Friday, 27 February 2009

Turmeric - the Super Spice

Hi, those who’ve read my earlier posting about a pro-health approach will recall that, of the 7 pro-health tips I mention, one of them is being aware of the nutritional properties of foods so that you are able to make informed decisions and choose healthy foods to consume. So from time to time I’m going to pick a particular food item and write about its potential health benefits.

Let’s start with the super spice Turmeric. Used in many Indian savoury dishes we tend to generally appreciate it more for its lovely golden colour and completely overlook its immense health giving benefits. So, next time you are tucking into your curry dish, spare a moment to consider the untold health benefits of this humble spice that has long been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of medicine.

Turmeric is a rhizome, a member of the ginger family and is generally boiled, dried and ground into a fine powder which is then used in cooking. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been undergoing much research in recent years with many on-going studies. There is now general acceptance of the amazing medicinal and therapeutic properties of this wrinkly root. The curcumin, present in turmeric, is now known:

• to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties
• to have antiseptic properties
• to be a powerful anti-oxidant
• to have anti-carcinogenic properties

These properties make turmeric beneficial in treating and managing certain medical conditions, as well as improving general health and well being by strengthening the immune system. While there is much research under way, there is now a general understanding that turmeric or its active constituent curcumin:

• is helpful in treating gastro-intestinal conditions such as diarrhoea, colitis, crohn’s disease, IBS
• improves heart health i.e. offers cardiovascular protection [turmeric contains vitamin B6 which helps to lower homosysteine, high levels of which are now known to lead to heart disease]. It also helps to lower the bad cholesterol [LDL]
• Reduces damaging toxins in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s
• is helpful in the fight against certain cancers as it inhibits tumour formation and cell growth and improves liver function


• helps in managing arthritis pain and inflammation by reducing joint inflammation and regular use is found to ease pain for sufferers [beneficial to people suffering psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis]
• turmeric in combination with cauliflower has been found to help in prostate cancer management
• turmeric in combination with onions may prevent colon cancer
• improves liver function thus increasing detoxification of toxins and anti-carcinogens from the body

How can we ensure we get more of this super-food regularly in our diet to reap its multiple health benefits?

Some of you health-savvy people may already be taking regular turmeric [curcumin] supplement capsules and/or using turmeric regularly in your cooking. Well done you! If you opt for the capsules just make sure you get the pharmaceutical grade – generally those containing standardized extract of turmeric of up to 95% will have sufficient levels of curcumin to yield health benefits.

If you don’t generally use or consume turmeric how can you start getting this wonder-food into yourself and the rest of your family members? Now that you know it’s vast health giving potential, how can you use it more in your cooking?

Some ideas from me to get the ball rolling:
• in savoury curries and dishes
• in savoury rice dishes
• turmeric root pickle - peeled turmeric pieces pickled in salt water
• in hot milk with honey – great for sore throats
• in plain hot water with honey and lemon – again great for sore throats [if you don’t want the milk in above suggestion]

I’m sure there are many more ideas swirling out there. Please share your suggestions here [insert in comment section].

I promise to post a turmeric-rich dish here soon.
*********************************************
Suggestions from readers:
Use in things like veggie burgers [see NiNA's comment below]
Stir-fries
Soups
Cutlets

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Beetroot & Potato Curry

Talk about coincidences! We just happened to make this dish on Sunday and I thought I’d write up about it in week or two’s time. Two days later, my dear niece D in New Jersey, USA writes asking about the recipe for this beetroot curry that she had tasted on her trip to the UK and which I had promised to send to her but just never got round to it. Well D, here it is, my apologies for the delay but hope it’s not dampened your enthusiasm and that you will try it out soon.

Beetroot is a delightful and tasty vegetable and like many people I’d mainly had it in a salad, and then only if it was the raw beetroot. I just didn’t like the cooked and vinegar pickled beetroot that we get here in the UK supermarkets. Along comes my husband and introduces me to this finger-licking, unctuous curry and I have been hooked ever since.


Health benefits:
Beetroot, including its stalks and green leaves, is highly nutritious and some people even term it as one of the Superfoods. It has high Vitamin A content and is rich in the minerals potassium, and calcium with small amounts of iron and magnesium. It’s an excellent source of fibre, both soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre is good in helping to lower the LDL [‘bad cholesterol’] in the blood. It has beta-carotene which is an anti-oxidant. Best of all, it has virtually no fat and very few calories. And, it is considered to be an aphrodisiac….hmmm….maybe good to include in your Valentine menu! The sugars in beetroot are the slow-converting variety so you wont be getting any blood sugar highs, and the folate in cooked beetroot is considered to protect against Alzheimer’s, dementia and hypertension.


Ingredients
250 gms Raw beetroots, washed, peeled and chopped into 1cm cubes [beware the red staining – wear gloves if you wish although it does wash off hands quite easily]
2 medium sized potatoes, washed and cut into large chunky pieces [they need to be bigger than the beetroot otherwise they’ll just break up]
1 bay leaf
1 inch cinnamon stick
3-4 green cardamoms
2-3 pieces cloves
1 medium sized onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped or ground
2 inch piece ginger, chopped or ground
2 small green chillies, chopped
1 tspn – sugar
1.5 tspn – coriander powder
0.75 tspn – cumin powder
0.25 tspn – turmeric powder
2 tbspn – vegetable oil
Salt to taste
Hot water from the kettle – just enough to cover the veg
Slice of lemon and chopped green coriander to garnish

1. Heat oil in a pan and when hot, flavour it with the dry whole spices i.e. the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, green cardamoms and cloves.
2. When they begin to turn brown, add the green chillies first and 30 seconds later add the onions. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently until they begin to go brown round the edges.
3. Add in the sugar, stir for 30 seconds and then add in the chopped/ground ginger and garlic. Let it cook for about a minute or so.
4. Add the potatoes, stir and let them cook and go a little brown all over. This seals them and prevents them breaking down too easily in the sauce. This should take no more than 1-2 minutes.
5. Add the prepared beetroot, coriander powder, cumin powder and turmeric. Stir, cover with lid and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
6. Now add sufficient hot water to cover the vegetables. Cover and simmer on low-medium heat until the potatoes are done and just beginning to break down and little and thicken the sauce.
7. Garnish with the chopped green coriander and a squeeze of lemon juice and serve.


This dish goes really well with boiled rice. Children love seeing the rice go pink! It can also be eaten with couscous, pitta bread or a nice crusty roll.

I’m sure there are many other ways to enjoying this superb vegetable and now that I know it's one of the superfoods [see I’m learning as I write here] I shall be trying out different ways of enjoying it. If you do come across something good beetroot recipe yourself please feel free to share it here.

Happy healthy eating!

Healthy? : 7 pro-health tips

Hi, to carry on from my earlier discussion about fuelling your body with healthy foods for optimum health and fitness - I call this a pro-health approach to your body and health which embraces more than just the intake of food.

So what do you need to be pro-health?


1. Information

In the 21st Century we, especially in the Western economies, are surrounded by an abundance of opportunities and choices regarding the fuelling, feeding and fitness of our body. Often we make decisions and choices prompted by the latest food or diet fad rather than basing it on relevant knowledge and information. We need to arm ourselves with a broad range of health information about the functioning of our body and about the right nutrition that will nourish our body and keep it functioning well. We need to be proactive and seek out healthy living ideas, products and information.

2. Preventative measures

Armed with the relevant health ideas and information you are empowered to prevent ill health or disease developing. Just like your precious car, you do not need to wait for your good health to break down. You can instead be proactive and take preventative measures to inhibit poor health and maximise good health. Fire prevention rather than fire fighting. For example, eating nutrient rich foods and taking appropriate supplements from an earlier age [whilst you are in your 20s and 30s] may prevent various aging ailments such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s, joint problems, etc.

3. Regular and positive health habits

For vibrant, vital and optimum health, you need to incorporate regular and positive health habits that support and nurture your body. These can be simple daily strategies such as getting adequate sleep, eating regularly, eating healthy foods as much as possible, managing stress constructively etc.


4. Motivation

Keep yourself motivated by visualising and always keeping at the forefront of your mind the kind of body and health you want to have. Focus on the positive i.e. yourself in good health rather than the negative of you suffering ill health. Visualise yourself as a slim, well toned, healthy body which has tons of stamina and energy that will sustain you in your life’s journey. Focus on nutrient rich foods that will fuel and sustain this body.


5. Physical fitness

While consuming nutrient rich superfoods will fuel your body for good health, you need to complement this with physical fitness for OPTIMUM health. The human body needs to move and move regularly. You need to ensure you incorporate physical movements and exercises in your daily life, whether it is something casual like a walk or a fitness workout regime, choose what suits you and your circumstances and make this one of your regular and positive health habits mentioned above.


6. Mental & Emotional Health

These are often overlooked aspects of the human health. A positive mental mindset will influence your physical health and vice versa. Take stress for example, a stressed person will invariably develop physical symptoms unless that stress is managed constructively. Stress begins in the mind, when the mind perceives that it does not have the capacity to deal with a challenge. Learning to deal constructively and effectively with life’s challenges will empower you mentally and emotionally. Managing your own mind and mindset are easily learnt skills which are invaluable in your life’s journey.


7. Spiritual/humanitarian health

The human mind only needs a why and it can confront and deal with many difficulties. So said the famous philosopher Nietche. What is your ‘why’? Your purpose, your connection with others? Do explore what philosophical or spiritual beliefs are in line with your values. What difference do you make to this world? What is your contribution to this world? How would you like the world to remember you when you are no more? These kinds of thoughts may not seem important or relevant to you as you struggle through daily life. However, it does inform all your decisions and choices and is well worth some effort. It will ground and stabilise you.


Wishing you great health always!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Arvi sabzi


Arvi is an Indian vegetable that looks almost like jerusalem artichoke. It's not the most attractive looking vegetable and I'm afraid I have tended to ignore it somewhat. Mainly because I just didn't know what to do with it or how to cook it and then, a big thanks to my husband, I
started enjoying it when he cooked it using a simple north Indian recipe.[Yes, he has a wicked way with the veg!]

This is a dryish, stir-fried kind of dish. Apparently you can make it with gravy but that's a little tricky as the arvi tends to go all glutenous and gooey in the company of any liquid. The gujerati community of India use the large, green arvi leaves to make a lovely snack dish called 'patra'. This dish uses the actual root arvi. It tastes a little potato-like, a little on the bland side and therefore easily takes on outside flavours. It has less carbohydrates than potato and will not lead to spikes in blood sugar levels like the potato.

Ingredients
250gm arvi
1 tspn caraway seeds [ajwain]
2 tbsn sunflower oil
salt to taste
1-2 whole dry red chillies
0.5 tspn dry red chilli flakes
0.25 tspn turmeric powder
black pepper to taste
chopped coriander for garnish

1. Prepare the arvi first. Boil it in a pan of water until it is just cooked through but not squishy. Drain, peel the arvi and chop in half-inch rounds.

2. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan or wok. When the oil is hot add the whole dry red chillies and when they begin to turn dark add the caraway seeds [ajwain]. The seeds will begin to splutter and crackle.

3. Add the prepared arvi, turmeric and chilli flakes, stir and let it cook over low to medium heat, stirring frequently. Ideally you want to keep stirring it to ensure the arvi doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan but should begin to crispen up and brown gently. This should take no more than 4-5 minutes.

4. Add the salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir, garnish with chopped fresh coriander and tuck in.


Arvi is a root vegetable and I'm sure there must be some nutritional benefit there [need to research that a bit]. The caraway seeds have a lovely, distinct flavour and goes very well with the bland arvi and has good digestive properties.

Next time you are making a side dish of potatoes to go with the other indian dishes on the menu, try this arvi dish instead and add a new flavour to your usual repertoire.

If you've got some recipes using this unusual vegetable do please share it here.

Sausage & Vegetable Casserole

This was initially supposed to be a vegetable and bean casserole. I’d planned a get-together with two very dear friends of mine who are both vegetarian. The vegetable and bean casserole was to be a healthy main course. Unfortunately, on the day, for a number of reasons, neither of the friends could make it. So there I was with all these vegetables ready and prepared, just awaiting a happy union with the beans. I shelved the beans [literally as it was a can of borlotti beans I was going to use]. Instead I found some sausages in the fridge which needed some good treatment and company and so evolved this delicious hearty and healthy sausage and vegetable casserole that was a treat to tuck into on a cold February day.


Ingredients

3-4 good quality sausages snipped into 1 inch pieces

A can of passata [sieved tomatoes]

Herb – 1 -1.5 tspn oregano or thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

0.5 tspn sugar [strange but it cuts the acidity of the tomatoes and enhances its flavour]

2 tbspn olive oil

2 Portobello mushrooms sliced

1 orange pepper sliced

Broccoli sliced

2 stalks of spring onions sliced into small rings

3-4 garlic cloves chopped

0.5 litre vegetable stock or plain hot water


1. Heat a very small amount of oil in a heavy bottomed pan and fry the sausage pieces until evenly browned. Empty into a bowl and keep aside while you do the vegetables.

2. In the same pan, add some more oil. When it’s hot, add the spring onions, garlic and the peppers. Stir for a minute or two. Now add the sliced mushrooms. Stir and sauté until the mushrooms just begin to wilt. Add the browned sausage pieces. Sauté for another minute.

3. Now add the passata, salt, sugar and herbs. Let it cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Add the vegetable stock or hot water. [nb: it’s fine to use plain water as there are plenty of strong flavours already]. Stir and simmer on low heat for about 10-15 minutes so that all the flavours blend it. At the end there should still be plenty of liquid for you to dunk your bread in. Add some more hot water if necessary. The vegetables should still be whole but tender having soaked in all the lovely casserole juices.

5. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and lovely crusty bread.


Although casseroles are normally made in the oven, this is a quicker version which can be done on the hob. Health wise, this is a very nutritious. Although you do have some saturated fats from the sausages, you could use the beans instead and make it healthier still. You have plenty of fibre with all the veg in there.


I find recipes like this use two main ingredients which are both extremely healthy and flavoursome. Garlic and tomatoes. Both these are extensively used both in Italian and Indian cooking and any recipe using these two items is guaranteed to be delicious.


Versatile? Well, you can have a bowl of it with crusty bread as a hearty, healthy and filling lunch. If you have any leftover, you could use it as a pasta sauce for the evening dinner ;-))) Any other ways of using it? Do let me know.






Thursday, 12 February 2009

Salmon-a healthy snack using canned salmon


This is a really versatile, quick, convenient and healthy dish which I rustled up one evening when I got in late from work. It uses ingredients you’d have in your store cupboard and fridge and takes very little time to prepare. Best of all it is nutrient-rich; salmon is high quality protein and rich in omega-3 oils which are good for the brain, the garlic and onions have anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties and are excellent for blood circulation and strengthening the immune system, and the parsley/coriander bring their own herbal benefits and add a fresh zestiness to the dish.



Ingredients

1 small can of salmon [about 160g], preferably in spring water

I small onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 green chilli, chopped

1 tbspn vegetable oil

Salt and black pepper according to taste

Parsley or coriander, chopped

Garam-masala [optional] for extra spiciness [but do not use if using parsley]

Lemon slice

1. Warm the vegetable oil in a small pan.

2. Add the chopped onion and sauté over low heat until translucent.

3. Add the chopped garlic and chilli and sauté for another minute or so.

4. Drain the water from the salmon can, flake the salmon gently and add to the onion mixture.

5. Add salt and black pepper. Stir and cook for about 3-5 minutes over medium heat until the salmon is well warmed through and has picked up some brown flecks. Remove from heat.

6. Add the garam-masala if you are using it. Otherwise garnish with the parsley or coriander and a squeeze of lemon.

Now tuck in and enjoy knowing this delicious snack is just full of goodness. This dish can be used as a starter, a healthy snack or even as a tasty sandwich filler.

Have you rustled up a healthy snack that you’d like to share here? Please do comment.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Food = Our Fuel for Optimum Health

My take on food: I like and believe the Hippocrates' saying ‘Let food be thy medicine, and medicine thy food.’ And so I do try and make healthy food choices as far as possible. Lest I should come across as all pious and righteous, please be assured, I do enjoy some naughty foods too [high fat, high salt etc.].

Over the years I have become more conscious of what we eat and how it affects our body. I believe the human body is like a finely tuned, high-performance, top-of-the range car. It is an amazing system capable of much given the right and appropriate fuels, maintenance and attention. Unfortunately, nowadays, the motor vehicle receives more attention than the human body. Most people treat their cars with love, affection, regular care and maintenance and are ultra careful about ensuring that only the manufacturer’s recommended gas, oil and lubrication is used to run and maintain their vehicle.

The human body on the other hand is taken for granted. Good health is taken for granted and attention and care only applied in the absence of good health. Our body is the one and only body we have in this lifetime. It is our high performance vehicle, which if treated right, will ensure that our life’s journey is healthful, zestful, trouble free and worry free. With a little bit of thoughtful and regular attention we can ensure that our body supports us fully in our life’s journey, so that we are at our optimum health at all times and can deliver peak performance in any situation.

What kind of attention and maintenance does our body require? All bodies are unique and each body will have its individual needs and requirements. In order to assess what OUR body requires we need to be empowered to make informed decisions and choices about it. The baseline or guiding principle should be a prohealth approach to our body. We do not have to wait for it to break down before we give it some attention. After all we don’t usually wait for our car to break down, do we?

If we have a high performance car we will ensure that we have regular checks and that we give it the right fuels for optimum performance. It’s the same with the human body. OUR body. It is our most valuable asset and should be safeguarded and protected as such. What’s the best way to look after our body? How do we know what is good for our body or what our body needs? How do we choose?

I believe in the 21st Century there is so much information easily available to help us learn about how to look after ourselves that we need to take responsibility for maintaining good health. In order to do so we need to learn about the best foods that will fuel and support our body and avoid the ones that harm us.

Don’t panic, you don’t need to rush into a nutrition course. Just become more conscious and thoughtful about what you eat. Empower yourself with enough information to help you make informed decisions about your food choices.

And, of course, you can always check in regularly on this blog for some tips on healthy eating and delicious recipes.

Monday, 9 February 2009

What, another food blog?

What?? Surely, not another food blog!! you say. Hasn’t the subject of food been covered enough and done to death? So what can be new in the food world??

Well, yes, this IS a food blog…BUT….we aim to take a slightly sideways approach to it. Yes we will talk about food, recipes, dishes, ingredients etc. However, we also aim to explore the commonalities and mutualities among the world cuisines, global cuisine and different cultures, communities and regions. Food helps people connect from all parts of the world, regardless of cast, creed or religion.

In England they say the weather is a great ice breaking topic. We believe food is an equally excellent and under-rated icebreaker. Have you noticed how when you throw strangers together they tend to congregate around the drinks and food tables? Even if you don’t have anything in common with the next person you will find, invariably, that you can share some comments about the food and from thereon lead into other subjects. No need to have shared interests. Just tuck
in and enjoy talking about it!

Here at FoodWiz4U we love food and, over the years, have found that food has been central to many key events and developments in our lives. We have created many dishes, innovated many, shared many and broken much bread with many many friends, family and relatives. Many joyful and memorable moments are around sharing food, exploring different varieties of dishes, trying out new dishes and ingredients and delighting in the resulting heavenly, finger licking and absolutely scrumptious outcomes.

Living in London we are blessed with access to all kinds of ingredients and varieties of fruits and vegetables from almost all over the world. We have used every opportunity to try out dishes from different world cuisines, either by eating out or even trying out the dishes at home. We have learnt to utilise and enjoy local foods and dishes, sometimes jazzing them up with little touches from our own cultural cuisine.

There has been great pleasure in being creative and innovative and developing new dishes which I guess you could call fusion cooking because it borrows from different communities, cultures and regions.

Others who love their foods but just don’t have the time to cook from first principles as used to happen ‘back home’ have found ways of shortening the cooking processes, and creating short cut dishes.

Here at FoodWiz4U we hope to share our joy and pleasure of food as well as entertain you with our ramblings, musings and rants about various food related topics and we invite you to join us by sharing your comments and views too.

We know food can also be a powerful healer, remember the famous Hippocrates' saying ‘Let food be thy medicine, and medicine thy food.’


Well, with so many doctors in our family we do tend to often [but maybe not enough] look beyond instant gratification and consider the nutritional and healing properties of food and we hope to offer some nuggets of wisdom on that too!

Food is also an emotive subject – not only does it satisfy your most basic instincts but can lead to pretty heated debates!

We promise you an entertaining excursion in the world of food and food related topics here!