Cooking deelitefully

Welcome to  the deelitefull blog.  I am a cooking and nutrition coach based in Dublin, Ireland.   Food should both taste great and make you feel great. My experience of some healthy eating guides & books is that they can be a little worthy, bland and humourless. Eating should always be a pleasure both to the senses and to the soul. There is nothing worse than eating a meal and feeling like you need a crane to hoist you out of your chair but on the other hand there is nothing more dreary than a meal that is assessed purely on the reduced calories and fat grams it contains. So on this blog you can follow my search for delicious healthy recipes with soul.  

Friday, March 26, 2010

Daffodil day

Daffodil Day.
I wasn’t planning to blog today and I don’t have any recipes prepared but I thought I would write a little about how what we eat can help prevent certain cancers. This is not going to be a preachy blog, I promise, just good to know the facts given the day thats in it. After this posting the focus will primarily be on tasty recipes ( with a little bit of nutrition advice)
For anyone living in Ireland, its hard to avoid wearing something yellow today. This is one of the biggest days of the year for the Irish Cancer Society,  where an army of volunteers take to the streets persuading people to part with just €3.00 for a daffodil brooch(see picture) or a bunch of daffodils.  Its hard to find anyone who has not been touched by cancer in some way,  either themselves or someone close to them.
The other pictures are of some daffodils growing in my garden.
While genetics play a significant role in cancer development,  its estimated up to 40% of cancers are lifestyle and diet related.   In my final year of my nutrition course I did my dissertation on the link between low selenium and prostate cancer.  Don’t worry I am not going to bore you with that,  just some easy to follow advice for reducing your cancer risk ( and also you diabetes and heart disease risk)
If you read the papers are listen to the news there is always some new superfood that is linked to cancer prevention.    Usually some rare berry that only grows up the side of a rock in Outer Mongolia.  But it actually its much simpler than that.   Unfortunately for us there is no magic bullet nutritionally but we can do a lot to reduce our risk. Drinking pints of pomegranate juice is not going to make much difference if you are guzzling pints of beer every night and wolfing down highly processed meat products and lots of dairy every day.  The key is  ............ta-dah............a healthy balanced diet 
Epidemiological studies -  (fancy word for studying the health of populations) show that a balanced healthy diet made up of lots of vegetables, fruit,  whole-grains, fish and low on saturated fat has a positive impact on the incidence of cancer.  Take the studies of Japan and South East Asia where incidence of many types of cancer are quite low when compared to those eating a “western diet”.  In relation to prostate cancer there seemed to be quite a clear link between the amount of saturated fat consumed and the risk of prostate cancer.    Studies of immigrants from Japan have demonstrated that native Japanese have the lowest risk of clinical prostate cancer, first-generation Japanese Americans have an intermediate risk and subsequent generations have a risk comparable to the US population.  
Now I like my meat and especially my cheese but I also love vegetables and fish.   My approach is not give anything up but just to work on getting the balance right.  Rather than eating lots of cheap plastic cheese,  I focus on buying one small piece of good cheese and savouring it.  Even better choose cheeses that are strongly flavoured,  I use parmesan and feta a lot when cooking as a little goes a long way.

Nowadays I tend to eat red meat once a week, sometimes twice but this was never a decision I made it just happened.  When I do have it,  I really enjoy it or I use it in dishes where it is bulked out with delicious veg.  Thai beef salad is a delicious way of making a small amount of delicious steak go a long way.  
I am always searching out for new ways to cook veggies and fruit.  There is nothing worse than over cooked, soggy, flavourless veggies.  I think that is what has put a lot of people off veggies here in Ireland. But a few simple tricks can make your vegetables a lot more exciting and less like a chore.    No recipes but here are some quick tips, Roast up some sweet potatoes wedges with crushed fennel seeds, salt and a drizzle of olive oil -  much tastier alternative to chips.  Roast some beetroot( even the precooked vacuum packed ones) with some honey and thyme.  Fry a few breadcrumbs with chilli and garlic and toss in some cooked (but not over cooked)broccoli.  Add some lemon/orange zest, a grating of parmesan and some olive oil to steamed asparagus.    I will be focusing on other ways of including more vegetables, fish and whole-grains in your diet -  yes because they are good for you but also because with a few new ideas and recipes they taste great!  It can be easy to get stuck in a food rut,  even me!  So if anyone has any suggestions for vegetables to try and jazz up or vegetables they are not sure what to do with,  please feel free to comment and I will try to cover them.
Healthy eating that may help reduce your cancer risk
Foods to enjoy
Lots of these
 - Foods rich in Selenium :  Found in brazil nuts ( only a few a day though, not like my Dad who only heard half what I said and went through a whole packet in one day which can be dangerous too!/  Also nuts keep much fresher in the fridge), fish,  whole grains and seeds
- Foods rich in Vitamin E : Found in nuts and seeds:  walnuts, linseeds, pecans,  sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, vegetable oil, egg yolks
- Foods rich in Lycopene: Tomatoes( particularly cooked tomatoes); Ketchup is great source. Also found in grapefruit and watermelon.  
- Cruciferous vegetables : Broccoli, cauliflower,  kale, mustard greens, brussel sprouts, cabbage,  rocket, watercress
- Increase fibre –  found in fruit, vegetables and whole-grains
- Aim for 5-7 servings of vegetables and fruit a day.   If you are not eating many portions at the moment. Try and eat one extra portion  every day for a month,  then increase that again the following month etc.  Small changes are much more achievable
- Eat a mixture of colourful vegetables -  
Foods to enjoy,  just less often and in smaller quantities
    X   Foods high in fat especially animal fats.
    X   Red meat and processed meats.  Particularly well done/burnt red meat and
processed red meat.  Try and replace with fish and poultry when possible. if you're eating red meat every day at the moment - Try and change 2 days a week - 1 to fish and 1 to chicken.  Try this for one month and then increase by another day the next month etc.
Happy Daffodil day ( promise to keep my blogs a little shorter in future ;-)


Thursday, March 25, 2010

St patricks day brunch

My first blogging post and where better to start than with a St Patrick's day brunch.  
Yes I know its risky,  an outdoor BBQ brunch in Ireland in March.... but the sun shone, yipee!    I tried to bring an Irish twist to all the dishes,  considering the day that was in it.  Some of the Irish twists are pretty tenous - Sweet Potato representing the orange in the Irish flag - weak I know.  
Anyway the main reason I love these dishes for a large brunch is that you can prepare most of them ahead and they are all reasonably healthy  ( well, maybe not too many of the sausuges!)  oh and of course they taste pretty good.  The lovely flower arrangements were done by my friend Maria - who is a true domestic goddess and puts all the rest of us to shame. 

The menu:
Rhubarb Bellini s - Swishy 

Bacon and champ frittata with parsley pesto 
Sweet potato, red onion and feta frittata (v)
Lovely green salad brought by Klara

Delicious Irish Pork sausuges with Mango coleslaw and Guinness baked beans

Clementine, Yellow plums and Pomengranate with Spiced "Barrys" Tea Syrup - served with yogurt and pistachio nuts. (v)

Baby spud, Smoked salmon and beetroot salad


All the friends brought lovely contributions ; fairy cakes, giant and smartie cookies, cheese-board of Irish cheeses, breads, mini lemon cheesecakes (yummy - ).    Last of the guests left at 9.00 which was pretty civilised,  I am not sure if that was beacuse Paddys day fell midweek or we are all getting old.
Here are some pictures  ( In case you haven't guessed as well as the blogging I am new to photography too.)  My 2 favourite dishes were the Guinness beans and  the Spiced "barrys" tea syrup with clementines.  So here goes the recipes for those: 

The Clementine recipes is adapted from a recipe by Vicky Boghal in Waitrose food illustrated - one of my favourite food magazines.

Clementines, yellow plums and pomengrantes with "Barrys tea" spiced syrup

20 Clementines
10 yellow plums
2 pomengranates
150g Golden caster sugar
6 Green cardamom pods, cracked
6 Cloves
½ tsp Fennel seeds
1 Cinnamon stick
1 Star anise
½ tsp Ground ginger
2 tbsp Barrys loose leave tea 

1. Heat the sugar in a small sauce pan with 300ml water over a low heat; add the cardamom pods, cloves, fennel seeds, cinnamon stick and star anise. Stir now and again until the sugar has dissolved.

2. Turn up the the heat and boil for 5 minutes without stirring. Switch off the heat, allow to cool for 1 minute, then stir in the ground ginger.

3. Steep for 10 minutes, then strain, reserving the spices (to add back in later)

4. Add the tea leaves to the strained syrup and steep for  5 minutes

5. Strain again, discarding the tea. 

6. Return the spices to the liquid and leave at room temperature to cool.  ( This can all be done days ahead and the syrup stored in the fridge)

7. Peel the clementines and slice into 3-4 rounds ( ie not segments) and place in a large serving bowl

8. Halve  the plums, destone them and cut into quarters and scatter in the bowl.

9. Cut the pomengranate in half and scoop out the seeds over the clemintine and plums( bashing the back of the pomengrante halves with a wooden spoon can sometimes dislodge some of the more reluctant ones)

10. Pour over you syrup and spices and serve with yougurt and chopped pistachio nuts.

Guinness baked beans

These don't take alot of work but do take a bit of time as you need to soak the beans overnight and then cook them for 5-6 hours.  I did kinda of make this up as I went along so I hope I rememberd all the ingredients correctly.  This fed about 20 people as a side dish,  there wasn't one bean left

500g of  dried haricot beans
500g of dried cannelini beans
300g of smoked bacon, cut into small cubes
2 large onions, peeled and quartered
4 large cloves of garlic crushed
3-4 tablespoons of molasses
2 table spoons of honey/maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
4 bay leaves
2 tbsp of dijon mustard
2 whole dried chillies
1 can of guinness
2 tbsp of Jameson whiskey
1-2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
1 tsp of Maldon smoked sea salt ( If doesn't have to be smoked)
1 tsp of paprika

1. Put the dried beans in a large bowl or baisin of cold water and soak over night.  

2. Next day drain the beans and place in a large oven proof saucepan with enough water to cover them by  about an inch or so( I borrowed my mums large creuset pot).  Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 45 minutes

3. Meanwhile prepare the rest of the ingredients,  stud the onion quarters with the cloves.  Preheat your oven to 180 C.

4. Drain the beans keeping the liquid.  You need about 1 litre of this liquid,  add the guiness, molasses, honey, mustard and paprika to this liquid and keep to one side

5. Put the beans back in the large oven proof pot,  push all the other ingredients bar the balsamic vinegar and salt into the beans.

6. Pour the reserved liquid mixture over the beans,  you probably won't use all the liquid but keep it and continue to add to the beans throuthout cooking.

7. Put the beans in the oven for 5-6 hours,  ensuring you stir every hour and add more liquid if needed.

8. Halfway through cooking,  add 1 -2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and the salt.

9. At 5 hours test the beans to see if they are cooked,  they should be very soft,  Season to taste. They may need another hour.

10. These reheat beautifully,  I am quite sure they freeze quite well,  but I have never got the chance as they are always gobbled up.  This also explains the lack of photos as they were all eaten before I got a chance to take one.

Apologies for spelling -  not sure where spell check is on this blogging set up,  will rectify as soon as I have discovered how to do it ;-)