Monday, 2 September 2013


Hi how was your summer?

Annoying question. As if we're American high school teenagers returning from 6 week sojourns to Cape Cod, or hilarious hi-jinx stints working at a beach bar in Florida.

How was my summer? I had a toddler and a newborn and my part-time nanny went on holiday for 2 months. HOW DO YOU THINK IT WAS.

Actually I made a stunning discovery as I walked with Sam round and round the deck of a billionaire's yacht in Sardinia in mid-August (long story): successful women wear sportswear during the day and black when they go out in the evening.

I had been observing the billionaire's wife, who wore sportswear during the day and black - and only black - in the evenings. I asked her what she would be wearing this autumn (as I pulled my ancient TopShop orange sundress over my massive sweaty escaping bosom) and she said "mostly black. I seem to have about a hundred black sweaters". And I thought, I bet you do.

So I thought about it more and realised that whenever I admire what some woman or other is wearing, she's almost always wearing head to toe black. I feel like I shouldn't do this because it's too EASY and it's "BORING". I think this because Anna Wintour famously hates black and I loved The September Issue. But she is the editor of Vogue and weighs three stone. She lives to wear colour. As do, say, Kate Middleton or the Queen. They have to wear colour so that people can see them.

I do not have to be seen and I do not live to wear colour. I live to not have a nervous breakdown because not only am I still more than a stone overweight I cannot find anything to wear when I have to go out. Answer: BLAAAAAAAAAAACCKKKK. It has made shopping for clothes, which I find a fascinating but ultimately futile exercise, a total doddle: anything as long as it's black.

And, during the day I will wear sports luxe, i.e. running shoes, nice running capris and a marl sweater. I'm only going to spend the whole day running up and down the stairs, bending over and getting covered in sick and crap anyway. It's a sort of workout!!! Done. Thanks.

O, the irony, then! that my exercise regime has slightly fallen by the wayside, although not totally. After nearly crippling my knees with my ten-minute runs (I did not warm up or down properly, or have any rest days) I have turned instead to doing a lot of plies in dead moments of the day, i.e. when both children are occupied just enough so I don't have to do anything, but not so much that I can sit down with the newspaper (or have a nap).

So if Sam is having a think in his bouncer and Kitty is pulling apart whatever brilliant Marble Run I have constructed, I will stand at the kitchen counter and do plies. Sometimes I will throw in some Tracy Anderson arm exercises. My rationale is that there's not much cardio I can do while gooning about with two kids, but if I can chuck in some leg-and-bum toning, it makes these moments of childcare feel less like a total waste of my time.

Another staggering achievement was that I did not come back from holiday heavier than when I left (though nor am I any lighter). So my morale enables me to continue with my diet, rather than falling into a pit of despair and mini Mars Bars.

I was given a while ago a copy of Marvellous Meals With Mince by Josceline Dimbleby. I promptly lost the book in the black hole of my kitchen but then re-found it the other day and last night made from it a sort of version of her meatloaf.

I have only ever eaten meatloaf once, when I was about seven, and thought it profoundly disgusting. But I have moved on and grown up since then - I have totally and completely decided on what my signature should be, for example - and found this delightful.

It is absolutely up to you what you put in it. The original recipe specified a sort of blue cheese sauce layer running through the meatloaf but I didn't have any blue cheese. There are so many other changes to this recipe that I can, in fact, declare it as my own.

Esther's Meatloaf

Serves 2 very hungry people or 4 less hungry with substantial side dishes

500g beef mince
2 handfuls breadcrumbs or medium matzoh meal
1 egg
5 tablespoons of ketchup
1 handful parsley, chopped. maybe some sage if you have it knocking about. Alternatively 1 heaped tsp dried oregano
1 small onion or 1/2 large onion, chopped
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped or grated
1 big pinch of dried mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped (or a large handful of fresh mushrooms - any you like, chopped roughly)
1 tsp of dried chilli flakes (if you like, I thought the slight spiciness was terrific but leave it out if you don't fancy it)
salt and pepper

Set your oven to 180C

1 Put everything except 2 tbsp of the ketchup in a bowl and get in there with your hands to mix it up. I have vinyl surgical gloves I use for this very purpose - or for when I am handling fresh chillies just before bath time. Season very well with salt and pepper. By that I mean a large pinch of salt and a good fifteen turns of the pepper grinder

2 Butter a 1 kg loaf tin. If you do not have a 1kg loaf tin in your life, do consider buying one. They are very useful for all manner of loaf cakes, bread, meatloaf, pates and things. I use mine all the time.

3 Tip in the mixture and smooth the top. Bake for 1hr.

4 Take out the tin and turn your oven up to as high as it will go. Tip the loaf carefully onto an oven tray and spread with the rest of the ketchup. Put it back into the oven for 10 mins, when the ketchup will be a bit blackened and bubbly.

And that's it. I'm terribly excited about this. You can add all sorts of exciting flavours to it - CURRY?? - and I can see it as a super mass-catering solution, just double the quantities and have it cold. You could even hide hard boiled eggs inside! Oh my days!! *fans self* *dies* (I've got a lot of black clothes you can borrow to wear to my funeral).


  1. Hilarious as always. Meatloaf is something that reminds me of watching Rosanne, as a teenager. On that show I'm sure they're always having meatloaf for dinner. I keep meaning to give it a whirl, you have encouraged me to make this leap of faith!!

    1. Me too! And they always moaned about it but i thought it sounded nice! Altho, i don't actually eat meat now. But I like the idea of it...all comfy, stodgyness with some ketchup and greens. Yum!

  2. Huzzah new post! And I love a good mince recipe.

    Do you not find, though, that as a fellow pale-skinned person, all black makes us look like Death? Or maybe that's just me: my paleness has blue undertones and so I border on being almost see-through. I always have to temper the sophisticated though deathly all black by adding a colourful necklace or scarf.

  3. Having gone from a size 8 to a 12 since moving to Asia (and I haven't even had children, just become addicted to fried rice and dumplings - and turned 40), I can relate to the clothes shopping problem. I used to love clothes, now I'm just trying to find something that covers my arse, stomach and the troubling cellulite on my upper arms. Black is indeed the answer. But I just remember one of my ex colleagues in London saying in the office one day, "look at us all in black, we look like a bunch of crows. Men HATE it you know!" Aaaargh!

  4. We have a number of loaf tins of varying sizes. Can I ask how I know which is the 1KG loaf tin? I like the sound of this, as it sounds perfect for the slightly cooler weather. Plus our farm shop does great mince. Could you also do this with a mix of beef and pork mince?

    1. I've just looked up some "2 lb loaf tins" (they seem to measure them in imperial) and they vary in size from 1600 to 2000 ccs. So put water in your tins, pour into a measuring jug, see which one holds about 1600 ml.

  5. I can completely relate to the weight thing, I did a masters this year and just sat in a room for 12 months while my bum turned to pudding. I have just started something called '30 day shred' that a few of my friends did to lose baby weight. It is a 30 minute circuit workout that you do at home every day whenever you have time/can be bothered (doesn't require any equipment either which is handy). It actually seems to be doing something although that might just be me wishing the fat away! Also wanted to say that I love your blog, it never fails to make me smile. Alex x x

  6. Welcome back - you have been missed! I fancy doing this with blue cheese - there is nothing that cannot be improved by the addition of cheese :-) x

  7. Hooray you're back! Missed reading your musings and definitely need to hear more of the long story of the yacht!

    And black is always good.

  8. Love the look of this apart from the mushrooms which are evil! I did one with eggs in it, was gorgeous and looked ace too, I in turn took the inspiration from The Food Pornographer.

  9. I do love anything by Josceline Dimbleby, have lots of her books but not this one. A recipe that mixes everything together in one bowl can never be a bad thing. A real surprise that layer of baked ketchup too!

  10. Sportswear/sportswear luxe def the wear forward and harem pants my frequent saviour, have gone from thinking them absurd to completely brilliant in the last year. See also wedge trainers.

    re exercise - you a yoga fan at all? Tara Lee does some excellent DVDs which are broken up into 20 minute chunks - I often do them first thing and L will (reasonably) happily potter around with a cup of milk/climb on my head/snot in my hair while I do so.

  11. I too want to hear more about the billionaire's yacht!

    When we were small and my mum made meals from that book she would always make a joke about the meal being marvellous and have a little giggle to herself. Ah, now I want meatloaf.

  12. Made this last night. Delicious!

  13. i made this last night after having it bookmarked for months. it was LOVELY-BUT-mine didnt stay together so well. it was less of a loaf and more of a crumbling ruin, any ideas why? i followed the recipe almost to the letter . The messiness didnt matter massively as it tasted really good, but id like to be able to slice it neatly next time