February 2018: the thyroid

THE THYROID

How would you notice that something is wrong with your thyroid gland? This gland can be either too lazy – more common – or it may work too hard.
Located in the lower part of the neck, the thyroid gland regulates how fast the body burns food and controls production of nails and hair. It also regulates body temperature, carbohydrate breakdown, mental clarity, well-being, energy levels, vitamin absorption, cholesterol levels, hair texture, nail strength, skin suppleness and sex drive.

By far the most common problem is underperformance: you are hypothyroid. This can make you, amongst other things:
constipated, depressed, forgetful, tired, restless; gain weight, feel cold, have dry hair or loose it, have coarse skin or carpal tunnel syndrome, and cause strange feelings in neck or throat (a goiter). See [1].

When it works too hard, you are hyperthyroid. This can make you, amongst other things:
shaky, hot, sweating, loose weight, nervous, irritable, weak, loose hair, restless, anxious, and short of breath. It can make your heart race, cause diarrhoea, insomnia, increased appetite and eye problems, make your skin coarse or itchy and your menstrual cycle irregular. See [1].

So – what to do if you think there is something wrong?
If you suspect a problem in this area, go to the doctor. But you can help a lot yourself too.

If your thyroid is underactive, try the following.
• Avoid peanuts and raw brassicas: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips and kale. Also peaches, pears and spinach. They block the uptake of iodine into the thyroid gland.
• Also avoid unfermented soy. Soy, too, blocks iodine uptake, thereby starving the thyroid of essential nutrients. This means: no tofu, no soy milk, no edamame or soybean oil. Read the labels: soy is cheap, so it is used in lots of products! Only fermented soy, like tamari or fermented soy sauce, tempeh and miso are recommended [2].
• Eat your food nice and hot.
• Eat plenty of veg and fruit, less sugar and refined products.
• Try avoid stress [3].
• Exercise – but moderately.
• Ideally avoid the pill and its surfeit of hormones.
• Avoid toxic food and heavy metals: eat organic, less meat.
• Use natural products which don’t contain hormone disruptors.
• And special yoga exercises under trained supervision do help; so does acupuncture [4].
• See also [5].
A hyperactive thyroid is much more rare.
There are herbs (hawthorn, bugleweed, motherwort and lemon balm) and foods (oats and food rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamin D) which help prevent problems associated with hyperthyroidism. Enough sleep and regular exercise are important, as always.
See [6].

TO EAT:
Veg: beet, purple sprouting broccoli, brussels, (savoy) cabbage, carrots, chard, celeriac, kale, cavolo nero, leek, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, rocket, spinach, swede, turnip, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory, corn salad, endive, kohlrabi, salsify, winter purslane.
Meat: goose, mallard, partridge, pheasant, venison.
Fish: bib, cockles, crab, dab, flounder, lobster, mackerel, oysters, pollack, scallops, seabass, whiting.
See also http://eatseasonably.co.uk/what-to-eat-now/this-months-best/.

TO SOW/PLANT (outdoors):
If the weather is suitable: garlic, broad beans, spring onions, shallots, early peas, carrots, parsnips, green/red cabbage, onion sets. Apple trees, if the weather isn’t too severe and the ground not waterlogged or frozen.

 

RECIPES

SPICED PARSNIP SOUP
700g diced parsnips, 1 sliced onion, 40g butter, 2 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1.2ltr water, salt, pepper, 150ml single cream, paprika, parsley.
Melt butter, add onion, saute for 6 mins. Add parsnips, saute for 3 mins. Stir in curry powder and cumin, cook for 2 mins. Add water, season, bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until veg are tender. Mash or puree. Season, add cream and reheat but don’t boil. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley.

SCALLOPS WITH LAMBS’ LETTUCE (= corn salad)
6 large scallops, 1 sharp apple, 2 handfuls of corn salad, some lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper.
Cut apple in strips. Mix with lettuce, zest, oil, seasoning.
For the scallops: heat 1 tblsp of oil. Lay scallops on board, pat dry, season one side. Think of the pan as a clockface and add scallops, seasoned side down, in a clockwise order, then fry 1-2 mins. Season other side, flip over and repeat. Squeeze lemon over and shake pan. Divide salad between 2 plates, arrange scallops around each pile. Garnish with remaining zest, serve immediately.

EXOTIC KALE-PEA COMBINATION
400g shredded kale, 150g (frozen) peas, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds (or some mustard), 1/2 tsp turmeric, chillies or chilli powder, ginger (pref. fresh grated), juice 1 lemon, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, oil.
Heat oil, sizzle cumin and mustard seeds for 1 min, add chilli, ginger and turmeric. Fry until aromatic, add kale, salt, peas and bit of water. Cover and cook for ab. 5 mins until kale has wilted. Add lemon juice, ground coriander, mix, serve.

PINK PANCAKES: 6 pancakes, breakfast for 2.
120ml finely grated raw (or cooked) beetroot, 120ml grated apple, 1 egg, 240ml flour, 2 heaped tsp baking powder, 120ml water, ½ tsp of mixed spice, salt, olive oil, butter, honey.
Whisk egg until frothy. Add flour, baking powder, salt, then water. Give it a good whisk. Fold in apple, beet and spice. Heat oil, drop dessert spoonfuls of the batter into the pan centre. When it starts to bubble up, flip over and cook for 2 mins or so. Don’t press pancake down as it cooks as this will press out the air bubbles. When all your pancakes are cooked, put butter on top of each. Serve with honey.

KALE CHIPS – surprisingly nice!
Ab. 170g kale, 1 tblsp apple cider vinegar, 2tblsp extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt.
Rinse the kale, strip the leaves from the stems, cut into 5 cm pieces. Dry thoroughly. Mix the dressing and massage it into the kale pieces with your hands, for 1-2 minutes. Place on oven sheets and bake for 20—30 mins at 145°C. Turn the pieces for the last 10 mins, to make sure both sides are thoroughly dried out and crisp.

SIMPLE LEEKY (WHOLEMEAL) PASTA with SARDINES for 2.
1 tin sardines, ab. 200g cleaned chopped leeks, 100-200g wholemeal pasta, 1 clove garlic, thyme, soy sauce, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cayenne/chilli or 1 red chilli pepper.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add pasta and leeks. Just before they’re done (they will probably be done at the same time) sauté the chopped garlic, chilli and some thyme leaves in the sardine oil. Stir, cook for a few minutes – don’t let the garlic brown! – and add the sardines. Don’t mash them too finely. Put a lid on to let them warm up. Add the pasta/leeks which should be cooked by now. Stir, heat through, add soy sauce to taste (and salt/pepper if needed) and a squeeze of lemon juice.

SWEDE SPELTOTTO
300g pearled spelt or barley, 400g swede cut into 1cm dice, 2 chopped onions, 1 chopped garlic clove, plenty of chopped parsley, 50g grated hard well-flavoured cheese plus extra to serve, 1l water/stock, 20g butter, 2 tblsp olive oil, nutmeg, seasoning.
Heat water/stock. In another pan heat butter and oil slowly, add onions and sweat gently until soft. Add garlic and swede, stir for 2 mins. Add spelt/barley and stir for 2 mins, making sure all grains are well coated with grease. Now start adding stock slowly, a quarter at a time, stirring often. When it’s all in, cook about 25 mins for spelt or a bit longer for barley, to a tender texture with a hint of bite. Stir in parsley and cheese. Add salt, plenty of pepper, nutmeg. Serve topped with more grated cheese. With green salad.

PURPLE SPROUTING CABBAGE with EGG and GARAM MASALA for 2 (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall).
3 large eggs at room temperature, 200g purple sprouting broccoli, 50g butter, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 garlic clove, grated or very finely chopped, 2tsp garam masala, sea salt, pepper.
Put eggs in boiling water, cook for 6 mins: drain and rinse cold, peel.
Chop off the woody ends and steam or boil the broccoli. Steamed, it will keep more colour. Cook for 4-6 mins until just tender, drain. Melt the butter with the oil, add garlic, then garam masala. Turn the heat down very low and cook for 1-2 mins, season. Put the broccoli on a warm plate/plates. Halve the eggs and place on top. Dress both with the spicy fat, serve.
Instead of broccoli you can use other greens, like young leaves of kale or cavolo nero.

Next month: …….. 

[1] https://www.verywell.com/do-you-have-a-thyroid-problem-take-the-test-3231838
https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/the-difference-between-hypothyroidism-and-hyperthyroidism
[2] https://thewholejourney.com/soy-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/
[3] http://rinekedijkinga.nl/assets/uploads/img/content/assets/uploads/Stappenplan_Als_Lui_niet_meer_lekker_is_GN_8_2017.pdf?mc_cid=a25d3a150d&mc_eid=ad95dad31b
[4] http://www.home-remedies-for-you.com/remedy/Hypothyroidism.html
[5] www.womentowomen.com/hypothyroidism/foods-naturalthyroidhealth.aspx
http://ezinearticles.com/?Foods-That-Will-Make-Your-Underactive-Thyroid-Symptoms-Worse&id=672658
http://www.top10homeremedies.com/home-remedies/home-remedies-for-hypothyroidism.html
http://www.home-remedies-for-you.com/remedy/Hypothyroidism.html, https://draxe.com/hypothyroidism-diet-natural-treatment/
[6] http://www.home-remedies-for-you.com/remedy/Hyperthyroidism.html
http://www.top10homeremedies.com/home-remedies/home-remedies-for-hyperthyroidism.html
http://www.allayurvedicremedies.com/home-remedies-for-hyperthyroidism.htm
https://www.belmarrahealth.com/hyperthyroidism-overactive-thyroid-causes-symptoms-treatment-home-remedies-diet/

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January 2018: keep your teeth

Are there things we can we do to keep our teeth in better state, for longer? Yes there are. Here are some tips.

* Toothpaste
Have you heard of SLS, sodium lauryl sulfate? An ingredient in practically every toothpaste, it is a foaming agent which wears away the protective layer which safeguards gums, tongue and everything inside our mouths. Mouth ulcers are only some of the effects.
Triclosan, another common ingredient, is a carcinogenic pesticide which disrupts our hormone system and normal breast development. As well as in toothpaste, it is now found in practically all cleaning products [a].

* Acids
Though vitamin C in its natural form is good for you, beware of taking tablets. In 2012 it was found that chewable vitamin C tablets, gums and powdered supplements significantly increase dental erosion. They affect our teeth in the same way soft drinks and orange juice do: they all contain acid, which dissolves calcium. Swallowed pills, however, are in the clear.
In general, don’t brush your teeth immediately after meals and drinks, especially if they were acidic. Acidic foods—citrus fruits, sports drinks, tomatoes, soda (both diet and regular)—can soften tooth enamel “like wet sandstone,” says Howard R. Gamble, past president of the Academy of General Dentistry. Brushing speeds up acid’s effect on your enamel and erodes the layer underneath. He suggests waiting 30 to 60 minutes before brushing [b].
For the same reasons, cut down on drinks and snacks during the day. After eating, your mouth becomes acidic for roughly 40 minutes. If you snack constantly instead of sticking to regular meal times, your mouth is 60% more acidic. This dramatically increases the chances of tooth decay and gum disease.

* Foods
What foods are good for your teeth? Milk, eggs, cheese and yoghurt; meat, fish, and dark leafy veg; crunchy foods that contain lots of water are all excellent. But please make the milk and the cheese full-fat: see [c]! The fact that this will make you feel full so you will eat less later, is only one of the reasons – see [d].
Sweets and (diet) soft drinks are of course notorious. But citrus, coffee, wine, and pickles all contain acid. They are best consumed with other food, and don’t brush your teeth straight afterwards! See [a]. However, fermented and cultured foods are in the clear [f].

AND ALSO
• When your teeth take turns hurting, when there is decay or discolouration, this can be due to lack of calcium – or of other nutrients which help absorb it, like vitamins D, C, E, K, magnesium and boron [g]. Exercise, too, helps or body use the calcium we consume!
• When teeth are just sensitive, you may be lacking vitamin D.
• If your mouth dries out, the bacteria will cause bad breath. A drink of water, or watery veg like cucumber, celery or carrots, help as well as some fancy mouthwash.
• If you knock out a tooth, don’t rinse it in water or wrap it in a tissue – you’ll kill the fragile cells that can help it survive. Lick it, stick it back in the cavity or, failing that, put it in milk – and see the dentist as fast as you can.
• For inflamed gums, use aloe vera gel – or a leaf [h].
• For effective toothache remedies, see [i]. Personally I just stick a clove in my mouth!
• Should you brush before bedtime [j]?
• How to whiten teeth naturally [k].

EAT:
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.

PLANT:
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.
And 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 January.

LENTIL and SQUASH SOUP for 6.
500g squash, 170g lentils, 1 chopped onion, 1/2 tsp tomato puree, 1 chopped carrot, 1 chopped celery, 60ml dry white wine, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp curry powder, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 bay leaf, 1.3l water.
Peel, deseed and chop squash. Simmer all ingredients until they are tender, stirring occasionally, 45 mins. Thin soup with more water if necessary. Season.

CABBAGE, CHEESE and APPLE CASSEROLE for 6.
60g butter, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped head cabbage, 3 sliced tart apples, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 60ml milk, 1360ml grated cheddar.
Melt butter, add onion, cabbage, apples, salt and pepper and sautee for 10 mins. Add milk and cheese, mix. Pour into dish, cover, bake at 180°C for 30 mins. Uncover and bake for 10 more mins. With cooked potatoes.

PARSONAGE PHEASANT
A plucked or skinned pheasant, beetroot, apples, onion, thyme, bay leaves, salt.
Joint pheasant, rub in salt, fry till it browns. Add thyme, bay, grated beetroot, sliced apples, sliced onion and some water. Let simmer for about an hour, a big one might need a bit more time.
Turn the pieces every so often and spoon the cooking juice over. Lovely with kale.


QUICK BEET, CARROT AND EGG for one.
1 small beet, 2 small- to medium-sized carrots, garlic cloves, egg, oil.
Grate beets raw (use cooked ones if you like). Grate carrots, dice garlic. Heat water to poach the egg. Saute beet for a few mins, then add garlic and grated carrot. Cook 2 more mins, while poaching an egg. Put beet-carrot mix on a plate, top with egg. Add salt, pepper. To fill it out you can add some heated sweetcorn.

SWEDE with BUTTER and STOCK
500g swede, 35g butter, 500ml stock.
Cut swede into 1cm pieces. Melt butter, add swede. Stir so they get coloured all round: then pour in stock and bring to boil. Simmer for 20 mins until you can squash them with a fork. The liquid is then a buttery juice. Season, serve straightaway.

CREAMY PARSNIP AND SQUASH BAKE
500g parsnips, 500g butternut squash, 450ml double cream, 1 small finely chopped onion, thyme, butter, 25g grated mature cheese.
Put cream, onion, thyme into pan. Slowly heat to just below boiling, remove from heat, leave to cool. Heat oven to 160°C. Butter a dish. Thinly slice parsnips and peeled, deseeded squash. Layer both in dish, put herby cream on top, scatter with cheese. Bake for 1 hr.

SAUTEED RED CABBAGE
Red cabbage, large onion, olive oil, large cooking apple, cider vinegar, mustard seed, (sugar).
Pull off the outer cabbage leaves and cut off bottom. Cut in half, and then into thin slices. Chop onion. Saute both for 5 minutes. Add 10 ml cider vinegar and the chopped cooking apple. Season the mixture with 1 tsp. mustard seed, salt and pepper. Cook for 10-15 more minutes with the lid on, before serving. You may want to add a bit of sugar.

SPICY TOMATO & KALE LINGUINE for 4-5.
450g linguine or other pasta, 250g kale, (weighed after being de-stemmed); ab. 500g tinned tomatoes, butter/oil for sauteing, 6 minced cloves garlic, cayenne or chilli pepper, 80ml good quality extra-virgin olive oil, juice of 1/2-1 lemon, thyme, (black) olives, grated mature cheese, salt, pepper.
Cook pasta al dente in salted water. Drain but keep the water. Chop the kale. Saute garlic and kale; cook for 1 min., stirring often. Add tomato, salt, red pepper, olives and cook until soft, about 4-5 mins. Add 120ml pasta water and heat thoroughly. Add cooked pasta, oil, lemon juice, thyme, and if needed, some extra cooking water. Season and mix. Put the cheese on the table for people to help themselves.

 

[a] http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/triclosan-ban-harmful-antibacterial.htm
https://askthedentist.com/is-triclosan-toothpaste-safe/
[b] http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9402E4DE1F3CF931A15756C0A9649D8B63, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/11628311/Top-tips-for-clean-perfect-teeth-some-might-surprise-you.html
https://examine.com/nutrition/are-vitamin-c-supplements-bad-for-your-teeth/
http://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2012/07/does-soda-erode-teeth.html
https://naturalnews.com/021774.html
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1196944/Orange-juice-acid-wash-away-enamel-teeth.html
[c] http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/october-2017-please-have-your-dairy_1.html
[d] https://health.usnews.com/wellness/food/articles/2016-10-28/5-reasons-to-start-eating-full-fat-dairy-according-to-science
[e] https://greatist.com/live/brushing-teeth-before-bed
[f] https://nourishingjoy.com/10-reasons-to-eat-more-fermented-and-cultured-foods/
[g] www.moondragon.org/health/disorders/malabsorption.html
[h] http://www.livestrong.com/article/265410-how-to-use-aloe-gel-to-soothe-inflamed-and-cut-gums/
[i] https://www.1dental.com/articles/dental/toothache-home-remedies/
http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/benefits-of-cayenne-pepper/
http://www.healing-from-home-remedies.com/toothache-home-remedies.html
[j] https://greatist.com/health/healthy-teeth-foods
[k] https://wellnessmama.com/3662/whiten-teeth-naturally/

 

 

January 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 11.26.39

DIETING = DANGEROUS

The diet plan. Will it work? Short term – you may be lucky. Or disciplined, rather. Long term, no.

Everyone is different. Your size, your shape, the history, your genes, all have a say. Since the children left home, my husband and I have totally different meals, though we both eat healthily. Listen to your body. We’ve all developed habits, some good, some bad. Should we throw all that by the wayside in favour of a one-size-fits-most plan? Some of it, I expect, but not all.

  • Dieting leads to bingeing, and this is not just because we’re weak-willed. Discipline doesn’t work, not for long, or only at great cost to the rest of your life.
  • Bingeing may even be a sign of need: your body lacks something and overrides all your good intentions. (1)
  • Dieting – at least, dieting according to someone else’s plan – won’t help you to get in touch with your own body’s needs: on the contrary.
  • In a way it’s easy, following someone else’s guidelines. Getting in touch with your own body needs takes patience and observation.
  • And then there is the issue of hormones: leptin and ghrelin for instancemake ‘dieting’ a complicated game in which we usually end up losers. (2)

Therefore, low calorie and low fat diets can have serious consequences for your health. But what can we do instead?

Avoid (artificial) sugar. Sugar is addictive, and hidden in many things. Sugar makes you want more and more and more. Artificial sugar is bad for you in other ways [3]. Getting used to less sweet food is not too hard, and saves a lot of trouble over a lifetime.

Try have healthy snacks handy for when the need arises: crackers with cheese, (dried) fruit, may help the cravings without leading you astray. Nuts, seeds. A nice sandwich if you fancy it, made with quality, filling bread.

And don’t worry about the calories! If it’s good stuff, you won’t go far overboard. A biscuit easily leads to a packet of biscuits. A sandwich on the other hand … you aren’t going to eat a loaf, are you? A nice sandwich will fill you up. Nuts – provided they are not oiled or salted, will give you nutrients and leave you satisfied.

It shouldn’t surprise you that I recommend full milk and butter instead of skim and marge [4]. We need fat, and when our body doesn’t get it it turns to carbs (sugar and grain, mainly) to fill the gap. ‘Saturated fat’ is finally loosing the bad name it has been given for years. [5]

And beware: when watching television, especially if it’s scary, we tend to eat far more than we would otherwise do.

Try things out, observe, learn about yourself. It’s not as easy as following someone else’s ideas, it may even be scary at times, but the road will be interesting. [6]

To sow/plant:Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 11.27.23

if the weather is suitable: early peas, broad beans. Apple trees, if it’s not too cold and the ground is not waterlogged or frozen.

To eat:

vegbeet, broccoli, brussels, cabbage, carrots, chard, celeriac, garlic, kale, cavolo nero, leek, onion, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, rocket, spinach, swede, turnip, jerusalem artichoke, chicory, celery, corn salad, endive, kohlrabi, salsify, winter purslane.

fishbib, cockles, crab, dab, flounder, lobster, mackerel, oysters, pollack, scallops, seabass, whiting.

meatgame is bountiful, cheap and good for you. This is the time to buy – or catch! – it.

RECIPES

For general ideas for winter salads, see http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/december-2010.html

MUTTON (or lamb) SOUP for 6
500g chopped mutton (or lamb if you can’t get it), 3l stock or water with herbs, 225g barley, 175g split peas, 1 large onion, 1 leek, 2 big carrots, 1 swede, 2 celery stalks, oil, chopped parsley to garnish

Cover mutton with stock/water. Cook till tender, about 1 1/2 hour. Top up with water if necessary. Add barley and split peas for the last healf hour. Chop and saute the veg for a few mins, add to the pan, cook till done. Adjust seasoning Finish with chopped parsley. Serve with nice bread.

SOMERSET PHEASANT for 3-4
1 pheasant, chopped onion(s), chopped cooking apple, 250ml cider, 2 chopped garlic cloves, seasoned flour, bay leaf, thyme, oil/butter, 125ml liquid, salt, pepper.
Cut pheasant into pieces, dust with flour. Fry onions, take from the pan. Brown pheasant. Add the onions again, plus the other ingredients. Stir and simmer for 5-10 mins. Cover and simmer gently for 30-40 mins, stirring now and again – or put in the oven if you prefer.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS with HONEY and MUSTARD
500g Brussels sprouts, 1 tbsp olive oil, 300ml vegetable stock, 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard, salt and freshly ground pepper, 2 tbsp clear honey
Prepare the sprouts and cut in half. Heat oil, add sprouts and fry for 2 mins. Remove from heat and carefully pour in the stock and stir in mustard and seasoning. Bring to the boil, simmer uncovered for 3-4 mins until the sprouts are tender. Stir in honey, season and serve immediately.

KALE with GOATS’ CHEESE, makes 3-4 servings.
150-200g kale, 60g crumbled cheese, olive oil, 6 eggs, salt, pepper.
Strip thick stalks from the kale, chop. Preheat oven to 190°C. Saute kale while stirring, until wilted, about 3-5 mins. Put in greased dish, crumble cheese over it. Beat eggs with salt and pepper, pour on top. Stir gently with fork, bake 40 mins. Serve hot. Good with plenty of sour cream. Leftovers keep in the fridge for a week.

CHESTNUT and CELERIAC PUREE
500g celeriac, 500g cooked chestnuts, 300ml water/stock, 1 bouquet garni, small bunch of chives, 1 tblsp butter, 2 tblsp crème fraîche, salt, black pepper.
Peel celeriac, cut into small (1 cm) dice, cook until soft. Drain the chestnuts if canned, add and simmer for 3–4 minutes more. When the chestnuts and celeriac are cooked, strain, reserve the stock. Remove the bouquet garni and purée the vegetables. Return purée to the saucepan, add the butter and place over low heat until the butter has melted. Stir in crème fraîche. If it is too thick, add a little of the reserved stock, or some more crème fraîche, to thin it slightly. Taste, season and sprinkle with the chives. Perfect on a cold night as a comforting accompaniment to roast meat or game dishes.

LEEK and GOAT’S CHEESE PIE for 6
250g sliced leeks, 400-500g hard goat’s cheese cut into dice, 250g chopped spinach, 12 sheets of filo pastry, 2 sliced onions , 50g melted butter plus extra for frying,
Heat oven to 180°C. Fry onions in butter until golden and caramelised,10-15 mins. Fry leeks till soft, season. Mix onions, leeks, cheese, spinach. Butter baking dish, lay 3 sheets filo on the bottom, buttering each layer (trim if you need to). Put 1/3 of the leek mix on top of the filo and add 3 more layers of pastry. Add another 1/3 of the mixture with 3 more layers of filo. Finally add the last of the mixture and the last 3 layers of pastry and lots of butter. Bake for 30-40 mins until crisp and golden. This recipe is slightly more complicated than most, unless maybe you have dealt with filo pastry before. But everyone liked it so much ….. If using spinach beet instead of spinach, you may want to precook this for a few minutes.

SPROUTS and SQUASH CASSEROLE
500g Brussels sprouts, 500g cleaned cubed butternut squash, 1 large onion, 2 cloves garlic, nutmeg, 240ml water, 240ml full milk, 1heaped tblsp butter, 1 heaped tblsp flour, sea salt, pepper.
Cut large sprouts in half. Cook or steam sprouts and squash separately. Preheat oven to 180C. Saute chopped onion and minced garlic in butter. When onions are translucent, add flour, keep stirring. Add water/milk slowly, bring to boil, remove from heat. Season. Grease oven dish and dust with flour. Put in squash, then sprouts, sauce on top. Bake for 30 mins.

APPLE CIDER SAUCE
This sauce is delicious with roast pork and can be kept in a sterilized airtight jar in the fridge for ages.
100g raisins, 550ml cider, 6 cooking apples, cored and diced, 80g fresh grated ginger, 1 chopped onion, 2 cinnamon sticks, juice of 1 lemon, 50g sugar, 200ml cider vinegar, ½ tsp table salt, thyme, nutmeg.
Place raisins and half the cider in a small pan. Simmer gently until the raisins are very plump (15–20 mins). Put the other ingredients except the nutmeg, into a larger pan, add raisins cider mix, and cook gently until the apples are soft. Remove the cinnamon and blend until smooth. Grate the nutmeg liberally over the top, mix.


GENERAL NICE SITES:
http://www.livestrong.com/article/394706-does-dieting-make-you-fat/ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2005983/Why-biscuit-Doctors-reveal-science-hunger-pangs–them.html

[1] http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/june-2013-cravings.html.
See also http://www.livingthenourishedlife.com/2013/07/how-to-prevent-binge-eating
[2] http://www.livestrong.com/article/331092-roles-of-leptin-and-ghrelin-in-obesity/
[3] http://www.publicintegrity.org/2014/08/06/15207/critic-artificial-sweeteners-pilloried-industry-backed-scientists?utm_campaign=syndication&utm_source=yahoo-news&utm_medium=continue-reading-link
http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2013/08/05/whats-wrong-with-artificial-sweeteners; http://www.drbriffa.com/2009/12/10/losing-the-taste-for-sweetness-trumps-using-healthy-sweeteners-in-my-book/
http://www.drbriffa.com/2009/06/25/effective-strategies-for-combating-carb-cravings/
[4] See also http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/why-skim-milk-will-make-you-fat-and/
[5] www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/10/05/food-for-thought-the-evils-of-saturated-fats/
www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/06/06/saturated-fat/
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdist0zlJ_E
Detailed: www.marksdailyapple.com/saturated-fat-healthy/#axzz2vAXjKkLz
And many more sites on request!
[6] http://www.livingthenourishedlife.com/2014/09/stop-dieting

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For many more subjects in the health-and-food category, see http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk, in the archive on the right hand side.

February 2015

SHOULD I TAKE SUPPLEMENTS?

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No. If you are regularly eating locally grown food, which has not been sent all over the world and then kept on the shelves for ages, ideally organic, you needn’t take supplements at all.
Unless, maybe, if:
you are old,
or suffer from some form of malabsorption,
or you are pregnant,
or you never get outside [1],
or maybe you are recovering from an illness,
or desperately warding one off,
or you are taking certain medications [2],
or are often very stressed.
you take sugar, which depletes vitamins and minerals [3]
and/or lots of coffee, which does the same. [4]
That makes all of us?
Not really – and there are major drawbacks to getting your nutrients artificially.
When you get your vits/mins from whole foods, it is very hard indeed to go over the top. But when you get them from supplements, you easily get too many. Taking too much of, say, magnesium, calcium or vitamin D, is as bad as taking too little and can cause serious trouble. [5] Always start with the lowest dose.
Many vitamins and minerals interact: if you take supplements of one, you may decrease absorption of another. Whereas natural food provides a whole array of nutrients, geared to work together to supply you exactly with what you need, and help you absorb it. [6]
If you do decide that your intake needs a boost, it’s important to get the right supplements. Here are some websites to help – they are all American, but so far I have not been able to find decent advise in this respect which is not linked to a particular supplier. It is my experience though that, in general,  unfortunately it’s best to go for the expensive ones! [7]PS For fitness nerds, http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2014/03/27/what-supplements-should-i-take/ gives extensive and trustworthy information, though, again, geared for the US.
PPS: A new company delivers ‘organic or locally grown fruit and veg to customers in Chard and surroundings. Give them a try! See http://www.facebook.com/rootsofchard.

TO SOW/PLANT:
If the weather is suitable: garlic, broad beans, spring onions, shallots, early peas, carrots, parsnips, green/red cabbage, onion sets. Apple trees, if the weather isn’t too severe and the ground not waterlogged or frozen.

TO EAT:
veg: beet, purple sprouting broccoli, brussels, cabbage, carrots, chard, celeriac, garlic, kale, cavolo nero, leek, onion, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, rocket, spinach, swede, turnip, jerusalem artichoke, chicory, corn salad, endive, kohlrabi, salsify, winter purslane.
meat: goose, mallard, partridge, pheasant, venison.
fish: bib, cockles, crab, dab, flounder, lobster, mackerel, oysters, pollack, scallops, seabass, whiting. supplements-should-i-take/ gives extensive and trustworthy information, though, again, geared for the US.

PPS: A new company delivers ‘organic or locally grown fruit and veg to customers in Chard and surroundings. Give them a try! See www.facebook.com/rootsofchard.

 

RECIPES

LENTIL KALE SOUP
240ml chopped onion, 2.4l water/stock, 240ml dried brown lentils, 480ml potatoes cut into cubes, 2-4 sliced carrots, 100-200g kale, weighed after removing the thick stems; sausages, seasoning, mint. 
Chop kale finely. Cook onion with the sausages, stir until the onion is tender. Heat water/stock, add lentils and simmer for 30-60 mins until the lentils are soft but not mushy. Stir in potatoes and carrots, simmer for 15 mins. Add sausage-onion mix. Stir in the kale 15 mins before serving. With whole grain bread.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS and HAZELNUT BUTTER, serves two.
20g chopped hazelnuts, 20g softened butter, 300g brussels sprouts, salt, black pepper.
Dry fry nuts till golden. Mix into softened butter. Cook sprouts in salted water until done to your liking. Drain, mix with hazelnut butter, season.

POTATO-CHESTNUT and CELERIAC PUREE 
700g floury potatoescut into 2.5cm pieces, 225g chopped celeriac or sliced celery, 170g cooked chestnuts, 1 large chopped onion, 1½ tblsp butter, 500ml water, celery leaves to garnish.
Sauté onion in half the butter until soft, add celeriac, potatoes, chestnuts water. Simmer covered for 15-20 minutes, or until the veg are very tender. Drain, reserve the liquid, mash.  Stir in the remaining butter, season, and enough of the cooking liquid to achieve the desired consistency. Garnish with celery leaves. This is delicious accompanied by fried slices of cooking apple.

VEGETARIAN KALE HASH with CASHEWS and BRIE (plain cheddar will work too) 
600g kale after taking out hard nerves, 1k potatoes, 150g unsalted cashew nuts, 200g Brie, salt, milk, lots of butter. 
Clean potatoes and cut up. Wash kale, take out nerves, cut finely. Bring water to the boil, add potatoes, put kale on top, with some butter and salt. Turn heat down, simmer for 20 mins until the potatoes are soft, drain. Grease oven dish. Cut brie in slices of ab.1 cm. Mix in nuts, put in dish, spread brie on top. Put in preheated oven (180°C) for 15 mins until brie has melted.

WINTER VEGETABLE PASTA with WHITE WINE and CHEESE 6 servings
200g (butternut) squash cut into 1cm cubes, 150g young kale coarsely chopped, 2 large diced carrots, 225g wholewheat linguine, 2 tblsp olive oil, 3 chopped garlic cloves, 3 sliced shallots or 1 onion, thyme, 240ml white wine, 240g grated mature cheese, salt, pepper.
Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Sauté shallot, garlic, squash, and carrots, in oil, covered, until soft, ab. 7 mins. Add thyme, season. Add kale, cover, cook until kale wilts down, 2 mins or longer. Add wine, cook for 5 mins, let it reduce. Season. Add pasta, 40ml of the cooking water, and 180g cheese. Stir. Top with remaining cheese.

CABBAGE, APPLE  and RAISIN DELIGHT
5 cup chopped green cabbage, 4 cubed apples, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, (1/4 cup ground flax seed), cinnamon, 1 cup water.
Put everything in a pan and cook on low heat for 15 mins. You could add 1/2 cup of chopped onion and some curry powder.

WHITING (or other white fish) with COCONUT and APPLE SAUCE  
675g whiting fillets, 75 g creamed/shredded coconut; 2 cooking apples; 1 large chopped onion, 1 tsp salt; 300 ml water; 2 tsp curry; 2 tsp coriander; 2 tblsp oil; 1 tsp cumin, seasoning.
Softly fry onion in oil mins until soft. Peel, core and slice apples into pan. Add coconut, salt, water, curry, coriander and cumin. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 20 mins, stirring occasionally. Season. Cut fish into large chunks, add to sauce and simmer uncovered for 10 mins until it flakes easily. You may have to add a little bit more water. Serve with some grain (like bulgur, millet, rice) mixed with peas.

SPICED APPLE and BEETROOT CAKE
300g grated cooked beet, 300g diced cooking apples, 100g cream cheese, 185g self-raising flour; 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp nutmeg, 200g brown sugar; 185g melted/cooled butter, 3 eggs, honey, sScreen Shot 2015-06-20 at 10.40.46oftened butter. 
Sift flour, spices, sugar. Whisk eggs and butter, add grated beet. Add to dry ingredients, stir in gently. Add apple, stir again. Grease cake tin, pour in the mix. Bake at 180° for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Cool. Mix cream cheese, softened butter, honey and vanilla extract or something like that. Smear on, decorate with apple slices if you like.


[1] Vitamin D is considered very important these days. So don’t always cover up, or slash on the sunscreen. For sunscreen-in-your-food, see http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/april-12-food-as-sunscreen.html. And there is always the oily fish!
[2] They can change how your body processes nutrients. Ask your doctor.
[3] http://bitesizednutrition.com/2011/01/sugar-the-nutrient-depleter/
[4] http://www.livestrong.com/article/536960-does-coffee-deplete-nutrients/
[5] Email me for info if you’re interested.
[6] http://www.livestrong.com/article/354775-why-food-is-better-than-supplements/. For folate/folic acid, see http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/folic-acid-making-us-sick/
[7] http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/how-to-evaluate-vitamins-supplements?page=2; and http://www.drwhitaker.com/choosing-the-best-supplements-to-take

For many more subjects in the health-and-food category, see http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk, in the archive on the right hand side.

March 2015

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March: first of the Hungry Gap months. Nowadays, most of us deal with that by buying foreign or greenhoused fare. But in fact there is enough to be had locally: from the garden, or from the farmers’ (or even super-) market fresh or stored, to keep you nicely filled. [1]

Did you know that many storeable foods get sweeter over time? Swedes, parsnips, potatoes, apples, squash – personally I don’t like them so much in the autumn, when they are still young. They do improve with maturity. A little bit like people, sometimes?

  • PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI [1] 
  • WINTER SQUASH [2]
  • SPRING ONIONS
    CAULIFLOWER [3]
  • PARSNIPS [4]
  • SPRING GREENS [5]
  • WATERCRESS [6]
  • KALE AND CAVOLO NERO [7]
  • RADISH – pink and, still going, black! [8]

As you can see below, there are still plenty of other winter veg which are still perfectly edible, as long as they have been kept cool throughout. Beware of leeks which still look good but are now starting to bolt: there is a subtle change in taste which makes me, for one, dislike them.

If you want your food this month to be not just cheap but completely free, have a look at http://www.wildfooduk.com: dandelions, nettles and seakale (right) are just a few of the wild things you can find if you know where to look. In your garden for instance!

To grow something interesting which you can eat next March, try sowing salsify or scorzonera in April. And my stalwart, black radish, keeps me going throughout the winter till the first little red ones are ready. Sow these in August.

To have fresh greens now, when you really want them, sow corn salad and American land cress (sharp) the end of August or September.

SOW:
broad beans, early carrots, early Brussels, parsnips, maincrop 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.

EAT:
Veg: 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.

RECIPES

BROCCOLI OMELETTE with TOMATO SAUCE for two.
200g (purple sprouting) broccoli, onion, 4 eggs, seasoning. For the sauce: 1 tblsp butter, 2 tblsp flour, tomato puree, 250ml stock/water, seasoning.
To make the sauce: melt butter, add flour, stir. Very slowly add the liquid while stirring all the time. Add as much tomato puree as you like, season, cook through.

Cook broccoli in a little salted water for 7 mins. Chop onion, sauté for a minute while stirring, add drained broccoli and sauté 2 more minutes still stirring. Beat eggs with fork, season, pour on top of veg, stir for 1/2 a minute and leave to solidify. Turn upside down for just a few secs, serve with sauce. You can use cheese sauce instead if you like.

NETTLE SOUP
Half a carrier of stinging nettle tops or fresh-looking larger leaves; 50g butter, 1 large finely chopped onion, 1l water/stock, 1 large cubed potato, 1 large chopped carrot, sea salt, pepper, 2 tbsp crème fraîche, few drops of olive oil and tabasco. And maybe some ginger if you like it. 
Sort through the nettles, discarding thick stalks. Wash and drain. Melt butter, add onion and cook gently until softened.  Add stock, potato and carrot. Bring to a simmer, add nettles and cook until the potato is soft. Puree, season. Ladle into warmed bowls and float a tsp of creme fraiche on top.

APPLE-CELERIAC DISH
450g celeriac weighed after cleaning; 1 cooking and 1 eating apple; finely chopped shallots or diced onion, ½ pt dry cider, herbs (bay, sage, rosemary, thyme), salt, pepper, butter or 1 tblsp crème fraiche or cream. 
Cut celeriac and apple in bite-size pieces. Fry shallots/onion in butter for a couple of minutes, add celeriac. After some 10 mins add cider and herbs, cook till the celeriac is nearly soft. Add the apple pieces and cook some more. It’s ready when the celeriac is soft and the apples still hold a bit of shape. Cook without lid if it is still too liquid. Season and add more butter or a spoonful of crème fraiche/cream. Nice with couscous and cheese grated on top, or smoked fish, pork or chicken.

APPLE-ROASTED CHICKEN for 6: gluten-free.
1 chicken cut into pieces, 120ml apple cider, 3 cooking apples, rosemary, sage, 1½ tsp sea salt, ¾ tsp freshly ground black pepper.
Cut up apples and cook in the cider till soft. Preheat oven to 190°C. Arrange chicken pieces on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with the salt, pepper, rosemary and sage. Place in the oven and roast for 15 mins. Baste the chicken with cider mix. Roast for another 15 mins. Baste again with the cooking juices and roast for 15 more mins. Let rest for 5 mins before serving. Very good with oven-roasted squash and onions.

BROCCOLI-PUMPKIN STIR-FRY
400g pumpkin, 500g (purple-sprouting) broccoli, bacon, butter, coriander seeds. 
Dry-roast coriander, grind. Cook pumpkin and broccoli in a little water for 7 mins, drain. Heat butter, add bacon and fry slowly for a few mins, then add veg and ground coriander. Fry till done, season.

CABBAGE and SWEDE Cabbage, swede, onion, cooking apple, cumin (if you like), butter. 
Chop everything. Put swede in cold water, not too much, bring to boil, cook till not quite done. Add cabbage. Meanwhile, saute onion and apple. When swede and cabage are just about cooked, add them to onion/apple pan, along with the cumin. Stir till everything is done. Nice with a pasty for a simple meal.

BRAISED PUMPKIN
250ml coarsely grated pumpkin, 1 chopped onion, 1tbsp soy, (1tbsp apple juice), 120ml water/stock, pepper, (salt).
Put liquid, soy, juice, onions, pumpkin in pan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat. Simmer for 10-12 mins, season.

WHITING with HONEYED APPLES
(You can use other firm white fish like grey mullet, pollack, snapper, grouper, coley)
4x150g fillets of fish, 4 cooking apples – cored and cut into thin wedges, 115g butter, 90g honey, 40g flour, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp black pepper, 500ml dried bread crumbs, 1 beaten egg.

Melt half the butter, fry apples until tender. Stir in honey, reduce heat, and keep warm. Mix flour, salt, and pepper in bowl. Place bread crumbs in another shallow bowl, and egg in another. Melt rest of butter. Dip fish in flour, egg, and bread crumbs. Place in the hot pan, and cook for 3-4 mins per side. The fillets should be brown and flake easily. Place on serving dish, and spoon apples over the top

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[1] www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/mar/01/purple-sprouting-broccoli-recipes, www.bbc.co.uk/food/purple_sprouting_broccoli
[2] whatscookingamerica.net/squash.htm
[3] www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/apr/06/seasonal-food-cauliflower
[4] www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jan/20/seasonal-food-parsnip
[5] www.bbcgoodfood.com/glossary/spring-greens
[6] www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/mar/30/seasonal-food-watercress
[7] www.discoverkale.co.uk/what-is-cavolo-nero
[8] For black radish recipes, see www.mariquita.com/recipes/black%20spanish%20radish.htm. Black radish is great for your health: see www.outofstress.com/black-radish-benefits/. Personally I peel them as otherwise I find them too sharp. Always keep black radish (cool) in paper bags, not in plastic or in the fridge.

For many more subjects in the health-and-food category, see http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk, in the archive on the right hand side.

April 2015

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Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 10.26.48When talking about sleep, you will often come across tryptophan, serotonin and melatonin.
Tryptophan is an essential amino-acid which we have to get from food. It helps make serotonin, which, in turn, can be converted into melatonin. Melatonin helps us sleep.
Tryptophan is found especially in chocolate, oats, milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, dates, seeds, bananas, peanuts and chickpeas. They work best if consumed on an empty stomach, and accompanied by foods containing little protein but lots of carbohydrates. [1]

Though food is important, even essential, there can be other reasons why you are not sleeping well.
* unrest or tension
* changes in your life
* side-effect of medication
* so-called ‘blue’ light: tv, computers, mobiles [2]

Of course it’s best to adress the cause directly, but often it is not possible to change things, or not as quickly as you like.
Here are some websites which may be helpful, followed by a list of ‘tricks’ I have collected during an insomniac life.
http://www.holisticonline.com/Remedies/Sleep/sleep_ins_food-and-diet.htm http://www.thesleepjudge.com/different-ways-technology-affects-sleep-quality/
http://wellnessmama.com/27075/natural-sleep-remedies/
http://www.thesleepguru.co.uk
https://www.painscience.com/articles/insomnia.php

FOOD and DRINK:
* Avoid stimulants like caffeine, nicotine or alcohol, heavy or spicy food.
* Eat more fruits and vegetables, especially those with high contents of B vitamins.
* Calcium and magnesium have a tranquilizing effect that may help. Found in seeds, nuts, roots and green leafy vegetables.
* If you’re going to eat a snack 1-2 hours before bed, take a small carb-based snack that includes protein and fat. Like whole grain bread with a little almond butter.
* Avoid tyramine-containing foods, which stimulate the brain, close to bedtime: like bacon, ham, sugar, sausages, spinach, tomatoes, yeast, nuts, potatoes, aged cheeses, chocolate! ferments, marinades and wine.
* If you are hypoglycemic you must eat some protein or fat in the evening.  Otherwise, blood sugar fluctuations in the middle of the night may wake you up.
* Eat a larger lunch rather than stuffing yourself with a big dinner late in the evening.
* Raspberries contain raspberry ketone, which leads to a faster metabolism, and, in some cases, insomnia.

THE REST
* Regular exercise can help improve sleep quality if not done too close to bedtime.
* It’s best to sleep in complete darkness.
* Tell yourself you’re not allowed to sleep.
* Swaddle yourself – tuck yourself in tightly, to create a sense of security.
* Stretch; meditate; relax [3]. Read a nice book or listen to a suitable tape.
* Foot and ear reflexology. You can practise this on yourself, even while lying in bed. [4]
* 1-2 tsp cider vinegar (organic is best), 1-2 tsp honey and 250 ml water which is warm enough to melt it. Drink before going to bed. [5]
* Nutmeg, valerian, chamomile, jasmine, lavender and hop can all make you sleepy. I have a little container by my bed with a hankie which is steeped in lavender. If I worry about sleeping, I take out the hankie and put it under my nose.
* Some people claim they must go to bed late to fall asleep. However, if you stay up past a certain time, you stimulate your sympathetic nervous system to keep awake, which then prevents you from going to sleep when you finally go to bed.
* If you keep thinking of important things when you’re in bed, keep a pad and paper to make notes, so you won’t be thinking of them all night. If you keep thinking of unimportant things, try focusing on your breath, or simple forms of meditation [3].

EAT
Purple sprouting broccoli, chard, cabbage, leeks, spring onions, spinach, watercress, loose-leaved lettuce, radish, sorrel, spring greens.

SOW
Direct: lettuce, rocket, radish, beet, broad beans, summer cabbage, calabrese, kohlrabi, parsnips, peas, spinach (beet), spring onions, chard, early carrots, autumn cauli, salsify, scorzonera, celeriac, celery. Late April: courgettes, french beans, pumpkins.
Plant: summer cabbage, onion sets, potatoes, summer cabbage.
Sow to transplant: leeks, brussels, sprouting broccoli, autumn cauli, kale, tomatoes (indoors).
Garden Organic is an excellent source of information in general; they also sell seeds and whatever else you may need: see www.gardenorganic.org.

RECIPES

For what to do with the purple sprouting broccoli, still doing well, see http://pennysrecipes.com/4062/how-to-cook-purple-sprouting-broccoli.

SPRING GREEN CHOPS
2 tbsp olive oil, 4 lamb or pork chops, 2 garlic cloves, crushed, a generous pinch of chilli, 140g shredded spring greens, 410g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed.
Cook the chops in the usual way, but use a deep frying pan that’s big enough to fit the greens later. Remove from the pan and keep hot on a warmed plate or in a low oven. To wilt the greens, tip garlic and chilli into the same pan and cook for about 30 secs until sizzling but not browned, then pour in 5 tblsp water and stir in the greens. Simmer for 4-5 mins until they wilt. If you like your greens well done, let them go on for a bit longer. Stir in the chickpeas and juices from the pork and continue stirring until everything’s hot. Serve greens topped with the chops and any juices.

ZESTY SPRING FISH
2 fillets white fish* about 200g each, 1-2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 grated garlic cloves, a bit of ginger root grated, or some powder, vegetable oil, 200-300g shredded spring greens.
Coat the fish in the soy, garlic and ginger. Leave for at least 10 mins to give more flavour. Heat oil, add fish and marinade. Sizzle for 3 mins on each side, until the fish is almost cooked. Throw in the greens and a bit of water and let everything simmer for 5 mins (or longer), until the greens have wilted. Serve with rice or noodles.
*The following white fish are from sustainable sources: dab, pouting, coley, megrim, grouper, flounder, gurnard, whiting, bream. Avoid cod, halibut, plaice, hake and whitebait; for sole and seabass it depends on how they are caught (see http://www.fishonline.org).

Very nice and so simple to prepare:
PASTA WITH PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI for 2
200g pasta, 250g purple sprouting broccoli, 100g Stilton or Exmoor cheese broken into small pieces, juice and grated zest of  ½-1 lemon, 50g toasted pine nuts, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, pepper.
Bring a very large pan of water to the boil, add a pinch of salt. Add pasta to the pan and cook for 10-12 mins, or until just cooked. Meanwhile, cut up the broccoli in small pieces and simmer in a bit of boiling water for 4-5 minutes, until just tender. Drain pasta and broccoli: return both to the pan along with cheese, lemon juice, zest, pine nuts and oil. Season with black pepper, place over low heat and stir. Spoon into bowls and eat at once, with a salad.

ROAST NECK of LAMB (serves 2-3)
400-500g boneless neck of lamb, 2 sliced onions cut into thin wedges, 4 diced cloves garlic, ½ tsp dried oregano, thyme and/or any herbs you have handy, 1 tblsp olive oil, salt, pepper.
Preheat oven 150°C although you can also cook it on top if you prefer. Cut lamb into 3cm chunks. Place in pan with onions, sprinkle with garlic and herbs, add lemon juice, olive oil seasoning: mix. Cook/roast for 2 hours.

PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI with GARLIC and SESAME
450g broccoli, oil, soy sauce/tamari, 1½ 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.

PAN-FRIED GOAT’S CHEESE with HAZELNUTS and THYME
4x80g goat’s cheese log slices, 100g hazelnuts, 2 tblsp cider vinegar, (1 tblsp honey), 120g butter, salt, freshly ground black pepper, thyme, leaves removed
For the dressing: chop nuts in half, melt butter slowly, add nuts and cook gently until golden brown, approx. 5 mins. Remove pan from heat, stir in vinegar (and honey). Season with salt and pepper, set aside.
Make a separate frying pan very hot. Brush cheese slices (not the pan) with a little oil, and fry quickly on each side for no more than a minute until they’re singed, sealed and caramelised. Transfer cheese to serving plates, spoon over the warm dressing and sprinkle with thyme. Very nice with for instance (potatoes and) broccoli.

MINCE DIFFERENT
I often prepare my (lamb) mince like this.
Heat butter till the foam is just starting to withdraw. Fry onion and meat, add some finely cut rosemary and paprika powder, salt, maybe a bit of chilli or cayenne. Garlic if you like it. Stir regularly, cook till done. Nice with cabbage.

ANCHOVY MASHED POTATOES
1k floury potatoes, 6 tblsp unsalted butter, 1 onion, finely chopped, 6 minced anchovy fillets, 120ml  milk, 3 tblsp heavy cream, salt, freshly ground black pepper, 3 tblsp chopped chives or spring onions.
Cut potatoes into chunks and cook covered, until very tender. Melt 4 tblsp of the butter. Add onion and saute, stirring, until softened. Add anchovies, stir thoroughly. Add milk and cream, season and bring to a simmer. Add potatoes, stir, heat and mash the lot. Add chives/spring onions and remaining 2 tblsp butter, serve hot. Have with cooked or sautéed greens.

~~~~~~

“Insomnia is not bad in itself. You can lie awake at night and think; the quality of the insomnia depends entirely on what you decide to think of. Can you decide to think? Yes, you can. You can put your mind to anything most of the time. You can sit peacefully in front of a blank television set, just watching nothing: and sooner or later you can make your own programme much better than the mass product.
I lay awake, looking at the darkness, listening to the silence, prefiguring the future, picking out of the past the scraps I had overlooked, those rejected events which now came to the foreground, large and important, so that the weight of destiny no longer bore on the current problems of my life, whatever they were at the time (for who lives without problems every day? Why waste the nights on them?).”
Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from Kensington.

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[1] http://www.med-health.net/Foods-High-In-Tryptophan.html
[2]  Blue light, as well as the excitement coming from computer, television and mobiles, robs your body of melatonin. To prevent this, you can wear blueblocker glasses. Online you can get ones which wrap around your prescription glasses from £20 (2015), at http://www.optimalowvision.co.uk. Click on ‘anti-glare spectacles’ and make sure you choose one with blue-blocking filter. Or order Optima wraparound fitovers in via Robert Frith opticians (Glastonbury, Yeovil, Castle Cary, Honiton a.o.
See also
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/03/11/mobile-phone-bedroom-risks_n_4940199.html
http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
http://www.scienceupdate.com/2014/06/blue-2/
[3] for ways to relax and simple meditation, see http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk and, in the drop-down archive section on the right, click on July 2014.
[4] http://goodnurture.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/reflexology-for-insomnia-and-better.html
[5] This recipe is also said to help for rheumatism/arthritis. And using local honey might help with allergies – I’ve heard that having 1 tsp of local honey for a year gets rid of hayfever. As I don’t have that I can’t vouch for it: and noone I know has had the patience or interest to try it!

For many more subjects in the health-and-food category, see http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk, in the archive on the right hand side.

May 2015

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WHY I LIKE TO USE ‘HOME REMEDIES

1)   I have nothing against doctors as such. However, they are pressurized and constantly being ‘informed’ by the pharmaceutical industry. Which, nowadays, tends to be part of a global conglomerate, whose interest is purely commercial.
And why would they sell a medicine which quickly gets rid of our pain/pimples/panic, if they can supply us with something we’ll have to take our whole life long?

2)  “Try this, and come back after three weeks. Then try that.”  And so on, till we end up more ill than we were in the first place.
Can you blame them? Doctors don’t have time. GPs, specialists, burocrats, the NHS, anyone who has a say or who gives health advice is subject to a barrage of information – all supplied from the pockets of the above-mentioned industry.
Of course there are exceptions.
My personal view is that patients should be listened to when they offer their views on the cause of their symptoms … perhaps the most useful questions a doctor can ask a patient is: ‘What do you think is going on?’“ says Dr. Briffa [1], and in that he is right.

3)   When we’re unwell, something is starting to go wrong deep inside us. The illness is just a symptom. We may manage to get rid of the symptom, but unless we address the root cause, we bury our head in the sand – and more serious problems await.
‘Home remedies’ may well sometimes do the same, but without the chemical interference of mainstream medicine, less harm is done.

4)   The best of ‘alternative’ therapists look at all of you. They take time to get to know you and they listen properly. Of course this is expensive, and many of them are not ‘the best’. But if you can afford it, it’s worth finding a good one.
If you can’t: home remedies are often cheap. Find out what helps you. Trust your intuition.

At best, doctors prescribe something that will alleviate symptoms until you heal yourself. At worst, by masking the symptoms, they make things worse.

I am emphatically NOT saying you should never go to the doctor. There are plenty of exceptions to what I said above: but not as many as you think. [2]

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NB: did you know that onions and blackstrap molasses are excellent foods to help prevent osteoporosis? They also can improve matters once you have it. [3]

EAT:
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.
Your fishmonger may sell samphire: serve fresh in salads or have as veg with melted butter. Wash thoroughly and don’t add salt.

SOW:
direct: beet, calabrese, carrots (though June sowings get less rootfly), french/runner beans, kohlrabi, lettuce, sweetcorn, swede, spring onions, spinach (beet), courgettes, marrows, (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 www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/basics/techniques/soil_growgreenmanure1.shtml

RECIPES

CREAM CHEESE SOUP
200g cream cheese, 400g cubed potatoes, smallish minced onion, 1.2l stock or water, salt, white pepper, cayenne pepper or chilli, herbs or spices of your choice (e.g. parsley, chives, paprika powder, coriander).
Combine liquid, potatoes, onion, and seasonings. Boil until potatoes are tender, mash. Add cream cheese, for instance by diluting the cheese with a bit of the soup first. Stir or whisk, add herbs/spices.

FRIED POTATOES
What to do with those tired old potatoes? Cook, slice, and fry them up. Thought there comes a point when even that does not work anymore.

SPRING CHICKEN for 2
Chicken bits (with skin!) and finely sliced spring cabbage for two. Chopped onion, butter/oil/fat for frying. For the marinade: 1 tblsp red wine, 1 tblsp soy sauce, 1/2 tblsp lemon juice, 1/2 tblsp grated ginger, 1 clove garlic, red pepper, salt.
Marinade the chicken pieces for a few hours or overnight. Fry hot in as large a frying pan as you’ve got. When the pieces are browned, lower the fire, add the marinade, cover and cook for about half an hour. If too much liquid forms, leave the lid off for a while so it can evaporate. Then add cabbage and onion to the pan and stir-fry them in the chicken juices/marinade, keeping the lid off. Serve when they are done to your liking.

SAUTEED ASPARAGUS with GARLIC
1 bunch asparagus, plenty of butter, 3 cloves of garlic.
Melt butter, add asparagus; cover and cook for 10 mins stirring occasionally, or until the asparagus is tender. If you like your asparagus well done, reduce heat and cook 10 more minutes. Thinly slice and add garlic for the last few minutes, stir a few times.

TURKISH MACKEREL
This dish can be served hot, warm or even cold.
4 whole mackerel, 1 carrot, 2 red onions, ab. 400g potatoes, 4 tomatoes (or half a tin), 2 garlic cloves, 3 bay leaves, flat-leaf parsley, 1 lemon, marjoram, pepper, salt, olive oil.
Clean mackerel. Preheat oven to 200C. Saute chopped onions, garlic and carrot with bay, marjoram and some chopped parsley (including stems) for 8-10 mins, stirring occasionally. Add diced potatoes, chopped tomatoes, and 200ml cold water, stir, cook 8-10 more mins. Slice lemon thinly and place slices on the bottom of an oven dish, fish on top, season generously. Put veg mix around the fish, some oil too. Bake 20-30 mins.

PAN FRIED SPINACH
ab.175g spinach, 2 slices bacon, 1 1/2 tblsp butter, 2 tblsp olive oil, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 small chopped (red) onion, salt, pepper.
Fry bacon until brown and crisp. Drain, crumble, set aside. Melt butter, heat oil; mix in bacon, garlic and onion. Cook and stir 2 mins, then mix in spinach. Cover, reduce heat, cook, stirring often, until spinach is tender. Season.

OXTAIL STEW
ab. 1400g oxtail, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1tsp black pepper, 1 tblsp curry powder, 1 tblsp paprika powder, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tblsp oil, 2 sliced onions, 1 tsp thyme, cayenne/chilli pepper, (savory,) 1 1/2 tblsp tomato puree, 2 cups water, 3 bay leaves, 1 tin (500g) butter beans, drained but keep liquid.
Season oxtail with salt, black pepper, curry powder and garlic. Place onions on top, cover and place in fridge overnight or for at least for 2 hrs before cooking. Heat oil, add oxtail less onions: sear to seal in juice. Add 1 cup of water, thyme, savory and onion, chilli/cayenne and tomato puree; cook for 5 mins. Add second cup of water, bay and bean liquid; cover and simmer until meat is tender (2½ hours). Add beans, stir. Bring to a rapid boil until gravy thickens, stirring at intervals. Serve with barley or rice, and peas.

SIMPLE FISH and SOUR CREAM BAKE – no gourmet fare this, but I liked it.
450g white fish fillets or steaks, 25g flour, 150g sour cream, 130g mayonnaise, 2 spring onions or 1 small onion, 1 tsp dill or fennel seeds, fresh dill/fennel to garnish, plenty of paprika powder.Coat fish in flour. Place in a greased ovenproof dish. Finely grate onion, or chop spring onion. Mix sour cream, mayonnaise, onions, dill and lemon juice. Spoon over the fish, top with the paprika powder. Cook at 180°C for 30-35 mins until the fish flakes with a fork. Towards the end, check that the top doesn’t burn. Serve hot, garnished with fresh dill or fennel.
*The following white fish are from sustainable sources: dab, pouting, coley, megrim, grouper, flounder, gurnard, whiting, bream. Avoid cod, halibut, plaice, hake and whitebait; for sole and seabass it depends on how they are caught (see http://www.fishonline.org)

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[1] http://www.drbriffa.com/2012/07/02/perhaps-the-most-useful-question-a-doctor-can-ask-a-patient/
[2] See also ‘Corporate power’ (March 2015).
[3] Onion increases bone density and can help menopausal women who experience loss of bone density. In addition, women who have passed the menopause may be able to lower their risk of hip fracture through frequent consumption of onions.
Blackstrap has an ideal calcium-magnesium ratio: we need lots of magnesium to help absorb similarly large quantities of calcium. Both of these minerals aid development of bones.

For many more subjects in the health-and-food category, see http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk, in the archive on the right hand side.