Friday, 1 June 2018

June 2013: chocolate


Even as I write the word, my mouth waters. Count yourself lucky if you don't like the stuff. It's addictive. And it's got sugar in: from 53% (milk chocolate) to 68% (Mars bar), and we know what that does to us. 

So why is chocolate so often recommended as the holy grail of health, with its anti-oxidants, polyphenols, and super-protective procyanidin flavonoids? “Dark chocolate may be as good for health as exercise." cheers the Daily Mirror. "As good as jogging" rejoices the Daily Mail. All this on account of a study of the effects of epicatechin, a chemical found in cocoa, on 25 mice. [1]

It's worth remembering that, the world being what it is, there is enormous pressure both from above (the producers) and below (the punters) to paint chocolate as the knight in shining armour, coming to rescue us from boredom, cancer and heart disease. Superfood, medicine and love potion in one.

So therefore it is no great surprise that the flavanols in chocolate may "decrease blood pressure, increase insulin sensitivity, improve arterial blood flow and help with chronic fatigue syndrome".
Natural cocoa powder is by far the best source of these goodies. Strangely though, most of us go for the chocolate bars: a bit of cocoa (20% minimum for milk, 35% for dark chocolate), padded out with sugar, fructose, harmful fats and flavourings. All those healthy flavonoids have often been processed out. What's more, even the best, most flavonoid-rich dark chocolate is replete with sugar and additives.
So it's as well that you can easily get the polyphenol-related health benefits by eating other flavonoid-rich foods. As well as flavonoids, vegetables and fruit provide countless vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that protect our health in many ways.

So - chocolate: good or bad? Bars: bad, definitely. If you then consider that even this wholesome natural cocoa is one of the world's most heavily sprayed food crops [2], you might want to source your flavonols from fruit and veg instead. [3]

Here follows 'What to Eat and Sow' in June. In view of the cold facts of 2013 however, it might be better to look at last month's lists when figuring out what to eat and to sow .....  

Veg: broad beans, beet, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, new potatoes, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, mangetout, peas, radish, spinach, spring onions, spring greens, watercress, kohlrabi, turnips, rhubarb, redcurrants, strawberries, gooseberries.
Meat: lamb, wood pigeon.
Fish: grey mullet, black bream, gurnard, pollock, whiting, mackerel, lobster, whelks, clams, cockles, coley, crabs, crayfish, flounder, grouper, gurnards, herring, megrim, scallops. 

beetroot, calabrese, lettuce, salsify/scorzonera, french/runner beans, kale, carrots, cauliflower (mini only), salad onions, (sugar) peas, radish, kohlrabi, mooli, turnip, chicory, fennel, courgettes, marrows and pumpkins.
Sow swede and sweetcorn in early June. If the soil is above 25°C, sow crisphead, cos or little Gem only. 
Plant out: courgettes, cabbage, sprouting broccoli, sprouts, celery, celeriac, ridge cucumbers, runner/french beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, sweet corn. 

Sow a green manure cover crop on any bare ground. Buckwheat, phacelia, mustard and fenugreek are quick growing green manures that can be sown now. They’ll help to improve the ground, suppress weeds, make a good ground cover for beetles and other predators and, if you let them flower, buckwheat and phacelia are very attractive to bees – and people. Green manure seeds are available from The Organic Gardening Catalogue.

115g chopped onion, 1-2 cloves chopped garlic, 60g butter, 340g broad beans (weighed after shelling), 3 bean pods, chopped sage or parsley,  salt, pepper, 6 tblsp double cream.
Cook onion and garlic gently in butter for 3 mins without colouring. Add beans, pods, 1l water and a tblsp of chopped sage or 2 of parsley. Simmer until beans are cooked (10 mins). Discard pods, liquidise. Stir in cream, season.

Radishes bolted? Nothing else in the garden? Don't despair - this soup is one of the best I've made.
(Bolted) radish green with its (bolted) radishes, onion, 1-2 garlic clove(s), 1 tblsp sour cream, 1 tblsp peanut butter, water/stock, (cayenne) pepper, salt. 
Slice onion and garlic, saute in butter for a min., add plenty of chopped radishes with their leaves, even when bolted. Saute for a few more minutes, add water/stock. Cook till everything is soft. Loosen peanut butter with the hot liquid, add to the soup along with the sour cream, blitz if you like, season. You can leave out the peanutbutter, or add tomato puree instead.

200g podded peas, 200g podded broad beans, 300g pasta pref. flat, 100g goat cheese like Ticklemore, olive oil, mint, finely sliced radishes. 
Cook peas and beans for 2 mins., drain. Cook pasta in salted water. Just before the pasta is ready, saute the peas and beans in oil, then add drained pasta, stir. At the very last, add shaved cheese, radishes, and mint. Stir and season, add a bit more oil if wanted, serve immediately.

500g stewing lamb, 1 chopped onion, oil, 500g carrots and 300g rhubarb both cut in 2 cm pieces, 150ml water, parsley, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, ginger, pepper. 
Brown lamb with onion in oil. Add everything bar the parsley. Cover, bring to boil. Simmer for 1 hr, stir often. Serve over noodles, sprinkle with parsley.
200 grams shredded spring greens, 3 sliced garlic cloves, 200 grams diced bacon, 100 grams peas, 200 grams cream cheese, handful of basil, black pepper, 2 cups pasta.
Cook greens in water for 5 mins until slightly wilted and tender. Saute garlic for 1-2 mins, then add drained spring greens. Fry for 5 mins, add peas and cream cheese and stir until melted. Add a teensie bit of water, cover and cook for 7-10 min until peas are done. Add torn basil and pepper. In another pan prepare pasta in the usual way. Drain and mix in the cheesey sauce. 

450g spinach or chard, some leaves of sorrel, garlic clove, 900g thin fish fillets, salt, pepper, nice bread (onion, thyme, ginger) 
Split leaves from stalks if using perennial spinach, and cut them all. Season the fish. Boil little bit of water, add the cut stalks if any, cook for 3-5 minutes. Then add the rest of the greens and chopped garlic, put the fish on top, cover. Cook for about 15 minutes, no longer.
Place bread on a plate and add fish, greens and liquid,which should't be too much by now.
This is surprisingly nice, but to improve it still, fry plenty of onions with some ginger and thyme, and add that to the mass.

Spring greens, anchovies, garlic, balsamic vinegar, crème fraîche, lemon juice, pine nuts, salt, pepper.
Dry roast pine nuts. Remove stems from the cabbage and chop. Chop garlic. Drop both into boiling salted water for 6 mins. Drain, save liquid for stock. Melt at least 4-5 anchovies in some of their oil and maybe a little bit more olive oil. Cook gently until they break down and soften. Add balsamic vinegar, some lemon juice and plenty of creme fraiche and freshly ground pepper. Tip greens into the mix and stir to warm and coat it. Put on mashed potatoes, pine nuts on top, serve immediately. 

2 small, young kohlrabi, 6 radishes, 4 tblsp extra-virgin olive oil, 4 tsp cider vinegar, a pinch of English mustard powder, blue cheese, flaky sea salt, pepper.
Strip leaves off the kohlrabi and cut off tops and bottoms. Using a mandolin, cut into paper-thin slices. Do the same with the radishes. Arrange kohlrabi and radish on a platter. Whisk oil, white wine vinegar and mustard powder together, drizzle over the slices. Season and sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese. Serve immediately.

[3] The raw version of chocolate really does arouse passions, both for and against. If you're really interested, read the following and draw your own conclusions! 
Against: and
For: (better than:)

Photograph peas/beans: Catherine Lee 'Growing Well'