Saturday, November 24, 2012

Oat, blueberry, raisin and cashew nut milk breakfast

One of my nutritional heroes is John McDougall.  John is a medical doctor in the US who believes passionately in the power of plant-based diets, not only to prevent but to treat all manner of chronic diseases.

He has been studying, writing and challenging the accepted wisdom on the effects of nutrition on disease and health for over 30 years.  Together with his wife, Mary, he runs ten-day residential programmes in California designed to help people transform their health and well-being by changing their diet and lifestyle.  Many people report recovery from supposedly incurable conditions as a result of following this programme.

Recently I was looking through one of my McDougall cookbooks and noticed a recipe for cashew nut milk. So I decided to use this to make a warming and delicious oat porridge with blueberries and raisins for my breakfast.

Oats have many health benefits (1).  They provide one of the richest sources of the dietary soluble fibre beta-glucan.  They also contain more lipids (5-9%) than other cereal crops and are rich in unsaturated fats, including the essential fatty acid linoleic acid.  Oats also contain unique antioxidants, called avenanthramides, as well as the vitamin E-like compounds, tocotrienols and tocopherols.

The ability of oats to lower total and LDL cholesterol is well-documented, however, they provide cardiovascular benefits that go way beyond their cholesterol-reducing properties.  Accumulating evidence from epidemiological, clinical, and animal studies suggests that fibre sources, including oats, can significantly aid in reducing blood pressure and/or prevent the onset of hypertension.  Katz et al reported that a single serving of oatmeal could oppose the disturbances in endothelial function observed after the consumption of a high fat meal; this may reduce the likelihood of arterial damage and heart disease (2).

Soluble fibre from oats, when incorporated into a low-glycaemic diet, can help to regulate blood glucose and insulin response after eating.  More than 12 published studies report that oats, consumed as oat bran, oatmeal, or isolated beta-glucans, reduce both fasting and postprandial blood glucose and insulin levels (1).

It seems that news of the health benefits of oats is spreading as Quaker have reported a dramatic increase in sales since 2009.

So here is the recipe I followed.  Enjoy!


  • 1 cup whole oat groats
  • 6 cups water
  • 50g (2oz) cashew nut pieces
  • 350ml (1.5 cups, 12 fl oz) water
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 dessert spoon raisins


  • Place whole oat groats in a pan with 6 cups water, bring to a boil, turn down the flame as low as it will go and simmer with the lid on for 2 hours until the oats are soft, white and glutinous.  You can do this the night before, cool the cooked oats and store in the fridge.  You can also use ordinary instant porridge oats; use about 30g (4-5 dessert spoons) per person.
  • Place the cashew nuts with 350ml water in a blender and process until the liquid appears milky and smooth.  Add the blueberries and raisins and blend.
  • If using the cooked oat groats, take about one-third of the amount you have prepared or the quantity you want, add 1 cup of the cashew, blueberry and raisin blend and cook for a few minutes until hot.  Serve with some whole fresh blueberries.  If you are using the instant porridge oats, add the cashew, blueberry and raisin blend in a ratio of 1 part oats to 2 parts liquid and simmer until the oats thicken.  Serve with some fresh blueberries. 

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Winter squash and ginger soup

Winter squash is a superb 'comfort food' for this time of year.

In Chinese medicine it is considered a warming food that is medicinal to the spleen-pancreas and stomach.

Winter squash is exceptionally high in complex carbohydrates and is considered beneficial for those with digestive problems.

It is a good source of vitamins A, C, and E and the minerals potassium, iron and magnesium.

Winter squash is also a rich source of carotenoids, including lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin, which are powerful antioxidants known to protect the body from cancer and other conditions such as macular degeneration.

Here is a recipe for winter squash and ginger soup, which is relaxing, warming and comforting, as well as providing your body with powerful protective nutrients.

Serves 4

  • 1 large onion (diced)
  • 1 small squash, e.g., onion squash or harlequin squash (cut in cubes)
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small pinch sea salt
  • Root ginger (2cm piece finely chopped)
  • 1 dessert spoon white (shiro) miso (diluted in a little water)
  • Heat a cooking pot, add 1-2 tbsp oil, the onion and a small pinch of sea salt and sauté the onions gently on a very low heat until they are soft and translucent
  • Add the squash cubes, ginger and water to cover half of the vegetables’ volume.  Bring to a boil and simmer for at least 20 minutes or until the squash is soft.
  • Blend to a smooth texture.  Adjust to the desired consistency by adding more water if necessary.  Season to taste with white (shiro) miso.
  • Serve hot and garnish with fresh parsley.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

How to avoid food poisoning from rice

One of my clients asked me recently about the risk of food poisoning from eating reheated rice.

Yes – food poisoning from consuming reheated rice does occur.

It is not, however, the reheating that causes the problem but the way the rice was stored before it was reheated.  Many outbreaks of food poisoning which emerge from the catering industry are found to be caused by the inadequate cooling of food.

To put things in perspective, there have only been 85 reported cases of rice food poisoning in the UK since 1992.   These are often associated with restaurants and take-aways where large quantities of rice are cooked and held at warm temperatures for long periods.

One of the organisms associated with food poisoning in rice is Bacillus cereusSalmonella spp and various other organisms are also implicated.

Cooked rice and Bacillus cereus

Bacillus cereus is a spore-forming bacterium that occurs naturally in many kinds of foods and can cause illness in humans.   It forms spores which are resistant to heating and dehydration and can therefore survive cooking and dry storage.  These spores will survive the cooking process but present little risk provided that cooked rice is:

a) Served and eaten immediately, or
b) Kept hot above 63°C prior to eating, or
c) Cooled rapidly (less than 1 hour) and then kept refrigerated (4˚C or less) or frozen until required

When foods containing B. cereus spores are in the ‘temperature danger zone’ (4˚C to 60˚C) the spores may germinate, and the bacteria may grow, produce toxins, and make people sick. Such illness is frequently linked with starchy foods of plant origin such as rice, pasta, potatoes, pastry and noodles.

B. cereus can cause vomiting or diarrhoea and, in some cases, both. This depends on the kinds of toxin it produces.

When B. cereus grows and produces ‘emetic toxin’ in food, it can cause vomiting, even if the food is cooked again and no live bacteria are eaten. This is because the toxin is not easily destroyed by heating.

When food containing live B. cereus is eaten, the bacteria may grow and produce another toxin, ‘diarrhoeal toxin’, in the gut. This can result in diarrhoeal symptoms.

Illness from B. cereus can be prevented by making certain that hot foods are kept hot and cold foods are stored cold.  It is important to remember that re-heating food that has been ‘temperature abused’ will not make it safe.  Recovery from illness is usually between 12-24 hours.  Very rarely there can be complications and even fatalities.

10 rules of safe handling of rice

  1. Always keep dry rice in cool, dry conditions off the floor.
  2. Do not expose dry rice to moisture as this can encourage mould growth.
  3. Never leave cooked rice to cool on its own. Always chill it quickly (definitely within an hour and preferably faster) either under running cold water or spread thinly on trays in a fridge.  The temperature in the fridge should be no higher than 4˚C.
  4. If cooked rice is to be kept hot e.g. on a serving counter, ensure it is always above 63°C
  5. Avoid keeping rice hot for more than 2 hours and throw away any leftovers.
  6. If cooked rice has been chilled or frozen ensure that it is thoroughly reheated (temperature must be greater than 63˚C) and is piping hot throughout.
  7. Cold rice salads should be kept chilled (4˚C or below).  If part of a buffet, they should not be kept at room temperature for longer than 1 hour.
  8. Never re-chill once it has been kept at room temperature – throw it away.
  9. Never keep rice chilled for longer than 3 days or frozen for longer than 1 month.
  10. Once cooked rice has been re-heated, throw away any leftovers. Never re-heat rice more than once.

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The EFSA Journal (2005) 175, 1-48, “Bacillus cereus and other Bacillus spp in foodstuffs”

NHS Choices.  How to store food safely

Health Protection Agency.  Reported outbreaks of B. cereus 1992-2010

Tilda – Cooking basmati rice

J. Hyg., Camb (1974), 73, 433.  The survival and growth of Bacillus cereus in boiled and fried rice in relation to outbreaks of food poisoning