Sunday, 1 January 2017

January 2017: eggs is eggs?


or are they?

Eggs are an excellent food. Unless your principles forbid because you’re vegan, in which case skip this bit (but take your vitamins! [1]) and go straight to: what to eat/sow in December.
Eggs are easy to eat and cook, well-tolerated by young and old, adaptable and inexpensive. The white contains high-quality protein, riboflavin and selenium. The yolk offers:
  • vitamin D, critical for bone health and immune function. 
  • choline, essential for functioning of all cells, but particularly important during pregnancy to support healthy brain development of the fetus.
  • lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that reduce the risk of developing cataracts and slow down progression of age-related macular degeneration. 
  • phosphorus, vitamin B12, and all nine essential amino acids [2].
Experts used to say we they should limit the number of eggs we eat because they contain cholesterol, but now it has been found that cholesterol in food does not increase the risk of heart disease in healthy people in any way [3].
However, not all eggs are created equal. 
In the UK we eat more than 12 billion eggs per year, very roughly half of which are 'cage type' eggs, meaning: not free range [4].
Just a quick search on the internet tells us that: 
  • antibiotics have been used in poultry farming in large quantities since the 1940s. The use of fluoroquinolones, classed by the World Health Organization as ‘critically important’, increased by 59% in the UK poultry industry in just one year! - despite urgent calls to reduce antibiotic usage. In general, "we are about to reach the point where more antibiotics will be consumed by farm animals worldwide than by humans,” says Mark Woolhouse, at the University of Edinburgh. Meaning: more resistant bacteria, which could be a big threat [5].
  • poultry feed can also include roxarsone or nitarsonearsenical antimicrobial drugs that also promote growth.
  • even free range hens are routinely beak-trimmed at 1 day of age, to reduce the damaging effects of aggression, feather pecking and cannibalism. In January 2016, a proposed ban on beak trimming was rejected by farming minister, George Eustice. Scientific studies shave shown that beak trimming is likely to cause both acute and chronic pain [6]. 
  • In the wild, hens would only lay 20 eggs annually; on modern farms with near constant lighting and high protein feed, this is raised to over 300. Some egg companies are pushing this number up to 500. This is 25 times as much as a chicken would lay if left alone [7].
I expect that most people who read Thought for Food, when given the choice, will buy free-range. Which is, however, rarely much better than the cage kind. Contrary to popular belief, free-range regulations only require that the hens have access to the outdoors, not that they actually spend time there. This access may be for very brief periods; the outside area may be small. Stocking densities tend to be high, and many chickens stay inside as dominant hens prevent them from going out [8].
So, I'm afraid, organic eggs are your best bet [9]. Unless you have friendly poultry-loving neighbours with a surplus like we do - or, of course, your own flock. 
All this is one more reason not to eat too much processed food. It rarely says ‘free range eggs’ in the ingredient list ….


The days are getting longer - really! Are you walking? Are you walking enough? Walking helps for all sorts of things. How and why, see


And another one: Prof. Paul Cosford, medical director at Public Health England, told MPs that children are 12 times more likely to contract drug-resistant infections in the three months after being prescribed antibiotics, suggesting that their current use poses a direct risk to individual patients as well as a broader threat to society as a whole.


VegBrussels', beet, sprout tops, cabbage, celeriac, celery (with Stilton!), corn salad, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, salsify, kale, kohlrabi, landcress, leeks, parsnips, pumpkin/squash, rocket, spinach, swede, turnips, winter radish, endive, winter purslane.
Meat: wood pigeon, pheasant, wild duck, goose, grouse, partridge, venison. For (Christmas) game recipes, see
Fishcoley, megrim, clams, crab, cuttlefish, mussels, oysters, scallops, whiting.

Shallots are traditionally planted on the shortest day. You can still plant garlic. Buy heads from a proper supplier to prevent disease.
If you leave veg in the ground, apply a thick mulch (straw, bracken or newspaper) for protection, and so as to get them out easily.

Still feeling antsy? Check,4NFGO,JCJBU,HC8AU,1 for what else to do in the garden in January. 


Brussel’s sproutsmash with parmesan and cream, or fry with garlic and almonds.
Or stir them up, when cooked and hot, with finely chopped rosemary, crispy bacon and crumbled chestnuts. Season well with pepper.

BAGNA CAUDA - will feed lots as a starter. Not expensive, though it’s worth using the best quality of anchovies you can find.
One jar of anchovies, boiled potatoes, cabbage, eggs, celery, endive. You can replace the endive by salady winter greens, or lightly cooked ones.
Melt anchovies in olive oil and butter. Fill plate with sliced potatoes, thin wedges of raw cabbage, wedges of soft-boiled egg, lightly boiled celery, and leaves of endive. Spoon the anchovy sauce over as you eat it.

4-5 eggs, kale, mushrooms, 50g Somerset brie. You can add some ginger if you like. 
Sauté kale and mushrooms until wilted - don't overcook. Beat the eggs and pour into a pan over medium-low heat. Once they start to cook, put the brie, followed by the veg, over half of the eggs. When the eggs are set, flip half over the veg. Cook for another few mins until the middle is set. Cut in half and serve on a plate with the remaining sautéed vegetables.

1-1½ leek(s), potatoes, egg(s), spices/herbs, grated cheese.
Cook the chopped leek and 100-200g chopped potatoes. Beat an egg or two with spices (pepper, salt, paprika powder, mustard, for instance) and some grated cheese. When the veg are both done (make sure the potatoes are nice and soft), drain and put together.
Pour a tiny bit of the drained liquid in with the egg, and stir this into the potato/leek mix. Heat the whole lot through, till the egg is reasonably solid. Serve.
If you like, you can first fry up the whole lot for a few minutes, as a sort of pancake. 

For more December recipes, see other years (click on 2016 and then on December, on the right hand side). Or go to, which does have eight recipes for this year. 


[1] Especially taking vitamin B12, cobalamin, is vital, for you can only get this usefully from animal foods. It will take up take up to 5 years, but once you have been short of it for a while, you can never undo the damage. At only slightly low levels it will cause fatigue, depression, poor memory. Later deficiency can affect the peripheral nerves, leading to loss of sensation/weakness in the legs, spinal chord problems, mood change, loss of memory, and early dementia.
Take vitamin B12 away from vitamin C, for this degrades it. So even if it is in your multivitamin, take some separate as well! 
[3] Dietary cholesterol found in eggs has little to do with the amount of cholesterol in your body.
The trouble is that "cholesterol," is used to describe two different things. The fat-like molecules in animal-based foods like eggs doesn't greatly affect the amount of cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream. Your body makes its own cholesterol, so it doesn't need much of the kind you eat. Instead, what fuels your body's cholesterol-making machine is certain saturated and trans fats. Eggs contain relatively small amounts of saturated fat. So, cutting eggs out of your diet is a bad idea; they're a rich source of 13 vitamins and minerals.

Next month: death. If you want to see this now, go to

January 2016: play!


I don’t think I have played since I was 14, apart from the odd reluctant game of badminton with my brothers, or mikado with the kids. I was too serious. I only did useful things, and if I relaxed it was always with a book. 
These days, playing often means computer games or, worse, the lottery.
How did children spend their days before the advent of commercial entertainment? They played - with sticks and stones, bits of paper, dirt, or just each other. Playing was enjoyable or serious; it might end, maybe, in winning or losing, but a lot of it was fun. And often but not always, relaxing. 
I don’t think it’s only me who had forgotten how to do that. 

Playing in the way I mean, is done light of heart, light of foot and light of purse. The higher the financial stakes, the less properly playful the game becomes

We also need plenty of time to do it in. 
Have we got that time? 
Could we not swop a bit of tv watching or ‘doing things on the computer’, for a card game? 

Psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD, compares play to oxygen. He writes, “…it’s all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.” 
Any time you think play is a waste, remember that it offers some serious benefits both for you and for  others. Brown says in his book, “Play is the purest expression of love.” [1]
Moreover, if you play as a family, the benefits for the children are endless. [2]
It’s fun, cheap and - though I hate the sound of this - good for their development. It teaches them to count, to lose and to get on with people. It teaches us to get on with our kids, no batteries involved. No going places. No snacking, or not necessarily.
Of course, if you are bad loser it’s not quite so pleasant, but maybe all the more useful.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

What does all this have to do with food? Nothing whatsoever. Although, maybe you can spend some of the money saved on computer software or dvds, on quality food? Organic (yum!) vegetables, nuts instead of crisps, for example? Just saying ……

And by the way: don't believe everything they tell you, at least not where big money is involved ....
To see a short article in The Week (USA), click on the right hand side of this page: "the dark side of clinical trials".

To sow/plant:
if the weather is suitable: early peas, broad beans. Apple trees, if it's not too cold and the ground is not waterlogged or frozen.
And keep weeding - they don’t stop growing just because it’s winter! You’ll be glad you did it when you’re busy in spring. 

To eat:
Veg: beet, broccoli, brussels, cabbage, carrots, chard, celeriac, kale, cavolo nero, leek, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, rocket, spinach, swede, turnip, jerusalem artichoke, chicory, celery, corn salad, endive, kohlrabi, salsify, winter purslane.
Fish: bib, cockles, crab, dab, flounder, lobster, mackerel, oysters, pollack, scallops, seabass, whiting.
Meat: game is bountiful, cheap and good for you. This is the time to buy - or catch! - it. 


3 beetroot, ¼ pumpkin/squash, 2 carrots, yoghurt (or cream and lemon juice), 2 garlic cloves, ginger, oil, butter, seasoning. Spices such as mustard, cumin, fennel and/or coriander seeds. 
Chop veg, garlic and a small knob of ginger. Heat oil/butter and fry garlic and ginger for half a minute. Add spices and cook for a minute longer to release their flavour. Add veg and sauté gently for some more mins., stirring regularly. Bring to the boil with enough liquid to cover them and simmer till soft. Blend, check seasoning. You may need to add more liquid. Serve with double cream and lemon juice, or a spoonful of yoghurt.

If you make this the day before, the meat will be lovely and tender from having sat in the tomato sauce overnight.
400g chopped mutton (or lamb), 1-2 onions, 2 tblsp flour, 1 tsp paprika, 3-4 garlic cloves, tin of tomatoes, ¼ tsp mace, 1 tsp coriander powder, ¼ tsp nutmeg, (half a cinnamon stick if you like it), olive oil and butter, 1 tsp salt, pepper.
Mix together flour, paprika, pepper and salt. Coat the mutton pieces with it. Heat some oil and fry till they are golden brown. Heat more oil in another pan and melt butter into it. Add onions and crushed garlic. When the onions start to turn golden brown, add mace and nutmeg. After 1 minute add the tomatoes, (cinnamon) and the mutton. Let it simmer for 30 mins on a low flame, stirring every so often. If necessary, add some water. Serve when meat is tender. 

250g shredded cavolo nero (weighed after taking out the ribs), 140g mature cheese, 1 large or 2 small cooking apples, 1 diced red onion, 200g cooked cannellini* beans or a 410g tin beans, drained; ginger, cayenne pepper. 
Cut cheese into small cubes. Steam or cook cavolo for 5 mins, drain. Meanwhile, fry onion, sliced apple, beans and spices for a few minutes. Add cavolo nero and season. Stir fry till done to your liking.
You can add some sliced cooked potatoes to the frying pan, to make it a full meal. 
*Can be replaced with navy beans, flageolets or any white beans.

Use sprouts that are on the small side and tightly closed. I finished them off with toasted hazelnuts - delicious! 
24 small brussels' sprouts, 1 tblsp extra-virgin olive oil plus more for rubbing, sea salt, black pepper, 60ml grated cheese. 
Trim sprouts, cut in half from stem to top, toss in olive oil. Heat 1 tblsp oil. Don't overheat, or their outside will cook too quickly. Put sprouts in the pan flat side down, single layer. Sprinkle with 2 pinches of salt, cover, cook for 5 mins. The bottoms should only show a hint of browning. Taste one to gauge whether they are tender throughout. If not, cover and cook a little bit longer, Once they're just tender, turn up the heat and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized. Stir once or twice to get some browning on the rounded side as well. Season more, add cheese and eat asap! 

½ large cabbage, a large nice cooking apple, 1 tblsp butter, small onion, ¼ tsp salt.
Chop everything but keep separate. Melt butter, add the onion. When it starts to soften add the cabbage. Cover, turn down the heat slightly and sauté, stirring a couple of times. After ab. 8 mins add apple, stir. Cook 5 mins, stirring every so often, season. The cabbage should be crisp and tender, the apple soft.

40g chopped kale, 20g thinly sliced leek, 30g cubed Brie, 3 large eggs, butter, salt, pepper.
Sauté leeks and kale, covered. Stir occasionally. Beat eggs with a fork, season. If necessary, add a little bit of water. When leeks and kale are done to your liking, maybe after 3 or 10 mins., stir in the egg mass. Once the egg is almost done, with just a little bit still raw on top, sprinkle the brie around one half of the egg, fold double, cover and leave to sit for 3 mins.

700g whiting fillet*, about 200g cleaned kale, chard, spring greens or the like, 120ml dry white wine (or water), 1-2 minced cloves of garlic, 3 tbsp butter/extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
Discard the thick kale stems. Wash and shake dry, letting some water cling to leaves. Cut across the nerves, strips about 2 cm wide. Put wine, garlic, half the butter, salt and pepper in a deep pan with a lid. When it boils add the kale. Cover and cook, checking that it does not dry out, until the greens are just tender, about 10 mins. Put fish on top, season and dot with remaining butter. Re-cover, and cook until the fish is done and the greens fully tender, 5-10 mins.
*Other sustainable white fish are dab, pouting, coley, megrim, grouper, flounder, gurnard or bream.

Cook any roots (celeriac, parsnips, swede) until tender. Drain, mash together with plenty of butter, salt and pepper. You can add herbs or spices to the roots when cooking, and creme fraîche/sour cream instead of butter afterwards. 


January 2015: dieting = dangerous


The diet plan. Will it work? Short term - you may be lucky. Or disciplined, rather.
Long term, no. 

Everyone is different. Your size, your shape, the history, your genes: everything has a say. Since the children left home, my husband and I have totally different meals, though we both eat healthily - more or less.
Listen to your own body. We’ve all developed habits, some good, some bad. Should we throw all that by the wayside in favour of a one-size-fits-most plan? Some of it, I expect, but not all.

- Dieting leads to bingeing, and this is not just because we’re weak-willed. Discipline doesn’t work, not for long, or only at great cost to the rest of your life.
- Bingeing may even be a sign of need: your body lacks something and overrides all your good intentions. (1)
Dieting - at least, dieting according to someone else’s plan - won’t help you to get in touch with your own body’s needs: on the contrary.
- In a way it’s easy, following someone else’s guidelines. Getting in touch with yourself takes patience and observation.
- And then there is the issue of hormones: leptin and ghrelin for instancemake ‘dieting’ a complicated game in which we usually end up losers. (2)

Therefore, low calorie and low fat diets can have serious consequences for your health.
But what can we do instead?

Avoid (artificial) sugar. Sugar is addictive, and hides in many things. Sugar makes you want more and more and more. Artificial sugar is bad for you in other ways [3]. Getting used to less sweet food is not too hard, and saves a lot of trouble over a lifetime. 

Try have healthy snacks handy for when the need arises: crackers with cheese, (dried) fruit, may help cravings without leading you astray. Nuts, seeds. A nice sandwich if you fancy it, made with quality, filling bread.

And don’t worry about the calories! If it’s good stuff, you won’t go far overboard.
A biscuit easily leads to a packet of biscuits. A sandwich on the other hand … you aren’t going to eat the whole loaf, are you? A nice sandwich fills you up.
Nuts - provided they are not oiled or salted, will give you nutrients and leave you satisfied. 

It shouldn’t surprise you that I recommend full milk and butter instead of skim and marge [4]. We need good fat, and when our body doesn’t get it, it turns to carbs (sugar and grain, mainly) to fill the gap. At last, ‘saturated fat’ is loosing the bad name it has been given for years. [5]

And beware: when watching television, especially if it's scary, we tend to eat far more than we would otherwise do. 

Try things out, observe, learn about yourself. It’s not as easy as following someone else’s ideas - it may even be scary at times - but the road will be interesting. [6]

To sow/plant:
if the weather is suitable: early peas, broad beans. Apple trees, if it's not too cold and the ground is not waterlogged or frozen.
And keep weeding - they don’t stop growing just because it’s winter! You’ll be glad you did it when you’re busy in spring. 

To eat:
Veg: beet, broccoli, brussels, cabbage, carrots, chard, celeriac, kale, cavolo nero, leek, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, rocket, spinach, swede, turnip, jerusalem artichoke, chicory, celery, corn salad, endive, kohlrabi, salsify, winter purslane.
Fish: bib, cockles, crab, dab, flounder, lobster, mackerel, oysters, pollack, scallops, seabass, whiting.
Meat: game is bountiful, cheap and good for you. This is the time to buy - or catch! - it. 

I didn’t like swede in November. Now I love it. Has my taste changed? I don’t think so: root vegetables do get sweeter in the course of the year, as do potatoes, and apples. Cold weather turns their starch into sugar. So, if you did not like swede in November, try again! 


To find general ideas for winter SALADSclick on December on the right hand side and see the issue for December 2010.

MUTTON (or lamb) SOUP for 6
500g chopped mutton (or lamb if you can't get it), 3l stock or water with herbs, 225g barley, 175g split peas, 1 large onion, 1 leek, 2 big carrots, 1 swede, 2 celery stalks, oil, chopped parsley to garnish
Cover mutton with stock/water. Cook till tender, about 1 1/2 hour. Top up with water if necessary. Add barley and split peas for the last healf hour. Chop and sauté the veg for a few mins, add to the pan, cook till done. Adjust seasoning. Finish with chopped parsley. Serve with nice bread. 

1 pheasant, chopped onion(s), chopped cooking apple, 250ml cider, 2 chopped garlic cloves, seasoned flour, bay leaf, thyme, oil/butter, 125ml liquid, salt, pepper.
Cut pheasant into pieces, dust with flour. Fry onions, take from the pan. Brown pheasant. Add the onions again, plus the other ingredients. Stir and simmer for 5-10 mins. Cover and simmer gently for 30-40 mins, stirring now and again - or put in the oven if you prefer.

500g Brussels sprouts, 1 tbsp olive oil, 300ml vegetable stock, 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard, salt and freshly ground pepper, 2 tbsp clear honey.
Prepare the sprouts and cut in half. Heat oil, add sprouts and fry for 2 mins. Remove from heat and carefully pour in the stock and stir in mustard and seasoning. Bring to the boil, simmer uncovered for 3-4 mins until the sprouts are tender. Stir in honey, season and serve immediately.

KALE with GOATS' CHEESE, makes 3-4 servings.
150-200g kale, 60g crumbled cheese, olive oil, 6 eggs, salt, pepper.
Strip thick stalks from the kale, chop. Preheat oven to 190°C. Sauté kale while stirring, until wilted, about 3-5 mins. Put in greased dish, crumble cheese over it. Beat eggs with salt and pepper, pour on top. Stir gently with fork, bake 40 mins. Serve hot. Good with plenty of sour cream. Leftovers keep in the fridge for a week.

500g celeriac, 500g cooked chestnuts, 300ml water/stock, 1 bouquet garni, small bunch of chives, 1 tblsp butter, 2 tblsp crème fraîche, salt, black pepper.
Peel celeriac, cut into small (1 cm) dice, cook until soft. Drain the chestnuts if canned, add and simmer for 3–4 minutes more. 
When the chestnuts and celeriac are cooked, strain, reserve the stock. Remove the bouquet garni and purée the vegetables. Return purée to the saucepan, add the butter and place over low heat until the butter has melted.
Stir in crème fraîche. If it is too thick, add a little of the reserved stock, or some more crème fraîche, to thin it slightly. Taste, season and sprinkle with the chives.
Perfect on a cold night as a comforting accompaniment to roast meat or game dishes.

250g sliced leeks, 400-500g hard goat's cheese cut into dice, 250g chopped spinach, 12 sheets of filo pastry, 2 sliced onions, 50g melted butter plus extra for frying,
Heat oven to 180°C. Fry onions in butter until golden and caramelised, 10-15 mins. Fry leeks till soft, season. Mix onions, leeks, cheese, spinach. Butter baking dish, lay 3 sheets filo on the bottom, buttering each layer (trim if you need to). Put 1/3 of the leek mix on top of the filo and add 3 more layers of pastry. Add another 1/3 of the mixture with 3 more layers of filo. Finally add the last of the mixture and the last 3 layers of pastry and lots of butter. Bake for 30-40 mins until crisp and golden. 
This recipe is slightly more complicated than most, unless maybe you have dealt with filo pastry before. But everyone liked it so much .....
If using spinach beet instead of spinach, you may want to precook this for a few minutes. 

500g Brussels sprouts, 500g cleaned cubed butternut squash, 1 large onion, 2 cloves garlic, nutmeg, 240ml water, 240ml full milk, 1 heaped tblsp butter, 1 heaped tblsp flour, sea salt, pepper.
Cut large sprouts in half. Cook or steam sprouts and squash separately. Preheat oven to 180°C. Sauté chopped onion and minced garlic in butter. When onions are translucent, add flour, keep stirring. Add water/milk slowly, bring to boil, remove from heat. Season. Grease oven dish and dust with flour. Put in squash, then sprouts, sauce on top. Bake for 30 mins.

This sauce is delicious with roast pork and can be kept in a (sterilized) airtight jar in the fridge for ages. 
100g raisins, 550ml cider, 6 cooking apples, cored and diced, 80g fresh grated ginger, 1 chopped onion, 2 cinnamon sticks, juice of 1 lemon, 50g sugar, 200ml cider vinegar, ½ tsp table salt, thyme, nutmeg.
Place raisins and half the cider in a small pan. Simmer gently until the raisins are very plump (15–20 mins). Put the other ingredients except the nutmeg, into a larger pan, add raisins cider mix, and cook gently until the apples are soft. Remove the cinnamon and blend until smooth. Grate the nutmeg liberally over the top, mix.



[1] See the issue for June 2012 (click on June, right hand side). See also
And many more sites on request! 

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