Trends & Facts : How to boost health with herbs

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (September 2015).  Eve Kalinik* extols the benefits of herbs on our wellbeing.

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Whether fragrant, grassy or aromatic in nature, herbs can transform a simple dish into something truly magnificent. But beyond their great and versatile taste, it’s the health benefits of herbs that pack the most surprising punch of all. Sadly, with the popularity of fast and convenience foods, laden with their sugar, salt and fake flavourings, we have somewhat lost our love of these very special plants. It’s about time we rediscovered just how incredibly nutritious and delicious they can be.

Let’s start back in the days before modern medicine, when the herbs that you might typically throw into your favourite supper were ubiquitously used to cure common ailments. Herbs were used in many ways – to produce teas, tinctures, tonics, rubs, pastes and poultices – and herbalists and apothecaries would prescribe treatments direct from the most bountiful first aid kit of all – Mother Nature.

Today, many of our most common drugs are in part based on the same chemical components of these readily available plants. Each of these beautiful herbs contains unique molecules – and this is what lends them their distinctive health-giving properties. Obviously, the more you can get the fresh herbs into your diet the better, but that doesn’t mean the dried versions won’t also have many fantastic benefits. All herbs – dried or fresh – contain antioxidant benefits that help to counterbalance the effects of environmental damage to our bodies, as well as being antimicrobial. You could almost think of them as your daily dose of medicine, just in the purest and most natural form.

Here are some people who are giving herbs the happening factor:

Michael Isted – herbal medicine practitioner and founder of the Herball*, his clever infusions, aromatic waters, bitters and amazing cocktail recipes will have you feeling inspired.

Olia Hercules* – food writer, stylist and chef, she creates beautifully designed and mouth-watering recipes. Her book, Mamushka (Mitchell Beazley), is brimming with herbs, but Eve particularly loves the fermented herbs seasoning; it’s mind-blowingly good!

Juice Tonic* – in the heart of London’s Soho, Juice Tonic has reinvented health drinks with a menu of juices, smoothies, tonics and pharmacy teas that blend together herbs from far and wide.

Herbs to boost health and awaken taste buds
Thyme : It lifts a classic risotto, and has been associated with supporting respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and congestion.
– Rosemary : Traditionally served with lamb, rosemary is renowned for its rheumatoid and cardiovascular benefits.
– Oregano : The base of all good Italian sauces, it has potent antimicrobial properties.
– Sage : Simply shredded through green beans, pine nuts and drizzled with olive oil, it makes for a delicious accompaniment. Sage has been revered for its support of menopausal symptoms.
– Garlic : This is the ultimate antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-parasitic herb (yes, it is a herb). Your gut will be thanking you for having more of this pungent wonder in your diet.

* Websites worth visiting:-
evekalink.com; theherball.co.uk; oliahercules.com; juicetonic.com

Further reading:

Happy St Patrick’s Day – Irish Stew

 

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Recipe by Gary Rhodes and taken from Sunday Magazine many years ago!  

Serves : 4

Ingredients:

1 ½ lb (750g) middle neck of lamb, cut into cutlets
4 onions
1 lb (450g) potatoes
4oz (100g) unsalted butter
1 garlic clove
1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 1 sprig each of fresh rosemary and thyme tied in a square of muslin) or bouquet garni sachet
2 ½ pints (1.5 litres) chicken stock or water
6oz (175g) carrots
6 celery sticks
8oz (225g) Savoy cabbage
2 tsp freshly chopped parsley

Step One : In a large pan, cover the lamb with cold water and bring to the boil. Drain off the water and refresh the meat in cold water. Drain well. Whichever, cut of lamb you use – for example, neck, scrag end or chops – you should always do this blanching process. It removes any impurities and gives the stock a cleaner, clearer finish.

Step Two : Slice the onions and then peel and dice the potatoes into 1 in (2.5cm) pieces. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the onions, half the potatos and the garlic clove.

Step Three : Add the bouquet garni to the pan and fry for 2 mins. Add the lamb cutlets and cover with the chicken stock or water. Bring the liquid to the simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 30 mins. The meat will be half-cooked and the potatoes will have started to puree and thicken the stock.

Step Four : Peel and dice the carrots and add them to the pan. Continue to cook the stew for a further 10 mins. Dice the celery sticks into 1 in (2.5cm) pieces and add to the pan with the remaining potatoes. Cook for 15-20 mins. At this stage, the potatoes shouldn’t be cooked until they’re pureed but until they’re just soft.

Step Five : Shred the cabbage, add to the pan and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the meat and vegetables are tender. Adding the cabbage towards the end of the cooking time ensures that you don’t lose the fresh flavour and that the stew won’t discolour. Season with salt and freshly ground white pepper.

Step Six : Remove the bouquet garni and garnish with the chopped parsley. Serve the stew in individual bowls or from one larg bowl in the middle of the table. You now have a complete meal but even so, I usually serve it with good crusty bread.

Orecchiette with Broccoli, Chicken Sausage and Harissa Paste

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2019) and taken from Skinny Pasta by Julia Azzarello.

This dish is a healthier version of the traditional sausage and broccoli because it is made with lean chicken. It still packs a lot of flavour into one meal, especially with the zing of harissa and lemon.

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Serves : 4

Ingredients:
250g chicken sausages, removed from casings and cut into 2 cm chunks
320g dried orecchiette or 400g fresh
125g Tenderstem broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tblsp olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, sliced
2-3 tblsp harissa paste
2 tblsp chopped parsley
1 lemon, cut into wedges
40g Parmesan cheese, grated

Step One : Saute the chicken sausage chunks in a non-stick pan for about 3-4 minutes, until cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside until needed. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add salt and cook the pasta for 1-2 minutes less than the packet states, or until just al dente.

Step Two : Add the broccoli to the pasta for the last 2 minutes of its cooking time. Drain, reserving a little of the cooking water.

Step Three : Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over a medium heat, add the oil and garlic and cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat.

Step Four : Add the pasta, broccoli and sausage chunks to the pan and toss with the harissa paste and a little of the reserved pasta water. Serve in bowls with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan and parsley.

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Gluten-Free Gnocchi with Roasted Butternut Squash, Brown Butter and Sage

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2019) and taken from Skinny Pasta by Julia Azzarello.

The addition of pomegranate seeds rounds off the sweetness of the squash and nuttiness of the butter with just the right amount of acid and tang. Plus, it’s a lovely colourful garnish to lift the dish.

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Serves : 4

Ingredients:
300g butternut squash flesh, cut into small chunks
2 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp butter
5 sage leaves, chopped
40g Parmesan cheese, grated
40g pomegranate seeds, to garnish

For the Gnocchi:
2 medium baking potatoes, scrubbed
1 egg, beaten
60-80g gluten-free plain flour, plus extra for dusting

 

 

Step One : First, make the gnocchi. Preheat the oven to 200oC / Gas Mark 6. Prick the potatoes with a fork and wrap them in foil. Bake for 1 – 1 hr 20 minutes, or until tender. Leave to cool slightly, for about 15 minutes, then scoop out the potato and pass through a ricer. You need about 400g. Mix in the egg and flour.

Step Two : Dust a clean worktop with flour. Divide the dough into four equal sized pieces. Roll each one out to a cylinder 20cm long, and cut into 2cm chunks. Make grooves on each piece using the back of a fork, then place on a baking tray dusted with flour.

Step Three : Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and cook in two batches or 1 minute, or until they float to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, reserving some cooking water. Leftovers can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge, or freezer for two to three months.

Step Four : Preheat the oven to 200oC, Gas mark 6. Toss the squash with half of the olive oil and spread out evenly on a baking tray. Roast for 30-35 minutes.

Step Five : Put the remaining oil and the butter in a deep frying pan and cook for 1-2 minutes until browned and it smells nutty. Add the gnocchi and saute for 2 minutes more, then add the roasted squash, sage and a splash of pasta cooking water and toss together. Serve on plates topped with grated Parmesan cheese and pomegranate seeds.

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Pea and Orzo Risotto

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2019) and taken from Skinny Pasta by Julia Azzarello.

Orzo tends to be a bit starchier than other tiny pastas, so makes a lovely risotto. It is also easier than using Arborio rice, as you don’t have to stir it so vigilantly. The addition of pea shoots at the end gives it a sweet crunch.

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Serves : 4

Ingredients:
1 tblsp olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
300g orzo
100ml dry white wine
400ml vegetable or chicken stock
150g frozen peas
50ml single cream
50g ricotta salata or pecorino Romano, grated, plus extra for sprinkling
10g fresh mint, chopped
4 sprigs of tarragon, chopped
40g pea shoots, to garnish

Step One : Warm a large, deep pan, then add the oil and shallot and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Tip in the orzo and stir around for 1 minute more, then add the white wine. Once the wine has evaporated pour in the stock and bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. The orzo should take about 9-10 minutes to cook, but keep an eye on it and stir it occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Step Two : When it is creamy and cooked, stir in the peas, single cream, grated cheese and herbs and cook for 2 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Serve in bowls, sprinkled with some extra grated cheese and the pea shoots.

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Courgette Ribbon, White Bean Smash and Pesto Bruschetta

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2019) and taken from The Yoga Kitchen Plan by Kimberly Parsons.

Elevating toast to a nourishing light meal, this easy-to-prepare flavour hit is rich in protein and bursting with goodness. The vegan pesto is magic!

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Serves : 2

Ingredients:
1 large courgette, thinly sliced into ribbons
1 x 400g can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
4 slices sourdough bread, toasted
Sea salt flakes, to serve
2 lime wedges, to serve

For the Vegan Pesto:-
1 large bunch basil leaves, plus extra to serve
1 small bunch coriander
30g pine nuts or kernels, toasted
35g raw pistachio nuts
120ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
3/4 teaspoon sea salt

Step One : To make the vegan pesto, place all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Set aside.

Step Two : Place the courgette ribbons and beans in a large bowl, add a quarter of the pesto and toss to coat.

Step Three : Spread the remaining pesto onto the slices of toast and top with the courgette ribbons and beans.

Step Four : Drizzle with olive oil, scatter over some extra basil leaves and sea salt flakes and serve with lime wedges.

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Tastes of Ghana – Gari Foto

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (June 2017) and taken from Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen by Zoe Adjonyoh.

Gari – fermented, dried and ground cassava – has no real flavour of its own apart from the sourness of fermentation. But it can take on a great deal of flavour and bulk out meagre pickings in the fridge.

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Serves : 6

Ingredients:
120ml (4 fl oz) sustainable palm oil or groundnut oil
2 onions, finely diced
1cm (1/2 – inch) piece fresh root ginger, grated (unpeeled if organic), or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped, or 1/4 teaspoon ground hot pepper or cayenne pepper
3 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 scant tablespoon tomato puree
250g (9oz) Gari (fermented, dried and ground cassava)
6 free-range eggs
Chopped coriander, to garnish (optional)

Step One : Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onions and saute over a medium heat for about 3 minutes until translucent.

Step Two : Add the ginger, garlic and chillies, and stir well to evenly coat the onions before adding the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree. Leave the stew to cook over the medium heat for about 25 minutes.

Step Three : As soon as you’ve added the tomatoes, start preparing the gari, which is a bit like making couscous. Place it in a bowl and gradually spinkle with 120ml (4 fl oz) lightly salted warm water to evenly moisten it, mixing it through with a fork as you go. Be careful to add the water a little at a time so that you don’t overdo it, as the mixture should just be damp, not drenched!

Step Four : Cover the bowl with a plate or clean cloth and set aside for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the eggs. At this point, choose how you want to cook your eggs. If it’s the weekend and fancy a treat, you could make poached eggs, but if you feel like something more everyday, just boil or scramble them. It’s up to you.

Step Five : Before adding your choice of cooked eggs to the dish, fold the moistened gari into the stew, which should be cooked by now, and stir through gently but thoroughly – you should get a nice pink colour to the mixture. If you’ve decided to make scrambled eggs, you can also fold them into the gari now to create a sort of gari omelette, or serve them on the side.

Step Six : Remove the pan from the heat and season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Serve immediately, with the seasoned poached, boiled or scrambled eggs on top, garnished with some chopped coriander.

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Tastes of Ghana – Yam and Plantain Peanut Curry

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (June 2017) and taken from Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen by Zoe Adjonyoh.

This recipe combines Nkatsenkwan (groundnut stew) with the two simple staples of yam and plantain.

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Serves: 4

Ingredients:
300g (10 1/2 oz) puna yam
Cooking salt
2-3 medium-ripe plantains, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 quantity Peanut sauce, prepared up to the stage of adding the peanut butter and blending
Chopped red chillies and sliced spring onions or pureed basil, to garnish

 

Step One : Peel the yam and cut into slices, then rinse in cold water to remove the starch. Add to a large pan of salted boiling water and cook for 10 minutes.

Step Two : Peel the plantains and cut into chunks. Add to the boiling yam at the 10-minute point and cook together for a further 10 minutes until fork tender.

Step Three : Strain, reserving the cooking water to use as stock for making the Peanut Sauce. Set the yam and plantain aside.

Step Four : Prepare the Peanut Sauce. Add the yam and plantain to the sauce and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring in a little water to prevent it from sticking.

Step Five : Serve garnished with red chillies and spring onions or pureed basil.

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Tastes of Ghana – Oto / Oetorh

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (June 2017) and taken from Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen by Zoe Adjonyoh.

Oto is a classic Ghanaian celebratory dish made with hard-boiled eggs, mashed yam and palm oil.  Yam has a very high starch content and will help to keep you fuelled all day long, if you eat a big enough portion.

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Serves : 4-6

Ingredients:
300g (10 1/2 oz) puna yam
4-6 hard-boiled free-range eggs, shelled and quartered
120ml sustainable palm oil or carotene oil
2 red onions, 1 finely diced and 1 sliced and fried to serve as a garnish or side
1-2 tblsp dried ground prawn / shrimp powder (optional)
A little butter, if required
Chopped spring onion or coriander, to garnish
Baked or Crispy Fried Kale, to serve

Step One : Have a bowl or pan of water ready, as you’ll need to put each peeled yam piece straight into water to prevent them oxidising and turning brown. Peel the yam and cut into 2.5 – 5cm (1-2inch) cubes, then rinse thoroughly in cold water to remove the starch.

Step Two : Add the yam to a large pan of lightly salted boiling water and cook for 12-15 minutes, until fork tender. (Hard-boil your eggs in the pan at the same time to save on the washing up!) Drain and mash the yams; set the eggs aside.

Step Three : Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan, add the diced onion and saute over a medium heat for a few minutes until soft. Add the prawn / shrimp powder (if using) and stir to combine.

Step Four : Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add the oil and onions to the mashed yam, mixing thoroughly, adding a little butter, if needed.

Step Five : Continue adding the oil and onions until it is a dense mash texture, but not a puree. You may not need to use all the oil, so taste and add extra oil and sea salt, if required.

Step Six : Serve in bowls with the hard-boiled egg and the fried, sliced red onion on top, with a green garnish, such as spring onion or coriander, or to really bring out the rich colour, serve with a portion of Crispy Fried Kale.

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Tastes of Ghana – Ghana-Fied Caesar Salad

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (June 2017) and taken from Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen by Zoe Adjonyoh.

How about putting a little extra bag into everyone’s favourite dish, the classic Caesar salad, with some tasty Ghanaian ingredients?

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Serves : 4

Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 heaped tablespoon Jollof Dry Spice Mix
1 tblsp rapeseed oil
5-6 dried smoked herring, soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes, or 1 can of anchovies
1 large Cos (Romaine) lettuce, leaves separated and roughly chopped or torn into large pieces
1 tblsp sustainable palm oil or carotene oil, for drizzling

For the croutons:
4 thick slices of hard dough bread (butter bread), or crusty white bread
4 tblsp rapeseed oil or olive oil

For the dressing:
50g (1 3/4 oz) Parmesan, shaved
5 tblsp Shito Mayo
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tblsp white wine vinegar
1 tblsp rapeseed oil and olive oil

Step One : Make the croutons. Preheat the oven to 180oC / 356oF. Cut the bread into 2-3 cm cubes and spread on a tray. Sprinkle over the oil and some sea salt, then toss together. Bake for 7-8 minutes, turning halfway so that they brown evenly. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Step Two : Season the chicken with the Spice Mix in a bowl, then add the oil and toss.

Step Three : Heat a frying pan, add the chicken and fry for about 4 minutes on each side. Set aside. Drain the fish and break up into smaller pieces.

Step Four : For the dressing, mix half the cheese with the Shit Mayo, garlic and vinegar in a bowl. Loosen with the oil and season to taste with sea salt.

Step Five : Put the lettuce in a large bowl and scatter over the chicken with half the croutons. Add half the dressing and toss together lightly. Top with the remaining chicken, croutons and fish, then drizzle with the dressing. Sprinkle the cheese on top and, or a dash of Ghanaian flavour, drizzle over the palm oil. Serve.

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