Food & Far Away Places: The Fortress, Koggala, Sri Lanka

The Fortress, Sri Lanka

We were fortunate enough to be staying at this fabulous five-star hotel, but even if you’re not, if you’re in the Koggala area of Sri Lanka you can book a table at The Fortress’ restaurant for dinner and many did.

The Fortress has two evening dining options: the main restaurant (Pepper) and wood fired pizza and al a carte Mediterranean-fare offered by Heat.

Pizza

We didn’t actually dine out at Heat during our stay. But that didn’t mean we missed out on trying their tasty dishes. A long day trip to Yala National Park left us sleepy and so we ordered pizzas and strawberry milkshakes on room service. Oh my word – they were divine!

The strawberry milkshake was just the perfect balance of thickness and frothiness, full of flavour and would have put many kitsch diner-style restaurants offerings to shame.

The pizza had the perfect thin crispy base, topped with delicious toppings and lots of cheese. I’m not even that crazy for pizza (don’t judge me) but even I fell hard for this one.

Evening meals in Pepper varied between al a carte and buffet. On some evenings a choice of either was available.

Buffet starters

Buffet’s were generally very good, so long as you didn’t mind being a bit adventurous. Which, to be fair, if you’re holiday in Sri Lanka you probably should be! The Sri Lankan buffet night was a particular favourite giving diners the opportunity to choose from a vast range of starters (mostly salads), main courses (mostly vegetable curries) and desserts, some of which seemed to have been fancied up a bit for the five-star audiences, whereas others, like Watalappan, seemed to retain their rustic Sri Lankan charm. Sure, there were some dishes I didn’t enjoy and others I loved. But that’s the beauty of buffet.

Sri Lankan curry buffet

The selection was vast (although not ideal if you don’t like your food with some spice) and was continually topped up. It was also presented beautifully, well, where it could be anyway, it’s difficult to add beauty to a curry!

Another evening we opted for the sea food BBQ. We were slightly less impressed with this. The selection of food available is still brilliant and I really enjoyed the lobster and prawn. However, the squid was sadly over cooked and some of the dishes were so poorly explained that I decided against opting for them for fear of making a fool of myself.

Al la carte options were also good and we varied up our choice of dishes across various evenings. Sometimes opting for the fail-safe fish and chips and at other times being a little more daring. I received massive kudos from the waiting staff when I ordered the Sri Lankan curry platter, a delicious assortment of small dishes containing various Sri Lankan vegetable curries. There was one dish that was a little too spicy for me, but otherwise I coped OK and I only go as far as the Rogan Josh at the curry house in the UK!

All meals were presented beautifully and portions were huge. If you’re not that hungry consider ordering a starter as a main, or if you’re semi-hungry, go for two courses rather than three. I only managed three courses from the a la carte menu once during our entire stay and afterwards I felt incredibly stodged and I can usually eat A LOT!

The waiting staff are super attentive and nicely friendly too. Not in your face, but happy to make conversation if you want to. They can’t do enough for you and it can be a bit embarrassing when they race across the room to open your bottle of water because you were about to do it and, well, you’re their guest, you shouldn’t have to open a bottle of water. Despite our assurances that it was fine, we were relieved of water bottle opening duty!

The drinks selection was fairly comprehensive although also quite pricey. I enjoyed some nice Shiraz (Australian, I think) a couple of nights, but often stuck to the local Lion lager or soft drinks. The hotel has a fantastic range of iced teas and non-alcoholic cocktails if you’re not into the booze and a great range of premium international whisky brands, if you are.

In terms of the eating environment, it’s pretty relaxed. Fancy, but not pretentious. You don’t need to dress up, although clothing should be appropriate for an evening meal, not lazing on the beach.

The tables are al-fresco although undercover and look out to the hotel’s pool and the inky dark Indian Ocean. Some evenings a guitar player would strum whilst we ate our dinner.

The restaurant does get busy, so if you’re not a guest at the hotel you may wish to book. The hotel was at full capacity during the second week of our stay so even we decided to make a reservation one evening just to be sure.

Meals are pricey by Sri Lankan standards, more in line with what you would expect to pay in a European hotel. But that’s what you get when you dine in a fancy restaurant.

And, no, we didn’t see anyone order the world’s most expensive dessert.

To find out more about The Fortress, follow this link.

Fabulous rating: 4/5

Food: Falling Off the No Caffeine Wagon

Socceraid

‘Twas Sunday morning. That afternoon we would be heading up to Manchester to watch Socceraid. A host of ex-professional footballers and wannabe celebrities running around at Old Trafford in aid of Unicef. We’d attended the event twice previously. Knowing we’d have a good time the anticipation was high. The energy levels, however, were not.

I’d already satisfied my craving for the taste of coffee with some de-caf. But as we jumped in the car I knew I needed something more. I didn’t want the enjoyment of the match to pass by in a sleepy fug. And so, just before we jumped on the motorway we headed to the Costa machine in the petrol station and decanted ourselves two tasty Vanilla Lattes.

As I supped, I waited for the drug to hit me. It was slow to come, but, oh wait, there it was. My tongue tripped over words as I couldn’t get the thoughts flowing through my brain out fast enough. I was warm, sticky even – but hurrah I was awake and ready to enjoy the match.

We arrived back at home at 1:30am the following morning. We were tired but happy. The thought of work in just few hours played on my mind. Now I’d fallen off the wagon was I going to wake up craving caffeine? Was I going to need a coffee to get me through the day?

Er, no and no – thankfully. It appears I’d broken the addiction.

I did succumb to coffee later in the week, treating myself to a single cup on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It was a treat and something to help me through the day as I faced long hours, tight deadlines and ridiculously repetitive tasks at my day job. But just one cup was enough. There was no craving for a second cup in the afternoon. Hurrah!

So, addiction broken, it seems I can now enjoy a cup of the caffeinated stuff in the same way I enjoy a glass of wine – as an occasional and well-deserved treat.

How do you enjoy your caffeine?

Food: The results of my food diary

In a bid to find out if I’m a sugar cube, a huge lump of lard, or a svelte and healthy bean (unlikely) I’ve been keeping track of what I’ve been munching my way through with the MyFitnessPal app on my iPhone.

My Fitness Pal App

The app is free and relatively easy to use. You simply key in what you’ve consumed, or scan the bar-code, and the app finds the nearest match. In the case of bar-code scanning I was amazed that it recognised every food I scanned! Granted, there’s a bit of guesswork in terms of portion sizes. You’d need to weigh out your food if you wanted a totally accurate representation of your diet, but, for me at least, I reckoned the estimations programmed into the app would do.

The only other issue I experienced was when the app decided to crash on me on Thursday, causing me to accidentally add  Thursday’s dinner onto Wednesday’s, resulting in me looking like a complete gannet. For that reason I decided to use the stats from across six days rather than seven!

I wasn’t interested in counting calories, which is probably a good thing. I’m guessing the app thought my petite frame and sedentary lifestyle meant that I didn’t need so many calories, and I soon found myself blasting through the 1,570 calorie target each day.

Pie chart

The app presents your results to you by way of a pie chart, which breaks down how much protein, fat and carbohydrates you’ve consumed as a percentage Vs your recommended amounts.

Nutritional Breakdown

You can then further analyse your diet in terms of nutrients.

With a bit of Excel magic, I set to doing some analysis of my weekly diet. Here are the results…

Vita Coco Coconut Water

The Fab

  • Trans Fat (g) 0 – Trans Fats are a purely man-made substance which holds no nutritional value. A definite one to steer clear of and one I’m particularly pleased to report I’ve consumed nothing of. Hurrah!
  • Cholesterol (mg) 338 – I still had 338mg’s left of my Cholesterol quota. Cholesterol is bad news for my arteries, so I’m pleased I’m not consuming too much of that!
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g) – 20 and Monounsaturated Fat (g) -60 – You’re probably thinking – huh, you had too much fat, how can that be fab? – but these types are fat aid with muscle protection and blood clotting, so I’m not too concerned.
  • Vitamin C (93%) – I’m actually quite impressed with how much Vitamin C I’m consuming. The body can’t store Vitamin C, but it’s important for producing Collagen, boosting the immune system and aiding the absorption of iron. Thank you Coconut Water for keeping me topped up (and reminding me of tropical shores).

One lump or two?

The Fail

  • Saturated Fat (g) -118 – Saturated fat is bad news for my arteries and something I really need to cut down on.
  • Sugars (g) -233 – I had a feeling I was consuming too much sugar and this just proves it. Eating too much sugar can result in inflammation, which can cause all sorts of nasties. It can also lead to insulin resistance, which in turn, can lead to Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease – eek!
  • Calcium 19% – For someone who has a genetic pre-disposition for osteoporosis this is quite, quite unacceptable (*slaps self on wrist – but not too hard – don’t want to damage any bones*).
  • Iron 10% – I’m surprised that my diet is so lacking in iron (vital for forming haemoglobin (the oxygen carrying protein of the blood) and myglobin (the oxygen carrying protein of the muscles)). It’s definitely a nutrient I need to boost.

The Fair

  • Sodium (mg) 5666 – I’m not getting enough sodium (which helps with keeping fluids balanced within cells, effective transmission of information by the nerves and muscle contraction), but it’s not an area I’m overly concerned.
  • Potassium (mg) 14576 – Despite consuming multiple glasses of Coconut Water (which has more Potassium than a banana, fact fans!) I’m still low on Potassium. This is also important in keeping fluids balanced within cells. A development area for the future.
  • Total Carbohydrates (g) 29 – I’m not using my full allocation of carbs, but this doesn’t worry too much. Something I’d like to look into in the future is if I’m consuming the right type of carbs – but that’s something for another day!
  • Dietary Fibre (g) 29 – Again, I’m not quite getting enough fibre (important for expelling waste from the body and guarding against nasties such as diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer) but it’s not a major concern for me at the moment.

I hope this gives you some idea of what I was trying to achieve in terms of monitoring my diet. I’m not worried about calorie intake, I’m more concerned about how much (or little) goodness I’m getting from each mouthful. Completing this exercise has really helped me to  understand the areas I need to focus on (basically ‘The Fail’ list in the first instance and now it’s a case of consulting my nutritional bible (a.k.a The Body Book by Cameron Diaz) to see how I can move from fail to fab.

Have you ever monitored your diet? What did you discover? Let me know in the comments below.

Food: I’m (virtually) caffeine free


Coffee Cartoon

I’ll be presenting the findings from my food diary to you on Friday, so I thought this was a good time to let you know I’ve gone caffeine free…virtually!

The decision to go caffeine free wasn’t really a conscious one. I did have a bit of a caffeine addiction, as anyone who has had to endure multiple Costa/Starbucks stops during a shopping trip with me will attest to! And, I had been wanting to cut back for a while simply because, aside from keeping you awake during particularly boring meetings, I couldn’t see any benefit to consuming caffeine. Hubby used to laugh at me because I HAD to have my morning coffee in order to function. I wanted to cut the chain of dependency. 

Pre-shopping essentials. PJs & coffee.

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And, so it was almost by accident, that I became caffeine free. I always cut all caffeine when I’m suffering with a UTI as I find it dehydrates me and makes the symptoms worse. Ordinarily as soon as the symptoms have cleared up I’m back to downing the Diet Coke and Douwe Egberts. I don’t know if it’s because this bout took a little longer to clear up, or if it’s because it coincided with a time when I was trying to drink more water anyway. But for some reason I didn’t find myself reaching for the coffee…

Sometimes you seriously cannot beat the real thing! #cocacola #coke #fatcoke

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Once I realised this I thought I’d stick with it. I’d been wanting to break the addiction for a while, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. As I write this I’ve been virtually caffeine free for almost two weeks. I say virtually because I’m still eating chocolate, having the occasional glass of lemonade and did have a few cups of tea on the first few days. I’ve since swapped the tea bags for their caffeine free counterparts, although the chocolate munching is still very much happening.

Ahoy there! All aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia for my birthday! #Edinburgh

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When I’d thought about kicking my caffeine addiction in the past I’d been worried about the potential side effects. I did get a cracking headache one day but being as I was ill anyway, I couldn’t be sure of the real cause of that anyway. In general I feel good. So long as I keep my water intake up I feel as energised as I did with caffeine but without the horrible highs and crashes. There are times when I crave coffee. Like yesterday afternoon when I was sat at work yawning my head off and knew that just a kick of caffeine would do the trick. Instead I opted for more water, a saunter out of the office on my lunch break and an organic energy drink. I do feel tired sometimes when I’d have previously been buzzing on coffee.

Had to be done! #GiantBourbon #Costa #WakeUpJuice #Coffee #LongWeekend

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Of course, there’s also the social element of drinking caffeinated drinks too. “Do you want to come round for a glass of water?” hasn’t quite got the same ring to it as “Do you want to come round for a cup of tea?”. But hey – that’s what decaf is for! That, and for when you’re craving the taste and aroma of coffee. Yum!

If you google caffeine consumption the jury is still out on the drugs benefits Vs its downers (pun intended). It’s still early days for me, but aside from feeling occasionally sleepy I’m doing OK. I’m hoping cutting it out of my diet will help to improve my skin. I’m sleeping better and waking up fresher in the morning (think Hubby is finding that one a bit scary!). Also, my blood pressure was even better than usual at my pre-operation assessment at the eye hospital. I can’t say that’s necessarily down to cutting out caffeine but the timings would suggest it might be.

Don’t worry though, I’m not going to become a complete health bore. I’ll still be indulging my chocohalic tendencies and I’m sure there will be odd cup of caffeine consumed – hopefully I won’t start sprouting wings as a result!

Are you a caffeine-aholic or have you cut it out of your diet?

Food: My Healthy Eating Manifesto

Dessert. #yum #cookiemonster

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I’ll be honest I didn’t do very well at keeping track of my diet. A combination of me being busy, super-forgetful and not very well meant that I only managed it for a couple of days. But I’m persevering and hope to have a weekly food diary to report to you very soon.

I fear you're going to have to roll me home from Scotland!

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In the meantime I thought it was worth setting out why I’m keen to monitor my diet.

Chocolate & lavender cake washed down with a cappuccino. Oh yes!

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not keen on calorie counting. I think you can have a low-calorie diet that is still supremely unhealthy. What I’m more interested in is how balanced my diet is. Am I getting enough protein and carbohydrates? Do I need to worry about the amount of saturated fat I’m eating? Should I up my calcium intake to ward off osteoporosis? What vitamins and minerals am I getting from my food and which ones am I seriously lacking?

Keeping the holiday feeling going with pastries, coffee & other goodies…

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I’m trying to look at food in terms of nutrition. Not, how many calories are you? More, what goodness do you have? The other day I was making a small amount of pasta for lunch. I stood back. Sure, there were carbs a-plenty. But what else? I added a bit of cheese to give it some bone-boosting nutrition. Then I reached fridge-wards for some tomatoes. There, that’s better.

Sometimes you seriously cannot beat the real thing! #cocacola #coke #fatcoke

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And, now, when I look at a can of coke. I truly think. There’s no health benefit in you at all – go away – and pour myself a glass of delicious coconut juice instead.

How do you see food?

Food: How Healthy is My Diet?

Skinny on the outside, fat on the inside. That’s honestly what I think I am. A size eight lump of lard. When I say fat on the inside I don’t want you to think I’m massively body dysmorphic or anything. What I mean, is that I’m probably full of bad cholesterol, fat, toxins and general bleugh.

Had to be done! #GiantBourbon #Costa #WakeUpJuice #Coffee #LongWeekend

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I’ve never been one for calorie counting. I’ve never really needed to (*dodges flying objects*). I don’t really believe in it anyway – far better to eat a balanced healthy diet, than a calorie controlled one, in my opinion. But because I’ve never had to count the calories I’ve perhaps been a bit blasé about what I actually put into my body.

#latergram #lunch #sushi 🍤🍣

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And, so for the next week I’m going to be keeping track of just how healthy my diet is. I’ve briefly mentioned the MyFitnessPal App before. It’s a great way of understanding the amount of calories, fats and other nutrients that you’re getting on a daily basis. The fact that it’s not all about losing weight is great for me (you can actually select whether you want the app to help you lose weight, maintain your current weight, or put on weight – much better than the sodding Wii Fit which would scold me for not losing weight when that was never my objective in the first place). The fact that you scan barcodes of the food you’re eating makes it really simple too.

I’ll report back next week!

How do you keep track of whether your diet is healthy or not? What are your predictions for my diet?

Food: How I Use Pinterest: Part 2 – Recipes

Last year I dusted off my plastic ring binder full of recipes torn from magazines and took a long hard look at it. It was full to bursting with recipes, most of which I’d never tried. Apart from gathering dust and looking a mess, it was also weighing heavy on my mind. Just looking at it with its scrappy, torn bits of paper poking out made me feel like a failure, a reminder how much of an undomestic goddess I actually am. I realise this is irrational clap trap, I work full-time and blog part-time. I’m not a housewife. I don’t need to make three course dinners or bake amazing cakes, although it’d be nice to sometimes.

I kept a few recipes; the ones that really appealed, favourites I’d tried before, ones passed onto me by friends and family. Soon my bulging ring binder was reduced to a tiny poly pocket.

Recipe File

I was given a recipe organiser for my birthday and am looking forward to transferring our firm favourites and go-to recipes into this. But for other recipes? Ones I want to try, but I’m not sure if we’re going to like them? Ones where I need just the right occasion for them, or a little more time to allow for preparation? The ones where I need to track down some of the ingredients. Well they nestle in my ‘Recipes to Try’ folder on Pinterest.

I pin them from blogs like Cooking with a Wallflower and Lauren Conrad. I add them from websites like Sheerluxe. I collect them and there they sit (where I can’t see them gathering dust) until I’m ready to try them. I’ve already tried the recipe for Noodles on the Run, Rhubarb and Custard Crepes and Sweet Sips (bed-time version). For me, Pinning works better than the guilt-ridden paper file ever did.

How do you use Pinterest?

Food: Porridge with Apple and Cinnamon

Healthy breakfast. #Breakfast #Porridge #Apple #Sultanas #Cinnamon

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This is so simple to make that you don’t really need a recipe for it. It’s my breakfast of choice on a weekend. It’s tasty, satisfying and feels indulgent, even though it’s pretty healthy.

Simply make up your porridge as per the pack instructions (I use Quaker Oats and cook on the hob with semi-skimmed milk). When it’s cooked add chopped apple to the top (I use Pink Lady) and sprinkle on some Cinnamon, you can even add some sultanas if you wish. Yum!

Best served whilst catching up on the latest blog goings-on on Bloglovin’.

What’s your weekend breakfast of choice?

 

 

Food: A Sweet Treat

A short but sweet foodie post this week. Just to say these are so scrummy and fabulously moreish. If you see any in the post-Easter sales you HAVE to give them a try!

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Food: The Noodles That Ran Away

Noodles on the Run

via Pinterest

This week, instead of introducing you to a new recipe, I was going to write a review of something of an oddity… a recipe that I’ve added to my Pinterest board that I’ve actually tried!

Unfortunately the Noodles on the Run recipe has done a runner from the SheerLuxe website. But I’ll do my best to recreate the it for you here.

This was another lunch munch and whilst it was good, I don’t think it’s something I’d want everyday. The crunchy vegetables and cashew nuts are lovely and it tastes of pure health. But something about this dish left me bloated – possibly the noodles (the original recipe suggested an ultra-healthy brand which is impossible to track down in the ‘burbs of the Black Country) or the salty Soy Sauce. I’m not sure. I also felt like the dish was missing something, but couldn’t figure out what – any suggestions of what I could add to it would be greatly appreciated you fabulous people.

Ingredients

Noodles
Mange Tout
Carrot – thinly sliced
Cashew nuts
Sliced chilli
Soy sauce

Method

1. Cook the noodles as per the packet instructions. Once cooked drain and rinse in cold water before adding them to your lunchbox.

2. Add the sliced carrot, mange tout and sliced chilli. Pop the top on your lunchbox and keep it in the fridge over night.

3. When lunchtime comes around add the cashew nuts and soy sauce to taste.

Note of warning: This is also very messy to eat, so you may wish to chop up the noodles before putting them in your lunchbox. This should make the dish a little more ‘desk-friendly’. Also don’t bite off more than you can chew. I had an embarrassing moment when a pesky mange tout got caught in my mouth at a weird angle. Not so fabulous!

Best enjoyed: As a way to use up stir fry ingredients.