Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chloe Likes To Eat: Aubergine Shakshouka Recipe

And I'm back in the room! I was out with a nasty cold type bug last week and it really knocked the wind from my sails. I'm not very good at being sickly, I was definitely whiney and I was so frustrated to not have the energy to do all the things I wanted- it was a bit of an eye opener to how much I take for granted and that's a whole other post I'm starting to draft. Onto edible things, because food...

I recently had a go at making baked eggs/Shakshouka for the first time, and I was hacked off by the time I actually got to eating it because whatever the cook time said about it being quick and easy, I was well over half an hour later eating my dinner than I had intended. I'm not good when I'm hungry... what can I say.

So I won't profess this is a 'speedy' brunch recipe, it's one that requires some patience and a bit of prep, but it's worth it because aubergine is such a natural partner for North African flavours, even if my version is a bit of a re-jig thanks to a few test runs

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It's essential all the punchy, tomato-y, spicy, comforting flavours, spooned into a pre-baked aubergine and made even happier & sunnier with the addition of eggs. Go on... You know you want to....

Aubergine Shakshouka

Recipe by Chloe Martin-Brown

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 20 mins

  • 2

  • 4

  • 1 tbsp
    tomato puree

  • 1 tbsp
    harissa paste

  • 1
    red onion

  • 3 crushed/minced
    cloves garlic

  • 1 tsp
    smoked paprika

  • 1/2 tsp

  • 1
    green pepper
Cooking Directions

  1. Prick & bake whole aubergines at 180C for approx 40 mins- until they feel soft to touch

  2. Leave to cool completely

  3. Slice an opening down the length of the aubergine & scoop out the flesh- try and leave a little around the edges of the skin as this will help it to hold it's shape without splitting when filled.

  4. In a pan, soften the onions and pepper, add the garlic & aubergines and stir well

  5. Add the harissa, cumin & paprika and mix well over a medium heat

  6. Add the tomato puree and stir, if the mixture looks dry, ad a splash (try a tablespoon to str) of water to loosen

  7. Spoon the mix into the aubergines so they are approx. two thirds full and make 2 indentations to crack your eggs into

  8. Carefully crack eggs into the aubergines- this is easiest done on a flat chopping board or plate so any spilt egg white doesn't bind the aubergine to your roasting tin during baking

  9. Transfer the aubergines to lightly greased baking tray or tin, cover loosely with tin foil and bake for 10-12 mins at 190C- check the eggs often, as soon as the whites have turned opaque, bring them out

  10. Serve with toasted sourdough & if desired a sprinkle of feta cheese


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Party At The Sideline: North London Half Photodiary

It seems like way more than a week ago that I was sitting here putting together my photos from from the Cambridge Half Marathon- click if you missed my photodiary for my first ever half marathon!

Whilst I'm bringing you another half marathon photodiary, this one comes from an entirely different perspective. Since it was only one week after the Cambridge Half and I'd long since been signed up for that, I decided to get involved with my local half marathon event by signing up as a volunteer when I saw a plea for extra help about a month ago. I've volunteered a couple of times at parkrun, but never at a large event, so here's what a major race looks like from the other side...

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If you're volunteering at a large scale event, you may be asked to apply for a specific role on a specific part of a course or a specific venue. This was certainly the case for me- so before the big day, I already new I'd a marshal and that I'd be based at Allianz Park stadium, which includes the half way marker on the course.

The night before...

Much like race day when you're running, alarms are an essential...

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The North London Half is an early 030 start for the runners, we needed to be in place before roadblocks came into force at 0630 and there was plenty of setting up to do on site- barriers to assemble, water to unpackage, getting tooled up with radios & understanding where we all needed to be... Because I'm a bit twitchy about being on time, we were super early at 0615 and got stuck in as soon as we were issued our radios and briefed by the management team on site


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Yeah... we were still a touch sleepy at this stage.


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The forecast for Sunday was grim- pouring rain all day, all over North London. But aside a few drops, it stayed miraculously dry despite those dark skies at the stadium...


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With barriers up, water stations ready, it's time to get into place and go through a final briefing on the course. It's really exciting to prepare a part of the course whilst you can here the entire race network preparing for the start in your ear as the whole team across a handful of different locations is on the same radio channel.

Although I was originally manning a stretch of the track around the stadium, the wet surface of some boarding was quickly identified as a slip hazard and I was move around to make sure runners received plenty of warning. So if you remember someone asking you to be careful on the slippery corners coming out of Allianz Park, you high fived me or joined my cheers, yes, that was me!


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Hearing a 10s countdown is pretty cool, and sent me right back to waiting to start my own race last week!

Meanwhile we were making sure we were properly kitted out...

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Did someone say free t-shirt?!


We started to get excited for the first runner to arrive. With the radio network, we had regular updates, and when he reached mile 5, it really did become thrilling. Unfortunately, it's also around the time someone handed me a megaphone to start using, meaning both hands were occupied and I didn't get a single picture of he 6000 amazing runners who passed me in the next 2 hours.


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I remember this lady coming past, Team Bex is a local club to my own in Cambridgeshire and Bex, the force of nature police officer who faced cancer head on sadly died last year. They're an incredible club with an incredible cause.

I have run my fair share of races in the last 2 years, and there are several things that really make or break a race experience- the number of toilets at the start line and the finisher's goodies are part of it, but how well (or not as the case may be) organised a race event is and how excited and encouraging volunteers & marshals are is another factor. A good course marshal who is encouraging, someone who tells you 'You've GOT this' when you're flagging, when they're having a party as well, it can keep you going when you want to give up, make you run faster and put a massive smile on your tired little face. I tried to be everything I love about the volunteers who make my races and to every runner who cheered with me, high-fived me, tried a cheeky chat up line- yes you in the Macmillan vest... Thank you!


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Can you tell we got up early?!

The final runners had been through our section, and for the record, we stayed properly put to cheer on Every. Last. One. Then it was time for a clear down- hunting down discarded gel packets, cups from the Lucozade station and any other debris along the way. As the saying goes, many hands make light work, and it only took around 45 minutes to litter pick the area as the road blocks began to come down and we were on our way home to a slow cooker pork joint and all the Sunday roast trimmings.

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Would we do it again? Hands down, hell yes. We had so much fun. I went in trying to bring everything I love about race-day volunteers and I hope for the runners I succeeded because we were basically having a party on the sidelines. This particular event aso rewards volunteers with free entries to the following year's race, which is a major incentive for me as many runners will know, race entries and events can soon add up and lead to tough choices and compromises.

If you're a runner and you've never volunteered before, consider giving it a go- it's a great way to get involved in an event that maybe you fancied running but is too close to another race or perhaps if you're injured and still want to be involved. If you go with the attitude of having a good time, I think it would be hard not to enjoy it. Even with the hella early start...

And a quick plug (not a paid link, just something I think is worthwhile)- I'm not sure if I'll be there too, but the Hackney Half are currently looking for a variety of volunteer roles for events running across the day.... Check it out HERE

Thursday, March 9, 2017

They Don't Come With Instructions: Inspiring Young Women

I remember the first time my mum said to me 'you didn't come with a manual, I'm only doing the best I can'. I was a teenager, dealing with some normal teenage stuff like school, and confidence and some not so normal stuff like my biological paternal family (I wrote about my subsequent estrangement from my family, click HERE if you missed it) and frankly, I was a mess. But I also expected my parents to have the answers and know what they were doing. In the way that it doesn't to young people, it had never occurred to me that they were muddling through all this too.

Fast forward over a decade and I'm very lucky to have a strong relationship with my parents- which is handy because we run a business together. And whilst I've come to respect and appreciate the complete lack of instructions that come with children, it's only now I find myself in a position where I have the potential to make an impact on younger members of family, a particular young woman that I truly understand what they meant. It's a minefield!

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We don't have a great deal of younger generations in our family, I'm an only child and we don't have loads of extended family. But as some of them are now the proud owners of small humans and other young people come into our lives, many of them female, it seems important to work out how to inspire them, nurture them and make sure they have not just the means and choices to be bold, empowered women with choices, but also the spark for the fire that drives them to go out there to chase those things. And that seems to be the tough bit. Here's a few things I've been finding helpful for the young women in my life:

Treat young people like adults... 

I'm aware some parents might think it's inappropriate but I've found that talking to my 15 year old cousin like I would friends of my own age yields far better results. Yes, she is still a child and it's our job to support and look after her, but speaking to a teenager like they don't understand the world is condescending and will not grow a conscious and inspired adult. So yes, she here's me talk about the realities of work- the days I don't want to get up or the pressure when it isn't going to plan, or about my partner, my future husband who supports me endlessly but still can't seem to shut a door behind him and drives me insane, and about trying to budget for a holiday, buying a house and maybe planning a wedding all at the same time and what that means for our wine consumption and funds for cool stuff like festivals and gigs.

Share anything and everything that might be interesting... 

I wish I had been more engaged with possibilities and and options and what was out there at 14, 15 and 16. I didn't realise just how many alternatives to school, university, traditional vocations and jobs were out there. That's not really anyone's fault, it's just how things were, not helped by the fact that I didn't really have any clear direction myself. My parents didn't want me to feel I was being pushed into anything and I wasn't so amazingly wonderful at any one thing that it was obvious either. As a result, I've started sending links of any kind that I think are interesting to my young cousin. Interesting article about feminism. Infographic on careers in design. Videos of Nobel Peace Prize winners speaking about empowerment. Explanations on consent and what it actually means. A blog post by a friend about freelance life. All shared. This also feeds into treating young people like adults- if we want to empower young people and in particular young women, they should understand challenges they might face as well as the joys that may await them. Here's a few of the favourite links I've been sending on lately:

What Is Consent - - online magazine aimed at young women/teenagers

Army Role Finder - Forces careers aren't for everyone but most young people aren't aware of the broad reaching careers that are available via the Forces and just how many cool things you can do as part of the military- did you know many of our Olympians are serving in the military?

This apprenticeship guide which allows you too look at industries as well as ideas based on school subjects- the most logical and useful tool for opening doors to apprenticeships I've seen for a long time.

Amy's post via The Pool on why 5 year old Eva is a hero of feminism is a sound reminder to us all

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Image Credit

Be the change you want to see in the world

This Gandhi quote is still relevant. Do I want the younger generations of women in my family to feel empowered and believe in themselves more than I did? Of course I do, and to lead the way, I believe they need to see that happening in real time. Am I a role model? Hell no. Aspirational? I doubt it. But I do believe that for our younger generations to understand supersede what is possible now, they have to see those around them reaching for it too.

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So yes, I will continue to tell you amazing running and sport has been for me because it gives me confidence in my own ability that only I could discover for myself.

Yes I will continue to be open about how challenging living apart from my future husband is, but that we do it because he believe I have as much right to follow my career path as he does, because I believe that is what healthy relationships are built on.

I won't apologise for getting excited about brilliant books, sports events, articles, TV shows, or anything else- because my gender does not define my interests or my hobbies.

I will continue to be enthusiastic, angry, tired, doubtful, joyful, excited or frustrated and not be afraid to talk about it because these are normal emotions and need to be normalised amongst men and women.

I will continue to embrace a balanced diet and promote eating as something to be enjoyed without demonising food and worst of all making 'healthy' into a label that must be applied to boring food that is viewed as a penance, because otherwise we'll keep perpetuating the bullshitideas around food and body image which plague so many of us.

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You might think the sensible time for this post to have gone live would have been yesterday on International Women's Day. I suppose it would have added to the atmosphere of celebrating women, focussing on promoting gender equality and generally upping the profile of the many campaigns fighting for a voice.But whilst I'm support and embrace IWD, I also think it's important to keep the momentum going. So rather than smash this post in yesterday, I sat on it for my usual Thursday slot to keep the empowerment, inspiration and equality of women, especially our young women in our minds and our actions.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Photo Diary: Cambridge Half Marathon 2017

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So. I did it. It being the Cambridge Half Marathon, something I've been banging on about both here on the blog and social media as well.

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It's a big deal for me because it's a new event- I'd never run a half marathon before but also because in 2017 I decided I wanted to train happy- click if you missed my post. In part that goal came about because in training for & running a marathon in 2015, I had a rough time. I questioned not only why I was putting myself through the training but the aftermath of the event itself left me with self-doubt, a complete inability to enjoy exercise- you can read more about my marathon experience here. So here's how it went down...

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21:30 Saturday night

The classic kit-lay. I really struggled to decide which of my favourite kit items to wear for the race but in the end decided my Cancer Research t-shirt over long sleeves was best for the weather. Also, can all races start putting names on numbers please?! So nice for people to be able to cheer you on personally.

And yes, yes I do take popcorn & dried mango for extra snacks. Anyone got a problem with that?!

Needless to say, it was an early night for me. Although I could have stayed about 40mins away from Cambridge I realised I'd rather spend the weekend at home in North London and the journey from Tottenham to the Park & Ride I'd booked still only took 55 mins...

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07:30 Sunday

I spent the journey up munching my way through my favourite pre-race breakfast- peanut butter on toast & strawberry jam on toast. Normally separate but for convenience shoved together as a sandwich today...

Cambridge Half Start photo CH3_zpsf8w2jfql.jpg


Don't get me wrong, I understand why race organisers want you to show up in plenty of time for a race, especially when it's a 9000 strong race through closed city road. But... 90 minutes is a bloody long time to be standing around and it was bloody freezing in Cambridge on Sunday morning. the MetOffice app tells me it was 5 degrees, feeling like 1 degree... and there was nowhere to hide on Midsummer Common. I was lucky and 2 friends spotted me early on, so we shivered together as the rain started to come down at about 08:15- with a start wave of 09:38, we weren't all that impressed....

09:30 Sunday

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And then we ran. I was a bit too busy actually putting one foot in front of the other to take pictures on my way around the course, and this is in itself a good thing. Mile 1 lipped past before I event realised but miles 2 & 3 were troublesome with my trainers- I'm struggling with having a numb right foot and I didn't have time to try out new trainers properly before the race and this decided it's better the devil you know. I got incredibly lucky at mile 4- not only did the weather break and it suddenly stopped raining and the wind dropped, but my foot started to behave and I got the feeling back.

Before I knew it we were back in Cambridge city centre and on the home straight. The last 2 miles seemed never ending but I crossed the line with a smile on my face and no injuries to report.

12:00 Sunday

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I wondered about posting my finish time here. It's been such an awesome thing to look back on all the changes and improvements I've made to my running over that last 2.5 years but I also remember that the inadequacy I felt after finishing my marathon in 2015 was the start of a period where I fell out with running for a while. I pursued races and training purely to better my times and the obsession spread to other parts of my life making sport a chore and and an unhealthy preoccupation. So I'll stand by this mantra, which has featured so often on my social media feeds because it's something I believe in:

Finish lines before finish times - MyProtein Women photo 32536091166_55099b3f3d_o 1_zpstaoqu5mn.jpg

Did I achieve everything I set out to with the Cambridge Half? Well, I finished (Tick). I completed my full and well scheduled training (Tick). I had a mostly enjoyable time (Tick). And I feel like I've achieved something, not like I should or could have done more, faster or better (MASSIVE TICK). So yes, I'm a happy girl. Also, the hoody I treated myself to afterwards, COSY AF.

And tonight, it's back to it. Between work and other commitments I haven't been to a club night in 3 weeks so 800m efforts it is and an ease back on distance as I prepare for a busy few months- business is already picking up for the season, I'm racing some of my favourite 10km events from 2016 and this weekend I'm going to do my best to keep everyone else going. I'll be volunteering at the North London HAlf, so if any of you are running, please keep an eye out for my at the Allianz Park. I truly believe volunteers and spectators can make or break your race- some encouraging words have been the difference between running on and quitting for me before now, and so despite the hella early start, I'll be doing my best to get you round the course ready for your medals and your glory.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Summer Cycling Adventures

I'm a bit love/hate with summer. I get all - yay sunshine, long days, cold drinks & do all the things, then inevitably spend a lot of time mainlining antihistamines, sweating buckets and feeling unable to push myself properly with running and up to my eyeballs in it at work because it's the busiest part of the year for business. Typically it's the tipping point in the year where I put running on the sidelines and do a lot more cycling. I find it much easier in the heat and whilst I will run in the dark, riding my bike in the dark is not something I do for 'fun'.

So those longer days are calling to me because the possibilities seem so endless. We have a sunshine & swimming pool trip to Spain booked for early June after my last race of the spring/early summer but here's a few other cycling adventures I'm dying to try in the summer months...

The 'Credit Card Tour'

I recently read a brief article about so called 'credit card touring' and now cannot find the link for the life of me. This is a short and sweet version of cycle touring holidays and involves WAY less kit. The idea is that you pick a distance or to ride or a destination to ride to and take the minimum amount of kit you can- we're talking clean shorts & a toothbrush levels of minimalism here... as well as a flexible friend along with a budget for a B&B or hotel night.

I'm not mad keen on the idea of riding with a tent on my back and since neither mine nor Tom's bikes have pannier racks (nor are the designed to take them...) I can see how this would give us some much needed bank holiday cycling joy, without having to spend a fortune on kit or transport our bikes to a start point somewhere else in the country. I have designs on London to Brighton with an overnight stay rather than hurrying back on the train or riding back in the same day...

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Rides that end in ice cream and fish & chips? Yes please!

Audax - the LONG ride

As I didn't get a Ride London/Ride 100 place this year (you can see my Ride 100 photodiary for 2016 here) I've also been looking out for other longer distance rides to do that aren't sportives and stumbled across this Total Women's Cycling article about AUDAX rides - click to read which got the cogs whirring. These are long rides- 50km to 1000km and although they are 'mass participation' events, it's not a marked course with water stations and mechanics. I love the idea of posting off my rider card and getting something to show for it (typically Audax rides are marked by fabric roundel badges) and seeing other riders intermittently on a route without the scrum of events like Ride London. I think it might just make me learn some much needed navigation skills as well! Any suggestions for fabulous rides in July/August would be most welcome or feedback if you're a seasoned Audax rider.

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2016 Ride London 100

And that just leaves...

 the Rapha Women's 100....

This will be my fourth year recording a 100km ride to celebrate women's cycling with thousands of other cyclists all over the world. It's not one organised event, but thousands of people celebrating women in a sport we love. Last year and in 2014 I rode London-Southend on the BHF charity route which is lovely and easy to get back from and takes in some awesome countryside across Essex and is a legitimate excuse to eat fish & chips and ice cream and then have a glass of wine on the train home. So the question this year, is do we strike out and find a new route, a different adventure and something to exercise our brains as well as our legs for what is normally a gloriously sunny July Sunday, or do we make it our tradition to hit up Southend for some beach time, ice cream and 2 wheeled fun and games? Ideas and suggestions all welcome at this point- I'm a North London girl but I like an adventure as you can probably tell.

So what have I missed? Any must ride locations, events or new things to try? Are you as into summer riding as I am or do you shelve your bike for the hotter months in favour of something else?