Welcome to Eat Well Every Day

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!


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Friday, January 27, 2012

The Aussie Apple for Australia Day

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.
Serves 4

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!

Buon Appetito!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Less Nutritionism, More Enjoyment

Rereading In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan’s analysis of the ‘Western Diet’ and food science and technology, I’ve realised, to my dismay, that I’ve been toeing the ‘nutritionism’ line in these blogs. That is, putting more emphasis on the importance of the individual macro- and micro-nutrients in each food, rather than celebrating the whole food for its wonderful qualities of taste, colour, ripeness, seasonal variety, and sheer enjoyment.

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.

Buon appetito