No need for fad diets

Judith Wills / 11 July 2014

Judith's brother voices some strong opinions about diets. knee replacement, chocolate

My older brother came over to watch the Grand Prix with Husband last Sunday. This pair of ageing petrolheads have been mulling over the ins and outs of the sport for many years now, and enjoy nothing more than to watch Silverstone, or indeed any circuit, together, while I slave out in the kitchen preparing them a Sunday 'lunch', which we always have around 6pm before his drive back home to the outer reaches of Wales.

Having known my brother all my life (believe it or not), if there is one certainty, it is that he will devour a fruit crumble, with lashings of custard and possibly a side of vanilla ice cream.

So you can imagine my astonishment when, after a moderate plateful of roast pork and vegetables (“no crackling, thank you” - what?) he spurned the home-grown rhubarb pudding without a second thought.

“I put on a lot of weight after S died” he said. (His partner of over 20 years passed away at 56 last December.) “I bought lots of Mars bars instead of lunch, and people would bring over boxes of chocolates and I ate the lot, not that it helped much. Now I've decided the paunch has to go, and I've lost half a stone in the past few weeks,” he announced.

He then launched into an anti-fad-diet tirade not dissimilar to those you'll find in my blogs on here. “I'm not meaning to offend you, as I know you made a living writing about diets”, he continued while I sat there scoffing the pudding I'd made for him, feeling like the naughty child being told off in class and wanting to answer back.

“The point is,” he said sternly, “there is absolutely no need for anyone ever to buy a diet book or some ridiculous slimming plan or count calories or give up meat or eggs or pasta or whatever is the latest idea....” (I could have said, 'It's sugar, Rob,' but by this stage I couldn't get a word in and anyway I obviously know nothing).

“All you have to do is eat less. That's all you have to do. All I've done is cut back on snacks, stopped eating pudding and eat smaller portions – that's ALL YOU HAVE TO DO!”

He is of course, more or less right about that – if chocolate bars and puddings and overlarge helpings have been the thing making you fat. You just work out what it is that's been your downfall and either give it up or cut it back. If you are full of willpower and determination – as he obviously is - then it's easy. At least for a while.

When he was drinking his coffee I did get a few words in, in my defence. I pointed out that, after writing three 'get slim quick' books back in the late 80s and early 90s, I haven't written another for about the last 20 years, having realised what matters is not getting the fat off quickly but either preventing it coming on in the first place, or keeping it off once it's lost. And the way to that was, I thought then and think now, healthy natural eating, tons of vegetables and plenty of exercise.

“So all you need to do now, dear Bro, is stop relying on ready meals every evening, learn how to cook broccoli and cabbage, get on your bike every day for an hour or so and you really will be a saint,” I finished. He gave me a Look. He's had a knee replacement so I know the latter isn't going to happen anytime soon.

And next time he comes over, for his sake I hope he's still smug and saintly – because there will definitely be no pudding. Not for him, anyway.

Ate last night:

Freeform salmon fish cakes and avocado salad

I do love a fish cake. And now the first of our homegrown potatoes (Sharpe's Express) are ready I'm enjoying incorporating them into various meals, so fish cakes seemed in order. Sharpe's go mushy easily if you fast boil them, so I scrubbed then steamed about 300g and then I smashed – not mashed - them, soft pieces of skin and all, with a dollop of mayonnaise. Meanwhile, I part-cooked two salmon fillets on a plate in the microwave on medium-high for about 2 minutes (I rarely use the microwave to actually cook anything, it's more of a warming device in our household but it works well for fish fillets as long as you're careful about the timing). The fish should still be raw in the centre, as it will finish cooking when you fry the cakes.

I flaked the salmon, then tipped it into a bowl with the potatoes, some chopped spring onions, parsley and coriander leaf, a little salt, plenty of black pepper, an egg yolk and some finely chopped fresh green chilli, which I love but is of course optional. I mixed everything with a fork then spooned the mix into four rough mounds on a board and dusted them with flour. Using a metal spatula, I transferred them to a large hot non-stick frying pan containing a little groundnut oil, and fried them for about 3 minutes a side on medium until they were golden.

Served with buttery lettuce, even more buttery avocado, a bit of cucumber and yet more sliced spring onions, all just drizzled with a little aged balsamic as a simple dressing, this was a great summer evening meal, rich with good fats, fibre and flavour.

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