November 2017: love your heart

28% of all UK deaths are due to heart disease.
For decades now, most of the emphasis has been on reducing cholesterol levels through diet and medication. However, three leading cardiologists have recently proclaimed this is misguided. They say heart disease is very largely due to poor diet, lack of exercise, drug or alcohol abuse and stress, although with some genetic factors. Therefore, instead of frantically trying to reduce cholesterol levels, we are much better off making small improvements in lifestyle. For these improvements will help reduce levels of chronic inflammation [1].
Acute – shortlived – inflammation is there to help us heal from injury and infection. But this process can get out of hand and become chronic. And chronic inflammation is what contributes greatly to heart disease – and to the development of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, even depression [2].

The current emphasis on medication (statins!) and low-cholesterol food has brought its own problems. Statins are the most popular drugs in history: drug companies made $26 billion selling statins as long ago as 2008. They use manipulative tactics and expensive advertising to sway lawmakers, the FDA and the public to increase sales [3].
Any medication has side effects, statins not least [4]. They are usually prescribed to prevent heart attacks and strokes, which could be avoided quite easily by practising good lifestyle choices – eating right, staying active, quitting smoking and trying to lower stress.

Also, the fashion for low cholesterol is ignoring some vital facts. Cholesterol is arguably the most important substance in your body. What’s more,  cholesterol from food doesn’t raise blood cholesterol at all. The cholesterol in our bloodstream is made in the liver, and pumped into the blood when you need it: and eating high cholesterol foods has very little impact on our blood cholesterol levels.
Most people who have a heart attack, have the same cholesterol levels as those who have not had a heart attack. The number of people with so-called “high” cholesterol has been going down for a long time, while the number of people with heart disease has risen. And people with heart disease tend to have lower levels of so called “bad” cholesterol than people without heart disease. Some studies have even shown a correlation between higher cholesterol levels and increased life expectancy [5].
Meanwhile, the number of cholesterol medications prescribed has increased dramatically – no doubt to the delight of those who sell it.
See also and

What lifestyle changes are we talking about? I’m afraid it’s the usual: a Mediterranean-style diet with mostly fresh, un-processed foods, regular physical activity, no smoking and finding ways to reduce stress.
Better, much better! than pills – but not quite so easy.
On the other hand, if you do manage babysteps in that direction, you can be sure that they will lead to an improved health all round, both of body and of mind.

SO – you won’t be surprised to hear that
“Full-fat cheese raises healthy cholesterol levels, which are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, better than does consumption of low-fat varieties.”
“Fat from milk, cheese and yogurt does not contribute to the development of coronary artery disease.” See [6] – Hurray!

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, cavolo nero.
Fish: megrim, clams, crab, cuttlefish, mussels, oysters, scallops, whiting.
Meat: wood pigeon, pheasant, wild duck, goose, grouse, partridge, venison. For (Christmas) game recipes, see

Sow broad beans and peas. You can still try sow American landcress, Chinese leaves, winter lettuce and corn salad.
Plant rhubarb sets, autumn onion sets, spring cabbage. And garlic: it likes sun, and woodash.
Give brassica’s attention before the winter. Firm soil around stems, mulch with rotted manure, maybe support with canes. Pick off yellowing leaves.
As ground becomes vacant, dig it over and spread manure. Leave roughly dug in large clumps and the worms will break them up.
If you leave veg in the ground, apply a thick mulch (straw, bracken), both for protection and to get them out more easily.

PERFECT RED SOUP serves 6-8 – freezes well
750g raw beet cut into small pieces, 1 large chopped onion, 50g butter, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp ground cumin seeds, creme fraiche/yoghurt, 750ml water/stock, chopped parsley, sea salt, pepper.
Soften onion in butter/oil, add cumin, beetroot and then stock. Simmer for 30 mins, or till the beet is tender. Puree, season. Serve with crème fraîche/yoghurt, and toasted cumin seeds plus parsley on top.

300ml cauliflower florets, 6 roughly chopped chestnuts, 1-2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp flour, 120ml of cream (or milk), mustard, 60ml mature cheese, more for topping, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper.
Parboil the cauli for 4 mins. Drain, (keep the liquid,) place in an oven-proof dish with the chestnuts. Preheat oven to 190°C. Melt butter, add flour and stir in. Very slowly, add cream and as much of the cooking water as needed to make a thick sauce, stirring all the while. Add mustard, cheese, season. Pour the sauce over the cauli and chestnuts, stir. Put a bit of grated cheese on top if you like, and some breadcrumbs. Cook until cauli is tender, 20-25 mins.

About: 300g carrots, 120g chopped pumpkin, 25ml crème fraiche, 1/4 tsp grated orange rind (make sure it’s unwaxed!), 1tblsp orange juice, 1/2 tblsp butter, freshly grated pepper, 1/4 tsp salt, (spring onion), rosemary.
Put the chopped carrots in a pan with some cold water and when it boils, add the pumpkin. Cook till soft, drain and mash. Mix creme fraîche, orange rind, freshly grated pepper and spring onion. Add to the mash, also the butter, orange juice and salt. Heat through. Decorate with spring onion if you like, and/or very finely cut rosemary.
You can also cook rosemary with the veg, but put it in an infuser, so you won’t be bothered by the leaves later.

600g pollack/coley/colin fillets, (25g capers), 4-8 sliced stoned black olives, 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 300g tomatoes, 400g shredded cavolo nero, chopped chives, chopped parsley.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Place fish on a greased tray. Mix together olives, oil and capers if you use them. Season and spoon over the fish; add tomatoes. Bake for 15–20 mins. Meanwhile, boil cavolo nero for ab. 8 mins. Drain, return to the pan. Stir in herbs and fish juice. Divide between 4 plates and top with fish and tomatoes.

300g chopped green cabbage, 300g chopped leeks, 120ml crème fraîche/sour cream*, 550g potatoes, 3 garlic cloves, finely grated lemon peel, butter, olive oil, bay leaf, chicken stock, chives, (lemon juice).
Saute leeks and cabbage for a short while in oil and butter. Add stock and potatoes, cook till done. Take out the bay leaf, blend. Mix the crème fraîche with the lemon peel and stir in. Season. You may want to add a little bit of lemon juice. Serve with chives.
*Try find wholefat cream if at all possible: the fat is good for you – see above! – and helps absorb the other nutrients.

400g spaghetti, 400g crabmeat, 4 chopped leeks or parsley, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 finely chopped garlic cloves, 1 deseeded and finely chopped red chilli, 1tsp fennel seeds, crushed; 1 lemon, (small bunch of flat-leaf parsley roughly chopped); extra virgin olive oil to finish.
Bring salted water to the boil, throw in both pasta and leeks. Cook until the pasta is al dente; the leeks should be done more or less at the same time. Meanwhile, fry garlic, chilli and fennel seeds in oil for 2 mins until soft but not coloured. Add zest of half a lemon and the juice of all of it; stir in the crab meat. Drain pasta/leek mix, reserving a few spoonfuls of cooking water. Stir into the sauce. Add the extra water if it’s a little dry. Season, drizzle with olive oil, and serve immediately.
If you don’t fancy leeks, add some parsley instead but only just before serving.

675g fresh or 450g thawed frozen spinach, 900g butternut squash, 1/2 small chopped onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, 120ml heavy cream, butter, grated cheese, 3/4 tsp salt, pepper, nutmeg.
If using fresh spinach, cook it first but not for too long. Squeeze (thawed) spinach, chop. Cook onion and garlic in butter till soft, add this to the spinach with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cream.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut squash into 3mm slices. Layer the squash-and-spinach mix in a buttered dish, using 1/5 of squash and 1/4 of spinach for each layer, beginning and ending with squash. Sprinkle with cheese, dot with butter, cover. Bake until the squash is tender, 25 mins. Uncover and bake some more until browned in places.

DUTCH BREAD-APPLE PUD the way my mother used to make it!
Butter an oven dish, put in a layer of applesauce, layer of bread (as it is, or lightly buttered), layer of applesauce, cover with bread again. Mix sugar and cinnamon, strew on top, add bits of butter. Half an hour in the oven: make sure that it gets a nice crust.

[6] From



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