Category Archives: health

My grandmother’s beetroot soup

Cup of purple coloured soup pictured from above against big pink flowers

Image: Michael Caplan

I ring my mother. She is 92.

“Do you use beef stock to make beetroot soup?” I ask.

“No,” Fay says, “we never used beef stock. This is how we did it,” said my mother. “This is my mother’s recipe.”

Sarah’s beetroot soup

Slice the beetroots.

Cover with water. Simmer for about half an hour until tender. 

Drain the sliced beetroot and keep the beetroot stock. 

(You don’t use the sliced beetroot for the soup. My mum says: use them in a salad with sour cream with sliced onions). 

Beat 2 eggs with the juice of one lemon.

Add carefully- or eggs will curdle – to some of the warmed beetroot stock.  

Once the beaten eggs are incorporated into this small amount, tip it into the main soup.

Reheat carefully – very carefully – so the eggs don’t curdle. 

Add sour cream if desired.  

Thanks, mum.

This purple-looking healing soup, which I make with organic ingredients for extra quality, health and taste, enables nourishment to slip-in unsuspected via its beetroot-sweet, lemony lightness.

My grandmother Sarah died when I was 16. She was warm, earthy and wise, with fierce opinions I did not always agree with. Born in 1899 in London, her parents were migrants from anti-semitic Tsarist Belarus and Lithuania. I think of her so much in my heart.

My mother says the older she gets, the more she thinks of her grandmother, Jesse, (Sarah’s mother).  Jesse died when my mother was ten years old.  My mother says: “I talk to her every day. I call to her by her Yiddish name, Yeshki. She used to read the Yiddish translation of Shakespeare’s plays.” (I only learned that bit yesterday when reading out this blog to my mum).

My mother repeats stories endlessly so we remember them. My mother’s recollection of her grandmother are imprinted on my DNA since childhood so I have absorbed Jess’s “live each day as if it were your last” philosophy.

My mum again:  “Jesse used to say: I am not frightened of death,’ and pointing over to the window, she would say: ‘It’s as if I’m passing to the other side of that net curtain.'” 

So, eat beet soup, and enjoy this precious life!


Gut gastronomy beef broth

A bowl of beef broth

Beef broth soothes the digestion and produces easy-to-absorb minerals including calcium. Made with bones, it is a low-cost way of sustaining your health. 

“A good broth will resurrect the dead,” is an old South American proverb. I can believe it.

Read more about broth’s healing powers at the Weston Price Foundation and the way broth also delivers easy-to-absorb broken-down material from cartilage and tendons that might help arthritis and joint pain.

I bought the beef rib bones from Sheepdrove Organic Farm for £2.50 per kg. 

Why organic? Because I want to eat meat from an animal which has not been given routine antibiotics, which has chewed fresh grass in the fields as nature intended (not convenience-food grain that gives the beast a belly-ache), and can follow its natural animal behaviour. 

I used a recipe from Gut Gastronomy by nutritional therapist Vicky Edgson and Grayshott spa chef Adam Palmer based on the spa’s health regime. Published by Jacqui Small, this fine book with beautiful images by Lisa Linder is filled with highly nutritious recipes to help increase digestive health, and repair and nourish the body.  

The Gut Gastronomy recipe uses beef marrow bones. 

Here is the recipe slightly adapted. 

For four: 3 kg (6lb 10 oz) beef bones cut into 3 cm pieces 

Chop: 4 carrots, 3 large onions, 4 celery sticks (optional)

Add: 2 bay leaves, 10 whole peppercorns,

If you have some, half bunch of thyme. 

I also added dried chilli for extra hotness. 

roasted bones and pan with carrots and onions

Roast the cut bones in a large roasting dish for 30 – 40 minutes at Gas Mark 7. 

Drain 2 teaspoons of the fat from the bones into a large saucepan and sauté the veg.

(There was no fat from my rib bones so I omitted this stage and added the carrots and onions at the next stage.)

Add the bay leaves, peppercorns (and dried chilli), sprigs of thyme and roasted bones and cover with 5 litres (8 3/4 pints/ 20 cups) of cold water. Skim any fat as you bring it to a simmer. Gently cook for 5 – 6 hours. 

Broth is served clear, strained of meat and vegetables. Strain to make consommé, and cool before freezing. I shredded the plentiful meat from the bones and made several servings of delicious broth with meat (see top pic). 

I swear I cured my poor inflamed gums thanks to this healing soup.

Fellow blogger, Annie Levy at Kitchen Counter Culture, suggested I used some of the broth for borscht, which I did, using my grandmother’s recipe.

And that is for the next blog post. 

Bristol Metrobus protest protecting trees and soil

Makeshift field kitchen with two smiling cooks      

Instead of running away to join the circus, I would join a protest camp: outdoor places of learning and purpose, infused with community spirit and love of the land, they give me hope. 

I visited the Rising Up camp on Friday 13 February 2015.

The camp is protecting land and trees from a destructive and unnecessary road-and-bridge building scheme to create a bus route (Bristol needs more buses but not new roads).  

The soil at stake is part of the Blue Finger with prime agricultural soil. It is irreplaceable. Soil takes centuries to form yet can be lost in no time. 

Look at the timing: the destruction of these Bristol soils takes place in the year the United Nations has launched the International Year of Soils 2015 to alert the world to the destruction of a resource on which we depend for over 95% of our food. 

Look at the timing: The University of Sheffield has found UK’s soils are so degraded, there may only be enough for 100 more harvests, it warned last autumn.

Look at the timing: the destruction of Bristol’s soils takes place in the year that Bristol is European Green Capital 2015

In other words, one part of the system is aware of the importance of protecting our planet, while the other part of the system is intent on destroying it.

It is not only the trees and land of the allotments at Stapleton allotments and Feed Bristol that will suffer.

Here is the Metrobust 2015 calendar of city-wide destructionmetrobust-calendar-4

The Metrobus scheme received final planning approval on the 27 August 2014 from Bristol City Council planning committee, despite two years of protest. 

The following are worth reading: 

Court order for immediate possession

On Thursday 12 February 2015, Bristol City Council went to the High Court to evict the protesters and, surprise surprise, with the aid of top lawyers, Burges Salmon, (and supporters of Bristol Green Capital) won a court order. Above and below is a copy of the council’s possession order.

Court order for immediate possession

Court order for immediate possession delivered

A man (who gave me permission to take his photo but would not say where he was from) handed over the order on Friday 13 December 2015.  

Tree top camps Bristol

The tree top protestors hope to halt the felling of these irreplaceable trees.

Tree top camps Bristol Metrobus protest

Treetop protest Metrobus Bristol

Protected trees sign

The trees are protected – read the notice!

Bailliffs' steel fence and spotlights protest camp Metrobus Bristol

 At the edge of the protest camp, bailiffs set up flood lights last week which are kept on ALL NIGHT. 

Bailiffs' spotlight Metrobus Bristol

Which side of this steel fence would you rather be on?

Compost toilet Metrobus Bristol

Back in the protest camp, a beautiful village has sprung up including with a compost loo (above).

Field kitchen Rising Up camp

The field kitchen under canvas cooks healthy meals.

Lentils for the pot Rising Up protest camp

Leanna wields a packet of nutrition-laden red lentils.

Mishappen parsnip Metrobus Bristol

Leanna shows me a cosmetically-imperfect but perfectly-healthy parsnip – the kind of produce that would be rejected by a supermarket.

Cooking pot field kitchen Metrobus Bristol

Leanna who is studying nutrition tells me how she and Jack made the communal stew: Chopped onions and chilli coated in coconut oil and fried with spices to hand including turmeric and coriander spices, with water added to stew to cook the lentils and rice (providing all 8 essential amino acids) and parsnips and carrots (once muddy now scrubbed and cut), with fresh tomatoes and cauliflower and cabbage and fresh garlic added at the end.

Stew served at log table Metrobus protest Bristol

Stew is served on a log table.

Rising Up poster

The Rising Up notice (above) says, this situation:

“reveals the crisis of our systems and our leadership. If our Mayor cannot call for the design to be altered, to stop the destruction (and he says he cannot) who has the power to bring the beast to heel?

Perhaps it is only us“.

This Rising up camp shows people of spirit and principle proclaim a stand against the might of a mindless system that turns a blind eye to its own destructiveness. 

The brave protestors await the bailiffs to descend at any moment to remove them from the land and trees they are trying to protect.

Please sign this petition to show your support

– currently only 1,500 signatures away from 5,000! 

Coconut benefits banana bread

Banana bread

Funny to think that, as a child, I thought of coconuts as fairground shies, or Bounty chocolate bars. Yet coconuts are far more versatile than that. 

Coconuts produce coconut oil, coconut flesh, coconut milk, and coconut water, naturally and healthily.

Like hemp, coconut is nourishing, health-giving, and practical too. Think coir matting

Coconuts act as body moisturiser, teeth-cleaner, digestion-soother, rehydrater. And more. 

Coconut even sorts out head lice, according to Dr Mercola’s wondrous list of coconut’s varied uses.

If you love scientific facts and opinion with lots of swear words, check out Shannon’s Kitchen on coconut’s versatility and health reputation.

My coconut musing is prompted by a hamper full of coconut joy sent by Cocofina.

Cocofina coconut products

Cocofina have been cracking coconuts since 2005. The name says it all: Cocofina is made from fine young coconuts picked at their peak when its water is at its most plentiful.

To add to my joy, Cocofina is certified organic (by the Soil Association), which is shorthand for healthily-grown food, with no chemical fertilisers/pesticides to pollute soil, air, crops, wildlife and farm workers.

Cocofina’s big triumph is to produce delicious on-the-go nutrition energy bars. I sampled them with various energy-snack (and coconut) lovers, and their praise was unstinting.

And I love its coconut nectar – low-GI slow-release sweetness without that crazy thing that happens to my eyes (as if they are being squeezed) when I eat sugar.

(Pause to reflect on sugar – how it drove slavery, and now makes mental slaves of us all via obesity and the money markets).

To celebrate coconut happiness, I made banana cake, substituting sugar with coconut nectar, and coconut oil instead of butter.

Along with pre-soaked sultanas, this recipe produced a light, healthy cake, its bananariness lifted by nectar and complimented by coconut.

Banana bread

If you don’t have self-raising flour, add an extra egg. Keep the baking powder/bicarbonate of soda to a scant teaspoon – just enough to lighten the flour but not too much to impart its strange fizzy taste. Or even (boldly) omit and rely on beaten eggs instead.

2/3 large mashed ripe or over-ripe bananas (up to 500g/1lb)

125g (4oz) butter/coconut oil, softened

125g (4oz) caster sugar/4 Tablespoons coconut flower nectar or honey

2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork until frothy with air

250g (8oz) self-raising flour (or ordinary flour with extra egg) I used gram flour made from chickpeas because wheat (argumentative fellow) does not agree with me.

1 scant tsp baking powder/bicarbonate of soda

Optional extras: sultanas soaked in water and drained, walnut pieces, cocoa nibs/lemon rind.

Oil 2lb loaf tin and line its base and sides with baking parchment/greaseproof paper.

Rub in the oil/butter/fat into the flour (+ lightening agent if used) until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sweetener and mashed bananas and lightly beaten eggs beating it well.

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

Turn into the tin and bake for about 1 hour until a skewer comes out clean, covering if necessary so the top does not burn. 

This recipe is a great way to use up over-ripe bananas. 

Happy eating! 

Honour the pumpkin

Pumpkin photo-shoot

18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin are thrown away every Halloween in the UK; that’s the equivalent of 1,500 double decker buses, according to the Independent.

Time to join the tweetathon using #pumpkinrescue hashtag.

The Ecologist reports on the #pumpkinrescue manifesto.

 

Here are a few points from the manifesto.

  1. All supermarkets to make publicly available the amount of food waste they create and detail what happens to it.
  2. All supermarkets to ensure safe and healthy surplus food is redistributed to those on low incomes.
  3. Government to increase their investment in the Love Food Hate Waste campaign.

I am pleased with my organic pumpkin’s potential as a lantern. It has a flat bottom so won’t roll around and it is fresh with a long stem making it easier to lift off the lid.

I am even more pleased with my pumpkin’s nutritional qualities: gentle, soluble fibre, immune-boosting vitamins and minerals, as well as carbohydrates, providing sustainable, slow-release (yet low-fat) energy.

(Above para from a book I co-wrote, Make More of Squashes).

I want to honour the pumpkin as food.

The easiest way to prepare a pumpkin is to bake it. That way you only need to slice it in two, and scoop out the innards (put the inner ligaments in the compost bin and and bake the seeds for 5 minutes in a hot oven with soya sauce, or fry them).

Here’s a great blog on how to bake a pumpkin in ten steps, including cutting tips.

If you are making a lantern, then there is no escape: you have to make the effort of scooping out the flesh. So  you might as well make the most of your hard work and not discard the goodness.

Use the pumpkin flesh in a soup with coconut milk/stock/water, and spices, or cubed in a stew.

What is your favourite pumpkin recipe?

Pan-fried pumpkin flesh atop a bed of curried coconut lentils

Pan-fried pumpkin flesh atop a bed of curried coconut lentils

 

Carved pumpkin lantern's photo shoot

 

Probiotic heaven

My delicate digestion is crazy for probiotics for their soothing and restorative effect. Probiotics? They are good bacteria which stop bad bacteria giving your gut a hard time (bloating etc).

Probiotics are not some new-fangled idea – every traditional society has its fermented ‘good bacteria’ food, such as sauerkraut.

Annie Levy (and the Guardian sustainable blog of the week) sent me a jar of her homemade (fermented) plum kimchi.

I have never tasted anything as wildly spicy and salty, gut-zingy and healing .

Plum kimchi with vegetarian lunch

I had it as an accompaniment to Co-exist Community Kitchen tenants’ (£2.50) vegetarian lunch (see pic).

Then I got home and ate the rest of the jar (it goes with everything savoury).

Please see Annie Levy’s recipe for Plum Kimchi at her blog, Kitchen Counter Culture (great name for a radical blog).

Here’s how I made the crazy condiment.

Assemble in a large bowl:

All the cloves in a head of garlic (grown by Nadia Hillman)
Grated raw ginger (large thumb – or more)
2 raw red onions sliced
1 lemon chopped
1 large orange chopped

half of 1/4 American cup hot pepper powder

1/4 American cup of (sea) salt 

Add to 1 pint of raw uncooked plums (slice with sharp knife to remove stones). Use organic wherever possible because organic is different – fewer chemicals and more goodness

Place a plate to press down the raw veg/fruit mix and leave it for two days at room temperature before spooning into jars. The salt draws out the water in the raw veg/fruit, thus pickled in its own salty water.

photo (4) Plum kimchi in the making

The first pic shows the cast assembled, the second is the cast cut-up  and mixed with spice and salt. Note: creative chaos. Why eat boring same-old packet food when you can go mad in the kitchen?!

Three announcements.

1. Check out Annie Levy’s food fermentation workshops. “A true kitchen witch, Annie’s food fermentation workshop is an informative & exciting, deliciously interactive learning experience and exploration of food alchemy.”

2. Bristol is hosting a probiotic event on Saturday 15 November 2014 at 3 – 6 pm.
The power of probiotics foods for digestive and immune healing – rebuild your gut heal your life. Fermentation Fetish with Holly Paige and Kenny Bountiful Sun Tickets (£15) – book here.

3. And finally for everyone who loves real food including fermentation – please check out and pledge for the publication of Living Food – A feast for soil and soul, from soil sister, Daphne Lambert.

Why is Metrobus bad for Bristol?

VIDEO: The Blue Finger from Joe Evans.

The Blue Finger, an area in the north of Bristol (a UK major city), is rich with the country’s best agricultural soil.

Traditionally the heartland of Bristol’s market gardens, the Blue Finger Alliance is working on feeding Bristol again with fresh, local produce, grown by local people.

Last week, bad news for the Blue Finger Alliance.

The council gave the go-ahead for a controversial new transport scheme requiring the building of new roads and a bridge.

The scheme will swallow up about half of the Stapleton allotments, according to Travel West, and threatens Feed Bristol, an Avon Wildlife Trust project which teaches growing skills.

In the council chambers where the scheme was voted for (six to four), campaigners sang Joni Mitchell’s song:

“…you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot…”

The ‘rapid transit’ bus route is intended to provide faster links between Bristol’s train stations.

Sounds good – in theory. The city desperately needs a functioning public transport.

But building new roads does not improve public transport.

By all means, increase buses, revive disused train lines, engineer tram systems.

But build new roads? That’s a hidebound to nowhere.

Road-building generates even more traffic,” says the Campaign for Better Transport, “damages the countryside, adds to climate change and makes cities, towns and villages less pleasant places to live for everyone.”

Bristol is the 2015 European Green Capital, a prestigious award supported by Bristol 2015 Ltd, created with Bristol council. Yet this scheme is the opposite of what Bristol Green Capital stands for.

The Metrobus scheme is a waste of precious resources, and a heartbreakingly backward step for a sustainable future-proof Bristol.

STOP PRESS (added 02.02.2015): Treetop protest from 1 February 2015 against this week’s planned felling of the trees.

Pip Sheard from Alliance to Rethink MetroBus says: “The Stapleton tree felling is  the start of a year of Metrobus environmental vandalism. Each month will bring fresh damage and loss to our local green spaces,” reports Bristol247.