Ready meals for £1 p/p - My Way!

So this is a fairly poignant subject at the mo hence posting about it.

Whilst cycling through Europe and couchsurfing ( several years ago with a friend, we stayed one night at a crazy Frenchman's house.

Our French host! - When it came to eating and drinking he was a rich man!

It was like entering Steptoe's yard! We were greeted warmly and welcomed into his home. With fusses slammed back in place the electric lights sprung to life and we could see his humble abode. It's fair to say he lived simply... but when it came to eating and drinking he was richer than most of us!

One of the most impressive things was that he made food in bulk and used various methods to preserve it so it could be enjoyed later! 

This included home canning and I have been playing with this on and off since.

Having recently brought a pressure canner from America for ~£75 delivered, I can now do this properly.

So here is how I made a fantastic winter stew with top quality local ingredients for £1 a serving 
(and preserved it so it simply needs re-heating for 5 minutes when required).

Went to the local butcher in Cranleigh ( amazing place and excellent service. I explained I was making a stew and I was offered Beef Shin (£6/kg) I got 2kgs :-)



Via a wonderful 25km walk we visited the Bramley Green Grocer ( and with support from a local lady we left with;

Several onions (I mentioned we had a bag of tesco onions but this was met with significant disapproval!)...

A load of shallots (Also learnt that if you drop them in boiling water for 15 seconds they are much easier to peel)...
Chestnut mushrooms, Swede, Celeriac (BIG), Carrots, Garlic, Parsnips...

All told ~£7. No idea how this compares as we didn't record the weight of everything but it was a hefty load to carry back to Cranleigh.

Add to this a bottle of cheap red wine and we're basically set.

Recipe was easy...

Chop the meat into chunks.
Flour and season
Fry (used left over goose fat :-))
Add onions and garlic
Add wine
Add some beef (or horse) stock cubes
Add  veg
Wait until meat can be cut with a wooden spoon (tender!)
Simmer some more

Now the canning...

Using Kilner jars or similar. load them up with your tasty feast and pressure cook at ~12PSI for 90 minutes.

Plenty of space for more :-)

Previously I used to cook the jars in boiling water but the pressure ensures you get temperatures above 120 degC so kill off C. botulinum one of the few beasts that has spores able to survive boiling water (which is why re-heating old rice can be dangerous).

Once cooled the jars can be kept at room temperature (just like a can). The nice thing is the food inside is top quality and no defrosting required!

So total cost ~£22 (£12 meat, £7 veg, £3 wine)

Servings made 21
~£1 each

As Gordon Ramsey would say...


Tasty, local and cheap!

Geeking with my Polar HR Monitor

Courtesy of my work's health care I have been testing my new Polar heart rate monitor. I opted for the Polar RX3 GXP, includes a built in GPS, and it can use external HR strap, as well as Cadence and Stride sensors. NICE! 
Not exactly a day to day time piece... It could double as a wrist mounted dinner plate in emergencies :-)

Initially I was unimpressed... neither the HR monitor or GPS seemed to work. 

Turns out the HR monitor had a flat battery and the GPS just takes a while to get started. Thankfully you can put the watch into a pre-training mode so it starts all the sensors. So despite the awful whether a quick 8 km run was the best way to test it out!

The data is synced direct to the Polar Community site (you can then export to Strava etc). I'll test out the cadence sensor in due course. Fairly gutted that Strava doesn't include the HR data on a free membership but the Polar site is good enough!

Life is hectic...

Lots of things happening for everyone at the moment and reading my splattered thoughts on a random blog is probably the least of your concern!

But I hope it will be worth it and give you something else to think about once in a while.

Historically, I used this mainly as a travel blog/photo dump, but with little time for travel the subject might not be so picturesque but still I hope you can 'dip in' now and then.

My main reason for restarting is that I am trying to raise some awareness. Whilst I faff about with work, studying for my MBA and planning a wedding I felt I should try give a little time to some non-personal goals.

So what this space and who knows you might learn something that saves your life...

L'etape du tour 2010 - The End!

After the epic descent of the Soulor I was hoping for some easy riding prior to the final battle up the Tormalet. I'd really felt the top of the Soulor, the heat and lack of water gave me the first inklings of fatigue on the ride. Thankfully after the descent was the last food stop. I made sure I fuelled up well, having a minute or two to allow the water and food to go down before grabbing a final extra bite and a few glucose bars for the road. I really had little appetite but I knew I had to eat.

Whether it was fatigue or the heat or genuinely the profile of the ride I don't know, but very quickly it felt like I was cycling constantly up hill again. The angle was only slight but in the heat and on less than fresh legs it required a sturdy will to push through the 20km to the base of Tormalet. But as I crossed the transponder strips and waved at the fixed video cameras I think my extra food and water was beginning to kick back in. The hill had started: 7.5% for 18km. My mind was strong, this is it! It's a battle, crank on and before you know it you'll be relaxing and basking in the glory!

No kidding it was tough, but as your mind wanders and you deal with the enormity of the task ahead, the km slowly slip by. Occasionally the signs will say the next km is only 6% at which point you rejoice in the relative ease, next the sign will say 9% at which point you put your head down and push harder still, knowing that this is above average so wont last forever.

And that's how it went for 7 km. The heat unbearable but thankfully the hordes of crowds were on hand to pour icy mountain water on our heads and backs, a shock at first but the respite from the heat was immeasurably good!

But after 7km things got tough for about 50m I felt like the my breaks were constantly on. I was exasperated momentarily until I felt the squidgy bounce on my rear tire and spotted the flat that was slowly worsening. Phew! At least it wasn't my legs, time for a quick change!

It wasn't pleasant, the heat, the horse flies and every second you wait cyclists pass you by. For me it was not really a race but still I didn't like being stationary! Roughly 5 minutes wasted and about 8 horse fly bites later I was back on my way, legs feeling feisty after the brief respite.

It was only 4 km further to the next water stop. I was relieved to see it and take a breather. As a bonus the water marshals were hosing the riders down - bliss!! I sat and decided to eat the energy tube that I'd been given in my etape goody bag, I was nearly sick - sooo sugary, it also didn't help that a man nearby that had clearly just downed a pint or two of water was bringing it all back up in spectacular fashion... Lets get moving, only 8 km to go!

And they went, slowly but surly, the km slipped by. Water was drunk and poured over me, crowds cheered, people collapsed on the side, others walked head down bare foot, but slowly me and my steel beast pootled past them further and further up the beautiful mountain landscape. Before long I could make out the entire route to the finish. A huge switch back remained for the last 3 km. Dread began to grow in my mind that the famously steep last few hundred meters would force me to have to stop. I'd made a challenge at the base of the route to finish in 10 hours so I pushed on. As the last bend approached I could hear the noise of the crowds increasing, the road thinned slightly and the barriers started. I was in disbelief that there were still people pushing this last few hundred meters had they no will to at least finish in some style!?

The bend as usual was slightly flatter, then boom a steep rise with a curve that hid the finish from view, this is it a few hundred meters is all that stands in my way. The crowds were crazy with encouragement and my enthusiasm and strength rose I even dropped a gear as I powered home. The final curve and that was it... DONE.

Strange feeling, I coasted slowly there was no plateau really so as I basked in the relief of finishing I quickly found myself hurtling down the other-side. I wondered if I should stop and enjoy the view but the cool air rushing past and the promise of food 5 km down was too much. I was beasted, the sun and the miles had taken their toll. I slowly wandered around the final food stop collecting my food bag and finding some shade to recover in.

I shared experiences with other riders everyone was happy and buzzing from the relief of finishing. It was still 30km down the car but I didn't care it would be easy. I'd done the Etape and done it my way and most importantly not pushed my bike a single meter-not many could say that!

Start Position ~ 9400
End Position 3636
Total Time 9h 25m
Tormalet time 2h 9m