Category Archives: Nutritional information

Radish top soup and hot air and bubbles

I love our dogs, I really do, but they’ve been doing my head in during this Sahara Bubble. Yesterday they kept forgetting just how hot it was outside, which meant that I spent the better part of the 41° heat of the day and early evening playing ‘Doors’, when I should have been prostrate with a cool compress on my head, perusing my book about expeditions to the South Pole to conjure up ice-cold thoughts. The rules of ‘Doors’ are quite simple: you run between the back door and the front door, alternately letting in and out hot, panting dogs with very short memories.

You might be wondering why I don’t exercise a bit of authority (LOL – you and I have obviously never met), and tell them to stay put, but Hugo would head butt the door until he knocked himself unconscious, and Java would do her standing-on-hind-legs routine and end up falling over backwards, also knocking herself unconscious. So tempting, but no. And then this morning, to add insult to injury:  You know those hilariously funny videos you see of dogs rolling in wet, sticky mud coming back coated from head to paw? Java. Not hilarious. That’s all I’m saying.

While I was jet washing the muddy kitchen floor, Luc ‘phoned from the supermarket to say that he had put his trousers on back-to-front (he realised when he tried to put his wallet in his pocket and it fell to the floor). He had to waddle back to the car to wrestle them off and back on again the right way. Give me strength. On a positive note at least it’s a bit cooler today.

As I was far too hot and exhausted to go shopping yesterday, I made this soup with radish tops from the garden. It was more of a success than my dog disciplining attempts, which is admittedly not difficult. Radish greens contain a high concentration of vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, calcium, and vitamin A.

Ingredients (serves 6)

45g butter

1 onion, peeled and sliced

2 shallots, peeled and sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 bunches radish greens, rinsed

2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced

1l chicken stock (or vegetable if you prefer)

1 teaspoon paprika

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons crème fraîche

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onions, shallots and garlic, fry for about five minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the radish tops and potatoes, coating in the butter and cook for a few minutes longer. Add the stock and seasoning and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the radish tops and potatoes are soft. Blend the soup until smooth and add the crème fraîche.

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Watercress soup and disarray at dawn

I have to get up far too early at the moment; it’s still dark  which makes it the middle of the night in my book. Java has become a bit of an early bird and launches herself at me like a little, blonde heat-seeking missile as soon as I come downstairs. I have to let her out quickly because she has work to do.  She has taken to ‘rearranging’ the scruffy pile of shoes that hangs out on the doorstep, depositing them thoughtfully and poetically on the grass in front of the house. This morning she outdid herself: She took each shoe and dunked it in the river before laying it out to dry on the grass. Getting ready to leave in a rush is fun when it involves having to retrieve a pair (preferably, although I have on occasion resorted to wearing odd shoes) in my size, which is  neither too soaking wet nor chewed to pieces. You might think I’d be inspired to tidy the shoes away, but no. I can’t tell her off because it causes her to develop a very bad limp and disappear for hours.

When Luc gets up I have to ‘talk him down’ with regard to whatever weird dreams he’s fallen victim to during the night. It’s asparagus season, and for some reason eating asparagus in the evening has much the same psychedelic effect on him as a large plate of shrooms. This morning he was quite distraught at how France had suffered despicable referee bias during a France/Spain football match. He was obviously thinking in terms of retribution, because he asked me lots of detailed questions about disposing of bodies in concrete, which is just the ticket when you’re eating your porridge. This is obviously my specialist subject so I was happy to provide him with particulars. A few nights ago, there was a coup d’état in Argentina, which he was called upon to fly over and sort out, taking me along as his interpreter. I’m still worrying about how that would have turned out.  Thank goodness for small mercies: Hugo and Léo are far less complicated in the morning because neither of them communicates until after midday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watercress contains enormous quantities of vitamin K, but also vitamin C and vitamin A.  It contains the minerals manganese, iron and calcium and flavonoids such as beta carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein.  It is a good source of B-complex vitamins.

Ingredients (serves 6)

4 potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 turnips, peeled and chopped

2 onions, peeled and sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon olive oil,

Freshly ground black pepper, sea salt,

1 teaspoon paprika

4 bunches of watercress, well rinsed and chopped

600ml organic stock

Crème fraîche

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, adding the potato, turnip, onion and garlic.  Fry until translucent. Add the seasoning, watercress and the stock and simmer for about five minutes. Blend until smooth and serve with crème fraîche.

Oatcakes and small lazy animals

Bossy is currently embracing her inner sloth (her excuse is that she has the flu). I would like to say it makes for a peaceful house, but I’d be lying. She screamed at the Tallish One (you may remember I can’t call him The Tall One anymore because The Noisy One has overtaken him by 10cm) this morning to ‘call the  doctor and order him to get rid of this f**king bullshit virus’. So that was reasonable; silent, or even gracious, she is not. Apparently she has very low blood pressure (not that you notice, mind you), which gets worse when she’s ill, which amusingly enough means that when she tries to stand up she collapses. This has the advantage of shutting her up momentarily, although it doesn’t make her any less stroppy. I wouldn’t like for her to actually hurt herself collapsing (she has quite a lot of form with collapsing and broken bones), but needs must.

It is a well-known fact that when you’re ill, you need a sturdy dog to sit on your feet to keep you warm (and give you pins and needles and cramp). As I’m sure you’re all aware, I take my duties very seriously and carry out this role to the fullest, however time-consuming and unpleasant it may be. The trouble is, Java thinks it might be her duty too (when it suits her and when she’s not off doing things of little consequence). This means that we both end up sitting on Bossy who gets thoroughly overheated and panicky and red in the face and I have to throw Java off and we all end up in a growling, feverish heap on the floor. I’m absolutely wrung out; I hope we’re back to business as usual soon because this flu malarky is getting on my nerves.

Oats contain beta glucans which are very beneficial for the immune system (ha!)

Ingredients (makes about 12 oatcakes)

225g rolled oats

60g chickpea flour (or any other flour)

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

60ml olive oil

Large pinch of salt

80ml hot water

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Combine the oats, flour, bicarbonate of soda, olive oil and salt well and then gradually add the hot water until you have a thick doughy mixture. Roll out the mixture and use a cookie cutter (or upturned glass) to make the cakes. Place the cakes on a greased baking tray and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Leave to cool.

Chicken soup and unruly hair

My hair is a free-for-all, to be chewed on, judged and discussed without compunction or reserve. I’m asked on a regular basis if it’s natural (because you think I would I chose it?), if it’s wet, if it’s dry, if it’s just been to the hairdresser and if it hasn’t. In some parts of the world, people come and stroke it like a strange woolly pet. A rather uncharming old lady who lives nearby actually uses the word ‘mop’ when referring to it, which she does every time I see her. And Luc said the other day ‘it just really suits you – it’s chaotic’. This was meant as a compliment (wtf?). The assistant in a posh haircare shop not long ago suggested, without a hint of irony, that I could ‘always try using a comb’ when I asked for advice on how to tame it. And to add insult to injury, Hugo chews on it in much the same way that he chews on Java’s ears.

A number of studies have been conducted on the usefulness of chicken soup (aka Jewish penicillin) in warding off and treating cold and flu viruses. It appears that the soup inhibits the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection. The theory is, that by inhibiting the migration of these infection-fighting cells in the body, chicken soup essentially helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms by reducing inflammation.

The researchers couldn’t identify the exact ingredient or ingredients in the soup that made it effective against colds but say it may be the combination of vegetables and chicken that work together.

Make what you will of the research, but at the very least, chicken soup with vegetables contains lots of healthy nutrients, is easy to digest, increases hydration and tastes delicious.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 onions, peeled and chopped

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 leeks, washed and cut into rounds

1 fennel bulb, washed and cut

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes

4 carrots, peeled and cut

200g cabbage, shredded

1 red pepper or chilli pepper, cut into strips

2 sprigs of thyme

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

2 teaspoons turmeric

1.5 litres chicken stock

2 tablespoons Pernod (optional)

300g pre-roasted chicken, skin removed and shredded

100g frozen peas

2 serving of pre-cooked brown rice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Gently brown the onions, shallots, garlic and leeks in the olive oil in a large saucepan or casserole dish. Once browed, add the fennel, butternut squash, carrots, cabbage and chilli pepper and continue to cook for a few minutes. Add the thyme, ginger, turmeric, chicken stock and Pernod and bring to a simmer. Once the vegetables are almost cooked, add the chicken and frozen peas and continue to cook for another ten minutes. Add the brown rice towards the end of cooking, season with the salt and pepper and serve piping hot.

 

Kale crisps, obscenities and dog-shaped holes

The Tallish One (I had to rename The Tall One as The Noisy One is now a good 4cms taller) and I have decided that Bossy is a bad influence on animals and also, I suspect, small children. She and Noisy went to London last week and, while she was gone, everyone, even Java, fell into line. Relatively speaking of course. Even the horses were less tiresome than usual. Animals really do have a sixth sense for authority; The Tallish One has it, Bossy just doesn’t. She makes a mean kale crisp though, so I think we’re going to hang on to her for the moment.

Bossy hadn’t been on UK soil for more than half and hour before having an almighty ding-dong with a traffic warden (apparently something to do with her being a ‘toxic tyrannical tw@t’). So much so that the traffic warden ran after her yelling ‘don’t you dare walk away while I’m reprimanding you’. If you know Bossy, you can imagine how well that went down. The thing is, Bossy swears a lot. It’s actually one of the few things she’s really good at; I would probably go as far as to say she’s a Master of Blasphemy. She’s also got quite a talent for really pissing people off. Anyway, if you want to learn to eff and blind in English or French, Bossy’s your girl.

In other news, we found a Java-shaped hole in the wisteria canopy under Léo’s first-floor bedroom window, and a rather bemused Java shaking herself off on the ground beneath. I feel certain that Bossy must be to blame in some way – I’m just not sure how yet.

One thing is sure: kale is so full of goodness that if it could talk, it certainly wouldn’t swear. As a vegetable it is a bit of an overachiever with its protein, fibre, vitamins A, C, K and B vitamins. It also contains minerals – potassium, calcium and zinc as well as omega 3, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Ingredients

200g kale, rinsed and cut into strips, large stems removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

Espelette pepper or paprika

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Put the kale in a large bowl and add the oil. Massage it into the leaves, then toss with the seasoning. Spread out in a single layer on two large baking trays and bake for about 20 minutes, checking from time to time that it is cooking evenly. Leave to cool and eat!

Shitake mushrooms and furtive barbarians


It will soon be mushroom season, although for the moment it’s still too hot and dry here; Luc is on damp ground watch like a crazy Frenchman. Oh, hang on… I did find a lone, perfect cep yesterday though, which was grabbed from my hand and in a frying pan asphyxiating in olive oil and garlic before I was through the door. I never go foraging without my vicious, spiky walking poles, ostensibly to move away leaves without having to bend down, although really to maim greedy cep-stealing fingers. There’s something about looking for mushrooms (mushrooming?) that turns people into furtive barbarians. Bump into someone who is blatantly foraging and they become incredibly defensive: ‘Me? Mushrooms? Can’t stand the mouldy bastards! I’m just hanging out in the middle of the woods, catching a few rays and bonding with the slugs’.

Even armed with my lethal walking stick, I won’t be finding any shitake mushrooms around here; they grow wild in mountainous regions of Asia and absolutely nowhere else. Scientists have discovered a possible correlation between typhoon wind patterns and the scattering of shitake spores dispersed from one country to the other. The medicinal properties of shiitake mushrooms have been studied since the Ming Dynasty when Chinese elders considered the shitake to be the ‘elixir of the life’.

Shitakes are unique because they contain all eight essential amino acids. They are also a rich source of vitamin D, B vitamins and selenium and other minerals. They also contain linoleic acid which aids weight loss and builds muscle. It also has bone-building benefits, improves digestion, and reduces food allergies and sensitivities.

Shitake mushrooms contain beta-glucan, an immune booster and soluble dietary fibre that’s also found in barley, rye and oats. The lentinan they contain strengthens the immune system and helps to fight off disease and infection. Research suggests that shiitake mushrooms may help fight cancer cells and also help heal damage caused by anticancer treatments. The mushrooms have also been shown to induce apoptosis, the process of cell death. They also contain L-ergothioneine, a potent antioxidant with unique cell-protective properties.

Lastly, these wonderful mushrooms have been shown to have anti-vital, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, effective against a wide range of mould, yeasts, and fungi. It would appear that they even have the ability to kill off the dangerous organisms without affecting the healthy organisms.

Madiran wine and unravelling

The production of Madiran wine is spread over three departments of southwestern France: Gers, Hautes Pyrénées and Pyrénées Atlantiques. We visited two chateaux in the region last week. At the first chateau, when I couldn’t face another gory detail of the ‘chatelain’s’ latest surgical procedure, I ended up with my head between my legs to stop myself fainting. I suspect his technique is to regale wine buyers with the minutiae of his latest operation, and when their defences are down (or they’ll do anything to escape), go in for the kill; we had planned to buy 18 bottles of his excellent 2012 and instead ended up with 36!

Our visit to the second chateau was after a very long, hot hike through the vineyards, and I think that we probably arrived looking a bit dishevelled (our sartorial baseline is iffy to begin with). There was an English couple tasting wine, and either they’d been there a while and had forgotten to swill and spit, or they didn’t realise I was English, because the lady rather loudly and randomly commented to her husband that we looked like ‘a rather eccentric French family who didn’t know how to tie their shoe laces’. I thought this was pretty rich coming from someone whose companion was sporting an garish yellow daisy-print sunhat!

Classic Madirans are robust, earthy and quite ‘tanniny’ (wine critics the world over will be blown away by my wine vocab.), which is just how I like my wine (and men) to be. And the very best are aged in oak.

The polyphenols found in red wine in general play a key role in its health benefits by acting as antioxidants. Grape skins have high concentrations of polyphenols and in particular, procyanidin. Studies show that regions of the world with the greatest longevity also correspond to those with the highest procyanidin content in their wines.

The highest procyanidin content of all is to be found in the wines in the Madiran region and, as it happens, they also have the highest concentration of resveratrol, which is a sort of a natural plant antibiotic. Resveratrol is part of the defense mechanism in vines, which fights against fungus and other diseases. In humans, studies have shown it has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, blood-sugar lowering and other beneficial cardiovascular effects.

As Professor Roger Corder, author of ‘The Wine Diet’ explains: ‘One important advantage of choosing wines with a high procyanidin level is that less needs to be consumed to achieve the optimal health benefit. The best results I’ve had in my laboratory have been from Madiran wines. These have some of the highest procyanidin levels I’ve encountered, as a result of the local grape variety, Tannat, and the traditional long fermentation and maceration. In contrast, mass-produced, branded wines sold in many wine bars and pubs generally have disappointingly low levels of procyanidins.’