Sunday, 17 December 2017

December 2013: simple recipes for Christmas


No turkeys were harmed for this!

No lecture this month - just a few christmas main course recipes. They should be cheaper than certainly a free range turkey, easier (I'm not sure - have never done one), and may be preferable to you for various other reasons.
Why not do something different this year? And I'm not just talking about the food ....
Personally I like to keep the christmas food as simple as possible. I have tested all the recipes printed out below. There are also websites to browse for those with special food needs.
When planning a meat dish, make sure your butcher will be able to supply what you need. Not all of this is standard stuff.
And if for you or your family, Christmas = Turkey: there are enough Sundays or otherwise in December for a bit of experimentation.

V = vegan or vegetarian

And PS: "How can I prevent gout?"-

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. Judging by the shooting going on outside, pheasant can't be that expensive! 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. They like sun, and woodash.
If you leave veg in the ground, apply a thick mulch (straw, bracken) for protection, and so as to get them out more easily.
Give brassica's some attention before the worst of the weather. Firm soil around the stems, mulch with rotted manure and support with canes if necessary. Pick off yellowing leaves.
As ground becomes vacant, dig it over and spread manure. Leave roughly dug in large clumps and the worms will break them up. Freezing and thawing of water in the soil will cause it to break up finely, so becoming easier to handle in the spring.


4x175g coley fillets, 2 limes, 200g breadcrumbs, 50g butter, salt, pepper, 1 tblsp olive oil.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grate lime zest. Fry crumbs and zest in the butter for 2-3 mins, stirring until pale golden. Put fish in a shallow dish. Season and squeeze over a little lime juice. Drizzle with the oil. Pat crumb mixture on top and bake for 10-12 minutes until cooked. Garnish with lime wedges.

4 lamb neck fillets, 1 small squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 12 wedges; 1 crushed garlic clove, ¼ tsp ground mace (or nutmeg), cayenne pepper/chilli flakes, 2tbsp oil, 15g butter, salt, pepper.
For the lamb marinade: 2 crushed garlic cloves, rosemary, 2tbsp dry white wine, 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
For the dressing: 1 very finely chopped bay leaf, thyme, 1 crushed garlic clove, 2 chopped shallots, 1 handful chopped flat-leaf parsley, grated zest of 1 lemon, 4tbsp extra virgin olive oil.

Mix ingredients for the marinade. Spoon over the fillets, cover and refrigerate for 2 hrs or overnight.
Mix ingredients for the dressing.Preheat oven to 250°C. Toss squash wedges with seasoning, garlic, mace, cayenne, oil. Arrange into a roasting tin in one layer, dot with butter. Cook for 15 mins, reduce temperature to 190°C, turn over and cook for 10-15 more mins. They should have nice golden brown bits and be soft on the inside.
Season lamb and fry really on very high heat for 5-15 mins on each side, depending on how you want it. Transfer to a warm plate to rest for 5 mins. Place some pieces of squash on each plate. Slice fillets nice and thick. Place half on and half off the squash. Put a tblsp of dressing on top. Serve immediately with seasonal veg and roast potatoes.

4 pigeons, 2 garlic cloves, 1 tsp salt, freshly ground black pepper, 4 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp plain flour, 4 tbsp dry white wine, 250ml stock/water, 200g shallots, 50g plain/dark chocolate.
Finely chop garlic. Wash pigeons, dry and rub with salt and pepper, inside and out. Brown pigeons in oil before removing from pan. Fry garlic in remaining oil. Stir flour into oil, fry briefly, add wine and stock. Simmer for 5 mins, stirring constantly. Put pigeons into sauce, cover and cook for 1 hr on a low heat. Chop shallots finely and add after 40 mins. Pre-heat oven to 120°C. Arrange pigeons on a serving dish and keep hot in oven. Grate chocolate and add to sauce, stirring continuously over a low heat until melted. Do not let the sauce boil again. Season generously and serve with pigeons. Goes well with roast potatoes and parsnips.
This sauce can also be used with venison. Thank you, Chris! 

Needed: pumpkin/squash of the desired size. Or several small ones. You have to adjust the oven time to the size of the pumpkin: the times below are for a buttercup squash of just over a kilogram.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut top off pumpkin, clean out seeds and strings, put 2 tblsp of water in, oil the cut edges of pumpkin and lid, and bake both for about 40 mins, or till it's soft.
In the meanwhile, prepare the stuffing. I made two versions: I preferred (I), hubby (II). Take your pick, or mix and match: you can leave or add anything you like.
(I) 100g cooked barley (or rice, millet etc), 1 chopped apple, 1 onion, 25g chopped celery, 15g chopped hazelnuts, 1 tblsp raisins, chilli pepper, 1tsp paprika powder, ginger, cinnamon, thyme, sage, 1/2 tsp soy, chopped parsley. 
Sauté the onion; after a few mins add apple, celery, raisins and spices, fry till the apple is soft. Mix in the rest and season.
(II) 100g cooked grain see above, 50g chopped carrot, 40g (goat's) cheese, 50g cooked white beans, onion, mushrooms, crushed fennel seeds, seasoning, chopped almonds. 
Part-cook the carrot, drain and then saute with onion, mushrooms and fennel. Mix with the rest of the ingredients, season.
When you can prick the pumpkin meat with a fork, drain any leftover water from it and stuff, tightly, with ingredients of your choice. Put lid on. Lower oven to 180°C, and cook for about 20-30 mins, longer if the stuffing was cold. When you use cheese, take the lid off for the last bit so it gets brown and bubbly.
If you have too much stuffing, place the extra in a greased dish, cover, and put in the oven as well.

900g coley (aka pollack, pollock, coalfish, saithe, colin) - or any white fish fillets cut into 5cm chunks, 300ml dry cider, 1 (cooking) apple, cored and sliced into rings, 1 chopped onion, 2 tsp anchovy essence or paste, 50g lightly seasoned flour, 65g butter, 1 tblsp lemon juice, chopped parsley.
Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Coat fish in 25g flour. Melt 25g butter and cook the onion gently for 5 mins, until soft. Add fish and cook for 3 more mins or until lightly browned. Remove both to a buttered oven dish.
For the sauce, put 25g butter in a smallish pan, add the remaining flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring all the while. Gradually add cider, anchovy and lemon. When it boils, simmer for 2-3 mins, still stirring, until smooth. Pour over the fish, bake for 20 mins.
Meanwhile, fry the apple in the remaining butter for 1-2 mins. Put on top of the fish. Garnish with parsley.

4x150g lamb leg steaks, 25g butter, 1-2 tsp flour, 300 ml lamb/beef stock, 2 tblsp drained capers, 1 tblsp vinegar from the capers.
Fry steaks gently for 10-15 mins, turning occasionally, until browned both sides. Transfer to warmed dish. Stir, to loosen any sediment at bottom of pan: stir in flour and cook for 1-2 mins. Gradually add stock, stirring all the time. Cook until the sauce thickens, boils and is smooth. Add capers and vinegar and simmer for 1-2 mins. Return lamb steaks to pan and simmer for 5 mins or until the lamb is cooked to your liking. Serve hot.

60g cooked barley (or rice), 600g sliced mushrooms, 12 fresh/frozen cranberries, pinch turmeric, zest of 1 lemon, 1 chopped onion, 50g butter, 1 tbsp chopped parsley, 1 tbsp chopped tarragon, 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs, salt, pepper.
Pastry: 250g ready-rolled puff pastry, 1 beaten egg, 1 tsp sesame seeds. (Vegetarian gravy to serve).
Preheat oven to 200°C. Combine grain, turmeric and zest. Heat butter, add onion and mushroom, fry till soft. Stir in grain mix, herbs, chopped cranberries and hard-boiled eggs, season.
Cut 40cm x 20cm rectangle from the pastry. Spoon filling down the centre, bring sides together and seal. Brush with egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 30 mins, or until golden-brown. Serve with gravy if you like.

GARLIC BEEF (from Good Food)
600g trimmed beef skirt, 1 tbsp black peppercorn, 6 garlic cloves, 4 tbsp red wine vinegar.

Crush peppercorns and garlic with a pinch of salt, stir in vinegar. In a non-metallic dish, rub beef all over with this paste. Leave in fridge for a few hrs, no longer. Rub the marinade off the meat, season with a little more salt. Make griddle or dry frying pan very hot. Cook until charred on each side – about 5 mins on each side for rare. If the cut is very thick, roast in a hot oven for 5 mins after searing. Put on a chopping board, rest for 5 mins before carving.
The size can vary from 300g to 800g so adjust your cooking times accordingly – smaller pieces will cook just on the griddle but thicker pieces may need to be roasted for a few minutes, once seared. As a steak, skirt is best served rare to medium-rare or it becomes tough. Also good for braising. 

NUT ROAST for 6-8 V 
30g butter, 2 finely chopped sticks of celery, 1 finely chopped onion, 360ml hot water, 1 tsp marmite/vecon, 550g ground nuts (cashews, almonds, brazils, peanuts), 2 tblsp flour, 4 tsp fresh herbs (if using dried 1 tsp), 160g bread crumbs, salt, pepper.
This nut roast is delicious. The slightly boring looks will improve if, after turning out, you put holly on top or something like that.
Melt butter, cook celery and onion in it for a few mins. Mix marmite/vecon into hot water and add to onion-celery mix. Stir flour into the nuts, then mix in herbs, crumbs, salt and pepper. Grease a loaf tin. Place mix in tin and press. Bake in oven for 40 mins at 180ºC, turn out and slice. Nice served with all the trimmings.
Variations:- you can substitute wine or milk for the water-and-yeast extract. A layer of sliced mushrooms and garlic is nice. Or fill with sage and onion stuffing.

And if you need to really count the pennies, see Jack Monroe's recipes in the Guardian: a (Finnish inspired) dinner for under £2.50 a head.  

Here are some websites for those who are on special diets:  
Gluten/Dairy/Egg/Soy/Peanut/meat free:
Vegan glutenfree:
Multiple food allergies:
Vegan, egg free, dairy free:

And here are some side dish recipes and a pudding one: I haven't tried these, but they sounded nice and not too complicated:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Pecans
Cider-Roasted Vegetables
Sprout tops with browned butter and hazelnuts
Christmas Panna Cotta:



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.

Oyez oyez April 2018 latest guidelines at - spoilsports!

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 (= black) radish, endive, winter purslane.
Meat: wood pigeon, pheasant, wild duck, goose, grouse, partridge, venison. For (Christmas) game recipes, see
Fish: coley, megrim, hake, 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 this month in the top right hand corner. 
Next month: teeth. 


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 has the opposite effect in the long run. 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 2015.

December 2015: fever

December is unquestionably the most feverish month of the year. Which one of us does not feel their temperature rise when thinking of Christmas? 
Even those who take a relaxed view of the festivities in general, find something to get het up about. The crowds and the inescapable carols. The relentless cheer, dutifully punctuated by thoughts for those less favoured than ourselves.
Even if all this hoo-ha leaves you cold, you could do worse than prepare yourself by reading up on fever. Just in case some unfortunate might need your attention in the coming weeks!

Fever is always a symptom of an underlying health problem. When you are sick, your body employs defense mechanisms to rid itself of the virus, bacteria, toxin, or inflammation. Raising the temperature is one such mechanism. The warmer you are, the faster your immune system works to heal you. And virus and bacteria don’t like heat.  
We are used to seeing fever as an enemy: in fact it is a friend, and we fight it at our peril. [1] 

So what should we do instead of grabbing a tylenol? 
- drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
- rest. Rest! Don’t force yourself into work out of a misplaced sense of duty. Rest will heal you faster, and everyone benefits.
- there are herbs you can take to promote sweating and get rid of toxins. Chamomile, thyme, sage and mint for instance. [2] 
- for children, a sponge bath may help bring the fever down a bit. “The biggest challenge is to keep children hydrated. Children that will drink fluids are usually safe using natural methods. ‘Dry’ fevers are dangerous as the child will not drink and this may necessitate going to the doctor.” [3]
- avoid anything with sugar, refined foods, caffeine and alcohol.


To counteract all the festive cheer, you might like to read 'The dark side of clinical trials', see column on the right.

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.

As it is December, you might want to look at our tips for preventing and curing hangovers in last year's December issue. See archive on the right hand side. 



For simple xmas recipes and websites for people on special diets, see December 2014 in the archive on the right hand side. 

2 tblsp butter, ab 600g kohlrabi, 1 chopped onion, 1100ml water/stock, 100ml milk, 1 bay leaf, salt, black pepper.
Saute onions and cook gently until soft, 10 minutes. Add kohlrabi and cook 2 mins. Add stock, milk, bay, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 25 mins or until kohlrabi is tender. Remove bay, blend, season. 

SEA BASS with APPLES (or other firm white fish grey mullet, pollack, snapper, grouper, coley)
This recipe originally adds honey, but I think it’s better without that. The result depends a lot on the quality of the apples, and tangy is best. 
4 apples - cored and cut into thin wedges, 14 tblsp butter, (2 tblsp honey), 60ml cup flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, ab. 480ml dried bread crumbs, 1 beaten egg, 4 fish fillets of ab.150g each.
Melt half the butter, fry apples until tender. (Stir in honey). Keep warm. Mix flour, salt, and pepper. Place crumbs in another shallow bowl, egg in another. Melt rest of butter. Dip fish in flour, egg, and crumbs. Place in hot pan, cook for 3-4 mins per side. The fillets should be brown and flake easily. Serve with the apples on top.

20g chopped hazelnuts, 20g butter, softened, 300g brussels sprouts, salt + black pepper.
Dry roast nuts until golden. Mix into butter. Boil sprouts in salted water for about 10 mins. Drain, mix with hazelnut butter, season.

300g shredded cavolo nero (or kale), 1 tbsp oil, 1 sliced onion, 140ml double cream, 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard.
Cook cavolo for 6-8 mins till tender, drain. Meanwhile fry onion for 4-5 mins. Add cream and mustard. Stir in cavolo nero and heat through, season. 

LEEKS with CREME FRAICHE (or sour cream) 
Sautee leeks until softened, added some stock and cook it all down for about 20 mins. Season. Add a tiny pinch of sage, and stir in some crème fraîche. Adding more stock and crème fraîche would make this recipe more of a sauce  – a good topping for pastas.

ab. 300g clean squash meat, 4 tblsp butter, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 1/4 tsp garam masala or curry powder, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cinnamon or cardamom, 1 tsp sea salt, 2 tblsp oolive oil, (cayenne), ab. 250g cleaned greens: kale, chard, etc.; 2 tblsp water.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease large baking sheet. Mix spices and salt, set aside. Peel squash, discard seeds. Chop into 1-2cm cubes. Melt 2 tbsp butter, add spices and sauté for 2-3 mins until the flavours release. Don’t let it smoke!
Turn off the heat, add squash, mix well. Spread this evenly onto a greased baking sheet - keep the spicy pan for reuse. Bake squash for ab. 10 mins at 200°C. Take out, stir, and put back for 10-15 mins until soft and starting to brown.
Meanwhile, wash and chop greens. Melt 2 tblsp butter in spicy pan, add 2 tblsp of water. and sauté until done. If they start to stick, add a a bit more. When the greens are done, add squash, stir in lightly. Serve.

SWEDE and COCONUT DAAL serves 4-6
Good with for instance whole roast pheasant, but we had this with just boring cooked potatoes and green veg and loved it. If you haven’t got some of the ingredients just use your fantasy, but the coconut milk is essential.
240ml lentils (pref. brown or green), 200g finely diced swede, carrot or squash, 1 diced onion or 6 chopped garlic cloves, olive oil, 2 bay leaves, 1 chilli, 1/2 cinnamon stick, 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger, 2 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 mug of coconut milk, 3 mugs of water, 1 lime or lemon, zest and juice, handful of toasted dessicated coconut and/or almonds, large handful of fresh coriander, sea salt, pepper.
Saute diced veg, season and sizzle till just softened and starting to colour up a bit. Add bay, chilli and cinnamon. Stir in the lentils, onion/garlic, ginger, cumin and coriander seed. Pour in coconut milk and water, cover. Simmer for 45 mins or till the liquid is absorbed into the lentils. Stir every so often. Add a little more water when needed. Taste, add more spices if you like. Season. Finish with a hit of lime/lemon zest, the juice, toasted coconut and/or almonds and fresh coriander. 

leftover xmas pudding, (leftover) custard, clementines/oranges, double/whipping cream, flaked and toasted almonds, finely grated orange zest, cinnamon, (brandy).
Share out the pudding over the right number of glasses, or put in a large glass bowl. Peel citrus and slice into rings. Arrange these on top, sprinkle over some cinnamon. Put the custard on top of that. Whip the cream and add brandy or sugar if you wish. Just before serving, scatter almonds and zest on top.


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