Friday, 1 December 2017

December 2017: drink!?

December: let’s have a look at alcohol, again.
Alcohol and health was mentioned before: in the ‘drinking’ issue of December 2014. However, the issue can do with some more digging.
Every so often you read about the health-giving effects of, say, red wine, or how drinking alcohol in moderation might be good for your bones. These stories always mention ‘moderation’, which is of course an important problem.
I myself have never been particularly tempted by alcohol. I’m an eater, not a drinker. And after cancer treatment twelve years ago, I found that even one glass of wine made me feel the same as I had felt during the six weeks of chemoradiation. So that was it: never again.
My husband drinks regularly, but never even has a hangover. Mind you, he stays away from  the cheaper stuff.
People are different. During your lifetime you learn what suits you or what you can live without. And what you can’t live without, regardless of the consequences.
I found some interesting websites about the pros and cons of alcohol [1].
Apparently, the older you are, the more you can drink, says a, possibly dated, study from 2002. Men over 85 years old can drink as much as 5 units a day without ill effects [2]. Hurray .....
However, just recently they found that the positive side of alcohol has been overstated [3]. Studies which showed that moderate consumption might be good for you, may have been misguided. The abstainers in them often included people who had cut back, or stopped drinking, because of ill health or old age. This made non-drinkers look like a far less healthy group than the general population [4].
The type of alcohol is not as important as the amount of alcohol consumed and the pattern of intake. The latest UK government guidelines tell us not to drink more than 14 units a week, best spread evenly over 3 or more days: 6 pints of beer, 6 glasses of wine, or 14 pub measures (25ml) of 10% spirits. That is, unless you’re young, old, thin, sick or on medicines .…… For the complete list, see [5].

See also:
and (not too un-) healthy drinking tips:
and for a lovely not (very) alcoholic drink which is actually very good for you, ask me about water kefir. I can send you some grains.

Here is some more general stuff: 

You might also want to look at our tips for preventing and curing hangovers in the 2014 December issue [6].

And, just in case you're stressed - why on earth? ;-) - here are some suggestions:
And look at for ways to  get through December without too much damage.

Veg: Brussels', 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
Fish: coley, megrim, clams, crab, cuttlefish, mussels, oysters, scallops, whiting.
Shallots are traditionally planted on the shortest day. You can still plant garlic.
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.


600g green or brown lentils soaked overnight, 3 large carrots cut into 1cm slices, 125g cleaned chopped kale, 1 chopped leek, 5-10 tblsp tomato puree, 2.5l (homemade) chicken stock, 4 tblsp butter, 2 tsp coarse seasalt, juice of half a lemon, 120ml creme fraîche or sour cream, dill, 60ml red wine (optional). 
Drain the lentils. Sweat carrots and leeks for 10 mins in butter. Add liquid, tomato, lentils (and wine); cook till the lentils are done. Blend or mash. Stir in the finely cut kale and salt, boil for however raw or cooked you like the kale. Add lemon juice, creme fraîche or sour cream, heat through and serve sprinkled with dill. 

Personally I prefer raw (only washed, not peeled) grated beetroot, but by all means use cooked beet if you like.
2 beet, 2 apples, winter salad leaves like corn salad and rocket, 2 conference pears, 4 tbsp lightly toasted walnuts, 2 tbsp olive/walnut oil, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 minced garlic clove, 75-100g Stilton or soft, crumbly goat's cheese, pepper, sea salt.
Grate beet and apple coarsely. Mix. Whisk oil and vinegar, add garlic, salt, pepper. Dress beet and apple with 1/2 the dressing. Use remaining half to lightly dress the leaves - you may not need all of the dressing. In the centre of the dressed leaves, add mound of grated apple/beet. Core pears, cut into 1cm thick slices and arrange around the beetroot/apple mound. Break walnuts up a bit and arrange over leaves and pears. Finish with crumbled Stilton or goat's cheese, and pepper.

MARMITE SPAGHETTI with LEEKS, serves 4 - 6.
375g (wholewheat) spaghetti, 800g leeks (or more!) weighed after cleaning, 60g butter, 1-2 tsp marmite (or more!), grated mature cheese to serve.
Chop the leeks. Boil up some salted water, add the spaghetti and leeks. Meanwhile melt butter, add marmite and 1 tblsp pasta water, mix. The spaghetti and the leeks will be ready at the same time. Drain; reserve the water. Pour the marmite mix over spaghetti, adding some reserved pasta water if required. Serve with plenty of cheese.

And if you are having a vegetarian Christmas, why not try this one?
480ml cooked lentils, 480ml walnut halves; 10 chopped mushrooms, 180ml grated floury potato, 120ml dry cider, 1 tblsp olive oil, 1 large diced onion, 3 minced garlic cloves, 300ml water/stock, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 tsp dried savory, 1/2 tsp ground sage, 2 bay leaves, salt, pepper, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ground cloves, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce (optional), pastry dough for 1 double pie crust of 23cm diameter.
Sauté the onion in oil until it begins to soften, add mushrooms. Sauté until most of their juices have been released. Add garlic, sauté for 2 more mins. Grind the walnuts. Mix in the lentils, walnuts, broth, wine, thyme, savory, sage and bay. Season and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove bay and add: liquid, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and potato. Cook until the potato is soft, about 10 mins. Season. Chill for 1 hr.
Roll out one dough disk on a lightly floured surface into a 30cm round. Transfer to the pie dish, leaving an overhang. Fill with lentil mix. Roll out the remaining dough disk into a 10″ round. Place dough over the filling. Fold overhang over the top crust and crimp the edges. Brush the crust with milk. Cut three 6cm slits in the top. Let rest for 1 hr, or put in the fridge till tomorrow. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Bake for 30 mins. Reduce heat to 180°C; bake until the crust is golden and the filling bubbles, for 40-50 mins. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

And here it comes, finally, the drink!
Two 500ml bottles of good strong dry cider, 3 squashed cardamon pods; a lump of ginger about the size of the top joint of a thumb; the rind of an orange without the pith; 1 star anise; 10 cloves; ½ tsp mixed spice; half a thinly sliced apple; a good slug of rum/brandy.
Stud the orange peel with cloves. Place everything apart from the rum/brandy in a pan, bring to the boil. Turn down the heat, simmer gently for 10 mins. Spices can of course be varied according to taste and the contents of your cupboard. 

If you want to see more recipes for December, see other years (click on 2017 and then on December, on the right hand side). Or go to, which still has eight recipes for this year.
For an alphabetical index of subjects, which you will see if you click on 2017 > December in the top right hand corner. 
Next month: teeth. To see this now, go to and scroll down.

alphabetical index of subjects

alcohol                       Dec 14:
antibiotics                  Sep 15:
                                  Apr 17:
arthritis                      Apr 14:
brain food                  May 13:                           
bread                         May 1:
                                  Oct 16:
breakfast                   Jul 10:
                                  Aug 12:
butter                         Feb 12:
calories                      Jan 12:
chocolate                  Jun 13:
cholesterol                Mar 10:
                                 Apr 11:
                                 Nov 13:
coughs                     Nov 14:
cravings                   Jun 12:
dairy                         Oct 17:
death                        Feb 17:
diet                          Jul 11:
                                Jan 15:
drink                        Dec 17:
                                Dec 14:
eggs                        Jan 16:
fat                            Nov 13:
                                Jun 10: 
faeces                     Sep 17:
fever                        Dec 15:
fish                          Jul 12:
insomnia                  Apr 15:
milk                          Oct 17:
                                Sep 11:
salt                         Oct 15:
                               Oct 11:
soy                         Aug 13:
stress                     Jul 14:
sugar                     May 17:                        
                              Jun 15:
                              Jul 13:
throat                      Nov 14:
urine                       Aug 16:
winter salads          Dec 10:

December 2016: heartburn


A burning sensation radiating up from your stomach to your chest and throat. Bloating, belching, a sour taste. It's typically most bothersome at night, and tends to occur in connection with certain activities, such as: after eating a heavy meal; bending over; lifting; lying down, especially when lying on our back.
Too much stomach acid? 

Too little, more likely. Which is why treating it with the usual medications often in the long run has the opposite effect. They may soothe the pain today, but will cause major trouble later.

Why the confusion?
The contents of our stomachs must be acidic to trigger the release of food into the small intestine. When acid is too low, it won’t trigger this release. As a result, the trapped food shoots back up into the esophagus.
Our acid may be too low to digest the food, but it’s still too acidic for the delicate tissue of the esophagus. Hence that fiery pain of heartburn and acid reflux. We have too little stomach acid, but it is going where it’s not supposed to go [1].
To counteract this discomfort the doctor will prescribe antacids or proton pump inhibitors, PPIs. Antacids neutralize, but don’t affect secretion of new acid; PPI’s suppress the secretion of gastric juice entirely [2].
However, as explained above, most people who are taking these medications actually have too little stomach acid – not too much! The actual cause of low stomach acid is not addressed and often things get worse.

Stomach acid is very important for our digestion. It triggers the pancreas to secrete digestive enzymes, and makes the gallbladder secrete bile.
Enzymes and bile help ensure proper nutrient absorption. They also protect against infections and parasites, and help the large intestine to function properly.
Chronically low stomach acid hinders these organs in their work and often leads to larger problems throughout the digestive tract [3].
So lowering it via antacids or PPIs is, in most cases, the very last thing we should do. 

But what should we do instead?
If you are already using PPIs, never stop taking them cold turkey. Wean yourself off gradually: see [4].
And to slowly heal your gut naturally, try the following.
  • As soon as you wake up, drink 1 tsp. unpasteurized/raw apple cider vinegar in warm water. You can add lemon. Or drink 125ml warm water 30 minutes before each meal and after meals. Or sip with meals, in a little bit of water.
  • Add naturally fermented foods such as unpasteurized sauerkraut (from wholefood shops!) kimchi or other vegetable ferments [5].
  • Some find that eliminating dairy, coffee, tea and high fat/spicey foods prevents symptoms. So does leaving out alcohol and nicotine.
  • Chew your food well. Only eat while sitting down, not on the run!
  • Try reduce stress. Take 3-5 deep breaths before you start eating and let them out slowly.
  • Don’t drink with, or close before a meal, and not within one hour after it. Drinking more than 125ml water with a meal dilutes the stomach acid which is already short. 
  • Teas of slippery elm bark or ginger root help. 
  • Raw honey: 1 tsp. twice a day on an empty stomach heals your stomach lining and encourages production of gastric juices [6].
  • Take digestive bitters 15-20 minutes prior to meals with water. 
  • Use quality, unprocessed seasalt to encourage acid production. Ask in a wholefood shop. Leaving off ‘table salt’ is a good idea anyway [7].
  • Avoid eating too much processed food and sugar. 
  • You can, temporarily, take a hydrochloric acid supplement. See how: [8]
To see all this explained in more detail, visit one or more of the following:

Do you foresee trouble keeping your new year's resolutions?  The Healthy Home Economist has some good advice. See [9].

veg: Brussels', 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
fish: coley, megrim, clams, crab, cuttlefish, mussels, oysters, scallops, whiting.

Shallots are traditionally planted on the shortest day. You can still plant garlic.
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.



To find out what you can do with celeriac, see [10].

Here are two recipes with the Italian kale type, cavolo nero. Interestingly, one cooks it for 10, the other for 45 minutes. Strangely, both are lovely. 

1 bunch cavolo nero, 120ml dried beans* or 400g tinned (ideally cannellini or borlotti), 2 garlic cloves, pepper, 4 sage leaves, 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, seasalt, extra olive oil to serve, 8 slices of sourdough bread.
Drain the beans. Tear thick ribs off cavolo, cut finely. Sautée in 2 tblsp oil, adding tiny bits of water every so often, to prevent browning. Do this for ab. 10 minutes, until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat beans carefully in oil with sage and 1 chopped garlic, adding a bit of water so it won't burn. 
When cavolo and beans are ready, toast the bread. Rub toast with the last garlic. Top bread with cavolo, then beans. Drizzle oil on top, add pepper and some seasalt. Serve immediately.
*If using dried beans, soak in water overnight. Next day, cook in water with 2 tblsp olive oil, sage and 1 garlic. Don’t add salt yet or they'll stay hard. Cover, simmer until cooked, add salt.

300-350g cavolo nero weighed after removing the tough stems, 120ml freshly squeezed orange juice, 2 diced onions, 4 minced garlic cloves, chilli/cayenne pepper (optional), olive oil, salt.
Cut cavolo into bite-size pieces. Sauté onion, garlic, salt, red pepper until soft, 4-5 mins. Increase heat, add orange juice, bring to a simmer. Add a few handfuls of kale and, as it wilts, continue to add a handful at a time, stirring constantly, until all the kale is in. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until all the kale is wilted - 10 mins? Season, serve immediately.

2 chopped large onions, 4 sliced garlic cloves, 5cm shredded root ginger, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1½ kg lamb neck fillets cut into chunks, 2 cinnamon sticks, 8 cloves, 6 cardamom pods, good pinch saffron, 2 bay leaves, 2 tsp ground coriander, 3 tbsp ground almonds, 850ml beef stock, 250g dried apricots.
Fry onions, garlic and ginger in oil for about 15 mins. Add lamb and stir-fry until browned. Add spices, cook over the heat to release their flavours, then add almonds. Pour in the stock, season. Cover pan and simmer for 45 mins, stirring occasionally. Add apricots, simmer 15 mins more until lamb is tender. Thin with a little water if the sauce gets too thick. To freeze, cool, then pack into a container or bags. Keeps for 3 months. 

Red cabbage, large cooking apple (or 2), onion, bay leaf, cloves or ground allspice, raisins, butter, water, salt. 
Bring 2cm water to the boil, add the sliced cabbage, chopped onion, a bay leaf with a couple of cloves stuck in it (or some ground allspice), and raisins to taste. Cook slowly for 20 minutes, then add the chopped apple and a bit of salt. After 10 more minutes everything is cooked: take out bay and cloves. Pour off any liquid, or leave it in and use flour to thicken it. Add butter and stir, heat through. You might want to add a bit of vinegar and sugar (are you sure?): that depends on you and on the apple! 

100ml soy sauce, 4tblsp balsamic vinegar, bay leaves, chopped onion.
Mix everything and steep the pheasant - best cut in pieces - in it for a few hours or overnight. Cook as usual. It should take less long and have more taste!

Jerusalem artichoke's best friends are sage, thyme, butter, bacon, bay, cream, breadcrumbs, cheese and anything smoked. Or try this:
600g Jerusalem artichokes, olive oil, bay leaves, 2 cloves garlic, splash cider vinegar, salt, pepper.
Wash or peel the artichokes, cut into thin slices. Fry slowly until golden, then add bay leaves, 2 sliced garlic cloves, vinegar, salt, pepper, a tiny bit of water, and cover. Cook till they have softened, checking every so often whether they need just a drop more water. Remove lid and bay. Continue cooking for a couple of mins to crisp them up one last time, serve straight away.
They go well with both meat and fish or in soups or warm salads.

For more recipes, see old December issues.
[2] I find it useful to know that PPIs, as one of the most widely sold drugs in the world, are an excellent source of income for their producers. 
[6] If you are going to eat honey for health, raw is best. Manuka honey is expensive, but not necessarily better than other honey, provided this is raw. Unspecified table honey is often adulterated. See
[7] See the Thought of October ’15 or