Saturday, 1 April 2017

April 2012: food as sunscreen


Over half the adult population in the UK has insufficient levels of vitamin D. Bad news for your bones, your eyes, your brain, to mention but a few parts affected. Why is this?
An important reason is our addiction to sunscreen. Vitamin D is synthesised in response to UV radiation, but a propaganda campaign has been waged to persuade us to avoid the sun - even in Scotland. Sun exposure is supposed to cause malignant melanoma: untrue, according to emeritus Professor Sam Shuster. "The quite different tumours caused by sun exposure are local and benign."*

Of course, the sunscreen industry has been the first to benefit from this fear of sunbathing, and has been happy to ratchet it up a few degrees. So when not huddled indoors, we've slapped up the lotion. The kids are playing computergames, so avoiding the sun altogether. Eggs and oily fish, other sources of the vitamin, make us scared of becoming obese. Result: vitamin D deficiency which, recent studies show, causes not just the infamous rickets, but may increase the chance of getting diabetes, childhood depression, osteoporosis, asthma, bad lung function, inflammation, infections, cardiovascular disease,  macular degeneration and various types of cancer.

So worship the sun, within reason. And the best sunscreen is an internal sunscreen built with nutrition. Any foods with anti-oxidants and omega 3 help. Berries, carrots, tomato, cabbage, kale, watercress, sardines, spinach, green tea**, crab and shrimp caught in the wild, will protect your skin from cancer, better than any chemical concoction.***

Direct: lettuce, rocket, radish, beet, broad beans, summer cabbage, calabrese, kohlrabi, parsnips, peas, spinach (beet), spring onions, chard, early carrots, autumn cauli, salsify, scorzonera, celeriac, celery. Late April: courgettes, french beans, pumpkins.
Plant: summer cabbage, onion sets, potatoes, summer cabbage.
Sow to transplant: leeks, brussels, sprouting broccoli, autumn cauli, kale, tomatoes (indoors).

EAT: purple sprouting broccoli, chard, cabbage, leeks, spring onions, spinach, watercress, loose-leaved lettuce, radish, sorrel, spring greens.

Spices boost your metabolic rate, which can get sluggish in winter, so this soup leaves you feeling full of energy.
1 onion, large cabbage, 2 finely chopped or cooked potatoes, tsp chilli powder, tsp ground coriander, tsp ground cumin, (tsp ground fenugreek), 1l stock, 100g (more if you're hungry) cooked butter beans, 2 tblsp oil, (parsley).
Fry onion and potatoes in oil for a few mins. Add chilli, coriander, cumin (and fenugreek). Shred cabbage finely. Chop across the shreds, so they're not too long. Add cabbage and stock, simmer for 15 mins. Liquidise if you like. Add beans, season, heat through, (add parsley).

GREEN SOUP, serves 4.    
150g spinach, watercress, or young nettle tops; 3-4 chopped leeks, 40g butter, 300g floury potatoes cut into 1cm cubes, 1l stock, 100ml crème fraîche, nutmeg, salt, pepper, 2-3 tbsp hemp oil.
Melt butter, add leeks, sauté for 5 mins. Add potatoes, stir for 2 mins, pour in water, cover and simmer 10 mins. Chop and add greens, cook till done, not too long! Purée, whisk in crème fraîche and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Heat through gently, serve in warmed bowls, trickle on oil.

400g purple sprouting broccoli, weighed after cleaning, taking out the woody bits etc; 1 red chilli (not too hot), 2 cloves garlic, 1 small tin of anchovy in olive oil, drained; good olive oil, 12oz pasta, salt, pepper, (grated cheese). 
Put pan of water on for the pasta. Chop broccoli into 1cm sections. Cut chilli in half and scrape out seeds. Chop chilli, garlic and anchovies finely. Sweat those in 60 ml olive oil; after a minute add broccoli. Cover and let cook very gently. Drop pasta in the boiling water, stir. Aftr a few mins, transfer a small ladle of the pasta cooking water to the broccoli. Cook broccoli until just tender. Add another 2 tbsp of oil (and the cheese). Mix with pasta, serve. Personally I don't need salt with this because of the anchovies, but you may do

2 heads of young tender smallish green cabbage, 1 onion, black pepper, salt, 1/2 tblsp butter.
Trim coarse leaves, cut out tough ribs along leaf center. Boil rapidly, uncovered, in salted water to which an onion has been added. If fresh, the cabbage will be cooked in 10-15 mins. Drain in a colander by pressing a plate on top. Pepper and glaze with melting butter. 

ROMAN SPINACH serves 4  
3 tbsp raisins, 2lb spinach, virgin olive oil, 5 garlic cloves, crushed; 4 tbsp pine nuts, 1 pinch salt, pepper.
Cover raisins with warm water, soak for 15 mins. Take stems out of the spinach (put in with your potatoes if you have those). Put wet spinach in a frying pan, cook over high flame until it collapses and turns dark green, stirring constantly: transfer to colander. If the frying pan is wet, dry it. Pour oil into it, add garlic and brown it, beware it doesn't burn. Remove garlic and discard (or add to those potatoes again!). Squeeze raisins dry and add to oil with the nuts. Cook slowly until nuts turn golden. Be careful, they burn easily. Return spinach to pan, stir, season. Mix everything and cook for about a minute, add more oil if you like. 

CREAMY LEEKS and FISH, serves 4.
4 x 175g pieces thick white-fish fillets (whiting, pollock, megrim, dab for instance), 3-4 sliced leeks, 350g cut potatoes, 120ml sour cream, 1 1/2 tsp flour, 2 tblsp butter, 200ml water, 1 tblsp chopped dill, salt, pepper.
Whisk sour cream and flour. Bring to the boil: water, butter, salt, pepper. Add leeks and potatoes. Cover and simmer, stirring once or twice, for 10 mins. Stir in cream mix. Season fish, add. Cook covered until just done, 8-10 mins. Sprinkle with dill.

BROCCOLI with SUNFLOWER SEEDS and BUTTERBEANS (or potatoes), serves 2. 
1 large bunch broccoli chopped, 1 drained can of butter beans (or chunks of cooked waxy potatoes), handful sunflowerseeds, 4-6 tblsp cream, (garlic), 2 large handfuls grated mature cheese.

Boil broccoli in salted water. Meanwhile, stir-fry beans/potato chunks in oil until starting to brown. Add seeds (and garlic), cook till they too are a little browned. Remove from heat, stir in cream. Drain broccoli, mix with beans/potatoes and cheese. 

1 bunch cress, 1 tsp runny honey, 240ml yoghurt, 1 tsp lemon juice, salt and black pepper.
Boil cress in salted water. Blanch for 3 mins, drain. Press as much of the water out as possible. Blend cress with remaining ingredients. Transfer to a small pan and heat up gently making sure it doesn't boil. This goes well with poached or grilled fish.

Next month: REGRETS