Welcome to Eat Well Every Day
I've spent years researching nutritional information, food ideas and recipes, because cooking and eating - especially with family & friends - are some of life's great pleasures. And guess what- healthy food doesn't have to be boring! It can be exciting and delicious!
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Friday, June 15, 2012
We don’t hear it said much now, but when I was a child, “she’ll be apples!” was a common comment. It means “everything will be fine; it’ll be OK”. My home state, Tasmania, was known as the Apple Isle, as we grew the best apples in Australia, and regularly exported them to Britain, Europe and Japan. No wonder I love apples so much!
Way back in January I promised you more apple recipes, and now the winter solstice is almost upon us, here are some warming apple recipes. For these you’ll need cooking apples – Grannie Smiths or whatever the equivalent is in your neck of the woods. I’ll start with the easiest – basic stewed apple, as stewed apples or applesauce form the basis for many cake recipes, as well as going really well with pork, bacon and vegetables like kale or cabbage.
Basic Stewed Apples
4 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and roughly sliced
Enough water to cover slices in a medium sized pan
2 tablesp sugar, or the equivalent in honey (to taste)
1 inch” piece of ginger, peeled and julienned (thin strips) (optional)
4-6 whole cloves (optional)
1 stick cinnamon broken roughly into pieces (optional)
Peel of half a lemon, cut roughly (optional)
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
A lot of these ingredients are optional, depending on what spiciness you want for your stewed apple. At it’s most basic, I put a few bits of lemon rind (pith & all) from a recently squeezed ½ lemon, in with the apple slices.
Pour in just enough water to cover apples, bring to the boil & turn down immediately to a very slow simmer. Don’t go far from the stove, stewed apple cooks very quickly! When the slices are soft enough to mash with a spoon or fork, remove from heat and take out all spices and lemon peel. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in sugar or honey. Adjust sweetness to taste, and add lemon juice for a better flavour.
To make applesauce, simply mash or puree your stewed apple.
A winter treat from my childhood, these are almost as simple to make as stewed apple, and are perfect with cream, icecream, or as my Scottish grandmother used to serve them, with bright yellow custard made with custard powder.
4 large cooking apples (makes 4 serves, or 2 for 2 greedy people)
1/3 cup of chopped dates, sultanas or any dried fruit
2 tablesp brown sugar
½ teasp ground cloves or cinnamon (optional)
A shallow baking dish large enough to hold all four packed close together.
Thoroughly butter the dish for the apples. With an apple corer (a nifty gadget available from most kitchenware stores), carefully remove the core from each apple. Cut off a little from the base of each core to make a plug; fit the plug into the apple it came from for the best fit. Then with the point of a sharp knife, carefully score all round the equator of the apple. This stops the skin bursting as the apple cooks.
Stand the apples in the baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, spices, and dried fruit. Spoon carefully into the apple hollows. Top with a small knob of butter. Pour about an inch (2.5cm) of hot water around the apples. Cover dish with a sheet of baking paper or foil
Bake in preheated oven (180C/350F) for 15-20 minutes. Remove cover and bake another 10-15 minutes until the apples are soft. Don’t worry of some of the filling runs out the apples; the hot water makes a light syrup with the sugar, butter etc.
Note: If you have something else cooking in your oven, such as a roast or a casserole, put the apples on a lower shelf and cook for a while longer.
Apple & Sultana Loaf
An old-fashioned ‘teacake’, Apple & Sultana Loaf is perfect for afternoon tea, toasted or warmed and spread with butter and accompanied by a pot of your favourite tea. It’s also a good standby for packed lunches or between meal snacks. This loaf can be made in two ways – with diced raw apple or with stewed apple/applesauce.
1½ cups self-raising flour or plain (all purpose) flour & baking powder to make SR
1 cup sugar
1 teasp ground cinnamon
½ teasp ground cloves
2 eggs, lightly beaten
125 gm (4 ounces) butter, melted
2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored & diced
I cup of sultanas.
About a tablesp of milk or water, if needed
Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, toss in the apple cubes and sultanas, and stir to coat fruit with flour. Add the cooled melted butter to the beaten eggs, then stir this liquid into the dry ingredients. Add the extra liquid if the mixture is too stiff. Do not overbeat, just mix well.
Spoon into a greased and lined loaf pan (23x13.5x7xcm; 9x5½ x2 3/4 inches) and smooth the top. Bake at 180C (350F) for 40-45 minutes, or until skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from pan. Leave to cool completely before cutting. Sadly,fluten-free flour will not rise as beautifully as wheat flour!
Note: You could try using eating apples instead of cooking ones for the raw apple version, but they don't always cook as well.
Variation: replace raw apple with 1 cup unsweetened stewed apple (or reduce your sugar) . Mix the melted butter and the beaten eggs into the stewed apple, then proceed as before. This variation may take a little longer to cook.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Leeks are available all year round, but psychologically, feel more like an autumn food to me. Others may disagree, but it's when the heat and humidity start to ebb that I remember the pleasures of leeks. Related to garlic and onions, leeks offer all the health benefits of garlic, including antioxidants and antibiotic properties, but are milder and sweeter in flavour. Leeks were favoured by the Egyptians when they were building pyramids, and the Welsh have a leek as their national symbol. Perhaps it's the Welsh in me from my grandfather that makes me love the leek!
Pear and raspberry bread has become very popular on the Sydney cafe scene, so I determined to make some myself. I don't claim this recipe as an original so much as an amalgam of the various recipes I found on the web. Mine uses frozen raspberries, as fresh ones have such a short season and are ridiculously expensive, unless you live in a raspberry growing area, or have raspberry bushes in your garden. Frozen raspberries are not as delicious as fresh picked ones still warm from the sun, but they are an adequate substitute that you can have year round. Raspberries have good levels of Vitamin C, even the frozen ones. My only gripe with the frozen ones is they go purple when baked!,
So, to the recipes:
The name 'frittata' is a bit of a misnomer, as I actually bake it in a 26x16x5cm (10x61/4x2inch) pyrex lasagne dish. It's an adaptation of a frittata recipe from the early 90s; I gave up trying to fry it, as I always made a mess! The beauty of this recipe is you can substitute the cheese with whatever you have in the fridge or feel like eating - extra tasty cheddar, Swiss, fetta, whatever takes your fancy. Ditto with the zucchinis. I often swap them with celery, a flavour that goes well with leeks. You can also substitute the herbs. I like dill, but try oregano, marjoram or tarragon. Be adventurous!
• A good slurp of olive oil
• 3 small leeks or 2 large ones, thinly sliced
• 2 medium zucchinis (courgettes), julienned (matchsticks)
• at least 1 clove of garlic , chopped fine
• 5 eggs lightly beaten
• 11/2 cups milk, or milk and yoghurt blend
• 4 tablesp freshly grated Parmesan cheese (NOT the packaged powdered stuff!)
• 4 tablesp of another cheese, cubed (cubes can be as large or small as you like)
• 2 tablesp plain (all purpose) flour with a good pinch of baking powder
• salt and pepper to taste (white pepper is better than black in this pale dish)
• 2 teasp dried dill
Sauté the leeks in the oil, until starting to soften, cover and cook on low for 10 minutes. Add your garlic and julienned zucchini, stir, and cook covered for another 10 minutes. If substituting celery for the zucchini, sautée it with the leeks, and make sure all vegetables are very soft before you do the next step.
Tip into a large bowl and leave to cool. When cool, mix in the cheeses and herbs.
In a large bowl or glass jug, mix the flour carefully with a little of the milk to make a smooth paste. Stir in the beaten eggs. Add the rest of the milk and the seasonings, stirring well to eliminate any lumps.
Spread the cheesy vegetable mix over the base of your oiled dish, pour in the milkand eggs, and stir gently until well combined.
Bake in the middle of a 180C (350F) oven for 25-30 minutes. at the 25 minute mark, test with a skewer to see how close to cooked it is. It should be slightly runny in the middle. If so, turn the oven off for the last 5 minutes to avoid overcooking.
Leave to cool completely before you attempt to cut it; this allows it to firm up.
Sue's Gluten-free Café-style Pear & Raspberry Bread
This is yummy toasted and spread with butter or smooth ricotta, and makes a great breakfast loaf. (Toast under a griller, not in a pop-up toaster - it will stick and burn.)
• 4 medium cooking pears, peeled, cored and grated or chopped fine.
• 1 tablesp lemon juice
• 3 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
• 1 teasp bicarb (baking soda) and 1/2 teasp baking powder
• 3/4 cup melted butter
• 3 eggs
• 2 teasp vanilla essence
• 2 tablesp milk
• 1/2 cup frozen raspberries (or fresh, if you can)
• 3/4 cup sugar, preferably brown, but raw or white are good
Grate or chop pears and toss in the lemon juice to prevent them browning. make sure all the juice from the pears goes in the bowl.
Sift together the dry ingredients. Whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla, add the melted butter and whisk until blended.
Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients, add the pears and mix until combined, but do not overmix. Fold in the raspberries.
Pour batter into a greased and lined large loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake in 180C (350F) oven for an hour, checking with a skewer at the 55 minute mark. You might need to reduce the temperature a few degrees if the top is browned but the inside is not yet cooked.
Friday, January 27, 2012
Musing on Australia Day about what is the typical Aussie fruit I thought bananas – no; mangoes – no; pineapples – no; Granny Smith apples – yes! The Granny Smith is the apple Australia gave the world. It’s great for cooking with, ultra-reliable, and it’s also crisp, crunchy and slightly tart – perfect to bite into on a hot summer day.
Apples are not seasonal in high summer, but with controlled atmosphere storage, (cool storage), we can have crisp, juicy apples pretty much all year round. And with the new, smaller, varieties of what my family call “Granny Miffs,” (a N-W coast Tasmanian pronunciation), you can have big ones for cooking and small ones for munching.
As a proud Tasmanian, I always understood the Granny Smith originated in the apple-growing areas of the Huon Valley, a self-seeded tree, mutated from apples tossed out by early settlers or explorers, (maybe even Bass & Flinders during their circumnavigation of the island), and discovered by a local woman, the eponymous ‘Granny Smith’, some time in the 1830s or 40s, long before her NSW namesake claimed the triumph. Alas, I can find no documentary evidence to back up this lovely legend! You can read about the ‘real’ Granny Smith here.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Granny Smith’s great-granddaughter Edna Spurway certainly thought so. She lived to 101, and was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald as attributing her longevity to “good genes and lots of apples”.
What we now know is some of the reasons why a daily apple is so good for our health. Some 85 different studies have found that apples’ high levels of powerful antioxidants help protect the eater against cell-damaging free radicals, which could contribute to various cancers, cardiovascular disease, T2 diabetes and even asthma.
It’s amazing, but one standard apple contains more antioxidant power than one orange, half a punnet of blueberries or a cup of strawberries. Apples also contain useful amounts of calcium, potassium, iron and zinc, and on top of all that, they’re low GI. Plus, it’s much easier to walk out the door biting into a crisp juicy apple, with the juice spurting down your chin, than to eat the equivalent amount of strawberries or blueberries on the run. Even an orange has to be peeled!
Granny Smith – the world’s favourite cooking apple
I’m not sure if that’s 100 per cent correct; there maybe some regional apple varieties in other parts of the world that cooks swear by, but in Australia it’s certainly true. So, to the recipes:
Granny’s Apple Crumble
No, not Granny Smith’s, but my version of how I think my Scottish grandmother made apple crumble. She was an excellent cook, but she never shared her recipes, so when I came to make apple crumble for my young family after she'd died, I had to recreate it from taste memory, (with a little help from the English Women’s Weekly on rubbing the butter into the flour).
4 large green cooking apples
3 or 4 cloves, or ¼ teasp ground cloves
½ - 1 teasp ground cinnamon
About ½ cup of water.
Thinly slice the peeled and cored apples, place in a large saucepan with the spices and cover with the water. Be sparing with the water, you don't want the apples to become too sloppy. Stew gently until they are only just cooked. Stir in just enough sugar to taste – not too sweet. Put stewed fruit into a large oven-proof dish or lasagna dish.
125 grams (4 oz) butter or margarine
½ cup of soft brown sugar
1 cup of plain (all purpose) flour
1 cup of instant rolled oats (quick cooking or microwaveable oats)
In a large bowl put the flour and the butter, cut into tiny cubes. Rub the butter into the flour using your finger-tips, until the mixture is like small breadcrumbs. This is messy work, but quite fun, and the rubbing action aerates the mixture. (Don’t use a food processor unless you’re absolutely pushed for time!) Stir in the brown sugar and the rolled oats, keeping the mixture as light as you can.
Spread the topping over the stewed apple; try to use a dish that enables you to have quite a thick crumble topping. Bake at 190C (375F) for 25-30 minutes, until crumble is golden brown. Serve warm or cold with cream, yoghurt or icecream.
Options: You can vary the crumble topping by replacing the oats or about 1/3 of the flour with coconut or any crunchy breakfast cereal. Using gluten-free flour and removing the oats makes it safe for coeliacs and people with gluten-intolerance. You could also replace the apple with any other stewed fruit or even tinned (canned) fruit or frozen berries, but then it wouldn’t be a traditional apple crumble! But still delicious.
More apple recipes to come!
Monday, January 9, 2012
I apologise! As a health and science journalist, I have to admit I do like to know what individual food items contain, and their possible health effects on the human body. It pleases me to know that broccoli contains sulforaphane which switches on a set of antioxidant genes and enzymes in specific immune cells, which then combat the injurious effects of free radicals that can damage cells and lead to disease. (Broccoli Boosts Immunity.)
But that doesn’t tell you that cooked properly: lightly steamed and tossed with a little olive oil or melted butter, broccoli is “surprisingly delicious”, to quote a friend, or that picked at the peak of freshness when it will contain the maximum of its good nutrients, it’s a dazzling emerald green.
Similarly, I have written articles on the health benefits of following the so-called Mediterranean Diet. I've identified the individual nutrients in each of the food groups in the Mediterranean Diet, and their effect on our health. But did I mention how well all these foods go together? How the olive oil makes vegetables glisten and improves their flavour (as well as making them more digestible)? Did I say how beautiful the colours are, and the tempting aromas? I hope at least, that the photo I chose to go with the words gave you some idea of the sensuality of the food.
The Whole is Greater than its Components
I’m grateful to Pollan for reminding me that we humans don’t eat nutrients, we eat food. It’s a basic fact that we all know, but, sadly, an emphasis on ‘healthy eating’ and ‘healthy diets’, can all too easily lead to an emphasis on individual nutrients (nutritionism), and that can lead to relying on food supplements and packaged foods that carry health claims, rather than on real food that needs to be prepared and enjoyed. Real food that can be picked from your garden, or bought at a greengrocers, old-fashioned butcher or farmers’ market.
The Joy of Food
So, a New Year’s resolution for this blog. It’s called 'Eat Well Every Day', and I did mean well, both in the sense of ‘good health’ and in the sense of enjoyably and not expensively. So there will be more emphasis on the pleasure of the food I choose to discuss with you, as well as telling you what I know about the health benefits of each food. I made some good approaches in that direction back when I posted about my love of mangoes.
So, to the recipe:
It’s summer here in Sydney (at least some days), and figs, raspberries, mangoes, are all around, perfuming the air, and being utterly delicious just to eat fresh. Well, everyone knows how to eat fresh fruit, so here’s a recipe I have my daughter-outlaw to thank for. She made a huge dish of figs wrapped in prosciutto as part of our Christmas Day feast – figs gathered from the tree outside her front door. They were great on the day, and just as delicious (and messy to eat) for breakfast on Boxing Day.
Figs in Prosciutto
I’m not claiming this as an original recipe; it’s just one of many, many versions of this traditional Italian dish. Some versions stuff the figs with Gorgonzola, blue cheese, or brie, but I prefer to enjoy the perfect combination of roasted figs and slightly crisped prosciutto.
Large ripe figs, enough for each person to have at least two
An equal number of slices of prosciutto
Good olive oil
Small amount of real Balsamic vinegar
A baking dish large enough to hold the figs in a single layer.
Wrap each fig in a slice of prosciutto. You might need to hold them together with toothpicks. Stand the figs up in the baking dish. Drizzle a little good quality Balsamic vinegar over them, then brush each prosciutto slice with olive oil.
Bake at a little over 200C (400F) for 15-20 minutes, until prosciutto has melted a little and crisped, and the figs are cooked. These are just as delicious at room temperature as eaten warm.