Eggs are an excellent food. Unless your principles forbid because you’re vegan, in which case skip this bit (but take your vitamins! ) and go straight to: what to eat/sow in December.
Eggs are easy to eat and cook, well-tolerated by young and old, adaptable and inexpensive. The white contains high-quality protein, riboflavin and selenium. The yolk offers:
- vitamin D, critical for bone health and immune function.
- choline, essential for functioning of all cells, but particularly important during pregnancy to support healthy brain development of the fetus.
- lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that reduce the risk of developing cataracts and slow down progression of age-related macular degeneration.
- phosphorus, vitamin B12, and all nine essential amino acids .
The experts used to say twe should limit the number of eggs we eat because they contain cholesterol, but now it has been found that cholesterol in food does not increase the risk of heart disease in healthy people in any way .
However, not all eggs are created equal.
In the UK we eat more than 12 billion eggs per year, very roughly half of which are ‘cage type’ eggs, meaning: not free range .
Just a quick search on the internet tells us that:
- antibiotics have been used in poultry farming in large quantities since the 1940s. The use of fluoroquinolones, an antibiotic classed by the World Health Organization as ‘critically important’, increased by 59% in the UK poultry industry in just one year! – despite urgent calls to reduce antibiotic usage .
- poultry feed can also include roxarsone or nitarsone, arsenical antimicrobial drugs that also promote growth.
- even free range hens are routinely beak-trimmed at 1 day of age, to reduce the damaging effects of aggression, feather pecking and cannibalism. In January 2016, a proposed ban on beak trimming was rejected by farming minister, George Eustice. Scientific studies shave shown that beak trimming is likely to cause both acute and chronic pain .
In the wild, hens would only lay 20 eggs annually; on modern farms with near constant lighting and high protein feed, this is raised to over 300. Some egg companies are pushing this number up to 500. This is 25 times as much as a chicken would lay if left alone .
I expect that most people who read Thought for Food, when given the choice, will buy free-range. Which is, however, rarely much better than the cage kind. Contrary to popular belief, free-range regulations only require that the hens have access to the outdoors, not that they actually spend time there. This access may be for very brief periods; the outside area may be small. Stocking densities tend to be high, and many chickens stay inside as dominant hens prevent them from going out .
So, I’m afraid, organic eggs are your best bet . Unless you have friendly poultry-loving neighbours with a surplus like we do – or, of course, your own flock.
All this is one more reason not to eat too much processed food. It rarely says ‘free range eggs’ in the ingredient list ….
The days are getting longer – really! Are you walking? Are you walking enough? Walking helps all sorts of things. For how and why, see http://www.realfoodforlife.com/walking-them-blues-away/.
And another one: Prof. Paul Cosford, medical director at Public Health England, told MPs that children are 12 times more likely to contract drug-resistant infections in the three months after being prescribed antibiotics, suggesting that their current use poses a direct risk to individual patients as well as a broader threat to society as a whole.
Veg: Brussels’, beet, sprout tops, cabbage, celeriac, celery (with Stilton!), corn salad, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, salsify, kale, kohlrabi, landcress, leeks, parsnips, pumpkin/squash, rocket, spinach, swede, turnips, winter radish, endive, winter purslane.
Meat: wood pigeon, pheasant, wild duck, goose, grouse, partridge, venison. For (Christmas) game recipes, see http://www.gametoeat.co.uk/.
Fish: coley, megrim, clams, crab, cuttlefish, mussels, oysters, scallops, whiting.
Shallots are traditionally planted on the shortest day. You can still plant garlic. Buy heads from a proper supplier, to prevent disease.
If you leave veg in the ground, apply a thick mulch (straw, bracken or newspaper) for protection, and so as to get them out easily.
Still feeling antsy? Check http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/your-organic-garden-december-and-january?dm_i=4UO,4NFGO,JCJBU,HC8AU,1 for what else to do in the garden in December.
SAGE and CHESTNUT SOUP
300g chestnuts (250g if cooked and peeled), 100ml crème fraîche, 6 chopped sage leaves, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped garlic clove, 1l water, butter, salt, pepper, oil.
Remove hard outer skin of the chestnuts. Cook, drain, remove thin inner membranes. Heat butter and sweat onion until translucent. Add sage and garlic, sauté for a minute. Add water and most of the chestnuts. Season, simmer for 15 mins, stirring from time to time. Purée. Add crème fraîche, adjust seasoning. Warm through gently – don’t let boil. Meanwhile, slice the reserved chestnuts. Heat oil and sauté sage leaves for a few secs until crisp; drain. Ladle soup into bowls, add small spoon of crème fraiche and gently swirl into it, scatter on chestnuts and sage leaves. Serve immediately.
BAGNA CAUDA – will feed lots as a starter. Not expensive, though it’s worth using the best quality of anchovies you can find.
One jar of anchovies, boiled potatoes, cabbage, eggs, celery, endive. You can replace the endive by salady winter greens, or lightly cooked ones.
Melt anchovies in olive oil and butter. Fill plate with sliced potatoes, thin wedges of raw cabbage, wedges of soft-boiled egg, lightly boiled celery, and leaves of endive. Spoon the anchovy sauce over as you eat it.
MEDITERRANEAN KALE, serves 2.
300g kale, ½ chopped red onion, 2 tbsp butter, olive oil, 30-50g feta cheese, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar.
Sauté onion in butter for 3 mins. Remove thick stalks, chop and add kale a little at a time, keep stirring. Once the kale has been added, add olive oil. Cook for 10-12 mins or until kale has cooked down. Some browning is all right. Add balsamic and feta, stirring every so often for 5 more mins.
BRIE, KALE and MUSHROOM OMELETTE for 2
4-5 eggs, kale, mushrooms, 50g Somerset brie. You can add some ginger if you like.
Sauté kale and mushrooms until wilted – don’t overcook. Beat the eggs and pour into a pan over medium-low heat. Once they start to cook put the brie, followed by the veg, over half of the eggs. When the eggs are set, flip half over the veg. Cook for another few mins. Cut in half and serve on a plate with the remaining sautéed vegetables.
SIMPLE WINTER MEAL for one
1-1½ leeks, potatoes, egg(s), spices/herbs, grated cheese.
Cook the chopped leek and 100-200g chopped potatoes. Beat an egg or two with spices (pepper, salt, paprika powder, mustard, for instance) and some grated cheese. When the veg are both done (make sure the potatoes are nice and soft), drain and put together.
Pour a tiny bit of the drained liquid in with the egg, and stir this into the potato/leek mix. Heat the whole lot through, till the egg is reasonably solid. Serve.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS DIFFERENT
Cook brussels sprouts with some crumbled chestnuts, and then mix with butter, crispy bacon, garlic, nutmeg, finely chopped rosemary and pepper.
BRAMLEY APPLE BREAD
Good warm with butter and honey, or cheese and soup.
150g plain flour, 200g wholewheat flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1 large cooking apple coarsley grated, 50g melted butter, 1 whisked egg, 250ml apple juice, (handfuls of chopped nuts and/or dried fruit).
Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a tin, coat with flour. Combine the dry ingredients. Fold in the grated apples. Top with the wet ingredients and nuts and/or dried fruit, but save some nuts. Gently fold the ingredients together, careful not to overmix. Tip into the tin. Dot the reserved nuts over the top. Bake for 30 mins, or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let cool for 10-15 mins before serving or trying to remove from pan.
 Especially taking vitamin B12, cobalamin, is vital, for you can only get this usefully from animal foods. It will take up take up to 5 years, but once you have been short of it for a while, you can never undo the damage. At only slightly low levels it will cause fatigue, depression, poor memory. Later deficiency can affect the peripheral nerves, leading to loss of sensation/weakness in the legs, spinal chord problems, mood change, loss of memory, and early dementia.
Take vitamin B12 away from vitamin C, for this degrades it. So even if it is in your multivitamin, take some separate as well!
 See also http://www.eggs.ca/nutrition/view/1/egg-nutrition and https://authoritynutrition.com/10-proven-health-benefits-of-eggs/.
 Dietary cholesterol found in eggs has little to do with the amount of cholesterol in your body.
The trouble is that “cholesterol,” is used to describe two different things. The fat-like molecules in animal-based foods like eggs doesn’t greatly affect the amount of cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream. Your body makes its own cholesterol, so it doesn’t need much of the kind you eat. Instead, what fuels your body’s cholesterol-making machine is certain saturated and trans fats. Eggs contain relatively small amounts of saturated fat. So, cutting eggs out of your diet is a bad idea; they’re a rich source of 13 vitamins and minerals. https://www.egginfo.co.uk/eggs-and-health/eggs-and-cholesterol; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egg_as_food
 http://www.viva.org.uk/egg-factsheet gives more info about the circumstances and/but advocates a vegan lifestyle.
 www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2508173/16-000-free-range-chickens-crammed-shed-never-daylight.html and http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/what-free-range-cage-free-chickens-really-look-like/
For more subjects and back issues, see http://ThoughtforFood-aw.blogspot.com.