Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Blackberries - the time to pick is nearing...

Personally I think blackberries are one of the most underrated fruit, and with this year’s crop being bigger and more numerous, and supermarkets like Tesco charging £2 for a 250g punnet, why not get out picking?

Not only is blackberry picking a great past time to try with the family, it’s a great opportunity to get children interested in fruit, get some fresh air and save some money! Try going to a local wood or site where you know they grow in the wild, and pick the berries that have turned black, avoiding unripe green or red ones. Blackberries also offer the following fantastic health benefits, whether eaten fresh, or cooked.

Health benefits:

1.       Rich in Vitamin C – being one of the few mammals that cannot produce their own source of Vitamin C, it is essential to our diet. It helps protect cells and keep them healthy. It is necessary for the maintenance of healthy connective tissue, which gives support and structure for other tissues and organs. It can be helpful towards boosting immunity, protecting eyes against UV rays, and promoting healthy skin. With an average serving of strawberries providing more than half your daily requirements, it is a great way to help stay on top this summer.

2.       Very low in sodium – making them suitable for those following a low sodium diet and with those with high blood pressure

3.       Low in fat – blackberries are rich in vitamins and minerals, providing many health benefits and only contain 62 calories a cup

4.       Rich in anti-oxidants – The dark blue colour ensures blackberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits. Antioxidants, well-known for lowering the risk of a number of cancers, are a huge bonus, and also help lower blood pressure

5.       Rich in tannins – The health benefits of tannins are still widely debated, however there are claims that the high tannin content of blackberries provides a number of benefits to reduce intestinal inflammation, alleviate hemorrhoids and soothe the effects of diarrhea.

6.       Contains a natural anti-inflammatory – Can be helpful after intense exercise to reduce inflammation in the joints, and aid in mild cases of arthritis.

7.       Rich in Vitamin K – Vitamin K aids in blood clotting and wound healing, and can aid in keeping strong and healthy bones.

8.       High in fibre – adequate fibre intake can aid digestion and regular bowel movements, and prevent against certain cancers.

Recipe time!

Blackberries are incredibly versatile, and can be made into Jam for long term storage, or made into ready to cook or freeze pies and crumbles that can be brought out at any time and cooked from frozen to create great desserts. My favourite is blackberry and apple crumble, this recipe is one taken from the ‘Frozen Cookery Book’ and modified slightly to taste.
Blackberry and Apple Crumble

·         3 large apples (sharp tasting not sweet)
·         8oz of blackberries
·         5oz of caster sugar
·         1 pinch of cinnamon
·         4oz of diced unsalted butter
·         8oz plain flour
·         6 ½ oz caster sugar

1.       Preheat oven to 200°C, gas mark 6.
2.       Peel, core and slice the apples to the thickness of about a fifty pence coin, sprinkle the cinnamon on the sliced apples.
3.       Layer the apples and blackberries in your oven-proof dish alternatively sprinkling the 5oz of caster sugar equally amon the layers.
4.       Next take your softened diced butter and flour and rub together using your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add in the sugar mixing it together softly making your topping - you can add in oats, nuts and seeds if you like here.
5.       Add the topping ontop of the fruit and press down with the back of a cold, dry metal spoon.
6.       Pop the crumble in the oven for 45 minutes on the middle shelf. If the top browns too quickly, pop some tin foil over the top to prevent it from burning. When you take it out, the topping should be crisps and slightly crumbly and the cooked fruit should be seeping through at the sides.
7.       Serve with custard or ice cream! This is a great recipe to make with your kids, and can be frozen before cooking and cooked at a later date from frozen.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Kale - Man's new best friend?

Like all industries, food has its own celebrities, and ‘hot new things to try’. One year it’s the Atkins diet, the next year its seaweed, and this year it seems that Kale is the new thing to try. Celebrity chefs and dietitians appear delighted with its versatility, taste and nutritional content, but what is it?
Kale, also known as Curly Kale is a cruciferous vegetable and part of the cabbage family. But for those who aren’t cabbage lovers don’t let that put you off. Grown largely by British farmers, it is available from June right through until March, with October giving off the best crop.

So why is it so great?

Pound for pound, Kale is a highly nutritious vegetable, and whilst also being highly versatile in cooking, it can create flavourful main or side dishes. But if that isn’t enough, here are a few other reasons why to use it. 

1.       1 portion of Kale (80g) contains around 120mg of Calcium – this is more than in 100g of milk. So for those following a vegan, dairy free or low fat diet, this can be an excellent way to get in that extra calcium you need. Also, for those who suffer from conditions that require extra calcium, such as osteoporosis, adding this in once a day could make a big difference

2.       Kale is an excellent source of folate – folate, or folic acid, is very important in pregnant women, and women who are trying to get pregnant. It also plays an important role in the normal formation of blood and supports the immune system.

3.       Gram for gram Kale contains 17 times more vitamin C than carrots – vitamin C is important in healthy immune system function and the formation of collagen for healthy blood vessels, bone, cartilage, gums, skin and teeth

4.       Kale is a great source of fibre – kale provides 2g of fibre for every 100g consumed, and that’s once it’s boiled. Our recommended daily intake of fibre is 25g, and in today’s modern dietary culture, many people miss that target. Increasing the risk of certain cancers.

5.       Kale is good for the eyes – Kale is rich in lutein, an anti-oxidant proven to aid in keeping the eyes healthy. Our recommended intake of lutein in 6-10mg, kale provides 7.6mg per 100g compared to broccoli which only provides 1.7mg.

6.       Great to help keep skin, nails and hair strong – Kale is a good source of Vitamin A containing 448µg per 80g cooked of Kale, which is vital in keeping skin, nails and hair healthy.

7.       Good for weight maintenance – so on top of all this, Kale is also good for keeping your weight down. It’s nutritious, rich in fibre and also low in fat and calories. So to fill you up at mealtimes and add in some good nutrition, without the fat, this is the way to go.

Recipe time!

This recipe has been taken from BBC Good Food website, an excellent source for recipes you can tweak to your own preferences. This recipe is easy to prepare, incredibly healthy and delicious. It’s also suitable for vegetarians!

Spaghetti with caramelized onion, kale & Gorgonzola

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 large red onions, halved and very thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp. chopped thyme leaf
  • large pinch chilli flakes
  • 75ml red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. caster sugar
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 400g whole wheat spaghetti
  • 200g kale, chopped
  • 100g gorgonzola, crumbled

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onions, thyme and some seasoning. Sauté for 10 minutes until softened, then add the chilli flakes, vinegar, sugar and stock. Increase the heat and cook for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil a large pan of water, add some salt and cook the spaghetti following pack instructions, adding the kale for the final 4 minutes of cooking. Drain and return to the pot with a little of the cooking water. Tip in the onion mixture and half the cheese, and toss together. Serve topped with the remaining cheese.


Sunday, 4 August 2013

Cholesterol - the good and the bad

A healthy diet and frequent exercise can actively help to lower cholesterol levels in the blood, and decrease the chance of fatty deposits building up in the arteries and veins leading to yellow patches of skin around the eyes showing a build up of cholesterol, shortness of breath, angina, coronary heart disease, strokes and heart attacks. Around two in three adults have a higher cholesterol than is recommended in the UK, this is increased with a higher body mass and weight.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance made in the body that can be found in the blood. It exists in many forms, most commonly in two main forms:

·         HDL – (High Density Lipoprotein) The protective type of cholesterol

·         LDL – (Low Density Lipoprotein) The harmful type of cholesterol

Cholesterol can be found in some food such as eggs, kidney, liver and prawns, which is known as dietary  cholesterol, however the dietary cholesterol we eat has much less effect on the blood levels of cholesterol in comparison to that inflicted by consumption of saturated fat in the diet.


How can I lower my cholesterol in five easy steps?

1.       Avoid foods high in saturated fat and trans fats such as butter, ghee, meat pies, sausages and fatty cuts of meat, lard, cream, hard cheese, cakes and biscuits and food containing coconut or palm oil

2.       Replace foods that are high in saturated fat with foods high in polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat such as oily fish (recommended 2-3 portions per week), avocado, nuts and seeds, and use of sunflower, oil, corn, rapeseed and vegetable oils in cooking

3.       Eat a high fibre diet – Foods that are high in 'soluble fibre' such as porridge, beans, pulses, lentils, nuts, fruits and vegetables, can help lower cholesterol

4.       Take part in regular exercise – Physical activity can help increase the levels of HDL (the protective cholesterol) in the blood

5.       Use food products rich in plant stanols or sterols  - Recent research has shown products such as ‘Flora’ and other spreads, yoghurts and milk which contain the plant stanols/sterols found in vegetable oils and spreads, nuts and legumes which help prevent the absorption of dietary cholesterol into the intestine

Foods to avoid
Why not replace with?
Butter or ghee
Margarine or spread
Butter or ghee (in cooking)
Vegetable, olive, rapeseed or corn oil
Sausages and fatty cuts of meat
Skinless chicken, quorn
Crisps, pork scratching and snacks high in
saturated fat
Baked crisps, fresh or dried fruit
Milk/white chocolate
Dark chocolate
Curries with cream or coconut milk
e.g. Korma, passanda or massala
Curries such as tandori or madras with
chicken or prawn
Dressings/cheese on salads
Balsamic vinegar or olive oil
Sauces based on cheese or cream
Sauces based on tomatoes or vegetables
Vegetables or meat that is  fried,
deep fried, and roasted
Vegetables or meat that are boiled,
steamed or grilled
Potatoes that are roasted, creamed or
fried e.g. Chips or dauphinois
Potatoes that are steamed or boiled
Sugar coated cereals
Fortified high fibre cereals
Pastries, croissants, cakes
Wholegrain/wholemeal bread

For more information concerning cholesterol see you GP or refer to the British Heart Foundation website: www.bhf.org.uk