Thursday, 31 January 2013

Vegetarians have healthier hearts...

No, I'm not making it up, it's here in black and white – vegetarians are less likely to die or need hospital treatment as a result of heart disease. Well, there’s a surprise…not!

It’s odd, the Government spends an awful lot of our money putting out all sorts of health advice – eat more of this, drink less of that, have five of these – but never to my knowledge has it ever suggested people give up meat and go veggie; I can only assume that Government ministers are scared of upsetting the farming lobby, but they’re not too bothered about people dying of heart disease…hmmm.

I find the comments at the end of the article by the British Heart Foundation a bit suspicious, too; they seem to be talking down the benefits of going veggie – but, well, they would wouldn’t they? They have a vested interest because if everyone went veggie there wouldn’t be so many people dying of heart disease and there might be no need for the BHF. It’s much more important for them to look after their jobs than to actually give out some advice which would benefit the ordinary man and woman in the street. Oooh, I’m such a cynic!

It seems obvious to me that eating less saturated fat and more fruit, veg, nuts and pulses is almost certain to be a better idea for your health and for your wallet – being a veggie is so much less expensive than being an omnivore – so why don’t more people do it?

It’s certainly the case that people seem to like meat, although the more I read about it the more I wonder why, but in today’s more health-conscious climate why are they still so blinkered? Why do they spend £££ on a gym membership then pick up a burger on the way home? Is the culture of meat-eating so entrenched in people’s minds that they can’t imagine life without it or is it that they still see vegetarianism as some sort of minority pursuit carried out by sandal-wearing tree-huggers?

I’m genuinely puzzled by this conundrum – so put me out of my misery and drop me an email if you think you’ve got the answer.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Wintry weather...

I thought you might like to see a very chilly picture of the garden taken early this morning. The forecasters were right about us having more snow yesterday; it was snowing when we got up and it was still at it when we went to bed. There’s only been a few inches but it's all very pretty and lends an entirely different look to the garden.

It has to be said that as a country we’re absolutely rubbish at dealing with weather; it’s either too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry or, as in today's case, too much snow. The airports are in chaos and as usual the teachers are using the weather as a poor excuse to have a day off with over 5000 schools across the country closed. It never used to happen when I was a nipper - I wonder what they'd do if the weather was really bad...?

Warming foods are the order of the day at the moment so I made some Leek and Potato soup (probably my all-time favourite) for lunch and a Chilli sans Carne for dinner. That should defrost our pipes!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Winter Vegetable Stew with Chive Dumplings

Well….the rest of the country seems to be up to its ears in snow, but so far all we’ve had is a  sprinkle which looks a little like icing sugar on the top of a mince pie. We are forecast to have more tomorrow, though, so I'll look forward to watching it from the warmth of a snug armchair.

Despite having almost no snow, people are already panic buying; I had to go out yesterday to pick up a prescription at the Doc’s and while I was out I thought I’d pop into Waitrose for some bananas and maybe a bit of salad for the weekend. I didn't bother....the queue of cars to get into the car park was snaking back along the access road onto the main road which meant the traffic lights were snarled up with cars queuing on all three approaches! Anyone would think the world was coming to an end!

Snow or no snow, it’s still absolutely freezing so last night I had a poke around in the fridge and came up with an assortment of root veg which, together with some red lentils and a few dinky little dumplings, made a very warming and filling dinner for two. It was based on a recipe I saw in a Waitrose magazine but I halved the quantities and adjusted it to fit the veg I had in. It warmed us up from the inside out and was just the thing for a cold January evening.

1 large carrot
1 large parsnip
¼ of a medium celeriac
1 leek
1tbsp olive oil
½ tsp dried thyme
50g red lentils
500ml stock
15ml balsamic vinegar
10ml worcester sauce

50g self-raising flour
25g Atora ‘light’ suet
1tbsp chopped chives
plenty of black pepper

Peel the carrot, parsnip and celeriac and cut into 2cm dice; top and tail the leek and shred coarsely. Put all the veg into a large pan (which is suitable for oven use) and sauté for 5 minutes in the olive oil then add the lentils, stock, thyme, balsamic and worcester sauce; bring to the boil then turn the heat down, pop a lid on and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

Turn the oven on to 180C. In a small bowl mix the flour, suet and chives together, add plenty of ground black pepper then mix in 2 tablespoons of cold water until you have a soft but not sticky dough. Divide into five or six pieces and roll into small dumplings with floured hands. Put the dumplings on top of the vegetables and put into the oven, uncovered, for about 20 minutes until the dumplings are cooked.

Serves 2

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Burger for lunch, anyone?

Neigh....not for me, thanks! (Sorry, couldn't resist it!)

I'm sure you've seen this report all over the news this morning. Now, I’ve nothing against people eating anything they like, but if they buy a beefburger I think they’re at least entitled to expect it to contain beef rather than horsemeat or pork.

It’s quite amusing to see Tesco, Iceland, Aldi and others taking the products off their shelves and, in very carefully worded statements, immediately blaming their suppliers....“Nothing to do with us, guv…we only sell ‘em”. One wonders if they really don’t know about the content of the products they sell or are they just embarrassed at being found out? What do you think?

Certainly makes me glad to be veggie!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Butternut and Carrot Soup

Before Christmas I put all the fruit and veg I’d bought in a cardboard box and popped it outside in the garage to give me more fridge space. I think I may have had a brainstorm because I seem to have overbought somewhat….

We’re still ploughing our way through a small mountain of clementines and quite why I bought so many carrots is anybody’s guess, but I still seem to have masses of them; don’t even ask what I was going to do with the butternut squash I discovered because I can’t remember! Thank goodness root veg keep so well in a cold place.

My usual way of using up a glut of veg is to make soup and that’s exactly what I did a couple of days ago. It was actually quite nice to have something simple after all the excesses of the festive season.

1 medium butternut squash
400g carrots
1 large red onion
1tbsp olive oil
1.5 litres vegetable stock
good pinch of dried chilli flakes
½ tsp dried thyme
50g red lentils
a few snipped chives

Peel and deseed the squash then peel the carrots and chop both into 3cm chunks; peel the onion and slice it into eighths through the root end. Put all the veg into a large plastic bag together with the olive oil, hold the top tightly closed and shake well to distribute the oil; put the veg in a single layer on a large baking tray and roast at 200C for 30 minutes until tender and just beginning to char at the edges.

Scoop the veg into a large saucepan and add the lentils, stock, thyme and chilli flakes; stir well, bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are completely soft.

Blitz with a stick blender until smooth.

(I was going to put a spoonful of crème fraiche on this but in the event I decided to go with a sprinkle of snipped chives…better for the waistline!)

Makes 6 good portions

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Well, it’s January 2nd and the Festive Season is all over for another year; tree, lights and decorations taken down and packed away, Christmas tablecloths washed and put back in the drawer and festive china returned to the sideboard. All that build-up, excitement and preparation and it seems to have gone by in a flash; the only remaining signs are the pieces of glitter in the sitting room rug which are stubbornly resisting the vacuum cleaner!

We had an absolutely lovely Christmas and New Year’s Day spent with our three favourite people – it was a delight.

I have to say I am completely fooded out – I have had more rich food and treats than anyone should reasonably expect in a lifetime and it didn’t help that it was Mr Simply Veg’s birthday today which always extends the festive season somewhat. Luckily I don’t drink alcohol or there’d be no hope at all for me and my rapidly disappearing waistline! It’ll be austerity measures and a considerably simpler food regime for the next few weeks to give my overworked digestive system a break.

So, in a spirit of getting back to basics, we went for a long walk today despite the rain, and I made some rather nice butternut and carrot soup which I’ll post as soon as I’ve typed it up.

Thank goodness Christmas comes but once a year.

(Whisper it quietly, but I saw Easter Eggs in the supermarket on New Year’s Eve!!)