20 March 2013

Somen Noodles, Prawn and Cucumber Salad

My sister is very good at buying cookery books as presents and one little gem she got for Joe is A Little Taste of Japan. My close family are obsessed with Japanese food, my mother having spent some time living there when she was tiny, and one of the things Joe has done for me over the past ten years is hand rolled sushi for me. Knowing this my sister bought him A Little Taste of Japan to broaden our at-home Japanese cooking horizons, so on Saturday night I was treated to sushi, sashimi and Somen Noodles, Prawn and Cucumber Salad.

Well I would have been if you could get all the ingredients in a mad dash at Waitrose in Shepherds Bush... which you can't. So we were missing a few things but this salad was delicious anyway and perfectly fine without them, or with the substitutions we made. Probably another great all-round dressing to liven up a normal salad with prawn or beef and we will definitely be having this again but next time I will venture to Thai Smile to see if I can get the things we were missing.

Somen Noodle, Prawn and Cucumber Salad

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 fatties

2 Lebanese (short) cucumbers
1 tbsp dried wakame pieces*
200g dried somen noodles
12 cooked king prawns, peeled. deveined and cut in half lengthways
3 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
shichimi togarashi (seven spice mix) to serve, optional*

½ tsp dashi granules*
125ml Japanese rice vinegar
60ml mirin
1 tsp Japanese soy sauce
2 tsp lightly grated fresh ginger
pinch of sugar
½ tsp sesame oil

* things we didn't have

We also couldn't find somen noodles so we used thin egg noodles which were yummy.

1. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon, then slice the flesh very thinly on a slight diagonal. Put the slices of cucumber in a colader, sprinkle with salt and leave for 10 minutes before rinsing and squeezing out as much  water as you can. Chill.

2. Meanwhile soak the wakame in cold water for 5 minutes, or until rehydrated and glossy but not mushy. Drain well and chill... or skip this step if you too can't find Wakame.

3. To make the dressing mix the dashi granules with 1 tbsp hot water until dissolved. Add the rice vinegar, mirin, soy sauce, grated ginger, sugar and sesame oil and stir to combine. Chill.

4. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, then reduce and simmer. Add the noodles and cook for 2 minutes or until tender (or follow the instructions on the packet). Quickly drain and rincse under cold running water until completely cool.

5. Combine the cucumber, wakami, noodles, prawns and half the spring onion in a bowl. Pour on the dressing and toss well. Serve immediately garnished with the remaining spring onions and the shichimi togarashi.


11 March 2013

Baby on Board

Our new Baby on Board sign has caused a bit of a rift in our house. They are £1.49 in Boots which I'll admit, was a contributing factor but it's purchase is mostly due to my new-mummy paranoia. Joe is fine with it... I think. He seems to have contracted a bit of new-daddy paranoia. But my Mother is horrified.

I can understand why - for many years we have been cohorts in Baby on Board mockery and derision. Before I had a baby these signs, to me, looked like a smug assertion of fertility, to my mother, yet another pointless bit of plastic that they didn't have or need when she was having babies. But, whether due to my tiredness or distrust of other drivers, I've become incredibly paranoid about crashing or, more specifically, being crashed into. Will people swerve if they see my annoying, smug plastic monstrosity? The assumption that they will accounts for half the reason I succumbed to the sign. Well, just under half. My real panic is that after we crash, if we don't have this bright yellow diamond in the back windshield the ambulance either won't know he's in the car or won't treat him first. This isn't a reflection of my views on the ambulance service.

Don't get me wrong - I still have my limits. Once he is no longer a baby there will be no sign. But what have I become? Surely a horrid, lurid sign can't have that much power? I hate myself a little every time I see it in my rear view mirror but, for now, hormones are my ruler and the sign stays.

5 March 2013


Now I obviously love food... otherwise this wouldn't have accidentally morphed into a food blog but food doesn't like me. Oh to have my sisters metabolism and slightly freakish self-restraint, but no, I'm the only person putting on weight while breast feeding. It's making me unhappy, I don't feel like myself, none of my clothes fit and I hate breast feeding so... I'm stopping, and I'm exercising, eating properly and I've bought Thinking Slimmers Slimpod Drop Two Jeans Sizes as fitting into my pre-baby jeans is the thing I fantasise about. Joe started off saying it was hocus pocus and a waste of money - and it may be - but it could help, and I need help. So I've told him to bloddy well be supportive.

The problem is that since being pregnant I have gained a sweet tooth and a habit of snacking, coupled with breast feeding I have developed a massive millionaire's shortbread problem. Massive. I feel like I have very little self-control and will power when it comes to sweet things, partly because I've never really wanted them before. I don't want to lose my love of food and I want to still eat what I want but I want to go back to breakfast, lunch, tea and supper. Not the continuous grazing that's become normal in our house. I need a change of attitude.

So I guess if I'm going to blog this experience properly I should give the gory details. I usually weigh between 8 and 9 stone. When I got pregnant I was 9 stone and during pregnancy I went up to a whopping (for me) 14 stone. That's a lot of weight to put on. Now a lot of it was water retention - everything was swollen, I couldn't wear shoes for the last four months, and I dropped 3 stone within the first three weeks (bearing in mind Ned was 8lb 4oz so not mini). Then just before Christmas I was slighty under 10 stone and there was a light at the end of the fat tunnel. Now I'm 10 ½ stone and not shifting anything. If I was still losing weight, even slowly, I would be fine, but I'm doing exercise, eating less and gaining because I get sudden crashes of hunger from the breast feeding and then eat stuff I shouldn't.

Now please don't get me wrong - I know it takes 9 months to get that big it should take a while to get it off, I'm not expecting miracles and I certainly do not expect other mums to shed the weight until they are ready and, if he needed it, I would waddle round being as festively plump as possible for Ned if that made him happy and healthy. But it doesn't. He's got to the stage where he's starting baby rice, he prefers formula and definitely would rather have a bottle so he can have a good look around, I will express my milk until it dries up and he will get as much of it as he wants but a mother who is unhappy with herself is no good to him and my complaining seems to be heading me for a divorce.

So I'm jogging at least twice a week, doing the Lean Machines post-natal exercises every morning, swimming on Wednesdays, cutting out bread and listening to my slimpod every night. Last night was the first night and it's kind of strange because you feel like a wally at first then you realise you've sort of drifted off... anyway, to early too tell if any thing's happening but I'm going to put a page on the right hand side so you can, if you want, keep track on my progress. There's a whole lot more to it than just listening to this 10 minute mp3 so if you want to look into it all the details are here.
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