Saturday, 15 June 2013

Snig’s top tips for the 5:2 diet (The Fast Diet)

Him Indoors and I decided to take the plunge and go on the 5:2 diet (also known as The Fast Diet) after a period of wonderful over indulgence. I wrote about our first two weeks on the 5:2 diet recently, which you can find here:

Well, the results are beginning to show. Him Indoors has lost some weight, but he didn't bother to weigh himself before he started. His clothes are all fitting a little more loosely. And there was a pair of trousers he had thought needed to go to the charity shop which fits. He’s between sizes right now, 34” waist is a little tight, and 36” is getting looser each week. 

I found I had lost 2.5kg (5.5lbs) at the start of week 3, weighing myself before fast day 5. Frankly, I can't believe I have lost as much weight as I have through only 4 days of food denial. Normally, I would have to have gone through three weeks, maybe more, of constant and depressing self denial to achieve the same weight loss. My 2 days a week of 'fasting' (I get to eat 500 calories and Him Indoors is allowed 600) are pretty bearable given they are preceded and followed by days of plenty. 

On my second fast day of week 6 (fast day 12 in all), I weighed myself and found I had lost another kilo, so a total of 3.5kg (7.7lbs) over the whole diet period. I am now only 1.5kg off my target weight, which feels amazing! 

I actually FIT INTO skinny jeans in my size! I can hardly believe this. I had gone through a depressing time when I wanted to buy a pair of skinny jeans, but for neither love nor money could find a pair that fit the three areas; bottom, thighs and tummy. And we all know that to look anything approaching OK, the damn jeans have to fit all three! I wore the skinny jeans every day for a week to celebrate. Until Him Indoors suggested they might need a wash!

The most noteworthy thing about this whole experience is that I don’t feel like going back to unlimited eating 7 days a week. I feel I’ve made a lifestyle change I can live with. As a result, I don’t think I’m going to have a big relapse and put all the weight back on. Perhaps when I go on holiday, I’ll indulge myself, but coming back home and back to the 5:2 diet won’t be difficult. After all, I have shown myself I can get through the fast days – I’ve done 15 of them now!

There are a few things which I have learnt over this period of time which anyone thinking about this diet should know. I have learnt these things from experience, and would like to share it with you in the hope it assists.


Think carefully about when you will have your fast days. You need to make it as easy for yourself as you possibly can. If you prefer to fast when you have a busy day, so you can keep busy, then choose accordingly.

If you feel that you want a really quiet day, or one where you don't have to leave the house, then that's fine too. Just think about your patterns, and how well you resist temptation. I love going out over the weekend eating out, so for me, having a diet day in the weekend would be much too painful. However, it works brilliantly for other people.


Whilst you should think about when your fast days should be with care, don't be afraid to change your days if they aren't working. So, you tried to fast in the weekend thinking you would be less tempted by other people eating, but succumbed to the temptation of a Sunday roast? Then change your fast day. And because you only need to have 2 fast days in a week, you can always change them for one week only if you need to change your plans, as long as you then stick to the discipline of 2 fast days a week.

Experiment with your day allocation and meals and feel hunky-dory


Not all fast days are equal. Some are easier than others. Think about the reasons why. 

Was it too difficult to only have one meal in a day? I have gone for this plan, but there are days it is tough. Would you be better having two small meals?

Do you have two small meals and constantly feel hungry? Have you tried just having one larger meal?

What did you eat on the successful fast days – my advice on proteins and carbohydrates below might help.


Fast days, to accommodate the low calorie count, are highly likely to be dry days too, when you don't consume alcohol. A can of lager has about 250 calories and a glass of medium white wine (250ml) has about 188 calories, so that is a big chunk of your 500 or 600 calorie fast day allowance.

Current thinking is that two days a week without alcohol is exactly the rest your liver needs to look after itself. This means that the 5:2 diet is having yet another health benefit which you might not have considered before. How good is that?!


Plan your meals for your fast days in advance, and get the ingredients in before the fast days. Then you know what you will be having, and don't have the hassle of having to buy in your ingredients when required. Also, if you shop when you're hungry, which will happen on the fast days, you are putting yourself in danger of terrible temptation.


Mix up your fast day meals so you have a variety of flavours and textures. Have things you know you are going to like so that fast days aren't a terrible chore.


No, I’m not advocating that you do a partial Atkins diet. I’m suggesting this because firstly, protein takes the body time to break down, so you feel fuller for longer. You will need this on your fast days to keep hunger at bay for as long as possible. Also, you want the body to burn fat and not muscle. So by giving yourself a decent amount of protein in on a fast day, the body has that protein to burn and not your own! 


Low GI means the glycaemic index of the food is low, and that the body has the energy released from the food slowly. Generally, white bread, white rice, peeled potatoes are high GI. Brown rice, wholemeal bread and oddly, Basmati rice are low GI. Wholegrains take time to break down, and have the added benefit of fibre.  

For an explanation of what Glycaemic Index is all about, visit:

It pains me to say have as little carbohydrate as possible on a fast day. I never met a carbohydrate I didn’t like! Processed carbs will give you a quick energy rush, but you will soon feel lacking in energy and hungry again. Not good on a fast day. It is proteins which should be your new fast day friends.

To look up GI levels of foods see:


You don't need to get all your flavours from cream, butter or fatty meats. Spices and fresh herbs are very low calorie, pretty much negligible. So throw caution to the wind! If you'd usually put only half a tablespoon of chopped parsley in a dish, try a whole one! 

Flat leaf parsley, coriander, thyme, dill are your friends! Be liberal with the garam masala. If you love punchy flavours in your feasting dishes, don't make your diet dishes bland, or you will quickly lose interest in the 5:2 diet. 


You will need to drink so much more fluid on your fast days. I realised that we get a lot of our fluids from our food before I started the diet, but didn't appreciate how much it really was. You need to keep yourself hydrated. Monitoring your wee colour is a good indicator, and you want it as pale as possible. 

If you get dehydrated you'll feel bad during a fast day, and you risk getting constipated later. It's just not worth it.

Herbal teas are a great way of ensuring your get lots of fluid. I personally like the Pukka teas collection of herbal infusions, only because I think they have good flavour. Many of the other makes are all aroma and not enough flavour.

Herbal Tea, my saviour on Fast days
Green Tea either with or without Jasmine is another great drink for fast days. No calories and full of antioxidants. Try white tea, too!

If you like regular tea, just put one tablespoon of semi skimmed milk in, and you have only had 15 calories. If you don't mind the taste, try artificial sweeteners.

A lovely cuppa Rosy! Just what you need on fast day!
Often you will find that if you have a drink when you feel hungry, the hunger subsides. It is really easy to confuse feelings of thirst and hunger until you get more used to the fast days. 


Remember; when you wake up on a fast day, you've already been fasting for a number of hours - in other words you wake up having partially achieved that day's goal!

Keep telling yourself: TOMORROW IS A FEAST DAY! Naming them 'feast days' and 'fast days' has helped me. Because the feast is only one day away!


Check packets of pre-prepared food carefully for the calorie count. Many are dishonest. 

One supermarket (who will remain nameless) said in big letters on the front of the packet their naan breads were 135 cal per serving. There were 2 naans in the packet. So you'd assume that's 135 calories per naan bread, right? Wrong. The servings were 55g or half a naan bread. We would have exceeded our allowance had we not scrutinised the back of the packet. 

Don't let it happen to you! 


Do you have any advice, hints, tips or hacks to share? Please comment below!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

June 2013 Favourites List

We are in June already! Where has the time gone?!

I've spent a good deal of time this month, red pen in hand, marking my students' assessment work. They've done, by and large, a pretty good job. 

Marking is intensive work, demanding patience and attention. So it's easy to end up using the internet (and particularly twitter) as a distraction. Oh dear!

So here is my Favourites List for June 2013. As I have explained before, these Monthly Favourites Lists are where I put together all the things which have interested me over the course of the month.  There are always a few recipes, natch! But I also try to find helpful food pieces, often on how to cook or improve your kitchen skills. All these links have already been shared with my friends & followers on the Snig's Kitchen Facebook page (which you will find here: 

If you are a Facebook person, do like Snig's Kitchen's page so we can connect. My Facebook page is regularly updated (as often as I can manage) with all manner of food related bits and bobs I've managed to dig up from behind the sofa of the internet. The other "Favourite" things are books, films and music. To bring a little colour and fun, there are always some pictures. 

This month's pictures are from a recent trip to see the Mayan Ruins in Mexico at Tulum and Chaccoben. They are wonderfully atmospheric sites, so beautiful and awe inspiring.

Blogs worth following:

The Forest Feast, a cook who lives in woods in the Northern Californian hills:

Roaming Kitchen, by a talented young writer and Cordon Bleu qualified chef:

Indian Simmer, making Indian food simpler:

Wrightfood, a Brit's view of US food with seafood bias:


Ready in 20 mins, Thai Veggie Noodle Stir Fry:

For a sunny day, a slushie with a difference: lemon, pineapple and grapefruit vodka slush!

One pot recipes; it's the Spanish butter bean and tuna salad which appeals to me:

How to make a giant sausage roll! With video recipe!!/atthetable/giantsausageroll/

A creamy comforting stew with chicken meatballs or 'dumplings':

A quick and healthy dinner, made from Salmon an "oily" fish - Pesto salmon, soya bean and quinoa salad recipe:

I personally don't like sandwiches for lunch, so found these packed lunch ideas really cool!

The ever reliable Domestic Sluttery brings you a gluten free Mediterranean Buckwheat salad rich in vegetables and fibre. Healthy and tasty!

Only 357 calories, this is a meaty salad treat - using Lebanese or "Giant" couscous

I'm particularly interested in the Cucumber, fennel and ricotta salad (with sprouting radish seeds), but here are some lovely looking vegetable dishes:

Salad dressings with a difference:



Despicable Me


The Killing III

David Bowie - Five Years (documentary)


Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

Neil Young - Harvest

Bibio - Silver Wilkinson

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Curry For Change: Indian Cooking Masterclass

We, in the UK, are a nation of curry maniacs. This is part of the joy of the UK being so culturally diverse. I think it is amazing that dishes such as Korma, Madras, Vindaloo and Phall are part of the national consciousness and that Chicken Tikka Madras often tops our nation's favourite dish lists. For many people, Friday night is curry night, enjoyed in many of the Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants across the country.

However, the sad fact is that in the home of curry, India, many people in rural areas go hungry. Lack of rain, fertile soil and farming know-how are some factors which cause this. In addition, greedy feudal lords, unscrupulous landlords and corruption conspire to keep people poor. It is estimated that 1 in 8 people worldwide go hungry. Hunger, disease and poverty are everyday realities for the rural poor of India.

Find Your Feet is a small charity who seeks to help communities in India and Nepal to become able to provide for themselves. The do this by getting them "skilled up" so that they are able to feed themselves. Education, training and supply of a few basics rather than food aid are how they help. Making people self-sufficient and able to support themselves has to be the best way of helping communities, whilst preserving their dignity.

I was delighted and honoured to be invited to the launch of Find Your Feet's campaign to raise funds and awareness through "Curry For Change". Kavita from Kavey Eats supports this charity and this campaign, and you can read what she has to say about both here:

I hope you will support this wonderfully good cause. I'll tell you more about how you can do that later, but for Find Your Feet/ Curry For Change's online presence can be found as follows:
Visit the Curry For Change website: (You can sign up for an exclusive FREE Curry for Change kit which includes exclusive recipes by Anjali Pathak and Atul Kochhar, a free pack of authentic spices from FUDCO and the chance to win a private master class with Anjali Pathak).
Follow Find Your Feet on twitter: @findyourfeet
Follow Find Your Feet on face book: Find Your Feet
Follow the campaign on twitter: #curryforchange

I'll tell you about the Masterclass before getting into the real nitty gritty of how to support Find Your Feet.

The Masterclass was held at Chef Vivek Singh's Cinnamon Kitchen restaurant at 9 Devonshire Square, near London's Liverpool Street Station. It's a lovely restaurant space, airy, modern, spacious and comfortable. It is a world away from the flock wallpaper and dinginess of the days of yore. I haven't eaten there, but if it is as wonderful as Vivek's Cinnamon Club in Westminster (where Him Indoors and I celebrated our 3rd Indian Wedding Anniversary), it is a place for some of the very best Indian food in the UK.

Cinnamon Kitchen's dining area
We were looked after in superb fashion, being spoiled with Indianised Bellinis (lychee, goji berries and prosecco) and canapes. We had kebabs in romali rotis, tandoori chicken, tandoori fish, Naanzis (Indian 'Pizzas' made of naan bread) and tangy pooris reminiscent of pani pooris (but without the exploding liquid payload!).
Cinnamon Kitchen's kitchen
 Dhruv Baker, winner of Masterchef 2010 kicked off the Masterclass. Since his win he has worked with Michel Roux Junior at Le Gavroche, and De Librije, Zwolle, Holland and is not about to set up his own restaurant. He demonstrated his own recipe, a version of a Malaba Prawn Curry.
Dhruv Baker talking us through his inspiration

His dish was based on the traditional flavours of South India. Here, the climate is very hot. It is too hot and dry to grow coriander, so curry leaves are used to add subtle herb flavours and aromas. Wet curries are made with coconut milk/cream, given the abundance of coconuts. Seafood in addition is found in abundance. He told us that his inspiration when developing this dish is to remind people that Indian food is more than heat, it can also deal in subtlety. The food is made through the building of flavours in layers, which is why the ingredients are added a little at a time, and allowed to release their flavours before the next stage is attempted. 

The rapidly cooked fresh king prawns were served on pooris, fried Indian flatbreads made from flour, oil and water. This was a wonderful little canape which could easily be scaled up into a very tasty supper.
Meeting Dhruv Baker
Prawn Malaba Curry on Pooris

Vivek Singh's dish was an attempt to bring the marinating and roasting techniques of tandoor cooking home. A real tandoor (a sunken clay oven which can reach up to 400 degrees C) is not practical in anyone's kitchen, so the aim was to get a similar effect and flavours on a grill or in the oven. The meat used was a good quality saddle of lamb. The red curry sauce (or 'pickling sauce') originated in Rajasthan in Western India. 

Vivek Singh at work
Vivek told us that the vegetables used in the dish could be varied and flexible. We were advised to think seasonally. Hence he highlighted that since small red radishes were just right for this time of year, they were perfect for this dish. The spicing included methi seeds (fenugreek), fennel seeds, black onion seeds and dried red chillis. 
The pickling style vegetables

We were given some other very useful advice on Indian cooking. Tandoori cooking depends on the meat used being marinaded. The marinading serves several functions; flavour, tenderising and preservation. We were told that the quality of the meat used should help guide your techniques and method. Since Vivek was using top quality saddle of lamb, it did not need to be overwhelmed by either overspicing or marinading too long.

Finally, we were told after cooking the meat, either on the grill (or barbeque) or in the oven, it should be rested for as long as it was cooked for to allow the meat to relax to regain its true texture.
Delicious tandoori lamb

Vivek's saddle of lamb with 'Aachar' (pickled) vegetables was a taste revelation and a perfect alternative to the regular Sunday roast.

Snigdha and Chef Vivek Singh
Anjum Anand's dessert was a souffle. Hang on, I hear you say, that's not very Indian! Well, the addition of rose essence, rose syrup, and pomegranate flavours makes it an "Indianised" souffle, in the same vein as the popular Indianised Eton Mess in her recent book. 
Anjum making the pomegranate syrup for the souffle mix

The pomegranate kernels were juiced, and that juice reduced down with cornflower. That was then added to the souffle mix, a meringue mix of egg whites and sugar. The souffles were baked in the oven and served with a cream flavoured with rose essence and crushed raspberries.

The Pomegranate soufflé with rose and raspberry cream was an amazing dish, full of subtle flavours and lightness which would make a show stopping dessert at a dinner party.
Awe inspiring souffles

It was a completely humbling and marvellous experience to learn from these experts in their field. When I mentioned what I was doing to a musician friend of mine, he noted who was taking the Masterclass, saying: "Forget Cream or The Jam, that really is a power trio!" I couldn't agree more!
Snig gets to meet the amazing Anjum Anand

This is the second year of the Curry For Change campaign. So how can you support the campaign and help raise funds?

Well, the easy option is to eat out at one of the partner organisations of Find Your Feet.

Atul Kocchar is the Patron of Curry for Change. His amazing Michelin Starred restaurant Benares, is a superb fusion of British and Indian food which has to be tasted to be believed. Situated in swanky Mayfair, their address is 12a Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London W1J 6BS (020 7629 8886). You can book them online via:

Vivek Singh's Cinnamon Restaurants are another fantastic option. You could eat at either Cinnamon Club (Westminster), Cinnamon Kitchen (Liverpool Street) or Cinnamon Soho (Soho). If you were to have their 3 course meal and cocktail deal for £29 per person, then £5 will be donated from each menu to the 'Find Your Feet Curry for Change' charity. This offer is available for lunch Mon-Fri, dinner Mon-Sat (6pm-6.30pm & after 9.30pm Tues-Fri).  Available from BookATable

Alternatively you can book via the following links:

Cyrus Todiwala's Cafe Spice Namaste is another option. Chef Todiwala is a real expert in Indian food in all its glory, and I know this having seen him demonstating dishes at other cooking events. His restaurant is located at 16 Prescot Street, London E1 8AZ and was the Winner of the Best Asian Restaurant Business of the Year – 2013 Asian Business Awards. You can book a table here:

Chef Todiwala is hosting a special event for Curry For Change: Cyrus Todiwala’s Khaadraas (‘Greedy Pigs’) Club Dinner on Friday 21st June 2013 at Cafe Spice Namaste where for £29.95 you'll get a 3 course meal (with £5 going to Find Your Feet)!

The Regency Club; an award winning bar and grill situated in Queensbury, North West Londo19- 21 Queensbury Station Parade, Edgware, Middlesex, HA8 5NR Tel: 0208 952 6300

Harrow's The Red Turban, (Nominated for the Best Restaurant in the Spice Times Awards 2011) located at 244 Streatfield Road, Harrow, Middlesex, HA3 9BX (020 8238 9999) is another partner restaurant. You can reserve a table online via:

For those in South East London, you could visit Cinnamon Culture Restaurant, 46 Plaistow Lane, Bromley BR1 3PA (0208 289 0322), where you can book via Any questions can be directed via email to

In Central London, you could go to Roti Chai, 3 Portman Mews S, City of Westminster, London W1H (020 7408 0101), you can look it up here:

Readers in Kent may want to visit Indian Essence, 176-178 Petts Wood Road, Pettswood, BR5 1LG (01689 838700) or email:

You could also visit the renowned supper club Darjeeling Express hosted by Asma Khan who on Saturday 15th June 2013 will be holding a fundraising supperclub dinner (the minimum suggested donation is £15 and a deposit of £10 is required to cover food costs and fees) located in London, SW5. Details here:
There is an Indian Food and Spice Odyssey Class (with emphasis on Indian Street Food) on Wednesday 12th June 2013 at Hobbs House Bakery, Chipping Sodbury, Bristol for £95 (in conjunction with Urban Rajah). Details are available at:  

To hold your own event, you can request a Curry For Change fundraiser's pack here:

Please do what you can to support Curry For Change. It's a great cause, run by a highly committed small charity who wants to help by means of the transfer of knowledge and skills rather than aid. It is the perfect way of helping people make real change in their lives. After all, I heard it said that if you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Whereas if you teach a man to fish, he eats for his whole life.