In a proactive attempt to maintain good health, it was suggested that I go on a tea, coffee, gluten, soya and dairy free diet (plus a reduced alcohol intake… aaargh!), and this, slightly to my children’s chagrin, consternation and displeasure. Because, quite apart from it being a challenge for me to adopt, it was also quite an ask for Josie (No.3, as I like to refer to her when she’s not listening…and she rarely reads my emails!) who is doing the lion’s share of the cooking at present and who, therefore, had to deal with her father’s sudden predilection for the healthy life. But rise to the challenge she has, and really quite spectacularly, managing to concoct meals that are almost entirely “unprocessed” and from fresh ingredients, which in fact she’s no stranger to in recent years to be fair to her.
As a result of this regime I do feel a little better than I did, although I wasn’t feeling particularly bad before admittedly. I’ve lost 7 or 8lbs in the last 3 weeks, so equivalent to 4 bags of sugar that I’m not carrying around with me anymore and I suspect that, without the dairy some of the back and neck aches have receded as well. Not a bad result for 12 days “suffering”. If you are on the ball you may be thinking to yourself that 12 days, does not 3 weeks maketh. Well observed!
That’s because on Friday nights (and Saturday nights and Sunday nights) I allow myself an early glass of Sauvignon Blanc (or Oaked Chardonnay…yes in the right glass even Chardonnay tastes good!), or two if I’m feeling extravagant, before supper, and a couple of glasses of a favourite Bordeaux, or three if I’m feeling extravagant, with it. Over the rest of the weekend I might push the boat out even further and have a mug of tea or as an extra special treat, a coffee with cake or chocolate.
And so it was, that last weekend I found myself taking up a kind invitation by my cousin Jim (not to be confused with my brother Jim) and his partner Riki to go and stay with them in Cambridge. I arrived, as instructed, at lunch time. The weather was warm and sunny and having successfully parked my “Tank” (their rather uncharitable reference to my beautiful Alpina) we went through to the back garden, where in the dappled shade of an apple tree at the far end, there was a table set for lunch and Jim was busying himself with his newish toy, a home built (by him) pizza oven. A thing of beauty by anyone’s standards, it comprised a cylindrical brick base to waist height and a clay oven sculpted over the top. Over the top of this edifice he and a friend had built a tiled roof supported by some very substantial timbers and the whole thing was reminiscent of a church lych gate, really quite beautiful. The fire was lit and his infrared thermometer told him it was a measly 260°C (he was aiming for 450°C).
Cast in order of appearance L>R : The river Cam, a passing punt, Riki, Jim and "Clare College" bridge.
A glass or two of a very palatable English wine (dryish, with an Elderflower/Cat’s piss aroma) or two later and he commenced the cooking, making the pizza base by hand, stretching the dough as you see them do in good pizzerias and then loading them with an assortment of San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella, veg ‘parmesan’, pine nuts, aubergine, courgette, capers, mushrooms and olives, in random combinations, onto the Caputo flour sourdough base, all washed down with an organic Red that was light and very pleasant (in the correct shaped glass naturally). Talking of which, if you are regular you might be interested to know that I’ve now extended my places that can provide me with the right shaped wine glass, eastwards by several of degrees of longitude …..
So, a weekend that was, in part at any rate, off my diet…!
So, why am I regaling you with this bit of tittle tattle? Well for some time now, Em (Reigate shop manager), who is a great cook, has been eating very much more healthily, and it’s the nature of the beast that she has done quite a lot of research into food and its production, and whilst I wouldn’t describe what she’s unearthed as new news, it is none the less quite surprising, perhaps shocking?
I’ll let her explain….
My gut healthy food journey … By Emma Hay.
I’ve been boring everyone near me with my new, evangelical discoveries around food.
It started with a book, I found in a charity shop for £1, called ‘Gut, the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ’ by Guilia Enders. This book highlighted the link between mental health and food, more specifically how it (mental health) is affected by our gut health, and our microbiome (bacteria in our stomach that helps us absorb nutrients). I’ve been feeding my microbiome all sorts of lovely things that they like, such as asparagus, artichoke and lots of different veggies and fruit for the last two months and I’m feeling better for it.
As ever, when I get hooked on something I end up finding more links, subjects to delve into and associated articles.
Last week I found a podcast about UPF (ultra-processed food) by Doctors Chris & Xand van Tulleken, on the BBC. It looked into how we can become addicted to ultra-processed food and how it affects our mood, hormones and weight control as well as the nutrient content it brings.
“Ultra-processed foods, as defined by the NOVA (See below)* food classification system, are not modified or merely processed foods. They are industrial formulations, manufactured from substances derived from foods, which typically contain cosmetic and various other types of additive but little, if any, “intact food.”
These types of "food" are designed to be highly palatable, high in sugar, fats, salt and various additives. Simply put, the food industry spends lots of money designing these foods so they “hit us” (with every bite or gulp) with a dopamine pleasure kick to the brain. A brain that’s still primitive enough to be vulnerable to multiple chemicals, that are put together to trigger a repeat pleasure sensation, that teases the digestive system. Our body then demands more, when it finds little or no nutrients in that stimulating "food".
So, in summary, I’ve not gone completely vegan or changed very much really, apart from swapping the white rice to brown, regular pasta to whole grain and cheese changed to unpasteurised, but then I have added a lot more vegetables to my shopping list, e.g. Chicory, Aubergine, Courgette, Bell Peppers, Beetroot and Garlic by the ton. Oh, and I’ve also made “cabbage, carrot & beetroot sauerkraut” and “homemade hummus” from dried chickpeas for the first time. The Hummus was chickpeas soaked overnight then cooked in my Sage Fast Slow Pro Cooker for 13mins on the pressure cooker setting, with cumin seeds, dried herbs, Baharat spice mix and black sesame seeds. Quite a complex and lovely texture, cooking your own chickpeas. All whizzed up in our Magimix Mini Plus food processor with tahini, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.
**The NOVA classification goes like this:
Group one: Unprocessed and minimally processed
Unprocessed and minimally processed foods make up 30 per cent of the calories eaten in a typical UK diet.
Unprocessed foods include fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, beans, pulses and natural animal products such as eggs, fish, milk and unprocessed meat.
Minimally processed foods may have been dried, crushed, roasted, frozen, boiled or pasteurised, but contain no added ingredients. They include frozen fruits and vegetables, frozen fish, pasteurised milk, 100 per cent fruit juice, no-added-sugar yoghurt, spices and dried herbs.
Group two: Processed culinary ingredients
Processed culinary ingredients include oils, fats such as butter, vinegars, sugars and salt. These foods are not meant to be eaten alone, but usually with foods in group one. Around 4 per cent of the calories we eat in the UK comes from this category.
Group three: Processed
Processed foods are products that are usually made using a mix of group one and two ingredients. They include smoked and cured meats, cheeses, fresh bread, bacon, salted or sugared nuts, tinned fruit in syrup, beer and wine. The main purpose of the processing is to prolong the food’s life or enhance its taste and almost 9 per cent of calories eaten in the UK are from this group.
Group four: Ultra-processed
Ultra-processed foods usually contain ingredients that you wouldn’t add when cooking homemade food. You may not recognise the names of these ingredients as many will be chemicals, colourings, sweeteners and preservatives. The most commonly eaten ultra-processed foods in the UK are:
- Industrialised bread (11% of an average diet)
- Pre-packaged meals (7.7% of an average diet)
- Breakfast cereals (4.4 % of an average diet)
- Sausages and other reconstituted meat products (3.8 % of an average diet)
Emma Hay, June 2022.
I asked her to write this as we’ve had so many conversations about the new foods she’s been eating of late, and what exciting stuff she has in her lunch box, that I thought it might be of interest to you. I know, this may sound a bit sad, but in our defence, we are just a bunch of foodies. To us, it’s just a part of everyday life. As Em has been heard to utter on more than one occasion, “I can’t believe I’ve got job that involves standing around all day long talking to colleagues and customers about my favourite thing, food, and I actually get paid for it!!”
Admittedly she only says this on good days. On bad days her language changes tone somewhat….(BU)*.
Earlier I suggested that what she’s found out about certain sections of the food industry might be considered rather shocking.
If the research that she found is correct, then my initial concern is this. A company that deliberately goes out of its way to produce “food” that it’s customers become unwittingly addicted to, can change their mood, are high in sugar, fats, salt and various additives, that can then lead to obesity, and to top it all has little or no food value, seems to me to be a company that’s lost its way, perhaps even its moral compass, and as a result has made profit its sole aim. It’s a company that doesn’t know its “Why “anymore. It’s a company that doesn’t know why it gets out of bed in the morning, anymore!I’ll let Henry Ford paraphrase my thoughts because I’m running short on time and I’ve got some knife offers to talk to you about. He said simply this “A business that makes nothing but money, (i.e. makes profit it’s no 1 goal) is a poor business”…..
*BU= British Understatement
One of my favourite ranges of knives is made by, the now second generation firm of, Robert Welch, who make some mouth-watering cutlery designs and a good number of years ago brought out a range of kitchen knives called simply “Signature”. I think the reasons why this range has been so successful are various. The handles are smallish which are comfortable in a greater variety of hand sizes, they look lovely, not surprisingly with this heritage, they are well made with Solingen steel so the quality is high and they are remarkably well priced.
However, this year supplies have been very poor and we have very little stock. But, we do have three of their sets, which I must have over ordered last Christmas.
- Kitchen Knife set and Sharpener.
This comprises a modest 14cm Cooks knife, a 10cm Paring Knife, and a handheld knife sharpener. The knives don’t really need introduction but the sharpener deserves a comment. There are various ways of sharpening good quality knives. Steels, Ceramic Steels, Water Stones and Handhelds. By far the easiest and most consistent (unless you are skilled) are the handheld versions. There are some good ones (my favourite is the Mino Sharp) and there are some horrors, that in the wrong hands can do serious damage to the knife blade. The Welch handheld is one of the good ones. It uses a ceramic wheel to gently sharpen all your non serrated knife blades to 15 degrees in the twinkling of an eye. So this set is a good general purpose one, even if the cooks knife is on the small side, but you may well find that less threatening.
Yours for £90
- Bread and Cooks knife 16cm set.
This is just two knives. A decentsize Bread Knife, 22cm long big enough for Vanessa’s homemade bread.. (thank you Vanessa!) or for a large Gail’s sourdough loaf. Then there’s a slightly larger Cooks knife, 16cm blade, which is the sort of size knife I go for when preparing a salad for my lunch and, I suppose, general chopping work in the kitchen. Might be a bit of a stretch to cut a large cabbage with it though?
Good value at £90
- Home Chef Set 3 pieces
This set has the large Cooks Knife, with an 18cm blade, that will tackle almost anything, so long as you’ve the confidence to use a blade this long. There’s a 12cm Paring Knife, so a larger version of the paring in the first set I talked about. And this is one of the other reasons for the popularity of the Welch Signature range, it really is very comprehensive. And lastly there’s a Santoku Knife, 11cm. I’ve never had cause to use one, but I looked it up and it said slicing meat, slicing cheese, and doing the same to fruit and veg, sounds very general purpose!
Yours for £120.
These sets are already discounted prices, but for this weekend we’re offering the £90 sets down to £79.20 and the £120 set to £105.60. Use code WELCH when checking out, or tell us who you are in the shops.
That’s it for this week.
I hope you have a pleasant and peaceful weekend.