Sunday, July 5, 2009

Grub's up!

Eating right is going to be critical if we want to survive the race. 2007 competitor Ulric Jessop perhaps put it best, he said:
I think my greatest advantage was [my wife and supporter] Ruth's cooking. She put a huge effort into preparing a set of recipes for the race. One night, we were parked next to the Czech team. They were tucking in to their pot noodles. Ruth had prepared stuffed veal cutlets. At that point, we knew that the battle was won.
You need to be fit and fuelled on the start line, but there's a big difference between single day events and multi-week events like the Red Bull X-Alps. In a single event you need to focus on getting enough energy in to your system to allow you to complete the race, you can recover afterwards. In shorter events like marathons you'll focus on carbohydate with a touch of protein and salt towards the end. In the slightly longer events, like ultramarathons, it's more important to eat slower energy sources like long chain carbohydrates, protein and fat. But we're not on our feet for a single long day. We're going to be pounding pavement day after day, week after week, and this is going to take a horrible toll on our bodies. We need to eat not just for energy but to recover - or at least slow down the inevitable damage.

Not only does the food need to be nutritious, it also needs to be quick to prepare using easy to find ingredients and easy to eat. Strong flavours and tough textures are likely to cause upset stomachs and a loss of appetite. In the van we have two gas cookers and a fridge, that's it.

Here's my favourite recipe which I've modified slightly from the original by my friend Alice Handerson. Preparation time is about twelve minutes start-to-finish. It's delicious, nutritious and easy to make and will be my secret weapon in the race.


Ingredients (per person):
- 125g of smoked salmon (economy salmon is great)
- 100ml of creme fraiche
- half an onion
- one clove of garlic
- quarter of a courgette
- 100g of fusili (spiral) pasta
- sea salt, ground black pepper, olive oil

Start heating the water for the pasta in a large saucepan. While it is heating up you can do all the preparation. Chop the onion in to small squares. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick pan and once the oil is hot, add the onion. To tell when the oil is hot, add a single small square of onion. When the oil starts to form bubbles around it then it's at the right temperature. Heat the onion over a medium heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. While this is cooking finely chop the garlic. When the onion is soft, add the garlic, keeping the heat medium. At this point the water for the pasta is probably boiling so put the pasta on with a bit of salt and a splash of olive oil. The olive oil reduces the formation of bubbles, allowing you to cook the pasta at a higher temperature for a better texture. Chop the courgette in to quarters lengthwise then cut these in to small chunks. Throw the chopped courgette in with the onion and garlic with a couple of grinds of black pepper and sprinkle of salt and fry, stirring occasionally. Chop the salmon in to small cubes. When the pasta is done (al dente is best), drain it and add the onion/garlic/courgette mix. Mix well: the oil prevents the pasta from sticking. Then add the creme fraiche and the chopped salmon. Mix everything up well in the pasta saucepan with an extra grind of black pepper and serve in bowls with a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice. Delicious!

We're looking for other good food ideas. They need to be quick and easy to make, nutritous and simple. If you have some good food suggestions then please email me at twpayne at gmail dot com. Thanks!

P.S. Addie and Fatty Puff will recognise the title of this post.