Sunday, March 10, 2013

Apple Tarte Tatin

As a Mother's Day pudding I made this today. Really good with a quality vanilla ice-cream.


  • 2kg/4½lbs dessert apples, about 12, peeled

  • 3 tbsp water

  • 100g/3½oz caster sugar

  • 60g/2½oz cold unsalted butter, diced

  • 30g/1oz unsalted butter, melted, to add richness

  • 300g/11oz all-butter puff pastry, rolled to a thickness of 3mm/⅛in, cut very slightly larger than the diameter of the tarte tin, pricked with a fork and frozen


    1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

    2. Cut the apples in half horizontally, remove the cores and slice off the rounded tops and bottoms of the apples so they sit flat in the tin.

    3. Put the water in the bottom of the tin and sprinkle over the sugar. Let it sit for two minutes to allow the water to absorb the sugar.

    4. On a medium heat, cook the syrup until it turns to a pale blonde caramel (do not let it become too dark or the flavour will overpower the apples), then stir in the diced butter - this will stop the caramel cooking and give extra richness to the dish.

    5. Arrange the apples, middles uppermost, around the edge of the tin and then fill in the centre with the remaining apples. It is important to pack them as tightly as possible – press them down with your hands as you go.

    6. Brush the apples with the melted butter and place the tin on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

    7. Remove from the oven and place the disc of frozen pastry on the top. Tuck the edges of the pastry into the dish and prick a few holes with a sharp knife to let the steam out as the dish cooks.

    8. Return to the oven for a further 40-45 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden-brown.

    9. Allow to cool at room temperature for one hour before turning out of the tin and serving warm. Alternatively, make the tarte the day before and reheat as above.

Third knee operation - March 2013

This week i had my third knee operation, the first on my right knee. A simple operation in the scheme of things, an arthroscopy. I damaged the cartilage and it needed a trim. I've had it before on my left knee some years ago following a football injury.
I had to go in the night before so that they could monitor my diabetes, if it wasn't for the diabetes I'd have gone in the morning of the operation and been an outpatient. Hospitals are funny places, they don't turn the lights out until very late and then they wake you very early! Monday night they turned the lights out around 11pm, then Tuesday they woke me at 6am and then left me alone for half an hour! 

OperationNormally as a diabetic you are the first operation of the day. This is so that they can get you back to your usual regimen as soon as possible. I was actually the second op of the day as they wanted to do a hip procedure that was described as being "just an injection", first. I was in my gown and with my cannula all fitted ready by 8am. Wheeled down at around 9 i was in a waiting area with another chap and a nurse. the talk quickly moved to football, doesn't it always when two blokes get together, then after he had been taken in the nurse started telling me about her daughters art career. Quite funny as she was describing the work her daughter does and turning her nose up as she basically didn't understand it. On the face of it neither did i. I don't know much about art....
My time came and i was wheeled through to the anaesthetist. She whipped out the attachment to my cannula and squirted a syringe of, "something to make me drowsy" into my arm. They continued preparations and she asked me if i felt drunk. I felt fine. This prompted another syringe being pumped into my arm for which i managed to stay awake for about a second longer.... it was as quick as one of Dexter's targets!

When i woke i was in recovery, or what i later found out was recovery, i had an oxygen mask on my face and something in my throat. I gagged as i woke and a nurse came, removed the mask and pulled something from my throat. As i started to come too my mouth was incredibly dry. Dryer than ever. and i was cold. The nurse was chatting to me, explaining what was going on and how long i had been there. It was around 11am and i had been out for quite some time. They had been unable to rouse me (i am 'particularly sensitive to opiates'), unable to warm me up and unable to get my blood sugar up.

I did feel cold when i started to wake up properly and noticed i had a heater in the bottom of the bed, a small portable heater with one of the hoses like you get on a tumble dryer pushing heat into the bottom of the bed. To keep the heat in i had some kind of space blanket and to top this ensemble off a metallic shower cap. I had lost around 2.5C of body heat during the operation and my low body fat, that never gets tired, meant warming me up was difficult. The other thing that caused a bit of excitement, particularly in recovery, was my low pulse. While just waiting around in bed it dropped to 40-41 bpm which is lower than the machine can tolerate. It actually alarms at that level. Despite this being a positive i had to explain it a number of times. It's like hospitals don't see many fit people.

This led me to talking extensively to a nurse called Olly in recovery who had done a bit of triathlon and played football. We discussed training, racing and different events. The whole time i was talking i did think what Sue would say as there is a generalisation in my house that triathletes all look the same. Skinny and bald and generally wearing Oakley's. Well this guy wasn't wearing Oakley's but fitted the other criteria.

My blood sugar proved a little more difficult, it was below 4mmol and dropping. The gave me some juice but that never touched it. Then they brought out the glucose tablets. 5 of those, you need a lot of water when you eat 5, my blood sugar started on the up. The difficulty was that i had been on a sliding scale of insulin/glucose and my tolerance to insulin is not exactly text book.

The biggest impact to my diabetes is fitness. The fitter i am the less insulin i need. The scale was a text book guideline so probably a little on the high side for me.

Warming up now and with rising blood sugar they decided i could go back to the ward and more importantly have something to eat. I was now 2pm.

On the ward they were, again, great. A cup of tea, sandwiches, a salad and some orange juice appeared and was eaten double-quick. I was then told that i could leave later that afternoon. Great news.

I walked out of hospital just after 6pm with a bag full of dressings and pain killers. Got in the car downstairs and was home within 5 minutes.

Post Hospital
Post hospital recovery was a bit up and down. On the Wednesday i slept in but ventured out in the afternoon to Waitrose. In the car park we saw Mr Birch the surgeon that did my operation!

The plan was to go back to work on Thursday for the rest of the week. Thursday morning i got up, felt a bit foggy but otherwise OK. I got to work and felt distinctly odd. Foggy and hungover was the best description. I went to a couple of meetings but could not focus or keep my concentration. I called home and got picked up early. I never went in on Friday either. It was only Saturday that it started to clear and i felt normal.

I think this was down to the Codeine i was taking, apparently the effect is cumulative and so over two nights it built up sufficiently to make me foggy.

This was, as i said at the start, my third knee operation on the NHS. As a diabetic i am also at the hospital for checkups every 6 months. The care and attention i have always had has been nothing short of first class. 

People may knock it but from my experience the nurses are lovely and care. They do an incredibly difficult job with many constraints. I cannot fault them at all and nor would i.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cannot wait...

Been torturing myself tonight watching videos on YouTube of Killian
Jornet running up and down stunning mountains and trails....

Desperate to get into that type of running and pushing boundaries of
endurance and technique.

One day......