September 2018: gluten

According to Science Magazine (September 27, 2002), gluten in grain is not fully broken down by the digestive enzymes normally present in the digestive track. However, what does break down gluten, is a bacterial enzyme – and this enzyme just happens to be in sourdough culture and fermentation.
But fermenting takes time. Which is why, these days, it has been replaced with the quick-rise, fast-buck, plastic-wrapped mush which they call bread. Our ancestors soaked or fermented their grains: now, speed is of the essence. On top of this, today’s wheat is a far cry from what it was 50 years ago. It has been cross-bred to make it hardier, shorter, and better-growing. It has been irradiated so it will keep. None of this has benefited us consumers: on the contrary.

Grains require careful preparation because they contain anti-nutrients which can cause health problems: phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors, tannins, complex sugars and gluten can all cause allergies, digestive disorders, even mental illness.
Anti-nutrients are part of the seed’s system of preservation: they prevent sprouting until the conditions are right. Because plants need moisture, warmth, time and slight acidity in order to sprout. Proper preparation of grains imitates this, which is grains always used to be soaked or fermented.
This neutralized the phytic acid and the enzyme inhibitors. The vitamin content increased; tannins, complex sugars, and gluten were partially broken down into components that are more readily available for absorption [1].

And then there is coeliac disease. How is this different from gluten intolerance?
To develop coeliac disease a person must inherit the genetic predisposition, consume gluten, and have the disease activated. Activation triggers may include stress, trauma and possibly viral infections. This can cause permanent damage. Whereas Gluten Intolerance causes symptoms but only until it gets out of your system. Gluten intolerance is only that: an intolerance of the body’s inability to handle gluten. Whereas coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition that is triggered by consuming gluten [2].

Another idea altogether is that both the increased gluten intolerance and coeliac disease may be caused by the current unbridled use of antibiotics and antiseptics, as these destroy the healthy probiotics in our intestines. This can be helped by eating food with probiotics. Says Case Adams in his book ‘Probiotics’ [3]. Probiotic food [4] often reduces the damage caused by the inflammatory response to gluten, as the enzymes it produces, break down gluten into non-toxic constituents.

If you live in the USA there may be yet another cause for your trouble: they drench the wheat fields there with Roundup several days before harvest, as this allows for an earlier, easier and bigger harvest ….. [5].

So what can you do other than hunt down the gluten-free aisle which may lack gluten, but not necessarily all the other rubbish?
There is no harm in trying properly fermented bread and see whether the symptoms disappear. Buy your bread from a local baker. Paying a bit more is worth it. Find a wholefood shop. And did you know that stale bread is much easier to digest than fresh? Because you have to chew it more, and produce saliva which helps it on its way.
And for natural coeliac disease remedies, see [6].

veg: celeriac, turnip, beet, broccoli, cabbage, calabrese, carrots, cauliflower, chard, fennel, kohlrabi, runner beans, salsify/scorzonera, spinach, tomatoes, Jerusalem/globe artichokes, brussels’, chicory, endive, swede, celery, corn salad, leek, peas/mange tout, courgettes, marrow, pumpkin/squash, (white) radish, rocket, spring onions, watercress, sweetcorn.
meat: rabbit, goose, grouse, guinea fowl, partridge, pheasant, wood pigeon, duck, venison, squirrel.
fish: crab, clam, cuttlefish, lobster, mackerel, mussels, scallop, sprats, cockles, black bream, gurnard, winkle, pollack, grey mullet, American signal crayfish  (

broad beans, land cress, round seeded peas, chinese leaves, corn salad, winter purslane, winter lettuce. For successful winter growing, most seeds need to be sown in late summer/early autumn: see [7].
Plant rhubarb sets; spring cabbage; garlic; autumn onion sets if the weather is good. The garlic has to be an autumn-planting variety. Don’t use your old cloves! Plant out spring cabbage and, in South England, cabbages and winter/spring lettuce.

For successful winter growing, most seeds need to be sown in late summer/early autumn: see
What else can you still do in the garden? See

Don’t fall too easily for that flu jab! Here is a quote from the New Scientist of the 6th of January 2018: “Very recent observations suggest that past vaccinations may sometimes mean worse flu in years when the vaccine doesn’t match closely the circulating virus.” (p.30). Which is what I always suspected …. Look after your immune system and things won’t get too bad (See the Thought for July 2017 at

450g broccoli separated into florets, 4tsp fresh lemon juice, 2tblsp water, 3tblsp butter, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 pinch salt, 1tsp black pepper.
Stir 2tsp lemon juice into the water, add the broccoli. Cover and steam until the broccoli is bright green and tender, 10-15 mins. Meanwhile, sauté the garlic in the butter, add salt. Drain the water from the cooked broccoli, sprinkle with 2 more tsp lemon juice and the garlic. Season.

200g uncooked lentils or ab. 500g cooked, 1 large onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 tin tomatoes (or 2 large fresh ones), 5 tblsp oil, 1tsp cumin seeds, 1tsp coriander seeds, 1/4tsp turmeric, cardamom, 1l water.
For the vegetables: 300g carrots, turnips or runner beans, maybe some spinach or broccoli.
Cook the spices dry in a thick bottomed pan for 2 mins, stirring regularly. Put in a pestle and mortar: crush. Slice the onion, crush the garlic and sauté in the oil, covered, for 5 mins. Add spices and cook for another 2 mins. Add lentils, 3/4 of the water and most of the chopped veg: add tomatoes and spinach a bit later. Cover and simmer gently for 1/2 hr. Check and stir regularly. Add more spices if you like. If it looks like drying out, add a little more water.

MARINATED MACKEREL (or any fish I suppose)
Mackerel fillets for 2, juice of half a lime, coriander leaves, freshly ground pepper, butter/oil.
Cut the mackerel into a few large bits, cover with lime juice, half of the coriander and the pepper. Let stand for an hour or more, stirring every so often. Cook as normal, strew with the rest of the coriander. Lovely!

1 large, 2 medium or 3 very small fennel bulbs; 2tblsp fat, 120ml chicken stock, 1/2tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1tsp fennel seeds.
Cut stalks and fronds from the fennel, leaving only the bulb(s). Save those for salads or garnish. Cut the bulbs in half lengthwise, and except for very small ones, cut in half again. For large bulbs, cut in half lengthwise and then cut each half in four wedges lengthwise. Melt fat, add fennel in one layer, and brown for 8 mins each side (or until each side is lightly browned). Add stock, cover and simmer for 15 mins. Drain, put on plates. Spoon lemon juice evenly over the fennel and sprinkle with seeds.

450g courgettes, 500ml water/stock, 1 diced onion, 1 tblsp butter, 1/8 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tblsp curry powder, sour cream/yoghurt, chopped chives, salt, pepper.
Sauté the onion in butter till soft, chop the courgettes, add and sauté till soft. Add stock/water, cayenne, curry powder. Simmer 10 mins, blend. Add cream/yoghurt, salt and pepper. Top with chives.

1 cauliflower broken into florets, sea salt, olive oil, butter, 2tsp cumin seeds, 2tsp coriander seeds, 1-2 dried red chillies, a handful of blanched almonds, smashed; zest and juice of 1 lemon.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Blanch cauli in salted boiling water for 2 mins, drain, let steam dry. Mix in plenty of oil and butter. Grind spices and chillies with a pinch of salt, mix with almonds and toast in a hot, dry pan. After 2 mins, add the cauli. When it gets a bit coloured, add the lemon zest and juice, mix. Fry for a minute, put into the oven for 15 mins to crisp up.

150g vegetables like carrot, raw beet, celeriac, Florence fennel; 1/2tblsp peanut butter; 1 smallish onion; 1 clove garlic; butter; chilli/cayenne pepper; salt.
Sauté the sliced onion, vegetables and garlic in plenty of butter for a while. Add some water, cover and simmer very gently till done to your liking. Put the peanut butter in a bowl and loosen with a bit of the hot liquid. Add to the veg, along with lots of red pepper and salt. Serve.

400g chard, 2 onions, olive oil, 1 heaped tblsp toasted sesame seeds, 1-2tblsp balsamic vinegar, 1 heaped tblsp chopped coriander leaves or crushed seeds.
Chop the onions in half and slice. Chop chard into strips, dry thoroughly. Heat wok or heavy pan – without oil! – and toast the seeds until they start to pop, put aside. Heat oil in the wok, add onion. Stir fry for 5 mins, until soft. Add the chard and stir fry for 3-4 mins, until wilted. Turn off the heat. Add vinegar, coriander and sesame seeds, mix. Serve immediately.

For more September recipes, see other years.
Next month: changing habits.

[4] see the Thought for April 2017 at


August 2018: what’s wrong with carbs?

The recent rash of books on diet and weight reduction points to carbohydrates as the root cause of obesity and abnormal metabolism. Metabolism is the chemical process which transforms food into fuel.
The truth, however, is the opposite: carbs play an important and positive role in our bodies. They are involved in energy production, water balance and a host of other functions. But you have to use them with intelligence, not with indulgence. So say the College of Family Physicians of Canada [1].
Many people are confused about carbohydrates. We do need them to function, but it is vitally important that they should be the right kind of carbs. Just limiting or counting the numbers, is where so many of us go wrong.
What are these ‘right kind of carbs’?
You won’t be surprised to hear that whole wheat bread, oats, rye and wholegrain pasta, are better choices than highly refined white, or French fries. The healthiest sources of carbohydrates are unprocessed or minimally processed grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. They deliver vitamins, minerals, fiber, and many important nutrients.

Unhealthy sources include white bread or pasta, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These are easily digested, which means that they may well cause weight gain, and promote diabetes and heart disease [2].

Carbohydrates are of special importance for people with type 2 diabetes. Carb counting is often treated as the holy grail of treatment. But plain ‘carb counting’ ignores one very important fact, namely this difference between simple and complex carbs.
Complex carbs, like whole grains, are low glycemic index foods. Which means they take more time to be broken down and digested. This prevents a sudden rise in the level of blood sugar and insulin levels. They also keep you filled for longer, and thereby reduce the craving for unhealthy snacks.
Consider the four major categories of foods that have carbs: fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy. Many of the individual foods in those categories are nutrition powerhouses. They contain fiber, and the more fiber a food contains, the less quickly your blood sugar will react. Veggies and fruits are a great source of vitamins and minerals. Dairy products provide calcium and in many cases vitamin D. Carbs like these are a very efficient form of energy.
Simple carbs, like sugar and white bread, have hardly any nutritional value and, worse, cause an almost immediate increase in your blood glucose levels. [3]

veg: aubergines, french/runner/broad beans, calabrese, cauli, cucumbers, fennel, chard, spinach (beet), summer squash, sweetcorn, globe artichokes, beet, carrots, courgettes, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, peppers, radish, turnip, marrow, tomatoes, spring onions, salsify/scorzonera, samphire, rocket, watercress.
Cheap, free range good-for-you meat: rabbit and wood pigeon. Puffballs!
Fish is excellent at this time of year: mackerel, hake, black bream, crab, grey mullet, trout, scallops, sea bass, flounder.

Chinese cabbage, spring cabbage, chicory, kohl rabi, lettuce for harvesting November/December, quick variety peas, mooli (=white) and black radish, chard, spinach beet. Lamb’s lettuce (corn salad), rocket and especially land cress will survive the winter.
Perpetual spinach, (spinach beet, or leaf beet) tastes as good as ‘true’ spinach, is more forgiving of soil and weather and doesn’t go to seed so quickly. Sow now for winter/spring crop.
Early August only: chard, florence fennel, spring onions, turnip.
And don’t forget that for successful winter growing, there are many seeds which can be sown this time of the year, in late summer/early autumn: see I specially recommend the lovely white and black radishes, so welcome in winter and early spring.

300g French or runner beans, 2 small eggs, 25g grated mature cheese, 4 tblsp flour, olive oil, 1 tsp tomato puree, seasoning.
Cook the beans, chop quite finely. Mix all ingredients bar the oil and make into patties. Fry in the oil, both sides.

Cut your lettuce up in, very roughly, something like 2-3 cm squares. Sauté for a few minutes in half butter and half olive oil, stirring regularly. Mix in some (ideally full-fat*) cottage cheese, herbs and/or spices, maybe olives, and let this through. Serve as a side dish, or try on toast.
* The fat in here helps absorb the nutrients and does not make you fat [4]!

Gently sauté chopped garlic for 3-4 mins in fat or oil until fragrant, without letting it brown. Add 360ml water, cauliflower, and salt. Bring to the boil, lower heat, cover, and let it simmer for 8-10 mins, until the cauli is tender. Remove from heat. Let cool for a couple of minutes and pour into a food processor or blender. Add 2 tblsp of milk and, optional, nutritional yeast. Puree until creamy smooth. Season.

This recipe is slightly more complicated than my normal fare. Don’t be put off by all the ingredients: use what you have, and/or substitute, and don’t worry! You can make lots and freeze some for the future.
450g minced lamb, 2 cubed potatoes, cubed, 3 tblsp oil, 1 bay leaf, ½ tsp mustard, 3 green cardamom pods, cracked open, 2.5cm cinnamon stick, 2 chopped onions, 3 chopped garlic cloves, ½ tsp ginger, 180ml chopped (tinned) tomatoes, 1/4 tsp turmeric, chilli powder, 3 tbsp yoghurt, salt. To garnish – chopped coriander leaves.
And coarsely grind together:
1 tsp cumin seeds, 1.5 tsp coriander seeds, black peppercorns, 4 cloves, 1/4 tsp fennel seeds.
In a pan with lid, heat up oil slowly. Add bay leaf, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Add onions, cook till they turn light brown, 3-5 mins. Add garlic & ginger and saute for about 1 min. Add ground spices, toast for another min. Add tomatoes with turmeric and chilli. Cook for 3-5 mins or till you see oil separating on sides of the pan. Add potatoes, mix, reduce heat to low. Let cook covered for 10-15 mins till the potatoes are nearly done. Remove lid, turn heat to high and add lamb. Heat for ab. 8-10 mins on medium, stirring often. Add yoghurt, 60ml water and salt, mix. Turn heat to lowest possible, cover and simmer for ab. 25 mins. Stir and check periodically to ensure it’s not sticking. Add more water if needed, but not too much!!!! Remove lid, check salt and cook on high again for 5 mins till everything comes together. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves, serve warm with flatbreads and salad.

For a delicious alternative to cold salad – cut little gem in half lengthways and rub the cut edge with olive oil and the edge of a cut clove of garlic: season. Place in a hot frying pan or on a barbecue griddle for 2-3 mins on each side.

SPICED RUNNER BEANS, serves 4 as a side dish.
300g runner beans, (1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped); 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 tblsp tomato puree, 150ml water, 15ml olive oil, ½ tsp ground coriander seed, ½ tsp ground cumin, ¼ tsp ground chilli or ½ fresh chopped chilli, (pinch of turmeric), soy sauce, salt.
Prepare runner beans: slice on the diagonal. Slice onion and garlic, sauté in oil for a few mins. Add spices, continue to sauté. If using the pepper: cut in half, remove the seeds and cut into thin strips. Add to the pan and stir. Add beans, tomato puree and water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 5 mins or until the beans are tender. Season with soy and salt if needed.

200g spinach leaves (stems removed), 2 tbsp chopped garlic, chopped onion, 1 finely sliced carrot, some anchovies, 2 tbsp olive oil.
Heat oil, sauté onion and garlic. Add sliced carrot and chopped anchovies, stir fry for 3 mins. Add spinach, stir fry briefly. Spinach cooks quickly, so take it off the fire as soon as the leaves have softened/wilted. Perpetual spinach may need a bit longer. Good with fish.

Make the mayonnaise yourself or flavour bottled mayonnaise with lemon, garlic, anchovy, etc. You can add pot marigold petals for looks. Serve with lightly cooked carrots, french beans, sugar snap peas, purple potatoes, seafood, tomatoes etc.


Next month: gluten.


July 2018 fast food

Fast food is bad for you. “I’m ok and I grew up on a lot of fast food” you may say. But today’s fast food is not the same [1]: it’s much much faster. It’s been getting worse all the time, in spite of so-called ‘healthier options’, which now become fashionable in many outlets.
And the consequences of how we behave today, of the way we feed our kids especially, will be epidemic.
Fast food is bad for you. And here are the reasons.

Fast food often contains rubbish. Do aldehydes and acrolein, heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons sound good to you? Artificial dyes and preservatives?
New research, just out this year, has shown that the more you eat: “mass produced packaged breads and buns; sweet or savoury packaged snacks; industrialised confectionery and desserts; sodas and sweetened drinks; meat balls, poultry and fish nuggets, and other reconstituted meat products transformed with addition of preservatives other than salt (for example, nitrites); instant noodles and soups; frozen or shelf stable ready meals; and other food products made mostly or entirely from sugar, oils and fats, and other substances not commonly used in culinary preparations such as hydrogenated oils, modified starches, and protein isolates”, the more likely you are to get cancer [2]. For every 10% more ‘ultra-processed’ food eaten, 12% more cancers follow. Even the ‘potential cancer-causing’ packaging gets into the food. The grease-repellent cardboard and paper products it comes wrapped in, tend to contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals which are associated with cancer, developmental toxicity and immunotoxicity, just for starters. High temperatures and use of emulsified fats significantly increase their migration into your meal [3].

And then there are the antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is one of the main health threats facing us. As if we don’t use enough of those ourselves, many more enter the food chain via our meat. In 2011, 80% of all antibiotics distributed in the United States were sold for use in food-producing animals. The majority of these were given to completely healthy animals, to increase weight gain and prevent disease in the crowded, unsanitary industrial farming conditions. England’s chief medical officer warns that the world faces a “post-antibiotic apocalypse” after which routine medical operations would become too dangerous to perform because of the risk of infection [4].

And I’m not even talking about the destruction of the environment involved in producing all this. Heavy packaging – none of which recycled, of course – and transport over enormous areas, take their toll. So does the factory farming, which creates significant methane emissions and water pollution through excessive fertilization [5].

As Michael Pollan says in ‘In Defense of Food: an Eater’s Manifesto’:
“Avoid food products containing ingredients that are
A) unfamiliar
B) unpronounceable
C) more than five in number, or that include
D) high-fructose corn syrup” [6].

It’s not easy, I know. Harder still for our children, who don’t even have memories of how you could live on potatoes and three veg, without ever dropping in at McDonald’s for a burger.
But can’t we just try a little bit harder? Against the onslaught of ever more clever advertising? Against the subtle wiles of those who want to make money at all costs at the expense of our very lives?
Baby steps, as always, are excellent. And for some of us, maybe even a clean break could be possible ….

veg: beet, broad beans, carrots, chinese leaves, globe artichokes, kohlrabi, cauli, cabbage, (sugar) peas, beans, lettuce, sweetcorn, turnips, courgettes, broccoli, spring onions, squash, radish, tomatoes, samphire, spinach (beet), chard, endive.
fish: mackerel is at its best in July, cheap and an invaluable source of omega 3. Otherwise: dab, black bream, crab, mackerel, clam, dover sole, megrim sole, grey mullet, flounder and American signal crayfish.
meat: lamb, rabbit, wood pigeon.
See also

Chinese/spring cabbage, calabrese, carrots, chicory, coriander, endive, florence fennel, kohlrabi, salad onions, (mangetout/sugar snap) peas, mooli, pak choi, turnips, black and white radish (mooli), perpetual spinach, chard, parsley, beetroot, french beans, mini cauliflower, lettuce*.
End of the month: corn salad, black radish, endive, kohlrabi. Sowing kohlrabi late in July should supply them well into the winter. They will stand in the soil until needed.
Plant: kale, sprouts, leeks, winter cabbages, broccoli, calabrese, cauliflower.
*Remember: only crisp lettuce (little gem, cos, webb) germinates well when the soil temperature goes above 25°C.

4 kohlrabi, 2tblsp butter, 2tblsp flour, 1 cup milk, 120ml grated cheddar, chopped parsley, 1/8tsp nutmeg, salt.
You don’t have to peel kohlrabi, but since the outer layer can be tough, you may prefer to do so. Before you peel it, cut off any leafy greens attached – you can use those in salads (if tender), or sauté or steam them. Chop the bulb into 1-2 cm pieces. Cook till just tender, drain, but keep the cooking water. Melt butter slowly in a small saucepan. Add flour and stir well until blended. Gradually add milk, cooking water and cheese, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted and the sauce thick. Add kohlrabi and heat through. Garnish with parsley and nutmeg.

Cook French beans in salted water. Sauté a large clove of garlic, chopped fine, in olive oil. Add small handful of anchovies (or small tin). Sauté them, crushing them with a wooden spoon, until they “melt”. Add more oil as you need to lightly coat all the beans. Drain beans, add to the anchovies, mix.
And French beans you can also:
toss in a little butter or olive oil; sprinkle with flaked almonds
or mix with boiled potatoes, flaked tuna, black olives and vinaigrette for a salade niçoise.

I like sautéing chard (or endive – or even bolted lettuce I expect) in oil with garlic, raisins and pine nuts. Add the garlic late, as it burns easily. Good with peas.

1 cauliflower, 4 lamb chops; potatoes and broad beans for 4, ½tsp cumin powder, 100ml olive oil, 30ml cider vinegar, salt, pepper, 2tbsp toasted pine nuts, 2tbsp chopped parsley.
Break the cauli into large florets. Blanch in boiling salted water until just cooked (about 5 mins). Drain and while still hot, mix with oil, vinegar and cumin. Cook the potatoes and add the broad beans for the last 5 mins. Drain and let cool. Season and cook the chops. Remove them from the pan and rest.
Finish the salad by adding pine nuts and parsley, check the seasoning.
Leftovers will still taste fine the next day.

3 to 4tblsp olive oil, 1 grated onion, 400g podded broad beans, 250ml water, 2tblsp tomato puree, 1 to 2tsp dried oregano, sea salt, pepper.
Sauté onion for 5 mins in the oil, make sure it doesn’t brown. Add beans for another min. Then add water, tomato puree, oregano, salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook at a strong simmer for 20-25 mins. If towards the end there is too much water, uncover pan so it evaporates, leaving a rich tomato and olive oil sauce.
In Greece they traditionally serve a big plate of broad beans as a main course with bread to mop up the sauce, and slices of feta. Or you can have it as a side dish.

400g potatoes and 300g raw beet cut into chunks; 3 tbsp olive oil; 4 fresh mackerel filleted or 8 mackerel fillets; pinch of cayenne pepper (optional); zest and juice of 1 lemon; 2 tbsp crème fraîche; handful fresh chives, snipped.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Put potatoes and beet in a tin with oil, and roast for 40 mins. When they have been cooking for 20 mins, prepare the mackerel. Slash the skin side of the fillets and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Heat oil in a pan with the zest, and fry the fish over high heat for 2-3 mins each side until skin is crisp. Put the potatoes and beet in bowl and stir in lemon juice, crème fraîche and chives. Season and serve with the mackerel. Good with spinach.

500g spinach, 40g butter, 2 sliced garlic cloves, 75g full-flavour cheese, nutmeg, 50ml double cream.
Cook the spinach for 3 mins until wilted. Tip into a colander, squeeze to remove water. Melt the butter, add garlic and cook for 2-3 mins until soft but not coloured. Add spinach and nutmeg. Stir in cream and cheese, and cook for 1 min until melted. Season. Serve with boiled potatoes.

DAB IN A BAP, serves 1.
2 dab fillets, butter, seasoned flour, 1 large floury bap, lettuce leaves. Tartar sauce: 1-2tbsp good mayonnaise, chopped parsley and chives, lemon juice, 1tsp mustard.
First make the tartar sauce by mixing all the ingredients. Then heat the butter, dust the fish with flour and fry for 2 mins each side (if you leave the skin on, fry skin-side down first for 3 mins, then give it 30 secs on the other side to cook through). Slice and butter the bap. Dollop on tartar sauce (or ketchup). Lay down the lettuce leaves, put fish on top, close the bap and eat while the fish is still warm.



June 2018: did you know?

To get the full health benefit of garlic and onions you have to cut them up, and then wait 5 (garlic) and 10 (onions) minutes before using them. That way the health-promoting alliicin can form. If you don’t do that, you will miss out on the beneficial effects. And then cook it, ideally, for no longer than 15 minutes. See [1].

Artificial sweeteners seem an obvious way to cut down on sugar. However, in fact they prompt us to eat more. Because real sugar gives you two hits of sweetness.
Proper sugar first activates sweet receptors on your tongue, boosting dopamine. Later it does it again: glucose is absorbed during digestion, so the reward system gets a second hit. With artificial sweeteners, you only get the first hit. They decouple sweetness from satisfaction and leave people unsatisfied, so they compensate by eating more. From [2].

Did you know fruit and veg contain the most nutrition when they are ripe? Many nutrients are formed as the food ripens. Immediately after they are picked, their sugars begin to convert to starch, their cells begin to shrink and the nutrients start to diminish.
So the sooner you eat fresh foods, the more nutritious they are [3]. And of course these days, in far away countries, they are usually picked unripe, so they won’t go off so quickly ….

Some health tips which you may not have expected. Exercise when you’re tired? Don’t brush after eating if you want your teeth to stay healthy? Here they are, and some others, fully explained: [4].

If you buy meat at a butcher’s, this is what you get: meat.
If you buy it in a supermarket this is what you get: meat in Modified Atmosphere Packaging, usually containing nitrogen and/or carbon dioxide and/or dioxygen. To make it look fresh. Not pleasant, and some of this stuff can even be dangerous [5].
Since I found out that our local butcher – and not he alone, I expect – sells only free range meat and never puts rubbish in his sausages, I have religiously avoided supermarket meat sections. Farmers markets of course are best of all, and often cheaper. Here’s how to find them: [6]. See also [7].

Evidence is emerging from multiple sources that gut flora can actually be permanently altered by drugs. At the very least, the damage persists for years. Even a short course of antibiotics can lead to resistant bacterial populations taking up residence in your gut, and stay there for up to 4 years – maybe even longer [8].
How to use safely the best natural antibiotics: see [9]. And what you can do if you really need the pills: see [10].

Here is the shoppers’ guide to the most, and the least contaminated foods. It’s American, of course – pity we don’t do that here – but it won’t be too different in Britain [11]. See also their FAQs.

“Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar B) unpronounceable C) more than five in number or that include D) high-fructose corn syrup”.
Says Michael Pollan, in ‘In Defense of Food: an Eater’s Manifesto’ [10].

And last but not least, a letter which appeared in the New Scientist as long ago as 2006.
It seems to many of us in general medical practice in the UK that the (….) change to which the National Health Service is being subjected is largely driven by the drug companies. The resulting exponential rise in drug costs means that increases in health budgets are not translated into predicted health improvements, something that politicians seem unable to comprehend.
24 May 2006, Steve Hawkins GP, Truro [12].
And those were the good times – Tony Blair, remember? Labour in charge?

beetroot, calabrese, lettuce, french beans, kale, carrots, cauliflower (mini only), salad onions, (sugar) peas, radish, kohlrabi, mooli, turnip, chicory, Florence fennel, courgettes and pumpkins.
Sow swede and sweetcorn in early June. If the soil is above 25°C, sow crisphead, cos or little Gem only.
Plant out: courgettes, cabbage, sprouting broccoli, sprouts, celery, celeriac, ridge cucumbers, runner/french beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, sweet corn.

veg: broad beans, beet, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, new potatoes, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, mangetout, peas, cauliflower, radish, spinach, spring onions, spring greens, watercress, kohlrabi, turnips, rhubarb, redcurrants, strawberries, gooseberries.
meat: lamb, wood pigeon.
fish: grey mullet, black bream, gurnard, pollock, whiting, mackerel, lobster, whelks, clams, cockles, coley, crabs, crayfish, flounder, grouper, gurnards, herring, megrim, scallops.
See also

1400g carrots, 2l stock, 2 sprigs thyme, 120ml heavy cream*, salt (cumin). Other spices galore.
Put carrots, stock, and thyme in a pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 mins. Puree, stir in cream. Season. Personally I think this soup can do with lots of spices, like curry or whatever you like. May need thinning.
* Try make it full fat if at all possible: this fat is good for you and helps absorb the other nutrients.

in sarnies – good brown bread, thick spread of butter, sprinkle of salt
in a soup – just a plain potato, onion and stock base – add the watercress at the end, blitz and stir in a gloop of thick cream
sauteed as a side dish with pretty much any meat or fish dish you can think of.

500g chopped turnip greens, shallot or small onion, 1 clove garlic or more, red pepper.
Cook greens, chopped onion, and squashed garlic in some salted water, stirring occasionally. Cook until greens are tender, for about 20 mins. Drain, add red pepper and heat through.

400g potatoes cut into chunks, 300g halved baby beet, 3 tbsp olive oil, 4 fresh mackerel, filleted or 8 mackerel fillets, (pinch of cayenne pepper), zest and juice of 1 lemon, 2 tbsp crème fraîche, handful fresh snipped chives.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Place the potatoes and beet in a tin with 2 tblsp oil and roast for 40 mins. When they have been cooking for 20 mins, prepare the mackerel. Slash along the skin side of the fillets and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan with the lemon zest and fry fish over a high heat for 2-3 mins on each side until the skin is crisp. Put potatoes and beet in a bowl and stir in lemon juice, crème fraîche and chives. Season, serve with the mackerel.

1 unshelled kg broad beans, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp grated rind, 1 tsp mustard, 1 beaten egg yolk, 180ml sour cream*, nutmeg, 1 tsp chopped mint, salt, little soy.
Shell beans, steam till tender. Put everything bar the yolk in a in pan. Let thicken over low heat. Add yolk, stir, don’t boil. Serve immediately.
* See carrot soup above.

300g chopped bacon pieces, 1 chopped onion, sea salt, 1 green cabbage, 120ml crème fraîche.
Sauté bacon with olive oil until it begins to crisp. Add chopped onion with a pinch of salt and sauté for a few more mins until translucent. Cut cabbage into 1″ pieces. Add to bacon and onions, and cook for 10 mins or until it has wilted. Add crème fraîche and cook for 5 mins more, adjusting seasoning.
* See carrot soup above.

500g baby peas, 10 sliced spring onions; 125g cottage/cream cheese or fromage frais, 1 tblsp lemon juice, 1 1/2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil, (thyme,) butter, salt, pepper.
Cook peas for 2 mins max., drain. Saute onions for 4 mins. Transfer to bowl, mix in warm peas. Whisk lemon, oil, seasoning, add veg. Crumble on cheese, serve immediately.

TRICK: how to improve simple meals for one or two people.
Boil veg as usual, using little water. Meanwhile, fry/sauté your meat or onions or fish or (boiled) potatoes or whatever you have to fry that day.
When everything is ready, turn off the hobs and put what is in your frying pan on the waiting plate(s). Drain veg well, and quickly throw it in the still hot and greasy pan. Swivel it round in the fat a few times, and add it to your plate(s).
a) flavoursome veg which has not lost nutrients due to high-heat cooking;
b) no wast of oil/butter/fat;
c) a frying pan which is much easier to clean;
d) the fat which has been added to your meal, will help you absorb all those lovely vitamins and minerals.
Dead easy – try it!


[1] and
[2] Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol 24, p 431. See also

May 2018: our precious eyesight

We don’t normally realize how precious our eyes are, until we get trouble. Short sight, far sight, those are easily dealt with. But what about cataracts, glaucoma, and the feared macular degeneration?
Every so often, another piece appears in the papers about how scientists have now invented a clever way to deal with one or another of these. But even so, and till some of these miracle cures have become mainstream, prevention is still best.
There are lots of things we can do for ourselves. Good food is always a very important one, which also happens to improve our health in other respects.

To prevent yourself from getting eye problems, or to alleviate them once you’ve got trouble, it is important to include the following in your diet.
Lutein and zeaxanthin: in eggs (free range), coloured fruit, leafy green, spinach, kale, collard greens, cos, broccoli, sweetcorn, peas, Brussels, pumpkins, orange peppers, pistachio nuts, grapes.
Carotenoids are plant pigments responsible for bright red, yellow, orange and dark green hues: in for instance carrots, spinach, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, red capsicums and oranges.
Vitamin A/beta-carotene: liver, egg; fruits/veg (carrots, pumpkin, squashes, spinach, kale, tomatoes).
It is important to combine lutein, carotenoids and vitamin A with fat like butter or olive oil, so our bodies can absorb the benefits.
Zinc: oysters, shellfish in general, meat/poultry, beans/peas, nuts/seeds, egg yolks, whole grains, cheese. Veg(etari)ans: see [1].
Vitamin C: we all know where they are: in fruit and veg, especially when eaten raw.
Vitamin E: in seeds/(pea)nuts, dark leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, plant oils, (shell)fish, pumpkin, avocado.
B-vitamins: B2 deficiency can lead to dimmed vision and red, itchy, burning eyes. In meat, cheese, almonds, mushrooms, spinach, marmite/brewer’s yeast, eggs, milk. This vitamin is damaged by light.
Vitamin B6 can prevent macular degeneration when taken with B12. It also improves absorption of magnesium, which helps production of tears. In nuts/seeds, fish, poultry/meat, dried fruit, capsicum, spinach, broccoli, marmite/brewer’s yeast, whole grains, beans/peas, potatoes in their skins.
Vitamin B12 lessens our chance of getting macular degeneration, when taken with B6. It also prevents glaucoma. In (shell)fish, liver, beef/poultry, marmite/brewer’s yeast, milk/yoghurt and eggs.
Omega 3: in oily fish (sardines, mackerel, herring), walnuts, flax seed/oil and egg yolks. Brussels, kale, spinach, pumpkin, broccoli and watercress also have some, but in a less useful form.
See also [2].

ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION doesn’t help our eyesight at all. It drains our stores of critical vitamins and nutrients, like the above mentioned vitamin A and zinc. It also depletes supplies of B-complex vitamins: this can harm the liver [3], which converts beta-carotene into this vitamin A. Dry or red eyes are only a minor effect [6]. Worse is that drinking alcohol increases the risk of cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. See [4].

MACULAR DEGENERATION develops when the part of the eye responsible for central vision stops functioning properly. Reading becomes difficult, colours less vibrant and faces are hard to recognise. It is the leading cause of severe, irreversible vision loss in people over 60, which is why they often speak of AMD, age-related macular degeneration.
There are two forms, the wet and the dry, the latter being most common [5]. There is no treatment for the dry form, but a lot can be done with the proper food and supplements. The wet form cannot be cured, only slowed down, mainly with injections [5].

Very important, and not commonly known, is the damage done by so-called blue light. This is light with wavelengths shorter than 480 nanometer. Confusingly, actually it does not show as blue, but as sharp white. It is harmful because it can penetrate all the way to the back of the eye, bypassing the eye’s natural filters. Blue light is not new, but the amount of exposure we get through digital devices and energy-saving lights has grown enormously. Artificial sources include smart phones, tablets, computers, Mp3 players and TV’s; also CFL’s, LEDs or halogen, the so-called energy-efficient lightbulbs. The effects of these are cumulative, and macular degeneration can be the result [6].
Fortunately we can protect ourselves by wearing so-called blue-blockers, glasses (often fit-over ones) which block the harmful rays [7].
PS It’s interesting to read what we are supposed to go through when one of those suppose eco-friendly bulbs breaks – see [8]!

Risk factors for cataracts are: a history of the condition in the family; smoking; over-exposure to UV rays; regularly drinking too much alcohol; diabetes; eye surgery; corticosteroid medication or a high intake of refined sugar.
When in the first stages of cataract formation, it is relatively easy to slow or stop the process. You can of course wait till they get worse, but a cataract operation, though common, is still an operation. And while most patients get good results; a small percentage are left worse off. And did you know that up to 3% of those who have had cataract surgery will in future develop a detached retina?
If you decide to try and do something yourself to protect your eyesight, remember that this will benefit the rest of your body as well.
So what can you do at this moment?
In the first place, follow the above advise about food. Lutein and zeaxanthin; vitamin B1, B2, C and vitamin E are excellent. Alpha lipoic acid is a powerful anti-oxidant – in organ meats and spinach. Supplements don’t work so well and have their drawbacks. Glutathione, another strong antioxidant, is produced in our body. Production is boosted by eating: asparagus, broccoli, avocado, spinach, garlic, grapefruit, squash, potatoes, courgettes, watermelon, strawberries, fish, meat, eggs, brazils, seafood, and sunflower seeds.
The herbs bilberry and gingko also help. And see [9].

All sites seem to agree that regular mild exercise is important to prevent glaucoma, and so is diet, see above. Smoking, caffeine and white sugar are out again, I’m afraid. For details see [10].

And here are some suggestions of natural remedies you can try for minor complaints.

There are various types of eye infections you can get: blepharitis, styes, red eye/conjunctivitis, pink eye, dry eyes etc. For some useful sites, see [11].

Keep your eyes in constant movement. Roll your eyes upwards, downwards, sideways and in circular motions for a few minutes at regular intervals [12]. And, apparently, the brain ignores floaters faster if you gaze at the moon for just five minutes every night. Easily said ….
DRY EYES – see [13].
PUFFY EYES – see [14].
YELLOW EYES – see [15].
UNDER EYE BAGS – see [17].
EYESTRAIN – see [18].
STYES – see [19].
TWITCH see – [21].

And did you know that rubbing your eyes is bad for them? Personally, when they itch, I massage the corners with saliva …. Just bathing them in cold water also helps [22].

direct: beet, calabrese, carrots (though June sowings get less rootfly), french/runner beans, kohlrabi, lettuce, sweetcorn, swede, salsify/scorzonera, spring onions, spinach (beet), courgettes, marrows, pumpkins, (sugar) peas. If pea moth’s a problem, wait till mid May.
in seedbed to transplant: leeks, cabbage, cauli, sprouting broccoli (early May), kale.
in trays: beans, courgettes, cucumbers, melon, pumpkins, pepper, sweetcorn, tomatoes.
plant out: cauli; cucumbers, marrows, pumpkins, tomatoes, squashes late May.
Green manure: if you have space, do it now. See

veg: spring greens, cabbage, spinach, chard, cauli, salad leaves/lettuce, radish, rocket, asparagus, sorrel, watercress, rhubarb, seakale.
herbs: chives, parsley, mint, lovage, summer savoury and chervil.
wild food: broom buds, chives, dandelions, fat hen, hogweed shoots, hop shoots, meadowsweet, sea spinach, sorrel, watercress, wild fennel, wild garlic, wild rocket, samphire.
game: wood pigeon, lamb, mutton, guinea fowl, rabbit, duck.

60g young nettles, weighed after stripping from the stalks, 1 large onion, 50g butter, 2 largeish potatoes, 1l water, 2 tblsp creme fraiche, seasoning, nutmeg.
Wash nettles. Melt butter and simmer chopped onion until golden. Add nettles and chopped potatoes, cook for 2-3 mins. Add water, simmer for 20 mins. Liquidize. Add seasoning plus grated nutmeg, serve with creme fraiche.

900g potatoes cut into 2cm cubes, 140g soft goat cheese, 60ml sour cream or whole milk, 2 tblsp butter, 4 tsp chopped sage, sage sprigs.
Cook potatoes in salted water until tender; drain. Add cheese, milk and butter; mash. Mix in sage; season. Garnish with fresh sage sprigs.
This can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm slowly, and thin with more milk, if it is too thick.

Spring greens, anchovies, garlic, balsamic vinegar, creme fraiche, lemon juice, pine nuts, salt, pepper.
Dry toast pine nuts. Remove stems from the cabbage and chop. Chop garlic. Drop both into boiling salted water for 6 mins. Drain, save liquid for stock. Melt at least 4-5 anchovies in some of their oil and maybe a little bit more olive oil. Cook gently until they break down and soften. Add balsamic vinegar, some lemon juice and plenty of creme fraiche and freshly ground pepper. Tip greens into the mix and stir to warm and coat it. Put on mashed potatoes, pine nuts on top, serve immediately.

500g spring greens, 200g peas (weighed after podding), 35g butter, 4 tbsp crème fraîche, ginger.
Put chopped cabbage in boiling salted water; 5 mins later, peas. After 5 more mins, drain. Add ginger. Saute drained veg in butter for ab. 5 mins, stir in crème fraîche, season, serve.

PASTA DIFFERENT for 1 to ???
Lots of shredded greens like cabbage, (frozen) peas, pasta, easy-to-cook meat like mince, sausage or bacon; basil, (cream cheese), spices, seasoning.
Prepare the vegetables, and heat slightly salted water. When it boils, throw in the pasta and veg, which should take roughly the same time to cook. If the peas are frozen, add them a bit later. If you use sausages or bacon, cut in ab. 2.5cm pieces, then fry.
When the veg-pasta mix is done, pour off the water (good for soup!) and add the mix to the frying meat. Stir; season; add basil and spice it up, chilli is good. Also, or instead of the meat, mix in some cream cheese if you like and make sure it melts.

FISH CAKES, 4 patties
1 tin (ab 112g) mackerel, ab. 120ml cold mashed potatoes, small minced onion, 1/2 tsp. lemon juice, 1 small egg, beaten, 1/8 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. pepper, flour, oil.
Sauté the onion till soft but not burned. Take out of the pan and mix with fish, mash, egg, lemon juice and seasoning. Shape into patties. Dredge in flour, fry about 10 minutes or until brown, turn once. Drain well.

Dried spaghetti for 4, 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle, 8 chopped anchovy fillets, 3 chopped garlic cloves, chilli flakes/powder, 1 tsp dried oregano, 400g can chopped tomatoes, large handful black olives, 1 tbsp roughly chopped capers, (large handful fresh basil).
Cook the pasta al dente. Heat the oil, throw in the anchovies and sizzle for 2 minutes until they’ve broken down. Add garlic, chilli and oregano and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the tomatoes, increase the heat and bubble for 3-5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Stir in olives and capers. Drain the pasta, leaving a bit of water coating the strands, then tip into the sauce. Stir, add some olive oil and mix while heating it thoroughly. Serve straight away with fresh basil if you have any.

For the flavour base:
3 tblsp cooking oil, 1 large diced onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tblsp curry powder, 1 tsp allspice powder, 1 tsp nutmeg powder or 1/2 tsp freshly grated, 1 1/2 tsp paprika, 2 tsp dried thyme leaves/3 tsp fresh, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp black.
For the curry:
360ml potatoes cut in 1.2 centimeter cubes, 2×400-gram drained tins chickpeas (keep the water), 400-gram tin of diced tomatoes, 480ml (chickpea) water, 2 sliced shallots, chopped parsley, salt.
Heat the oil, add the first lot of ingredients and cook for 3 minutes until the onion is translucent. Then add the potatoes and cook for 2 more minutes. If the spices start to stick to the bottom, put in a tiny splash of water. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, and the liquid. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked and the sauce has thickened. Adjust salt. Stir in the shallots and parsley. Serve with rice, or add just a little bit more potatoes for a full meal.

Next month: did you know?

[7] In 2007 I was diagnosed with dry macular degeneration – the form which is supposedly incurable. The optician told me it was good to eat kale, and …………… by that I did some more research. This is when I found that important nutrients to fight MD are lutein, vitamins C and E, beta carotene and zinc (and if you take lots of zinc you should take copper as well).
Lutein, as well as many other nutrients, is abundantly in kale. In general, dark leafy greens and colorful fruits and vegetables are excellent. Kale and marigold tea have been my standby ever since. I bought blublocker glasses and still use them when watching the computer, the tv and
in a car when faced with unpleasant headlights. Online you can get blueblockers to wrap around your prescription glasses from £40 at Click on anti-glare spectacles and make sure you choose one with blue-blocking filter. Or order ‘wraparound fitovers’ via Robert Frith ( opticians in Devon or Somerset.
I managed to get rid of my macular degeneration entirely by these means, plus some acupuncture treatments. You might not be so lucky, but you certainly can do a lot yourself to prevent it getting worse.


April 2018: fish

We’re supposed to eat fish twice a week, for our much needed omega 3. Mind you, to a lesser extent this can also be found in full-fat milk, but only when it comes from cows fed on grass. Because in cows fed the modern way – on chemically-grown cereals, maize and soya meal – the milk contains far less of this, and other useful nutrients. The same holds for meat. If it’s grass-fed it has omega 3, so lambs and sheep are ok; cattle don’t have quite so much [1].
Flax seeds and walnuts also contain it, and so do cos lettuce, spinach, kale, turnip greens, squash, sprouts and french beans, less of it. See [2].
But here we’re talking about fish.

Do you buy yours in a fish shop or a supermarket? For atmosphere and helpful information, nothing can beat a good local fish shop, but most of us go to the supermarket.
It is said that ’fresh’ fish in supermarkets is often nothing like it [3]. Frozen is another matter. If frozen on the ship within hours of being caught, apparently fish looses none of its nutrients.
And then there are the tins. Nothing beats having a store of tins in your cupboard: sardines are my favourite. Recently, Fish4Ever was named the most ethical tinned fish provider in the UK. It has been awarded top score for sustainable sourcing by Greenpeace. What’s more, every Fish4Ever tin tells you where the fish was caught, and their website lets you trace it from your plate back to the sea: it explains conservation issues, fishing methods and processing [4].

Greenpeace believes we should eat less fish altogether. For fish are supplied in a fundamentally different way to other animal foods. Meat and dairy products are farmed. As we consume them, more animals are reared to ensure continued supply. In stark contrast, the vast majority of fish we eat are not farmed but mined – taken from the ocean without consideration for maintaining the source.
And when they do farm fish it’s even worse. Apart from widespread pollution caused by chemicals, antibiotics and vaccines, wild-caught fish are used to feed the stock. One of the worst is farmed salmon: it takes more than five kilograms, and up to a hundred!! –  of feed fish to produce one kilogram of farmed salmon ….. [5].

So if you want to buy sustainably, which fish do you choose? There is plenty of information out there. It’s always a good idea to buy bycatch: those fish which are caught accidentally while trying for the valuable ones. You can tell which is bycatch because it’s usually cheaper than the others.
Or ask in the shop. Why not try dab instead of plaice or sole? Or pollack/coley instead of cod or haddock? Whiting and grey gurnard are always good.
Avoid farmed fish, see above. Shellfish is an exception, because farming those actually improves the quality of the water, as the bivalves act as filters [6].
See [7].

There’s a very quick guide which shows you which fish stocks are under pressure and which are ok to eat at
If you don’t live in Britain, see [8] for information about good fish guides.
And if you are buying fresh, [9] shows you what’s in season.
For general info about fish, go to and
For an in-depth study about different types of omega 3 and the needs of veg(etari)ans especially, see [2].

veg: purple sprouting broccoli, chard, cabbage, leeks, spring onions, spinach, watercress, loose-leaved lettuce, radish, sorrel, spring greens.
meat: lamb, wood pigeon.
fish: cockles, crab, langoustine, lobster, prawns, salmon, shrimp, herring, mussels, British crayfish.

direct: lettuce, rocket, radish, beet, broad beans, calabrese, kohlrabi, parsnips, peas, spinach (beet), spring onions, chard, carrots.
Plant: summer cabbage, onion sets (early), potatoes, cabbage, leeks.
Sow to transplant: leeks, brussels, sprouting broccoli, autumn cauli, kale.
If you have a lawn mower which collects grass, you can throw it on the compost heap. You haven’t got one? Then put them at the base of a hedge: in due time it will show its thanks.


Fillet, rosemary, olive oil, sea salt, sliced lemon.
Preheat oven to 220°C. Slash skin side of the fish diagonally; put rosemary into the gaps. Rub the rest with olive oil and salt. Sear in a pan skin-side down, until the skin starts to crisp. Transfer to oven for 5 mins. Serve with lemon and olive oil.

2 slices firm bread, 225g crabmeat, 1.5 tblsp oil, 1 tsp lemon juice plus wedges, 1/2 tsp Worcestershire or soy sauce, 1 large egg, beaten, 2 tblsp butter.
Tear the bread into small pieces, mix with crab. Add oil, Worcestershire/soy, egg, salt. Mix gently but thoroughly, form into patties. Heat butter until foam subsides: cook crab cakes, turning once, until golden.

FISH STEW, serves 2
1 tin mackerel in olive oil, 1 tbsp oil from the tin, 1 onion (chopped), 750ml chopped celery or Florence fennel, 1/2 tin tomatoes, lemon juice, parsley, cayenne/red pepper, salt/pepper (olives).
Drain mackerel but keep the oil, break apart. Sauté the onions and celery/fennel in this oil for 2-3 mins. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 mins, stir as needed. Add fish and return to boil, simmer for 10 mins. Add a bit of lemon juice, olives and seasonings. Stir occasionally and add water if needed. Serve over potatoes, rice or other grain, with crackers or with bread.

This can be served with or without buttered granary bread. Serves 2.
1 120g tin sardines, some of the oil for frying, a 400g tin cannellini beans, 1 diced onion, 1 finely chopped garlic clove, 2-3 chopped tomatoes, 1 finely chopped red chilli, a roughly chopped bunch of parsley, 1 tbsp capers, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil to serve.
Sauté the onion for a few minutes till nearly soft, then add the garlic. Cook for a minute. Add the tomato; continue to cook until soft and beginning to break down. Add the sardines: break these down with a wooden spoon as they heat up, and then add the beans. Season. Once all is heated through, stir in chilli, parsley and capers and some lemon juice. Loosen a little with some extra virgin olive oil. Personally I like to add potatoes as well: in that case I only use half the beans. I do love potatoes – but then ours are very local!

ANCHOVY ideas:
Put an anchovy on top of a soft-boiled egg.
Make pasta with onions and anchovies
Mix 10 finely chopped anchovies with 100g unsalted butter at room temperature and chives or other fresh herbs. Serve with bread.

50g sorrel, 10g flat leaf parsley, 1 large clove garlic, crushed, 1 tbsp pine kernels, 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 25g grated mature cheese.
Blanch sorrel and parsley for 20 secs in fast boiling water. Refresh in cold water, drain and squeeze out any excess. Blend to a smooth purée with garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and a pinch of salt, . Transfer to a bowl, stir in cheese.

700ml coarsely chopped sorrel, a pastry or pie crust, some chopped spring or little onions, 80g goat (or other strong) cheese, 3 eggs, 300ml milk, ¼ tsp salt, grated mature cheddar cheese, pepper.
Preheat oven to 190°C. Spread goat cheese in the bottom of the piecrust. Cover with chopped sorrel and onions. Beat eggs, salt and milk together. Pour over greens. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let rest for 20 mins, and reheat if wanted.

400g trimmed spring greens, 6 tbsp crème fraîche, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Chop spring greens, cook in salted water, for 5-15 minutes depending on toughness and how you like them, drain. Mix crème fraîche in the pan with sea salt and pepper: bring almost to the boil. Add spring greens, stir, reheat gently, season if necessary.




March 2018: no worries?


Worrying can be good if it motivates us to take action and solve problems. But very often it isn’t like that.
We worry about things which we can’t do anything about. Or we worry too much about tiny details. “Is this enough?” “What shall I give them?” “What can I wear?” “Will they like the present?”
And when you worry too much, it becomes counterproductive. Chronic worry causes tension, sleepless nights, bad work, and may even lead to anxiety attacks.
Telling yourself to stop worrying is like trying not to think of a pink elephant. The harder you try, the worse it gets.
But how can we change – just a little bit?

1) Make a list of things you worry about. Just having it written down helps.

2) Cut back – should you really be doing all this? If something doesn’t get done, does it matter? Just say no – if others can say it, so can you.

3) Ask for help. You know, many people actually like it if you ask them for help, if you say you can’t cope alone. They might not do a job in the same way you do, but so what?

4) Learn to delegate. Try with small jobs first. Noone does things perfectly, not even you!

5) Accept imperfection, especially in the small stuff.

6) If you really can’t help worrying, worry regularly. For the same period, like 15 minutes, every day, indulge in worrying as much as you like. When time is up, postpone all your worries until next day, same time. Or if an anxious thought comes into your head during the day, just make a brief note for later. Remind yourself that you’ll have time to think about it later, so there’s no need to worry about it right now.

7) Guided relaxation (1) and meditation (2) are a good idea, especially for the long term.

8) Move! Walking outdoors is ideal, but any form of exercise is good. When you exercise, endorphins will trigger positive feelings in your body, similar to that of morphine.

9) Eat healthily. Worry sucks energy and increases production of pro-inflammatory chemicals. To counteract this, enjoy whole or minimally-processed anti-inflammatory foods such as whole grains, dark leafy greens, nuts, garlic/onions, ginger, turmeric, olive oil, beetroot and berries.
Avoid stimulating foods like caffeine and sugar, also – especially! – in the form of corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, golden syrup, maltose, and sucrose. All of these increase anxiety, exacerbate insomnia and in the case of sugar, cause excessive blood sugar fluctuations. See (3).

And have a look at,,20669377,00.html#stop-catastrophizing-0.

broad beans, early carrots, early Brussels, parsnips, main crop peas, radish, spinach (or spinach beet, better value than proper spinach), chard, turnip, lettuce, early/summer cabbage, spring onions, early cauli, bulb onions, beet, celery (late March).
Plant: potatoes, onion sets, shallots, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes.

veg: purple sprouting broccoli, kale, cavolo nero, squash, cauli, spring greens, radishes, rhubarb, leeks, carrots, spring onions, salad leaves, parsnips, cabbage, chicory, sorrel, swede, beet, brussels, rocket, turnips, celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, watercress.
fish: dab, red gurnard, grey mullet, mussels, oysters, clams, mackerel, herring, megrim, scallops.
meat: rabbit, turkey, wood pigeon, beef, mutton, pork, venison.

See also

By the way, have you ever though of joining a box scheme? Fresh veg delivered to your house every week. It’s local, it’s cheaper and most likely organic. You can find them at

2 turnips and 2 floury potatoes, 3 tblsp butter, 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped tblsp sage, ab. 200ml milk, salt and freshly ground pepper
Peel and cube the turnips and potatoes; put in some cold salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer until soft and tender, about 20 mins. Sauté the onion with the sage until the sage is fragrant and the butter begins to brown. Season. Drain turnips and potatoes. Add the milk and roughly mash. If you prefer a smoother texture, use a blender. Taste, season if necessary.
If you like, you can use a different proportion of turnips and potatoes.

This is an unusual soup. You either like it, or you don’t. If you don’t, just use it as a sauce on a rice-and-vegetable dish. It’s best if your peanut butter doesn’t have sugar in it.
200g parsnips cut into chunks, 1 large onion, 2 garlic cloves, 2 cm fresh ginger root, 2 tblsp grated coconut, 2 tblsp peanut butter, 1 tsp ground cumin, 45g coriander leaves, plenty of chilli powder or cayenne, grated zest of 1 orange and some pumpkin seeds if you like.
Cut the parsnips, onion, ginger and garlic into chunks and roast in an 200°C over for 20 minutes (or carefully sauté on top). Put in a pan, add 720ml water and cook till all is soft.
Mix with the peanut butter, coconut, chili, cumin and coriander and blend, keeping some coriander for on top. Add more water if needed. Serve sprinkled with coriander (pumpkin seeds) and zest.

Chop kale and onion finely. Heat some fat, add both vegetables, stir, cover, and fry like that on a very low fire for a few minutes. Then add a little bit of water and cover again. Let cook till kale and onion are digestible, take off the cover and sauté some more till any water left has disappeared. Add seasalt or soy sauce, serve.

Score sides of a whole bream and pack cuts with a roughly pounded mix of 3 tblsp balsamic vinegar, a garlic clove and a handful of basil per fish. Roast for 20 mins or until flaking off the bone at 190ºC. Serve with peas.

650g celeriac, 150ml walnut halves, 120ml mayonnaise, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, lemon juice, 2 tblsp chopped (flatleaf) parsley, 2 tblsp minced shallot, 1 tblsp fresh chopped tarragon, julienned cooking apple, salt, pepper.
Combine mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, parsley, tarragon and shallot. Cut off one side of the celeriac to create a stable flat working surface and remove all brown knobby parts. Rougly grate celeriac and apple, mix with mayonnaise, adjust seasoning. Toast walnuts until fragrant and slightly browned, put on top.

450g broccoli, oil, soy sauce/tamari, 1 1/2 tblsp sesame seeds, 1 clove garlic.
Dry-roast sesame seeds. Cook broccoli for 3 mins. Saute garlic for 1 min., add drained broccoli. Keep stirring for 2-3 mins. Add soy and sesame, serve.

100g rocket, 75g soft goat’s cheese, 1 diced onion, olive oil, 1 diced potato, 800 ml water.
Fry onion gently in the oil until it softens, add potato and water and bring to a simmer. Cook until the potato is soft. Season, but go easy on the salt, because the cheese will add plenty. Add chopped rocket, cook for 2 mins. Whizz in a blender. Pour into bowls and add a slice of goat’s cheese to each.

1/2 small pumpkin, olive oil.
Preheat oven to 150ºC. Cut pumpkin into 2-3 chunks, peel and seed each chunk and cut into slices about 2mm thick. Dry the slices. Place in a single layer on two lined baking trays. Brush with oil and sprinkle with a good pinch of sea salt. Let sit for 5 mins before placing in the oven. Bake for 25 mins, or until crisp and golden. Remove from the oven to cool so they’ll crisp up. The crisps will stay fresh in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


Next month: fish forever?