Many apologies to the late, great, hip hop legend that is the Notorious B.I.G for the title of today’s blog, but on trying to come up with a title this was all that would come into my head. On repeat. All weekend. I knew the only way to get rid of it was to put it in the title, with the hope that it would annoy everyone else as much as it did me. You’re welcome. It would be downright odd if I’d put that title in and then not actually cooked any of Gizzi Erskine’s recipes, so you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve cooked not just one, but two from her latest book, Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts. The book, as the title makes pretty clear, is all about eating sensibly and healthily during the week and then upping the calorie content over the weekend after being good for the majority of the time. It’s absolutely not a diet book, I couldn’t bear one of those in my house, but is about eating sensible, smaller portions and filling yourself up with fruit and veg. I don’t do diets. While I go to the gym regularly, try and eat healthily and don’t want to be overweight, I really abhor the idea of a ‘bikini body’ and of being obsessed with flat stomachs, a certain dress size and calorie content. It’s not for me. I want to be healthy, but I don’t want to spend my life being miserable turning down food for the sake of having a flat stomach. If I happened to get a flat stomach by chance than that would be a happy accident, but I love carbs far too much to worry about what my stomach would look like in a bikini. For starters, the person I tend to go on holiday with is The Boyfriend who knows what my stomach looks like and he’s still with me. It’s not so bad. Strangers on the beach or by the pool are either too busy obsessing about what they look like in a bikini to care about what anyone else looks like, or too immersed in sunbathing/reading/posing to even notice anyone else. I’m not spending 6 months denying myself everything I love to eat so I can still feel self conscious and paranoid on holiday for the 1 day I might decide to spend at the beach. Secondly, when on holiday I eat like a king. At breakfast there is only one correct answer to the question “would you like your egg fried or poached” and that is “both”. I do not hold back. My hypothetical flat stomach would be ruined within minutes of arriving at my destination. Thirdly, we do not tend to take beach holidays. I will be damned if I spend months of my life on what the media love to call a ‘bikini body’ when my stomach is never on show in public. Balls to it. If having a flat stomach is what floats your boat and you’re happy to sacrifice carbs to get it, great, more power to you, you have more willpower than I’ll ever have. But it’s not for me. I’m fairly happy with the size that I am, I’d like to lose a touch more but I’m not going to look sadly at a tray of cupcakes being passed around and say no. Life is just too short. If you need more convincing on the subject, check out Caitlyn Moran’s excellent book How To Be A Woman and her thoughts and musings on women’s bodies and the pressure we are under from the media to look a certain way.
Saying all that, Gizzi’s book is filled with flavour packed, interesting recipes that are light on calories but that I would still eat whether trying to lose weight or not. From the two recipes I’ve eaten, you would never know from the taste that they are low on calories because the flavours are pretty full on and you’re allowed to use ingredients that you wouldn’t normally find in a diet book, such as chorizo and coconut milk. If this is what the healthy recipes taste like, I can’t wait to try out the sinful recipes in this book. First up, satay chicken noodle rice bowl. Being a big fan of Asian food, this naturally jumped out at me and I couldn’t resist cooking it first. Somewhere in Ukraine The Boyfriend is rolling his eyes, exasperated at the predictability of me. I don’t care though, it was so good. The recipe asks you to use yellow curry paste which I couldn’t find in the supermarket (although I have seen it there before) so I made do with green curry paste which is always in my fridge. I crisped up the chicken thighs (yes, you’re allowed to keep the skin on them, I love Gizzi), boiled up some brown rice and spooned over a supremely delicious curry sauce which was a combination of Thai curry and Indonesian satay, and if that combination doesn’t make you salivate then you’ve obviously never had either of them. As with any really tasty meal, I finished my plate with a combination of complete satisfaction and sadness that there was none left. You don’t get that with many ‘bikini body’ friendly dinners.
The second meal I cooked was pork and chorizo meatballs with spelt spaghetti. Although yet again the supermarket didn’t have what I was looking for so I stuck with my old faithful, linguine. Pork is leaner than beef, so the inclusion of chorizo doesn’t feel so bad and the sauce is made up of fresh, ripened on the vine tomatoes with mashed up garlic, fennel seeds and chilli so as meatballs and pasta goes, it’s pretty virtuous. The trick is dishing up a much smaller amount of pasta than normal, something I really struggle to do what with my unending love for the stuff. Yet again, Gizzi delivered on her promise. The meatballs had a spicy heat from the chorizo and while there wasn’t a great deal of sauce, the flavours of garlic and fennel shine through and there was enough to keep the pasta from going dry. I don’t like tomatoes when raw and firm, I’m not fond of the taste or texture, but once cooked down into mush like in this sauce I can get along just fine with them.
If you need inspiration for healthy meals and like big, punchy flavours then this is the best non-diet diet book around. Healthy meals that don’t leave you feeling deprived and hungry yet can also aid weight loss don’t come better than this. Remember though,there is no secret to losing weight despite what magazines and the Daily Fail might tell you, its just about eating sensibly, exercising and enjoying yourself. And never forget that being happy in yourself and full of self confidence on a regular basis will do more for you than a flat stomach on show for a few days of the year ever will.