Thursday, 25 March 2010

Food as frenemy Food as healer

Image from microsoft clip art

Hi long time no see lovely foodie people. As you can see Ive not been here for a very long time. Its been very difficult to talk food, as my relationship to the stuff I scoff had to drastically change. November last year I was rushed into hospital , covered in some strange and unexplainable burning and scary looking rash, on top of which I hadn't been able to eat properly for weeks on end, (months even), well I had but my body wasnt very happy with any of it & had rapidly lost weight. I was extremely unwell. I wont go all serious and uncomfortable on you here, after all this is a lighthearted and fun space to talk about food, but lets say the weeks following that Hospital day were not very pretty. I was diagnosed with various auto immune illnesses.

It seems strange to talk about food and this particular illness on this food blog , (thats been an account of mine & he the mans many luxurious & rich heavy feastings), but our relationship between how we feel in our bodies and what we feed it are very connected & now I have learnt this the hard way. I wont go too distasteful on you and have you squirming at your screens, but I will discuss with you what its meant to me.

Being told (even for a few months , I remember pregnancy very well, ahh the need for a runny egg) , you cant eat most of the food groups you've existed on since the dawn of your time is challenging, painful & for me, downright shocking : I was sent home with 3 pages of foods to remove , albeit may be temporarily for say 6months to a year. Yes I have to go to that neurotic place first before I get to the, right what do I have to do to get through this stage. I had to stop dairy, wheat, meat , crucifers, aliums, cabbages & much more, I also had a feeling sugar was doing my body in to.

I had an addiction to sugar that had known no bounds; alcohol , sweets, sugar in teas, cakes , icing, candy floss, anything and everything to fix that sweet monster call . I do however prefer dark chocolate over milk, but one too many confectionery dairy milk bars have passed my lips the last 20+ years! Every morning started with a packet cereal & milk, tea with milk , sauces with cream, cream cheese on even more processed white wheat crackers.Yes pasta & bread had been a non stop staple for me also, eating everything and anything doughy & wheaty I could lay my hands on ; rye, 50/50, sourdough, pitas , challah, wholewheat granary's,naan & on & on. My saving grace, or so I thought ,was reducing my white over processed intake & changing much of it to 50/50 mix. Little did I know the havoc I was wreaking on my guts all these years! I think I may have fooled myself into thinking I was healthy & balanced, as I had eaten salads every day, the thing was that they always sat next to salamis, cured meats, sauces and dressings, all again laden with sugar, preservatives & other nasties. Well nasties for me & my body anyway!

The portion above was written about 5weeks ago,(to the day) & since December last year Ive been researching , seeking , reading and experimenting a better way with my munchies. Unfortunately Ive had a secondary diagnoses in the last few days, (although I had a hunch it was coming months ago) & lets say, it has far wider concerns, it now makes my body think that Im still unwell, even though the previous condition is nearly stable. It needs a much more multi leveled approach than just eats. As this space is for foodyism , I think I will save those thoughts and ideas on my blog Gifted Hand - my more esoteric space for things Reiki & metaphysical flavoured. I haven't been there for 10 months now , lets say it was having a long needed rest & recuperation like me!

Whats that saying once you learn new ways, you cant go back to how you were? I followed a well know USA web site for my condition(s) Heathers help for IBS to start with & to help my endeavour, which in its essence has some great ideas & some amazingly detailed supportive information; it suggests starting all meals with soluble fibre. So I then found myself starting a meal with rice every day or gluten free crackers or some such. It suggests buying or making your own artisan breads to ensure the ingredients are kept safe. I then found that may be rice wasn't quite right for me , as I continued to not feel so comfortable. There are however reams and reams of good recipes , (theres an unbelievable amount of them there), but for my confused little head it got over complicated, mix that in with trying to sub some of the US ingredients, remove my no no foods & I found myself struggling . I think I was hoping for a one stop shop or book or site , but it wasnt to be. I think Ive realised the best thing is to bring together lots of different types of food ways; one that suits some of my old cravings, albeit in a replacement of ingredients way & many that show me theres another way.

Its a steep learning curve and made more challenging , as he the mans pretty much wants to continue eating the same way he always has or so he thinks! Im also not yet completely 100% well versed on how to do raw & clean & remove some of the offenders from my diet. Im probably around 50% clued up , but thats not yet enough , as I will start to miss essential nutrient parts of my diet to keep my bodies needs up, like blood sugars (mine often drop to 3.8) & aiding gut function, working in my Glycemic load. I'm also not yet quite ready to give up animal proteins like chicken & fish, Im a carnivore & I dont think I can stop eating it. Red meat is another story, Im really not yet sure what Im going to do! I did have a cheeky steak at Gaucho a few weeks back, I'm not going to pretend I'm something Im not , I think Ive said it before! I need to find a better source of red meat that's cleaner and I know more of its provenance. I dont really fancy added hormones though thanks , mine are messed up already!! For now it will be a treat rather than a main player. I must also add , that I think there are some added benefits to eating cooked food also , it does mean that certain other vitamins and minerals are released that aren't as prominent when foods are raw. I also have the layer of having to add a few more lbs on my frame! I will find a balance that suits me somehow.

Im not here to change the world , not yet anyway, its more that right now I need to support my body to heal, repair, reverse and continue feeling good. Food for me needs to be my medicine, as a friend said to me a few months ago , when I couldn't face eating another plate of steamed rice with nothing added. If anyone takes an interest and wants to try what Im making great. If not , no problem, my path is for my needs right now and hopefully my 2 girls , as the cupcake (might have to rename her?), will show much interest in what Im making & wanting to try it all.

Im hoping Ill be fairly adept at making things and satisfying & satiating appetite. Its a bit like alcoholics anon , I will have to remove all links to my old addictions, Ive cleared out every cupboard and warned the troops that there may not be the same things at home anymore, (well a little , Im not quite that radical, yet)!! Somehow I have to find recipes that replace it , so that I dont have complete and utter deprivation , thats when I know It will be the slippery slope into the arms of sweet & doughy monster! I think I will have to list all the things I LOVED to eat and then make them in a clean cleansing way, a bit like before and after!

I feel it could be quite fun to change things up in my kitchen & expand on my knowledge of a wider food world, my body will thank me for it also. I will have to find a way of getting the energy going to do it all though, as Im challenged by the current symptoms of my illness , but a drip feed of change is better for anyone looking to shift years of any life patterns. It will be a gently does it, not my previous past life of all or nothing.

Today Ive been scouring sites and researching in a big way, theres an enormous wealth of information & sometimes its mind boggling to hone in on whats accessible and quite easy to adopt. I think I may have to organise another trip back to New York next year just to go visit this exciting looking restaurant Pure food and wine , by founder of web site & book writer Sarma Melngailis . I like her way & it rolls with my aesthetic with foods. I have no idea how I missed it last year! Also today I found Selene of blog Veganlicious, (especially like the idea of the raw cinnamon pancakes),this looks really interesting and many of her recipes look quite easily doable, breakfast is one of my biggest challenges , as Im trying to stay away from mostly all the normal boxed products & oatmeal porridge with various non dairy, non soy, non rice milks , (Im on the hunt for that too, Kara coconut milk's my latest & Jury's still out on that), can become very dull every single day, even with different fruits on top. I can see that eventually I will have charts up to help me with the variations every day. Yes, I like my charts , my head doesn't work quite in the same way it used to before getting my lovely syndrome! I will work around it!

So what about my piccy at the top of my blog? Does it reflect what Im doing? I may have to change it soon to give me a new symbol & help aid my efforts. I still like a bowl or two of chicken soup , but knedlach , well I may have to find a way to make them using GF substitutes, hmmm not sure theres GF matzo , will have to look into that one. May be I need to start knocking at the door of the kosher Brands in the Uk & demand GF versions of it all & removal of all the nasties, (HVP- Hydrolysed veg protein will be my 1st, really not good for my system right now), hmmmm , now theres a project!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Im still eating

Not sure where this picture is from! If I find the source , I will post it.

I know Ive been away from here for some time. Id like to let you know that I'm still cooking and eating. For some reason Ive actually been doing a lot more , he the mans I think is quite worn out with all our entertaining!!! But there is something nice about cooking for others to enjoy and be sustained. I just havent had the head space to write about it all though, theres just been too many layers of life to sit and type in the evenings on both my blogs.

I am writing gradually about our anniversary trip in April to New York City, so watch this space for my post on our eating experiences there . Ive also been practising my Thai cooking abilities after an evening with David Thompson of Nahm. We watched & listened to this very dry, witty and knowledgeable man from Australia cook up a Thai feast of 5 courses for us in the kitchens at Divertimenti a few weeks back.

Today we're having friends for tea and on the hob is some homemade tom sauce, in the oven is he the man famous banana bread and behind me he is now whipping up eggs for pavlova. A very odd concoction of smells!!

Back in June we went to Taste Of London , this years theme being Thailand. It seems Thai food has featured much this year for us. We had friends over at the beginning of the year and made our own Thai meal , which turned out great , but now after watching authentic Thai food cooked, (by a Thai food hero, no less!!) , it seems we had a way to go in knowing how to make it much more authentic and true to a real Thai taste.

We sampled all sorts of culinary wonderousness at Taste ; my favourite being the most amazing rich, sweet unctuousness of a lamb chop from Kai in Mayfair. I will say no more as I want to save it for another more detailed posting. For now I have to get my house ready for another 4 adults and 3 other children to be welcomed.

Happy Noshing to you

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

New York eaty me uppy!

Ive had a few friends enquiring about blogging my NYC trip with he the mans , so I thought Id do my best and finally finish it, (well part one anyway) , seeing as it was back in April! Its been sitting in my edits section for some time now! We , will I, planned long and hard for our eatery itinerary and even sparked off some very lengthy heated debates on Chowhound , (a very useful foodie forum), about several places in NY.

Most people ask you what you've bought when you go to NYC , but they know with he the mans and I , its all about the food!! So here over the next few paragraphs is a sort of restaurant diary of our 4 days of gluttony , wonderful feasting!

Our first night was spent at the very stylish , star spotting Mercer Kitchen. I had hankered after a very classical NY evening by returning to Keens Steak house , but my Brother & Sister in Law happened to be in NY at the same time staying at The Mercer Hotel & being only round the corner from our Hotel 60 Thompson, we thought it nice to meet up there. Its like bees to honey for the stylish set this place, but it could do with a little bit of a polish on the service front; some food came out cold and the wait for a a new dish was decidely long! The saving grace was the lovely flavours and a few free drinks thrown in.

We didn't go for all out decadent blow out meal here thought, as quite frankly after a whole day of travelling you just want something either light or homely, well I do anyway!

I know Carpaccio is a bit passe now , but this I couldn't miss, as it combined my faves in fish ; raw & citrus . I love a bit of Ceviche Sea bass Carpaccio!!!

After said day, I really wanted some major comforting familiar food and for me a Friday night is all about a Roast chicken meal! So Roast Chicken in butter with mash it was . For those of the Kosher hearted think away now! ( I don't know why , but I have no picture, but how different can a roast chicken breast look!). I have to say, the fact it was roasted with butter made for the most moist flavourful chicken I had ever eaten out. I never ever normally eat chicken out for the very reason of it being bland and tasteless. This was far from it.

Now I know I talk a lot about healthy eating and being mindful over edibles, but sometimes when in Rome , well when in USA , I just have to start the day with a BIG American Breakfast! So Big Daddy's at Union Square it was 1st thing Saturday morning. Nothing exceptional and not even really a traditional NYC experience , but it was fun , in a sort of old fashioned Disney themed diner sort of way!

We had planned to do it the civilised and stylish way and partake of room service breakfast on our balcony , but sadly we were rained out of our Penthouse suite, (surprisingly given as an upgrade for us on the 1st night of this 10th Wedding Anniversary trip).

Just take a look at this beautiful space.

After this we wandered over to the Union Square farmers market. Walking away from Big Daddy's and on to Union Sq , we stumbled upon a piece of our past, namely City Crab, (visited on our 1st trip together over 12 yrs previously), on the very same corner. Ive written in more depth about all the serendipitous events around this trip on my other blog Gifted Hand if you would like to know the crazy number of synchronistic happenings that took place in our packed 4days! Most particular on this day was the juxtaposition of City Crab, Wholefoods market and the Union Sq farmers market that struck me, having such a rich interest in all things foodie and our past and present all combining.

Its not so much the uniqueness of places like Unions Square Farmers market , as we have Borough market, which is equally bustling and vibrant. This was more about enjoying submerging ourselves in New York food culture & a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.

These ramps seemed very abundant that day, if we' had a kitchen to cook them in we would have bought some.

I loved the way the greens were displayed here ,rough wood trays , but it worked so well.

This stand of macro herbs and shoots was very popular a hive of activity and so beautiful too.

It was at the end of the meander that we saw across the road the famed Wholefoods market and would you believe I have not ever set foot in a whole foods market , this coming from a so called foodie! Everything is layed out so perfectly, almost to perfect, but it is a feast for the eyes. All those wet dripping bright shiny vegetables and lettuces, makes you want to buy the lot!

Ok thats part 1 put out there. Watch this space for the next installment were I natter on about more food and more restaurants, like this lot;

A continuation of our Saturday scoffing with Lunch at Bistro Les Amis, Dinner at Eleven Madison Park, Sunday Breakfast at The Grey Dog, another lunch at a dodgy TGI Friday type place off Time sq with not so great buffalo wings ( so not memorable , we cant even remember what it was!), dinner at Kittichai in 60 Thompson, Monday Breakfast at Southstreet Seaport (nothing fab, just the place next to Abercrombie), and finally Lunch at restaurant Landmarc in the Time Warner Center.

Friday, 8 May 2009

The marvels of tomatoes and other yummies!

We well and truly christened our new kitchen the other night with a 4 course feast for some friends. For 2 weeks he the mans and I sat with our cherished books compiling our 4 course menu. I fell in love with a dish from our French Laundry book and just had to try it. The rest was from Gordon Ramsey's 3 star Chef.

When a very good client of mine bought me the book French Laundry, (client is subsequently now a very good friend), looking through its hallowed pages, I never thought Id ever be able to make anything from it. But 2 yrs on and many a meal been made and experimented with, he the mans and I felt brave enough to give it a go. We have never previously made these dishes until the day of the dinner party! Mad I know, but we managed to pull it off to our complete surprise. Although it didn't come easily , the kitchen was a mass of equipment and non stop processes on every surface. It was true organised chaos! We tried our best to stay calm and in control all day preparing, mixing and sieving to our hearts contents! The girls loved seeing this commotion in the kitchen and little cupcake was especially proud of her contribution to the mixing!

Now I know many people would say we weren't being very creative as we didn't come up with something ourselves, but I feel we were really stretched technically and having mastered - will ok may be not quite mastered !! , but having tried , we're are now in a place to start combining our own things, eventually!

Our very own gourmet tasting menu was as follows :

Scallop with sweetcorn puree and truffles - Gordon Ramsay 3 star Chef page 134 Image page 20

Vine ripe tomato sorbet with tomato tartare and chive oil , served with garlic tuiles - French Laundry page 55-56

Navarine of lamb with buttered vegetables with celeriac puree (we substituted with salsify) & Thyme jus - Gordon Ramsay 3 star Chef page 190

Lemon meringue with marinated strawberries - Gordon Ramsay 3 star Chef page 216 Image page 100

Now with the corn puree I really wasn't sold. I thought sweet, creamy & corny = well ick! But Oh my gawwsh , he the mans has become my puree super hero. It came out so moreish and savoury sweet , I couldn't stop eating it the rest of the weekend!

Now onto the Intermezzo or Amuse Bouche. First you start with some tomato's and wow they were some tomato's! They tasted how tomato's you imagine should taste. He the mans made some time the day before at Borough Market to get them, as that seems to be the best place for real produce. There's then roughly 30+ processes that go into the tomato sorbet dish!


then become this

Then I had to boil and re boil this 3 times, that's orange zest by the way

Then I made one of these

The recipe asked for the use of a Tamis - basically a very wide and extremely fine sieve- to finely sieve the tomato puree. The Tamis retails for around £87 , now I know equipment is important , but at this stage of our cooking lives , I'm not quite in need of such a luxury - YET!!! I did however find this cheaper substitute on Amazon , but alas it wasn't available in time and doesn't seem to be available at all now! So I came up with the next best thing ,very fine muslin tied really tight across a bowl!

So it didn't move when I was pushing the tomato puree through twice , I laid it into another bowl.

This was my invention to allow the puree chive and oil mix to drip through to create the fine chive oil for plating up with the tomato's.

He the mans was amazed I managed to do these tuiles , as was I. It involved spreading a fine paste into circles onto greaseproof paper and baking to create crisp savoury nmm nmmmess !!!

and finally its all plated!!! Quick wheres my wine before the next bit!

I'll have to apologise for this image , we just started eating when I remembered I hadn't taken a shot of it. Again there were reams and reams of processes , but he the mans just pottered around the place bringing it all together! He makes it look so easy! I was too busy with my part of the meal to manage to get shots of his work in progress!

and finally dessert. This was a shared effort , again with some more tuiles , this time with pepper, sugar and sesame seeds. We got in a tizz with the meringue as it really wasn't working. Having tried it several times we had to give in due to time. The flavours were right just not the texture. Meringue is such a fine art and this creation called for a soft chewy slab of it, instead we had a crunchy , chewy, foamy, blob of lemony sweet and sour stuff! The sorbet however came out wonderfully, all zingy sweet smooth.

Ive just asked he the mans if he'd do it all again , he said yes , but not for a while!!!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

A quick word on Agave Nectar or the evils of sugar!

Image from

I must admit Im a bit of sugar fiend and even though I know its not great for me or anyone in high quantities I still like the sweet stuff; sugar in tea, honey in cooking, sweeties, ice cream and so much more! Although strangely as I age, Im finding many confectioneries far to sweet for my palate! I thought with Agave Nectar Id found the product of my dreams , sweet and healthy! What an Oxymoron that's turned out to be!

A paper has been published recently, and you can read it here , the crux of which is ; STAY AWAY FROM AGAVE. Its evils are being compared to the likes of High Fructose corn syrup! The worrying part is the chemical secreted in a reaction to the extraction and heating of the centre of the agave heart. Ive recently found this Volcanic Nectar version , but I still want to look into how different this product is from the others on the market. It sure does make some amazing claims in comparison to other Agave products.

I believe totally in moderation and my diet is testament to the myriad of foods from healthy, raw to gourmet and all the way through to fried junk (Ok so I have a bad thang for bufallo wings shhhhhhhh!!!). So to this end I think I will still use a slug of Agave here & there, but will make sure I try and find other substitutions for sweetness in cooking. I tried a whole papaya in a one pot dish and it did wonders. I just find adding that little sweetness can make some of the flavours really intensify. So if anyone has tried anything natural for sweetening , let me know.