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 all 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. So 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].

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, and some others, are 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 packing usually containing nitrogen and/or carbon dioxide and/or dioxygen. To make it look fresh. Not pleasant, and some of these 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 those: [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 the gut, to stay there for up to 4 years – maybe even longer [8].
How to use safely the best natural antibiotics: see [9].

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 that 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 [9].
fish: grey mullet, black bream, gurnard, pollock, whiting, mackerel, lobster, whelks, clams, cockles, coley, crabs, crayfish, flounder, grouper, gurnards, herring, megrim, scallops.
 See also http://eatseasonably.co.uk/what-to-eat-now/this-months-best/.

CARROT-THYME SOUP with CREAM*, 8 servings.
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 – 1 hour. 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 possible: this will help you absorb nutrients much better and does not make you fat [a].

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, for 5 minutes. 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 potatoes and beet in a tin with 2 tblsp oil and roast for 40 mins. When they have been cooking for 20 mins, prepare mackerel. Slash along the skin side of the fillets and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Heat 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 things are 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 wasted 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] http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=136 and http://therightnutritionplan.com/2011/06/hidden-health-benefits-of-garlic-and-onions/.
[2] Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol 24, p 431. See also https://draxe.com/artificial-sweeteners/.
[3] http://greenopedia.com/local-food-is-healthier/
[4] http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20857218,00.html#drink-water-when-you-re-bloated-0
[5] Modified Atmosphere packing
[6] http://information-britain.co.uk/othertypes.cfm?type=Farmers%20Market.
[7] https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/why-you-should-get-to-know-the-butcher-8515714.html
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20352091?dopt=Abstract
[9] https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/how-to-use-best-natural-antibiotics/
[10] https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2121.Michael_Pollan
[11] https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php#.Wo04Kq2cY3o
[12] https://www.newscientist.com/letter/mg19025530-200-legal-drug-pushers/
[13] https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/full-fat-dairy-good-for-you/slide/5/


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 www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/basics/techniques/soil_growgreenmanure1.shtml.

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?

[1] https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/zinc-foods-for-vegans-vegetarians.php
[2] http://www.eyehealthweb.com/healthy-eyes/
[3] http://thehealthydrinker.com/2012/06/vitamin-b-and-alcohol/
[4] http://www.protect-your-eyesight.com/heavy-alcohol-consumption-damages-your-vision.html
[5] http://www.visionaware.org/info/your-eye-condition/age-related-macular-degeneration-amd/treatments-for-dry-macular-degeneration/125
http://www.karenhurd.com/pages/healthtopics/specifichealthconcerns/ht-shc-maculardegeneration, https://www.brightfocus.org/macular/wet-macular-degeneration/treatments.
[6] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-matthew-alpert-od/blue-light_b_5570433.html
[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 www.optimalowvision.co.uk. Click on anti-glare spectacles and make sure you choose one with blue-blocking filter. Or order ‘wraparound fitovers’ via Robert Frith (www.frithsopticians.co.uk) 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.
[8] https://www.epa.gov/cfl/cleaning-broken-cfl
[9] http://www.eyesight.nu/category/eye-diseases/cataracts/
[10] https://draxe.com/glaucoma-natural-treatment-prevention/
[11] https://www.curejoy.com/content/home-remedies-to-treat-eye-infections-naturally/
[12] www.ehow.com/how_5100399_improve-natural-eye-floaters-treatment.html
[13] https://www.top10homeremedies.com/how-to/get-rid-dry-eyes-naturally.html
[14] https://www.eyehealthweb.com/puffy-eyes/
[15] https://www.epainassist.com/articles/what-causes-yellow-eyes-and-home-remedies-to-get-rid-of-it
[16] http://www.best-home-remedies.com/eyes_disorders/conjuntivitis.htm
[17] https://draxe.com/how-to-get-rid-of-bags-under-eyes/
[18] http://www.best-home-remedies.com/eyes_disorders/eyestrain.htm
[19] https://www.earthclinic.com/cures/sty.html
[20] https://www.earthclinic.com/cures/computer-vision-syndrome.html
[21] https://www.earthclinic.com/cures/how-to-stop-eye-twitching-naturally.html
[22] http://www.abc.net.au/health/talkinghealth/factbuster/stories/2012/09/18/3592456.htm


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 http://whichfish.org.
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 https://www.mcsuk.org and https://www.msc.org.
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.

[1] http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=117
[2] http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=84&tname=nutrient
[3] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2509010/Supermarket-fresh-fish-THREE-weeks-old.html
[4] http://www.fish4ever.co.uk
[5] https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/what-we-do/oceans/better-buys-what-fish-can-i-eat/sustainable-seafood-faqs/#7
http://greenopedia.com/healthy-sustainable-fish/ https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/07/08/the-fish-on-my-plate-documentary.aspx
[6] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/11542239/No-cod-no-haddock-what-fish-can-we-eat-with-a-clean-conscience.html
[7] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2007/dec/18/fishing.conservation
[8] http://overfishing.org/pages/guide_to_good_fish.php
[9] https://www.mcsuk.org/downloads/fisheries/BuyingFishInSeason.pdf



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

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 http://eatseasonably.co.uk/what-to-eat-now/this-months-best/.

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 http://www.bigbarn.co.uk/.

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?

(1) https://theconsciouslife.com/guided-meditation-for-stress-anxiety.htm
(2) http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/july-2014-just-relax.html
(3) http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/may-2014-inflammation_2.html


February 2018: the thyroid


How would you notice that something is wrong with your thyroid gland? This gland can be either too lazy 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 energy levels. It also regulates body temperature, carbohydrate breakdown, mental clarity, well-being, vitamin absorption, cholesterol levels, production of nails and hair, 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, or 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, have coarse or itchy skin and an irregular menstrual cycle. 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].

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. And apple trees, if the weather isn’t too severe and the ground not waterlogged or frozen.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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 slowly heat butter and oil, 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. Serve with a 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. If you don’t have masala you can use curry powder, which gives a different flavour.

Next month: no worries …..

[1] https://www.verywell.com/do-you-have-a-thyroid-problem-take-the-test-3231838
[2] https://thewholejourney.com/soy-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/
[3] https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/how-stress-affects-your-thyroid
[4] http://www.home-remedies-for-you.com/remedy/Hypothyroidism.html
[5] www.womentowomen.com/hypothyroidism/foods-naturalthyroidhealth.aspx
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

January 2018: keep your teeth

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

* Toothpaste
Have you heard of SLS, sodium lauryl sulfate? An ingredient in practically every toothpaste, it is actually 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 results of this [a].
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 [b].

* Acids
Though vitamin C in natural form is good for you, beware of taking tablets. In 2012 it was found that chewable vitamin C tablets, vitamin C gums and powdered supplements significantly increase dental erosion. They affect our teeth in the same way that soft drinks and orange juice do: they all contain acid, which dissolves calcium. Pills you swallow, however, are in the clear.
In general, don’t brush your teeth immediately after meals and drinks, especially if they were acidic. Sour 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 you brush [c].
For the same reason, try and 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, dark leafy veg; crunchy foods that contain lots of water are all excellent. But please make the milk and the cheese full-fat: see [d]! The fact that this will make you feel full so you will eat less later, is only one of the reasons – see [e].
Sweets and (diet) soft drinks are notorious, but citrus, coffee, wine, and pickles too contain acid. They are best consumed with other food, and don’t brush your teeth straight afterwards! See [f]. However, fermented and cultured foods are in the clear [g].

• 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 [h]. Exercise, too, helps our bodies 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, helps 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 into 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 from the plant [i].
• For effective toothache remedies, see [j]. Personally I just stick a clove in my mouth!
• Should you brush before bedtime? See [k].
• How to whiten teeth naturally – see [l].

Unfortunately there is no list of the most and least contaminated foods in Britain, so the US version has to do: see https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/#.Wg7BH610eGg for what you can safely eat there, and what not. Britain can’t be too different.

Veg: Brussels’, beet, sprout tops, cabbage, celeriac, celery (with Stilton!), corn salad, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, salsify, kale, kohlrabi, landcress, leeks, parsnips, pumpkin/squash, rocket, spinach, swede, turnips, winter radish, endive, winter purslane.
Meat: wood pigeon, pheasant, wild duck, goose, grouse, partridge, venison. For (Christmas) game recipes, see http://www.gametoeat.co.uk/.
Fish: coley, megrim, clams, crab, cuttlefish, mussels, oysters, scallops, whiting.

Shallots are traditionally planted on the shortest day. You can still plant garlic. Buy heads from a proper supplier to prevent disease.
If you leave veg in the ground, apply a thick mulch (straw, bracken or newspaper) for protection, and so you can 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.


What to do with leftover Christmas wine?
4 leeks, 3 tbs olive oil, 240ml red wine, 2-3 tbs water, salt, pepper.
Cut up the leeks quite finely and wash. Place them in a pan that has a well-fitting cover. Add oil and a pinch of salt. Sauté, while stirring, until they just start to brown. Add wine and water. Cover the pan and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Check every so often and add a little more water if needed. When the leeks are tender, take off the lid and if there is still too much liquid, let most of it evaporate, so you just have some sauce left.

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, for 45 mins. Thin the soup with more water if necessary. Season.

60g butter, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped head of cabbage, 3 sliced cooking apples, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 60ml milk, 1360ml grated cheddar.
Melt butter, add onion, cabbage, apples, salt and pepper and sauté 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.

Pheasant, beetroot, apples, onion, thyme, bay leaves, salt.
Joint the 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.

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

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

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

Red cabbage, large onion, olive oil, large cooking apple, cider vinegar, mustard seed, (sugar).
Pull off the outer cabbage leaves and cut off the bottom. Halve, then slice thinly. Chop the onion. Sauté 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.

450g linguine or other pasta, 250g kale, (weighed after being de-stemmed); ab. 500g tinned tomatoes, butter/oil for sautéing, 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. Sauté 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://www.healthy-communications.com/slsmostdangerousirritant.html
[b] http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/triclosan-ban-harmful-antibacterial.htm
[c] 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
[d] http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/october-2017-please-have-your-dairy_1.html
[e] https://health.usnews.com/wellness/food/articles/2016-10-28/5-reasons-to-start-eating-full-fat-dairy-according-to-science
[f] https://greatist.com/live/brushing-teeth-before-bed
[g] https://nourishingjoy.com/10-reasons-to-eat-more-fermented-and-cultured-foods/
[h] http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/march-2013-vitamins.html and http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/april-2013-minerals-in-food.html.
[i] http://www.livestrong.com/article/265410-how-to-use-aloe-gel-to-soothe-inflamed-and-cut-gums/
[j] https://www.1dental.com/articles/dental/toothache-home-remedies/
[k] https://greatist.com/health/healthy-teeth-foods
[l] https://wellnessmama.com/3662/whiten-teeth-naturally/


December 2017: drink!?

December: let’s have a look at alcohol, again.
Alcohol and health was mentioned before: in the ‘drinking’ issue of December 2014. However, the issue can do with some more digging.
Every so often you read about the health-giving effects of, say, red wine, or how drinking alcohol in moderation might be good for your bones. These stories always mention ‘moderation’, which is of course an important problem.
I myself have never been particularly tempted by alcohol. I’m an eater, not a drinker. And after cancer treatment twelve years ago, I found that even one glass of wine made me feel the same as I had felt during the six weeks of chemoradiation. So that was it: never again.
My husband drinks regularly, but never even has a hangover. Mind you, he stays away from the cheaper stuff.
People are different. During your lifetime you learn what suits you or what you can live without. And what you can’t live without, regardless of the consequences.
I found some interesting websites about the pros and cons of alcohol [1].
Apparently, the older you are, the more you can drink, says a, possibly dated, study from 2002. Men over 85 years old can drink as much as 5 units a day without ill effects [2]. Hurray!
However, just recently they found that the positive side of alcohol has been overstated [3]. Studies which showed that moderate consumption might be good for you, may have been misguided. The abstainers in them often included people who had cut back, or stopped drinking, because of ill health or old age. This made non-drinkers look like a far less healthy group than the general population [4].
The type of alcohol is not as important as the amount of alcohol consumed and the pattern of intake. The latest UK government guidelines tell us not to drink more than 14 units a week, best spread evenly over 3 or more days: a unit being about half a pint of beer, half a glass of wine, or one pub measure (25ml) of spirits. That is, unless you’re young, old, thin, sick or on medicines .…… For the complete list, see [5].

See also:
for sneaky ways to say no: http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20410241,00.html;
for some more myths to bust: https://greatist.com/health/13-biggest-myths-alcohol;
what not to drink if you like beer: http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/most-shocking/10-beers-that-are-shockingly-bad-for-you/;
and (not too un-) healthy drinking tips: http://thehealthydrinker.com/2010/03/10-healthy-drinking-tips/.

Here is some more general stuff:

You might also want to look at our tips for preventing and curing hangovers in the 2014 December issue. See http://thoughtforfood-aw.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/december-2014-drink-drank-drunk.html.
And, just in case you’re stressed – why on earth? 😉 – here are some suggestions: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/mens-health/11303498/How-to-deal-with-the-stress-of-Christmas.html. And look at http://blog.naturalhealthyconcepts.com/2017/11/17/healthy-holiday-eating/ for ways to get through December without too much damage.

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 www.gametoeat.co.uk/.
Fish: coley, megrim, clams, crab, cuttlefish, mussels, oysters, scallops, whiting.

Shallots are traditionally planted on the shortest day. You can still plant garlic.
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.


600g green or brown lentils soaked overnight, 3 large carrots cut into 1cm slices, 125g cleaned chopped kale, 1 chopped leek, 5-10 tblsp tomato puree, 2.5l (homemade) chicken stock, 4 tblsp butter, 2 tsp coarse seasalt, juice of half a lemon, 120ml creme fraîche or sour cream, dill, 60ml red wine (optional).
Drain the lentils. Sweat carrots and leeks for 10 mins in butter. Add liquid, tomato, lentils (and wine); cook till the lentils are done. Blend or mash. Stir in the finely cut kale and salt, boil for however raw or cooked you like the kale. Add lemon juice, creme fraîche or sour cream, heat through and serve sprinkled with dill.

Personally I prefer raw (only washed, not peeled) grated beetroot, but by all means use cooked beet if you like.
2 beet, 2 apples, winter salad leaves like corn salad and rocket, 2 Conference pears, 4 tbsp lightly toasted walnuts, 2 tbsp olive/walnut oil, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 minced garlic clove, 75-100g Stilton or soft, crumbly goat’s cheese, pepper, sea salt.
Grate beet and apple coarsely. Mix. Whisk oil and vinegar, add garlic, salt, pepper. Dress beet and apple with 1/2 the dressing. Use remaining half to lightly dress the leaves – you may not need all of the dressing. In the centre of the dressed leaves, add mound of grated apple/beet. Core pears, cut into 1cm thick slices and arrange around the beetroot/apple mound. Break walnuts up a bit and arrange over leaves and pears. Finish with crumbled Stilton or goat’s cheese, and pepper.

MARMITE SPAGHETTI with LEEKS, serves 4 – 6.
375g (wholewheat) spaghetti, 800g leeks (or more!) weighed after cleaning, 60g butter, 1-2 tsp marmite (or more!), grated mature cheese to serve.
Chop the leeks. Boil up some salted water, add the spaghetti and leeks. Meanwhile melt butter, add marmite and 1 tblsp pasta water, mix. The spaghetti and the leeks will be ready at the same time. Drain; reserve the water. Pour the marmite mix over spaghetti, adding some reserved pasta water if required. Serve with plenty of cheese.

And if you are having a vegetarian Christmas, why not try this one?
480ml cooked lentils, 480ml walnut halves; 10 chopped mushrooms, 180ml grated floury potato, 120ml dry cider, 1 tblsp olive oil, 1 large diced onion, 3 minced garlic cloves, 300ml water/stock, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 tsp dried savory, 1/2 tsp ground sage, 2 bay leaves, salt, pepper, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ground cloves, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce (optional), pastry dough for 1 double pie crust of 23cm diameter.
Sauté the onion in oil until it begins to soften, add mushrooms. Sauté until most of their juices have been released. Add garlic, sauté for 2 more mins. Grind the walnuts. Mix in the lentils, walnuts, broth, wine, thyme, savory, sage and bay. Season and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove bay and add: liquid, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and potato. Cook until the potato is soft, about 10 mins. Season. Chill for 1 hr.
Roll out one dough disk on a lightly floured surface into a 30cm round. Transfer to the pie dish, leaving an overhang. Fill with lentil mix. Roll out the remaining dough disk into a 10″ round. Place dough over the filling. Fold overhang over the top crust and crimp the edges. Brush the crust with milk. Cut three 6cm slits in the top. Let rest for 1 hr, or put in the fridge till tomorrow. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Bake for 30 mins. Reduce heat to 180°C; bake until the crust is golden and the filling bubbles, for 40-50 mins. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

And here it comes, finally, the drink!
Two 500ml bottles of good strong dry cider, 3 squashed cardamon pods; a lump of ginger about the size of the top joint of a thumb; the rind of an orange without the pith; 1 star anise; 10 cloves; ½ tsp mixed spice; half a thinly sliced apple; a good slug of rum/brandy.
Stud the orange peel with cloves. Place everything apart from the rum/brandy in a pan, bring to the boil. Turn down the heat, simmer gently for 10 mins. Spices can of course be varied according to taste and the contents of your cupboard.

4x175g coley fillets, 2 limes, 200g breadcrumbs, 50g butter, salt, pepper, 1 tblsp olive oil.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grate lime zest. Fry crumbs and zest in the butter for 2-3 mins, stirring until pale golden. Put fish in a shallow dish. Season and squeeze over a little lime juice. Drizzle with the oil. Pat crumb mixture on top and bake for 10-12 minutes until cooked. Garnish with lime wedges.

4 pigeons, 2 garlic cloves, 1 tsp salt, freshly ground black pepper, 4 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp plain flour, 4 tbsp dry white wine, 250ml stock/water, 200g shallots, 50g plain/dark chocolate.
Finely chop garlic. Wash pigeons, dry and rub with salt and pepper, inside and out. Brown pigeons in oil before removing from pan. Fry garlic in remaining oil. Stir flour into oil, fry briefly, add wine and stock. Simmer for 5 mins, stirring constantly. Put pigeons into sauce, cover and cook for 1 hr on a low heat. Chop shallots finely and add after 40 mins. Pre-heat oven to 120°C. Arrange pigeons on a serving dish and keep hot in oven. Grate chocolate and add to sauce, stirring continuously over a low heat until melted. Do not let the sauce boil again. Season generously and serve with the pigeons. Goes well with roast potatoes and parsnips.
This sauce can also be used with venison. Thank you, Chris!

4x150g lamb leg steaks, 25g butter, 1-2 tsp flour, 300 ml lamb/beef stock, 2 tblsp drained capers, 1 tblsp vinegar from the capers.
Fry steaks gently for 10-15 mins, turning occasionally, until browned both sides. Transfer to warmed dish. Stir, to loosen any sediment at the bottom of the pan: stir in flour and cook for 1-2 mins. Gradually add stock, stirring all the time. Cook until the sauce thickens, boils and is smooth. Add capers and vinegar and simmer for 1-2 mins. Return lamb steaks to pan and simmer for 5 mins or until the lamb is cooked to your liking. Serve hot.

NUT ROAST for 6-8
30g butter, 2 finely chopped sticks of celery, 1 finely chopped onion, 360ml hot water, 1 tsp marmite/vecon, 550g ground nuts (cashews, almonds, brazils, peanuts), 2 tblsp flour, 4 tsp fresh herbs (if using dried 1 tsp), 160g bread crumbs, salt, pepper.
This nut roast is delicious. The slightly boring looks will improve if, after turning out, you put holly on top or something like that.
Melt butter, cook celery and onion in it for a few mins. Mix marmite/vecon into hot water and add to onion-celery mix. Stir flour into the nuts, then mix in herbs, crumbs, salt and pepper. Grease a loaf tin. Place mix in tin and press. Bake in the oven for 40 mins at 180ºC, turn out and slice. Good served with all the trimmings.
Variations:- you can substitute wine or milk for the water-and-yeast extract. A layer of sliced mushrooms and garlic is nice. Or fill with sage and onion stuffing.

Next month: teeth.

[1] http://www.marksdailyapple.com/alcohol-the-good-and-the-bad
[2] http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/The-older-you-are-the-more-you-can-drink-says-study
[3] http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/Effectsofalcohol.aspx
[4] http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150901-is-alcohol-really-bad-for-you
[5] https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/alcoholic-drinks-units/alcohol-limits-unit-guidelines/