Pears, apples and citrus fruits – welcome to 2020

pearsPears – rich in soluble fibre

Pears, apples and citrus fruits are all in season this month, so I’ve highlighted them for a healthy start to the year, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.  A recent study from the University of Reading showed that eating two apples a day, over an eight-week period, can lower LDL-cholesterol. The decrease was not as large as that brought about by statins but could be very significant over a long period of time and in combination with other healthy habits.

Meanwhile, pears are a rich source of soluble fibre, which can also lower cholesterol, as well as lowering blood glucose. There are several varieties of apples and pears, of course, but if you check the origins and go for fruit grown in England (Conference and Comice pears for instance), you’ll also be helping the environment by saving on air miles.

All citrus fruits are nutrient dense – being rich in soluble fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. If you only buy tangerines at Christmas, maybe try including them in your diet from now on?

Here’s a quick and easy health tip for the New Year – get into the fruit habit. At the start of the day, put out a pear, some easy peel tangerines, and a couple of apples on your desk, if working at home, or pop them into your bag if you’re going out. It’s a good way to push 5-a-day to 7 and beyond!

Total citrus juice
Serves two
The sweetness of the oranges and clementines perfectly balances the sharpness of the grapefruit and limes. And I’ve found that I get more juice from lemons and limes by using a glass squeezer rather than the juicer.
One net of clementines, peeled and segmented
Four large oranges (I used Emperor, which are easy to peel), peeled and segmented
Three red grapefruit, peeled and segmented
Two-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
Two limes
Juice everything but the limes. Halve the limes and extract the juice with a glass squeezer and use to top up the mixture. Give a quick stir, to blend in the lime juice, and drink immediately.

Spinach, pear and Bramley juice
Again, this is a nice blend, where the sweetness of the pears nicely counteracts the taste of the apples and the spinach. I like Bramleys in juice because they’re not too sweet. In fact, in her anti-cancer non-dairy programme (The Plant Programme by Professor Jane Plant and Gill Tidey) Jane Plant recommends juicing Bramleys rather than other varieties because of their high vitamin C and folic acid content.
Serves two
200g spinach
Three Bramley apples, cored and chopped roughly
Three pears, chopped roughly
Two-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
Two lemons
Juice everything but the lemons. Halve the lemons and extract the juice with a glass squeezer and use to top up the mixture. Give a quick stir, to blend in the lemon juice, and drink immediately.

Pear and Bramley crumble
Serves four
500g Bramley, cored and roughly chopped
500g pears, roughly chopped
Sugar and cinnamon to taste
For the crumble mixture
100g nuts, chopped
175g flour
85g butter, chopped into small pieces
25g sugar
One tbsp. cinnamon
First cook the fruit. Add three tablespoons of water to the apples and bring to boil in a saucepan. Cook on a lower heat for about five minutes and then add the pears. Cook for a further five minutes or until the fruit has softened. Set aside while you prepare the crumble mix. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you get a crumb-like texture. Top the fruit with this mixture in a baking dish and bake at 190˚C for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown.

Next month: Celebrating celery

M is for March – three early spring recipes

Citrus MarchFor the next few months, I’m going to go seasonal and pay more attention to when my fruits and vegetables are at their best and to buy local, where possible, for best freshness and quality, and loose from a high-quality greengrocer, rather than pre-packaged from a supermarket writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger and freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

I used the BBC Good Food seasonality table as a guide (other such tables are, of course, available). For March, I chose the following from the list:

• Bramley apples
• Brussels sprouts
• Cabbage
• Grapefruit
• Leek
• Lemon
• Onion and spring onion
• Pak choi
• Peppers
• Purple sprouting broccoli
• Rhubarb (Netherlands)
• Oranges (Italy)

Unless indicated otherwise, all of these are available as UK grown (indeed, you might even be inspired to grow your own, or maybe join an allotment swap scheme).

Bramley apple and red grapefruit juice with ginger

Professor Jane Plant survived breast cancer from 1993 to 2016 and devised a dairy-free diet to help her fight the disease. She has some interesting recipes in her book The Plant Programme, where she suggests using Bramley apples for juicing for their folic acid and vitamin C content. Red grapefruit, which also rich in vitamin C, contains the antioxidants hesperidin and naringenin. The combination, with ginger, makes a refreshing, tangy juice.

Serves two

Three to four Bramley apples, chopped into large pieces
Two to three red (white or pink) grapefruit, peeled and pulled into segments
Two inches root ginger, peeled and chopped into large pieces
Juice everything and drink immediately.

Spring stir fry with high protein noodles

No need for exact quantities in this recipe. Just choose three or four of the seasonal vegetables from the list above, all of which are healthy choices. The brassicas (cabbage and so on) contain sulphoraphane and indoles, which are said to have an anti-cancer benefit, while onions and leeks contain alliums, which can help lower blood pressure, as well as being prebiotic, which will encourage a healthy gut flora.

Serves two
Chop/shred the vegetables finely and stir fry with soy sauce, cider vinegar, garlic and ginger (add chopped chilli/chilli sauce if you like it hot). Serve with high protein noodles and/or salmon baked in foil with pesto (200˚C, 20 minutes).

Rhubarb, orange and strawberry crumble

I’ll admit that, apart from some soluble fibre, rhubarb does not have much going for it healthwise. But, like asparagus in May, it is one of my seasonal treats, especially in a crumble. It is delicious combined with oranges (which come into season in the first quarter of the year). I included the strawberries (not seasonal, of course) to add some sweetness to the fruit mix, so you don’t need to add any sugar. For the crumble, I experimented with coconut flour, which nicely absorbs some of the juices from the fruit layer.

Serves four
One pack of rhubarb, chopped
One or two oranges, segmented
One pack of strawberries, sliced
For the topping
150g wholemeal or coconut flour
100g butter, chopped
One tsp. coconut blossom nectar to sweeten
Cinnamon

Layer the fruit in a baking dish. Rub the butter into the flour, coconut blossom nectar and cinnamon mix, to make crumbs. Then top the fruit with it. Bake at 200˚C for 35 to 40 mins till top is brown.

Next time. A is for April: recipes for a healthy Easter break.