Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Yesterday I bought some of what has to be the last courge (butternut squash) of the season, which was grown just down the road in Vallauris, 20 minutes drive from here. Radishes and a little chèvre rond from the local goat's cheese producer and voilà, suddenly I had the key ingredients for a delicious and colourful lunch based on a dish I ate a couple of weeks ago at a lovely little cafe in Camps Bay.
When people ask me about recipes for getting inspired in the kitchen, my advice is to pick the freshest, lushest looking produce available and get experimental with it. There's very little you can't jazz up with lime juice and the holy trinity of ginger, garlic and chilli.
On a chilly day, a seasonal veg or two simmered in a fresh stock with herbs and blitzed when cool makes the most filling and nutritious soup you could ask for. It guards against infection, builds immunity and fills you with protective vitamins and minerals as well as plant chemicals and enzymes which improve digestion, boost resistance and fight off illness.
Last week I met one of the directors of Breast Cancer Now, the UK's largest breast cancer charity , to talk about the importance of diet and nutritional advice at point of diagnosis. It was fantastically productive and really gave me a glimmer of hope that things are changing, slowly but surely. But you don't need to wait until you get ill to start eating better....
The cliche you are what you eat has never been more true, so make sure it's a rainbow of beautiful fresh locally sourced or home grown produce and you can't go too far wrong.
Cape Town Rainbow Salad
This is one of those ‘use what’s left in the fridge’ salads. You can swap ingredients if certain things are hold to get hold of (roasted carrots for roasted squash, goat’s cheese for feta, watercress or rocket for spinach etc). It’s colourful and delicious, and the tartness of the goat’s cheese works beautifully with radishes and the sweet nuttiness of the squash – summer on a plate! I tried this in Cape Town a couple of weeks ago, where they used spinach leaves, feta and no pomegranate, rosemary or courgette – it was just as delicious.
200g butternut squash or carrots, chopped roughly into thumb size pieces
2 large handfuls watercress, spinach or rocket
I small young courgette, finely sliced
Sml handful toasted pine nuts
Six sun dried tomatoes (drained from oil and cut in half longways)
I small round goat’s cheese (I buy mine at the market) or 100g crumbled feta
Five radishes, washed, trimmed and cut in half
1 sprig rosemary leaves (optional)
Sml handful pomegranate seeds (optional)
Fresh home made vinaigrette (recipe in guide)
Toss the squash in extra virgin olive oil and roast for 15 mins until lightly browned. Leave to cool. Lightly coat the thin courgette slices in leftover oilive oil and lightly fry in a dry frying pan for a minute or two on each side. Remove and leave to cool. Toast the pine nuts for a couple of minutes in the same pan and reserve in a bowl.
Place a handful of salad greens on the plate, arrange the tomatoes and radishes in the leaves then layer the cool courgettes across the top. Add the cooled squash, cheese, pine nuts and drizzle with vinaigrette. If you’re adding pomegranate and rosemary, do this last.
Friday, March 11, 2016
Depending on the time of year, you can find figs, grapefruits, olives, lemons and, of course, oranges (this is the orange valley after all) on my walk. Our mandarin tree is heavy with fruit right now so I came up with a great twist for dessert. Squeeze the juice from three mandarins into a pot of mascarpone and mix well along with the finely chopped rind from half a mandarin. Serve a spoonful (or two) with a piece of gluten free chocolate mud pie…delicious!
I have been buying from them for some years now, and if I happen to grab the odd bunch of carrots from a supermarket, Issy (who likes hers raw) refuses to eat them because they taste of chemicals. She solemnly advised me to avoid Spanish produce because it’s high in GMO. Another good reason to buy from local French and Italian growers.
VivaMayr clinic in Austria. When you are existing on 600 calories a day, it’s not surprising that you become obsessed by food. At one meal, I nearly cried when I dropped a cracker on the floor. If the dining room had been less busy, I would have picked it up and wolfed it down without a second thought.
On the upside, I did emerge a few weeks ago feeling lighter, brighter and more energetic after a barrage of exotic and bizarre beauty and medical treatments that keep Hollywood’s A list and various European heads of state running back for more. You can read all about my adventure in Austria in the first of my reports in The Good Spa Guide (spot the deliberate mistake regarding my age!)
As if one hard-core detox was not enough, I did a second self-imposed one last week to keep the FiveDays gang company. It was a walk in the park compared to vegetable broth, herbal tea and not much else in Austria. We finished last Friday with lots of fab feedback, kilos shed and people experiencing less inflammation, better sleep patterns and all round better general health than they had at the start of the week. If that doesn’t deserve a glass of champagne, I don’t know what does. I'm currently road-testing some delicious vegetarian spring recipes for the next FiveDays in early April.
Helen sent me a great tip for making pineapple tea using the skin and core of a fresh pineapple from a great blog called Food52.com. Now that the sun is shining, it's definitely one to try.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Dr Rau’s Way is an oft repeated mantra in the book…and his way is an alkalising diet, lots of soups and green leafy vegetables, no fresh fruit after 4pm (it can ferment in the gut and place stress on the liver), no processed foods and a little of what you fancy from time to time.
VivaMayr Clinic in the spectacular Austrian mountain resort of Lake Maria Worth.
Now I’ve been lucky enough to land some very jammy press trips over the years (brace yourself *namedrop alert….Tahiti, Bora Bora, Australia, South Africa, Zambia, the Maldives…) but never have I had the reactions I am getting when I tell friends I am off to experience the Detoxification Cure at the VivaMayr.
‘Whaaat?’ ‘Sooo unfair,’ and ‘How the hell did you wangle that?’ has been the general consensus. After breathlessly ranting to Milly about the treatments on offer, she could barely contain herself. ‘You are the only person I know who has ever actually looked forward to a colonic irrigation,’ she mused.
It’s tough at the coalface of international investigative journalism but someone has to do these jobs and it might as well be me. You can read all about my adventures and colonics in The Good Spa Guide when I get back.
Readers including my dear husband will be relieved to hear that apart from undergoing the rigours of massages, relaxation techniques, yoga, mountain hikes and hydrotherapy, I will also be doing some real work in the shape of an interview with one of the Mayr’s leading medics Dr Schuscha.
While I have plenty of questions of my own to ask, I am intrigued to know what the biggest and most pressing health concerns are amongst my generation of 40-somethings, so if you want to pitch in with a question for the good doctor, please feel free. How to keep middle aged spread at bay seems to be top of the list so far.
Meanwhile, following a very successful FiveDays programme last week, I am back on the recipe trail testing out new dishes to add to the next plan which starts at the end of this month.
I experimented with the recipe below after wondering what to do with the almond meal that was left over every time I make my own almond milk. It is gluten, refined sugar and dairy free and delicious with a moistness that is missing from the flour only version. Only problem is, I am baking one every two days!
Gluten-free Banana and Almond Bread
100g spelt flour
75g almond meal (from home made almond milk)
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons gluten free baking powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract/vanilla pod
Good shake of sea or Himalayan salt
125g organic butter
100ml organic agave syrup
2 large eggs
3 medium bananas, mashed
Mix the flour, almond meal, baking powder, salt and bicarbonate of soda together and set aside. Melt the butter in a pan on low heat, remove from the heat and mix in the agave syrup. Once cooled, whisk in both eggs and then the mashed bananas and vanilla.
Gradually beat in the flour mixture until you have a batter. Pour into a greased and lined loaf tin and bake at 170 degrees centigrade for around one hour. Allow to cool in the tin for five minutes before turning onto a rack. Delicious with a cup of green tea!
Monday, January 25, 2016
There were few disasters. (Soy cream…do not even go there. It is DISGUSTING.) Rice milk (I’m aware rice milk has its fans…some of them are even my friends…but it doesn’t do it for me.) And does anyone out there actually like quinoa crisp breads? Mine tasted like pieces of old cardboard and soaked up so much saliva that I couldn’t physically swallow them unless they were slathered in Boursin or taramasalata, thereby rather defeating the object.) Let the photo above be a warning to you.
There were some success stories too. Green tea (who knew this would replace my daily morning cup of beloved Earl Grey?) Vollkornbrot (in other words, rye bread which is delicious for breakfast if it’s well, and I mean well, toasted with scrambled eggs, bananas and linseeds or mashed avocado and black pepper.) Best of all, unlike normal bread, it doesn’t make me look five months pregnant after one slice. Spelt flour (hurrah, I didn’t have to give up banana bread or lemon drizzle cake, I just had to start baking my own.) Dark chocolate (as a self confessed chocoholic, I thought I would struggle with the milk/dark swap. I didn’t. I merely replaced one addiction with another.)
There’s competition for the top spot but I’m going with Xylitol as my favourite and most life changing discovery in a health food store. A natural birch sugar, it looks suspiciously like refined Tate & Lyle, works in baking and on pancakes and has figured in more than 300 studies indicating it can play a significant role in preventing – and even reversing – tooth decay. Best of all, it tastes nice. Try it, you won't look back. As you can see from the picture below, home made always beats shop bought hands down.
Of course, the biggest challenge was making these ingredients seem normal in a house containing two teenagers and a man with a very sweet tooth. In truth, I am still working on that one but it’s gratifying that for the most part, my cakes and bakes get eaten eventually (and not just by me.) Sometimes they even get a raised eyebrow followed by a bemused ‘This actually tastes really nice! Obviously you didn’t use your ‘special’ ingredients today.’ Er, yes I did.
You’ll know I’m not normal when I tell you that these days, I prefer to spend an hour browsing around my favourite little ‘indie’ stores in Lewes, Twickenham, Greenwich and Mouans Sartoux talking to the usually very well informed assistants about turmeric tablets instead of languishing in the furniture section of Heals or Liberty’s shoe hall. It’s also easier on the bank balance, and that’s one thing him indoors is eternally grateful for. Even if it does mean beetroot brownies for dessert.
Monday, January 11, 2016
Breathing Out will know that my youngest daughter is perhaps my sternest critic and the one I have never quite managed to win over on the food front. We have had many food wars over the years - not unusual for a mother and a sugar addicted teenager, I know.
So when she recently started quizzing me about the best health supplements to take and volunteered to quit the junk and start eating a greener diet, you could say I felt I had finally arrived. All those years of gluten free and sugar free baking are finally coming good!
Over the last five years, I have learned an enormous amount about nutrition and healing yourself through food and exercise. It wasn’t a career plan for me, it was a necessity after being struck down by a critical illness. It didn’t take much research for me to decide to make food one of my doctors.
Since then, I have given advice to dozens of people with health issues, addressed a major medical conference, met with the UK government’s Chief Cancer Advisor at the Department of Health and influenced leading oncologists to embrace diet as an additional route to treating cancer patients.
The Super Elixir, the world's leading super greens supplement, introducing Elle Macpherson to my amazing Harley Street nutritionist Dr Simone Laubscher, and the two subsequently went onto develop The Super Elixir together. Here are Simone and me celebrating the first anniversary at Elle's super fabulous supper at the Grace Belgravia last October.
There's a pattern forming here, right?
I love cooking and my best days are spent experimenting with ingredients, creating and adapting recipes and trying them out on friends and family. I'm passionate about health and fitness too, so combining the two to create a simple, delicious, easy to implement eating plan that will educate, illuminate and give you the foundations for a cleaner, healthier lifestyle (without forgoing the fun) seems like a no brainer to me.
It's not a weight loss plan and yet the pounds seem to drop off quite naturally. The really clever bit, however, is being able to maintain what you have achieved. It's not rocket science but it works, as my two guinea pigs Paula and Karin will attest.
Here’s what Paula, a journalist and personal trainer who founded the Fitter, Stronger retreat with Olympic Rowing champion James Cracknell at Chewton Glen in Hampshire, had to say about it.
‘I thought a five-day detox – my first ever – would be hard work. In fact, I really enjoyed it! I’ve learned a lot more about my body and how it reacts to what I put inside it.
‘I stopped feeling bloated, was generally more alert and had more concentration. I had much more energy than I expected too. I used to feel tired by 9pm but on the plan I didn’t feel sleepy until 11pm or later.
‘After five days, I had lost 5.5 lbs and friends remarked how well I looked and how sparkly my eyes were. I would definitely do this again every two to three months and have already recommended it to friends. Thanks Karen!’
Karin had this to say. ‘I have been on a diet for most of my life (and just got bigger!) Every time I try and be good, I fall off the wagon quite quickly. I have been successful when I’ve attended weekly meetings with Slimming World and Weight Watchers.
‘I know how important regular check-ins and motivations are. Karen’s programme and the frequency of supportive texts and messages within our group made me feel she was there watching me and meant that I didn’t want to cheat, I wanted to push on…and that’s a first for me!
‘Added to that, the recipes are so tasty and filling that I never felt hungry. After five days, I feel great! I’m brighter and definitely less tired in the evening.’
As of next month, I am going to be running a regular ‘FiveDays’ Clean Eating Plan which can be done physically here in France or remotely wherever you are in the world. Here’s what I can promise you…it won’t be difficult to stick to, it won’t run across a weekend (because we all deserve some joy…and bubbles…after a hard week), you won’t feel hungry and you will be eating delicious, nutritious food. It’s not a diet – I hate that word and don’t believe in diets – it’s a lifestyle that can be incorporated into your regular family way of eating.
Please sign up on the blog to keep posted and get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to find out more!
S magazine (that's me on the left being put through my paces by trainer Mitch).
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
However, this January, I’m swapping ‘should’ for ‘want to’. (My husband would argue that I have been doing this for quite some time already. What does he know?)
Anyone who knows me knows that I am
Living in the South of France is like being based in the middle of a beautiful open air gym - it simply abounds with hiking and running trails (even if they are all hilly), beautiful coves where you can swim or paddle board year-round, and of course the local ski resorts (sadly sparsely covered in fake snow at the moment but that should change soon.)
It’s easy to be healthy here with so much locally grown fresh fruit, vegetables and Mediterranean peche du jour freely available…but it’s also very tempting to stray into Pain, Vin et Boursin territory too. I should know, I have spent the last three weeks swigging Champagne and Prosecco at pre and post Xmas parties and eating my own bodyweight in delicious, saucy, fattening home made pasta dishes and over ripe cheeses in glorious Italia (when in Rome etc, except I was in Tuscany.)
As I write this, I am midway through a five-day Happy New Year detox with two UK friends who very sweetly asked me to act as their guru. So far, so good, we’re all a bit hungry (nothing wrong with that) but we are making each other laugh on Messenger and have already lost the Noel bloat (Christmas, not Edmonds, although he might want to join us) and are feeling energised and full of beans. I think the lentils and chick peas obviously help here.
So, my top tips for a healthy start to 2016 are:
• Begin each day with a large mug of hot (not boiling) water, fresh lemon juice and a dash of cayenne. It’s brushing your teeth for your stomach, as my lovely nutritionist Simone always told me.
• Start reading Guilia Enders’ brilliant bestseller Gut, for an up close and no holds barred look at the workings of perhaps our most versatile organ.
• I happen to like exercise but no-one needs to sweat it out for an hour or two at the gym. Half an hour of brisk walking five days a week or seven (days, not minutes) is better. Walk the dog, swim, do some yoga, whatever floats your boat.
• If you want shiny hair, clearer skin and more energy, drink a super greens smoothie or juice every day.
• Take turmeric tablets. I have been adding turmeric to soups, curries and casseroles for years but the capsules are even easier. It’s a known anti-inflammatory and one of the true superfood ingredients.
• Add fresh herbs to as many dishes as possible. Make mint tea with fresh mint leaves, not a tea bag.
• Swap your morning coffee or English Breakfast tea for green tea. In fact, if you do just one thing on this list, make it this one.
It’s great to have you on this journey. I’m off to demolish a bowl of curried parsnip soup….the recipe is below.
Curried Parsnip Soup
Three parsnips, peeled and chopped into batons
Two garlic cloves, chopped
1 litre organic vegetable stock
I heaped teaspoon curry powder
I heaped teaspoon turmeric (or fresh chopped turmeric root)
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley to serve
Place the parsnips in the stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in the spices and leave to cook for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, then blitz in the blender and reheat gently adding seasoning to taste and chopped parsley.