Tag Archives: nutrition

The Humble Sprout + A Recipe

The humble sprout is much maligned but it’s a delicious vegetable  (if cooked properly) and as one of the ‘cruciferous’ group of vegetables (along with, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and broccoli)  may help to protect the body from cancer.  I can’t stress this enough: The key is to not overcook them.  If you’ve had bad experiences with them, the chances are that an inexperienced cook has ‘nuked’ them within an inch of their lives, rendering them limp and a slightly yellowy green colour.  In this state they take on a nasty bitterness and are very unpleasant to eat.  Cooked correctly however they should be soft but still retain some of their ‘oomph’ (my technical term, roughly translated to mean ‘some of their body and structure’) and will still appear green.  

To prepare them for cooking: Remove the tougher and loose outer leaves (usually only one or two in number) and rinse in cold water.  I know opinion is divided nowadays but I still like to cut a little cross in the base of them because I find it helps to cook them evenly and quickly.  I then cook mine in one of those foldaway steamer baskets, placed in the bottom of a pan with a little bubbling water underneath, lid on, for 8 – 10 minutes.  Timing depends on the size of the sprouts so do keep an eye on them and check for readiness by poking them with the tip of a sharp knife.  If you prefer, you can of course boil them for an equal amount of time.

To serve: Again, I’m a fan of these little veggies so for me, serving them steaming hot with freshly cracked black pepper is all that I need, but non die-hard sprout fans might also like a knob of butter!

If I still haven’t quite convinced you, here is a very nice recipe for sprouts with a little extra crunch, nuttiness and interest – perfect for Christmas and Thanksgiving lunch and dinners.

CRISP-TOPPED SPROUTS

Serves 8 people    Preparation time: 15 minutes    Cooking time:    15 minutes

 Ingredients

1 kg / 2 lb 4 oz Brussels sprouts

50g / 2 oz white bread, preferably ciabatta

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for serving

25g / 1 oz flaked almonds

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

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Remove any tough leaves and trim sprouts, then steam for 10 minutes until tender. 

Tear the bread into crumbs.  Heat a large frying pan and pour in the olive oil.  Add the bread and fry until just crisp.

Tip in the flaked almonds, garlic and lemon zest, then cook gently until everything is golden (be careful not to burn the garlic).

Place the sprouts in a serving dish, season, then toss with the crumbs etc. You can, if you wish, add a little extra olive oil to finish.

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These can be prepared ahead:  Cook the sprouts the day before to the ‘al dente’ stage (in other words, until almost but not quite cooked).  Remove from the heat and then cool quickly by draining and then plunging into a bowl of iced water.  Drain and set aside in the fridge.  You can also make the topping a day in advance and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.  To serve: Microwave the sprouts for 1-2 minutes or cook in boiling water to re-heat (being careful not to overdo it).  Warm the topping mix then toss with the topping as above.

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Tomato and Lentil Dahl with Toasted Almonds

DahlSomeone asked me for this recipe recently so I thought I’d post it here.

Tried and trusted, it gives the most delicious result, making for a light but nutritious vegetarian meal, rich and full of flavour (although mild, rather than mind-blowingly hot).

Serve it with some warm naan bread and maybe some cool, refreshing natural yoghurt.

Tomato and Lentil Dahl with Toasted Almonds

Serves 4

Ingredients

*As usual, my suggested substitutes for the ingredients have been included and have worked well when the original are unavailable (or you can’t be bothered with peeling and de-seeding tomatoes!).

30ml / 2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 carrot, diced

10ml / 2 tsp yellow mustard seeds (*sub: same quantity of grainy mustard)

2.5 cm / 1 inch piece root ginger, grated

10 ml / 2 tsp ground turmeric

5 ml / 1 tsp mild chilli powder

5 ml / 1 tsp garam masala

225g / 8 oz / 1 cup split red lentils

400 ml / 14 fl oz / 1-2/3 cups water

400 ml / 14 fl oz / 1-2/3 coconut milk

5 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (*sub: 400g tin chopped tomatoes, drained)

Juice of 2 limes

60 ml / 4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

25g / 1 oz / 1/4 cup flaked almonds, toasted, to serve

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Method

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan.  Sauté the onion for 5 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic, carrot, cumin, mustard seeds and ginger.  Cook for 5 minutes until the seeds begin to pop and the carrot softens slightly.

Stir in the ground turmeric, chilli powder and garam masala, and cook for 1 minute or until the flavours begin to mingle, stirring to prevent the spices burning.

Add the lentils, water, coconut milk and tomatoes and season well.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the lentils sticking.

Stir in the lime juice and 45 ml / 3 tbsp of the fresh coriander, then check the seasoning.  Cook for a further 15 minutes until the lentils soften and become tender.

To serve: Sprinkle with the remaining coriander and the flaked almonds.

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From: ‘Vegetarian’ The Greatest Ever Vegetarian Cookbook, publisher LORENZ BOOKS, ISBN 0 7548 0090 3

Nutrition notes:

Spices have long been recognised for their medicinal qualities, from curing flatulence (useful when added to a pulse dish) to warding off colds and flu.

Lentils are a useful source of low-fat protein.  They contain good amounts of B vitamins and provide a rich source of zinc and iron.

You need to eat food rich in vitamin C at the same meal to improve absorption of iron.  Limes are a good source, but you could also serve a fresh fruit dessert containing apples, kiwi fruit and oranges.

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Beautiful Eyes: Preventing & dealing with dark circles

Beautiful eyesAs the new year comes around we all tend to take a critical look at ourselves and if what you see in the mirror right now isn’t quite what you’d like to be seeing, then the following may interest you.  Set out below are a few pointers for anyone concerned about dark circles under their eyes. 

The most obvious and common cause of dark circles is a lack of several good nights’ sleep  – the perceived wisdom being that a minimum 8 hours per night is needed for optimum benefit.  Alcohol consumption alters the quality of our sleep, so if you’ve crashed out for an 11 hour session in bed after an all-night bender, the fact of the matter is that you may still be sorely in need of a good night’s sleep!

Alcohol consumption generally may also have put your kidneys and/or liver under stress and an outward symptom of that is dark circles under the eyes.  Do your system a favour, therefore, by cutting out the alcohol in favour of cool, clear water and those dark circles may soon be a thing of the past. 

Equally, poor diet can put our liver and kidneys under strain.  Increase your intake of green, leafy vegetables and fresh fruit and avoid heavy foods like butter, cream, rich salad dressings and chocolate.  Cut out fried food, coffee and any heavily processed food and drinks.

Dark rings under the eyes can be a sign of anaemia (a lack of iron in the diet).  The remedy may be to follow the dietary advice above but if this is an on-going problem, or you are in any way concerned, you should certainly visit your doctor for advice.

Unfortunately some of us are pre-disposed through our genetic make-up to have dark circles under our eyes and it’s a problem that becomes worse as we age and the skin under the eyes becomes thinner.  If you think this may be the case for you then relatively inexpensive cosmetic eye creams may help disguise the problem as many have light reflecting properties that make the eye area look generally lighter and more youthful.  (Look for something, for example, like l’Oreal eye cream, formulated and packaged for men and women). Don’t use regular moisturiser on the eye area.  It’s too heavy and may weigh the skin down, causing bags! 

Concealer may also help, although you need to use a light hand when applying it.  (I’m not making any money out of recommending this but I’ve always found Yves Saint Laurent ‘Touche Eclat’ (Radiant Touch) to be very useful when I need a fake boost.  Again, use it judiciously or else you will look like a panda)!

Remember, in all cases, if you are at all concerned, or it is an on-going problem a quick visit to the doctor is probably in order.

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