October 15, 2012

the 'hay'-box and sizing down (not that they are connected as such)

hello there, it s been a while...

summer, or whatever we should call that rainy july and superhot august, has once again made way for autumn, which, with a few exceptional showers, has been wonderfully crisp and fresh.

meanwhile, Sam and i have gone on cycling trips, like we have been doing the past few years, but with new foldable bikes... so we were able to explore further and see more than we had before... our other bicycles only allowed us to start from home, cycle 30-35 kms at the most and then we had to make the return trip in order to get home and feed the cat!

but now, we were able to load up our new bikes in the car, drive to the seaside, or to Zeeland, to Gent, Leuven...

Belgium is such a small country and it s so easy to travel around by car, but i can definitely say that there is some beautiful countryside out there that most of us city-people just miss... mainly because it s nothing to go from point A to point B on the myriads of highways we have here.

one thing tho, cycling is tough when you re too heavy.

the past ten years my weight has gone steadily up and up and up... and getting more and more interested in food and cooking and eating and blogging hasn t helped at all. yikes!

sure, i was feeling all good, even had a check-up in the beginning of the year, and my liver is working as it should, my sugar-levels are normal, my cholesterol is perfect (the doc even seemed a bit surprised... i think he expected me to have loads of problems)...

but the cycling; i knew i shouldn t be getting so tired, not out of breath exactly, but just tired, so we stopped often, usually my excuse would be that i had to take loads of pics.

then we watched 'The Hairy Bikers Dieters' (we ve been huge fans of these guys since they first started out) and both Sam and i knew we had to change our eating habits as well.
anybody who follows some great tv-chefs and programmes on the BBC must also have noticed that our fave wine expert Olly Smith and diva-cook Nigella Lawson have shed quite a few kilos too?

so, we started, not by following a fad diet, not cutting out on anything (well, some things like too much sugar and fats and alcohol had to go), but eating everything, just in smaller portions (god, the portions we used to have!).

that s what we ve been doing the past few weeks.

i have banned Coca-Cola, i quit putting sugar in my coffee and tea, i use maybe about two-thirds less fat when cooking, we make spritzers of our wine, have one cookie instead of five, upped our veggie intake even more (we do love our veg), more than halved our consumption of meats...
and instead of having a baguette with an omelet in the morning, i make myself a smoothie with a half a cup of frozen raspberries, a cup each of frozen mango and frozen pineapple, a cup of water and half a cup of apple juice (i hate bananas...). i don t drink this in all in one go... but have a little all thru the morning, and then not even every day, but usually on a friday, which i call my special treats day. and on top of that, i ve quit grazing... my true downfall.
Sam s secret apparently is having porridge during the day... but he eats everything i make for dinner.

Sam also made us a hay-box inspired by something we saw on Wartime Farm...
believe me, this box is a wonder! whenever i m making a one-pot meal now, i just prepare all the ingredients, start it on our cooker, and once it has been boiling for about 5-10 minutes, i put my pot into the box, and leave it for a mininum of two to three hours to cook. and yes, i mean cook, the pot comes out of the box piping hot, and the food is cooked to a tee! since Sam and i both have busy evenings, knowing that we ll have a hot dinner without too much hassle when we can finally sit down to eat, is great, and i hope that a lower gas bill will soon also be a bonus.

yesterday, i didn t use my hay-box since what i had planned was simplicity itself, again inspired by another of my favorite chefs: Mr. Nigel Slater.

he has a new show on and i just couldn t resist making one of his recipes my own (and perhaps a tiny bit healthier? sorry Mr. Slater)

MAGRET DE CANARD (or duck breast) with BEANS and VEGGIES:


1 duck breast of about 300 gr
1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 spring onions, sliced
about 20 cherry tomatoes, halved (did you know 1 cherry tomato is about 1 calorie?... woah!)
1 tablespoon dried sariette (or winter savory)
sea-salt and black pepper


1. score the fatty skin of the duck breast diagonally
2. lay the breast skin-side down in a frying pan and fry on a gentle heat, you ll see the fat come out (like crazy, there s so much, but it s one of the healthiest fats around, very good for your heart and cholesterol... seriously) and while the skin becomes crispy, just tilt the excess fat into a small bowl (keep it for roast potatoes or something!)
3. when the skin is golden and crispy, turn the breast and brown the other side
4. give it about 5 minutes, again, a gentle heat, and when the breast is about rare to medium done, take it out and leave it to rest
5. meanwhile, leave about a small tablespoon of fat in the pan, and fry the chopped garlic, taking care not to brown them, add the tomatoes and the chopped spring onion and gently fry until softened, then add the beans and winter savory (this is an almost forgotten herb, but a wonder with beans - helps keep that horrible windiness, yes you know what i mean, away) with a bit of water (Mr. Slater uses marsala wine, which i thought might jeopardize the diet) and warm thru.
6. slice the duck breast, warm thru with the beans and serve...

seriously, seriously delish... as i m sure the version with marsala wine would be too, but hey, a few sacrifices...

wish us luck, we hope to reach our target weight by next year! i did say... hope...