Spicy pumpkin, lentil and apple stoup

I hear that some of you are still valiantly trying to use up the leftover pumpkin. Here’s a stoup recipe for you from the Essex Road Recipe card collection. What do you mean, you never heard of stoup? Where stew meets soup…

Ingredients:

200 g red lentils

The flesh of 1 small, innocent pumpkin that never did anyone any harm, chopped into small pieces.

1 eating apple, chopped into small pieces. Leave the skin on. (Throw the core away, or give it to a crow. Crows are my favourite birds.)

A piece of root ginger about the size of a small frog’s leg – peeled and thinly sliced

Teaspoon of turmeric

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small red chilli chopped up small

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon salt

a handful of chopped fresh coriander leaf

What to do. …roughly speaking:

Place lentils in a large saucepan in twice their own volume of water with the ginger, turmeric and a splash of oil. Bring to the boil and simmer until they are almost cooked – about 40 minutes.

Smash up the chilli, cumin and coriander in a pestle and mortar (or put them in a Ziploc bag and bash them with a hammer – on a sturdy surface of course!). Fry the spices in some of the oil and then add the pumpkin to the frying pan. Keep the pumpkin pieces moving around until they are coated in the spice mix and beginning to soften and brown at the edges. Then toss in the apple for a couple of minutes.

Add the spiced up pumpkin and apple to the lentils. Add a little more water if the lentils are almost dry. Put the lid on tight and simmer for about 15 minutes – until the lentils are properly cooked and the pumpkin and apple soft.

Serve as a stew with basmati rice or, if it’s a little thinner, as a soup with some of Raab’s chia seed bread.

Your fish is my command. (See what I did there?)

The folks at Steve Hatt only have to mention fish pie on their Facebook page and here I am with a recipe for you. Just like that.

The smoked haddock in Steve Hatt is a lovely pale yellow because it is actually smoked. That luminous yellow stuff you sometimes see vacuum-packed in supermarkets has been dyed to make it look more smoked. There are many ways to make fish pie. Some people add eggs or poach the fish in milk but I like mine a little lighter. . .

Ingredients for 4 people

500 g fresh smoked haddock – skin removed
500 g fresh haddock – not smoked – skin removed
a handful of cooked peeled prawns (optional)
6 medium potatoes.
30 g plain flour.
1 medium sized leek trimmed and sliced into 1 cm discs
Handful of chopped curly parsley
5 threads of saffron
a splash of olive oil and a knob of butter
You’ll need a saucepan, a large flat-bottomed frying pan and an ovenproof dish.

What to do. Roughly speaking:
Preheat the oven to 220oC
Boil the potatoes and mash them with butter and milk – add salt to taste.
Fry the leek slices in olive oil in for a couple of minutes and then add about 250ml water, the chopped parsley and a little salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and then turn down and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the leeks from the liquid with a slotted spoon and place in the ovenproof dish.
Place the saffron threads and then the fish into the liquid in the pan and poach (gently simmer) for about 7 minutes.
Lift out the fish, break it up a bit and mix with the leeks in the ovenproof dish.
Pour the liquid into a jug and set it aside. Melt a little butter in the bottom of the pan, then sprinkle on the flour and stir it with a wooden spoon. Gradually add back the liquid, stirring all the time so that it thickens but doesn’t get lumpy. Pour this over the fish and leeks in the bottom of the roasting dish. At this stage you can also add the prawns if you’re using them.
Spread the mashed potato over the top and place in the oven for about 30 minutes – if you use a clear dish you should be able to see the sauce bubbling around the fish.

If you want a cheesy topping, sprinkle grated cheese over the mash about 10 minutes before it’s ready.

My immune-system-supporting breakfast.

There’s an increasing body of evidence to suggest that if we are *vitamin D deficient we have a greater chance of catching several infectious diseases, and we’re likely to suffer worse symptoms if we do get them. It’s not too difficult to keep your vitamin D levels up in the summer if you can get plenty of your skin surface area out into the sunshine for just 10 minutes (if you are fair skinned) and 30 minutes (if you have dark skin), but in the winter you’ll need longer because not only is sunlight weaker and scarcer but you probably don’t want to be strolling around the park in your shorts and sleeveless top when the temperature is in single figures. With Covid 19 restrictions on travel even those of you who could afford to probably can’t fly off to warmer climes to escape the northern European winter, so we’re all going to need to boost our vitamin D intake by adjusting our diet.

I went out for a walk/run this morning, and there was a little feeble sunshine between the clouds, but probably not enough to boost the vitamin D levels even of this pale pink human, so I came home and made scrambled eggs with chopped smoked salmon (2 eggs, 2 slices of salmon). The kosher (Manchester Beth Din) smoked salmon from Steve Hatt is my absolute favourite; tasty and not too salty. Egg yolks and salmon (as well as other oily fish) are both good sources of Vit D and considerably cheaper than a flight to the Caribbean.

The best natural source of vitamin D for you vegans is probably mushrooms, but they need to have been grown in sunlight, not indoors.

Small edit to this post: I ended my eating day by adding Vitamin D boosting mushrooms to the Stir Fry Recipe which will also support my immune system by adding variety to my Elder Microbiome. You’re welcome.

*Nerds who want some of the science on this might want to start with The Lancet review of Vitamin D and Covid research Volume 8, ISSUE 7 July 01, 2020 and Tim Spector’s book, Spoonfed.

Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No 21: seared sesame tuna.

Here’s another one that’s good for your gut microbiome.

Ingredients for 1 very hungry person or 2 normal humans:

1 large tuna steak

Juice of 1//2 lemon

2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

What to do, roughly speaking

Pop the tuna steak in the freezer for an hour. This will make it easier to cut.

Cut into slices about 2cm thick

Place on a plate onto which you have squeezed lemon juice and a couple of teaspoons of toasted sesame seeds. Don’t overdo the sesame seeds as the flavour is very strong and can overpower the tuna if you’re not careful. Leave for a few minutes then turn the fish over to coat the other side in lemon and sesame.

Make sure the tuna is completely de-frosted.

Heat the mixed olive and toasted sesame oil in a frying pan

Gently place the tuna slices in there. Sprinkle on the soy sauce and after 2 minutes, carefully turn the fish pieces over

Cook for another minute (a little more if you prefer it cooked through, but I think it’s much tastier if still raw in the middle).

Serve on a sheet of seaweed with a dollop of wasabi and a little extra soy sauce to taste.

I added green beans – boiled for 5 minutes and then drained and tossed in oil and garlic….

Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No 20: microbiome-friendly stir-fry.

I received a few questions after the microbiome piece about what constitutes “fermented foods”. In short, fermented foods have been partially broken down by micro-organisms such as yeast and bacteria. They tend to be tasty and aromatic. One of the most familiar fermented foods is miso, and instant miso soup is is one of the few instant, “just add water” products that I buy. (Kombucha, kimchi, tempeh, beer, cider and, luckily for me, wine are also fermented.)

Today’s recipe is a fine example of a microbiome friendly meal which is also vegetarian. (Vegan if you go for vegan noodles instead of egg noodles). And to make it even better you can serve it with a gut-microbiome-diversity-encouraging glass of white wine.fullsizeoutput_2b6aIngredients for 2:

2 handfuls green beans (about 20 beans).

6 broccoli stems

1/2 onion – sliced

1 red pepper – seeded and sliced

2 cloves garlic – chopped finely

Thumb-sized piece of ginger root – chopped finely

1 small red chilli – chopped finely

2 nests of fine egg noodles

1 sachet instant dark miso soup (I used an organic brand with added tofu and ginger)

Soy sauce to taste

1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

What to do, roughly speaking:

Wash and trim the beans and broccoli and cook them for about 6 minutes in 500 ml water. Remove the veg from the water with a slotted spoon, set aside and keep the veg  water to cook the noodles and miso soup (this adds a little more flavour to the broth).

In a frying pan, heat the combined olive and sesame oil. Fry the onions and sliced red pepper for a few minutes until the onions begin to brown. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli. Turn the heat down a bit and fry for 2 or 3 minutes more. Add a splash of soy sauce and fry for another minute. Add the cooked beans and broccoli. Stir fry this mix for about 5 minutes until it’s all heated through.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles in the vegetable water for 4 or 5 minutes (according to the instructions on the packet) and for the last minute add the miso soup. Stir well

To serve: place the stir fry veg into the bowl you’re eating from, lift the noodles out of the broth with a pasta serving spoon (see pic) and then pour the miso soup over everything.

pastaspoon

 

 

Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No 19. Stir fried prawns with tequila and chilli.

After Tuesday’s blog on microbiome diversity, age and diet, it seems appropriate to feature something colourful, varied and with a Mexican vibe. And super simple.

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Ingredients for 2.

8 jumbo prawns – heads, eggs and black threads removed.

1 red pepper – seeds removed and sliced

medium onion – sliced thinly

2 cloves garlic – chopped very finely

1 small red chilli – chopped finely

1 tbsp olive oil

a little toasted sesame oil

1 shot tequila

1 tbsp soy sauce

What to do:

Heat the mixed olive and sesame oil in a frying pan until hot but not smoking

Add the onions and fry for 3 or 4 minutes,

Add the garlic, place a lid on the pan, turn down the heat and cook for another few minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onions and garlic are soft

Turn up the heat again, add the sliced pepper and cook for another couple of minutes

Then add the jumbo prawns fry hot for a few minutes, add the tequila shot, then turn down the heat, cover and cook stirring occasionally until the prawn shells have turned completely pink and slightly crispy.

Serve with rice and add a little soy or chilli sauce to taste.

You can peel the prawns to eat them if you want, but the shells are edible and tasty, and apparently good for lowering cholesterol.

 

The chef, the vulnerability box and the elder microbiome

The posts on my food blog and rant blog are the same this week, because I’m ranting about the relationship between diet and disease.

Another type of diversity conversation. And a call to action.

Alongside the wonderful Paul Loper, I’ll be heading back this time next year to the beautiful Mexican Pacific coast as guest faculty at the Modern Elder Academy. I’m looking forward to learning more than I teach (as always) and in particular to enjoying the work of the most important faculty member at MEA, the person whose contribution has the potential to make the greatest difference in the lives of those attending…yes, I’m talking about this guy: Tony Peralta. Chef.

team-bio-tonyperalta

But for now, I’m still in London Covid world, with stern warnings everywhere I turn that elders like me are more at risk than younger people of serious illness and even death if we become infected by the virus. The message is one designed to evoke passivity and fear; I’m being told what to avoid and what not to do.

It seems to me to be dangerously superficial as well as offensively ageist to throw all elders into the same box. I’m not alone. A paper in the international journal of the British Geriatrics Society states:

  • The public discourse during COVID-19 misrepresents and devalues older adults.
  • The ageist attitudes circulating during COVID-19 make some people think that the pandemic is an older person problem. (Ageist attitudes include the belief that ill health is inevitable, intervention ineffective, and improved outcomes inherently not valuable to society).

The same paper goes on to say that it doesn’t have to be this way; that there is substantial untapped potential to modify the relationship between chronological age and health, and to relieve the so-called burden of ageing on individuals, families and society.

One of the fundamental reasons why some older people can be badly affected by Covid is a lack of diversity in the gut microbiome. In case you didn’t know, your microbiome is made up of more bacteria and fungi than you have cells, and diversity in its composition protects us from disease, affects our metabolism and weight, our inflammatory response, cognition, appetite, mood….

Over the age of 40, the diversity of these bacteria in our gut tends to decline. The reasons for this are many and include diet (many people slide into habitual and unhealthy eating patterns), hormone levels, diabetes, use of antibiotics, painkillers, antidepressants, and drugs such as statins which are used to manage blood lipids.

At a time when we are being advised to wash our hands and stay away from other people, the risk of reducing the diversity of our gut bacteria is even greater – cutting down on opportunities for the virus to enter our system also means that we’re preventing bacteria getting in, so we need more than ever to protect and boost the ones already in there. In this necessarily disinfected environment, we need to do even more to sustain the diversity of our microbiome and thus protect ourselves from those dangerous inflammatory infections caused by Covid.

This is where our hero, Tony, comes in. One way to slow the age-related decline in microbiome diversity is by changing our eating habits to something more like a Mediterranean (or what I tend to think of as a Pacific Mexican) diet of the type served up by Tony and his team – plenty of colourful fruit and vegetables, grains, fresh fish, some fermented foods (and, yes, the occasional glass of excellent Baja California wine). It helps also to snack less, taking long pauses between meals to give your gut a break. Exercise has also been shown to support microbiome diversity.

To learn more about this, Prof. Tim Spector is definitely worth a follow, and this article of his on how to boost your gut microbiome is very helpful. I’m looking forward to his upcoming book, Spoonfed, on diet myths which I’ll feature here when it comes out in a couple of months time.

I’d love us to turn Covid19 from a reason to hide away into a reason to act. To take this opportunity to do 2 things:

  • as individuals, rather than allow ourselves to be wholly dominated by the vulnerability narrative, take action and start to re-build the diversity of our microbiome so that we improve our resistance. In short, “Cook like Tony.”
  • as a movement, start to draw attention to the fact that the medicine business and pharmaceutical trials have historically and shamefully under-represented older people, black people and women.[1] A paper by multiple academics from London, Shanghai and Mexico written in 2014 decried the under-representation of older people in research and healthcare thus, “effective (healthcare) intervention in older people is complicated by ageism, complex multimorbidity, and poor access to age-appropriate care…older people tend to be excluded from clinical trials that would generate specific evidence to inform their treatment, even for drugs that are mainly prescribed in older age.”

Worth reading:

[1] The burden of disease in older people and implications for health policy and practice
Martin J Prince, Fan Wu, Yanfei Guo, Luis M Gutierrez Robledo, Martin O’Donnell, Richard Sullivan, Salim Yusuf

Missing Microbes. How the overuse of antibiotics is fueling our modern plagues. Martin J. Blaser.

 

 

Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No 18. Hot smoked salmon fishcakes.

It can be hard to find hot smoked salmon fillet, unless of course you are lucky enough to have a proper fishmonger like Steve Hatt in the neighbourhood. Usually when I buy this I serve it cold with salad, or even mix it with smoked haddock for a slightly different take on kedgeree. Last week, for some reason, I decided to make hot smoked salmon fishcakes. Never made fishcakes from scratch in my life before… so glad I tried it!

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Ingredients for 2 people (4 fishcakes):

1 hot smoked salmon fillet – skin removed, broken up into small pieces

1/2 cup chopped coriander leaf

1/2 medium onion, chopped very finely

1 garlic clove, chopped very finely

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp sumac

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

pinch of salt (not too much, hot smoked salmon is salty)

grated zest of 1/2 lemon

juice of 1/2 lemon

4 small or 2 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed with butter.

 

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup breadcrumbs.

Olive oil to fry the fishcakes

What to do, roughly speaking.

In a bowl, mix the salmon, coriander, onion, garlic, oregano, sumac, black pepper, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Add the mashed potato, mix it up with a fork, then divide it into 4.

Shape into….well….fishcake shapes!!

In a separate shallow bowl beat the eggs and add the breadcrumbs.

Pick up each fishcake carefully and coat each side with the eggy breadcrumbs.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan; enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.

When it’s hot but not smoking place the fishcakes in there. Gently, now..

Cook for about 3 minutes on one side, turn them over carefully with a fish slice and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on the other side

Serve with green veg (beans and tenderstem broccoli are both good at the moment) and a nice drop of Picpoul.

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fish, herbs, onion, garlic, lemon – before adding mashed potato

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before cooking….

 

 

 

 

 

Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No 17. Spicy Squash Spaghetti Surprise.

I discovered Jamie Oliver’s spicy squash recipe in his first book, The Naked Chef, back in 1999. Along with Lord Krishna’s Cuisine (see last week’s recipe), it’s one of my more battered (geddit?!) cookery books. I have Jamie to thank for getting my then 8-year-old son interested in cooking some 20 years ago! This recipe is unashamedly stolen from Jamie Oliver. I’ve often made his spicy squash risotto recipe, but never thought of serving spaghetti with squash until today.  I really was not at all sure that this would work, but IMHO it is absolutely delicious!

When I make risotto with squash, there is always a great deal of cheese, butter and mascarpone involved, but for this I went totally dairy free.

Ingredients for 4 people:

1 medium butternut squash

seeds from the squash

2 tsp coriander seed

1 tsp fennel seed

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black peppercorns

small red chili, chopped very finely

2 garlic cloves

2 tbsp olive oil

400 gm spaghetti (That’s for hungry people. 300 is enough if you’re not that hungry, or you’re serving something else as well).

What to do, roughly speaking.

Pre-heat oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas mark 6

Cut the squash in half lengthways

Scoop the seeds out of the centre of the squash, discard any stringy flesh that is sticking to them.

Cut each half of the squash into 4, again, lengthways. Now you have 8 strips of squash.

Using a pestle and mortar, smash up the coriander, fennel, salt, black peppercorns, oregano, garlic and chili.

Tip this mix into a roasting tray, add 2 tbsp olive oil and mix it around.

Place the squash slices in the roasting tray and smear the oil/herb/spice mix over both sides.

Tip the seeds into a pile on one side of the tray.

Place the squash and seeds in the oven for 30 minutes, turn off the heat and leave for another 10 minutes while you cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling water.

Drain the spaghetti and put it on your plates

Chop the squash slices into pieces about 2 cm thick.

Spoon the squash slices over the spaghetti and then sprinkle the seeds over the top of that.

 

 

Kay’s Covid Cookery Class No 16. (Slightly too spicy) aubergine and lentil stew.

Oh, the small joys of relaxing lockdown! I drove out to Essex last weekend to visit the fab Lolli of Thaxted Yoga and bought some veg from the pop-up stall in her local pub car park, including an aubergine (US friends, that’s an eggplant to you!). We had a bit of a laugh about aubergine being one of those vegetables that seems like a good idea at the time, then you keep it in the fridge until it’s wrinkled and squishy and finally throw it away!!

Not for me, though. I love the way that aubergine soaks up the flavours of whatever I cook it with, yet keeps its own textural personality; a bit squeaky and definitely squishy.

I cooked it this evening using a recipe largely stolen from one of my favourite cooks; the late, great Yamuna Devi, author of “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine – The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking”. (You can see how much I love it from the state of my copy!) fullsizeoutput_2aa7

I had some scotch bonnet peppers in the fridge which I would normally not use when cooking Indian food, but since they were all I had, I used a piece of one and must confess that I rather overdid it. Hence my recommendation to use a little finely chopped green chili instead.

Ingredients:

1 medium aubergine chopped into cubes and marinated for an hour or so in a paste made from:

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 11/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • a pinch of salt
  • about 50 ml water

Also:

  • 200 g red split lentils
  • a chunk of ginger about the size of a small person’s thumb
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped green chilis
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • a small shake of asafetida powder (can do without this if you don’t have it or don’t like it)

For the finishing touches:

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a handful of chopped coriander leaf.

What to do:

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While the aubergine is soaking up those flavours, begin cooking the lentils. First, place the dry lentils in the bottom of a large saucepan (big enough to take all your ingredients) and roast them on a low heat. Keep them moving and enjoy the smell. Once they have started to brown, rinse them with cold water in a sieve and return them to the pan. Add enough water to cover them – probably about 750 ml. Bring to the boil, lower the heat, place a tight lid on the pan, turn down the heat and cook for about 20 minutes. Keep topping up the water if the lentils have soaked it all up.

While the lentils are boiling, fry the aubergine. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a frying pan, add the cumin seeds and chopped chilis and fry until the cumin seeds begin to turn brown. Add the asafetida powder (if you’re using it) for a minute, and then add the marinated aubergine – it soaks up a lot of oil, so use plenty, and add a bit more if things begin to dry out. Fry the aubergine pieces in the spice mix, moving them around all the time, for about 7 minutes.

Once the lentils have cooked for 25-30 minutes, add the fried aubergine to the saucepan. Rinse out the frying pan with a little hot water and add that to the lentils and aubergine mix so that you don’t lose any of the spicy flavours.

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Keep simmering the lentils and aubergine on a low heat for another 20 minutes. Just before it’s ready to serve add the teaspoon of ground coriander, a squeeze of lemon and chopped coriander leaf. (Cilantro to you, US friends!). Taste the stew and add a little more salt at this stage if you think it needs it.

Serve with rice and/or naan bread.