Monday, 30 May 2011

Birthday Bloom!



May is the time when the flowers bloom in the UK and also the time that I receive them at their best, as it is my birthday. Yesterday I got from Dean and Nina the most beautiful bouquets. They give the house a picture perfect beauty. Flowers were also featured in our salad as we bought some chive flowers in the farmer's market in the morning. Since it is my birthday weekend and it is a Bank Holiday today, I will leave you with the pictures of the flowers and will come back tomorrow with a new post and a new recipe.


Chive flowers and green leaf salad

Chive Blossoms (Allium schoenoprasum) : It has a light onion flavor. It contains vitamin A, B1, B3 and B6, Folate, vitamin C, Iron, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. They can help lower blood pressure. Chives possess many of the same positive effects as garlic

Monday, 23 May 2011

Cabbage, this month’s vegetable

a majestic looking cabbage


What to make with cabbage, apart from coleslaw? This question came to mind when I decided to introduce The Vegetable of the Month. As I’ve already mentioned here before, I take part in a farmer’s bag scheme from Nina’s school. The only problem is that I can end up with too much of the same thing sitting in my fridge drawer. It’s seasonality at its best. At the moment, it’s cabbage - very much in season and abundant in the bag scheme.

Cabbage is often seen as “boring”. I used to think like that, myself, until I found out that this is an amazing nutrient-dense vegetable. Cabbage is considered the king of the cruciferous family, which also includes broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower. It has been part of the regular diet in some cancer treatment institutes for many years. This is because the cruciferous family contains more phytochemicals with properties that fight free radicals and prevent its damage than any other vegetable group. Not so boring now, ay. (Read more about cabbage benefits below.)

Since my college years, when I learnt these facts, I have developed a great respect for cabbage and its relatives, and have started to include them in many recipes.
Nutritional aspects aside, I also found out over the years that there are great ways of transforming this, let’s say, not-so-excitingly-tasty vegetable into lovely, quick, and easy dishes. Here is one of them. 

some of the ingredients

shredded cabbage, carrot and a bunch of fresh coriander
Stir fry the vegetables
mash the garlic with ginger and add peanut butter and soya sauce
My noodles with cabbage and peanut butter sauce!

Noodles with cabbage and peanut sauce
Serves 4
A quick and easy nourishing meal.

Ingredients

2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
4 tbsp organic peanut butter
2 tbsp tamari soya sauce
Juice of 2 small limes or 1 big one
A drop of maple syrup or honey
A splash of olive oil
250g buckwheat or rice noodles or wholemeal spaghetti
1 small cabbage, shredded
2 carrots
Furikake seasoning * (optional)
A handful of fresh coriander

Method

Mash 1 garlic clove with the ginger until looks like a paste. Add the peanut butter, the soy sauce, the lime juice and the maple syrup or honey. Add the oil to loosen the sauce. Adjust seasoning to your taste.

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet.
In the meantime heat the oil in a wok or in a large frying pan and sautee the remaining garlic for a few seconds, until it releases its aroma. Toss in the shredded cabbage and carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes. 

When the noodles are ready, rinse under water, shake out excess water and add them to the stir-fried vegetables. Add the peanut butter sauce, mix gently and serve with coriander leaves and furikake seasoning.


*Furikare is a Japanese seasoning made of black and white sesame seeds and seaweeds. This is the one I use


Some of the ingredients and their healthy benefits

Cabbage (Brassica oleracea): it moisten the intestines, improves digestion and is often used to treat constipation. Cabbage soup is used to alleviate cough and treat the common cold. Cabbage juice is an excellent remedy to treat stomach ulcers (half cup full drunk three times daily for two weeks). Due to its rich sulphur content, it purifies the blood and help to destroy parasites. It is also known as the beautyfing mineral. Cabbage contains iodine, high levels of calcium, iron and eight times more vitamin C than oranges. The Romans used to drink cabbage juice as a cure for their hangovers. You can use it externally, as a poultice, to alleviate headaches, treat skin eruptions, wounds, varicose veins and arthritis. All hail, cabbage!

Peanut (Arachis hypogaea): actually, it’s not a nut but a legume which is related to pea, chickpea and lentil. It is a food high in protein and plenty of monounsaturated fat. It contains an antioxidant called resveratrol – the same you find in red grapes. Peanuts lubricate the intestines and lower blood pressure. You can add peanuts to vegetable dishes for a bit more protein. Peanuts contain biotin (or vitamin B7, used for treating hair loss), vitamin E (prevents cell damage from free radicals), and folic acid (or vitamin B9, which promotes hormonal health). It also has vitamins B1 (stimulates metabolism and promotes healthy appetite) and B3 (helps to lower high cholesterol). You’ll also find that peanuts contain magnesium (nature’s natural relaxant) and phosphorus (for healthy bones, teeth, muscles and nerves, and for stronger heart muscle).
Caution: Peanuts are often heavily sprayed with chemicals and synthetic fertilizers therefore choose the organic ones as they contain fewer chemical residues. Those suffering from candida/yeast problems; those overweight or treating cancer should avoid this legume as it slows the metabolic rate of the liver. If eaten moderately, it can benefit those with fast metabolism. Peanuts are susceptible to a fungus called aflatoxin - a well known carcinogen. Roasting peanuts is a way to provide protection against aflatoxin and also to increase digestibility. Peanuts are among the foods associated with allergic reactions. When people are allergic to peanuts or other nuts, the allergy tends to be severe.

Carrot: previously mentioned here  

Garlic: previously mentioned here

Ginger:  previously mentioned here

Till next week!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Too much fishing in the sea!




                       Fishing responsibly      photo: Dean Northcott

Fish in Selfridges is fashion! London’s most fashionable department store launched a campaign, Project Ocean, to bring awareness about the over-fishing issue and to help people understand the impact that it’s having on the environment. We all love our fish but, according to campaigners, “research suggests that, unless we change the way we fish and the seafood we choose to eat, global stocks will be fully exploited within the next generation”. It’s all very scary! 

The idea of the project – developed by the store with the help of more than 20 conservation and environmental groups - is that people should start to make positive choices about the right seafood to buy and eat. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has put together an online guide of the endangered species and the fish you can still enjoy without guilt. And I highly recommend watching food writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s documentary on the subject Hugh's Fish Fight, if you still haven’t had the chance to see it! Did you know that half of all fish caught in the North Sea are thrown back in the water dead? It is eye opening – and shows how the crazy fishing quota system is infuriatingly flawed. 

With the help of MCS, Selfridges has stopped selling 70 endangered species. As it happens, I was there last week, buying a delicious sustainably farmed smoked salmon from Loch Fyne, Scotland, and I just missed Prince Charles, who was there to launch the project. The prince is a big supporter of pro-environment campaigns.
We must protect our ocean, buy our seafood more responsibly and eat in restaurants that choose to cook with sustainable produce. If you don’t know the provenance of the fish/seafood you want to buy or eat, just say no!

delicious smoked salmon from Loch Fyne
marinate it on lime juice
main ingredients for the salsa
mix them all together and add the fresh coriander at the end
serve on sourdough toast or...
on wholemeal bread or...
...simply like a carpaccio

“Cevaccio” of smoked salmon with avocado and grapefruit salsa 
Serves 4
This ceviche, carpaccio style (named by me as Cevaccio), is very easy to make, healthy and delicious too. The creamy texture of the avocado mixed with the tangy flavour of the grapefruit is a great accompaniment to the lime-cooked smoked salmon. It’s perfect as a summer snack, lunch or picnic.


Ingredients

For the cevaccio
Slices of organic smoked salmon 200g
Juice of a lime
Half red onion
Fresh red chilli

For the salsa
1 avocado, diced
1 grapefruit, cut into segments. Reserve the juice
Fresh coriander

For the dressing
Grapefruit juice
A glug of olive oil
Lime juice
Sea salt
Black pepper

Method

Squeeze the lime juice into a shallow bowl. Add the thinly sliced red onion to the fresh chilli and mix. Add the smoked salmon and evenly coat the slices with the marinade. Leave it for at least 1 hour (3 hours would be even better) as the lime will “cook” it.

For the avocado salsa: In a separate bowl put the diced avocado, then the grapefruit. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Add the fresh coriander at the end. Mix gently.

To make the dressing, just mix the reserved grapefruit juice, a glug of olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and a squeeze of lime juice together. Adjust to your taste. Pour the dressing on to the avocado and grapefruit mixture.

When the fish is done, serve it on a piece of sourdough toast (or any other wholemeal bread) with the avocado salsa. I promise it is very yummy!

Some of the ingredients and their healthy benefits

Salmon: smoking and salting is a traditional technique to preserve food naturally. Salmon is an excellent source of protein, potassium, selenium, Vitamin B12. It contains high levels of the essential fatty acid Omega 3. It is beneficial against heart diseases. Research has shown that it’s also beneficial for Alzheimer’s disease.

Avocado (Persea Americana): is a good source of monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid and linoleic acid), vitamin E, as well B vitamins, fibre and potassium. It helps lower cholesterol levels, thereby preventing heart diseases - all due to the oils that avocado provides.

Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi): helps lower cholesterol levels due to its pectin content. The consumption of this fruit normalises the percentage of red blood cells per volume of blood. Grapefruit has a flavonoid called naringin that studies have shown to promote elimination of old red blood cells by the body. Grapefruit, especially the red and the pink, is an excellent source of the carotene lycopene (also found in tomato), which is important against cancer and eye disease. Grapefruit is a good source of vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and water-soluble fibres.
Caution: Due to the flavonoid naringin, people taking certain drugs such as calcium channel blockers (for high blood pressure), statins (cholesterol lowering), sedatives and immune suppressants, should avoid eating grapefruit as this flavonoid reduces the activity of an enzyme within the liver that is used by our body to break down these drugs. The drugs will remain concentrated in the body increasing the risk of toxicity. If you are taking prescription drugs ask your doctor about the interactions.

Lime (Citrus aurantifolia): contains several phytochemicals including flavonoids and limonene, which are high in antioxidants and have anticancer properties. It is high in vitamin C and has good levels of vitamin B6 and folic acid. 

             Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Prince Charles at the launch of Project Ocean       photo: Andrew Winning
Till next week!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

A healthy combination of the essentials !

Essentials in your pantry can save the day
The good thing about having a kitchen pantry with some dry staple essentials in it is that, when you are running out of almost everything in the fridge and in your vegetable bowl, there they are. Those dry staple foods come to the rescue and you can whip something out of 
them. So, dry beluga lentils will turn into a salad today.

Beluga lentils, bay leaf, garlic and onion
Cook the lentils until al dente
Steam the carrots
My lentil salad!
Serve with salad and a sprinkle of goat's cheese

Some of the ingredients and their healthy benefits

Ingredients

200g beluga lentils
1 bay leaf
½ onion
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
2 carrots, sliced
A bunch of fresh coriander, chopped roughly
½ red onion sliced
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
Soft goat’s cheese

For the dressing

Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
A drizzle of maple syrup or honey
Sea salt and black pepper

To make the dressing, whisk all ingredients together.

Method

Put the lentils, bay leaf, the half onion and garlic in a pan. Add cold water until the ingredients are covered by about 2cm, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 min, or until the lentils are al dente. In the meantime, put the sliced carrots in a steamer and let them cook. When ready, reserve.

Place the red onions in a small bowl with the red wine vinegar and a pinch of sea salt. This will soften the onions.

When the lentils are done, drain them, and discard the bay leaf, onion and garlic. Toss the warm lentils with the dressing, then add the red onions, carrots and coriander leaves, mixing gently. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with the goat’s cheese.

 I ate mine with a leafy salad of roasted cherry tomatoes and radish.

For a more complete meal you can eat it with rice.

Enjoy!

Some of the ingredients and their healthy benefits 

Lentil (Lens esculenta or Lens culinaris): is a member of the legume family (beans and peas). Unlike beans, it doesn’t contain sulphur and consequently doesn’t produce so much gas. It is a good source of soluble fibre. It helps control blood sugar levels and lower “bad” cholesterol. It contains protein, which is a good choice for vegans and vegetarians; folate, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins (especially B1). It also contains iron, which can increase your energy and is a good choice of food for women when menstruating. Lentil has a compound called lignan, which helps balancing hormones naturally.
Carrot (Daucus carota): is high in carotenoid, an antioxidant compound associated with many healthy benefits. They contain lutein and zeaxanthin (carotenoids present in our retina), which is why carrots are famously known for being good for your eyes. The carotenoids and vitamin A contents found in carrots are fat-soluble vitamins - when eaten with a little fat (olive oil, coconut oil, ghee etc) they are better absorbed by your body. Carrots are great for juicing and often chosen as part of detoxification programs. They also provide good levels of vitamin K, fibre, vitamin C, biotin, vitamins B1 and B6.
Onion (Allium cepa): belongs to the allium family (leeks, garlic and shallots).  They contain powerful antioxidants and antiviral properties. They are also anti-inflammatory, and contain the compound quercetin which supports the immune system and acts as an anti-allergenic. People who suffer from hay fever are often recommended a therapeutic supplementation of quercetin. That may help to alleviate their symptoms. Quercetin also improves prostate health. Research has shown that onions help build strong bones and keep serum cholesterol and blood pressure low, preventing heart disease.
Goat’s cheese is a good source of calcium and protein. Goat's milk has a more digestible fat and protein content than cow's milk, that could be the reason why some people who are intolerant to cow's milk can tolerate goat's milk. Goat's cheese also provides magnesium, potassium and vitamin A.
Till next week!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

A royal salad!

    A farmer having a dig at the Royals  
photo:Jersey official
The only royal wedding we were part of this week was the one of the Jersey Royals with some lovely fresh green vegetables and leaves. Spring is my favourite time of the year not only because the flowers are coming through transforming the city into a more colourful place but also because it’s the beginning of the salad season in my kitchen. It’s the transition from the warm comfort and nutrient-dense foods (which is exactly what our body needs throughout the winter months) to the season where the body welcomes lighter meals.

It is also the time to treat my liver. The liver is our largest gland and has hundreds of functions, including: clearing the blood, recycling worn-out red blood cells; processing the foods that have been digested in our gut; converting excess glucose (sugar) into glycogen and converting glycogen back into glucose to top up blood sugar levels; activating vitamin D; manufacturing vitamin A from beta-carotene; regulating and detoxifying numerous hormones; neutralizing alcohol, toxins and drugs; and store some vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, D, E and K, iron and copper, and some of the B vitamins etc.

The liver is our powerhouse and it has an amazing capacity to regenerate itself. But we shouldn’t take it for granted. We forget that it is there working really hard to keep us up and healthy, until it starts to get a bit compromised because it has been overworked. Some symptoms of a tired and neglected liver are: nausea (especially in the morning), alcohol intolerance, difficulty in digesting fatty foods, dry skin, dark circles under the eyes, hormone imbalances, itching on the palm of the hands and sole of the feet, arms and legs; high cholesterol levels; fatigue; constipation; pale stools; irritability and anger; recurrent headaches etc.

It is very important to pay attention to our liver and try to avoid eating junk food and foods containing pesticides and chemicals. We should also reduce the amount of exposure to environmental toxins (PBC’s, phthalate, dioxins, asbestos, heavy metals etc).

Along with the liver, the kidneys are also another organ that I am paying close attention to in this season.  

With Spring and now Summer approaching, it’s time to welcome the vegetables for that changeover period. In the weeks to come, I am going to introduce lots of recipes with seasonal foods that the liver really loves, the kidneys appreciate and that makes the whole body happy.

Enjoy the new season!

The vegetables, rocket leaves and feta cheese
The ingredients for the dressing
red chilli, garlic and fresh mint dressing
My Jersey royal salad! You can serve it in a big bowl...
or in individual plates as a starter.

Jersey Royal salad with green vegetables and spicy dressing
Serves 4

The Jerseys are at their peak now and to me they’re one of the tastier potatoes. Most Jersey farmers use seaweed as fertilisers, which is believed to enhance their flavour. This salad is a wholesome and a well balanced meal.

Ingredients

3 small to medium courgettes, sliced
olive oil plus a knob of butter (optional)
1 bunch of organic broccoli florets
1 bunch of organic asparagus
1 small fresh red chilli (optional)
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp organic olive oil
2 tbsp organic red wine vinegar
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
300g organic Jersey Royal potatoes (or new potatoes)
1 large bunch of organic rocket leaves


200g organic feta cheese, broken into pieces

Method

Slice the courgettes and sautée them in olive oil with a knob of butter in a frying pan. Reserve.

Steam the broccoli and asparagus until al dente. Reserve.

Put the potatoes to boil for about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, fry the garlic with the fresh chilli but don’t let them burn. Mix them with 2 tablespoons of organic olive oil, 2 tablespoons of organic red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint, sea salt and black pepper to taste.

When the potatoes are ready, mix all the vegetables and rocket leaves together, add the broken feta cheese (200g) and finally the dressing. Serve! You can have it as a light lunch or as a starter.

The main ingredients and their healthy benefits

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis): contains selenium, calcium, zinc, copper and folic acid. It has some powerful compounds (indoles, isothiocyanates and sulforaphane) that promote cellular regeneration with anti-cancer properties. It is a powerful stimulant to the liver and kidneys. Studies have shown that asparagus protects the liver from the effects of the alcohol. It is a natural diuretic and helps to cleanse the arteries of cholesterol and is useful to control hypertension. It is used to alleviate menstrual difficulties.
Caution: avoid eating asparagus when there is an inflammation related to the kidneys as it can irritate the organ even more.

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea): is one of the top ten healthy foods on many naturopaths list. It contains the anti-cancer phytochemicals isothiocyanates and sulforaphane (research shows that it neutralizes carcinogens by reducing their destructive effects and stimulating the “carcinogen killers” creating a quicker removal from the body). It also contains the antioxidant Indole-3-Carbinol, which helps detoxifying enzymes and protects the structure of our DNA. Broccoli is a major source of cancer-preventing compounds (mentioned above) that are protective against prostate, gastric, breast, cervical and skin cancer.
It contains a good amount of vitamin B5 and vitamin A (which is very good for the skin). It has more vitamin C content than an orange (80-120mg from broccoli vs 50mg in orange per 100g serving). It contains sulphur, iron and B vitamins. Boiling causes it to lose its nutrients. If simmered for a few minutes, broccoli will retain its chlorophyll, which is good to prevent gas formation due to its sulphur content.
Caution: Broccoli contains goitrogenous chemicals which disrupts the use of iodine by the body. Avoid it, if you have thyroid problems and/or if you are low in iodine.

Courgette or zucchini (Cucurbita pepo): has a cooling and refreshing property. It is also diuretic, helps to reduce constipation and can be protective against colon cancer. It contains B vitamins, potassium, zinc and bioflavonoids. It helps reduce blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium. Its skin is a good source of dietary fibre.

Potato (Jersey) (Solanum tuberosum): is mildly diuretic, lubricates the intestines, tones the pancreas. Potato reduces inflammation, relieving arthritis and rheumatism. It is a good source of vitamin C, minerals and enzymes. It is a great accompaniment to meat, as its rich potassium content balances out the high sodium content of the meat.

Rocket (Arugula/Eruca sativa): has a peppery taste and is loaded with minerals and antioxidants, including vitamins C, A, K and P (a bioflavonoid that strengthens the body’s natural defences against infections and viruses, also enhancing the absorption and action of vitamin C in your body), folic acid, iron, calcium and potassium. It is known to be a natural aphrodisiac. It is a very good source of dietary fibre. It has very positive effects on the liver function and improves the blood quality.

Feta cheese: a very good source of protein, calcium, vitamins B2 and B12. Cheese is not only nutritious but a very enjoyable food. Do choose a traditional feta made with sheep’s or goat’s milk. Feat is a salty cheese and, if you are worried about its salt content, soak it in water for a few minutes and then rinse thoroughly before using it.


Till next week!