The day after I handed in my manuscript I started running. After months of intense recipe testing (and eating) lets just say my body needed, no, demanded a good shake up. While exercise is definitely not something that's new to me (me and a group of friends have been catching up to exercise in the park a couple of times a week for the past few years), this whole running, for fun thing absolutely is. See, me and running have never really been friends. I used to love sprint races at school, I was okay at them, but running any further than 200m I'd be dying and gasping for breath. My mum is a runner, she loves it, and as a family we'd sometimes go for a 'family run' around to the end of our gravel road, but I don't remember ever enjoying it.
Later on as a teen I got into outrigger canoeing (aka waka ama) and represented NZ at a couple of world championships (!!! hard to believe I know). As you can imagine we trained a lot and back then we were one of the only teams who cross-trained, that is, we got out of the boat and actually worked on our fitness through running and doing weights at the gym instead of just paddling for hours. It killed me. Every time we ran, I nearly cried. I loved lifting weights but anything aerobic and I'd just collapse. In my team were a family of girls who's mum was a marathon runner, they too could run for miles and miles without so much as a drop of sweat forming on their foreheads, I always wondered how they did it. Some of the training we did involved all of us running around in a line, the front person holding a ball which would get passed behind them until it reached the lucky last girl who then had to run passed everyone up to the front and start the cycle again. I swear this drill will forever haunt me. I just never had the grit and determination to keep going. Meh.
People say that having kids changes you. And you know what? They're right. Every time I went for a run in those tiring first few weeks as my fitness built up, that same horrible little voice that used to haunt me in my younger years would pipe up and tell me to stop and give up. I would try to override it by saying no, just a little bit longer... just keep going to that next tree then you can stop and walk for a bit. The old me would have tried with best intentions to reach that tree, but without really knowing why would have stopped 5 metres in front of the damn thing. But lately I've actually been making it to that tree and beyond! There is something about becoming a mother that just seems to give woman extra grunt you know? All of a sudden we learn to stand strong and believe that anything is possible (pushing a baby the size of a watermelon out of a very small space, will probably do that!).
I'm not going to lie and tell you that I'm the fittest person out now who sprints along at an alarming pace, running for miles without breaking a sweat. No, that's still not me and I'm not sure it will ever be. I don't run that far, I'm still gasping for breath (though nothing like I used to be), my pace is only a little faster than the average persons walk, it's more of a shuffle than a run lets be honest. And my face goes the brightest of bright pinks as I run, sweat beading down my face and arms (charming I know), but I'm doing it. And mostly I'm actually really enjoying it. Even a couple of years ago I would have never dreamt I'd be saying that. My teenage self definitely would have laughed in your face. But there you have it. I like running. I still don't love it, but yes I like it.
With all of this running and exercise in general there has also been a natural shift in my eating habits towards even more wholesome goodness than before.There haven't been huge changes, as you are probably aware we have always eaten a healthy diet, and I don't believe in extremes or fad diets, but lets just say I've only baked about 5 or so times since June. Which is huge for me.
If I do prepare sweet treats, they usually come in the form of raw goodies or fruit-based desserts and this tart which I made recently for Si's birthday was a pretty darn fine example of that.
It's actually just coming to the end of mulberry season here in Perth, and I really should have posted this recipe weeks ago when I first created it! But the beauty of this tart is that you really can top it with whatever fruits are in season; use any other berries you can get your hands on, thinly sliced stone fruit, sliced fresh figs, rounds of blood orange, kiwifruit... or mango!
Just before I go I've got some super exciting news to share with you guys! I'm featured in the current issue of Taste.com.au magazine! I can't tell you how honoured I am, this magazine has quickly become one of my favourites and to be in it is beyond cool. You can pick up a copy at most supermarkets and book stores in Australia, or view some of the article online here if you live out of Australia.
Lastly, the winner of the cookbook giveaway I ran recently is... Amy! Congratulations love, your lucky last entry won you the book! Please email me at emma(at)mydarlinglemonthyem(dot)com and I'll make sure your copy of Wholehearted Food is sent straight out to you!
mulberry, lemon yoghurt tart
If you're pushed for time, use a good quality natural Greek yoghurt in place of the strained yoghurt. If you don't have access to fresh medjool dates (or live in NZ where they are priced like gold!) you can use 1 cup firmly packed dried pitted dates instead. Simply soak them in warm water for 20 minutes and squeeze really well to get rid of any excess liquid before using. To make this nut-free, use sunflower or pumpkin (pepita) seeds in the base. To make this vegan you could always use whipped coconut cream in place of the yoghurt if you like.
3 cups plain natural yoghurt
the finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup (125ml) lemon juice
3 tablespoons runny honey
15 fresh medjool dates* see headnotes
2 cups raw nuts or seeds (I used a mixture of cashew, sunflower seeds and walnuts)
3 tablespoon virgin coconut oil, melted if solid
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
a good pinch fine sea salt
A couple of good big handfuls of fresh mulberries (or other berries of your choice)
Place the yoghurt into a muslin-lined (or use your nut milk bag if you own one) sieve that's been set over a deep bowl, gather up the sides, twist them to lightly secure and place a little bowl on top to lightly weigh down. Transfer the whole lot into the fridge and leave for 2-3 hours to drain. Periodically check the bowl and empty the whey out when it comes close to reaching the sieve. Obviously, if you have a really good deep bowl and space in your fridge this won't be a problem! Reserve whey to add to smoothies or freeze for later use.
Place lemon zest, lemon juice and honey into a small saucepan and bring to the boil over med-high heat. Continue to boil 3-4 minutes or until reduce to a syrup. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Blend all the base ingredients in a food processor until roughly ground and sticky. Line the base of a 9 inch/23cm loose-bottom cake tin or pie dish with a round of baking paper and press the base mixture evenly over the base and a few centimeters up the side of the tin/dish. Use the back of a spoon to help get things smooth if you prefer. Place in the fridge until needed.
When ready to serve, transfer strained yoghurt into a bowl and swirl through half of the lemon syrup. Spoon yoghurt into the base, top with berries and drizzle over remaining lemon syrup. Serve immediately or return to the fridge where it will keep happily for a few hours.