From Paris to Warsaw…

Well it could have been from Paris to Warsaw, it certainly didn’t feel like it. At the beginning of 2011 I kind of made a resolution to cycle more, it all started in 2010 after getting a bike through the cycle2work scheme.

I’m lazy, very lazy, if I can do something without putting much effort in I will. Cycling seemed like the perfect thing to do coupled with the fact I could get a cheap bike through work. I could take it as easy as I wanted or push myself as hard as I could bother so that’s what I started to do. I also wanted to not be as much of a fat bastard, I got married in the middle of 2010, I knew I was overweight but didn’t do anything about it, when I saw our wedding pictures I realised that I was actually 18 stone and had to do something.

I started to ride on a weekend with my friend Dan Traynor, we rode from Nunthorpe to Guisborough and up through the forrest. We’d go up and over the moors or stay in the forrest and do some trails, 15-20 miles broke me into cycling gently. I started to ride to and from work occasionally, changed my diet and the excess weight started to come off.

I set myself a target of doing 1000 miles in 2011, it seemed easily reachable and I could spread it out over 12 months. At the time we lived 2.5 miles away from where I work, so 5 miles a day would take me to around 1000 and I could even have a few days off the bike if I wanted. My route took me down some quiet roads and through Middlesbrough’s Albert Park, it was a nice way to start the day instead of being stuck in traffic, or if you look at it another way, being traffic.

In April we moved from Middlesbrough to Ingleby Barwick putting my daily ride up to 12 miles, 240 miles a month if I cycle every day. I started to think that 240 miles a month is almost a tank of petrol that was costing me close to £70, on top of that I was paying £20 a month to get access to a car park at work which I was using less and less.

Teesside University have done a lot to help the uptake of sustainable tansport with staff, as well as taking part in the cycle2work scheme they provide secure storage for bikes, lockers, showers and places to change. They’ve even had electric car charging points installed in their main carpark. Along with the Middlesbrough Cycle Centre that Middlesbrough Council run, Middlesbrough seems to now be very accessible to people wanting to arrive by alternative means.

So, I’ve done my 1000 miles, what do I do now? I could easily up the target, 2011 miles in 2011? I’ve lost almost 4 stone in weight, I’m very close to 14 stone.

I’ve met some good people on the way and changed the way I think about transport, food and life. I’ve taken some falls, I think I broke a rib or two but I’m a stubborn bastard and wouldn’t get it seen to.

Gerry McBride who I stumbled upon on Twitter has set up Don’t drive on the 5, a website to “encourage as many people as possible to leave their cars at home on the 5th day of each month, and consider using alternative means of transport to get about.”.

Neal Harper who also works at Teesside University does the same as me and comes by bike, even after taking a fairly major fall and being out of action for a while. Gerry and Neal recently cycled coast to coast with some others, something I’d definitely think about doing now I know I’ve got the legs for it!

So far this year I’ve spent 80 hours cycling, burnt over 75000 calories and as Andrew Marsh nicely put it “climbed the equivalent of nearly 12 Empire State Buildings in elevation gain”.

The old and new me.

Sweet potato and Jarlsberg crumble recipe

Another recipe stolen from the lovely people at The Waiting Room and tweaked slightly. It easily makes enough for 6 or 4 very hungry people!


600g of organic sweet potatoes, the larger the better

2 or 3 red onions

200g of grated Jarlsberg cheese, or Gruyere, well, anything you want really!

½ pint of double cream

1 tablespoon of French mustard

Freshly ground black pepper

15g of jumbo oats

15g of pumpkin seeds

15g of sunflower seeds

10g of wholemeal flour

20g of strong white flour

75g of unsalted butter


Preheat oven to 200C (reduce if you’ve got a fan oven).

Peel the sweet potatoes and slice either with a mandoline or sharp knife so they’re  3-4mm thick

Do exactly the same with the red onions.

Place alternate layers of sweet potato, red onion and cheese in a large baking dish until you’ve used all your ingredients, try to end on a layer of sweet potato covered in cheese.

Add the French mustard to the double cream and season with freshly ground black pepper, pour over the layered ingredients.

Mix together the oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and flours into a crumble mix. Sprinkle over the top of the layered ingredients.

Break the butter up into chunks and dot over the top of the crumble.

Cover with foil and bake for an hour, remove the foil and then return to the oven for 30 minutes. Keep checking occasionally at this point, you don’t want the crumble mix to burn!

Serve with rosemary and garlic potatoes and your favourite coleslaw.

Butternut squash and blue cheese risotto recipe

“Amazing” is the only word I can use to describe this, the risotto is creamy yet ever so slightly salty from the cheese. The recipe below made more than enough for 4 (probably enough for 6) so I had left overs for lunch the next day.


  • 1 big organic butternut squash (the one I used was 1.4KG)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 large organic onion
  • 75g of unsalted butter
  • A bottle of white wine (You can drink most of it)
  • 1.5litres of vegetable stock
  • 300g of soft blue cheese (I couldn’t find Gorgonzola so I used Saint Agur)
  • 500g of risotto rice


  • Preheat oven to 220C (reduce if you’ve got a fan oven).
  • Peel, halve, deseed and slice the butternut squash, drizzle with the olive oil and season with ground black pepper.
  • Place the seasoned squash on a baking tray and bake in the oven until soft (40 minutes was enough for me, turn the squash after 20).
  • Remove the squash from the oven and chop into bite size pieces.
  • Add the butter to a large pan and melt over a medium heat.
  • Finely dice the onion and add to the pan, cook until soft.
  • Add the risotto rice, stir until coated in butter.
  • Add a small glass of white wine, stir, drink the rest of the bottle.
  • Turn the heat down to low.
  • Add the stock, one ladle at a time, stir continuously until the rice has taken up the liquid then add another ladle of stock until it’s all gone. Now is probably not the time for a game of Angry Birds, you need to stir all the time and not let the rice stick to the pan. This will probably take half an hour.
  • At the very last minute add the chopped butternut squash and stir.
  • Break the blue cheese into chunks, add it to the risotto and stir.
  • Check the seasoning, you probably don’t want to add any salt but fire away with the black pepper!
  • Serve with some freshly baked focaccia and more wine.