Monday, 26 May 2014

Nutty Prozac

A recent study has shown that a couple handfuls of Cashew nuts, as well as certain other health foods, can be as effective as a prescription dose of Prozac when it comes to reducing stress, anxiety and big list of other ailments.

Prozac, or if your from the United Kingdom like myself, you may be more familiar with the name Fluoxetine, is a prescription antidepressant, prescribed to treat things such as depression, severe anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and a variety of other symptoms. As much as I'd like to talk about the over prescription of antidepressant drugs, that only treat the short term symptoms instead of treating the longterm causes, I promised myself to keep this post mainly about food.


So, where were we? Ah yes, the reasons cashews are so special is because of their chemical build up. Cashews contain the an essential amino acid called L-tryptophan which is broken down by your body in to Niacin which helps reduce anxiety and can help you sleep. Tryptophan is also made into everybody's favourite chemical, Serotonin. The reason why this is such a big thing is because most antidepressants only mimic the effect of Serotonin however foods like this can help create the real thing.


If you don't know what Serotonin is, is one of the bodies most important neurotransmitters. It is literally known as the happiness hormone and contributes to a list of other things including appetite, sleep, memory, mood, behaviour, metabolism and the list goes on.

Serotonin: C10H12N2O



So what other foods can contribute to improving your mood? Here's a list of 3 cashew-like foods that can give you that little boost.


1. Walnuts, Flaxseed and Chia Seed: My personal favourite, these 3 contain a type of Omega-3 that has been prove to keep you feeling chipper. Want to know about Chia? Check out my separate post


2. Dark Chocolate or Cacao: Chocolate contains mood-boosting compounds such as theobromine and phenylethyamine which has been shown to reduce anxiety. Cacao is quickly becoming one of the best health foods in the world.


3. Olive Oil: Studies have shown the people who ate a Mediterranean diet rich in Olive Oil, as well as nuts, fish and legumes are 30 percent less likely to become depressed compared to those who don't.


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Cranachan, A Classic Scottish Dessert

One of my favorite Scottish dishes has to be Cranachan. Cranachan is dessert traditionally comprised of whipped cream, oats, honey, raspberries and whiskey, typically served in a glass. A very simple, quick dish to make yet incredibly delicious. Here is the recipe I use, enjoy.

Ingredients
2tbsp of Oatmeal
300g of Fresh Raspberries
1tbsp of Caster Sugar
350ml of Double Cream
2tbsp of Honey
2tbsp of Whiskey
Some Raspberry Coulis (as garnish)

Method
1. Toast the Oatmeal until the color changes slightly and emits a nutty aroma. Set aside to cool.
2. Whisk the Double Cream until it reaches soft peaks and then add in the Honey, Whisky and Sugar. Be sure not to over whip the Cream. If you do, just add a bit more Cream and it should fix itself.
3. Fold in the Oatmeal and whisk until firm. 
4. Serve however you see fit, use your imagination. Allow to chill before eating.






Sunday, 23 March 2014

Orange and Maple Steamed Pudding Recipe

Hey everyone, so the other day while cooking for my college course I made these delicious puddings and I thought I'd share the recipe. Enjoy.

Ingredients
175g of Self Raising Flour
175g of Soft Brown or Caster Sugar
175g of Softened Butter
1tsp of Baking Powder 
3 Large Eggs
Juice of 1 Orange
Zest of 1 Orange
3tblsp of Maple Syrup

Method
1. In a mixing bowl, sift the Flour and Baking Powder.
2. Add the Sugar, Butter, Eggs and Orange Juice and beat well.
3. In whatever container you want to use to cook the pudding in (I use cappuccino cups), pour the Maple Syrup and the Orange Zest.
4. Pour the mixture into the containers. 
5. Make the containers airtight, using either clingfilm or parchment paper and string.
6. Steam the puddings for 1 and a half hours to 2 hours, checking the water levels half way through.
7. To serve, turn the pudding out onto a warm plate and top with some more syrup if needed and serve immediately. 

A Quick Catch Up

Hey all,

So recently I haven't been very active on the blog, certainly compared to a year ago. Mainly its just because I've been busy with work, family etc. However I thought I'd make this post to show you some of the dishes I've been working on over the last few months. Enjoy. 

Pan-Fried Pork Loin on a Ginger and Sage Potato Rostie with a Sweet Carrot and Orange Puree, Candied Carrots, a Roast Vegetable Concasse, Gravy and topped with Fried, Handmade Tagliatelle

Orange and Maple Steamed Pudding

Sweet Chilli and King Prawn Salad

Haggis rolled in a Breaded Pork Escallope served with Mash, Green Beans and Grilled Tomatoes

Yorkshire Puddings

Haggis Oatcake Canapes

Cranachan Interpretations 



River Cottage Sausage Casserole

Lemon and Thyme Roast Chicken

Braised Pork Loin with Mash, Sugar Snaps and Caramelized Apples

Balmoral Chicken served with Mash, Grean Beans and Courgette Spears

Miniature Triffle Shots

Apple and Blackberry Pie served with Custard

Roquito Peppers stuffed with Feta Cheese and Sage

Brie and Cranberry on White Lardons

Pate and Cucumber on Oatcakes

Chocolate Marquis served with Strawberries, Cream and Chocolate Sauce 

Pan-Fried Pork Loin served with Mash, Grilled Vegetables and an Apple Puree

St. Patricks Day Special: Slice Pork Loin with a Guinness Sauce, a medley of Potato, Carrot Crisps and Apple Puree

Chicken and Apricot Terrine with a Pear and Plum Chutney

Classic Chicken Veloute Soup

Saturday, 25 January 2014

The Mysterious Haggis

"Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm."
- First Verse of 'Address To A Haggis' by Robert Burns

Seeing as I am Scottish, I think its probably about time did a post on Haggis. I mentioned it in a couple of other posts but I think it deserves one of its own, and what better time to write it than Robert Burns day. In this post I'll debunk the mysteries surrounding the honorable Haggis.

The Wild Haggis
First of all, if you were to ask a Scottish person what a Haggis is, your probably (providing you can understand them) going to be given this answer. 'A Haggis is a small, feathered mammal. It lives in the highlands, therefore its legs on one side are shorter than the other, meaning that it can only run one way round the hills that it calls home.' If you ever visit Scotland, be sure to lookout for them while travelling through the glens.

Stuffed Wild Haggis

The Haggis
Now here comes the real truth. Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep's heart, liver and lungs; minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, salt and stock. Traditionally, all encased within a sheeps stomach and simmered for approximately three hours. Of course, the more modern version uses sausage casing. Traditionally served with mashes 'neeps' (Turnip) and 'tatties' (Potatoes). If your ever come across the chance to try this wonderful Scottish dish, I implore you to try it, I promise you will not be disappointed. 

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties



Soup de Joure: Cream of Mushroom Soup with Leek and Pinot Grigio

I understand that not everyone is a fan of our friendly neighborhood fungus. Although, with its unique flavor, delicate texture and versatile use, the mushroom is up there on a gourmet chefs top list of ingredients. However, I do think I know the reason for many people being repelled by humble fungi, I'm sure many of us have experienced that slimy, sliced mushroom glaring at you from mums ever so slightly overcooked bolognese. Or maybe grans rather watery Stroganoff. When I was a child I used to avoid Mushrooms like the plague. But when you first try a properly prepared dish, you can really appreciate them.  Mushrooms are delicate in a way that they are often overcooked, however a dish like this soup is fool proof. Bon Appetit!





Ingredients
600g Button Mushrooms (Sliced)
1-2 Onions (Chopped)
1 Bulbs of Garlic (Peeled)
1 Leek (Chopped)
1 Stick of Celery (Chopped)
50ml of White Wine
50ml of Cream
25g Butter
25g Flour
1.5L Vegetable or Chicken Stock
Seasoning

Method
1. Heat a large sauce pan on medium heat with the Butter. Add and lightly saute the Mushrooms, Onions, Garlic, Leek and Celery.
2. Once the vegetables begin to cook, add the white wine and reduce. This eliminates any alcohol and enhances the flavor.
3. Add the Flour and mix well so that the liquid forms a Roux. This will be your thickening agent.
4. Add the Stock of your choice and bring to the boil then simmer for 15-20 minutes. Season well.
5. Blend the soup then add the Cream. Blend again. Season again to taste.
6. Serve with some chopped herbs, croutons or swirl of cream.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Health Foods and the Aztecs

A while ago, I went on a bit of a health blast. I say that but while I was aiming for 3 months, it really only lasted a week as usual. However, that time was not wasted, it prompted me to do a bit more research on health foods. I read up on different ingredients, found out their origin, how they were farmed. Watched some documentaries on vegan foods, sustainable foods etc. You know, the my usual Friday nights. However there was one thing I came to realise when I was doing my research. That was that, so many of our main health foods come from South America, and in-particular cultivated by the South American Natives.

For example, there are a couple of health foods that I have come to love and substituted into my diet over the last month. They are Quinoa and Chia seeds.

Quinoa
Pronounced Keen-wa, Quinoa is a plant that grows in the extremely high altitudes of the South American Andes, and was cultivated by the Incas thousands of years ago. The name comes from the ancient Inca language meaning "Mother-Grain" or "Super-Grain". Today it is considered a "superfood" and has extremely high nutritional values. It is high in "complete" protein, something that is rare to find in plants, making it extremely popular with vegans and vegetarians. Its organic and gluten-free, however, the best part is that is tastes good with minimal effort.

 

Quinoa is boiled, and can be used as a substitute in most dishes that require rice, couscous or any other pulse, served hot or cold.

Chia Seed
Salvia Hispanica, or Chia, is a flowering plant of the mint family. Native to southern Mexico, it was also cultivated by the Ancient Aztecs. The seeds were used by the ancients as a slow release of energy and while hunting, the Aztecs would place a handful of Chia Seeds in their cheeks. However some sources show that Chia was as widely used as Maize in other civilizations. Its nutritional value is similar to that of seeds such as flax or sesame. It is gluten free and an excellent source of protein and fiber.



Chia, when placed in liquid, swells to 3 times its original size and a very popular way to serve it, is as raw porridge. Place the seeds in a bowl with almond milk, mix and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes but you can even leave it over night. When you return to it you will find that the seeds have swollen and the contents now has the consistancy of thick porridge. Now all that is left to do is add a splash of milk and a topping of your choice, I suggest blueberries, banana and honey. Chia is also great in smoothies, pulse dishes and even in baking dishes such as flapjack or loafs.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I will be posting up recipes for both ingredients along with some great information sources. Until next time though, carry on cooking.