One Step Back…

Spring has sprung and Ireland, once again, is awash in a veritable tidal wave of luminous yellow.

Narcissii

No, it’s not delicate catkins, nor the cheery branches of forsythia, nor even the endless rows of daffodils. Running fever is in full swing there`s a plethora of luminous tops bobbing about all over the country.

Yes, I’m out there too making the most of the lengthening evenings and thrilled too, that the clocks have finally moved on for that very important hour. It has an much needed impact on my energy and motivation.

The truth is, I need all the motivation I can get. For some reason, my running form has been poor. Three miles into a run and I’m screaming for it to finish. Here’s hoping it’s just a temporary glip. Boredom is my arch enemy. I have to keep my head busy so I am hoping that the new routes and the longer evenings will keep me tuned in.

Luckily, Tuesday brought a surprise:Teen Girl asked to sign up with a running club. It seems our weekly evening run and/or the demise of her school’s running club have spurred her on to taking things further.

And it’s a win for me too. Now, I’ll just have to be out the door with her two more nights a week and I can fit two of my runs in there too. And with new routes.

Then there’s the new running course from The Irish Times.

Warming up at Raheny Parkrun

Warming up at Raheny Parkrun

Runners warming up at St. Anne’s Park Run, Raheny, Dublin after completing The Irish Times coach to 5km course.

To tie in with the Spring renewal of running interest, they have established two online training programmes. Both of eight weeks’ duration, one is for beginners aiming to run 5km and the other is aimed at those who are aiming to run 10Km.

Anyone signing up for the 10 km course is advised that they should be able to run thirty minutes comfortably non-stop. Now, I know I can do that and from my Hal Higdon half-marathon and marathon training days, I know I can do even more. But I’m going to concentrate on the shorter distances for a while. Aim for quality rather than quantity in my runs and aim for a 10km again.

Unlike Teen Girl, I’m happy to go this alone and not join a club. I like being my own boss, and like the quiet space for my head that solo runs provide.

Saluting my fellow runners as they trot on by is enough camaraderie for me for now, at any rate.

And I’m happy to be part of Ireland’s spring tide. Bobbing about in our day glo colours, it’s definitely one of the country’s better moves in terms of the health and happiness of its’ citizenry.

But I know we all need all the help we can get to stay motivated.

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Festive Fare

Red Cabbage

Well it`s the time of the year for gifts. And I`m even happier when these gifts aren`t bought but are just thoroughly kind gestures.

So, first off, I want to thank Shaz from the bottom of my heart for posting up this recipe specially for me. I`m a pickle fiend. And I love my veggies too. So, when she mentioned she`d a red cabbage recipe that even passed her German mother-in-law`s high standards, I really wanted to try it. And Shaz posted the recipe just for me!

Well, today I made it. It`s super easy to do. And it`s delicious!

Run out and buy yourself a red cabbage now. You`ll need a cooking apple, onion, cider vinegar and brown sugar too. As you can see, it has all those pickling ingredients and so the end result is sweet, sour and scrumptious.

I managed to rescue half of it for the freezer, so one Christmas dinner veggie is done.Yay! It will add a lovely touch of colour to the Christmas dinner plates and is a change from brussel sprouts for those who are not inclined to opt for them.

And here`s that Red Cabbage recipe in Shaz`s blog.

My next recipe is from the Irish Times, via a thoughtful pal. I`d a taste of her cookies first and loved them.

I should have made these into gingerbread men but it seems all my men cutters are gone and I`m left with stars. Still, stars are a pretty good substitute for men, don`t you think?

Anyway, with a little dusting of icing sugar(only cos I was too dog lazy to whip out the icing bag…) these stars look perfectly festive too.

 Gingerbread Stars

Here`s the link to that Irish Times gingerbread recipe here. Their pic is very pretty with lots of proper gingerbread cutters and a piping bag that looks like it actually might work properly.

Dunno what it is about me and piping bags, but we never seem to get along.

Still, my sugar dusted stars were quickly gobbled up by the Teens and visitors. Infinitely simpler to make than fiddly mince pies, these stars added an easy Christmassy touch to the Chook House kitchen.

Finally, for those wondering about my Advent streak, I`ve overcome my little hiatus and am still running. Nothing spectacular, mind, just a maintenance pace, as time had pretty much got compressed in this crazy lead up to Christmas.

Actually, remind me not to sign up for Advent streak again. But maybe, to schedule a running holiday for Advent instead!

Anyway, we`re nearly there. Enjoy the last minute scramble to get things done!

Roast Cauliflower

Roast Cauliflower

The print had barely dried on Domini Kemp`s recipe in last Saturday`s Irish Times, before I`d a fine head of cauliflower in my hot little claw. She wanted me to roast it and I could barely wait to try it.

Caulis are a much neglected veg in the Chook House. There is hope for Teen girl, but alas, it will take the urgings of a better woman to convert her brothers. No problem. That meant, when I`d get to try this recipe, there`d be all the more for me. Greed is good . At least when it comes to scoffing cauliflower.

Confession: I replaced the basil with parsley, as that was all I had to hand. No whole wheat spag in the Chook House either. I made do with ordinary
Boast: I actually had a splash of wine left, after last Friday`s and Saturday`s adventures with a dubious white.

So here it is then. I give you…

Roast Cauliflower Spaghetti

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Scrape of nutmeg or pinch of chilli flakes
  • A couple of knobs of butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Splash white wine
  • Basil leaves
  • 250-300g whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 50g hazelnuts, lightly toasted
  • Hard goat’s cheese or Pecorino to garnish (optional)

Method:
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees/gas 6. Cut the cauliflower into florets, give them a little rinse and shake off excess water (you don’t want them steaming). Put them into a roasting tin, sprinkle with half the olive oil and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg or chilli. Roast for 20-30 minutes. You want a little char and crunch. Don’t fret about turning your oven up full blast and tweaking cooking times. You can toast your hazelnuts while your oven is preheating – but keep an eye on them. They won’t take kindly to a temperature of 200 degrees, so catch the oven on the way up.
Meanwhile, heat up the butter, add the garlic and then the white wine and roughly chopped basil. Season and set aside. Cook your spaghetti in a large pot of boiling water, drain, then add the two tablespoons of olive oil and mix with a pasta spoon or tongs so the oil coats the spaghetti. Season with some salt and pepper. Put it back in the big saucepan and add the butter sauce and roasted cauliflower and toss. Spoon into bowls, and top with the hazelnuts and some grated cheese.

More Chook Notes:

I roasted the hazelnuts in a frying pan because I`ve a predilection for burning things so I could keep a better eye on them that way.And  I checked and tossed the cauliflower, as Domini suggested, just to make sure they were roasting nicely.

I really enjoyed the combination of flavours in this dish and am looking forward to seeing how it copes with reheating for lunch at work today. The garlic should keep my colleagues at bay too.

Five Chook Stars then, for this very useful recipe.

Falafel

Falafel

Falafel

One of my Saturday pleasures is perusing through The Irish Times. No, not the online edition, the old-fashioned paper version. A pot of strong coffee, something to nibble on and the IT are my idea of heaven.

I`ll wade swiftly through the national and world news sections. On then to soak up the best of the Weekend Review section-I particularly like Michael Viney`s column there. I`ll leave the Sports section to the Teen boys and then, saving the best pleasures til last, I`ll leaf through the magazine section.

My favourite section there-and in all of the newspaper-is Domini Kemp`s food column.

I just love her recipes. They`re generally fusion of tastes, but with strong middle eastern and mediterranean influences. She often plays with vegetarian options too.

She did all of those things last week with her recipe for Falafel.

I`d eaten this dish before in a middle-eastern restaurant and thoroughly enjoyed it. But I`d no idea the main ingredient was chickpeas. Or that it was so easy to make.What`s nice about this Domini Kemp`s recipe is that she has offered gluten free flour in it so that coeliacs can enjoy this falafel too. I made mine with ordinary plain flour though,

Falafel

  •  500g dried chickpeas
  • 100g flat leaf parsley
  • 100g coriander
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Few glugs olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Few tbsp spelt or gluten-free flour
  • Sunflower oil

Method:

Soak the chickpeas overnight in salted water. Drain, rinse and then blend in a food processor until they resemble fine ground sawdust. Put them in a bowl and then process the herbs with the olive oil and garlic (which you need to crush first). When it resembles green sludge, mix with the chickpeas. The chickpeas should take on a nice green colour. Season well and add enough spelt flour so that when you make a ball between your fingers, it will just stay together, not as well as small meatballs will, but they should be strong enough to be shaped and then put on a plate, carefully.

Heat up the sunflower oil and cook off a batch of balls at a time, carefully turning them over when they are crisp and golden brown on one side. They don’t take too long to cook. Basically, once they are golden brown on all sides, they are done. Drain on kitchen paper, season with more salt and keep them warm in a low oven while you finish the others off. They are lovely cold, and can be re-heated, but taste best when they are eaten soon after frying.

Since the Teens refuse point blank to eat anything that`s both ball shaped and vegetarian, I ended up having this delicious treat all for myself. It`s perfect running recovery food, with all those protein-dense chickpeas. I also ate them cold, and enjoyed them. Then I froze the remainder and ate some more during the week.

I really should do a DNA test and see if I`ve any Middle Eastern leanings as I seriously love that kind of food.

At the very least though, I should have gone the whole hog and made tzatziki. After all it`s just a blend of yoghurt, mint, cucumber,garlic and seasoning. But I dunked in Gardini`s Caesar Salad Dressing instead. Tzatziki will wait till next time. And there will definitely be a next time, as this is perfect running recovery food.

Week seven of Hal Higdon`s Marathon plan done! I did pretty well this week too. Actually began to feel like a runner again on Wednesday`s seven mile run. This weekend is a tad running heavy with a seven mile run today and a gasp! fourteen mile run tomorrow.

So with  seven miles to run and a whole newspaper to read, and tzatziki to make, I`d  better get moving!