Latest Nutrition/Food News
A reminder that this list doesn’t try and cover everything but a selection along with some alternative inspirational ways of using them rather than the normal steam, boil, bake...Feel free to contact me via email@example.com or Twitter @Ninanutrition, with your ideas, I will try then and then if I use them in future editions I will credit you accordingly. You can also check out my foodie travels by visiting my travelogue www.ninageraghty.wordpress.com
SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER SEASONAL FOODS
September and October are the months where the summer seasonal foods ebb towards the autumnal root vegetables, often the shelves at your local green grocer/farm shop will still have a mix on them so for that reason I am putting the two together. There is always a lot of publicity about buying foods when they are in season, so despite the obvious thought that Nature intended it this way, the depth of flavour and high nutrients should persuade you to give it a try.
Autumnal fruits are naturally higher in pectin. Pectin is a soluble fibre, which much like oats, form a get in the gut which binds with cholesterol, preventing it being absorbed into the blood and helping to control its levels.
Obviously the even better scenario with seasonal is to buy as fresh as possible, especially if you are making jam, try and pick and make the same day to keep the pectin level at its highest. Pectin in jam making helps your jam to set.
A reminder that this list doesn’t try and cover everything but a selection along with some alternative inspirational ways of using them rather than the normal steam, boil, bake...Feel free to contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @Ninanutrition, with your ideas, I will try then and then if I use them in future editions I will credit you accordingly.
Apricots – OK so you are probably fed up hearing me go on about how nice these are picked and eaten straight from the the tree, warmed by the Greek sun, but it has to be said, as it is the best way to try them.
Aubergine – another favourite of this time of year. You know that you don’t need to salt this delicious vegetable. All you need to do is slice it lengthways, drizzle with a little oil and place on a baking tray and cook for approx 10 mins till it starts to soften. Then use either in your moussaka or on its own baked with a cinnamon tomato sauce – there is a recipe on my recipe pages that you can use for this. Also you will find that cumin and mint work incredibly well with the flavour of aubergine. This really is a versatile vegetable and can be stuffed, grilled, baked, sliced dipped in flour and fried – often a popular starter in a Greek Taverna. If you are really overrun by aubergine, then consider using one for a dip, mash a cooked aubergine with yoghurt, mint , garlic and cumin then enjoy......
Beetroot – don’t just use as a vegetable but use in your chocolate cake recipes, it adds an earthy yet sweet taste and keeps the cake moist. It became quite popular with the lower calorie recipes, yet how very healthy. I do find that when I cook beetroot and I have been known to throw some in the slow cooker with water to cook it, although it does lose some extra colour I find doing it this way, however if you are short of time this may be an option. When you come to peel it remember to pop those rubber gloves on otherwise it can look like a murder has been committed
Blackberries - we have just said accompany seasonal game dishes, but don’t just then revert to crumble or pie, whilst nothing wrong with that it is nice to be imaginative and take 50ml of wine vinegar, mash 4 blackberries into it and serve with goats cheese either on their own or on crostini pieces of toasted bread
Butternut Squash– if you have ever walked the back lanes of Greece, you see butternut squash growing like weeds, often in abundance far too many to use. I must admit I enjoy it peeled, de-seeded and chunked then roasted in olive oil and garlic.
Soup – I designed this last year and it is now a firm favourite -
Peel, de-seed and chunk one butternut squash,
6 green cardamom pods
Take 1 leek, clean and chop
1 litre of veg stock or water if you prefer as the flavours are strong. [ Watch the salt content if you use a stock cube]
In a heavy pan, pour tablespoon of rapeseed or olive oil, fry the whole cardamom seeds for approx 3 mins then add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer till the squash is tender, remove the cardamom pods and blend till smooth. Here you have a delicious soup. It is great at this point if you have some leftover cooked chicken, shred the meat then stir it in and heat thoroughly. A very well balanced meal giving you protein lots of Vit A and complex carbohydrates a great way of getting 2 of your 5+ veg portions in one meal.
Carrots Don’t just boil them! cut into chunky rounds, place into a small covered oven proof dish, sprinkle with oregano and drizzle with olive or rapeseed oil and cook in the oven along side your roast! They wont harden but just stay remarkably soft, infused with the oregano and the olive oil this is a great way to increase your beta carotene and omega 3 into your diet with absolutely no hardship!
Also I really like to mash carrot roughly after cooking and stir in a tablespoon of creamed horseradish. This makes a delicious accompaniment to a plain meat or fresh mackerel. IT cuts through the oiliness of the fish and really enhances the flavours.
Obviously you can still use the carrots as a good salad base, grate and mix with fennel seeds, again a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice will give you a zingy mayonnaise free salad to live up your plain salad dishes. This recipe is good if you serve it in a small side dish alongside a chicken souvlaki [ kebab].
Celeriac – Choose a heavy feeling one, if they are big but relatively light it often means there are pockets of air within which allows creepies in etc. Peel as you need to use these as celeriac also browns when in contact with the air The lemon water trick does prevent this to a certain degree. I like to cook in water, then drain and purée and serve with pork tenderloin as an alternative to mashed potato. It has a slightly celery taste but not strong and not unpleasant. I like to sprinkle a little nutmeg on it just before serving.
Courgette – another versatile one, you can bake, stuff, fry, grill, barbecue, sauté.... in fact you name it you can cook it in that way. I rather like gratinee courgettes, covered with either a cheese sauce or simply Greek 0% fat yoghurt and some parmesan. Otherwise I stuff them with sun dried tomatoes, almond, spring onions or chives and some feta – recipe on my recipes of the day pages..
Its strange but courgettes grow very well in the UK climate, I grew some last year in a pot on the patio and was so excited when I was able to go out and pick and then cook them!
Crab - I know everyone thinks of dressed crab and crab meat, but the poorer relation is the leg meat If you are lucky enough to live near the sea, you will possibly find a fisherman who is keen to hand these over to you. In Budleigh Salterton I was lucky enough to buy from the beach stall of the local fishing boat some delightful sea bass and when he knew it was my birthday he gave me some crab legs. Just bring a large pot of salted water to the boil throw in the crab legs and boil for up to 10 mins dependant on the thickness of them. Drain, remove the meat from the shell and either mix with a little melted butter or mayonnaise and this meat is stunning served on toasted wholegrain bread as a treat. It is a little fiddly but the flavour is well worth it, especially when its so very fresh. Buy ready cooked crab meat mix with lime and fresh coriander, place on a bed of dark lettuce, with sliced avocado and cherry tomatoes.
Damsons – Another high pectin fruit, best used slightly under-ripe in jam. But s with plums pick and make the jam the same day as the pectin starts to decrease the moment you pick it.
Fennel – usually an accompaniment to fish owing to its slightly aniseed flavouring. Always pick a hard and white one with the dark green fern type leaves attached if possible. Slice thinly you can use the white body of fennel raw in a salad, often you seen fennel and orange salad, slight middle eastern feel about it. My favourite way is to quarter the white fennel, drizzle with olive oil and bake till softened then serve to accompany a plain grilled or barbecued meat
Figs picked from the roadside in Greece where they are so abundant, you cant keep up with them ripening. If you are lucky enough to grow them or know someone that does, they are best picked and eaten the same day, either raw or split them, drizzle a little dark honey into the middle and a nob of butter and bake in the oven, they tend to caramelise and need nothing more than a dollop of Greek yoghurt for an easy end to a meal.
Garlic best harvested late summer, so ready now for you to include in your dishes, and then store the others to keep you going through the year. Garlic really is a staple and healthy ingredient often miss judged and subject to the bad breath publicity. But you can be assured the healthy properties far outweigh the negatives. From simply pushing into the skin of a jacket potato before you cook it, to including in stir frys, popping into the cavity of your whole chicken prior to cooking need I go on. This versatile little devil is best used fresh is best. After crushing or slicing it, allow to stand for 10 mins to allow the allicin [ active ingredient in the garlic] to develop before it is cooked.
DO NOT microwave garlic it kills off nearly all its benefits.
Haddock – Don't think that the only one you can get is the bright yellow haddock you often see on sale, if you want a smoked one buy the naturally smoked pale creamy colour fleshed haddock. Far more delicate a flavour and not chemically induced. Really this fleshy fish needs little more than poaching or cooking in a parcel with liquid around it, then serve with a drizzle of melted butter, perhaps a little mashed potato topped with a poached egg and spinach to make a nutritionally sound meal.
Lettuce - you will start to see all types become available now but try a different one, Lambs lettuce - these small leaves pack a punch they are dark green and have a slightly bitter edge to them, try and eat them as fresh as possible because they increase in bitterness after a couple of days. Ideally grow your own.
Mackerel - Prepare the fillets, ensuring you have removed all the bones, and believe me this is no mean feat! Then grill and serve with the home-made horseradish sauce.
Marrow – You are more likely to pick one of these up from a green fingered neighbour or a farmers market, it will seem enormous and you may well wonder what on earth to do with it. In addition to using it in the same way you would a courgette [ although it will seem like a courgette on steroids!]A favourite recipe is to make stuffed marrow rings, this is a good way of using just a little mince beef and lots of vegetables. Cut your marrow into the number of rings [about 3.5cm wide] for the group you are serving [ allow one or two each dependant on its girth] Peel and remove the seeds and place the rings into an oiled baking dish [ they look like large polo mints now]. Now you are ready to add your stuffing into the centre, I particularly like to use mince beef, with tomatoes and onion, garlic and cinnamon but any ragu recipe will suffice, just don’t make it too runny. Now bake your stuffed marrow rings 200C/Fan 180/Gas 5 for approx 45 mins until the marrow is soft. You can sprinkle a little fresh parmesan over just before serving if you so wish.
Mint – if you grow your own you wont particularly realise that it is in season, but there should be new shoots and leaves that add depth to your recipes.
Onions -a kitchen staple for many cooks, they are so versatile and add taste to many slow cooked dishes, used raw, how many of you just love the cheese and onion sandwich?? But how about a creamy white onion soup, whilst there are many recipes to chose from I make mine a little differently but as ever its a simple rustic soup, best served with a chunk of home-made bread. This makes enough for 4. Pour a good tablespoon of olive oil into your pan, add thinly sliced white onions [ from 2 large onions] sweat and soften them without browning. Now add 1 pint of milk and 250ml of water, sprinkle of white pepper and simmer until the onion is tender [ about 25 mins]. I blend this into a creamy paste and should you wish you can add 1 tablespoon of cornflour, blended with 30ml of water into the mixture, return to the boil stir to cook for a couple of minutes then serve with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top. I love this served with Nigel Slater's cheese scone its a really rustic lunchtime treat and can make good picnic food for autumn.
Pears – A perfect food , when served sliced with a blue cheese, remember that they turn brown quite quickly after cutting [ oxidise] so either serve it really freshly cut or dip in lemon infused water to prevent this. Another idea is for a Pear Crisp - wash and core but do not peel, then slice thinly across the fruit. Put on a single layer on a wire rack over a baking tray, brush with some local honey and back for 20 mins gas 4/Fan 160C/Oven180C. Remove from the oven turn the fruit over, brush a little honey over and bake for a further 20-25 mins until crisp. Allow to cook, then store in an airtight box and there you have it a great pear crisp to snack on, which also contains the fibre and forms part of your 5+ veg.
Potatoes [main-crop] – If you fancy a different recipe try my cheats dauphinoise which you can find in my recipe pages on the website, it has proved a real winner with everyone who has tried it. Its one of those easy dishes which will sit and not spoil when you are waiting for everyone to sit down and have dinner and is a perfect accompaniment to roast pork.
Plums – to help you choose which sort to buy, it is useful to know that the purple skinned ones contain more antioxidants than the yellow skinned variety. If you have exhausted your jam making and still have some left over, consider using them coupled with some Chinese spices like star anise, ginger and perhaps a little soy then chop your fruit and add to a pork stir fry – plum and pork are a good match anyway but with the Chinese spices they really add depth of flavour and texture.
Quince – Pick heavy, solid fruits, avoiding the ones with a downy skin as this is usually a sign they are not ripe. Probably best known for their high pectin, jam setting properties, so often added to home made jams. But another idea is to peel them and poach in a little water or white wine, with some orange zest added. They poach well taking a little longer than pears, but they hold their shape and can look delightful on a flat plate sitting in a small amount of your poaching liquid, and decorated with a few strands of thinly paired orange zest and a drizzle of honey.
Swiss Chard - Part of the beetroot family when I first came across this it was in a vegetable box and in the form of Swiss chard, it actually looked rather like rhubarb with its red veined stems and dark green leaves. You can use this in the same way as you would many green leafy vegetables such as spinach, although it does have a much earthier taste. A different idea is for you to use it in winter salads, take the leaves dress in olive oil lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt.
So you’ve used the leaves, what about the stems, they are ideal in a stir fry.
It is worth knowing that when you cook red chard, the red turns to green during the cooking process!Spinach I love to incorporate spinach into many highly flavoured dishes to give a different texture and a good dose of iron and vitamins
Some interesting nutritional articles to give you "food for thought"!
In Greece, fossilised olive leaves have been found that date back between 50 and 60,000 years.
60% of cultivated land in Greece is used exclusively for Olive Growing
Greece = 3rd largest exporter of olive oil, she even exports to Italy where they mix it into their own olive oil and it gets sold on as Italian.
Not all fats were created equal, and olive oil is among the healthiest known oils. It's a central part of the so-called "Greek paradox" (i.e., people who follow a Mediterranean diet that's high in fats have low levels of cardiovascular disease and obesity).
You've probably heard about the health benefits of fish oil. Extra-virgin olive oil contains the same omega-3 fatty acids associated with everything from lowering blood fat (a primary risk for heart disease) to decreasing joint pain in people with arthritis. You can even triple your intake of omega-3s by cooking fish in extra-virgin olive oil.
Why you should NEVER follow a NO Fat diet?
Consuming Greek olive oil regularly has been shown to
· help maintain body weight and improve blood sugar and insulin control;.
· Olive oil is highest in mono-unsaturated fat, this is the kind of fat that doesn't oxidise in the body and cause the body to age.
Extra-virgin olive oil contains a natural chemical with special properties: the phytonutrient oleocanthal. Oleocanthal mimics the effects of ibuprofen, reducing inflammation. Doctors believe inflammation is associated with -- and may even be the root cause of -- everything from allergies and depression to heart disease and cancer. The oleocanthal in extra-virgin olive oil keeps inflammation from getting out of hand.
Extra Virgin vs. Virgin
We know that extra-virgin olive oil has some specific health benefits as well as a distinctive taste. But what does extra-virgin mean? Extra-virgin oil comes from the first pressing of the olives. They are always cold pressed, meaning no heat or chemicals are used to extract the final product. There are no additives or preservatives either.
The result? An unadulterated oil that retains its natural flavour or aroma.
Virgin olive oil comes from the second pressing and is of a lower quality.
Greece = 80 percent of production is extra virgin [EV]
Italy = 50 percent of production is EV
Spain = 30 percent of production is EV
Beneficial Food Facts you might not be aware of!
There is often trivia published on many subjects so here are some of my foodie facts which you can then incorporate in your cookery or perhaps you do already but without being fully aware of the benefits
Sweet Potato - full of Vitamin A, Retinol which is great for healthy eyes, also a good immunity system and skin
White Cabbage - good source of folate
Dates - a good substitute for sugar and syrups in recipes [ you need to purée with apple juice] but also good source of iron
Add Linseed and you are adding omega 3 healthy oils to your diet
Cinnamon, good to regulate blood sugar but also antibacterial properties
Sage, contains many antioxidants but also has anti inflammatory properties
Spelt - if you come to any of my talks I include this a lot, whilst it is not gluten free people who cant tolerate wheat can often digest and tolerate spelt. It is also higher in protein and many minerals than other grains.
Mussels are high in zinc and help to boost immunity
Ginger is a good one to boost circulation, decrease inflammation and help with travel sickness.
Cumin aids digestion
Cannelini beans contain B vitamins to boost metabolism
Leeks are rich in vitamin K.
Porcini mushrooms rich in Niacin, which helps cholesterol levels improve.
DOES YOUR IMMUNITY NEED A BOOST??
Certain illness affects your immunity and can leave it lacking the fight and a little weak.
Rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis are two such illness. This reduced immunity means that a simple cold can turn into a chest infection, a muscle twinge can last months with swelling and pain, what others fight of quickly lasts and lingers.
Inflammation is high in the body with both these forms of arthritis, it is caused because the antibodies produced by the body attack itself as opposed to just fighting infection.
Medication prescribed for such illness help manage the pain but leave the immunity very weak, so one thing you can do is ensure that your nutritional intake maximises the nutrients from the food you eat, so, it might be worth a bit of a food stock-take and some home truths to help you self manage your condition.
Your 5+ a day portions of fruit and veg needs to become far more than this, originally the advice was to have 7-9 a day but it was felt by some that this was not achievable when the averages in Northern Europe fall well short of this recommendation. In fact consider this key information when deciding which lifestyle or food diet to follow;-
In the UK Britons east 258g of fruit and vegetables per day compared with a European Average of 386g [ and this is higher still in Greece – hence my love of the Greek Diet]
So you can guess from this what the first thing is you are going to do;-
Up your fruit and vegetable intake
Concentrate on your vegetable green leafy and ensure it is there every day in one form or another
include garlic and onions
Boost also by using any cooking liquid and make into a vegetable broth to capture every last bit of goodness.
Concentrate on including foods which include the following vitamins and minerals as these are known to have the biggest influence on our immune system, these are;-
Vitamins A, C, D and E
Zinc – helps viruses enter the body
Selenium – acts like a sponge mopping up the free radicals caused by infection once in the body
Some of these help protect the nasal and mouth lining which in turn can prevent nasties entering the body. Others such as a vitamin D rich yoghurt will help to keep the gut bacteria healthy and in turn help with the fighting of illness.
You can see that if you are suffering from any of these immune depleting illnesses one of the worst things you can do is to cut all healthy fats out of your diet, Avocado is a great source of Vitamin E, yet left out of diets owing to its high fat content. This healthy fat along with olive oil is integral to keeping you healthy. Like anything its important to vary your diet, unprocess your diet but not remove any food groups i.e. dairy free, wheat free unless you have a medical need to do so that has been confirmed.
Around 50% of a woman's body and 60% of a man's body is made of water. Water is needed by every single cell in your body to help it function properly, to keep healthy you need to drink 6 – 8 glasses [each being 225ml or 8fl oz in old money!] of water every day. In hot weather or if you exercise this amount needs to be increased.
Not drinking enough water can result in;-
Drinking enough water also gives many positive health benefits including;-
fewer cases of kidney stones
lower risk of colon cancer
not as many urinary tract infections
lower risk of urinary cancer
less chance of constipation
So as you can see there are many reasons to drink enough water. In addition to the above water also;-
controls body temperature
assists with weight control
gives you energy
transports nutrients and waste in and out of cells
keeps digestive processes healthy
For Children, they are less likely to feel a need to drink, this is because the mechanism in their body which alerts them to being thirsty doesn't fully form until they are a little older. So especially during hot weather, when they also don't perspire as much as adults do, this means their bodies do not control their temperature. So it is important that they are encouraged to drink water especially during and after exercise to prevent heatstroke and dehydration.
A good tip for anyone is to carry a bottle of water, not only is it on hand then but it is measured so you know exactly how much you are drinking.
On the adverse side of the coin, excess drinking of water can result in the body losing nutritional salts which in turn cause a confused state to set in. This is often prevalent in the elderly and can be mistaken for the early onset of dementia.
Some recent donations
From my talks over the last few months I have been able to support the following charities
Blood Bikes £100, Gnosall First Responders £100, Pensioners Presents in the village at Christmas £150, Lions Club £100 - A Grand total to date of £450 from my Food and Nutrition Talks.
Handing over a £100 donation, from some talks and masterclasses I have delivered in the last months at Good Food and Nutrition, to the Staffordshire and Shropshire Blood Bikes to help keep the wheels turning throughout the year. Volunteers do a sterling job, spending many hours transporting life saving blood, breast milk and other medical supplies to our hospitals across Staffordshire and Shropshire. and supporting our hospitals in Staffs and Shropshire including a little bit of Cheshire and the borderland of Wales too.
Have a read of my blog to catch up on my recent foodie adventures!.
BBC Radio Shropshire - Invited to be the guest on their Food Programme, where I spent the hour promoting local and seasonal foods, sharing ideas and recipes to get you cooking.
Thank you to all the people who took part in my Mediterranean Masterclasses at Ludlow Food Festival, we had a great time, lots of nutrition tips, cookery ideas and you all had the opportunity to cook with me and create the dishes to eat and enjoy.