Wednesday, 29 January 2014

If it was good enough for Grandad.....

'Poor man's' sandwich
I was chatting to my dad the other day about my Watercress challenge and told him how I was incorporating watercress into my meals each day for two weeks.

Well maybe my enjoyment for eating the water growing green leaf superfood is in fact hereditary because it turns out my Grandad used to love the stuff himself and would often enjoy a simple Watercress sandwich.

In fact it turns out, Watercress was very popular in my Grandad's generation, and sandwiches were a popular way of consuming the good green.

During Victorian times it was often eaten in sandwiches at breakfast time, though in poorer homes it was eaten on its own, which earned it the nickname “poor man’s bread”.

The original Watercress eater!
So if it was good enough for Ol' Gramps then it's good enough for me. Before my 13 miler into work last Friday I packed out a wholemeal roll with Watercress. It was delicious and ideal pre run food with it's hydrating and vitamin values.
I'm nearing the end of my challenge and have my hilly trail 10K race approaching Saturday night (Hey! Watercress is really high in Vitamin A, which is good for night vision, maybe I won't need my headtorch!) but I will continue eating Watercress beyond the race and this challenge.
I'm hooked, especially at lunchtime. As I mentioned in a previous post, most lunchtimes I now have Watercress, mixed bean salad and a tin of mackerel in tomato sauce, cheap and super healthy.
This weekend I'll make sure I fuel for the race with one of Grandad's 'poor man's' sandwiches before heading off onto the muddy hills of the North Downs. I bet I'm the only competitor powered by Watercress!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Chicken with wilted Watercress Pappardelle (from the Watercress website)

Last week I tried to come up with my own ideas and recipes incorporating Watercress, so this week I'm going to try some of the delicious recipes from the Watercress website 

We had this dish on Saturday night and it was lovely, perfect fuel for running too, plenty of carbs from the pasta and protein from the chicken...oh and don't forget all the goodness from the Watercress.

It was a double helping of Watercress as we had my Watercress and sweet potato soup for starter. This is a definite new favourite in the household.

Chicken with wilted Watercress Pappardelle

Serves 4

  • Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 chicken breast fillets
  • 100ml (4floz) red wine or stock
  • 1 (350g) jar tomato and chilli pasta sauce
  • 225g (8oz) pappardelle pasta ribbons
  • 25g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, sliced
  • 1 (85g) bag Watercress
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg


Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan, add the chicken breasts and fry for 8-10 minutes, turning once until browned on both sides. Add the wine (or stock) and simmer for 2-3 minutes until it has nearly all evaporated. Add the tomato sauce, cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until the chicken is nearly cooked through.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water for 7 minutes or according to packet instructions until the pasta is just tender. Drain in a colander. Place the watercress, nutmeg and remaining oil in the pan, add the pasta and toss to mix, season well with black pepper. Keep warm.
Arrange the slices of Parmesan cheese on top of the chicken and place the frying pan under a hot grill. Cook for 2 minutes until the cheese is golden brown. Serve the chicken and sauce on top of the wilted watercress pappardelle.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Watercress challenge, week 1

Well I'm coming up to the end of my first week of Watercress consumption, I've included it everyday this week in one meal a day, and even stuffed a handful before heading out for a lunchtime run.

Everyday this week at work, I've had it in my lunch. I came up with a super healthy lunch that costs about the same as a supermarket sandwich, half the price of any fast food lunch and and 100% more healthier than either of the last two options. The answer: a tin of mackerel in a spicy tomato sauce (Sainsbury's version has the 'cleanest' ingredients out of all the supermarket brands I've tried) 90 pence; 1/2 a tin of mixed bean salad, 50 pence; and half a bag of Watercress 50 pence. Under £2, filling and super healthy!

When I've been buying my Watercress, I've been trying to support British products, I live on the Hampshire border and I know it grows in abundance in this county. But even in the local supermarkets it's coming all the way from Spain and Florida! Fear not though, I have since been informed that the British season runs from May through to October. The watercress available at the moment is from Portugal, Spain and Florida, and is grown on farms which are actually owned by the British watercress farmers cooperative – The Watercress Alliance. Phew!

OK so this is a running blog, so how does all this fit into running you may ask, well if you read my first Watercress post this week you'll know that It can help prevent the damage caused to DNA cells during high intensity exercise.

Check out this interesting video on the subject, 5 minutes of your time and you'll be dashing off to buy a bag of green stuff!


I took on quite a tough 11 mile trail training run last Sunday, plenty of elevation and then a shortened version (7 miles) of the same run on Tuesday night. Now whether it was due to the Sun shining brightly on Sunday (the first time in ages in the UK!) or is it down to including the Watercress daily but I felt really good and strong on those two runs which are normally tough and tiring. I've also found that I'm sleeping a lot deeper this last week, I've not read anywhere that this is a benefit from the Watercress so maybe just down to some tough running, but the running is similar to what I do each week anyway, but I'm no Doctor so I'm not prescribing Watercress to everyone to solve Insomnia!

This morning (Friday) I ran my usual weekly 13.1 miles into work along the canal path. Pre run I fuelled myself with a nice wholemeal Watercress roll. Surprisingly refreshing at 5:30am!

This weekend I'm going to try some of the recipes from the Watercress website as I head into another weeks training fuelled by Watercress.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Watercress and sweet potato soup

This is soup is so easy to make with very few basic ingredients, but tastes amazing and full of flavour and is brimming with goodness.

There's lots of variations of this online but I simplified my version and it was a winner.

The sweetness of the potato makes this a favourite with all the family young and old.

This is Ideal after being out on a cold run and the Watercress is great in aiding  recovery.

Serves 4

  • 1 medium sized Sweet Potato peeled and chopped into small cubes
  • 1 bag of  Watercress
  • 600ml Chicken Stock (or Vegetable Stock)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

  • In a large saucepan add the Sweet Potato cubes and Watercress
  • Pour in the Stock and bring to the boil
  • Add Salt and Pepper to taste (Go easy on the Pepper as the peppery taste of the Watercress comes through) 
  • Let simmer for about 30 minutes.
  • Carefully pour the mixture into a blender or use a hand blender, and blend until smooth.
  • Serve and Enjoy!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Homemade Burger & sweet potato chips with watercress

I'm quite proud of my homemade burgers, but now they've got even better by replacing the lettuce in the bun and packing it out with Watercress.
The peppery taste of the Watercress goes especially well with the beef and making your burgers from scratch is a lot healthier than any fast food or supermarket brought option. Packed with protein and now with all the benefits of the Watercress (see last post).

Serves 4


For the Burgers
  • 450-500g of minced beef
  • 200g of Natural Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Onion finely chopped/grated or 2 tablespoons onion granules
  • 1 clove of grated garlic
  • Dried mixed herbs
  • Salt and Pepper
  • A dash of milk
  • A squirt of ketchup or 1 tablespoon of mustard (OPTIONAL)
  • 4 Wholemeal Rolls
  • Watercress
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Sliced cheese (OPTIONAL)

For the Chips
  • Sweet Potatoes cut into chips with skin left on (Amount to suit own requirements)
  • Vegetable Oil spray
  • Salt and Pepper


For the Burgers
  • In a large bowl mix the minced beef, onion, garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, milk and breadcrumbs. I always find this works better done with your hands.
  • Add the tomato sauce or mustard if you are using either and mix in.
  • Divide the mixture into four and create your shaped burger patties.
  • Place on a baking tray and cook in a 200 degree preheated oven and cook for around 20 minutes depending on how you like your burgers done.
  • Five minutes from cooking time add the cheese to melt on top of the burgers.
For the Chips
  • Place the sweet potato chips on a baking tray, spray with the oil and season well. Make sure the chips aren't overcrowded on the tray. 
  • Give the tray a little shake to ensure the chips are fully coated.
  • Place in the oven and cook till golden brown and crunchy.
  • Slice the buns and on the bottom half of each bun add plenty of Watercress
  • Place your burger on the Watercress bed and top with more Watercress and the tomato.
  • Serve with the chips and a dollop of mayo is great for dipping.
Perfect post running grub, enjoy!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Watercress - Superfood

I knew Watercress was good for you, but I never really knew how good, and as a runner it's REALLY good!

The humble leafy Watercress is a superfood, and has over 15 vital vitamins and minerals and is very high in anti-oxidants. Now this is the good bit for us runners....It can help prevent the damage caused to DNA cells during high intensity exercise.

Edinburgh Napier University in 2012 done an in depth study on it and the findings have now been published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Study leader Dr Mark Fogarty, from Edinburgh Napier’s School of Life, Sport and Social Sciences, said:Although we are all aware of how good exercise can be for our bodies, doing high-levels of training can take its toll. The increased demand on the body for energy can create a build-up of free radicals which can damage our DNA.
What we've found is that consuming a relatively small amount of watercress each day can help raise the levels of important antioxidant vitamins which may help protect our bodies, and allow us to enjoy the rewards of keeping fit. It’s an interesting step forward in sports nutrition development and research.
Ten healthy men, aged on average of 23 years, participated in the study. For eight weeks they were given 85 grams of watercress and asked to participate in high-level exercise on the treadmill. An eight week study with no watercress consumption was carried out to act as a control.
The scientists also tested whether the protection properties of watercress were affected by the regularity of consumption. And they found that participants with no watercress in their system who ate the leafy vegetable just two hours before high level exercise still experienced the same level of protection.
Dr Fogarty said: “We put participants through short bursts of intense exercise and found that those who had not eaten watercress were found to have more DNA damage than those that did not. What was also fascinating is that the effect of eating watercress was not reliant on an accumulative build-up in our bodies. Those that ate the vegetable just two hours before exercise experienced the same benefits as those who had consumed the vegetable for eight weeks.”
Grown in Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire, Watercress packs a powerful nutritional punch, gram for gram containing more iron than spinach, more vitamin C than oranges and more calcium than milk. It is brimming with Vitamin A (converted from beta carotene) with 80g providing a whopping 42% of the recommended daily allowance. Recent studies have also suggested that watercress may have cancer fighting properties.

have a 10K night trail race in 2 weeks time. It's on the North Downs, which I know quite well so although not a particularly long race I know it's going to be tough on the body due to the elevation of the area.

With this being the case, in the 2 weeks leading up to the race I'm going to consume Watercress everyday and include it in my meals. I've already checked out the recipes and information on the Watercress website but I've also kicked off this weekend with a couple of my own recipes which I'll be sharing on the blog over the next couple of days.

On Saturday night I made homemade burgers with sweet potato chips and the burgers were packed out with Watercress. Today I made Watercress and sweet potato soup which was delicious.

Two meals already containing Watercress and then a 11 mile hilly trail run today which seemed a lot easier than usual.....surely the power off the Watercress isn't working already? it?

Watch this space.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Salomon XA Pro 3D review

When I hear the name Salomon, I always think of them as the Rolls Royce of trail running shoes. Although I've been running mostly on trails the last few years I've been very happy with the mid range of trail trainer I've been running in. But now I get to try something at the top end of the market.

Cotswold Outdoors have sent me a pair of the latest model of the Solomon XA Pro 3D to review and I've been itching to get out in them since they arrived. The latest version of the trainers is currently only available at Cotswold Outdoors and can be found here: Cotswold Outdoor - Salomon XA Pro 3D

This latest update on the XA Pro 3D has many advanced improvements, the reshaped chassis gives better stability and with more cushioning in the forefoot gives better propulsion.

The Sensifit system and Endofit foot sleeve gives a real sense of a secure fit and this is really noticeable when putting the trainers on for the first time. I would say in my opinion this is by far the best feature of the shoe holding the foot stable but really comfortable on the run.

With the UK weather being like it has recently the new Salomon's were certainly going to be given a real test on my local trails, deep mud and deep puddles, rocky trails, gravel, Tarmac and plenty of hills lay ahead.

One of the features new to me was the Quicklace system, no laces to tie just pull the cord, slide the toggle and away we go. The excess from the lace tucks conveniently away in the pocket at the top of the tongue. The toggle can easily be adjusted to tighten or loosen the laces while running.

It wasn't long into my run before I was going through plenty of water and with the upper being made predominantly from mesh, as well as letting the water out and getting drier quicker it allows the foot to breathe. This certainly worked and the shoe never felt heavier despite the amount of water I was going through.

The new lug design dealt with everything underfoot easily. Going through the mud the grip was excellent and limited any sliding around, on the gravel and stones, if any debris collected it was soon cleared. Clearly the homework had been done with the design of the sole.

The shoe looks and feels very durable especially around the exterior of the sole and the toe piece making it excellent when running on rockier surfaces.

I was surprised when I read that these Salomon's weigh in at 410g because they don't feel like a heavy trainer. Obviously a trail shoe with it's more durable features is going to weigh in heavier than a road shoe but I'd rather my trail shoe be heavier and more protected on the trails. I'm more into enjoying these runs at a moderate pace than requiring a lighter trainer for speed, I've got different trainers for that job, but for the trails these are a new favourite for me.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

My Kryptonite

Belated Happy New year and all that malarkey.

Ten days of no blogging coincided with four days of no running. No injuries to stop me, I just seemed to had lost my steel. 

It wasn't lost mojo, I've been there before as Im sure we all have, I was still in love with running but the Winter and the atrocious weather we've been having in the UK just wore me down.

The rain became my Kryptonite.

I kicked off the new year with my local Parkrun being held on New Years Day. It was cold, windy and chucking it down. The fields and canal path on the course were already saturated from the previous weeks of never ending rain and it was definitely not racing conditions which ruined any chances of trying to run fast.

I'd done well with getting out over Christmas and got more miles in than I planned, but the turn of the year and the rain finally brought me down.

The local trails and canal paths where I do most my running had so much surface water it just wasn't enjoyable to run on, my Kryptonite had got to me.

Hardly a crisis missing four days of running, but it felt like eternity and I moaned lots on Twitter and suffered lots of good natured banter about being a wimp and not running. Brian, running partner and work colleague particularly enjoyed the banter emailing me pictures such as this:

Fast forward a week and I'm back with a full weeks training of over 30 miles which included a 7 mile windy, muddy night run over the trails of the local ranges and back to my Friday 13 mile run into work, which this week was very cold and dark but proved to myself that I had buried the Kryptonite and was back in the routine for the New Year.