C is for courgettes

courgettes Silvester 2
Courgette plant – the flower opens up and the courgette grows from its centre.

Guest blog: I’m told that courgettes are laughably easy to grow. Not so in my experience. I tried, and not a single seed poked its head out of the soil. Still, this is my first year of vegetable growing so maybe I’ll have better luck next year. The point is, that you may end up with a glut of courgettes at this time of the year so, are they good for you and what should you do with them?

By guest blogger, Dr Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food /nutrition. 

OK, so this member of the family that also includes marrow, squash and pumpkin is not a traditional superfood! It is mostly water, which makes it low in calories and also means it is worth drawing out some of the water by salting slices in a colander and leaving them for half an hour or so and then mopping up some of the moisture with kitchen towel. This is particularly so if you are cooking with larger courgettes (if you are growing them, pick them small, where they have more flavour). Aside from the water, courgettes are a reasonable source of vitamin C and are also rich in soluble fibre, which can improve your insulin sensitivity.

A high-quality greengrocers will offer a range of shapes, colours and sizes of courgettes to add interest to your recipes. I used yellow cylindrical courgettes and round green and cream striped courgettes for the ratatouille recipe below.

3C juice (serves one)

A complete vegetable juice – I wouldn’t normally juice courgettes, but this is a way to use them if you have a glut in the garden.

One courgette, sliced
Two carrots, sliced
One cucumber, chopped into chunks
Lump of ginger, sliced
Add to your juicer and drink immediately.

Courgette Deli Salad (serves two)

Two courgettes, sliced
Three (or more) cloves of garlic, sliced
Good quality olive oil (for once, I am not using coconut oil for cooking)
Two cartons of something nice from the deli (feta, olives, roasted tomatoes, roasted peppers…)
Remove water from the courgettes, as described above, then gently fry the garlic in the oil for a couple of minutes till golden. Add the courgettes and fry till golden brown (about 15 minutes). Allow to cool and then add the deli ingredients.

Rainbow ratatouille (serves four)

Ratatouille has long been one of my favourite summer dishes, because it is so versatile. Serve with wild rice, pasta, grated cheese, baked potato/sweet potato – hot, warm or cold. Note, I do not use aubergines purely because I am not keen on them- but feel free to add (use like the courgettes, draining off the water).

Two red onions, chopped
Two/three courgettes – different shapes or colours – chopped and water drained as above
Around 400g French or runner beans, chopped
Three peppers – red, yellow/orange, green – chopped
Around 400g tomatoes – fresh, chopped, or passata or a mixture
Two tbsp tomato puree
Basil leaves, torn
Thyme leaves
Flax seed oil

Fry the onions in coconut oil until tender (about 10 minutes) and then add all the other vegetables. Bring to simmer and cook for around 40 minutes with the thyme. Finish with the torn basil leaves and a slug of flax seed oil.

P is for pears

pearGuest blog by Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

I think pears are often overlooked in favour of apples. The two fruits are closely related, both being members of the rose family, but apples tend to keep better. They are both high in phytonutrients, soluble fibre and vitamin C.

Local pears are around in January and a good substitute for berries, if you don’t want to increase air miles and our carbon footprint by spending on foreign imports. Like berries, pears have a low glycemic index.

They are also particularly rich in flavonoids.A new report from the long-running Nurses’ Health Study showed that consuming pears, and other flavonoid-containing fruit and vegetables, helps lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes. I also found another study, described in SuperFoods Health Style by Steven Pratt and Kathy Matthews which states that eating three pears, or three apples, a day helped women lose weight!

Don’t peel your pears, because most of the fibre and phytonutrients are concentrated in the skin. Two popular pear varieties are Williams (yellow, juicy and classic ‘pear’ shape) and Conference (green, hard and a longer shape). Try to eat as wide a range of varieties as possible (same goes for apples) because each has a slightly different phytonutrient profile, so that way you get the widest possible range of these powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound.

PEAR GREEN JUICE

Pears add a touch of sweetness to those classic green juice ingredients: celery, cucumber and spinach.
[serves 2 or halve quantities and make two days running for one]

4 pears
Head of celery
2 small cucumbers
Bag, or two bunches, of spinach
2 lemons
2 inches peeled ginger
Chop and juice all ingredients and serve immediately.

PEAR AND STILTON SALAD

A lovely way of using up that Christmas Stilton! [serves two]
Packet or bunch watercress
Two pears, thinly sliced
100g crumbled Stilton or other blue cheese (going back to my Lancashire roots, I like Blacksticks Blue or Garstang Blue with this)
75g walnuts
Mix all ingredients, adding the pear last. Dress simply with lemon juice. This can be made into a more substantial meal by adding sliced avocado and serving with some interesting bread.

 

PEAR AND GRAPE FAST

 

Some of you may be embarking on January detox campaigns. Here’s a fast I tried out many years ago when I first got interested in food and nutrition.

Pears – this is a good opportunity to try out different varieties because, as with all fasts, this does get boring and it’s a way of introducing a bit of interest.

You need:

  • Big bunch black grapes
  • Big bunch of white grapes.

Start off in the morning with a pear and a few grapes. Continue – eating four pear and grape meals per day. Drink plenty of herb tea, plain filtered water and hot water with lemon. You can vary this a bit by alternating all pear and all grape meals.
Good luck and all the best for a healthy 2015!