The reality is, alas, a little different. One point of my love triangle is of course me. The other two points are made up of a sturdy lass named Appetite (we’ll call her A) and at the other point is a toned, athletic, sleek, handsome brute named Exercise (we’ll call him E). You’d think there’d be no contest, right? I mean who would you rather be with?
The trouble is, A and I have so much history. For as long as I can remember she has been a loving, comforting friend. In the early days it was great. I’d spend just as much time as I needed with her, and come away feeling satisfied, but not overwhelmed in any way. I’m not really sure when things started to change, did she get jealous as I pored over my books in order to pass my exams? Was it when I was dumped by a boyfriend? At some point there was a change in the way she dealt with me. When I’d had enough and wanted to stop, she’d offer me more and more and more food. She is so persuasive, seductive, sensual and comforting; which girl could say no?
Then along came E. I was bowled over on the very first day. He was so versatile; no sport was too much for him. Swimming, gymnastics, cross-country running, rounders, netball, cycling, rock climbing; he showed me how to do it all. I loved being with him. For a while it was fine. I’d spend time with E and then be really happy to see A; she liked my increased desire for her.
Then somewhere it all went wrong. Life would get in the way and I’d have no time to see E. Appetite kept on with her feminine wiles, and a lot of the time I’d eat just to please her, even when I didn’t really want to. Then I’d swing back to E, A would get jealous, I would get miserable, and again I’d eat just to please her. So don’t believe the hype; being in a love triangle is no fun.
It always comes to a head over Christmas. I don’t know what gets into A but she is at her most domineering,
‘Here, eat this, go on. What do you mean you don’t want chocolate for breakfast? It’s Christmas, everyone does it. Have another drink, and another, now mix it with Baileys, what is wrong with you? You’re so boring’.
This year, I snapped on Boxing Day. I stormed out of the house and spent some time with E on the trampoline. I came back feeling refreshed, but A’s face of thunder made me anxious. Yet I’d promised that I would see Exercise the next day. We got on our bikes and went to the woods to get down and dirty. It was so cool; I skidded on ice, fell off, and my wheels got so churned up with mud they wouldn’t move and I had to get off and push. We arrived back at the house filthy and happy.
A was waiting for us on the drive and I immediately felt worried. There's no delight when I see her anymore, all the old magic has gone. E saw the look on my face and spoke gently to us both,
‘Look, it doesn’t have to be like this, we can all get along together. A, you need to stop being so controlling and Pig you just have to learn to say no. And A, you’ve got to give Pig some space, she needs to come out with me, it makes her feel good. Both of you need to just try and relax’.
A and I nodded obediently. I tried to control the fluttering of my heart; I knew he was talking sense, and perhaps this year we might all find a balance? I really hope so.
A seemed in a contrite mood as she placed my lunch before me that day,
‘I’ve been too conniving’ she said, ‘let’s just try and be friends, and I promise I won’t try and dominate’.
I smiled lovingly at her, it's so good when we're relaxed together.
‘Look’ she said, ‘I’ve made you this healthy stew for lunch. Eat as much as you need. It’ll help your sluggish digestion and you’ll feel really smug when you’ve eaten it’.
I happily did as she told me and even agreed to have a mince pie for pudding; well, love is all about give and take isn’t it?
Love Triangle Lentil Stew (feeds 6)
If you are fighting with post-Christmas weight, this wholesome stew is for you. How can I put this delicately - I wouldn't want to use the term 'laxative' as that might imply I have some sort of eating disorder, and I'm definitely denying that - but let's just say if you need to speed those excess kilos on their way, this dish might help.
The vegetables listed below are just a guide, you can mix and match depending on what is in your fridge, or going off in your organic veg box.
150g Puy lentils (weighed before cooking)
4 cloves of garlic (less if you prefer)
3 large mushrooms
Potatoes: Count 1 large potato per person, then a few more for luck
200g (approx) of green beans
2 tsp paprika
2 tbsps gluten free yeast extract
200ml red wine
1tbsp gluten free Dijon mustard
1-2 tbsp tomato puree
1-1.5 litres of boiling water
Olive oil to fry
crushed red chillis / fresh green chilli entirely optional
Note this is not a thick gravy stew, the juice is quite runny to let you soak it up with lots of bread. If you prefer a thick stew, then thicken it with cornflour and water (see the packet for instructions) right at the end.
- Cook the puy lentils as per the packet instructions. They usually take around 20-30 minutes. You don't want them to be too soft (they have a little time in the stew at the end), so make sure they don't turn to mush . Set the lentils aside; they can be prepared up to 4 hours before if necessary
- Prepare all the veg: peel the potatoes, peel the carrots, top, tail and chop the beans. Chop the potatoes into chunks or rounds, same for the carrots. Chop the mushrooms and finely chop the garlic
- Put the onion, garlic, carrots and mushrooms into a large saucepan with a lid
- Glug in some olive oil and put the pan over a low heat, stirring to prevent sticking
- After a few minutes add the paprika and stir. Put the lid on the saucepan and allow everything to sweat a little, don't forget to stir so it doesn't stick. Let it cook for about 5 minutes
- Boil the kettle and measure out 1 litre of boiling water. Add the yeast extract and tomato puree and stir until more or less dissolved
- Add the potatoes to the saucepan, keep stirring so that they don't stick, and then add the yeast extract stock. Add the red wine (you could omit this if you'd rather), stir, partially cover and leave to simmer for about 15 minutes. Note, the stock should be at least level with the potatoes, if it's not, add some more water
- After 15 minutes the potatoes should be almost tender. Add the green beans and increase the heat a little to make it bubble. Leave the green beans to cook for about 5 minutes
- How is your stock doing? Is the stew looking a tad dry? If so, add the other 500ml of water, or a little more wine
- When the beans have had 5 minutes add the lentils. Give it all a good stir and let it bubble for about 5 minutes more
- Stir in the Dijon mustard. Now taste it and see what you think...you may need to add a little more seasoning; it will depend on your palate
- Ladle this out into bowls and let the steam warm your face.
- If you wish, sprinkle with crushed red chillis (or a finely chopped green one); they'll help speed up your digestion too ;-)
- If you can eat wheat, this is good with naughty white baguette or virtuous seedy brown loaf
- If you can't eat wheat or gluten, why not make some bread rolls to go with this?!
- Enjoy your meal, and please, eat until you're gently full, not stuffed to the gills