F is for French: the Mediterranean Diet Part Four

Lavender SusanA report at the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference suggested that following a Mediterranean diet can help preserve cognitive function in later life and thereby reduce the risk of dementia. The research is part of the US Health and Retirement Study which involves nearly 6,000 adults. Those who stuck most closely to the Mediterranean diet had a 30 to 35 per cent lower risk of cognitive impairment, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

The Mediterranean diet incorporates the traditional healthy eating habits of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea – Spain, France, Italy and Greece. It is typically high in cereals, fruit, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, low in red meat and moderate in dairy products, fish, poultry and wine. For more details, see the Mediterranean Diet Foundation.

For the final (for now) instalment of the Mediterranean diet blogs, we visit France. I’ll admit that, although I’ve travelled a lot in France, the prospect of writing about French food is a little intimidating! So I thought about my ideal, simple, French meal and have applied the Eatwell plate/food pyramid principles to it. This is for a French style dinner party, where you make the starter the largest course, the main the simplest and the dessert the smallest.

Rainbow Crudites
Serves two

Two cooked beetroot, chopped
One pack cherry tomatoes, halved
One tub of your favourite olives
100g grated carrot
100g fine French beans, cooked and cooled
50g sweetcorn
Arrange all the ingredients like an artist’s palette and dress with raspberry vinegar and extra-virgin cold pressed olive oil.
Omelette aux fines herbes

2/3 eggs per person
Chopped herbs
Beat the eggs, add the herbs. Heat olive oil in a pan till it begins to smoke and add the egg mixture. When it begins to go frilly round the edges, tip the pan and let the liquid mixture run into the base and continue like this till set. Serve immediately, with a green vegetable (asparagus, tender stem broccoli or runner beans (in season now) on the side.

Lavender chocolate pot
Serves four

Provence is famous for lavender and it’s often included in cooking in that regions. You could also make this dessert with rose or violet flavoured chocolate. I buy rose-flavoured and lavender and lime-flavoured milk chocolate from the shop at Kew Gardens and it provides all the sweetness you need in this recipe – no need for added sugar.

100g bar of lavender (rose or violet) flavoured chocolate, finely chopped
200ml double cream
75ml whole milk
One egg yolk
Berries to serve

Put chocolate in a bowl. Warm cream to boiling point, pour over chocolate and stir till chocolate melts. Mix egg and milk in separate bowl. Pour into chocolate mix, stir and strain, put into pretty teacups or glasses (the smallest you can find) and refrigerate overnight. Top with an edible flower before serving with berries.

Coming next: G is for Green

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