The Elephant In The Room

I sat down on Wednesday last week thinking about what to write for this week’s blog post. I have been working on writing some of the recipes I promised some friends I would write down, but was a bit ‘stumped’ on which thing I should write about first.

As any great man would do, I asked someone else…Twitter. Thankfully @MuddlyMum came up with the suggestion:

Elephants!!

I loved this idea – but what to write? I often try to come up with ideas when walking my two dogs. One, the older one, is a labrador called Ollie and the other munchkin is a Bullpei called Lola. They are mental just like my kids. Taking them for a walk provides me with a time when I have no distraction and I have spent many a dark night plodding the pathways around my hometown of Bridgend pondering the day’s events, even the odd existential crisis or two. Taking the dogs on a walk resulted in leaving my iPad unattended for an hour, in which my lovely kids (I am not sure which one) decided to post this blog unfinished. I still managed to get two likes – maybe people thought I was being ironic in some way, or they wanted to make me feel good. Either way, I laughed a little and thought I may as well get to writing that at some point.

I first thought I’d write about my experiences of being on an Elephant sanctuary in Goa. That was an amazing experience by the way, but I came to the conclusion that story would be worth a separate post when I’ve dug out the old photos for proof I actually did go. To be honest, it’s an age ago since that happened and I thought I had better figure out what I could remember before I tackled that trip down nostalgia lane. In the end, I came to the conclusion that I would write about the English proverb: The Elephant In the Room.

We have all been in that situation, whereby the whole room want to talk about something or someone but can’t seem to get it out of our brains, and subsequently our mouths. I can be like that sometimes, although apparently I can be a bit more outspoken on times, which inevitably leads to awkward silences and gasps. I tend to keep it at bay more often that not. In my youth I always got into trouble at work for opening my mouth when I shouldn’t and have since then become more accustomed to observing the elephant than trying to tackling the beast head-on. It’s worked out well as I don’t offend people as often anymore. I must be growing up…or something like that. I kind of hope I go the other way as I get older and come full circle. A right of passage into becoming a grumpy old git.

Anyway, I will get to the point. As a parent of a disabled child, and one who is often ill and has many challenges to face, I often get asked when meeting new people, what’s wrong with him? Or what’s his disability? The git in me, that comes out every now and then, is often tempted to say there’s nothing wrong with him! He is perfect in every way. It’s the truth. Well mostly, except for when he constantly ignores me or when he wants the third or fourth Babybel. To get back to the point, I can often see the difficulty in this situation and the embarrassment of the person asking. It’s not their fault. It’s human nature – you can see a child/person is a little bit different and you’re intrigued to find out about their story and what is their life is like. It is no different to asking a personal question to any other family or person. What makes this situation so awkward? Why do some people not ask, when you can see it is what is on their mind? I have come to the conclusion that most people are genuinely interested and I always honestly answer and tell them all they need to know. The people who can’t bring themselves to ask, or ask it in curiously awkward manner are trying not to offend. Isn’t that amazing! Genuinely, I love this: a person, that doesn’t know you, wanting to make sure that you are happy and not insulted unintentionally. We need to acknowledge the situation, put people at ease and thank them for the question. I like to initiate the conversation, to help them out a bit. I like to focus on all the amazing things my son has done. How his resilience and determination shines through. It is an inspiration to myself, my family and friends and the people he meets. I will also talk about his sister and how amazing she is with him. I like to be positive and see the good in people. Cynicism is a cruel position to view the world from. It is a poison that is all-encompassing once it takes hold, and trying not to sound to cliché – the world is a better place half full of optimists, than a world half full of pessimists.

There are so many situations that the elephant in the room gets in the way of good friendships and relationships. I had a member of staff that was a muslim in a previous job. I found it fascinating as a catholic: I had gone to catholic school; been to a catholic church for many years, but did not have much knowledge about other faiths. I find that in today’s world climate and with attitudes towards religion, people can be frightened to ask about other beliefs and cultures. I don’t really care for prejudice. Unfortunately it happens, in mind my due to this elephant in the room problem. I asked him what his religion was about and how he practised his faith. I am glad I asked! We had a much better and more open work relationship because of it. It was interesting to find the similarities and differences of his world compared to mine. I think we become richer people when we open ourselves to different communities, different ideas and faiths, and fundamentally more understanding of the complexities of world around us.

Most recently, that elephant has visited me when explaining my decision to become a stay at home dad. It is an odd conversation. The look on people’s faces when I say I am not working when I leave my current job. I am going to be a stay at home dad…there’s an awkward silence that follows. I reassure them. It is a decision that felt natural to me, but apparently is quite uncommon. Only 250 welsh dads took the option in a recent report. Yep, only 250!!! I will become part of a  special club of lunatics, or visionaries….time will tell.

I will leave that there for the time being as I think I have tackled the elephant challenge in my own way. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. If you’re feeling generous hit the share button and follow me for more ‘dog walk’ inspired postings.

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Spice Friendly Lamb Curry

 

Spice Friendly Lamb Curry

I was so excited when I created ‘My Curry’ that I could not contain myself. Having been in curried exile for 3 months due to not being able to have chillies or pepper of any sort, I had all but given up the hope of having a regular curry. I knew that I could have ginger and cooked onions but I had never used the magic ingredient of this recipe. Tamarind. I spotted it on a weekly trip to the supermarket. It was on offer and the picture of it looked similar to ginger, so I thought why not! I am going to give it a try and hope not to be in agony after trying it. After a tentative tasting experience and waiting for the inevitable, awful reaction in my throat, I was pleasantly surprised that I could actually have it. I knew then that some fashion of a curry was possible. Ecstasy achieved.

I tend to buy my curries from the usual places, takeaway or in jar, or on the one life changing experience in Goa, India. My experience of cooking curry from scratch was limited, however, I was not going to let that stop me in my quest to eat curry once more.

I was not disappointed – it’s mild with a hint of a spice kick from the ginger and tamarind and definitely fulfills my curry culinary needs. How easy is it to make? Simple….

Ingredients

Lamb Steaks cut into cubes/strips- I love lamb curry and it has a good meaty flavour for this curry, which means it stands up to the intense ginger and tamarind. You can use chicken or turkey if you want to go leaner. I haven’t tried fish yet but I will let you know if I do.

Tamarind Sauce/Paste – You don’t need much. I like a strong flavour so added probably more than I should at two table spoons. ‘Tip and Taste’ is my motto when it comes to cooking.

Ginger – Same again, I like it a lot but you can use less. Cooking should be creative in my mind.

Chives or Garlic – A good tablespoon of chives or 3 cloves of garlic.

Cornflour – To thicken.

Turmeric/Cumin/Coriander are added if you want some more aromatic spices. I can’t use much unfortunately but you can if you want.

5 -6 Large Chestnut Mushrooms – Sliced thickly.

1 medium sized onion – Sliced not diced.

Chicken stock cube with 500ml of water.

Low fat cream cheese (branded philadelphia is better for this – light or lightest)

Optional – Steamed Curly Kale or Spinach.

Method

To start, I put some rapeseed oil into a medium heat frying pan and add the mushrooms and onions until they are softened. Add the chives/garlic and aromatic spices here as well.

Then add the meat and ginger. When they have ‘browned’ I add the cornflour (about a tablespoon) and let this soak the oil and juices up.

Add the stock water and let it simmer until it thickens. You can add more water and let it simmer down again – I think this intensifies the taste.

Now add the tamarind sauce and simmer again for a few minutes until it has come together.

Finally, add the couple of spoons of the cream cheese – this will give it the creamy texture of a korma. You could add a yoghurt instead if you prefer.

I like to add Curly Kale or Spinach to make it interesting and some raisins, although if you don’t have or like these don’t worry about it.

I have since done some research on this recipe and apparently some curries are made like this in the Kerala region of India, called Inji Curry. It is not quite ,but I think close enough, to be called an authentic curry. The joy is now in the eating! Let me know what you think.

Layered Low Fat Fruit Gingersu

Layered Low Fat Fruit Gingersu

 

I have adapted this recipe from a Gino D’Campo Tiramisu recipe. When I could eat freely, this was one of my ‘favs’ to make. I first made it when I had my brother inlaw and his wife over for dinner. It was delicious and really easy to make. Cue ‘LPR disappointment’ – I can’t eat that anymore. Seeing as I love desserts, and with Tiramisu being my all time favourite Italian dessert, I knew I had to make an adaptation that was still a bit naughty and one that I could eat at the same time.

Ingredients

For two people (Me and the Mrs)

¼ of Jamaican Ginger Cake – sliced thinly and chilled.

Tea spoon of pureed ginger for cherry syrup

25g sugar – caster

2 teaspoon of icing sugar

Tea spoon of honey

100ml of water

A slug of malibu

5 large strawberries, cherries and raspberries – chopped into quarters

150g of lightest cream cheese – 0.8g fat per 30g (You can use mascarpone instead if you’re in extra cheat mode)

Method

To make the Syrup

Put the cherries,sugar,half of the ginger,honey, the Malibu and about a 100 ml of water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Wait for it to thicken to the consistency of a soup-like liquid. Let it cool for 10 mins before adding to the dessert.

To make the spice and sweetened cream cheese filling.

Scoop the cream cheese into a bowl and add the ginger and icing sugar. Mix until combined. Put in the fridge to keep cool.

Assembly time

Layer the bottom of the dessert glass with Ginger cake in the bottom. Place some of the syrup mixture with some cherries on top. Let the syrup soak in before adding some strawberries,raspberries and cream cheese mixture. Repeat this process until you have the desired amount. I don’t over do it because I am being careful, but if you feel the need I won’t judge.

I add a couple of more bits of fruit to the top and add some dark chocolate shavings and some grated almonds to the top for some texture. It’s pure heaven!

If you try this, please make sure to let me know your thoughts or suggestions for improvements. I am always open to new ideas.

Easy Peasy Pasta

This pasta is so simple to make… It takes minutes and very little effort.

You need 300g of pasta flour, 3 eggs, some salt (a pinch or two), a teaspoon of rapeseed or olive oil. 

Chuck it in a food processor and blend. It doesn’t take long to come together. When it’s done knead it a little and separate it in to 4 quarters.  Cover it in cling film for 30 mins to rest. 

I use a pasta maker to flatten and cut it. 

I hang it for about an hour and then it takes minutes til it’s ready. 

Worth buying a pasta maker just to do this. I used to do it the old fashioned way which took me ages, but this way takes me 10 mins and tastes so much better than the dried stuff. 

Pretty Healthy Pizza

Traditional pizza is just one of those foods that most people love. Whether you trying to feed the family quickly before running out, or having friends and family over for a get together, it is just one of those universal treats that appeals to the masses.

In fact many people get quite emotional about what makes the perfect pizza – a basic margherita pizza is the stuff of dreams for some, whilst others go crazy for ham and pineapple. According to a Telegraph debate in March:

15 per cent would ban pineapple as a pizza topping.

I have always eaten tonnes of it. However, if you have read my previous blog, you know that I can no longer have this masterful food. I love all things Italian and unfortunately I can’t eat a lot of the dishes I love anymore – well not the way I use to make them.

So, before I ramble on for a 1000 more words, here is a recipe for a different kind of pizza that is also great fun making it with the kids, and is pretty healthy. I cheated a bit today, which for any penny pinching person is a great way of getting premium pizza at home without costing the earth. Say bye bye to Dominoes and Pizza Hut and make this instead. You won’t be disappointed!

The Ingredients:

12″ pizza base – Thin and Crispy is best and costs between £1.50 – 2.50 depending where you shop. You can make it but if you short on time this is perfect.

Low fat cream cheese – I buy the Lidl’s low fat one which is 49p for a tube at the moment and is 1.5g of fat per 30 g. You can go further with the  Lightest Philadelphia which is only 0.8g. I usually mix in some chives as I can’t have garlic. Chives is a great replacement for garlic by the way. I use it all the time.

Parmesan Cheese – depending on how much you like and how much you want to treat yourself. My kids like quite a bit mixed with a bit of normal cheddar, I just put this on their side.

Toppings are your choice! Today, I used a sliced Beef tomato (I can eat these as they are low acid), mushrooms, sliced shallots, anchovies and prawns and some sliced cocktail sausages for the kids side.

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This may sound busy and bit too much but the kids love piling the ingredients up – it also gives the monsters a chance to taste some new foods. I would love to hear what your toppings would be – comment below so I can see what’s your favourite pizza.

Once you’ve got this assembled…you’re ready to rumble! It’s Pizzamio time!! as we say in our house.

The Method

First tip when using kids – have the ingredients out of arm’s reach. If your kids (or housemate, other halves or siblings) are like mine, they will devour the cheese in seconds.

Also, preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius/approx 390 Fahrenheit. You need a hot oven for a pizza.

  1. Lay out the pizza base.
  2. Spoon out the cream cheese to about an inch from the edge.
  3. Lightly dust with chives and some of the parmesan.
  4. Put the rest of your topping on. Have fun with kids or if you’re a bit OCD you can organise neatly. I have learnt to put this a bay since having kids. Having everything neat and having kids just does not mix.
  5.  Chuck it in the oven for 15-20 minutes until pipping hot.
  6. If you’re a bit cheeky, you can add a bit of garlic oil and rocket to the top when you serve it up.

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The best part comes to the eating. I love that I can have pizza again and hope that you enjoy this pizza with a difference. If you try it I would love to hear what you think. Don’t forget to like, comment or subscribe. 

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Dave’s Food Corner

Before I started this online adventure I was diagnosed with LPR. Without going through a detailed explanation (click on the link if you want) I was told to lose weight and eat a very different diet – a low acidity, low-fat one. I have been on that diet for 8 weeks and lost 30 pound so far. No money jokes please! A few people have noticed and I do feel better because of it. Many of my friends and family have asked how I have done it and I attempt to explain to them my diet. It is low acid, low fat and I originally thought no fun and no taste. I was wrong. I had to rethink things quickly and being a decent cook,

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Told you I can cook! Homemade pasta

I set out to try to create my favourite foods without all the naughty bits . Thankfully it has worked pretty well and I thought it would be awesome to share it.

 

When I first started this diet there was not much information out there for recipes – well I couldn’t really find them that easily! I have had a few food disasters along the way, but as with all experiments there’s always a few hiccups to getting the results you want.

I love food. Simply put, bar my wife and kids, food has been the love of my life. It has never failed to make me happy at that those most desperate ‘life moments’. However, like any long-lasting relationships – my relationship with food has had its up and downs, just like my weight. The two are inextricably  linked. It’s just not fair…

I’ve been nagged by a few people to write my diet down and then a friend of mine (shout out to Nikki Walsh) said to put it in my blog. So to sound a little cliché – as I go on my food journey, I am going to share what works and hopefully some may be able to add to my recipe collection. I am a great believer in sharing ideas so if anyone has any more recipes that I can eat, please send them my way.  But before that I wanted to say a little bit about the one thing I have had to say goodbye to….

My Chocolate Divorce

‘Chocolate is nature’s way of making up for Mondays’ 

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Chocolate is most certainly the most delicious and the most evil substance on this earth for me.  Believe it or not, I have driven miles in the middle of the night to satisfy a craving for this sweet delight! I have specific memories linked and triggered by chocolate..sounds silly and over exaggerated I know…sadly it is completely true! When I think of a Mars bar, I think of a school trip when I was 11 and going on a 5 mile walk. I ate three on the way round. When I think of Cadbury’s Fuse, I think of Friday nights watching Fawlty Towers with Basil Fawlty. There’s many more but I won’t bore you. By my own admission, it is ridiculous and weird, but also mildly fascinating to discover how my mind works. I hope I am not the only one, in fact I am sure I’m not. Needless to say, giving up this lovely has been difficult – more difficult than giving up fags and developing an exercise habit (still working on the latter).

Like many divorces, there has been a splitting of assets: I have lost pounds, saved £££’s on avoiding expensive shopping excursions and I am now left bitter and twisted. I am kidding obviously. For those of you that enjoy chocolate and can still eat it, I envy you! Yet I am still glad I can’t eat it anymore  – in fact it is easy when you can’t eat it for medical reasons. For those of you that want to lose some weight like I am at the moment, putting this item on hold for a little while is obviously a sensible idea, or at least, eat smaller amounts. As I wrote that last line, I had a memory of when going on a school trip and spending £28.65 on chocolate to eat on the way to Alton Towers. Told you it was a weird thing. Anyway, I can tell I am starting to waffle on so I will end with this. Farewell my dear friend chocolate…you were fun!

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I will post my first recipe soon….. Spice Friendly Curry (Low Fat) – I can’t eat spicy food anymore. This was a breakthrough recipe!!