JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Getting started ...

So what happens is, you decide to eat healthy heart food, you read some of the British Heart Foundation booklets they gave you in the hospital, you go to the supermarket full good resolutions, you read a few labels and discover everything is full of fat and salt and sugar, and if it's not it's got transfats, and you don't really know what they are but you know you shouldn't be eating them. And you think, well okay, he's on statins, it'll be okay, diet doesn't matter very much, the statins will take care of it. So then I thought about the 20 or so minutes before we reached the hospital when I really thought he might die, and thought that my genes are probably just as dodgy as his - and our children are too young to be orphaned.

When I came back from that shopping trip, I felt I had lost my culinary bearings - just how much saturated fat was there in parmesan? In Somerset goat's cheese? In a lamb chop? In a coconut? I bought piles of books, but they mostly seemed to be full of bland food utterly unlike what we were used to. Sue Kreitzman's books were the most useful, full of tips and useful recipes, but, even so, the whole thing felt rather staid, and not the kind of thing you could imagine Nigel Slater or Nigella getting the saucepans out for. So I read them, put them away, and got out my "proper" cookbooks. And started cooking again, adapting, discarding, picking up on new tastes.

And that's the key: as you eat more vegetables, less saturated fat, your tastebuds change, and you have to be receptive to this, start cooking things you might not have tried before. As you take out the saturated fat, you realise how much we have traditionally relied on this highly unsuitable food as a flavouring. And so you add herbs, spices. You learn that nuts are good to eat so long as they're not roasted and salted, and that not only are they not fattening, but they'll help you lose weight. You find that if you eat porridge or home-made muesli with lots of dried fruit at breakfast, you don't really want anything to eat until lunchtime. And then, if you eat - say - vegetable soup, some wholemeal bread and a salad, you probably won't get a chocolate craving in the afternoon. And if you do, well then dried fruit is good, and dried pineapple works the very best. And after a while, without ever trying or limiting the amount you eat or being faddy, you find you have more energy than before, and that you are two dress sizes smaller than you used to be.


This is well worth the very little trouble it takes.

When you read the ingredients list on shop muesli, it's rather surprising to find sugar and milk powder, and coconut (saturated fat problem) - and you thought this was a health food. Luckily it only takes a few minutes to make, and you don't have to make it very often. Get a really big bowl. Put in a packet of rolled oats. Stir in as many packets of dried fruit and nuts as you like - I like it to be at least half fruit and nuts, because it's almost the only way to get Lucius to eat them. At first I used to chop them up, but now I don't bother. If you've got a sweet tooth, then put in lots of fruit (dried cranberries and cherries, as well as raisins, apricots, pineapple, dates, although I draw the line at freeze-dried strawberries). I also always put in various seeds - sunflower, poppy, pumpkin, whatever there is. Mix it all together, and then store it in a big jar. It needs an occasional stir because the smaller things tend to sink to the bottom, and sometimes you need to add a few more bits before it's all finished up.

You can eat this in a variety of ways. Mostly, we just pour milk on it and eat it straight away. Often I eat it with 0% fat Greek yoghurt. Sometimes I grate an apple into it and cover it with apple juice. Even more rarely, I do this the night before, and then it's like a sort of uncooked porridge. At this point I have been known to add blueberries.

It is much more delicious than any muesli I have ever bought. My sister in law toasts the oatmeal, and that is very delicious, but too much trouble for me - the only time I tried, the first batch was undercooked, the second was burnt. The main thing is not to worry too much about the ingredients, just accept that it will taste slightly different every time you make it.


No comments: