrew treated me to my meal so it would be wrong of me to disclose the bill, but the tasting menu comes in at £65 per person which is money well spent. Andrew thoroughly enjoyed the red wine he picked from the list as well – it was a well balanced wine menu with a good mix of prices.

If you get the chance, please do go to The Sportsman – it’s a real gem of a place and there’s no doubt we’ll be back there again some time.

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Foodie penpals – June 2016

Sadly June is going to be the last Foodie Penpals with Carol-Anne at the helm, as after 2 years of managing the whole process she’s quite keen on moving on (I can only imagine how much work and admin must be involved in matching people up each month). Hopefully someone else will take it on (not me, as I will be having my own new project to keep me busy from mid-July when the baby makes an appearance!), so I can continue to participate, but watch this space.

I was paired up with Dawn and Ruta this month. It turns out that I had previously sent Dawn a parcel of ‘unusual treats’ which included chicken tikka flavoured seaside rock! She said that although she loves unusual things still, maybe a bit less unusual would be good this time around! Poor Dawn – she never told me if she actually ate the rock, but I suspect not!

Anyway, I tried hard to be a bit more sensible with the contents of the parcel and included:

  • Umami powder – I came across this in a supermarket but am yet to try it – sounds interesting though!
  • Plum sauce – my favourite with roast duck
  • Flavoured macarons – so pretty!
  • Caper berries – I love these served with an aperitif
  • Lloyd Grossman pan melts in sundried tomato and ricotta flavour
  • A jelly drink from the Asian supermarket – unusual but hopefully not hideous
  • Some biscuits from a recent hotel trip which hopefully constitute a quick snack for Dawn as she checks out the rest of her goodies

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Unfortunately I still haven’t received my parcel from Ruta, which is a shame as it’s the last Foodie Penpals. If something does eventually arrive in the post I will certainly update this blog post.

Corned beef pie – a Welsh classic (new recipe)

img_6583.jpgIf you are of a certain age, you probably ate lots of corned beef when you were growing up. Tinned or sliced, this mystery meat is salty and fatty, with a non-meat texture. For a food snob like me, I should avoid it like the plague, but I have very fond memories of corned beef and tomato ketchup sandwiches for packed lunch (or corned beef and cucumber which was the healthier option offered up by my mum!) … in fact I could eat one right now!

I hadn’t been aware that corned beef was such a popular dish in Wales, featuring in many recipes but most popularly as corned beef pie, pasty or corned beef rissoles. You are looking at a combination of cheap ingredients combined to bulk out a dinner: corned beef, onions, potatoes and pastry. Don’t be put off though, the end result is truly delicious, and friends at my recent 40th birthday party were converted by the tastiness of the pie.

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Lisa from Lovely Appetite recently posted her own version of a corned beef pie, which made me realise how different everyone’s version can be. I didn’t follow a recipe the first time I made mine – I developed it based on Andrew’s preferences and what I imagined would taste nice. That makes it different to the one we eat in Wales (from Cyril’s the butcher!) but in my view better!

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I make my own shortcrust pastry for the pie, but I am tempted to give this hot water crust pastry a go sometime as I think it would be delicious. I have also used Jusrol shortcrust if I am feeling lazy – you need a 500g slab to top and bottom a 21cm pie dish, which is what I happen to use (as it’s the only loose-bottomed dish I have).

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400g plain flour to 200g butter mixed together with a little salt made more than enough pastry for my dish, so I froze the rest for a rainy day when cheese straws or something similar are needed.

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While the pastry is resting in the fridge, you can make the filling by cubing a couple of medium sized potatoes (around 400g). I don’t bother peeling the potatoes as I am lazy, and just boil them in salted water until tender (around 10 minutes should do it, as each chunk is around the size of a sugar cube).

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While the potatoes drain, gently fry a chopped onion in a little oil. I use the same pan as I used for the potatoes to save washing up.

Once the onion has softened, add the boiled potatoes back into the pan along with the cubed corned beef (maybe minus one cube that you’ve eaten), and give the mixture a stir. No salt or pepper is needed in my view, but feel free to season with pepper (corned beef is salted enough) if that’s to your taste.

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For me (and Andrew) the most important thing is to make sure you don’t end up with a mushy filling – we like to see and eat distinct pieces of meat, potato and onion. Again, everyone is different, and Cyril the butcher mashes everything together … Andrew’s mum likes to add carrots. Go with what you prefer, but try my way first as it’s the best ;).

I lightly oil my pie dish and then lay pastry onto the bottom and sides. You should wait for your filling to go cold before adding it to the pastry dish, but usually I don’t bother – as long as you are quick then the pastry probably won’t melt, so be efficient.

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Add your pie filling, then top your pie with another disc of pastry. I don’t bother sealing the pastry with eggwash, water or milk, I just crimp it and bung the pie in the oven (if you do have some eggwash around then brush the top of the pie as it does look nicer with a lovely golden glaze, but it’s not essential).

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I bake my pie at 190 degrees fan for around 45 minutes. You only need the pastry to cook as your filling is already cooked, but the last thing you need is a soggy bottom!

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Once baked, I often leave the pie to go cold and then remove it from the dish and slice it, but this time we had the pie for Sunday lunch with green beans so I served it warm and it was also delicious.

 

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Foodie penpals – May 2016

img_6544.jpgFor May’s parcel, I sent to Erica, who wanted some easy snacks, and said she also loved lavendar. So I put together a parcel which included Welsh treacle toffee and Welsh cakes (with Andrew’s heritage I always like putting these into my parcels), plus some of my favourite Lotus Biscoff biscuits (and oh my God don’t even get me started on their sandwich spread!!!), some munchy seeds for quick snacks, lavendar to cook with (I am not fond of the idea of this as I don’t really like perfumed food, but hopefully Erica will enjoy it) and some of my favourite pasta which looks like a looped telephone cable!

I received a parcel from Sabine in Germany, which I am annoyed to say was so snack-tastic that I forgot to take a photo, which I have never done before and has really annoyed me as I have eaten most of the contents!

She sent me two different Ritter chocolate bars (which, when they have melted in the summer heat, you simply have to eat immediately – it’s the law), plus some chocolate wafer biscuits, some healthy soups, and a cute little Eiffel Tower keyring (not sure how that is German but I won’t complain :)). With my combination of baby brain and lack of photo I cannot remember what else she sent so apologies for not doing her parcel justice!

Alphabet Adventures – K is for Korean

img_6551.jpgWhen Jo, Charlotte and I started Alphabet Adventures there were no marriages or kids in our little triumvirate. Life has changed considerably in the last couple of years, and we’re taking bets that hopefully we’ll reach ‘Z’ by the time Henry, Charlotte’s eldest, starts university!

So we’re up to K now, and decided on a Korean night of goodness in the West End. Jo had booked us into Jin Juu, which is a trendy little place on Kingly Street … probably too trendy for us as we wanted to eat and chat, not listen to the booming beats as the restaurant turned clubby at 9pm, but that’s not to say that the food wasn’t excellent.

Starters are not really starters here – they are whopping dishes on their own, but that didn’t stop us from each ordering our own. I’d checked out the menu in advance and decided I wanted to try Korean fried chicken. I wasn’t disappointed. Boneless thigh meat coated in a savoury batter was utterly gorgeous. The meat was tender, the coating was crispy, and the sauces accompanying the chicken were great – I didn’t really like the spicier sauce but I am off anything spicy in this pregnancy, but the thick soy sauce was beautiful. I have actually been dreaming of this dish ever since I tried it.

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Charlotte chose sliders which were again little meals in themselves. Sadly they were too difficult to share, but I am pretty sure when I come back here with Andrew, he’ll choose them and let me have a bite.

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Jo went for fried dumplings (she can never resist a dumpling) and these were also lovely and tasty, with the right amount of spice for her (she’s a brave girl when it comes to spicing), and don’t they look gorgeous too?

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For our main dish we all ordered Bibinbap, along with a side of kimchi – you can’t go to a korean restaurant without ordering these two staples I don’t think. I have made bibinbap myself, which you can try here, and this was along the same lines of rice, veg and meat, stirred together with a spicy sauce (I hardly had any) and a fried egg (sometimes a raw egg is stirred in as that cooks in the heat of the stone dish in which the bibinbap is served.

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The waiter kindly stirred up the dish for me according to how you should eat it:

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Okay it looks a bit messy, but tastes fabulous!

For pudding (not that we needed any) Charlotte and I ordered a snickers dessert, which was a fried doughnut with peanut ice cream and chocolate ganache. It sounded delicious, but for me this was an unsuccessful dish. It could be that my palate is all over the place with a baby on the way but I found that the doughnut had an unpleasant almond-y taste and the chocolate ganach was too rich for me to eat more than a tiny portion of it.

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Overall, Jin Juu is a great place to go – it’s not particularly good value but not overly pricey either – I’d definitely go back to try more of the dishes on the menu … but plan to leave before it gets too lively in the evening …

Next up is L for … Lebanese?

Foodie penpals – April 2016

img_6391.jpgOnce again I am late with my Foodie Penpals reveal, but slowly catching up!

April’s foodie penpal parcel came all the way from bonny Scotland from Debbie, and was once again a fantastic mix of pregnancy friendly treats and snacks.

My parcel included an Old El Paso stand and stuff kit (which Andrew loves because even he can make these!), some gorgeous tattie scones (one of my favourites!), a selection of jam and lemon curd which are the perfect size for a couple of bagels, oatcakes – also delicious and cheesy, a couple of bars of tablet (like Scottish fudge) which I actually shared with my colleagues as I was about to have my Gestational Diabetes test at the hospital and didn’t fancy spiking my blood sugar too badly!, Irn Bru which was immediately stolen by Andrew, Oreo cookies, coconut macaroons and fudge, which I have been slowly working my way through since receipt, and some marinades which I haven’t yet tried but will be useful as post baby easy meals.

As you can see from the picture, Debbie also made me a beautiful card to go with the parcel. It turns out that she makes wedding cards and favours, so here’s her website in case you fancy getting in touch with her about making you some personalised wedding goodies.

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I sent the following to Michelle, and funnily enough also included in my parcel a stand and stuff kit, which as I said we love for quick and easy meals. I also added:

  • Jelly Babies (currently a pregnancy addiction of mine)
  • Jelly
  • Rice pudding
  • Ambrosia custard
  • Welsh treacle toffee
  • Welsh cakes

A bit of a Brit-feast!

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Cravings

img_6812.jpgI think when someone is a naturally greedy person, such as myself, it’s natural to crave food. While eating my lunch I can be thinking about what I am going to have for dinner, and sometimes I’ll find myself in a kind of reverie of food, imagining a delicious slice of cheese or piece of thickly buttered bread.

Pregnancy, however, has taken my cravings to a whole new level.

I haven’t been craving strange combinations of food, like pickles dipped in chocolate or peanut butter with sausages, but I have experienced an unrelenting desire for some foods, which initially I found hard to deal with as our kitchen was being renovated at the start of my pregnancy and so I had nowhere to cook. A disgusting McDonalds put me off fast food, and an epic 2 hour round trip for a Gregg’s sausage roll cured that habit as well, but one of my favourite ‘meals’ when my oven was installed was simple poached eggs on toast.

img_6925.jpgEggs featured strongly in my cravings: runny yolked poached eggs were a favourite (I know pregnant women should avoid under-cooked eggs but I was always comfortable to eat my favourite Clarence Court eggs with soft yolks).

img_6037.jpgI also became utterly addicted to egg and salad cream sandwiches: hard boiled eggs mashed with salad cream, mustard, salt and pepper.

On the way to Wales on one trip, I ended up begging Andrew to stop at a services which had a Waitrose so that I could buy Clarence Court eggs and Heinz salad cream so that I could indulge in my craving when I arrived at Andrew’s parents’ house.

Then I started to get a hankering for salt and vinegar crisps, and despite not having had them for years I got it into my head that I wanted Discos crisps. Do you know how difficult it is to get Discos? They don’t seem to be for sale in large supermarkets so I had to buy individual packets from garages, until I was saved by my brother who managed to find a multi-pack supplier and helped me to keep my cravings at bay.

img_5971.jpgIt’s not just been savoury food I have been craving though: as well as lovely red Jelly Babies, I have also taken to have a Magnum ice cream almost every evening for pudding. The ice cream seems to ease my heartburn which can only be a good thing. As you can see from the gorgeous picture of me below (thanks Andrew!) I have really been enjoying them …

img_6899.jpgYou may remember that I have also had a hankering for hot cross buns and fruity bread:

img_6060.jpgMy main craving though has been for things I am absolutely not allowed to eat at the moment: most particularly ripe camembert cheese, rare steak, and pate. As soon as I have the baby I am going to treat myself to all three: I will buy the nicest camembert I can find and leave it out of the fridge so it goes all gooey and runny, and might eat the whole thing myself. I have eaten baked camembert to slightly relieve my craving:

img_6225.jpgFor the pate, I adore brussels pate (the smooth one) and fancy it spread thickly onto buttered bread or crackers (or maybe both …).

I want a huge thick steak which is seared on the outside and bloody on the inside: I’d like to have it with a gorgeously tangy homemade bearnaise sauce, and perhaps some crusty bread to mop up the bloody juices.

What I really don’t want, however, is curry. I can just about tolerate Asian spices but the idea of an Indian curry absolutely does not appeal to me at all, despite it being one of my favourite foods before. I just hope I manage to get my curry tastebuds back when the baby comes into our lives.

Of course, I am not unique in my cravings – during one of my NCT classes we shared details of our cravings and discovered that Natasha is loving Slush Puppies and Jo likes potato smileys. I also asked fellow food bloggers about their pregnancy (or non-pregnancy) cravings, and discovered:

Laura from Kneadwine craved dairy, and Becs from Munchies & Munchkins craved steak and … brushing her teeth! Although they haven’t blogged about their cravings, the following bloggers shared with me what they were most tempted by: Helen from Casa Costello loved black pudding and cried when the butcher had run out (I know that feeling), Helen from Family Friends Food wanted mint choc chip ice cream (I did have to stop myself buying mint flavoured Magnums because I knew Andrew wouldn’t want them), Claire from Foodie Quine wanted Chupa Chups lollies, Jo from Jo’s Kitchen enjoyed McDonalds, Janice from Farmers Girl Kitchen loved Dairylea triangles (I could imagine eating them), Mary from Goodie Goodmother wanted courgette fries (quite healthy actually)

However, I think my favourite craving story goes to Katherine from Veggie Desserts who took to sneakily drinking the juice from pickled beetroot as her husband was so shocked by how much she was getting through! Top tip, the crinkle cut beetroot yields more juice!

What  cravings have you had … either pregnancy, hangover, or just generally?

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Week 31 – birthday celebrations at 9 months pregnant

img_7047.jpgAndrew celebrated his 41st birthday in the week, and it was a very different one from previous years what with me being less than a week from my pregnancy due date (18 July). Almost all of our NCT pals have had their little ones and that’s really brought it home for us that we don’t have long left before we’re a mum and dad as well. So even though Andrew usually spends at least a whole month celebrating his birthday, he’s been too nervous to let himself go this year, and has subsequently celebrated a sober birthday for the first time since he was 15 years old (apart from the odd pint)!

Of course it’s as much his fault as mine that we’re in this predicament, but I couldn’t help feeling guilty that his birthday wasn’t going to be as celebratory as usual, so I wanted to make an effort with his birthday meals.

We were planning to go out for dinner on his actual birthday, but ended up not bothering as Andrew didn’t even want to risk dinner locally in case the baby decided to make an appearance, so I made us cheese on toast instead!

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To make up for this, I organised two celebratory meals, and the first was on Saturday night, where the choice of food was his. For a starter he requested one of our favourites: prawn cakes with sweet chilli mayo:

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I first made these after following a Nigella ‘How to Eat’ recipe, but it’s such a doddle that I now make it according to eye. You just need to whizz up the basics of prawns, flour, port, spring onion, chilli, salt and pepper, and then gently fry them until cooked through. I always serve them on a bed of salad with mayonnaise mixed with sweet chilli sauce.

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For the main course, Andrew requested lamb rump steaks, which I haven’t cooked since I became pregnant. I always fry the steaks with rapeseed oil, garlic and rosemary.

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This time I served them with roasted new potatoes (I added a chopped onion to the roasting tray), and green beans which I had par-boiled and then tossed in tomatoes and capers.

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Andrew’s not really a pudding person, so I am always a bit limited in terms of what I can make for him (apple pie, poached pear, angel delight!). I decided to make a creamy panna cotta, using my favourite Jamie Oliver recipe, which I served with rhubarb which I’d poached in prosecco (so Andrew got a bit of booze!).

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On Sunday, our friends Isi and Michael treated us to sunday lunch at their house, which included a birthday cheesecake for pudding:

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As you can see, young Johnny particularly enjoyed the chocolate!

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Our second celebratory meal was on Wednesday, when my mum also joined us for dinner after spending the afternoon obliterating the overgrown hedges in our garden (she wouldn’t let me do anything to help, so I focused on making homemade pasta in the kitchen while she chopped and pruned).

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For a starter I decided to make a simple anti-pasti dish of grilled aubergine, courgette and tomato with some mozzarella cheese. I served it with some rapeseed oil and good balsamic vinegar, and bread to dip into all of those lovely oily juices.

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Birthday fettuccine with peas and bacon

For main course I made fettuccine pasta in my KitchenAid. For the dough I mixed 300g type 00 flour with 3 eggs and a touch of salt (too much pasta – I should have just used 200g flour and 2 eggs but I have enjoyed leftovers for the rest of the week!), and kneaded it with the dough hook for 5 minutes until smooth, then rested it in the fridge before rolling and cutting into fettuccine strips, and cooking for just a couple of minutes in salted boiling water.

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The sauce was so simple: a packet (200g) of free range smoked lardons fried in a teaspoon of olive oil until crispy, along with a finely chopped medium onion and half a teaspoon of lazy garlic. Then I chucked in two large handfuls of frozen peas and 50g pine nut kernels, 150mls of half fat creme fraiche and 50g of grated parmesan cheese. Finished with some white pepper, this was utterly delicious (even if I do say so myself!). I grated some extra parmesan cheese on top of the pasta when dished up.

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I still had some rhubarb in the fridge from Saturday, so, inspired by this recipe, poached it in some sugared water. Once cool, it sat atop a puff pastry base which had been spread with more half fat creme fraiche mixed with dark brown muscavado sugar. I baked the tart at 180 degrees for around 40 minutes, and served it warm with chantilly cream.

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So Andrew ate well over his birthday, even though he remained sober.

This coming week is a bit up in the air as the baby is due tomorrow … although of course that doesn’t mean he will actually arrive then! We made a trip to an M&S foodhall in a local retail park to stock up on easy cook dinners (including a couple of dine in for a tenner packages), so now have the following options for the week (mainly chosen by Andrew because he can cope with heating them all in the oven!):

  • Leftover chicken from today’s roast dinner
  • Pork steaks with potato croquettes
  • Chicken en croute
  • If the baby doesn’t make an appearance on time then I’d like to pop to the fishmonger to buy some hot smoked salmon for one of my favourite meals: salmon on a potato rosti with a poached egg.

Hopefully for my week 32 update, I’ll be able to share some baby news with you!