Cooking with Chestnuts w/ Merchant Gourmet

A few weeks ago I got to pop along to a Christmas in July event hosted by Merchant Gourmet. Like me, you may know them better for their pre prepared puy lentils which are amazing to add in salads but they have a bigger range of products which include whole chestnuts and chestnut puree. The aim of the event was to inspire us to use chestnuts in our cooking; I first tried a chestnut either last Christmas or the one before and was pleasantly surprised that I actually like them! With such limited experience of them I certainly hadn't considered using them to cook with!

I took some pictures at the event which are enough to get anyones mouth watering! I also have the recipe for my favourite creation from the lunch!

Roast Cod Squash Bacon and Chestnuts with Lemon and Butter

"This is a glorious combination of sweet, succulent and salty with the butter giving it a smooth finish and the lemon adding a sunny smile." By Merchant Gourmet Cook, Alex Mackay

Meal Type: Main
Cooking Time: 30-60 minutes
Dietary Options: Gluten-free

3 tbsp vegetable oil (you could use goose fat for a little treat)
12 shallots, peeled
Half an average sized (1kg) butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, cut to roughly the same size as the chestnuts
1, 180g pouch of Merchant Gourmet Whole Chestnuts, separated
150g bacon lardons
120g unsalted butter
1, 20g-25g bunch (average supermarket size) of flat leaf parsley, leaves picked from the stalks
4 filets of cod, 150g each, skin on (you could also use pollock or hake)
Zest of 1 lemon and 2 tbsp juice
2 tbsp water
Salt, black pepper and sugar


Prep ahead: The shallots, squash and chestnuts can be prepared, up to the point of roasting, hours or even a day ahead.

Pre-Heat your oven to 230C/Gas Mark 8, upper middle shelf. Boil your kettle. Put a bowl next to your cooker to drain fat into. Heat a low sided baking tray just large enough to hold the vegetables with 1 and 1/2 tbsp of vegetable oil, for 5 minutes in the oven.

Add the shallots and squash to the baking tray. Season with salt and pepper and toss them until they are well coated with the oil. Roast for 15 minutes, turning the vegetables once and basting with a heatproof brush. Add the chestnuts, a third of the butter and the bacon. Roast for 7-10 minutes more or until golden.

Get a large frying pan very hot with 1 and 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil. Season the cod. Fry on the flesh side over a very high heat for for 2 minutes. Lower the heat slightly, drain the fat into the bowl next to your cooker, add a third of the butter and fry for a further 2 minutes, turn the cod then fry for 3-4 minutes until the skin is crisp and the cod is just cooked through.

Put the cod on top of the roasted vegetables and chestnuts. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest and water to the pan. Bring to the boil. Stir in the remaining butter and the parsley. Turn off the heat, season to taste.

Spoon the cooking juices over everything except the cod skin. Serve from the baking tray.

...and Enjoy :) 

Elle :) 


Swim Dem Crew: Katherine's Story

Whilst on my journey to learn to swim so I could take part in my first ever triathlon, I came across Swim Dem Crew. They ended up playing a pretty crucial role in my journey; it was with them that I first entered a 50m pool and a pool with a deep end! Watching their journey inspired me on mine and I wanted to share some of that with you!

Recent research from the Amateur Swimming Association found that one in five adults couldn’t swim. With this insight, Run Dem Crew lynchpin Charlie Dark, and ex-Blue Peter presenter Andy Akinwolere, introduced Swim Dem Crew (based mainly in East London) – an exciting new cultural youth movement launched in January 2015 that set out to get more young people into the pool and overcome their fears of swimming - supported by Speedo. 

My fitness buddy, Katherine, has been a part of the movement from day 1 and kindly scribbled her story down so I could share it with you...

Katherine: When I was younger, at my school in France, we were forced to go to swimming "lessons", which were part of compulsory PE classes. Sadly, these weren't really classes, but more like one-hour slots where a teacher would force kids to jump into the pool and yell at them while they have to swim X number of lengths. I had never had a swimming lesson in my life even though my parents considered I could swim because I knew some sort of underwater breaststroke I kind of picked up from my dad. Everyone thought I looked pro because I would dip my head in the water, even though in reality, I didn't know how to swim while keeping my head above water. The irony. I hated the swimming sessions so much because I was too slow since I couldn't swim freestyle, and was too petrified in the water under the pressure that I ended up always hyperventilating. It got so bad, that I ended up getting a medical certificate to be excused from the swimming sessions.

Katherine asks, "If not today, then when?!"

Nearly two years ago, I met my now boyfriend who had swum competitively for over ten years. When we went to the pool together for the first time, he taught me that my breaststroke wasn't actually a breaststroke. I also tried for the hundredth time to breathe on the side and do some front crawl, but in vain. A few weeks later, I ran into a post on Facebook about a swim challenge with Swim Dem Crew, because I had some friends who were part of Swim Dem and Run Dem. I thought, I got all sort of injuries lately from long distance running, and I really want to prove to myself and to the ones I love that I know how to swim, so that's why I emailed to sign up. Even though I never, ever thought I would actually have the strength to make it from 0m front crawl to one mile in open water in the space of a few months, I said to myself, if not today, then when?

"I never realised how a journey like this about learning how to swim would turn out to be one of the most incredible human adventures I have experienced."

Through the following five months, I learned a lot from the people around me, the coaches, the people making Swim Dem (Nat, Peigh, Danny & the rest of the crew), the Swim Challenge Crew (every single one of you), and Matt from the Stoke Newington Reservoir. I never realised how a journey like this about learning how to swim would turn out to be one of the most incredible human adventures I have experienced. There were difficult times, like when I had a full-blown anxiety attack in the middle of the pool when trying to do timed distances front crawl at the beginning, and shed my first tears in the water. The time when I didn't even manage to swim in the cold water of the Stoke Newington reservoir and had to get dragged out by a lifeguard on a kayak during my first open water swim. But I also remember how after losing faith completely, I went back to the same reservoir a couple of days later, and jumped in and just made myself feel at home in the water. Then there were those times when the people from Swim Challenge were there for me. They showed that they believed in me, and that we were in something huge together, but that most importantly, we, as a team, were bigger than the challenge itself. I saw people give up. I saw people try even harder and prove that giving up was not a way out.

People don't realise how hard this was at times, but regardless, sticking together and being there for each other, we made all of our goals attainable, and at the end of the day, I managed to swim my mile in the open water swim in the Salford Quays, Manchester. I have still been swimming since. I even taught my parents some technique drills coach Harley taught me, and I've been feeling much more eager to go swimming with my boyfriend too, and he was even really jealous he wasn't able to join me in the water on the day of my open water mile - all he needs now is to get a wetsuit. 

Doing a full triathlon has now become a new attainable goal for me, and hopefully I'll be doing that at some point too. Another goal would be to enter some open water swimming event with my boyfriend in the future, if only the wetsuits weren't so pricey/out of reach for students... But until then, I've definitely been swimming much more often, and it feels amazing to be able to work on technique and swim proudly the front crawl in front of my friends when on holiday. 

" If you haven't given it a proper shot, you don't have the right to shoot it down"

So this is to all the people out there who were like me at this point just seven months ago: if you haven't given it a proper shot, you don't have the right to shoot it down, so go jump in the water, and stick with it, you won't regret it.


Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Starting a Fitness Regime

If you are planning on starting a new fitness regime in order to get in shape or to try to reverse a condition that you are dealing with, rest assured that you are taking a major step in the right direction. However, there are certain precautions that you need to take, particularly if you suffer from one or more conditions or if you are currently taking prescription medications. Therefore, you should talk to your doctor before embarking on any new exercise routine. 

What questions should you ask doctor to get the answers you need and the assurance that a fitness regime will truly be beneficial? Continue reading to learn more. 

Does Your Medical Condition Dictate the Type of Exercises You Should Do and Avoid?

The first thing you should do is talk about any current conditions that you are experiencing. You want to be sure that you are healthy enough to take up any fitness routine you desire. Otherwise, your doctor will advise you to steer clear of certain workouts in favour of others that are safer and appropriate to your needs and body. If you were to dive into a workout routine that is not really right for you, you could be putting your health at risk and doing more harm than good. 

Do You Need to Worry About Current Medications Getting in the Way?

In addition to discussing your current physical conditions, you also need to talk to your doctor about any prescription medications or alternative therapies that you are currently taking. Will these interfere with your ability to pursue certain forms of fitness? It is important to know that some medicines will affect the way that your body responds to working out. So if you are taking a medicine that affects the heart rate, as an example, you might need to stick with low-impact workouts rather than high-intensity cardio workouts, and you will probably have to monitor your heart rate throughout the duration of the workout to ensure it remains within safe limits. 

How Often Should You Exercise?

You should talk to your doctor about how often you should exercise, as well as how long your workouts should be. Again, you do not want to overdo it, so asking about what your limits are will ensure your safety and wellbeing. 

Are There Any Symptoms You Should Watch Out For?

Finally, you should ask your doctor if there are any symptoms that you should be aware of and that you should watch out for during your workouts. Some common symptoms include dizziness, shortness of breath, pain, particularly in the joints, and dehydration. Remember, exercise should not be painful, so do not push yourself too far past your limits. Listen to your body, whether you are doing yoga or going for a jog.  

Talking to your doctor before starting an exercise routine is important, but you need to start with a doctor you can trust, so check out http://www.londondoctorsclinic.co.uk/ to find a GP you'll feel comfortable speaking with and getting advice from.


Making Fitness Trackers Work For You

I guess I must've started running in 2007; that's how much data I have stored via Nike+ ...9 whole years worth. It's got to the point that I don't like to run unless it's being tracked; I don't necessarily have to be following my stats during the run but I like to be able to look back after the occasion.

My first every fitness tracker must've been a pedometer though. Mostly through work and workplace health challenges which I used to organise for my office in my previous work life.

Then came the Nike Fuelband which was slapped on my wrist for 3 solid years. After breaking for what must've been the fourth time, waiting for my replacement to arrive, I just kinda went cold turkey and never put one back on (with the exception of running).

It seems though, that fitness trackers are gaining popularity again; Legal & General {wrote this article about why that might be as well as some of the history of how fitness trackers came about}. It reminded me about the old 10,000 steps per day ideal and how wearable technology can serve as a form of motivation to get active!

I'm willing to forgo my undecorated wrist for a while and get back in the game! But, I want the benefits to be more than a whole heap of data to stare at on a computer screen every night!

1. Find Your Tracker of Choice 

There are so many to choose from now that it's quite a hard decision to make! Ask your friends for opinions on the ones they own, read reviews on blogs and then compare prices and features (and colours too, right?). Do you need to spend £300 on an Apple Watch?! Or is £80 on a Fitbit Flex a more affordable option?!

Fitbit Flex - in KISE pink :)

2. I Signed Up for Strava 

This weekend,  I reached out to friends on Twitter to find out a little more about Strava. From what I can gather so far, it seems to be a community for runners and cyclists to track their workouts, share with friends on the app and get a little bit of a boost from virtual high fives. I hate running with my phone, but Strava can get all the data it needs by connecting it to my TomTom Cardio GPS meaning I don't need to change anything about the way I track my runs.

3. Make Money From Your Sweaty Pursuits

What actually spurred me on to sign up for Strava was that I had registered for Bounts but hadn't yet made any use of it! Basically, you get points for being active and can exchange those points for vouchers. I don't currently have a compatible tracker, but connecting my TomTom to Strava means I can start earning points as Strava is connected to Bounts! It's free to join and if you use my referral code (linton739we'll each get 20 points after you complete your first activity! Sweet! 

Do you wear a fitness tracker?! What's the best way to get yourself motivated to be active?! 

Elle :) 


Sheffield - ‘The National City of Sport’

It's been a while since I left my job in Sport Development; one part of my role was the annual trip to Sheffield for our students to take part in the British Universities & College Sport (BUCS) Championships. That was the only occasion you would find me in Sheffield! 

Sheffield, South Yorkshire is actually one of the largest cities in England where nature and urbanism can go together. The urban area is surrounded by seven hills and 61% percent of the city is green space. The National Park occupies one third of the city’s territory - that’s quite impressive! All while Sheffield is also a cultural, industrial and sport center that is ready to offer its visitors a lot of attractions, entertainment and things to do! 

Among other titles Sheffield was the first UK city to be awarded the title ‘The National City of Sport’ in 1995. It boasts high quality sports facilities such as Sheffield Arena, Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, Don Valley Stadium and English Institute of Sport; all places I became familiar with through working with BUCS.

Sheffield Arena is not just the home of ice hockey team ‘The Sheffield Steelers'; the Arena has witnessed the concerts of a wealth of the world’s best known music artists, comedians, and numerous cultural and sport events.

Don Valley Stadium is no less an impressive complex. It was built as the home for the World Students Games in 1991 but unfortunately in 2013 was closed for financial reasons.

The Coach and Horses Stadium is another key sporting area in Sheffield. It is the first permanent home of legendary football club Sheffield FC. This club was established by William Prest and Nathaniel Creswick all the way back in 1857. Sheffield FC is now 158 years old and is the world’s first football club. The Coach and Horses Stadium has a pub where you can try locally brewed Thornbridge Ales. Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday are the 2 other clubs that count Sheffield as their home.

Ponds Forge International Sports Centre has great sports facilities, a gym, spa, Olympic sized pools, pools where families and novices can spend time in a more relaxed environment and a pool for diving that is the deepest diving pool in Europe.  It also houses the International Sports Hall with a 1600 seating capacity.

Snooker is another sport that goes hand in hand with Sheffield. Since 1977 the World Snooker Championships have taken place at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. The locals try not to miss this world class event in order to watch the top players of the world striving for victory.

The professional attitude to sports is proven by the establishment of the English Institute of Sports (EIS) in Sheffield in 2002. The EIS has indoor facilities and supports different sports. No wonder that young people living in student accommodation Sheffield are taking the opportunity to join a healthy way of life to look great and feel happy.  And not surprisingly, Sheffield is the homeland of a lot of champions, David SherwoodClinton WoodsJohnny Nelson, and Michael Vaughan to name just a few! 

Have you been to Sheffield before?!

What's your city like for sport?! Does it have a history steeped in sport?!

Elle :) 

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