The Beechwood Hotel, Norfolk – A Review

 

 

97203

The Beechwood Hotel is an attractive country house hotel located on the edge of the market town of North Walsham. The award-winning, fine-dining restaurant seats up to 60 people and offers breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner to residents and non-residents alike. The hotel has an interesting history: from the 1930s to the mid 1960s it was a private house owned by two doctors who were close friends of the crime writer Agatha Christie. Indeed, she spent a lot of time there and used to disappear off to the summerhouse in the garden where she spent time writing. There is various memorabilia and photographs in the hotel available for guests to look at. The crime-writing connection has inspired the owners to put on successful “murder mystery” evenings which offer a delicious three course evening meal while the intrepid diners try to work out “whodunit”.

 

Chef Steven Norgate is passionate about local Norfolk produce and sources most ingredients for his innovative modern British menu from within ten miles of the hotel, such as Morston mussels, Cromer crabs, Sheringham lobsters and outstanding 21 day aged beef that melts in the mouth.

 

The dinner menu could include a starter such as Tavern Tasty ham hock terrine, pea puree, tomato chutney, sourdough crisps, capers, rocket and a mustard dressing followed by Bunwell Estate venison and local, seasonal vegetables. And to round off an excellent meal, I highly recommend the sticky toffee pudding when available or the “trio of Belgian chocolate” dessert.

 

There is always a vegetarian option on the menu too, for example a rosti potato pancake filled with goat’s curd, wild mushrooms, cauliflower puree and onion marmalade served with apple and rocket salad.

 

Whether you go to the Beechwood Hotel for lunch, afternoon tea, dinner or a “special occasion” meal, you won’t be disappointed. With polite and attentive staff, elegant surroundings and food by one of the best chefs in the area, the Beechwood Hotel is most definitely one of the gems in Norfolk’s crown!

 

 

www.beechwood-hotel.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Traditional English Puddings: hot, sticky & delicious

image2 - Copy (33)Is there anyone who doesn’t like a pudding? I’m talking about those sweet, hot, steaming desserts that are so comforting yet feel ever so slightly indulgent. Having spotted a gap in the market for high quality, handmade and quintessentially English puddings, after 18 months of research and recipe development Kate Lyons and her husband Max started their company “pudd’Eng” in 2016.

The current range consists of six puddings: marmalade; sticky toffee; syrup; chocolate & ale; treacle & walnut and spotted dick. Despite being a comparatively young business, the company has already won an award: the chocolate & ale pudding – made with Valrhona chocolate and ale from the Norfolk based Why Not Brewery – won the “Sweet Bakes” category in the 2016 Great British Food Awards. There are three sizes available: half-pint, pint and two pint and there are no artificial preservatives in the puddings.

The flavours are exceptionally good, for example, a hint of Earl Grey tea and lemon in the spotted dick; English whisky in the treacle and walnut pudding and a touch of ginger in the sticky toffee pudding which is topped with a velvety butterscotch sauce. When you’re ready to eat your chosen pudding, it can be steamed or if you really can’t wait, it can be popped in a microwave.

The pudd’Eng range is sold at selected retail outlets in Norfolk (and Suffolk) including: Walsingham Farm Shop, Back to the Garden in Letheringsett and City Farm Shop in Norwich. Kate will also be attending events such as The Royal Norfolk Show, The Aylsham Show and The North Norfolk Food Festival. However, if you live further afield the puddings are now available by mail order via the website and there are plans to develop partnerships with retailers in other parts of the UK. If you want to stock up, the puddings can be frozen and eaten at a later date – if you can wait that long!

www.puddeng.com

Twitter: @eatpuddeng

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/eatpuddeng

 

 

 

 

Oodles of Healthy Noodles

One of the great things about writing a food blog is having the opportunity to review new products, kitchen equipment or food. I was recently asked to try “Mr Lee’s Noodles” which are marketed as “Gourmet Oriental Noodles in a Cup”. They are gluten-free, and contain freeze-dried ingredients which retain flavours better once reconstituted  – as opposed to dehydrated – with “absolutely no nasties”. And there’s more – they’re low in salt, low in sugar, low in saturated fats and low in calories. All well and good but would they also be low in taste?

I was keen to put them to the test as I’m always on the lookout for healthy options for food on the go but first I thought I’d better see what the competition was like so I trotted along to the supermarket to see what I could find. It seemed that a popular and not too expensive variety was “Pot Noodle” and there are apparently at least a dozen different flavours to choose from. I selected the Chicken & Mushroom – here it is:

image

And here’s the nutritional information on the back of the pot:

image

It’s disappointing for someone who’s trying to eat more healthily to see palm fat and monosodium glutamate in a list of ingredients and what exactly do things like potassium carbonate and disodium inosinate add to these noodles? If I don’t know what it is, I’m certainly not going to eat it.

So onto the noodles provided by the team at Mr Lee’s.

image

I spent a week trying out the six available flavours (noodles almost every day!) and you can see below what I thought of them. It’s worth bearing in mind that I’ve never tasted any other brand of instant cup noodle (I only photographed the chicken and mushroom Pot Noodle – it then went back on the supermarket shelf because the ingredients really put me off) so I couldn’t do a direct taste comparison with other noodles on the market. I took photos of the nutritional information panels of each Mr Lee’s flavour and there are indeed no “nasties” such as monosodium glutamate or palm fat. I’ve also calculated – for any Slimming World members who may be reading this review – the amount of Syns per pot and Mr Lee’s Noodles are reassuringly low Syn.

As I’m a bit of a chilli wimp, I thought I’d start with a flavour that was classed as ‘mild’ ( one chilli rating) – Hong Kong Street Beef. Mr Lee’s consist of rice noodles which I find are a lighter option than wheat noodles.

Here’s the nutritional panel:

image

Here’s what they looked like when I’d made them up:

image

You can see the decent sized pieces of beef (which actually tasted of beef and not some indeterminate meaty substance) , broccoli and red pepper and the noodles softened very well but weren’t soggy. There was more than a subtle hint of chilli – I’d say 5/10 in the heat stakes – and the flavours of ginger and five spice were evident in the light, savoury sauce. The sauce had a clean, fresh taste and wasn’t over salty. Slimming World Syn value – 2 Syns per pot

Next I tried the Shaolin Monk Vegetable noodles.

image

This flavour is suitable for vegetarians but not vegans as it contains honey. This flavour has no chilli rating. It had a good selection of vegetable pieces with cauliflower, green beans, red pepper and sweetcorn being particularly evident.

image

Although five spice, garlic granules and yeast extract were listed as ingredients, they didn’t come through that well. Overall, this pot was quite bland and while not unpleasant, it was a little disappointing as I thought the variety of vegetables – including usually more robust porcini mushrooms – would add more flavour. Perhaps a little chilli would have livened it up. Slimming World Syn value – 1 ½ per pot

Next came the Warrior Fighting Shrimp flavour.

image

Now this flavour was rated “3 chillis” so I was prepared for quite a whack of heat.

image

What came through very strongly at first was the five spice and the fish sauce and the hit from the chilli came soon after and numbed my taste buds somewhat – so much so that I couldn’t really distinguish any other flavours. The prawns were quite plump and you could see spring onion and seaweed flakes but for me, the chilli overwhelmed them. I think a “medium / two chilli rating” would have allowed the other elements to shine a little more. I found the chilli levels in this pot a little too challenging – perhaps a 9/10 heat factor – and would recommend having a large glass of water nearby. Due to the amount of chilli in this and the very fishy taste (as opposed to a more delicate seafood flavour), this was my least favourite of the noodles I tried and I didn’t finish the pot. Slimming World Syn value – 1 ½ per pot

The first of two chicken varieties I tried was the Tail Chi Chicken.

image

Once made up, this pot had quite a strong smell of chicken (not artificial) and the pieces of meat were clearly visible along with sweetcorn and green beans.

image

There was a noticeable hint of ginger which balanced the overall flavour and it reminded me – in a good way – of chicken and sweetcorn soup that I used to eat in Chinese restaurants, back in the day. This had no chilli in it but there was a gentle warmth from the ginger and plenty of flavour without it. Slimming World Syn value – 2 per pot

Next I chose the Dragon Fire Mushroom pot.

image

This had a rating of three chillis like the Warrior Fighting Shrimps and so I prepared myself with a glass of water and an electric fan – just in case. (Actually, I’m joking about the fan!) Reassuringly there were a lot of mushrooms in this pot along with red pepper pieces.

image

When made up, the vegetables looked very substantial and the mushrooms weren’t slimy once reconstituted. The liquid was very well absorbed so it was less “soupy” than the other varieties I tried. This pot had a mild savoury taste with a hint of wild garlic and surprisingly, given the three chilli rating, wasn’t as hot as I’d anticipated. I’d say it had an 8/10 chilli factor and as a result I managed to finish all of it. Slimming World Syn value – 1 ½ per pot.

The final pot of Mr Lee’s Noodles was Penang Chicken Curry Laksa which had a two chilli rating so I expected a manageable medium heat.

image

When prepared, this pot had a good mix of chicken pieces, cauliflower and red pepper.

image

The ingredients included coconut cream but I couldn’t really taste is as the predominant flavour was curry powder – which was fine but I’d hoped the coconut would have had more of a presence. I’d give the heat from the chilli a 6/10 rating. I felt this pot had a good ‘clean’ flavour and the curry taste didn’t linger on my tongue afterwards. Slimming World Syn value – 2 per pot

 

Having sampled all six varieties of Mr Lee’s Noodles, I would recommend them for occasions when you have to grab lunch on the go. Of course, I’ve given my honest opinion on each of the flavours based on what I like and the fact that I can’t eat food with too much chilli.

Mr Lee’s Noodles would be a good cupboard standby for times when you can’t always cook from scratch e.g. when you’re at work as all you need is a kettle. All varieties are gluten-free and some flavours are suitable for vegetarians.

Slimming World members – Mr Lee’s Noodles are only 1 ½ or 2 Syns per pot whereas standard pot noodles (any brand) are at least 5 Syns – and may contain several unhealthy ingredients and fillers too. As far as ‘fast food’ goes, Mr Lee’s Noodles are a healthy option that you can easily incorporate into the food optimising lifestyle.

 

Mr Lee’s Noodles (and there is a real Mr Lee behind them) are not currently available in supermarkets but you can buy them online at: www.mrleesnoodles.com.

 

 

Disclaimer: I was sent a box of Mr Lee’s Noodles in return for an honest review. The above reflects my genuine opinion of the product.

 

The Joy of Juicing – A Product Review

When I was asked to review the L’Equip XL Juicer I was rather excited as I have spent silly money in the past buying bottled or commercially made ‘fresh’ juices (I get suckered in at places like Planet Organic or Wholefood Market) so I thought it was an ideal opportunity to have a go myself. My only concern was that the juicer in question might be really high tech because I’m a simple soul and like kitchen equipment to be straightforward and easy to use. (You have to remember that I started work back in the days when telex machines were all the rage, we had no computers and used carbon paper to make copies of typed letters!)

image2-copy-30

With that in mind, I was pleased to find that when I took the juicer out of the box, it was already put together and I only had to remove some packing paper. I was also very happy to see that the only ‘control’ was the on-off switch – nothing complicated at all. The essential components are also dishwater friendly which is a bonus.

The L’Equip XL Juicer comes with quite a large container for the pulp which is extracted but you provide your own glass or jug to collect the juice from the small spout. It also comes with a ‘pusher’ with which you press down on the fruit and vegetables to facilitate their progression through the juicer. The juicer as a whole is rather compact which makes it suitable for kitchens where space is at a premium.

image1-copy-36

Having rummaged in the fridge and my fruit bowl, I decided to make two juices: carrot, orange and ginger and then apple, courgette and spinach. While I do like freshly squeezed fruit juices, I find that adding greens and other vegetables makes them more robust and filling and of course, we are always being reminded that we should be consuming more vegetables. To give my juices a bit more ‘ooomph’, I also selected some other ingredients, namely turmeric powder and nutmeg. (I found a courgette after I’d taken the photo!)

image3-copy-12

My next step was to wash, peel and cut the fruit and vegetables into big chunks. The L’Equip juicer has a wide feeding tube but it’s easier to push items through if they are even sizes. I didn’t bother about removing pips or cores from the fruit as I knew they would be removed during the juicing process and end up in the pulp container. I peeled the oranges though as the skin and pith can be quite bitter and could have potentially challenged the juicer a bit too much.

Then I was ready to go! With the fruit and vegetables on a chopping board next to the juicer, I switched it on and started feeding through the carrots, orange chunks and a 2cm piece of unpeeled ginger. I also added ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder because I like the subtle taste and warmth it gives. I pressed down on the pusher to ensure everything went through smoothly and added more oranges and carrots and repeated the action. It only took a few seconds and the bright orange juice started coming out of the spout straight into the waiting glass. It’s worth mentioning that I felt the juicer wasn’t too noisy although obviously I’ve never had one before to compare it to.

image2-copy-31

I then made a second juice with the apples, courgette (well it was sitting in the fridge with no other purpose in mind!) and spinach plus a dash of nutmeg powder. The instructions for the juicer advise that if you use leafy greens, you should roll them up into a more solid ball so I made the effort to squash the spinach up as tightly as I could. This juice was a beautiful vivid green and it’s sad that a lot of people won’t even try a green juice purely because of the colour. You really don’t taste the spinach – or the courgette for that matter – so I’d suggest trying it.

I had wanted to try a juice with kale – as it’s such an up and coming vegetable – but unfortunately my local supermarkets didn’t have any apart from the chopped curly variety but the chunks of stalk aren’t good for juicing – too bitter & really hard.

Once I’d made the juices, it was time to wash the juicer. Dismantling it was really simple and I easily washed the parts in the sink, dried them and quickly reassembled the machine ready for next time. I’m keen to try other juices with ingredients like beetroot (good quality ready-made beetroot juice is really expensive to buy in the shops), blueberries and mangoes which I’ve had in home-made smoothies before. Smoothies are very filling – especially if they are so thick you almost have to chew them – but over spring and summer it’ll be good to have the lighter option of juices.

image1-copy-37

The pulp that resulted from the two juices that I made was pretty dry which indicates that the juicer does a very good job of extracting as much juice as possible. Rather than waste the pulp I’ll use it to make vegetable soup or vegetable patties, which is a benefit you don’t get from shop-bought juices.

Overall and bearing in mind I’m a juicing novice with nothing to compare this model to, I’d rate the L’Equip XL Juicer with pulp extraction as follows:

Easy to use:            5/5

Easy to clean:         5/5

Easy to assemble:   5/5

A note for any followers of ‘Slimming World’ (like me) – when you make fresh juice it does contain Syns. I’ve checked these on the Slimming World app and generally you have to calculate 1.5 – 2 Syns per 100mls of fresh fruit or vegetable juice which isn’t excessive in my opinion so you could treat yourselves to an occasional fresh fruit or green juice every once in a while without affecting weight loss. Making your own juice is so much better than buying it from a shop because there are no added preservatives or bulking ingredients.

One final point – I’d recommend drinking the juices within 15 minutes of making them as they can discolour if you leave them too long (green juices have a tendency to look a bit ‘muddy’ if left although the flavour is unaffected). If you decide to make a juice and keep it in the fridge overnight, it may separate but will be fine once you stir it.

 

Disclaimer: Steamer Trading provided me with the L’Equip Juicer in return for an honest and objective review. The above represents my genuine opinion of this product and I’d be happy to discuss my first juicing experience further with anyone who is considering buying one. I can be contacted via email: littlepinkkitchen@hotmail.com.

 

The juicer is available to purchase here:  https://www.steamer.co.uk/electricals/juicers-blenders/l-equip-215-xl-juicer.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posh Porridge? I don’t mind if I do…

On cold mornings there’s nothing like a hot, steaming bowl of porridge to set you up for the day. Except that porridge on its own can be a little dull. I’ve never been the type of person to make it with water as it makes it taste like wallpaper paste. Oh no, I like my porridge to be a little luxurious and so back in the days when I was over 6 stone heavier than I am now, my porridge often contained nuts, seeds, fruit and even a touch of cream. To think I thought the nuts and stewed fruit made it healthy. How deluded can you be?

When I started to lose weight, my porridge contained semi-skimmed milk, a grated apple and some cinnamon which tasted good but after a while became a little “samey”. That made me look at other additions that would also be good for me and fill me up. I’ve since tried “carrot cake porridge” using grated carrot in place of apple and adding nutmeg as well as cinnamon and also – somewhat surprisingly you may think – sweet potatoes and pumpkin. I highly recommend these if you want a really REALLY filling breakfast.

My latest porridge related recipe was inspired by Mullerlight yoghurts who have just introduced a “Cherry Bakewell” flavour in conjunction with Slimming World. The classic flavour combination of cherries and almonds is always a winner in my house but at the moment cherries are out of season and I tend not to eat nuts as I usually can’t stop until an entire packet has been emptied!

So I had to be creative for my next porridge extravaganza and turned to my baking supplies cupboard (not that I bake these days…. too much temptation) to get some ideas.

The result was a “Raspberry Bakewell” flavoured baked porridge breakfast that is *FREE* on the Slimming World plan (if you use some of your Healthy Extra milk allowance). A good quality brand of almond essence (I use Nielsen Massey) gives you the hint of “bakewell” without adding any fat, calories or Syns and adding the raspberries at the end gives a burst of flavour as you tuck in.

It’s porridge but definitely a bit posh.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

 

Ingredients

40g porridge oats

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon granulated sweetener

1 egg, beaten

175mls milk (I use 1% fat these days but semi skimmed or other is fine)

½ teaspoon good quality almond essence

Small handful of fresh raspberries

Method

Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 4, Fan 160 degrees C or 180 degrees C.

Mix the porridge oats, baking powder and sweetener together in a bowl.

In a jug, beat the egg and add the milk and almond essence. Mix well.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and pour the mixture into a small ovenproof dish. The one in the photos is 5 inches (14cms) in diameter.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until the top is golden and no longer ‘wobbles’ if you wiggle the dish. You want it to be slightly firm – not like cement – although if you leave it for a while before eating it will thicken up.

Serve topped with the fresh raspberries.

image1-copy-35

Just out of the oven!

 

 

image2-copy-29

Mmmm. Delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

Guilt Free ‘Cream’ Cheese

Having lost over 5 stone with Slimming World in less than a year, I’ve changed my eating habits drastically and feel so much better for it. It has been a challenge to overcome the cravings I frequently used to have for butter, cream, chocolate, cakes, anything with salted caramel in it and salt and vinegar crisps (to name but a few things) but I’ve done it. What helped me to lose weight was creating healthier versions of certain dishes that I used to love even though they weren’t always good for me. I now spend a lot of time in the kitchen working on new recipes and ensuring they taste as good as the ‘full fat’ versions but are much better for you.

One thing I used to like quite a lot was rich, creamy (and calorie laden) garlic and herb soft cheese. And I ate quite substantial portions of it as I didn’t seem to have a full button. So, in order to have an occasional indulgent cheese fest, I needed to come up with a recipe that would satisfy my cheese-y tooth while adhering to the Slimming World guidelines.

So, here is my recipe for a FAT FREE (yup, you read that correctly) creamy tasting garlic and herb cheese that is good spread on bread, bagels and buns or dolloped on a jacket potato or chilli dish. The possibilities are endless. I’ve used chives but you could use any herbs you like. I like the cheese made with fresh garlic but when I don’t have any I use garlic granules. The small amount of sweetener counters the slightly sour taste of the quark but you can leave it out if you wish.

While you can play around with the added ingredients, the key thing in this recipe is that you have to strain the cheese for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight, in the fridge. This is what changes the consistency and fools you into thinking that a thicker cheese must mean a creamy cheese. Yes, it’s thicker but you can eat copious amounts of it with a clear conscience because it’s FAT FREE!

Ingredients

250g fat free quark (usually at the end of a supermarket cheese aisle)

1 ½ tablespoons of fresh or dried chives. If fresh, snip them into small pieces

½ teaspoon granulated sweetener

¼ teaspoon of garlic powder or 1 small/medium fresh garlic clove, crushed

Salt and pepper to taste

 

You’ll need a nut milk bag (Amazon or health food shop purchase) or a jam straining bag.

 

Method

Place all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix together with a spoon.

image1-copy-33

You should end up with a fairly sloppy textured mixture, like this:

image2-copy-27

Take a nut milk bag (pictured) or jam straining bag, and spoon the mixture into it.

image3-copy-10

You then need to suspend the filled bag over a bowl to catch the liquid that comes out of the cheese. I have to improvise with a silicone spatula (see photo) but I think that’s a sign of a creative cook!

image1-copy-34

Place the bowl and the suspended cheese filled bag in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

You can see how much liquid comes out of the cheese in this photo.

image2-copy-28

Once strained, tip the now firm cheese into a small bowl. If not eating immediately, cover with cling film and keep in the fridge.

Eat and enjoy!

image3-copy-11

 

For any Slimming World members reading this, as this creamy cheese is actually fat free quark it is a FREE FOOD and not a Healthy Extra A choice like many other cheeses. How brilliant is that?

 

 

 

2016 -A Review

As we rapidly approach 2017, I thought I’d take some time to review my significant moments of the past year and consider what I learned from them.

As many of you know, we relocated to North Norfolk in December 2015 so for us, 2016 promised to be an exciting year. We bought a house in March and moved in just after Easter. After living in south London for almost 20 years and inhaling relentless diesel fumes, encountering the ‘angry brigade’ with alarming regularity – you know, the road ragers, the commuter ragers, the supermarket queue moaners – and being bombarded by constant noise, it has been a joy to live in a small, quiet village in the country.

We wake up to glorious silence, only broken by the occasional squawk of the pheasants or the singing of the gentler dawn chorus. What a change from our previous house which being on a rat run meant traffic noises started early, drowning out the sounds of any wildlife which dared to rear its head. Our Norfolk neighbours are friendly and always stop for a chat. Very different from say, Croydon, where if you caught anyone’s eye they’d look at you as if you were an axe murderer. Or maybe they were afraid you’d identified them as one. We support local shops and farm producers where possible and I’m sure things like potatoes taste more ‘potato-ey’ than if you buy them in a supermarket. I’ve attended various Farmers’ Markets in the area and have made contact with small, local food producers, deli owners, cafe and restaurant owners and others who are putting Norfolk on the foodie map of Great Britain. While we’re not quite leading the ‘Good Life’ (no goat called Geraldine in our garden), it’s certainly a vast improvement on our previous one.

We’re fortunate that following the move and the down-sizing involved, I’m able to work on a part-time basis while my husband stays at home as the ‘Domestic, Garden and Cocker Spaniel Manager’. In our early 50s, we’ve finally discovered the meaning of ‘work-life balance’ and it’s an excellent feeling. We bring home less money but we’re so much happier. So many well-known people have passed away in 2016 with some not that much older than us. Who really wants to work until they drop or drop before they’ve even had a chance to enjoy life? Hubby and I both had near death experiences in the last few years: he had an undiagnosed heart problem in 2012 that was almost fatal and in 2013 I was involved in a road traffic accident that nearly polished me off. As a result we decided that the time was right to take life by the horns and enjoy whatever time we have left. That’s why we’re now in Norfolk and loving it.

Once we’d settled in to our new house, I thought I’d better find a job which wasn’t as easy as it would have been in London given that my area of HR is a bit specialised, but I persevered. After a couple of false starts in jobs that weren’t right for me (memo to self – never take the first offer or the second if it’s worse than the first), I found my ideal position working as an HR Manager for a local animal sanctuary. It’s a big change from my previous HR roles in corporate type organisations: I’m based in a shed on a farm, there’s a lot of mud, and I have to walk 200 yards to a portacabin loo which can be a challenge when it’s minus 4 degrees outside or bucketing down with rain! As I write this during my lunch break, I’m wearing a woolly hat, fingerless gloves, a thermal vest, a thin fleece, a thicker fleece over the top, tights under my trousers, thick socks and walking boots. This is ‘office chic’ Norfolk country style. No more early morning decisions about what shirt to wear or whether I need to iron a suit for meetings. I may look like a bag lady – the grey hair probably doesn’t help – but I’m warm (mostly) and still getting the work done. And, even better, I have an outstanding view across the fields: I see happy cows; horses; sheep; pigs; goats and I get frequent cuddles and licks from puppies in the dog rescue centre. Unlike when I worked for a well-known telecommunications company or an equally prominent clothes, food and home goods retailer (not just any retailer, you know the one), I feel I’m doing something worthwhile and not just increasing share-holders’ profits.

The other significant change in my life is ending 2016 almost 5 ½ stone lighter than I was in January. After 30 years of yoyo dieting, the odd cranky eating regime (I don’t recommend the grapefruit and hardboiled egg diet) and even the very low calorie liquid diet that knocked off 7 stone in 6 months (regained within 18 months), I found Slimming World and it has completely changed my life.

People who have never been overweight, fat, morbidly obese, or even slightly porky will never be able to understand quite how it affects the lives of people who are. I’m generally seen as an outgoing, lively person but underneath the formerly fat, seemingly jolly exterior was a desperately unhappy individual with low self-esteem and a high level of self-loathing. If I couldn’t love myself, how could I expect anyone else to? I was very fat, extremely miserable and a compulsive eater. All this psychobabble about ‘comfort eating’ is a load of tripe in my experience. I’d eat when I was happy (to ‘celebrate’), upset (to ‘compensate’) or stressed (to ‘calm down’). I’d eat when I was hungry and when I wasn’t. Eating didn’t cheer me up or comfort me – it made me feel even worse but I was caught in a never-ending cycle and genuinely believed it would never change. While I did lose weight on the ‘good’ diets I tried such as WeightWatchers and Rosemary Conley, I was always hungry. Calculating ‘points’ was time-consuming and you had to buy all the WeightWatchers paraphernalia in order to do it. I lost a stone in 2015 having attended WW for about 8 weeks but lost the will to live at that point and gave up.

When I joined Slimming World in Norfolk on 5th January 2016, I didn’t expect to have the success I’ve achieved. I thought I’d probably last a couple of months and then it would go the way of other fruitless weight loss attempts. How wrong I was. Once I’d got to grips with the plan I was off – and so were the unwanted pounds. I attended the group every week and made lots of new friends, all fighting the same battle as me. With Slimming World, there is minimal weighing and measuring of food and you can eat satisfyingly large amounts and still lose weight. Of course, over 30 years of bad habits don’t disappear overnight and I’ve had the occasional wobble when chocolate or cake has called to me very loudly but I’ve always got back on track very quickly and continued to lose weight. At the time of writing this, I’ve lost a total of 6 stone 4 ½ lbs since March 2015. By the end of March 2017, I’m certain I will have reached my target (1 and a half stone to go) and I know that I won’t ever be the fat, fiftyish, frumpy friend again because I have changed my eating habits for life thanks to Slimming World. If I can do it, anybody can. My only regret is that I wasted time and money on all those other diets over many years and ended up chunkier than ever.

One thing I’m disappointed about was not keeping up with my blog in 2016 as much as I’d planned. The house move, job hunting and the diet took up most of my time and the blog – which largely featured cakes and baking when I started it – took a back seat. I’m hoping to change that for 2017 as I enjoy writing and have quite a few ideas for new posts. I need to learn a few more technical things about WordPress and may need to upgrade so that I can do things with widgets and plug-ins (finding out what they are will be my first priority!). The focus will still be food – obviously – but geared towards healthier eating while not compromising on flavour. I plan to continue interviewing local Norfolk food producers for the blog and a Norfolk travel website, undertake product reviews and lots more.

So what did I learn in 2016? Firstly, that there is life after London and that moving to the country has benefitted my health, well-being and self-esteem enormously. Secondly, looking for a job can be challenging especially when one is over 50 (ahem!) but with some positive thinking and creative approaches, the right job is out there so never lose heart. Finally, you can change your life for the better, whether it’s a new house, a new job or a new body. In one short year, my life has improved beyond my expectations and I will be eternally grateful to every single person who has helped me along the way.

I wish you all an adventurous 2017 and hope that you achieve your dreams – they are within reach. They really are.