Two months in and I’m still alive

The last two months have been full of challenges, frustration and even tears resulting from the dietary devastation that the low FODMAP has caused within my life. But I’ve also learned a lot and that’s what I want to share here. So in no particular order:

• Keep a record of everything you eat from the outset. Even if you eat all the “right” foods you can still accidentally tip over with the amounts of FODMAPS. Keeping a record will help you to identify what’s going wrong.

• Get the Monash low FODMAP app. I could not have done this without it and all the money gets put back into further research in this area.

•Rice flakes and quinoa flakes make a good substitute for porridge.

• Quinoa flakes are great for travelling. They can be cooked just by adding boiling water so they’re great for breakfast (which is really hard overseas). I recommend adding a little sugar and cinnamon and a block of Lindt 90% dark chocolate (all of which are travel proof and can even go in hand luggage) to make it palatable.

• Asafoetida is your friend! Life without onions or garlic is hard! This handy little spice…isn’t the same, but it helps.

• Take the time to make your own stocks. It’s a little extra effort but without onions or garlic it’s an important means of getting depth of flavour into your meals. Save up ends of vegetables from preparing other meals and leftover bones and use these to make your stock.

• Celeriac is a great substitute for celery.

• Don’t trust waiters to tell you if food is ok for you to eat. They deliver the food, they don’t prepare it. Think through how you’d make a meal and whether you’d add any high FODMAP ingredients. Once you’ve decided what you want to eat ask them to check with the chef that there are no high FODMAP ingredients. Ok, that’s a long list but I did that saying no gluten, dairy, onions or garlic is sufficient to throw up a problem.

• Get used to eating a lot of grilled meat and salad or plain vegetables when you go out for dinner. I’m sure once I’ve finished the challenge phase my options will expand (although not that much because I already know that onions are a trigger). However for now it sucks, but it’s the safest way.

Remember that it’s ok to feel down about this diet. As I said I’ve reached the point of tears many times. Most recently on Prague when I watched my friends eating potatoes pancakes and goulash with dumplings while I sat there with my tiny plate of over-priced roasted vegetable. This is a hard eating regime that takes a lot of discipline and has a huge impact on your eating decisions. But if the diet works for you, stick with it. For me every day that I don’t end up so bloated I can’t fit in my clothes is a reminder that I’m treating my body well and this is something that’s worth doing.

Good luck!

Returning under less than ideal circumstances

Well I’ve been away from this blog for about a year for personal reason’s. What’s brought me back all of a sudden? I’ve been placed on the FODMAP diet.

Never heard of it?

This is an elimination (lots of elimination) diet used to address some of the symptoms of IBS. This isn’t about the causes of IBS (apparently still unknown, so every GP keeps telling me), just alleviating some of the symptoms. I’m not going to go into a lengthy explanation of what the FODMAP diet is because quite frankly it’s best to hear it from the horses mouth. Click here to go to the Monash University FODMAP site. Monash did the original research in this area and continue to investigate FODMAP friendly and unfriendly foods.

Being placed on this diet was a daunting experience. I love food and it felt as if all of a sudden I’d lost one of my greatest pleasures in life. I’ll be honest, deep down I hoped that it wouldn’t work and I could go back to eating all of the foods I enjoy. But I’m a week in and my symptoms are pretty much under control, well the ones that the diet addresses at least. So suddenly eating has become incredibly complicated, and because my GP decided against referring me to a dietician, I was left feeling a bit lost and lacking the information I needed to go it alone. I now know that i shouldn’t have let that happen, and if I’d known then what I have since realised, I would have insisted in being referred to a FODMAP trained dietician. If faced with this situation please learn from my mistake. This thing is tough and it is really easy to unwittingly make mistakes. My lifesaver has been the FODMAP diet app produced by the Monash University research team. It’s only available for iPhone at the moment but the android version is coming.

Naturally I have also trawled the Internet looking for recipes, tips about places to eat out, etc. the thing is, there’s not very much out there. Which is why I’m back here. There is a need to build the FODMAP online community. This will be my contribution towards that development.

Real Foods Market on Southbank

Hooray! Real Foods Market is open during the week again throughout the Paralympics. This means I get to pop in for dinner before my Wednesday evening run.

Today I went to Community Kitchen for a delicious spicy lamb and chickpea tagine wrap. There were so many things that I loved about this meal. The flatbread is home-made and delicious. It’s also medium sized and thin. So often wraps are all pita and a little bit of filling. Not this one! It was filled so much that it was served with a fork.

The lamb was really lovely. What was fantastic was the balance of flavours. So often seasoning can be so strong that it overpowers the flavour of the meat. Not on this occasion. The spices complimented and enhanced the intense flavour of the lamb. Similarly the tagine really focussed on the natural taste of the chickpeas. This is not to suggest that it was bland, I actually lost the flavour of the minted yoghurt because of the strength of the other components.

The salad bed of tomato and red cabbage brought a wonderful fresh crunchiness. Lovely to have that contrast in texture. Without it, the wrap could have been a bit mushy-feeling, particularly given that the lamb was minced.

The whole meal was filling, and refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable! I’d definitely recommend it.

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More streetfood exploration

Continuing my love affair with London’s streetfood scene here are reviews of three of my latest samplings.

Fleisch Mob
I’d heard of Fleisch Mob over Twitter and was intrigued, so was delighted to discover their presence on a recent trip to Eat St at King’s Cross Boulevard. While the frankfurters were tempting it had to be the rare breed pork schnitzel with rocket on a cibatta roll for me. Following the recommendation of the vendors’ I elected to have it with a ginger and rhubarb compote (made from mum’s home grown rhubarb apparently, love it!). The schnitzel was freshly made in front of me, it hadn’t even been pre-breaded. It was interesting to see that it was cooked in a mix of oil and butter. Definitely added to the flavour. As for the taste…fantastic! The quality of the meat shone through and really was something special. It was perfectly cooked with a golden and crispiness on the outside and tender meat inside. The compote was surprisingly lovely. Sweet with a lovely freshness resulting from the ginger. Absolutely delicious and I would definitely recommend giving it a try.

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Bell and Brisket
I came to Bell and Brisket absolutely famished. I’d decided to go to Streetfeast London at the Camden Brewery for lunch after my run. However a change of plans meant I was significantly delayed and didn’t arrive until 4pm. Bell and Brisket offers a range of salt beef options and from them I chose the old timer on rye – a classic combination of salt beef, pickles and mustard. I have to be honest, while it was a nice sandwich, I really wasn’t blown away by it. The most disappointing aspect was the bread. It just had no flavour. What it really needed was a strong sourdough or heavy rye to give it some oomph.

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Bhangara Burgers
Still hungry after my salt beef sandwich I went in search of more food and ended up at Bhangara Burgers. I’d seen them around at many events but just hadn’t taken the step of actually placing my order. Now I’m left wondering why, why, WHY did it take me so long? I think I can safely say this was the best streetfood burger I’ve had to date. Following the chef’s recommendation I opted for the lamb jalfrezi burger, and I had it with every condiment available. The burger is served in a flatbread which works really well because the bread doesn’t get in the way of the taste of the ingredients as much. And boy, was there taste! Such an explosion of flavour in my mouth. The chilli pickle was just the right heat and the lime pickle delicious! Lots of crunchy fresh vegetables – red cabbage was a particularly inspired addition – gorgeous sweet mango chutney to offset the tang of the lime and then a wonderful yoghurt based dressing. I’m drooling again as I write this!

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Supperclub Summit: Mamalan, Two Hungry Girls & Wild Serai

When I first heard about the Supperclub Summit I was really excited. Yet somehow as the events approached I found that I still hadn’t gotten around to booking my attendance. Finally I sorted myself an and on Saturday I went along to the Mamalan, Two Hungry Girls & Wild Serai supperclub, a collaboration of three Asian supperclub chefs. Unusually, the event was held in the Goethe Institute. Every other supperclub I have attended has been held in somebody’s home. I suppose three chefs in one household kitchen would have been a little challenging.

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Upon arrival we were served a complimentary pink cocktail. Also unusually, wine was available for purchase. Supperclub are usually BYO events. The tables were simply laid and on the brown paper “tablecloth” the elements of our impending feast were described. Curiously, next to the fork was a red an gold envelope with a coin and a note asking us not to lose it. Prior to our meal we were introduced to the chefs, who explained that the meal would be served in the traditional banquet style. We were also reminded not to lose our envelopes.

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Our first entrée was a mini lamb bun. It was served streetfood style from crates hung around our waiters’ necks each had a coin jar for “payment”. This is where the contents of the red envelope came into play. The entrée itself was really nice and flavoursome. I added some of Mamalan’s excellent chilli oil to give it a bit of extra kick. Not as outstanding as other elements of the meal but a good, solid course all the same.

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Our next entrée was poached chicken with a spring onion and ginger dressing wrapped in lettuce leaves. This course was served in its components so we were able to construct it according to our tastes. I liked this approach to food. I’m generally not the greatest fan of poached chicken, but in this instance it worked well. There was a wonderful punchiness of ginger in the dressing.

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Alongside this we were served a wonderful Malaysian Nyonya salad of celery, mushrooms and beans. Really simple and fresh. I particularly liked the flavour of the mushrooms and couldn’t resist picking at it throughout the rest of the evening.

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Next were the much revered Mamalan’s pork and chive dumplings. They were perfectly cooked, crispy on one side, silkenly stodgy on the other. The flavours were amazing. Very complex but so well partnered that I couldn’t isolate any single element. Dipped in a mix of soy sauce, Chinese vinegar and chilli oil…perfect!

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Again this was accompanied by another fantastic salad. This time we were served a mix of pickled vegetables including white cabbage, carrot and cucumber. The pickle was sweet, tangy and beautifully refreshing. It didn’t last long at our table!

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Finally we moved onto the main courses (yes there was more than one). First out was the pork belly with crackling. And here I entered heaven. When the pork belly hit my tongue I had to take a little moment to close my eyes and just enjoy the pure pleasure of the flavour. I think my dining companions might have found that a little strange. Eh, whatever. Have to say. It was the best pork crackling that I have ever had! Thin, astonishingly crispy, and very well seasoned. Surprisingly this was served with English mustard, as well as broccoli and rice. I have to note that the rice was beautifully cooked. It was sticky without a hint of glugginess, and soft it just disintegrated in my mouth.

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We were advised not to eat too much rice because we would need it for the next course. When it arrived I completely understood why. It was a mountain of chilli crab with the most wonderful sauce that I just wanted to drink it! Now on the scale of seafood preferences crab is pretty low on the list for me. However, it did lead to much table conversation and hilarity as we struggled to penetrate the crabs’ armour and ended up splattering ourselves and each other with crab juice and chilli sauce in the process.

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I was also a big fan of the mantou buns served with the meal. The crust had a subtle sweetness and the bread soft, had a beautiful grain and was gorgeously flavoured. Excellent for mopping up more of the delicious sauce.

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Another excellent salad accompanied this meal. This time it was a combination of pineapple, cucumber and chilli. It was beautiful and provided a refreshing contrast to the richness of the chilli crab.

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Once we’d had some time to clean ourselves with multiple serviettes and towelettes, we were provided with a delicious mango and cumquat palate cleanser – which do it’s job perfectly- before moving onto the spectacle that was dessert.

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We were presented with a halved log of bamboo hollowed out and filled with ice. On top were pieces of fruit (rambutan, watermelon, cantaloupe, apricots, and strawberries) and bowls of panacotta with peach and caramelised nuts, and honey ice-cream with dates and sweet lotus root. Fortunately The panacotta was nice, but nothing spectacular. The nuts were my favourite part. But the ice-cream was outstanding! The lotus root was interesting, but somehow it worked.

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We thought that was it and by this point the strain in my stomach was certainly telling me that this should have been the case. But no, to see us off we were given mini pandans and chocolate ganaches, and a cold tea that I really didn’t like. Both the pandam and ganache were really lovely, although I felt the latter was just a bit rich after such an extensive meal.

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Pork crackling bruschetta

Last night I made dinner for my mum and her partner. I knew from the outset it was going to be the Tamworth belly ribs with red cabbage. But what to do with the pork skin and what other accompaniments? I came up with this crazy idea of of pork crackling bruschetta, replacing the bread with crackling and using a mix of antipasti on top to match the red cabbage.

Ok stick with me. My mother didn’t think it would work either but after she tried it she wanted the recipe.

Ingredients
Pork crackling
Oil spray
Maldon salt

Pickled artichokes
Tomatoes
Sunblushed tomatoes
Pickled onions
Yellow pepper
Olives
Lemon
Olive oil
Pepper

(alternatively just use the filling from my foccacia with antipasti filling recipe)

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees.

2. Spray a little oil and sprinkle salt on both sides of the pork skin then rub in. Place on a flat roasting try and pop it in the oven.

3. After about 5 minutes reduce to heat to 150 degrees. The. After and 15 minutes increase the heat to 180 degrees and leave until the skin is bubbly and hard.

4. Meanwhile roast the yellow pepper, remove skin and finely chop along with all the other antipasti. I specifically haven’t put in amounts because you need to find the balance of flavours that works for you. However it is important to have non-vinegar-based pickles in there to cut through the acidity. Squeeze in a little lemon juice, pour on a little olive and add a little freshly ground black pepper and mix through.

5. Cut the crackling into pieces and place the antipasti mix on top.

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Warning, this can get messy when being eaten!

Tilapia with samphire, potatoes, and cauliflower purée

Ok I’ve just made myself the simplest, yummiest dinner and I feel compelled to share it. Lured by the wonderful array of fresh fish available at the fishmonger today I decided to resist the urge for a dirty takeaway this evening and try tilapia instead. It’s a gorgeous fish! Odd as it sounds, the flavour is slightly reminiscent of the spices used in KFC. So maybe next time you get a craving, consider this as a healthy alternative. Ok maybe not. Maybe just eat it for the sheer pleasure of the flavour in and of itself.

Ingredients
200g small potatoes (I used a mix of Charlotte and Royal Blue)
Table salt
1 cup of cauliflower florets
Milk
100g Samphire
Maldon salt
White pepper
1 Tilapia fillet
Lemon
Freshly cracked black pepper

Method
1. Salt and boil some water and add the potatoes.

2. Place cauliflower in a small saucepan, add enough milk to just cover and gently poach. Don’t let the milk boil as you will be using it later.

3. When the potatoes are almost cooked place the samphire in a colander and put this on top of the potatoes to steam.

4. When the cauliflower is cooked, remove the milk and purée. Add enough milk loosen the mix to the consistency of mashed potatoes. Season with White pepper and Maldon salt to taste.

5. Pan fry the tilapia. It will only take a couple if minutes on each side to be ready.

6. To serve, place the cauliflower on a plate in a circle. Thickly slice the potato and place on top. Add the samphire and then top with the tilapia. Season with lemon juice and cracked pepper to taste.

This recipe serves one person. One of these days I’m going to write a cookbook full of recipes for one!

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