Welcome to this month’s “What I Ate” post.
There is such a lot in season in July in the UK, the farm shops around me are full of gorgeous produce and there are cherries, strawberries and raspberries being sold at the sides of the road everywhere and we’ve had a few blackberries from the bushes on walks recently too.
The following produce is in season in July:
Aubergine, Beetroot, Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Blueberries, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cherries, Chicory, Chillies, Courgettes, Cucumber, Gooseberries, Greengages, Fennel, French Beans, Garlic, Kohlrabi, Loganberries, New Potatoes, Onions, Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Rocket, Runner Beans, Samphire, Sorrel, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Strawberries, Summer Squash, Swish Chard, Tomatoes, Turnips, Watercress.
Tomatoes are pretty much my favourite food and they are tasting so good right now. Here are a couple of recipes to make the most of tomatoes in July.
Slow Roast Tomatoes with Thyme and Oregano
Slow roasted tomatoes take on an intensely deep flavour and can be used in many different ways. They go really well with simply cooked meat and fish and also taste amazing in salads. Double this recipe up, have half for dinner and keep half to mix through green leaves such as rocket and baby spinach with some avocado, bacon and pine nuts for a quick and tasty lunch.
Preparation time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 1-2 hours
- 8 medium, very ripe, vine-ripened tomatoes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Balsamic or red wine vinegar
- Bunch of fresh oregano, chopped, plus extra for garnish
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked, chopped plus extra for garnish
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 100-150°C.
- Halve the tomatoes and place on a foil-lined baking tray.
- Mix equal parts olive oil with vinegar and mix in the chopped oregano and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
- Drizzle the dressing over the tomatoes.
- Roast the tomatoes, uncovered, for 1-2 hours or until the tomatoes are very soft.
- Sprinkle over the reserved fresh herbs before serving.
- Serve with any meat or fish or leave to cool and stir through green salad leaves.
Gazpacho is a wonderfully vibrant summer dish that really wakes up the taste buds on a hot summer’s day. It is one of my favourite things to eat for lunch or as a starter for dinner in the summer. It is essentially a chilled tomato soup, flavoured with whatever else is at hand; here I have used fennel and red pepper as additional flavours, but you can use most anything so long as tomato is the dominant flavour.
- 1 kg fresh ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 3 sticks of celery, finely chopped
- ½ bulb of fennel, finely chopped
- 2 sweet red peppers, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 cucumber, finely chopped
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- A little fresh basil, oregano or thyme to serve
- Reserve a couple of handfuls of the diced vegetables (not the garlic) to garnish the soup with at the end.
- Gently heat a good 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a deep pan until it begins to give off its aroma – don’t overheat or it will lose its flavour. Add a good pinch of salt and a couple of turns of black pepper, leave for 10 seconds, then add the onion.
- Sauté the onion until soft and translucent (the key with all of the ingredients in this dish is to cook them gently to release all of their flavoursome sugars), and then add the fennel, garlic, celery, and red peppers. Cook for a further 10 minutes on a gentle heat, until everything is nicely softened.
- Add the tomatoes and allow them to gently cook down in the pan for 5-6 minutes before adding a little cold water – around 350ml or so. Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the cucumber.
- Pour the contents into a blender and process until smooth. Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.
- Transfer the gazpacho into a fresh container and allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator to chill. For best results chill for a good 3-4 hours before serving.
- To serve, spoon a serving of gazpacho into each bowl or glass, scatter over the reserved diced vegetables and finish with a drizzle of good olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and fresh herbs.
This month I discovered this gorgeous Organic Orange & Cashew Granola on offer in Waitrose. It’s made by a company called Primrose’s Kitchen and the ingredients are sunflower seeds, oranges, raisins, cashew nuts, coconut pieces, cinnamon, nutmeg and Himalayan salt.
I’ve been eating it on top of Rebel Kitchen’s new coconut yogurts as an alternative to eggs for breakfast. If you find CoYo coconut yogurts quite rich, you should give these a try instead as they are much lighter. Here’s what Rebel Kitchen say about them –
“Our yogurts are one of a kind. Unlike other dairy-free coconut yogurts, ours are made from the meat of organic young green coconuts sustainably sourced from smallholders in the Philippines.
Because we use the meat from young green coconuts, not milk (from mature coconuts) our yogurts are lower in fat and have a light, refreshing taste and smooth texture.”
Since it’s Summer, here’s a lovely recipe for paleo ice lollies that I recently made for my kids:
Banana-Coconut-Chocolate Ice Lollies
Dairy-free – Refined Sugar-free
Makes 6 lollies
- 400ml additive-free coconut milk
- 2 bananas
- 1 tbsp. good quality vanilla extract
- 75g dark chocolate – 85% or higher
- 50g coconut oil
- Desiccated coconut
- Chopped nuts
- Blend the bananas, coconut milk and vanilla extract in a blender or food processor. Pour into 6 lolly moulds and freeze for at least two hours.
- Melt the dark chocolate and the coconut oil in a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water.
- When the chocolate mixture has melted, remove the lollies from their moulds and hold them over the chocolate bowl while you ladle over the chocolate. Sprinkle each one immediately with either desiccated coconut or chopped nuts as the chocolate shell will freeze solid in about 30 seconds.
- If not eating immediately, lay on a baking tray and place back in the freezer until you want to serve.
If you want a really low carb version of these lollies I have also made them by blending a tin of coconut milk with a handful of desiccated coconut and a teaspoon of vanilla paste and then freezing. Very slightly sweet, you could also add a little stevia if you wanted a sweeter taste.
So far this is what I have tried: add 50g of each to a glass bowl and gently melt together over a pan of boiling water. Add 50g of maple syrup to the melted chocolate and blend with a hand blender to emulsify.
Pour the mixture into chocolate moulds (I have these mini chocolate bar ones) and set in the fridge for a couple of hours. Pop the chocolates out of the moulds and store in the fridge until you want to eat. Super simple!
I plan on experimenting a bit more as this is just the simplest recipe to start off with. I’ll keep you posted on how I get on. If any of you are pros at making raw chocolate let me know in the comments below how you make it. Do you use cacao paste or cacao powder?
Good News for Coffee!
Two large studies published recently suggest that coffee drinking could be beneficial (or at least not harmful).
The first study ‘Association of Coffee Consumption With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Nonwhite Populations‘ included 185,000 people and looked at coffee consumption, following up for an average of over 16 years. The study found that drinking one cup of coffee a day was linked to a 12% lower risk of death at any age, from any cause, while those drinking two or three cups a day had an 18% lower risk.
The second study ‘Coffee Drinking and Mortality in 10 European Countries: A Multinational Cohort Study‘ involved more than 450,000 participants who were again followed for just over 16 years on average. After a range of factors including age, smoking status, physical activity and education were taken into account, those who drank three or more cups a day were found to have a 18% lower risk of death for men, and a 8% lower risk of death for women at any age, compared with those who didn’t drink the brew.
The researchers in both studies do caution that there may be other factors involved here. However, these are just the latest of many studies showing coffee’s benefits.
I always drink normal caffeinated coffee in the mornings but try to drink decaf if I want a coffee after 12 noon.
I find decaf coffee can sometimes be a bit disappointing but recently discovered Decadent Decaf Swiss Water decaf coffee – they sell whole beans and the coffee is delicious. You really can’t taste the difference between normal coffee and decaf with this brand.
This month I have been taking curcumin in the form of Theracurmin. You can read a more detailed blog post I wrote about curcumin here, but it’s not very well absorbed so you do need to be picky about which supplement you go for.
Theracurmin has some good research supporting it’s absorption and it’s a reasonable price too.
In April I blogged about doing my 23andme genetic test. After I got my results back and ran my raw data through StrateGene, I found out I have variant alleles/SNPs in my BCO1 gene (beta-carotene oxygenase 1). The protein encoded by this gene is a key enzyme in beta-carotene metabolism to vitamin A.
According to my StrateGene report “females carrying the combined BCO1 R267S + BCO1 A379V variant alleles show a 69% lower ability to convert beta carotene into retinyl esters.”
This can lead to vitamin A deficiency characterized by increased serum beta-carotene, decreased conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A and decreased serum vitamin A.
Since finding this out I have been religious at taking my Cod Liver Oil, which is a good source of vitamin A (as well as vitamin D). I rotate between these two brands:
I’ve argued with vegan friends for years that I felt I would do terribly on a vegan diet and that I crave foods like eggs and meat. After analysing my genetics I found several variant alleles/SNPs in genes that are involved with metabolism of nutrients that are hard to get from plant foods.
Another one of note is a mutation in the FADS2 (fatty acid desaturase 2) gene. Individuals with this variant/SNP are low converters of ALA (plant-based omega-3 fat) to EPA (omega-3 fat our bodies need) with approximately 30% less efficient conversion. So again, I would probably not do well without a dietary source of EPA – another reason to take my Cod Liver Oil!
Conversely, a paper published in 2016: Positive selection on a regulatory insertion–deletion polymorphism in FADS2 influences apparent endogenous synthesis of arachidonic acid found that individuals from a primarily vegetarian population in India (who had come from a long history eating a plant-based diet) had a different SNP that meant the FADS2 gene behaved differently.
As plant sources contain only the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid precursors LA and ALA (not the EPA and DHA we need), individuals on plant-based diets must biosynthesize the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids endogenously.
With little animal food in the diet, the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids must be made metabolically from plant precursors. The physiological demand for arachidonic acid, as well as omega-3 EPA and DHA, in vegetarians is likely to have favoured genetics that support efficient synthesis of these key metabolites.
The higher frequency of the gene mutation among Indians supports the hypothesis that the gene variant is under selective pressure due to its higher metabolic capacity to convert plant-based precursors (LA and ALA) to long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Books I have read this month
It’s textbook size so it’s not the quickest read but it is very comprehensive and I definitely recommend it if you struggle with any form of digestive issue. I don’t, but I am just reading it out of interest!
I’ve also just finished Ruby Wax’s A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled.
I’ve read quite a lot about mindfulness and have completed an 8 week Mindfulness-Based-Stress-Reduction course but Ruby Wax’s guide is a good introduction (written in a humorous way) so if you are new to mindfulness I’m sure you would enjoy this book.
Events in July
My sister Lucy and I attended on the Sunday to hear Chris talk. We were super excited because Chris was joined in the afternoon by the lovely Dr. Rangan Chatterjee as well as Dr. Tamsin Lewis.
Chris was fantastic, he is incredibly knowledgeable on so many different topics. I loved listening to him talk again (I last heard him when he was in London in 2015). Rangan and Tamsin were also great. They are both doing amazing things to try and make functional medicine more accepted/recognised and mainstream here in the UK.
After the event I listened to an Evolution of Medicine podcast where Dr. Rangan was interviewed by James Maskell. They talked about something that really sparked my interest – in June there was an event in the Channel Islands in Guernsey called Journey to 100.
They have a plan to try and make Guernsey the next Blue Zone.
I grew up in the next-door island of Jersey so I found this super interesting! I have been fascinated by the Blue Zones ever since I first heard about them and have blogged about them before.
In the brief write-up I have read of the event it seems they talked a lot about the power of community and connection as well as a low stress lifestyle. These are all things that we cover in our Life Makeover Courses so check this page out if you want to know more!
Till next month x
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