Did you know…?

cucs

Just how good cucumbers are for you?

I didn’t realise that they are so beneficial to us being high in vitamins C and K and also containing magnesium, potassium and manganese. These contribute to making our bones and heart healthy and to metabolise our food.

Well I always thought they were pretty much all water – in fact they are 96% water – which is still great for us – helping to hydrate us control our weight and regulate our elimination systems.

But besides all this they contain antioxidants, including flavonoids and tannins, which prevent the accumulation of harmful stuff like free radicals which are responsible for things like cancer ad various chronic diseases.

To get the most from eating cucumbers leave the skin on and eat the seeds in the middle.

I’ve grown a bumper crop this year – so we have been merrily tucking in. V healthy indeed. I found this funny rap to remind me of all the possible uses of the humble cucumber…

Live in the moment – make elderflower champagne!

elderflower-champagne-in-the-making

Oh how I love to live in the moment – and what a moment this time of year is. The wonderful scent of elderflowers is in the air and they are at their best to make Elderflower Champagne. Only 8 heads are required in this tried and tested (very old) recipe. If you can do it this week it will be ready in time for the Wimbledon finals!

You will need –

A clean bucket, tea towel, funnel, old pair of tights (for straining) and some fizzy water/lemonade bottles

8 heads of elderflowers
4 litres of boiling water
1 1/4 lb of sugar
2 sliced lemons
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar

In the bucket, pour the boiling water over the sugar; stir and leave to cool. Cover it with a clean tea towel. When cold throw in the flower heads, lemons and the vinegar. Give a good stir and let stand for 24 hours covered with the clean tea towel. Strain into the fizzy water bottles and place in a cool dark position covering with a bin bag or cardboard box (just in case it explodes).

It will be ready to drink in 2 weeks and gets extremely fizzy so take care when opening the bottles.

Lovely for picnics, with a splash of sloe gin or orange juice 😉 Take care if you are giving this to children, anyone driving or on medication as it is alcoholic. I would guess between 5 and 10% – I have tried to use the hydrometer to check but that’s a whole new post!

Mango & Avocado Salsa

Mango-Avocado-Salsa-Recipe

I can’t get enough of this salsa! I first tasted it on a ‘Safari Supper’ at a neighbours house in our village – she served it with salmon steaks. Since she gave me the recipe I have slightly adapted it and served it up on top of toast and with a jacket potato! It’s a really great way to eat your fruit and veg.

Ingredients

1/2 red onion, chopped
1 mango, peeled and chopped
2 avocados, chopped
1 chilli, seeded and chopped (chilli flakes or chilli oil)
The juice of 1 or 2 limes
2 tbsp fresh cilantro (coriander), chopped
salt, black pepper, olive oil to taste

Put it in a bowl and mix up. Leave it in the fridge if you have time for the flavours to develop. It is probably nice the next day too, but ours doesn’t last that long.

Top Tip – for those green fingers out there – grow your own cilantro (coriander). Get cilantro seeds because the coriander seed is to grow coriander seed heads (used in Indian/eastern recipes) and the plant grown for it’s leaf is cilantro. It tastes 100% better than it’s shop bought cousin and you really only need a bit, the flavour is so powerful.

 

January Gin

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Well at last dry January is almost over… and so far I can’t say that I’ve felt any benefit whatsoever. My husband has managed to stay awake at night time and so he doesn’t miss the last 10 minutes of every tv programme ; ) but that’s about the only benefit we’ve found.

I felt convinced that my liver would feel clean and my skin glow, but it just hasn’t been the case. My body hasn’t craved alcohol but I have felt denied. It has been a good time to explore non- alcoholic drinks but I find that many contain too much sugar for my taste. Give me a nice glass of red wine any day!

In the yogic tradition good food and drink is thought to be that which still has ‘life force’ or prana in it. Ie a tomato picked straight from the garden. Also given as an example is beer and wine as it has the yeast which is a live organism in it.

Anyway, as part of my clean living January, I thought I’d try to make my own gin syrup, a healthy alternative for January. So I tried a rose hip syrup and juniper berry infusion. It’s not gin, but it’s not that bad and on the positive side it contains ingredients that might do you some good! The vitamin C (high in rose hips) may help to fend off colds. Juniper berries can be good for you in small quantities helping the digestive tract and acting as an antioxidant. They are not advised for pregnant ladies or people taking prescription medication though – so if you do decide to give this a try please look up the health benefits and precautions of taking juniper here https://www.indigo-herbs.co.uk/natural-health-guide/benefits/juniper-berry

January Gin
Ingredients
200 ml Rose Hip Syrup
2 desert spoons of Juniper berries
1 Chai tea bag

Pour the syrup into a small saucepan and then fill up the bottle twice and add the water to the pan (400 ml)
Grind up the junipers in a mortar and pestle for a bit (until your arm aches) so that the berries are quite squashed and release their fragrance. Add them to the pan.
Drop in the tea bag and heat stirring all the time. Do not let the mixture boil, but wait until you can see a bit of vapour coming off. Turn off the heat or move to a warm spot and leave the mixture to infuse for a couple of hours. Strain off and bottle. Keep in the fridge and use within a month.

To serve – place lots of ice into a glass, add your gin syrup, tonic water and slices of lemon and orange. Toast – GOOD HEALTH!

Festive Couscous

couscous

I was inspired by Nigella Lawson for this recipe. Anything that looks like rice gets a massive thumbs down in our household as my husband thinks it tastes like gravel. So with rice and particularly couscous I have to work very hard with the flavours. And … he also finds pomegranate ‘over-rated pips’! As these are in the original recipe I substituted them with cranberries for a very favourable result.

Serves 4 as an accompaniment

INGREDIENTS

200g couscous
200ml boiling water
2 tablespoons EV olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
100g sultanas
50g dried cranberries
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon each of paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Instructions
Place couscous into a heatproof bowl add salt, spices, raisins and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Mix to combine and then pour over the boiling water.
Let sit for 5 minutes or so until all the water is absorbed.
Fluff up with a fork adding in the remaining ingredients.
Serve warm with a parsnip and chick pea tagine or cold with savoury pasties and salad.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Carrots are very good for you. The contain beta carotene which is converted into vitamin A in the body and this is most excellent for your eyes and for your immunity. So lets get crunching..

INGREDIENTS

    • 1 pound carrots, coarsely grated (about 4 cups)
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or extra-virgin olive oil
    • 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
    • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, mashed or minced
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
    • Pinch of salt
    • About 1/2 teaspoon harissa (Northwest African chili paste), 1 tablespoon minced green chilies, or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days to allow the flavors to meld and permeate the carrots. Served chilled or at room temperature. Easy peasy.

Date and Walnut Cake

This is a super-moist and sweet loaf, ideal with a cuppa in the afternoon…

Ingredients
Serves: 10

  • 200 g (7 oz) stoned dried dates, chopped
  • 30 g (1 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 240 ml (8 fl oz) boiling water
  • 140 g (5 oz) light muscovado sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 280 g (10 oz) plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp ground mixed spice
  • pinch of salt
  • 115 g (4 oz) walnuts, chopped

Method
Prep:20min  ›  Cook:1hr15min  ›  Ready in:1hr35min

  1. Place the dates in a bowl with the butter and bicarbonate of soda. Pour over the boiling water and stir until the butter has melted. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF, gas mark 4). Lightly grease an 18 cm (7 in) round deep cake tin and line the bottom with baking parchment.
  3. Place the sugar and eggs in a large bowl and beat well to combine. Add the cooled date mixture, then sift in the flour, baking powder, mixed spice and salt. Add the walnuts and stir together until thoroughly mixed.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top. Bake for 1–1 1/4 hours or until the cake is risen and nicely browned and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  5. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool. The cake can be kept, wrapped in foil or stored in an airtight container, for up to 5 days.

Chickpea and Mushroom Burger Recipe

For a healthy alternative to the beef burger, why not try these? This is my own version of a BBC Good Food recipe – a bit more tangy with the Ras El Hanout and spices and more ‘meaty’ texture with the addition of the aubergine.

Ingredients (makes about 6 burgers)

2 tblsp olive oil

1 onion – chopped

2 garlic cloves – finely diced

200g closed cup mushrooms – chopped

1/2 aubergine – chopped

2 tsp Ras el hanout

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric

1//2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)

salt and pepper

400g chickpeas, rinsed, drained, mashed

2 tbsp bread crumbs

Whisked egg

Method

Heat oil and add all the ingredients except the chickpeas.  Cook on a low heat, stirring to prevent sticking, for about 20 minutes. Mix in the mashed chickpeas, bread crumbs and egg and hope that everything sticks together!!  Use your hands to form into patties and leave in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.

To cook – if you are going to put them on the BBQ then use a sheet of oiled foil underneath.  For best results I cook them in the oven for about half an hour. You could fry them in less time if that’s your preference.

To serve – let your imagination run wild! I do a ring of leaves with a burger in the middle (on or off a half bun). Adding natural yoghurt and sliced cucumber on top of the burger as a final flourish!

Lemon & Honey water – a healthy way to start your day

You may have heard that a lemon and honey drink in the morning works wonders for your health. This is because honey and lemon both contain powerful therapeutic properties – and mixing them together makes an excellent tonic to kick start your day.

It’s so simple to make:- use tepid/warm water from a boiled kettle (not boiling water), add 1 teaspoon of (local) organic honey and the juice from half a lemon. Mix and TA DA that’s it – drink up. It really is so simple that you’d be mad not to give it a go – read on to see 10 benefits of drinking this first thing in the morning (for best results make it fresh and drink on an empty stomach).

Benefit #1

It replaces the usual caffeine-loaded first drink of the day

Caffeine is a stimulant acting on the pleasure centres of the brain, temporarily giving us a high. This is usually followed by a mid-morning low- as many habitual coffee drinkers admit. Coffee increases acidity and causes digestive disturbances. It increases the heart rate and elevates blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

Tea also contains caffeine, albeit in smaller amounts. Theophylline, theobromine and L-theanine are three other psychoactive stimulants in tea. Caffeine and these other substances do have some beneficial effects such as improving focus and concentration. Also, both these beverages contain antioxidants that protect our body from free radical damage. However, drinking coffee and tea on an empty stomach can do more harm than good.

Lemon & Honey water is an easy to prepare drink that provides just the right amount of calories from the natural sugars in the honey, along with a host of enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. They are in relatively small amounts, but they really count on an empty stomach. The drink has no more than 20-25 calories, most of it coming from the honey, (1 tsp=7 gms sugar) and just 1 calorie from the lemon juice. It is neither too sour not too sweet.

Benefit #2

An aid to digestion

One of the first noticeable benefits of drinking lemon and honey water is improved digestion. The drink increases stomach acid production and bile secretion. They facilitate the breakdown of food materials and absorption of nutrients.

Undigested materials remaining in the digestive tract often cause bloating due to the action of gut bacteria that try to digest them. Their faster elimination from the body is also important in maintaining digestive health.

Benefit #3

The diuretic effect

Diuretics are substances that increase the production of urine. Doctors often prescribe diuretics to treat hypertension and edema caused by excess amount of water in the body.

Inflammatory response of the body to injuries results in accumulation of fluid in tissues. Swelling of the feet and facial edema are typical symptoms of this water retention. Extra water puts a load on the heart and increases blood pressure. Lemon & Honey water can help eliminate excess fluid and reduce edema and hypertension

Benefit #4

A boost to your immunity

The vitamin C in the lemon juice will help to strengthen your immunity system.

Also the honey will help to guard against seasonal infections as well as allergies. You will find a marked reduction in colds and flu if you keep taking this drink every day.

You probably know that honey treatment is often advised when people have severe allergies to pollen and other environmental pollutions. Your local organic honey will contain these substances in minute amounts, so ingesting them with the drink helps desensitize the body.

Benefit #5

Helps fight throat infections

When you have a sore throat, a warm drink of Lemon & Honey water provides instant comfort and relief. But the effect is not superficial or temporary. The peroxides in honey act as disinfectants. That’s one of the reasons why honey applied to wounds and burns aid their healing. Drinking the Lemon & Honey water may help reduce the bacterial load in the infected area. It may also reduce inflammation and associated pain.

Benefit #6

Detoxifies the body

Numerous toxic substances enter our body through food contaminated with chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Environmental pollutants also get absorbed through our skin and respiratory tract. They accumulate in tissues, especially in the liver and kidneys, and interfere with their proper functioning.

Citrus fruit juices are popular in detoxifying liquid diets. Lemon water mixed with honey is a gentle, yet powerful detoxification agent. It is a liver tonic, improving its function of neutralizing toxins.

Benefit #7

Relieves urinary tract infections

The diuretic effect of lemon juice and antimicrobial effect of honey work together to flush out unwanted substances and disease-causing bacteria from the kidneys, urinary bladder, and the urogenital tract.
Excessively acidic and concentrated urine is one of the common causes of kidney stones and burning during urination. Sodium citrate and potassium citrate are often prescribed as a first line of treatment for these conditions. Lemon juice is acidic due to its citric acid content, but it gets converted to sodium citrate in the body. That is why drinking Lemon & Honey water is said to be alkalizing

Benefit #8

Helps promote clear skin

Taking Lemon & Honey water early in the morning is one of the best things you can do for acne control. You may find the skin getting clearer within 2 to 3 weeks of starting on this drink.

Antioxidants in lemon and honey and their antibacterial properties also contribute to skin clarification.

Benefit #9

Wards off the common cold

Coughs and congestion are often treated with commercial products containing lemon and honey – why buy them? Why not use your own ‘home brew’?

Honey has always been used in Ayurveda to treat all problems related to excessive phlegm in the body. It has the property of reducing mucus production and drying up the respiratory tract.

Lemon helps in thinning mucus, making it easier to cough up. Working together, these two ingredients can effectively reduce the congestion in the airways and bring relief.

Benefit #10

Relief of constipation and wind

Regular consumption of warm Lemon & Honey water in the morning promotes regularity. The beneficial effect comes not only from the warm water that helps move the stomach contents along but from lemon juice’s property of lightening body secretions, including mucus secretion from the intestinal walls. This gets things moving effortlessly. Regular voiding helps reduce bloating and flatulence that accompany constipation.

Cure that Cold

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It is true that you are what you eat – this is one of the principles of Ayurveda – yogas sister therapy. When you feel yourself going downhill with cold and flu symptoms pay particular care to what you eat. Orange juice will help you by providing vitamin C – this will boost your immune system. Also, try out the recipe below for ‘Spicy Tomato Soup’, it contains a fairly large dose of garlic, ginger and chilli – the garlic and ginger have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities and the capsaicin in chillies is a natural decongestant. So move over Night Nurse and get yourself some natural food-medicine that will do you the power of good.

Spicy Tomato Soup

1 pint stock

6 fresh medium tomatoes chopped (or a 400gm tin)

1/2 tube tomato puree

1 onion chopped

1 carrot chopped

1 stick cellery chopped

2 chillis finely chopped

1/2 cm fresh ginger finely chopped

4 garlic finely chopped

1 tsp dried herbs (optional)

double cream (optional)

Bring the stock to the boil. Add all the ingredients and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Blend with a hand blender and add boiling water to come to your desired thickness. Add a dash of double cream – this can ‘tame’ a really hot soup and can make it taste delicious.