Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The last supper

Day 23 - final day 

Then: 220 pounds (15 stones 10 pounds) 
Now: 204 pounds (14 stones 8 pounds) 
Lost: 16 pounds (1 stone 2 pounds) 

Our fridge contains one last vanilla yoghurt - ready for my breakfast on the way to the airport tomorrow morning. 

It's a fitting symbol for the end of this diet. These Fruyo greek yoghurts are far from diet-friendly. They may be "fat free", but they are full of sugar, not artificial sweeteners. Yet they are one of the reasons this diet has been a success: they are delicious and satisfying, and I like them now just as much as I did at the beginning. 

There hasn't been a day when I've been so hungry I've raided the chocolate box or have felt faint from lack of proper nutrition. Sure, we've been strict with ourselves:  no bread, pasta, flour or potatoes throughout;  very little alcohol and no fruit in the first two weeks; minimum of sugar and fats, high protein, only good carbs.  As a result, we've experimented with a range of satisfying new recipes, most of which are listed in this blog. We've followed the 5 basic rules I laid down at the beginning of April, which transformed themselves into 7 rules due to my inability to anticipate the effect of dinner parties with friends or the overwhelming desire for a beer when you've been gardening. 

In these 3 weeks I've gone from a BMI of 31.5 to 28, and lost 7.2% of my bodyweight. I feel lighter and have a spring in my step. I didn't feel out of breath when I ran to save my car from a parking warden this morning.
Baked salmon, asparagus, spinach, fresh mayonnaise

And this lightest of suppers, our last diet supper, very hurriedly put together in less than 10 minutes from opening the fridge door to plating up (which includes making the fresh mustard mayonnaise on top of the salmon*), has filled me up in a way that it never would have done just three weeks ago. Result.

*Salmon:  cut slit in skin, sprinkle in salt, coat with olive oil, black pepper.  Put skin side down in very hot pan for 3 minutes, then turn and pop into hot oven for 4-5 minutes;  Spinach: heat olive oil with 1 large clove garlic, halved lengthwise, throw in washed spinach, season and cook quickly for 2 minutes, strain through kitchen roll.  Place next to salmon with quickly cooked asparagus spears.  Mayonnaise: 1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard with 1 egg yolk, whisked together, then very slowly start to pour in 125ml groundnut oil until the mixture emulsifies;  when about halfway through adding the oil, mix in 1 tsp lemon juice and less than 1 tsp white wine vinegar, with a pinch of salt and some ground white pepper.  Whisk in rest of oil.  Put one tbsp on top of baked salmon and throw rest away if, like me, you're going on holiday.  Because fresh mayonnaise only keeps for a day.  But it tastes divine.

Monday, April 22, 2013

One more day

Day 22  

Then: 220 pounds (15 stone 10 pounds) 
Now: 204 pounds (14 stone 8 pounds) 
Lost: 16 pounds (1 stone 2 pounds) 

There's now just one more day to the end of this diet. 

My target was to lose 10 pounds in 3 weeks.  I've more than achieved that: 16 pounds shed, and it seems to be holding firm, despite the wine of the Sunday lunch. 

In 48 hours we'll be on a plane to the wedding. Until then, I'm playing safe. This was my working lunch today: 

Working lunch

It was leftover chicken breasts from last night's meal, and some salad. Tomorrow, I'll be rushing around: I have to edit a programme, then come back to pack and do last minute preparations for the trip. 

I also have rows of potatoes to plant in the garden before we leave. Not that I have any plans to eat them: this diet has worked largely because of the lack of any bread, pasta or potatoes. But in August, when they are ready for harvesting, who knows how much I will weigh. And I wonder if the lure of homegrown baby potatoes, lifted straight from the ground and served dripping with butter, will get the better of me. I suspect so. 

Anyway, there's no pretending but the diet will be blown the moment we hit the plane on Wednesday morning. It's not just the airline food; it's the knowledge that we're about to indulged by my inlaws who will already have the red wine bottles opened ready for our arrival. But there'll be no guilt: one final light meal tomorrow and I'll be ready for anything California can throw at me.  In the meantime, one final weigh-in.  And the sweet smell of success.  Sugar free, of course.   

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A big sunday lunch

Day 21 

Then: 220 pounds (15 stones 10 pounds) 
Now: 204 pounds (14 stones 8 pounds) 
Lost: 16 pounds (1 stone 2 pounds) 

Today we hosted Sunday lunch for our neighbours. They knew we were on a diet, so arrived expecting the worst. I think they were pleasantly surprised. 

It was a late lunch, so for breakfast I had fruyo vanilla yoghurt (boy am I hooked on that stuff) and cardboard. Cardboard is oatmeal (not porridge oats) cooked in water with pinch of salt, just a dessertspoon of milk, and a tiny squeeze of light agave syrup. Without the agave it tastes just like its nickname.

For lunch, we mostly had champagne and red wine. Quite a few glasses of both, because we were celebrating the arrival of Spring, two months late. 

But the food was very good too: 

Jo served a starter of tiny chinese lettuce cups. The little gem leaves were filled with little cubes of fillet steak, which she'd sauteed with finely chopped fresh ginger, garlic, red pepper, coriander, and a glug of ginger chili sauce to make it sticky and sweet at the end. She sprinkled them with fresh spring onion and smashed cashew nuts. 

The main course was chicken breasts, pounded flat, seasoned, and stuffed with a mixture of pesto, half fat sour cream and a little shredded mozzarella, then dipped in egg and a mix of spelt flour, parmesan and ground almonds. We could have used almond flour if we'd had any. They were baked for about half an hour till brown on top, and served with broccoli, sauteeed with chili and lemon. 

Finally, a treat for dessert: fresh berries. Yeah - fruit at last!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A hunk of halibut

Day 20 

Then: 220 pounds (15 stones 10 pounds) 
Now: 205 pounds (14 stones 9 pounds) 
Lost: 15 pounds (1 stone 1 pound) 

My fishmonger sold me a slice of halibut yesterday. 

No, not a slice, a slab. A hunk of halibut, enough for six people. 

There were three of us for lunch: Jo, me and Mum. Mum is a traditionalist: she likes halibut steaks cooked in sage butter with little new potatoes in butter and some nice green beans coated in butter. 

Mum doesn't understand why people go on diets. She thinks there's no point agonising over what we eat: we should eat what's good for us, and what's good for us is good, unprocessed, natural food, preferably cooked the way I generally do: in loads of butter. That philosophy doesn't exactly work for this diet. 

Of course there's no arguing with Mum; not just because she won't listen, but because you can't win. You can't win because the only argument to use against her is "it's better for you and you'll live longer".  And she has already disproved that theory.

Mum is 92. I don't know anyone who's lived longer than her;  I don't know anyone who looks as good as her over the age of 80 and yet by her own admission, she's been a pound or two over her "ideal" weight for the last 65 years. She lives on her own, is completely independent, fiercely opinionated, and only stopped driving when I put my foot down and threatened to tear up her licence. She is a phenomenon. And she likes the way I cook halibut with sage butter. 

Today, after helping me out in the garden, she stayed for lunch.  I thought she might have been less than impressed with our menu: halibut with a parsley and coriander paste crust, vegetable quinoa and baked kale with parmesan. Hippy food, I'd call it.  She was more polite;  she didn't comment or wince.  But then she tasted it. 

Halibut with chermoula crust

Jo had marinated the whole hunk in our new discovery: the chermoula paste Jo used in the vegetables yesterday, which is a Moroccan paste made from spicy coriander and parsley. Jo fried the fish skin side down for a few minutes, then turned it and seared the other side, then we turned it back, covered it with a chermoula crust, and popped it in a hot oven for a quarter of an hour. 

Vegetable quinoa

Before that, she'd baked some finely chopped kale (see April 7th 2013) but this time, instead of lemon, she sprinkled it with a little grated parmesan. She baked it in an oven at 170 degrees for about 20 minutes.  

Finally, she made an excellent and tasty quinoia, cooked in an organic garlic and herb vegetable stock, with some spring onions, coriander, parsley, sliced almonds and garlic. It was all delicious. 

It may not have been a traditional way of cooking this noble fish, but Mum pronounced the halibut quite the best she'd ever tasted.  

She was right: it was a triumph.  And Jo and I had both lost another pound this morning: that's 15 for me and 6 for Jo. Which, given that she is roughly half my weight, and in my view doesn't need to lose anything at all, is a real achievement for this diet.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

A new rule

Day 19  

Then: 220 pounds (15 stones 10 pounds) 
Now: 206 pounds (14 stones 10 pounds) 
Lost: 14 pounds (1 stone) 

Lunchtime today was a chicken caesar salad without the caesar dressing. I guess that made it a chicken salad. I added jalapenos for interest. Amazing what the humble chili pepper can do to liven up a dull plate. 

Then, from my favourite fishmonger I bought the freshest, deep red tuna. Jo transformed it into a fantastic supper: 

Marinated tuna with Chermoula vegetables

She marinaded the tuna in organic mirin, Japanese plum seasoning (not plum sauce - this is a salt replacement with class), chili flakes and a little chili oil - no salt or pepper.  Then Jo quickly seared the thing so it was red right through the middle. With a squeeze of lime: perfect.

The vegetables consisted of sauteed shallots, chopped courgettes, 1 chopped mild green chili, and 2 thinly sliced endive/chicory (1 red, 1 white), to which she added a new magic ingredient - a dessertspoonful of Moroccan Chermoula paste: 

This is a spicy fusion of coriander and parsley. Both unusual and delicious. Altogether a great diet meal.  

I celebrated with a glass of very good red wine. Yes, I'm in the third week - wine is back, a glass every other day.  Well, that's what I'm telling myself.  That's the joy of making up your own diet: nobody tells you what to do, so you can break your own rules - or just invent a new one:

Rule 8:  After the second week, if you've lost a stone, enjoy a glass of wine every other day.  But only if it's really good quality.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

6.4% of my body has disappeared!

Day 18  

Then: 220 pounds (15 stones 10 pounds) 
Now: 206 pounds (14 stones 10 pounds) 
Lost: 14 pounds (1 stone) 

In just 2 weeks I've lost 6.4% of my bodyweight. This despite several restaurant meals, two very evil dinners, and about 10 units of alcohol. And I don't feel hungry (often), or grumpy, and I haven't turned grey, unlike my pallid complexion when I was on the Dukan diet in 2010. 

But I am going to slow down the weight loss now. After losing roughly a pound a day, I'm going to add a little fruit into my diet, and some rather heavier carbs. Like oatmeal in the morning, and maybe a grapefruit at lunchtime. 

That's tomorrow, though. Today's lunch was yesterday's leftover turkey peppers. 

Tonight Jo produced another recipe she invented from an idea in Kalyn's Kitchen (she adapts because Kalyn uses processed foods like turkey sausage, and bottled sauces while we only make our own, and her food is rather bland - we like a little more sparkle to our dining): 

Hamburger frittata

Hamburger frittata. Which is basically Jo's normal frittata with added very lean minced beef (10% fat).  

She sauteed red onions while marinating the meat in Worcestershire sauce garlic powder, salt and pepper, adding about a  tablespoon of chopped jalapenos to give it bite. She browned the meat with the onions then put the mixture in a small frittata pan with the eggs and some chopped mushrooms.  After mixing it all up, she added low fat grated cheddar and popped it in an oven at 200 degrees centigrade for 12 minutes.  

She made a spicy ketchup topping with an organic low sugar ketchup mixed with spicy chili sauce, and brushed it on top during the last five minutes of cooking.  It all baked together and certainly worked - I had three portions (which is allowed -- it was virtually fat free, after all).  

Looking forward to the grapefruit tomorrow.  Or maybe porridge for breakfast?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A milestone gained is 14 pounds lost

Day 17  

Then: 220 pounds (15 stone 10 pounds) 
Now: 206 pounds (14 stone 10 pounds) 
Lost: 14 pounds 

Well, there it is: a stone lost in 16 days. That's 14 pounds to my American readers. Result!

All helped by this kind of food, tonight cooked by my dear wife: 

Turkey peppers with grilled endive

Red and green peppers, stuffed with ground turkey, red onion, bits of pepper, a red chilli, some Worcestershire sauce for flavour, and baked with love. Oh, and cheese on the top. She says this recipe was inspired by Kalyn's Kitchen, which has lots of South Beach recipes: www.kalynskitchen.com.

I made some more grilled endive, like the other night. You cut them in half, brush the cut side with olive oil, salt and pepper, put them cut side down into an incredibly hot pan, for about 2 minutes till they're smoking, brush the uncut side with oil, salt and pepper, turn them over and pop them into the oven for 4 or 5 minutes till they're firm, but just starting to wilt at the edges. A great combination with the turkey peppers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Green Meal

Day 16  

Then: 200 pounds (15 stones 10 pounds) 
Now: 207 pounds (14 stones 11 pounds) 
Lost: 13 pounds 

With the blip of Friday night's dinner party just a delicious, intoxicated, fading memory, we're back on target. 

Now I'm back at work daily after the Easter holiday break, lunchtimes are normally reduced to roast chicken on a bed of salad. Today I forgot to coordinate with Jo, so when I got home, there was more chicken - but it was a treat: 

Green Chicken and Green Beans
She'd made chicken breasts cut into small fillets, covered in fresh pesto (apparently the pecorino isn't too diet-unfriendly as it's a hard cheese) and then topped with parmesan and, less diet-friendly, a little mozzarella. This recipe came from Kalyn's Kitchen: www.kalynskitchen.com

with Green Salad
It was rather green, and so too were the green beans she made with toasted almonds, garlic and shallots, and the salad tossed in the lightest of dressings. But green is good, I can see my chin again, and various parts of my body that disappeared from view long ago.  

We celebrated with a small glass of very good red wine.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Feeling Virtuous

Day 15 

Then: 220 pounds (15 stones 10 pounds) 
Now: 208 pounds (14 stones 12 pounds) 
Lost: 12 pounds 

Today was a difficult day: morning on a train with free food. Lunch in my club in London. Dinner with my son and his fiancee in a pub. 

Today I am allowed a little alcohol for the first time in two weeks. I know - I've broken that rule four times. But hey, I'm human. 

And right now I'm feeling very virtuous. Because here's what I could have eaten today: 
  • Breakfast on train (free) - full English, including 2 sausages, with extra toast, butter, marmalade and croissants, orange juice 
  • Lunch - the pasta with salmon and cream looked really good 
  • Early Supper (6pm) - my son had steak and chips, with extra ketchup, mayo and mustard. 
  • Late supper on Train (9pm - free)- Gin and tonic, with crisps followed by Steak and stout pie and creamy mashed potato of course, and sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce and Creme Fraiche. 

Here's what I actually ate: 
  • Breakfast - porridge and black coffee 
  • Lunch -

    poached haddock on a bed of green beans with tiny brown prawns and a tomato, spring onion and olive oil dressing 
  • Supper - slices of rare roast beef with some salad. 

Here's a picture of me not eating the potatoes in the salad (there were more potatoes than salad:

  • Late supper on train (free) - I didn't actually need this, but I hate turning down freebies, so I had Fillet of sea bass and broccoli. No potatoes or caper and lemon butter. Aren't I good? No - I had a glass of white wine. But I turned down three others - they positively pour it down you on the East Coast line. And then they kept offering me cheese.  Don't they understand how hard it is to say no?
Let's hope the scales appreciate my efforts at tomorrow's weigh-in.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

13 pounds in 13 days

Day 14 

Then: 220 pounds (15 stone 10 pounds)
Now: 207 pounds (14 stone 11 pounds) 
Lost: 13 pounds 

13 pounds lost in just 13 days. I was feeling so smug at weigh-in this morning.

However today, I risked undoing all the good with another fat-filled restaurant meal. 

I also had a beer, which I justified to myself only because I spent 2 hours watching Newcastle lose the local derby match to Sunderland by 3 goals to nil. That result rather took the edge off my diet euphoria to say the least. This whole city is now in depression.  As, doubtless will I be at tomorrow's weigh-in.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Gardening with sole

Day 13  

Then: 220 pounds (15 stones 10 pounds) 
Now: 208 pounds (14 stones 12 pounds) 
Lost: 12 pounds 

So I held steady after the big dinner party. And today, back to the diet with a vengeance. Gardening all day with homemade turkey slices and salad for lunch, then this for supper: 

Baked (very fast, having quickly seared it) Dover sole with Jo's Chickpeas a la Diet: sautee chopped red, yellow and orange pepper (1/3rd of a pepper each) with 1 red onion and 1 chopped spicy red chili;  add 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon turmeric, add chickpeas - cook till tasty.  Add a small handful of coriander leaves.  I think I put too many chickpeas on my plate, above, but I did do a lot of gardening.  And no beer or wine tonight.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The milestone approaches

Day 12 

Then: 220 pounds (15 stones 10 pounds) 
Now: 208 pounds (14 stones 12 pounds) 
Lost: 12 pounds 

This North East diet has taken just 11 days to lose 12 pounds. The Dukan Diet took me 22 days to reach the same level. 

It's not just quick weight loss that makes our homemade North East diet twice as effective as the one that's made Dr Dukan a millionaire. It's the fact that, unlike last time, I've been allowed a wide variety of delicious and interesting recipes, including plenty of good carbs. 

I feel alive rather than permanently tired; I haven't turned green; and, most of all, I don't feel remotely hungry. Dukan made me exhausted, irritable, with constant cravings and by this stage Jo was really worried about the colour of my skin, an indication that his diet wasn't properly balanced. This one clearly is. 

So, for anyone who wants to lose a lot of weight very quickly, I really recommend you follow our recipes over the last 12 days. For those who've just joined this blog, spin down to April 1st 2013: that's when it all began. 

I'm carrying on at this rate for the next few days until I've lost a stone in total (14 pounds), then I shall be slowing down the rate of loss by adding a little fruit, more fat and perhaps some alcohol to the diet. I intended to reach 200 pounds (a loss of 20 pounds) by the end of the month - still a further two pounds a week. 

Then I shall stabilise at that level and eat relatively carefully through the summer. If I persevere, who knows where I shall end up. 

Today it was Fruyo for breakfast (I'm kind of hooked on this delicious Greek yoghurt: it comes in peach and vanilla) and slices of my delicious home-roasted turkey breast for lunch. 

However, last night we fell off the diet big time. We knew it was coming: another dinner party with friends that was arranged months ago. 

Our hosts served quite North East diet-friendly food: a light soup, and tuna with rice (which I left on the plate). But then a rhubarb trifle arrived. 

You can't ignore a rhubarb trifle, or any dessert at a dinner party thrown by people you really like. You certainly can't reject it: that would be too rude after they have gone to all that trouble. And you can't just have a spoonful and leave the rest, as you can in a restaurant, for they'd be sure you didn't like it, however much you protested that it was down to your diet. So there was nothing for it but to eat the lot. Jo did too, and pronounced it quite the nicest pudding she'd ever tried. 

Naturally, my generous host poured alcohol into my glass all night: from champagne when we arrived, fine white wine, dessert wine with the trifle, and armagnac. Jo drove home. This is going to be a disaster. 

Based on last Saturday's experience, I don't expect an immediate increase in weight, but I do expect a substantial increase in my appetite cravings - that's the effect of the alcohol and fruit and cream in the trifle. But at least I know that this diet can cope with the blip, as it did last week. Even if this blip was enormous, I am determined to stay strong.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Losing It

Day 11  

Then: 220 pounds (15 stones 10 pounds) 
Now: 210 pounds (15 stone) 
Lost: 10 pounds 

10 days - 10 pounds. This diet knocks Dukan out of the water. 

What's really good about the way we're eating is that the combination of low fat but varied meals, with plenty of good carbs, is really suppressing my appetite. 

So today I had no desire to nibble at one of Izzy's chocolate croissants, or have one of the lovely pink grapefruits that are lying unloved in the fruit bowl. 

Instead, breakfast was black coffee (I have at least two double espressos every morning, usually more), a peach fruyo yoghurt, and lunch was a pile of delicious smoked salmon - as much as I could fit in a sandwich of two large romaine lettuce leaves. 

I'm also continuing to drink lots of water (by lots, I mean around 2 litres a day). I only drink water when I'm thirsty, though, unlike some diets that force you to drink the stuff. This one makes you thirsty much of the day (I don't know if it's the fruyo, as I said before, or maybe just the change in my metabolism), so I'm happy to drink huge glasses, one of which can fill me up for an hour or so. 

One of the problems is snacking: the trick of this diet is to have small meals, so you need something to keep your brain going in between. Under Dukan, I went through packets of those chicken slices you get in supermarkets, which he encourages you to eat. But look on the packet: they're full of additives and preservatives.

So this afternoon Jo went to our local butcher and bought a huge (8 pound) turkey breast - the kind they sell to restaurants, piled I it with strips of bacon (yes, I wasn't going to eat it, but you need to keep turkey breast moist when you cook it), popped it in the oven for half an hour at 200 degrees, then covered it in foil and decreased the temperature to 180, for an hour and a half, then reduced further to 140 for another 30 minutes, then switched the oven off to let, and took it out three hours after I started.  Out came the most moist, additive-free snack food -- enough to last for the next week. 

I had a few turkey slices this evening before I went out to watch Newcastle being knocked out of the cup by Benfica. It was an exciting, tense match. I guess I'll have lost another pound just through football fan stress. And I confess I had a beer at half-time to calm my nerves. Newcastle so nearly won, but Benfica scored a goal in injury time and our Europa Cup hopes were dashed. 

When I got home it was well after 10pm - far too late for dinner. But I foolishly started cooking: soon the wonderful smell of the freshest swordfish permeated the house and Jo and I sat down to this just 10 minutes later: 

Grilled swordfish with mint, sweet cabbage and chili courgettes
 Swordfish marinated in just a little olive oil, squeeze of lemon, and chopped fresh mint, grilled on the hob in a ridged skillet, then popped in the oven for a few minutes. Baby courgettes sauteed in olive oil, chili flakes, lemon rind and a handful of chopped fresh mint, with seasoning. Sweet cabbage: made by sweating a shallot in a little olive oil, adding thinly sliced and washed (wet) white cabbage, two teaspoonfuls of cumin seeds, and a big splash (about 40ml) of Pernod, salt and pepper. Reduce till the smell of Pernod turns into a sweet, aromatic scent and the cabbage is cooked. 

A perfect light supper.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Back on track

Day 10  

Then: 220 pounds (15 stones 10 pounds) 
Now: 211 pounds (15 stones 1 pound) 
Lost: 9 pounds 

Yes! Another 2 pounds lost, and the hunger has receded. Today I feel almost euphoric.

Jo is too, she came bouncing in this morning and announced that she has lost 4 pounds. Given that she is roughly half my size, it's an amazing result for both of us. Except we've only completed 9 days of this diet, and there are a lot of pounds to go.  Literally.  So, with renewed enthusiasm, we carry on. 

At lunchtime, we had artichoke salad and smoked trout. Then, this evening, Jo made a lightweight teriyaki chicken. Without most of the teriyaki - i.e. no sugar or mirin. 

It's quite similar to a Jamie Oliver recipe for salmon I like, except that his has gallons of honey. Jo seasoned the chicken breasts with garlic powder, salt and pepper.  She then prepared a marinade comprising a teaspoonful of agave syrup (which is as sweet as honey but rather more diet-friendly), some organic low-sodium soy sauce and juice from a piece of ginger pressed so that the juices flowed into the sauce. This she poured over the chicken and left to marinate for an hour or so. 

Seared in a skillet for 3 minutes each side, the chicken was then popped in the oven for 6 minutes. She served it with thinly sliced spring onion and red chili on top.  She said she would have added coriander leaves if we had any - we've rather hit the coriander plant over the last few days.  

She served it on a bed of lentils with some broccoli spears on the side. It was both light, tasty and filling.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fighting back

Day 9  

Then: 220 pounds (15 stone 10 pounds) 
Now: 213 pounds (15 stone 1 pound) 
Lost: 7 pounds 

The last few days have confirmed the "theory" behind our diet, which works on the basis of killing off appetite and eating well. 

For 5 days I had been following it rigorously, and had not felt a pang of hunger beyond day 2. That was down to the careful balance of good carbs and lots of protein, with virtually no fat. Then I had two illegal meals, the dinner party on Saturday night and the business lunch on Monday, and, despite the increased calorific intake, I've been starving ever since. And I put on two pounds.

The sugars, fats and fruits in the meals woke up my body to the cravings that kept me fat. I now have to kill the cravings again. 

This is the most difficult phase of the diet. Today I've been rigorous: I had to, with the photograph only three weeks away. 

So I had just a vanilla fruyo yoghurt for breakfast (a miracle cure, by the way - it staves off hunger for 3 hours), then a smoked salmon and watercress salad for lunch.  For supper, Jo made Piri Piri Steak: 

The steak is sirloin, cooked medium rare on the bone. 

Jo's piri-piri sauce was made by gently cooking red onions and red peppers with a little oil and lots of ginger together on the hob. Then she added sliced button mushrooms and a glug of piri-piri sauce. 

It was served with a simple green salad with white balsamic dressing:

I made this with one finely sliced shallot, combined with one tablespoon of the vinegar and two of olive oil, with salt and pepper. 

We had baked kale on the side: 

This is thinly sliced kale (make sure it's dry) sprinkled with coarse sea salt and olive oil, placed in the convection oven on a very slow heat (about 120 degrees) for an hour till it crisps up under the hot air - a bit like the "seaweed" you get in chinese restaurants, which is usually made with cabbage. Ever so slightly bitter, but a very nice contrast to the mushroom sauce.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Evil lunch and guilty supper

Day 8 

Then: 220 pounds (15 stone 10 pounds) 
Now: 211 pounds (15 stone 1 pound) 
Lost: 9 pounds 

Rule 7: Don't go to business lunches during the first two weeks of the diet. 

Oh dear. A heavy business lunch today that I simply couldn't refuse - including, I confess, steak and kidney pie. After thick soup. And wine. And I had to have the creme brulee, didn't I? 

I really fear for my weigh-in tomorrow.  This morning I was delighted that, despite the excesses of Saturday night, I had lost another pound.  

I won't post pictures of the evil lunch - far too shameful. Instead, here's how I tried to limit the damage with the lightest supper I could put together: 

Guilty Supper

2 soft boiled eggs, some asparagus spears, and one halved endive (chicory) grilled on the hob and then popped in the oven for a few minutes. I put a very light balsamic dressing on top, and felt guilty all night as my stomach demanded more. That's the trouble with eating the wrong food during diets: it makes you hungrier again.  Deliciously simple, though, after all that excess.  But I'm not sure it's going to work.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

California Dreamin': Day 7

Day 7 

Then: 220 pounds (15 stone 10 pounds) 
Now: 212 pounds (15 stone 2 pounds)
Lost: 8 pounds 

Well, that wasn't a total disaster. After the fish pie, dessert and all that champagne, wine and brandy at last night's forbidden dinner party, I thought I'd have to start my diet all over again. In fact, I weighed the same as I had the previous morning. 8 pounds in 6 days is not as good as 8 pounds in 5 days, but I'm still impressed with the results.

I guess my body is in diet mode. Or maybe there's a delayed reaction and I'll have problems tomorrow. Today we're back on the rules in earnest. If I've kept the weight stable, I'm going to add a new rule to our list:

Rule 6:  You are allowed one completely illegal meal, and only one, in the first week.  But don't do it again.

This morning, a late brunch - and a wonderful concoction by Jo. She calls it California Dreamin'

California Dreamin'

It's basically marinated tofu in garlic and chilli sauce. It manages to be spicy and sweet at the same time. 

She chopped 1 red pepper, 1 green chili (the Waitrose "not too hot, not too mild" type) and 2 shallots. These were sauteed in a wok with peanut oil. She added tofu and cooked it for 6 minutes. 

She then added 1 drained tin of Epicure organic black beans, a tiny sprinkling of granulated garlic powder, some coriander, and 6 hot and sweet Mexican red japapenos. 

These jalapenos are the secret ingredient and make it such a special dish.  They come in a jar from the Discovery brand. They are outstanding, with their mix of hot and sweet flavours. A generous sprinkling of black pepper, mixed together and heated through, and, with sliced avocado on top, it made a perfect Sunday brunch. 

Later in the day, after I watched Newcastle beat Fulham at St James' Park, I cooked another very fast supper. This time, it was baked halibut with seared scallops with a sauce vierge, and curly kale with shallots and lemon zest. 

Baked halibut with sauce vierge, seared scallops and kale with lemon

Here's how I make my sauce vierge: I put about 85ml olive oil in a small pan, and gently warm it. Then I add 25ml lemon juice and combine them off the heat.

Into this warm sauce I add one teaspoonful of coriander seeds crushed in a pestle and mortar, and about 10 julienned basil leaves. I leave these to soak, making sure the pan is on a warm, unlit stove, so it keeps above room temperature, for about five minutes, or as long as it takes the fish to cook. Just before serving I add some tiny cubes of tomato, with the skin and seeds removed, and some finely sliced olives (just 3 or 4) and about 8 good quality small capers. Stirred around, it makes a great warm sauce for any fish.  

Last night I cooked the scallops last and very fast, in the oil and juices left in the halibut pan.  They quickly seared, and were the stars of the meal.

The kale was made by boiling it for 6 minutes (until the green just starts to enter the water), and then sauteeing it fast in a pan in which you've already sweated a single shallot and a few thinly sliced garlic gloves. You add lemon zest strips, made with a zester, and add plenty of pepper once the kale is perfectly tender.  

The secret of this dish is the quality and freshness of the wild halibut - it was a very large fish landed from the trawler in North Shields on Thursday and I had the fishmonger* slice it across its width, and about an inch wide as I wanted it to cover the plate - you could have used a square piece as well, but it was important that it was thick so it kept its moisture. Moisture is everything with halibut and, being unable to flour it because of the diet, I seared the skin first, then very quickly turned the three other sides in the hot pan before sticking it, side down, in a hot oven for less time than it took to prepare the sauce, which was no time at all. 

Normally I cook halibut by flouring it, searing in sage butter and baking, but the butter permeates the fish, and that's strictly forbidden on this diet.  Only last week I cooked some beautiful halibut steaks for a dinner party at home with some lightly curried mussels, finished with a quantity of creme fraiche.  That was extraordinary.  But tonight's attempt wasn't at all bad, and totally legal for our rather demanding, but effective diet. At least I hope it's effective:  let's see what tomorrow's weigh-in brings. 

*Sadly Paul the fishmonger told me he was closing down next month.  A tragedy for him and for me.  I already travel 20 miles for proper fresh fish, now I'll have to go another 10 in future.  Incidentally, fish from Waitrose, or Morrisons, or Gelsons if you're reading this in America, doesn't count as fresh in my book.  Fresh means brought from the fishing boat that morning.  See my tirade in this week's Blog From The North.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The dinner party

Day 6  

Then: 220 pounds (15 stone 10 pounds)
Now: 212 pounds (15 stone 2 pounds)
Lost: 8 pounds 

That's ludicrous: 8 pounds lost in just 5 days. My tiredness has gone, my jaw is coming back.  I actually feel rather good.

However, we've encountered a big problem: last night we were invited to a dinner party. There's no way we could say we're on an alcohol-free, wheat and pasta-free low fat diet. That would be far too rude, and our hosts were really lovely people who will have made a big effort. 


However, to ensure we wouldn't be tempted to ask for seconds, I knocked up a substantial lunch of pan-fried (with almost no olive oil, put onto the skin, and not into the pan), and a sliced red onion, 2 sliced garlic cloves, sprig of rosemary and some baby plum tomatoes, roasted slowly in the oven. I served this on a bed of spinach, wilted with a tiny amount of olive oil and a clove of garlic. 

Very adequate. 

We had a delightful evening. Several glasses of champagne, white wine, brandy, thick winter vegetable soup and fish pie followed by fruit tart with cream. Everything forbidden. Surely one meal can't undo all the good of the last five days? I'm rather fearful of the weigh-in tomorrow morning...

Friday, April 5, 2013

Jazzing it up

Day 5  

Then: 220 pounds (15 stone 10 pounds) 
Now: 213 pounds (15 stone 3 pounds) 
Lost: 7 pounds 

Jo's Breakfast Frittata

For breakfast, Jo made a thin frittata with half an onion, green chillies, courgettes and low fat cheese, mixed up on low heat with 5 eggs and then popped in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. She served it on a bed of spinach, onions and garlic.  And avocado and tomato (with basil).

In the evening, we were rushing out to a jazz festival, so we had "Thrown-together Supper": 

Thrown Together Supper
This is simply roasted chicken with a light honey and soy glaze plonked on salad with a few thin slices of low fat feta, and dressed with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. It was filling enough to see us through three hours of jazz, and enough chicken left over for a cold snack at midnight.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Avoiding the pizza

Day 4  

Then: 220 pounds (15 stone 10 pounds) 
Now: 214 pounds (15 stone 3 pounds) 
Lost: 6 pounds 

6 pounds in 3 days. That's quite a spectacular result. And for some reason I don't appear to have withdrawal symptoms yet: just a much reduced appetite. 

Breakfast this morning was just a yoghurt with coffee.  At lunchtime Jo put together these delicious tuna lettuce cups: 

To tuna in water (not oil), she added one teaspoon of Dijon mustard, one (just one!) teaspoon of mayonnaise, some chopped capers and a little finely chopped fennel. She put this in baby gem cups with baby tomatoes on the top and avocado on the side, all liberally sprinkled with black pepper. A delicious light lunch. 

In the evening Jo and Izzy went off to watch Cinderella on Ice, while I had a meeting on the other side of the county. 

Jo said she successfully resisted the lure of Pizza Express: she didn't touch a piece of Izzy's pizza. Coincidentally, at my meeting the clients produced boxes of pizza too. Of course I declined, explaining I was on diet, and had just three weeks to lose some weight. 

One of my female clients, without really thinking, looked at me and exclaimed "Only 3 weeks!!?" The room fell about laughing and the lady was consumed with apologies. My goal is to reach a situation where, when I tell people about my diet, they look shocked not because they don't believe I'm on one, but because they don't think I need to be.

So I eschewed the pizza, and my clients chewed the lot. The room smelled of American Hot and Four Seasons all night. 

Afterwards, I returned home and Newcastle were playing Benfica in the Europa Cup. At half time I decided to make a very quick supper (I gave myself 20 minutes, so I wouldn't miss any of the game). I threw two shallots in a pan with a small amount of olive oil, then after a few minutes 3 chopped garlic cloves, some chili flakes and finely sliced celery. Once they'd settled in I added a pound of very lean ground beef of very good quality.   Once the meat had browned I then put in a glug of our new secret ingredient: 

Lingham's Ginger Garlic Chilli Sauce, which has a nice mild piquancy. I added some chinese rice wine and a tablespoon or so of Tamari soy sauce. This reduced to a delicious sweet and spicy dish, which I piled onto big romaine leaves. I took Jo at her word: she said you can eat as much as you want. So I ate three quarters of it, largely to cheer myself up, because Newcastle lost the match. Hopefully the loss will extend to my weight by tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Mexican Comfort Food

Day 3  

Then: 220 pounds (15 stone 10 pounds) 
Now: 216 pounds (15 stone 6 pounds) 
Lost: 4 pounds 

Well, this is even better. 

Despite the frugal diet, about a thousand calories less than I normally consume, I don't feel particularly hungry. Though I do feel rather tired. All the time. 

Jo is basing her menus on one of the fad American diets of the noughties that talks about "good carbs" and "good fats". Except that she doesn't mention this when she gives me one of her delightful concoctions. 

We have a light breakfast of either eggs or fruyo yoghurt, we lunch on fish or chicken, with either salad or a crunchy vegetable like broccoli, and in the evening we try to do imaginative things with anything that doesn't have butter, or flour, or any derivatives thereof. 

We eat early now and, because we can eat as much as we like (and I do), I don't have any cravings at all, unlike both of my previous diets. 

Tonight's supper she called Mexican comfort food: 

Mexican Comfort Food

She put little pieces of chicken breast in a bowl with a marinade of 1 tablespoon of ground cumin and just under a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger, together with 3 fresh chopped-up green chillies from Waitrose (medium to mild heat) and a load of fresh coriander, mixed up with peanut oil. 

While that was marinating away, she found a can of big Mexican Poblano chilli peppers in the larder, and whizzed 2 of them in a blender with 1 shallot, about 3 cloves of garlic, another handful of coriander and a thumber of ginger. She also added 2 teaspoons of Total Sweet, which is a 100% natural sugar substitute. It's xylitol, a natural extract which is found in birchwood, and can be used exactly like sugar both in coffee and in cooking, except it has 75% less available carbohydrates and 40% fewer calories. Unlike aspartame, it tastes of sugar, not chemicals. 

Jo also added a little white balsamic to this sauce (to balance the bitterness of the poblano chillies), and she put a little peanut oil in the blender. Afterwards she added a little water to loosen it. 

She preheated the oven to high, then browned the chicken in a pan, added the sauce and reduced it, then bunged in a can of pinto beans and carried on cooking until the chicken was cooked through. Then she added a heaped tablespoon of Greek yoghurt (to replace the sour cream used in normal Mexican cooking). She poured the lot into a casserole dish, and put lots of reduced fat cheese on top. this baked for 20 minutes till it was brown on top, like a big lasagne. 

It was absolutely delicious and completely filling. 

The poblano chillies gave it a green tinge, but made it a wonderfully spicy

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Sweet and Spicy Salmon

Day 2

Then: 220 lbs (15st 10lbs) 
Now: 218 lbs (15st 8lbs) 
Lost: 2lbs 

Result. After just one day, two pounds have disappeared. 

Well, I know, that doesn't really mean anything. It just means my body is quickly burning up or discarding whatever excess fluids (mostly alcoholic) I forced into it on Easter Day. 

But the scales did make me quite cheerful this morning. 

Breakfast was a fruyo yoghurt, without the nuts. Then, for lunch, as I was at work, I had cold chicken on a dry salad. It wasn't worth photographing. 

But dinner certainly was: 

Tom's salmon with sweet and spicy Pernod cabbage and wilted baby gem

I was in charge this time. 

I fried up two sliced shallots in some olive oil, added chilli flakes, four sliced garlic, one and a half thinly sliced fennel bulbs, and added one thinly sliced red pepper. 

I then sliced some white cabbage really thinly, and added this, with a squirt of Pernod (around 30ml). I put the lid on, then shook it around, until the Pernod and the vegetable juices had combined into the sweetest, most delicious jus. 

Meanwhile I seared the seasoned salmon, skin side down, quickly but thoroughly in a very hot frying pan, then turned it over and baked it in a hot oven for a few minutes. This gave the top of the salmon (which was now on the bottom) a very thin orange crust. 

After 4 or 5 minutes, I took the pan out of the oven and the salmon out of the pan, and threw in two halves of a red baby gem lettuce (cut down the middle), and caramelised them rapidly. The lettuce was bitter, which is what I needed against the sweetness of the vegetables. I poured some of the vegetable jus over it before I deskinned and put the fish, orange-side up on top. Sweet and spicy, orange, pink green, red and white. Perfect.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The North East Diet - Rules and Lettuce Wraps

Day 1

Now: 220lbs (15st 10lbs) 

For the next few weeks, this blog is taking on a new and very practical tone. 

No florid prose, no amusing anecdotes of life in our rather chaotic household. Frivolity is suspended; for this is serious stuff. We are losing between 8 and 13 pounds in the next 14 days. "Are": note the confident language. 

Jo is organising our menu, and when Jo gets in an organisational mood, she means business. 

Having scoured the internet for ideas, she's been to Waitrose and raided the shop for anything that could vaguely be both tasty and fat free. To my surprise, rather than the small plastic bag I came back with for start of the Dukan Diet - basically a ton of pre-cooked chicken, some oatmeal and 100 Activia non-fat yoghurts, Jo returned with a car-load of goodies. 

We have already established five rules for our North East diet (which is, I guess, a Geordie version of the South Beach diet, designed for colder shores):  

Rule 1: No bread or pasta 

Rule 2: As much protein as we feel we need, and as little fat as we can bear 

Rule 3: Enough good carbs to make us feel good, and no more. 

Rule 4: Strictly no alcohol for the first fortnight 

Rule 5: Our diet must be enjoyable and satisfying 

I rather suspect that rules 4 and 5 will quickly counteract each other, but I'm prepared to give this new, invented, diet a go. It's got to be better than Dukan. 

Jo says that the problem with Dukan was that I became not only moody and irritable (apart from the first 48 hours, when I was strangely and scarily euphoric as my body began to rebel against its appalling treatment), but I quickly turned green from the lack of a proper diet. She was worried I would drop down dead. 

So this time, she wants to balance our meals, but to still encourage fat burning. Whatever that means. 

We started with a late breakfast: 

Breakfast: Day One
The trick is to drizzle the boiled eggs with Cholulah. Anything can be made to taste good with this spicy Mexican pepper sauce, even plain eggs and sliced turkey. The broccoli, carrot and sugar snaps were steamed and crunchy. The whole, with an ample sprinkling of ground pepper was surprisingly filling. 

Then, at lunchtime, Jo brought out her secret weapon:

Secret Weapon:  lunch

Fat free authentic Greek flavoured yoghurt hasn't been available in UK stores until recently.  This fruyo brand is absolutely delicious.  Of course "fat free" doesn't mean "not fat making".  Quite the opposite.  Unlike Activia and the other zero-fat brands, this one contains sugar.  A good 20 grams-worth in each pot.  But I prefer this to the unpleasant chemical taste of aspartame, which is the sugar substitute most brands use.  And, despite the sugar, each pot only has 170 calories, even with a generous amount of peach inside.  We allowed the peach version, even though our diet is really not supposed to have fruit for the first week.  Together with six almonds, one pot completely filled me up, which is more than could ever be said for Activia.  So much so that I decided to spend the afternoon gardening.  

I know I said this would be factual, not anecdotal, but the fact that I did some serious physical work for the next three or four hours is a tribute to the slow energy release capabilities of fruyo yoghurt.  I didn't once come indoors, either for a cup of tea, or to steal one of Izzy's Easter eggs. And that's not like me at all.

So, as the sun set, I was still quite spritely when Jo called me in for supper, our first proper meal of the day. Except that as soon as I reached the kitchen, I had the most overwhelming urge to have a cold beer.  It was the only thing that would quench my thirst and restore my energy level.  Well, that was my excuse.  

Jo and I discussed it.  "If you really want a beer, you should have one," she finally said.  So we wrote an amendment to Rule 4.  It now reads:

Rule 4:  No alcohol for the first fortnight unless you're really worn out with physical exercise, and then only one cold beer. 

That just about justified it, but I still felt guilty.  All forgotten, though, when Jo produced her perfect first dinner:

Dinner:  lettuce wraps with spicy minced turkey and cashews

She fried some shallots, garlic, and loads of ginger in a small amount of groundnut/peanut oil, then added 1lb of minced turkey, a good squirt of thai fish sauce and thai chilli sauce, and some quality soy (I only keep organic Tamari soy sauce in the house).  She added a tablespoon of fresh chopped coriander, some sliced radish, and that was that.  All served in fresh iceberg lettuce, with a small plate of broccoli on the side.  She said I could eat as much as I wanted.  After all that gardening, I ate four.  Can't wait for the weigh-in tomorrow.