In this series of posts Sally shares the first stages of her lifestyle change to a gluten-free, potato free and low sugar diet, as one of the ways to manage her fibromyalgia symptoms.
This post features some firsts: a proper poached egg and attempts with polenta.
I’m writing up my diary notes about 14 weeks after starting them. I never thought there would be so much to say about my daily meals. After a few weeks though a regular pattern of dishes emerges as I find what suits me best, so I shall write-up the diary posts to that point and then any further discoveries as I make them. I really hadn’t intended for this blog to be a food blog; there are so many other factors that affect our lives when living with fibromyalgia – food is just where I am at the moment.
Pea and Ham Soup
All my energy had gone into providing cake for my morning coffees, so Tuesday’s lunch sent me to the freezer for some Pea and ham Soup. It was a cold day and I wanted something warming and filling that didn’t need to be accompanied by bread.
I generally make this soup whenever we buy a ham hock from our local farm shop. Having boiled the ham for one meal and planned to use the leftovers for another, it always seemed a shame to waste the stock. So in the spirit of Love Food Hate Waste, for which I am a volunteer champion, I make this soup and put it in the freezer.
For this soup I loosely follow Nigel Slater’s recipe – it has few ingredients and has the simplest method I’ve found, which fits my Rule Number 2. Really I use the recipe as a guide to quantities as my stock is made and flavoured when I cook the ham. The stock doesn’t even have to be used the same day, it will keep a few days in the fridge until you are organised or motivated enough to make the soup. However, the split peas do need to be soaked overnight. Sometimes I soak the peas and don’t want to make the soup the next day. On the advice of my chef husband, I just rinse the peas and place them in fresh water until the following day.
Anyway, when I’m ready I strain the stock, reduce it to the volume I want, allow it to cool, strain and add the peas, bring to the boil and simmer for an hour or until the peas are soft, leave to cool, then blend. I then return the soup to a pan and adjust the thickness with the addition of some vegetable stock or water, according to taste. Simple.
Roast pork, roast parsnips and sweet potato, broccoli, carrots and runner beans (more from the freezer and the last of last year’s crop) and, of course, roast potatoes for my husband.
Sunday seemed to have moved to Tuesday, but I was happy to go with the flow.
I couldn’t eat it all. My husband had cooked and the replacement of roast potatoes with roast sweet potato made for a very filling meal, especially with so many vegetables. He hasn’t yet adjusted to cooking for only two now that our children have left home. A little note to self – only half the quantity of sweet potato needed for future roasts.
Poached egg on spinach and a griddled field mushroom
This one was a fridge raid. I’d been so obsessed with cake that I had failed to plan properly for my lunches. The lovely, large open field mushroom looked a good alternative to toast or a muffin (the sight of half a bag of spinach had made me think of eggs Florentine, and I had plenty of eggs).
Now I had never actually cooked a proper poached egg. I’d cooked them in a poaching pan and ‘en cocotte’ but never in a pan of boiling water. I know 47 years old and I’d never cooked a proper poached egg. Here’s why. Whenever I had gone to make them in the past, my chef husband would go all ‘cheffy’ and take over. I watched and learned. When our daughter was old enough to cook, I taught her, using my husband’s methods, to make perfect poached eggs – but never poached one myself. So this was my chance to make my first proper poached egg. After griddling the mushroom and wilting the spinach I brought my pan of water, with enough white wine vinegar to taste, to the boil, broke my egg into a cup, swirled the water with a spoon vigorously and dropped the egg into the centre of the vortex and watched the white coagulate around the yolk. I then lifted it out when it looked firm enough and gently patted it dry in a clean tea towel. Wow! I was thrilled.
A new lunchtime favourite – if only I can repeat a perfect poached egg.
Bolognese with polenta
(Spaghetti instead of polenta for my husband)
Another first, well almost – polenta. I’d tried once before, about a year ago with instant polenta for our daughter and, frankly, it was awful. This time I referred to my Italian cookery bible, The Silver Spoon and followed these instructions:
taken from The Silver Spoon
To serve 6
500g/ 1lb 2 oz polenta flour
1.75 litres/ 3 pints of water
- Bring salted water to boil in one pan and a smaller amount in another pan (this is to be used as extra liquid if the polenta becomes too thick).
- Sprinkle the polenta into the pan while stirring continuously.
- As soon as the polenta thickens, soften it with a drop of water from the extra water. This is the secret to cooking polenta successfully, as polenta thickens with heat and softens with water.
- Cook for between 45 minutes and 1 hour; the longer the cooking time, the more easily the polenta is digested.
- Serve with a little cold milk or butter, or sauce such as tomato or cheese. Polenta can also be served with stews and braised meat, or baked with cheese, butter and meat sauce.
Cooked polenta should be stored wrapped in a tea towel at the bottom of the refrigerator.
Well, it was better than the ‘instant’ method I’d followed before but only just passable. I took a closer look at the packet and found this one was also an ‘instant’ variety. I think I’m going to have to do some research as the cooked dish looked nothing like the picture in the book. Fortunately, I had also heard that you should tip polenta into a tin and flatten into shape. This I had done before transferring the left-over polenta to a clean tea towel for storage.
Scrambled Eggs and Fried Polenta Cakes
Not wanting waste the polenta I’d made the day before I decided to make some polenta cakes as an alternative to toast. Using a pastry cutter, I cut some cakes from the now firmer polenta and fried them in a little olive oil and butter as if sautéing potatoes. This was a much better way to eat polenta and worked very well with the scrambled eggs.
Rib-eye steak, baked sweet potato slices and salad
(Homemade fries instead of sweet potato for my husband)
Ooh, a treat – 30% off rib-eye steaks in the supermarket!
I spoiled my husband with homemade fries and, with great self-discipline, baked myself some sweet potato slices.
This new way of eating is supposed to be helping my fibromyalgia symptoms, so I certainly don’t want to make any extra work for myself, but there are some compromises I can’t ask my husband to make – and one is giving up potatoes. And he deserves to be spoiled, when I’m able, as he puts up with such a lot during my bad spells. So, as long as the main part of our meals is the same, it really isn’t a problem to cook a potato alternative for myself.
Fibro-foodie adapting to new ways of cooking
Positively living with fibromyalgia