Food for thought – there are 250,000 varieties of edible plant species, however, 75% of what we eat comes from just 12 plants and 5 animal species. Whilst it might be tricky to eat a quarter million different plant species in a lifetime, most of us are eating too few.
Why bother to eat more variety? Historically, my interest in trying out several different recipes and foods was purely to do with the pleasure of eating (and very little to do with health). It turns out that’s exactly what the doctor ordered. At least, that’s what Dr Michael Mosley (of the 5:2 fame) says in “The Clever Guts Diet” – a fascinating read.
I started this blog with an attempt to coax readers into the kitchen to try out varied but doable recipes. The intricacies of the gut weren’t part of it, but we need varied bacteria in our guts to live a healthy and happy life. Unsurprisingly, the more types of plants you eat, the more varied your microbiome (a technical term for gut bacteria). It also means eating different bits of the plant, not just the tasty bits; consume the entire broccoli, not just the crown, the entire asparagus, not just the tip (I knew I was onto something when I started juicing the woody asparagus bits!).
If we dig deep in our food memories, I bet we will have some memories of growing up eating some homemade fermented food. Be it yoghurt, sauerkraut sourdough, or kimchi. Dr Mosley’s book provides evidence (something our grandparents knew) that fermented foods have bacteria which are great for your gut. Food manufacturers have caught on to “probiotics” but check the label to see if the product does indeed have live beneficial bacteria as pasteurisation kills it off. If you haven’t already, do try homemade yoghurt, one of the earliest recipes on the blog.
In case you are wondering about the most desirable fermented food of all – alcohol – Dr Mosley’s book also says that “People who have at least one alcoholic drink a week have a more diverse microbiome than those who don’t”. If you needed an excuse to read this book, I’ve just given you one. If you followed my earlier recommendation to read “Gut” by Giulia Enders, then this is the perfect follow on.
Our gut is way cleverer than we imagined, the microbes in it communicate directly with our brain via the vagus nerve. Time to tune into our gut’s instinct.
Long live Delia
I consider myself to be an enlightened cook, yet I find plant ingredients that I haven’t cooked with before, and have been challenging myself with produce from the market. So I recently made gooseberry & elderflower ice cream and rhubarb and ginger crumble (both recipes by our very own Delia Smith, whose “Summer Collection” stands the true test of time).
I won’t lie, making homemade ice cream isn’t easy unless you own a fully loaded ice cream machine and know how to make a custard. Incidentally, this calls for full disclosure – I did run a gelato business a few years ago, so I do know a thing or two about ice cream.
Joys of summer
The London summer attracts many, and we have been fortunate to see lots of friends and family these past few weeks. The cooking has been frenzied and fun, with many a memorable evening sitting outside and enjoying the balmy weather, barbeques, food to share and of course some wine. Here are some of the things I cooked and baked, (recipes to follow after a short summer break).
Recipes this week
This week, the blog has reached the 100 recipe milestone and so I am sharing three of my favourite recipes, all “treats”. I am not entirely happy with the way the recipes currently appear on the blog, as they are sorted alphabetically, but I hope that you will be inspired to scroll through and try a few out over the summer, to feed the hungry hoards.
Why cook your own when you can buy in? The answer is also in the book – Emulsifiers added to most processed foods encourage bacterial growth which attacks the mucous lining of the gut, which in turn can lead to inflammation, which is a leading contributor to type 2 diabetes, amongst others.
Cheers to our gut and to a fabulous summer, as we head off to sunny (or maybe not so!) Scotland.
Love the summer and cook up a few summery treats!