• Three steps forward, two steps backwards

    I had hoped by now that I would be writing that I was fully recovered or at least almost fully recovered.  The good thing is that I am now rarely in a pain.  The bad thing is that I am still in a lot of discomfort.  The worst thing is that I am still not sure why I am in discomfort after all this time.

    I am on something called a ‘low residue diet’ which is a polite term for an unhealthy diet – everything I would not normally eat (white pasta, white bread, white rice, puddings, custard, limited vegetables etc.).  Fibre is my enemy and I am feeling very unhealthy and sluggish and very low in energy.  On the upside, I am walking more and not just around the garden.  I have still not managed to pick up the courage to run again, although I have been tempted to over the last couple of days.  Maybe tomorrow.

    It is not all doom and gloom, although it might sound as though it is from my opening statements.  I have caught up with the Great British Bake Off and Designated Survivor (all 20 plus episodes) and am now working my way through the romantic comedies on the Hallmark Channel.  My brain may be becoming numb, especially after watching three romantic comedies in a row, but I am at least not dying of boredom.

    I have cooked a few recipes from Orange Blossom & Honey, which I have even managed to eat: forest mushrooms (a delicious meal of spiced mushrooms and tomatoes on toast with grilled goat’s cheese);

    zaalouk with crispy halloumi (a spiced aubergine and tomato dish, topped with golden, crispy halloumi) and an anchovy, olive and tomato sauce with pasta.  I have baked the pineapple, pecan and currant tin can cake from Ottolenghi and Helen Goh’s book, ‘Sweet’.

    I was very excited to receive positive tweets from Helen Goh and the author of Orange Blossom & Honey, John Gregory-Smith, for my efforts.  Finally, I tried some sugar skull biscuits in preparation for Halloween using Fred and Friend’s ‘sweet spirit cookie cutters’.

    I went back to work for a couple of hours on Thursday evening and then again on Saturday for what was supposed to be a few hours, but ended up being six.  I can’t say that my return was easy and that it didn’t take a lot out of me but it was good to be back at work.  My job has changed since I was last at work.  I should say changed for the better as I am now focusing on prep work rather than front of house cooking, which suits my skill set better.  I am also going to be responsible for the cake offering at Lynwood & Co. going forward, which is exciting.  I just have to come up with some good ideas.

    Onwards and upwards as they say, even if the onwards seems to be three steps forward and two steps backwards and the upwards is a crawl rather than a walk.

  • Incarceration

    So, I thought I would have been released from hospital and I suppose, technically I was for two whole days and two and a half nights.  While I was at home, I can’t say that it felt that way, as my grand plans for a gradual and peaceful recovery ended up in increasing back pain and readmission on Sunday lunchtime.

    I was writing the beginning of this blog from my hospital bed a few days ago, hoping and praying that I would make a full recovery.  At the time, I had endured six days of no food, three X-rays, two CT scans (one with some dye), two nasal-gastric tubes, a catheter, countless bags of saline solution and glucose, a range of drugs (morphine, Tramadol, intravenous paracetamol etc.), blood tests and regular observations.  They were and are still not quite sure what the cause of my recent episode was, but apparently my case is complex.

    Prior to being readmitted again, I was ever so excited about getting back to work and home to try out the new recipes in the books that I bought during my hospital stay.  Amazon is a bit of a dangerous luxury when you are stuck in hospital as browsing and shopping online gives you something to do. Anyway, my hospital purchases included:

    • Orange Blossom and Honey by John Gregory-Smith
    • Feasts by Sabrina Ghayour
    • The Art of the Larder by Claire Thomson

    No sooner had I purchased the books (or possibly a few days later, before I had time to read the books) I was shuttled back to hospital.  Rather than being in a position to try out new recipes at work or home I was advised that I would be nil by mouth until they got to the bottom of the problem.  I went from nil by mouth to free fluids and then finally to the dizzy heights of a light diet, which consists of cardboard like white, processed bread, low fat dairy products, cooked fruit and vegetables and no spices.  Not the sort of diet which is compatible with the likes of the recipes in Orange Blossom and Honey or Feasts.

    I was released from hospital for a second time on Thursday last week.  I can’t say that I am feeling 100 percent – not even 60 percent but crossing all fingers and limbs I am hopefully making a slow and steady recovery.  I am about 9 pounds lighter than I was when I was admitted into hospital (being nil by mouth and on free fluids for the majority of the last two weeks will do that to you) and can manage a slow walk rather than a competitive run, but hopefully over the next few days and weeks I will build up my strength.

    Over the last two days, I have tentatively been back in the kitchen.  I have made vegetable broth and low fat rice pudding with a fruit compote for my exciting diet.

    More interestingly, I have tried two recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh’s ‘Sweet’ (a book I bought just before I went into hospital), ‘Not-quite-Bonnie’s rugelach’ and ‘Banana, date and walnut tin can cake’ and a ‘White yeasted loaf (Dutch oven method)’ from Claire Thomson’s ‘The Art of the Larder’.  All of which have been successful bakes according to my official tasters.  I have certainly not been tearing my way around the kitchen like normal but rather taking a more sedated approach.  Even with a sedated approach, my time in the kitchen has still knackered me so I am taking it easier today – watching cookery shows on Netflix, blogging and writing up recipes.  I am hoping to go for a gentle walk later but it depends on what Hurricane Ophelia decides to do.

    Despite having to take it easier today, it was great to be back in the kitchen (even if it was only my own kitchen).  I can’t wait to be fit enough to get back to work.  Let’s hope that it won’t be too long before I am back at Lynwood & Co.  I miss being part of a team, preparing tasty food for customers.

  • Never gonna give you up

    Another two weeks in the Lynwood & Co kitchen are almost over but despite having a legitimate day off yesterday to participate in my first OCR event for a while, I have found myself in hospital instead.  No OCR yesterday and no work today.  The cause of my stay – my underlying condition of the stomach.  It has been more than three years since my last stay in hospital for the condition so this was a little unexpected.  30 hours of pain, a couple of X-rays and a dose of morphine later and although still very tender, I am hopefully on the mend.  I should be going home later today.

    There was a flurry of excitement over my very low pulse rate as although it is always low, around 40, it dropped to a low of 33.  In a scurry, I was hooked up to a ECG to check whether my heart rate was normal.  After much assessment, my heart was declared healthy.  My pulse was declared strong and one of an athlete. Not bad for a woman in her middle age.  Long may it last although if I don’t escape this hospital bed soon my fitness is bound to deteriorate.

    I had started to write my blog for last week earlier this week, but then things got busy again and I didn’t finish it.  So here is the updated version of what I had started to write:

    For the first time since I started at Lynwood, I had a sort of relaxation day on Monday other than a 7.6 mile run and my first every Pilates session.  Jo and I went to a restaurant recommended by my Head Chef, called Made by Bob in Cirencester.  The food was delicious, especially the cauliflower soup which was served with freshy baked bread with a salty, rosemary crust.  En route back to the car, we came across The Market Garden, an independent green grocers with an array of well priced and quality produce.  I couldn’t resist picking up some multi variety tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers.  I roasted off the tomatoes and mushrooms today and served them on a slice of toasted Sourdough Revolution bread topped with feta, thyme and a balsamic glaze for my lunch. Yum.

    As I enjoyed my cauliflower soup so much, I decided to make a similar one, roasted garlic and cauliflower, at the cafe on Thursday.  It didn’t seem to go down too well – we only sold one portion.  I wasn’t sure whether it was the wrong choice of soup or the unexpectedly warm weather which resulted in the lack of interest in the soup but as the soup was made on the Thursday, we put it on the menu on the Friday again and it flew out of the cafe – as did my salads and quiches on both Wednesday and Thursday.  I had a near issue with my quiche on Thursday as just before service it was brought to my attention that the base of my quiche was a little undercooked, despite blind baking for the required amount of time.  I heated the quiche at a higher temperature for longer than normal on a metal tray which seemed to do the trick in doing the final cooking.  Something to watch out next time.

    The week before this week was largely uneventful in the kitchen other than two, 12 hour plus days.  Wednesday was particularly hectic and at one point I honestly didn’t think I would get through service.  We were running out of eggs and bacon and there was no time for me to do any prep.  Thank goodness for the manager who kindly did some prep for me.  I don’t know what I would have done without her.

    I was also thrown a curve ball on Wednesday last week when the Head Chef informed me that in addition to making the lunch time specials of soup, quiche and salad, I also had to make a quiche Lorraine for a customer who was due to collect it on Thursday by 11am.   One 5.30am start later (only clocking in at 6am), I managed to make the quiche Lorraine and lunch specials and run service.  Thank goodness Thursday was not quite as busy as it had been on Wednesday.

    There was a little flurry of excitement at Lynwood & Co last week as Rick Astley and his wife came in to have breakfast.  Hence the title of this week’s blog.  Rick first popped in for a coffee and then came back with in his wife for breakfast.  I wasn’t cooking his breakfast, but by all accounts he enjoyed his meal and dutifully signed the ‘celebrity’ wall.

    This week was also not particularly eventful.  No celebrities to speak of but rather a very busy Friday as the cafe was supporting the Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning by donating £1 to the cause from every coffee sold.  I was responsible for doing prep for Josh’s Friday and Saturday service – particularly Saturday as with my day off Josh was running service on his own.  It was during my prep that my stomach started to play up and by the end of the day I was starting to feel decidedly uncomfortable.  Despite this, I was still hopeful that I would be okay to do the OCR event yesterday – so ate a hearty pasta meal and some ice cream which only made me more uncomfortable when everything went into shut down.  The rest as they say is history.

    Hopefully I will be as right as rain for this week in the kitchen.  Thank goodness that I have two days off now.

    Before I sign off, I should say that I made The Artisan Baker’s Jerusalem bagels last week.  My tweet got a positive reply from The Baker himself, which was a nice surprise.