Category Archives: Nutritional information

Black cumin seed: the cure for everything except death

The prophet Mohammed stated in his Hadith that black cumin cures every illness except death. The use of  black cumin seed, also known as nigella seed (nigella sativa), originated in Ancient Egypt where it was reputedly used by Queen Nefertiti and Cleopatra and traces of the oil were found in Tutankhamen’s tomb. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine and the phrase ‘vis medicatrix natural‘ (the healing power of nature) used it to help with digestive and metabolic disorders.

Clinical studies prove time and time again black seed oil’s therapeutic uses, due mainly to its Thymoquinone content. This study, one among many, addresses the multitude of potential medical uses of the oil. It has been studied as an aid to fighting cancer, asthma and also as a tool to fighting drug-resistant bacteria like MRSA. In fact, there are so many studies backing up its efficacy, that it ranks amongst the top evidence-based herbal medicines. Black cumin seed oil has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-parasitic and anti-fungal actions.

It helps digestion: the oil and seeds are carminative, which means they aid digestion and can help to decrease bloating, gas and stomach cramps. If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), black cumin oil may be very beneficial as it’s been shown to have antispasmodic effects on the smooth muscle of the intestine. Black Cumin seed also appears to have anti-ulcer properties against Heliobacter pylori.

It alleviates allergies: The oil has a significant anti-histamic action. The benefits experienced were likely to be due to the effects of the black cumin oil on immune response, as well as its antihistamine effects. It also appears to have bronchodilatory properties, making it suitable for use with asthma and bronchitis.

It has been widely used to treat diseases of the nervous system such as memory impairment, epilepsy, neurotoxicity and pain. Black cumin oil also has mood stabilising, anti-anxiety and anti-depressant actions; its effectiveness in these areas is probably due to the fact that it increases GABA.

It helps detoxify and heal the liver when the liver is stressed due to medication side effects, alcohol consumption, overeating or disease. Scientists confirmed in a recent study that black seed oil benefits liver function and helps prevent damage.

Black seed oil is one of the few substances that has been found to help prevent both both type 1 and type 2 diabetes: Doctors from the Indian Council of Medical Research found that it ’causes gradual partial regeneration of pancreatic beta-cells, increases the lowered serum insulin concentrations and decreases the elevated serum glucose.’ According to the study, it improves glucose tolerance as efficiently as metformin without the significant adverse effects.

Black seed oil is effective for the immune system, either to enhance or balance. Particularly beneficial for autoimmune disease, it acts by balancing the immune system; it increases immune function without encouraging an immune reaction against healthy tissue in the body.

It may be taken in seed form (I often add seeds to bread and savoury pancakes, see above), or in oil form (I take one teaspoon of this one mixed in water twice a day). It may also be applied to the skin in case of skin conditions such as eczema and boils to soothe inflammation, itching and heal scars.

 

Roasted mackerel with white wine and mustard vinaigrette and pigs in the woods

mackerel

For some reason I was thinking about wild boar while out walking with the dogs yesterday evening. As you do. Boar have really proliferated in this area over the past few years and often make quite a nuisance of themselves; it’s obvious where they’ve been because they scratch at the ground, turning up sand, dirt and dead leaves. The sows are particularly aggressive in the spring when they have their young to protect. Although we’re seeing more and more traces, it’s still quite rare to actually see them. My thoughts and I were on a little path by the river where, in the nine years we’ve been here, I have never seen a soul (or a pig for that matter), when I heard the distinctive sound of rustling leaves coming from the bushes. My mind’s ear might even have heard an ‘oink’.

Despite all evidence pointing towards a killer drove of wild pigs, it actually turned out to be a cyclist looking for his mobile ‘phone that he’d dropped the day before. It’s just as well I don’t have a hunting rifle, because I might have shot him. Flooded with relief at having cheated ‘death by wild boar’, I momentarily forgot the correct French term, sanglier, and said: ‘Oh, I’m sorry! I thought you were a pig!’. In terms of animal insults, pig is definitely right up there, and it has absolutely none of the nobility of the term boar. Desperately trying to redeem myself I continued: ‘Don’t worry, now I see your fluorescent clothing , you look nothing like a pig’. As if he would have been a dead ringer for one minus cycling garb. Luckily my inner, and extremely repressed, sage intervened to say that now would be a good time to stop talking. Forever if at all possible.

It was not one of my finer moments. I must say though, he was exceedingly gracious for someone who had just been accosted by a total nutter in the woods. Especially as he must have been quite keen to escape. I never did find out if he found his ‘phone.

This recipe is adapted from a Gordon Ramsay recipe. It’s quick and simple to make and the result is moreish and very healthy. Mackerel is one of the richest fish sources of omega 3 which is beneficial for the heart, helps prevent diabetes, improves bone and joint health and improves memory and mental status.

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 small mackerel, gutted

500g new potatoes, peeled

4  shallots, peeled and finely sliced

For the vinaigrette:

½ teaspoon curry powder

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Add the garlic, paprika, sea salt and olive oil to and small bowl and mix to form a smooth paste. Rub the mackerel with the paste and set aside in a ceramic baking dish.

Boil the potatoes under tender, then drain. Return them to the pan with a bit of sea salt and olive oil and crush roughly with the back of a fork, adding and combining the chopped shallots.

Roast the mackerel for about 20 minutes. To make the vinaigrette, place all the ingredients in a bowl and beat well with a fork until velvety-smooth.

Serve the mackerel on the potatoes and topped with vinaigrette.

 

Green and orange winter vegetables and a gallant caretaker

greenorangeveg

HugojournoandJava

I noticed that Bossy hasn’t been boasting about her latest achievement: a broken bone in her foot, which she achieved running around barefoot like a child. (I’m only telling you this because I felt she was a little bit dismissive — caustic even — about my entirely-justified need for a change of  location for my bed in her last post.) Java goes absolutely stark raving loony if she doesn’t get enough exercise so, in the absence of a suitably tiny strait jacket, Bossy has been taking us out on her bike, pedalling with one foot. Because she’s such a klutz temporarily handicapped, I’ve been staying by her side as her balance looks more than a little bit precarious. Apparently though, I underestimated her ineptitude because she managed to cycle into me and fall off anyway. She wasn’t cross though because I think she knew I was just trying to be supportive.

In other broken bone-related news, the Tall One has been seeing an acupuncturist, Mr Chan, about his shoulder. He seemed quite upset that Mr Chan hadn’t shown any enthusiasm to see his entire x-ray collection as opposed to just the relevant ones. I have to say, I can see Mr Chan’s point; extensive and chronologically-ordered photographic evidence of someone else’s fracture history is hardly inspiring is it?

As you all know, I’m not a vegetable fan, but I have to say this dish was quite pretty and apparently very healthy. With a wide variety of nutrients ranging from magnesium and manganese to copper, protein and zinc, pumpkin seeds pack quite a punch. Having said this, Bossy and Tall eat them all the time and it doesn’t seem to stop them from doing silly things.

Ingredients (serves 4)

500g Brussels sprouts, peeled and halved

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 shallots, peeled and sliced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 carrots, peeled and julienned

1 handful pumpkin seeds

1 handful flaked almonds

1 satsuma, peeled and cut into segments

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon paprika

½ tablespoon honey

Cook the Brussels sprouts briefly in salted boiling water for about five minutes, drain and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the shallots and garlic until golden. Add the sprouts and carrots and cook until the carrots soften a little (about five minutes). Add the pumpkin seeds, flaked almonds, satsuma pieces, seasoning and honey and cook for another few minutes until everything is honey-coated. Serve!

Leek and potato soup with mushrooms and repeat offenders

leekpotatomushsoup

After a busy week for tumbles — my husband fell backwards off his horse and frontwards off his bike — we had planned to go the beach for lunch on Sunday. Léo however had other plans; he performed a forward somersault off his bike and landed on his already twice-fractured arm.

Emergency departments are never a pretty sight, but even less so on Sunday mornings when they’re full of bloody rugby players (I don’t have anything against rugby players, but they always seem to have blood spouting from somewhere), and the dregs of Saturday night. As they fast track young children, I told Léo to make himself look little, which, as he’s over 6ft now, made me sound a bit insane.

The receptionist greeted us like old friends and commented more than once on the fact that our family’s records took up a substantial amount of room on her database. As this was potentially his fourth broken arm (he once very efficiently broke them both at the same time), she wondered if he might have any deficiencies. I said that yes, I was convinced he had a number of deficiencies: fear and common sense to name but two. She looked at me strangely and said that she had be thinking more along the lines of calcium or vitamin D. In the end, it turned out that his arm wasn’t broken, just badly dented, which didn’t really sound much better to me, but I suppose it made for a change. For some reason, on our way out I felt compelled to shout over to the receptionist like a madwoman that his arm wasn’t properly broken this time. I felt the need to justify as she’d made me feel like a repeat offender. I suppose she might have a point…

Leeks are an extremely rich source of  vitamin K which is surprisingly important for bone health. Mind you, so is avoiding falling off your horse or bike. Vitamin K has repeatedly been shown to help avoid bone fractures. Leeks also contain substantial quantities of vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus and are a rich source of allicin, a sulphur-containing compound with anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.

Ingredients (serves 6)

45g butter

6 small leeks, rinsed and diced

2 large potatoes, peeling and diced

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

1 thyme sprig

2 bay leaves

500ml chicken stock  (or vegetable if you prefer)

1 teaspoon paprika

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons crème fraîche

85g mushrooms, sliced

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the leeks, potatoes, garlic, shallots and thyme and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the stock and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Remove the thyme and bay leaves. Blend the soup until smooth and add the crème fraîche. Fry the mushroom in a little butter until golden brown, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add a spoonful of mushrooms to each bowl of soup and serve.

Apple cider vinegar: an impressive multitasker

applecidervinegar

The word vinegar translates to vin aigre, which means ‘sour wine’ in French. One of the earliest noted uses of apple cider vinegar was by Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. He used it extensively, sometimes mixed with honey, as a remedy for a multitude of ailments.

It has been purported to cure just about every condition under the sun at some time or another. While some claims of its plethora of healing powers may be exaggerated, it is, in my opinion, most beneficial for digestive health. I take a couple of teaspoons in a glass of water every morning and haven’t suffered from indigestion for a long time.

fruitbis

Rich in enzymes, apple cider vinegar aids digestion when there is a lack of stomach acid; a lack of hydrochloric acid is the most common reason for indigestion and reflux problems. It also acts as a natural prebiotic by encouraging the growth of good bacteria in the intestine. In addition, the acetic acid has also been shown to help with mineral absorption, which means you get the most out of the food you eat. The consumption of apple cider vinegar on a regular basis helps the gut flora function more efficiently.

The vinegar contains a perfect balance of 19 minerals including potassium, phosphorus, chlorine, sodium, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, iron, fluorine, silicon and zinc. Drinking a couple of teaspoons diluted in water is an excellent way to replace electrolytes lost after exercise or during hot weather. Its potassium and magnesium content can also help relieve leg cramps. It is rich in enzymes which boost chemical reactions in the body, and malic acid which protects from viruses, bacteria and fungus.

The acetic acid content of apple cider vinegar slows the digestion of starch, tempering the insulin response and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Numerous studies show that vinegar can increase insulin sensitivity and significantly lower blood sugar responses after eating. It also contains pectin which helps to regulate blood pressure and ash which contributes to the maintenance of an alkaline state in the body.

And one of apple cider vinegar’s more random abilities is its effectiveness in stopping hiccups in their tracks. It works by cancelling out the message sent to the brain to hiccup by overstimulating the nerves responsible for the spasms. It is also effective to reduce the itchiness, redness and inflammation of insect bites.

The best form of apple cider vinegar to buy is the ‘mother’ form – the pure, murky, unpasteurised form. And obviously it should be organic: choosing apple cider vinegar made with organic apples is the best way to maximize the nutrient content and minimize your exposure to pesticides.

marketman

Hazelnut mocha cake (gf) and hiring a PA

chochazelnut

HugojournoandJava

Noisy is a resourceful boy: Within a day of returning to school last week, he had found himself a very efficient personal assistant. A much-needed personal assistant I might add because, although he’s a clever boy, he doesn’t do well with practical matters and is rather absent-minded. Quite often he asks me what day it is and whether or not he’s had lunch yet. His new assistant ‘phones him in the morning to tell him which classroom he should go to and at what time, and in return Noisy advises on homework matters.

I have decided to take a leaf out of Noisy’s book and recruit a PA for myself. I believe that in some circles, you don’t even exist if you don’t have a PA. I’m having difficulty finding someone though. So far I’ve had applications from Java (ha ha, in your dreams Java), a couple of hens and a somewhat persistent hedgehog. Still, I’m quite determined because things can’t go on like this – I have too many slap-happy charges. Last week Bossy went flying over the handlebars of her mountain bike because Java chased a deer onto the track in front of her, and Java pinched a pair of Bossy’s shoes and vomited into them. I have taken to hiding in the shower for some respite. Please let me know if you can suggest any suitable applicants.

hugoPA

hugoshower

Hazelnuts are a good source of oleic and linoleic acids and are also rich in dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytochemicals.

Ingredients (10 servings)

150g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa)

115g coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 tablespoons black coffee

4 eggs, separated

100g cane sugar

100ml plain yoghurt

70g ground hazelnuts

40g buckwheat flour

75g hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and prepare a medium-sized loaf tin. Melt the chocolate and coconut oil until smooth and add the vanilla extract and coffee. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and yogurt until light and smooth and then combine with the melted chocolate/coconut oil/coffee. Mix the ground hazelnuts, buckwheat flour, chopped hazelnuts, salt and bicarbonate of soda together and combine with the egg yolk and chocolate mixture. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks and gently but thoroughly fold into the mocha mixture. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the tin and leave to cool. Delicious served alone or with Greek yoghurt or ice cream.

Fresh figs with ginger mascarpone and honey and Bijou on the drums

figsandyoghurt

We’ve been sleeping with the all windows wide open to make the most of the slightly cooler night air, which means that I was woken at 3am a few days ago by a very noisy, metallic and somewhat unorthodox rendition of When The Saints Go Marching In. After a quick recce, which involved almost knocking myself out on a wooden beam, I came to the conclusion that I hadn’t actually fallen asleep in a sleazy jazz club, and the appalling racket was coming from the direction of the stables. Never underestimate my powers of deduction. Torch in hand, I soon discovered Bijou (our youngest horse) in full swing by the water trough, which I suppose must be the equine equivalent of a bar. He had got hold of two metal buckets, three tins, a broom and a hoof pick and was delighting in putting each item to maximum sonic use with the help of his hooves and surrounding walls, whilst strutting his funky stuff. The other horses were looking on slightly bemused and I don’t think I’m mistaken in saying that one of the more adoring hens (Bijou is very handsome) was tapping her foot in time to the surprisingly rhythmic din. Hugo and Java slept right through the performance – I don’t think they can be jazz connoisseurs.

bijoudrum2

My musical nights mean I’m not always in a state to contemplate elaborate recipes, but I think some of the nicest dishes are a happy marriage of flung-together ingredients. This is a good example.

Figs are a particularly rich source of minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper. They are also high in fibre and vitamins A, E and K. Figs also contain prebiotics, which help support the pre-existing good bacteria in the gut, improving digestion and general health.

Ingredients (serves 4)

12 fresh figs, cleaned and cut in half

8 large tablespoons of mascarpone

2 teaspoons ginger, freshly grated

4 tablespoon runny honey

20 walnuts, roughly broken

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Arrange the figs in individual desert bowls. Combine the mascarpone and freshly grated ginger and add two large tablespoons per bowl. Drizzle a tablespoon of honey over the figs and mascarpone, add the walnuts and finally sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve immediately!

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