Food Facts : Magic Tea

Article courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (October 2015)

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The Hype

A foreign princess is responsible for the Brits’ love of tea – in the 17th century, Catherine of Braganza, in Portugal, brought her tea-drinking custom to the English court, as the queen of Charles II.

Today, we drink 165 millions cups of tea every day in the UK (compared with 70 million cups of coffee), and the number of different varieties of tea, from rooibos to camomile and lapsang to matcha, has risen by 82 per cent in the last 10 years.  When once you just had to choose between milk or sugar with your cuppa, today, the myriad herbal, flower, fruit, black, white and green options has meant that supermarkets now dedicate half an aisle to tea.

The ancient Chinese proverb attests that it is ‘better to be deprived of food for three days than tea for one’.

The Facts:

  1. ‘All tea starts its life as a leaf from the same plant: the Camelia sinensis’, say Krisi and Mike, founders of Bluebird Tea Co. ‘The type of tea those leaves eventually end up as (black, green, white) is influenced by which part of the plant they are picked from, and what treatment they have been through once they are picked.  This also influences the caffeine content.  The amount of caffeine that actually ends up in your body is on a wide varying scale with many influencing factors such as age of leaf, water, temperature, steeping time and so on.’
  2. ‘Green and white tea is usually steeped at a lower temperature and for a shorter time, which gives the caffeine less chance to dissolve into the water.  This doesn’t mean the original tea had less caffeine, just that less of it was released into the water,’ say Krisi and Mike.  If you’re looking to avoid caffeine, it’s best to choose a naturally caffeine-free tea such as rooibos, which still contains catechins and polyphenols – potent antioxidants that mop up free radicals and help boost health.
  3. For the latter benefits however, it’s the new breed of ‘superteas’ that are really causing a stir.  Matcha is a 100 per cent green tea that has been ground to form a very fine powder.  Doing so concentrates the potency of the leaves, giving matcha its vivid green hue.  As the whole leaf is ingested, matcha is a far more potent source of nutrients than it’s steeped counterparts.  It also contains a naturally occurring amino acid called L-theanine which, together with caffeine, appears to increase alertness.

TeaThe Verdict

  • A study in 2011 also showed that decaffeinated tea hydrates you just as efficiently as water – with the added benefits of those antioxidants, too.
  • Fluoride is important for dental health and tea is one of the best sources of fluoride in the diet.  Research presented by Dr Carrie Ruxton to the UK Nutrition Society shows that the current average intake of tea falls short of the European fluoride recommendation, suggesting that tea intake should increase to access the benefits of fluoride for dental health.
  • Both black and green tea have been linked with improved cognitive function, according to a new study.  Commenting on the new research, Dr Tim Bond from the Tea Advisory Panel notes, ‘Tea has been associated with many mental health benefits such as improved mental attention, clarity of mind and relaxation.’
  • The polyphenols and flavonoids in camomile tea have been proven to protect against thyroid cancer, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Public Health.  Researchers found that camomile tea consumed two to six times a week reduced the risk of thyroid cancer by 700 per cent and benign thyroid disease by 84 per cent.
  • Matcha contains a unique polyphenol called EGCG which has been shown to boost metabolism and slow or halt the growth of cancer cells.
  • The evidence is clear; our ancestors were on to something.  Drink tea for its abundant health benefits – just be sure not to consume too much of the caffeinated variety.

 

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Fig and Cinnamon Quinoa Porridge

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (November 2016) and taken from “The Little Green Spoon” by Indy Power.

Fig quinoaServes : 2

Ingredients :
85g quinoa
125ml water
250ml unsweetened almond milk
3 ripe figs
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tblsp maple syrup or honey

Step One : Quinoa porridge is perfect for when you want a filling hearty breakfast but don’t want to skip the protein.

Step Two : The combination of fresh figs and cinnamon is hard to beat, so make this while you can as the fig season is lamentably short.  If it’s the wrong time of year, use mashed banana instead.

Step Three : Add the quinoa, water and half the nut milk to a medium-sized saucepan on a medium heat.  Pop on the lid and let it cook for about 13 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and it’s nice and fluffy.

Step Four : Cut two figs in half, scoop out the flesh and mash with a fork.  Stir into the quinoa with the vanilla, cinnamon and remaining milk,  Slice the last fig.

Step Five : Let the quinoa simmer for a few minutes, until it has reached your desired consistency, then stir in the syrup or honey.

Step Six : Pour the porridge into bowls, top with fig slices and sprinkle on a little cinnamon to serve.

Frozen Banana Lollies

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (August 2016)

Just as sweet as commercial ice cream, but with natural, nutritious ingredients, this is a gorgeously creamy, family-friendly summer treat.

Banana lollies

Makes : 6

Ingredients :
400ml coconut milk or unsweetened almond milk
2 large bananas, peeled
2 tblsp runny honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tblsp shredded coconut
Handful of chopped hazelnuts
Extra shredded coconut, if you like, for dipping

Step One : Pour half of the milk into a food processor and add the bananas, honey and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract, then process until smooth.   In a bowl, whisk together the remaining coconut milk and vanilla extract.

Step Two : Divide the banana mixture between six lolly moulds.  Layer the coconut mixture on top of the banana mixture, then leave in the freezer for at least 6 hours or until completely frozen.

Step Three : Remove the lollies from their moulds by dipping them in warm water for 10 seconds.

Step Four : Tip the chopped hazelnuts (or shredded coconut) into a deep bowl, then dip the top 5-8 cm of each lolly into the nuts to coat.

Step Five : Place the lollies back in the freezer to set.  They will be ready after 5 minutes.

Citrus Prawn Ceviche Tostadas with Charred Sweetcorn and mashed avocado

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (October 2018) and taken from “Salad Feasts: How to assemble the perfect meal” by Jessica Elliott Dennison.

Prawn ceviche

Serves : 4

Preparation time : 35 mins

Ingredients :
8 small shop-bought corn tortillas
1 tblsp vegetable oil
60g tinned sweetcorn in water (drained weight)
250g peeled raw king prawns
Juice of 3 limes
2 baby shallots or 1 banana shallot, peeled
3/4 tsp chilli flakes
1 grapefruit
4 radishes, finely sliced
2 avocados, halved and stones removed

Step One : First, preheat the oven to 180oC / Gas Mark 4.   Divide the tortillas between a few baking trays, brush with the oil, then bake for 5-8 minutes, or until golden and crisp.  Set aside to cool.

Step Two : Meanwhile, heat a medium frying pan, until smoking.  Rinse the sweetcorn, drain completely, then add to the pan (you don’t need any oil).  Cook for 3-5 minutes or until nicely charred with little black marks.  Transfer to a place to cool.

Step Three : Next, if not already deveined, make a small incision along the back of the prawns and remove the dark black line (the digestive tract).  Place the prawns in a medium dish or bowl, then squeeze in the limes.  Slice the shallots into rounds as finely as you can and add to the bowl along with the chilli flakes.  Leave for 7 minutes, then turn the prawns over and leave for another 7 minutes.  By this point, they should be pink and ‘cooked’.

Step Four : Next, cut away the top and bottom of the grapefruit, then carefully slice away the peel and white pith.  Slice out each segment, then finely chop the flesh (discard the membranes).  Add to the prawns along with any grapefruit juice.  Gently stir in the radishes.

Step Five : Scoop out the avocado flesh and roughly mash with a fork.

Step Six : Take the crispy tortillas, ceviche mixture charred sweetcorn and mashed avocado to the table in attractive serving dishes.  Allow everyone to build their own tostadas.

Step Seven : You can also shallow fry the tortillas in a pan of hot vegetable oil until golden.  Be sure to drain on kitchen paper, seasoned with salt.

Greens and Beans Tartines

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (September 2019) and taken from “The Forest Feast Mediterranean” by Erin Gleeson.

Bean Tartines

Step One : Fry four thick slices of rustic French-style bread (live sourdough) on a medium heat in a pan with some olive oil and butter, until golden on both sides.  Remove the bread from the pan, but keep it hot.

Step Two : In the pan, place three garlic cloves, 100g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, four large chard stalks, leaves and stems cut into thin ribbons and the juice of a lemon (plus a sprinkle of oil olive, salt and pepper)

Step Three : Saute for two minutes on a low to medium-low heat, until the beans are warmed and the greens wilted.  Pile the mix onto the toasted bread slices and top with a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Enjoy warm.

Basics : Home-made Mayonnaise

Recipe courtesy of Easy Living (2011).

No shop-bought mayonnaise compares with a home-made version.  Versions to whisk this by hand and blender are given below.

MayonnaiseMakes about 300ml (about 9 1/2 fl oz)

Prep time :  15 mins.  No cooking

Ingredients :
2 egg yolks
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tblsp lemon juice
Pinch of salt
50ml (1 1/2 fl oz) olive oil
200ml (6 1/2 fl oz) vegetable oil
Salt and ground black pepper

To mix by hand :

Step One : Place the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and salt in a small bowl and whisk (using a balloon whisk or electric hand-held whisk) until frothy and combined.

Step Two : Combine the olive oil and vegetable oil in a jug.  Pour it very slowly, drop by drop, into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.  As the mixture thickens, start adding the oil in a steady stream.  Continue until all the oil has been incorporated and the mixture is thick.

Step Three : Season with salt and black pepper.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.  Will keep for about seven days.

To make in a blender :

Step One : To make in a blender, replace one of the egg yolks with a whole egg.  Place the whole egg and egg yolk, mustard, lemon juice and a pinch of salt into a blender.  Blend for a few seconds to combine.

Step Two : With the blender on low, pour combined oils in a very thin stream into the egg mixture.  If the lid has a small removable hole, pour the oil through this.  If not, keep the lid on and lift its corner to add the oil.

Step Three :  As the mixture thickens, start adding the oil in a steady stream.  You may have to stop and start the blender to stir down the mayonnaise as it thickens.  With the machine running, continue to pour the oil.  Stop pouring when the oil is incorporated and the mayonnaise is thick and glossy.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper.  Add more lemon juice if required.

Ideas to try:

  • Mayonnaise can be easily flavoured.  Chopped, fresh herbs like basil, tarragon, parsley or chives are tasty additions, as are crushed garlic cloves, chopped anchovies, capers or chilli.
  • To make tartare sauce (perfect with fish), stir in 1 tblsp each of capers and chopped gherkins, plus 2 tblsp of chopped parsley and 1 tblsp chopped tarragon (optional but good) to 200ml (6 1/2 fl oz) mayonnaise.  Season to taste.

Tips:

  • Stand the mixing bowl on a folded, damp tea towel while you’re making mayonnaise.  This prevents the bowl from moving as you whisk.
  • Use a tasteless vegetable oil like sunflower or groundnut oil with just a small amount of olive oil added.  By blending a peppery olive oil with a blander vegetable oil you get a lovely rounded flavour.
  • The mixture may separate if oil has been added too quickly.  To remedy this, simply whisk up another egg yolk and gradually whisk it through the separated mixture in small amounts.

Tuna, red onion, potato and rocket salad

Recipe courtesy of Co-op Food Magazine.

Tuna and potato salad

Serves : 6 (as a side dish)

Ready in 30 minutes

 Ingredients :
300g fresh tuna steak
1 tsp olive oil
650g baby new potatoes
1 medium red onion (chopped)
1 tblsp capers (optional)
1 bag rocket leaves

Dressing :
1 dessertspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tblsp olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)

Step One : Heat a griddle or frying pan until hot.  Add a tsp of oil to the pan and then cook the tuna on both sides until done.  Cool a little, then chop into chunks.

Step Two : Boil the potatoes in a separate pan of water, drain and mix in the tuna.

Step Three : Add the chopped onion and capers (if using).  Put all the dressing ingredients into a clean jar and shake until emulsified the add to salad mix.

Step Four : Store in fridge or cool bag until needed.  When ready to eat, toss the rocket leaves into the salad and serve.

French-style Strawberry Tart

Recipe courtesy of Co-op Magazine

Strawberry Tart

Serves : 4

Ready in 1 1/2 hours

Ingredients :
175g puff pastry

Filling :
3 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
40g plain flour
1 vanilla pod
300ml semi-skimmed milk
Zest of half a lime
1 tsp butter, melted

Topping :
450g strawberries, sliced
A few mint leaves, chopped
1 tblsp pine nuts, toasted

Step One : Heat oven to gas mark 6 / 200oC / Fan 180oC.

Step Two : Roll out pastry and cut out a 20cm round.  Score edge with a knife and place on a baking tray and cook for 20 to 30 minutes in oven.  Allow to cool.

Step Three : Meanwhile, beat egg yolks with sugar until pale and creamy.  Stir in flour.  Put vanilla pod and milk in a saucepan, bring to boil and then remove pod, beat milk into custard mix.  Return to pan and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring all the time.  Add zest and melted butter, cool.  Spread on pastry base and top with strawberries.

Step Four : Scatter over mint and toasted pine nuts.

Courgette Tart

Serves : 4-6

Preparation Time : 25 mins

Cooking Time : 30 mins

Ingredients :
4 sheets of filo pastry
2 tblsp olive oil
3 courgettes, sliced
500g (1 lb) ricotta
4 eggs, beaten
3 tblsp basil leaves, shredded
Small grating of nutmeg
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
75g (2 1/2 oz) Parmesan, freshly grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Large handful of pine nuts

Step One : Heat the oven to 200oC / Gas Mark 6.  Grease a large tart tin and line with 4 layers of filo pastry, brushing each sheet with a  little oil and slightly overlapping the sheets.  Transfer to the oven and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until just golden.

Step Two : Heat 1 tblsp olive oil in a frying pan and saute the courgettes for 5-7 minutes until golden around the edges, then set aside.  In a bowl, beat the ricotta with the eggs, basil, nutmeg, chilli flakes, two thirds of the Parmesan and the garlic.  Set aside.

Step Three : Spread the pastry with the ricotta mix.  Press the courgette slices into the ricotta, then scatter over the pine nuts and the remaining Parmesan.

Step Four : Bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling is golden.  Serve warm with a green salad.

Pumpkin, Chickpea and Brown Rice Balls with Labne and Roasted Carrots

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (October 2016) and taken from “Life in Balance” by Donna Hay“.

Pumpkin and chick pea balls

Serves : 4

Ingredients :
400g butternut pumpkin (butternut squash), peeled, seeded and chopped
24 heirloom baby carrots
2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
1 x 400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cups (400g) cooked brown rice
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tblsp finely grated lemon rind
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp ground sumac, plus extra for sprinkling
1 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cut (40g) sesame seeds
Labne (yogurt cheese or Greek yogurt), to serve
Mint leaves and watercress (optional) to serve

Step One : Preheat oven to 200oC / 400oF / Gas Mark 6.  Place the butternut and carrots on a large baking tray.  Drizzle with the oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.  Roast for 20 minutes or until golden and tender.

Step Two : Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and roughly mash with a fork.  Add the butternut, rice, chilli, lemon rind, garlic, sumac and coriander, plus salt and pepper, and mix well to combine.  Divide and shape the mixture into tablespoon-size balls and flatten slightly.  Press into the sesame seeds to coat and brush with extra oil.

Step Three : Place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and roast, turning halfway, for 20 minutes or until golden.  Sprinkle with extra sumac and serve with the carrots, labne, mint and watercress.