Monthly Archives: September 2016

Falafel on Flatbread with Salad and Pickles

Falafel and flatbread From the Healthy Heart

Sometimes there is just no time to cook. It’s late, the kids are hungry and the fridge is bare. This happened to me over the weekend. Luckily I had been to explore a new Greek delicatessen in search of Kadaif pastry for a dish I am cooking for a special dinner next week. Sadly it won’t appear on the blog as it is not cholesterol friendly. Why will I be eating it while lowering my cholesterol? Well, that’s the compromise of the real world. I digress. While I was at the deli I picked up a couple of packs of falafel balls from the fridge cabinet. They looked really lovely – most commercial falafel balls are rather awful in my experience. A few packs of flatbread and a tub of tabbouleh just the way I like it – masses of parsley – gave me food to play with.

Back home it was really a simple assembly job. I warmed the flatbread and the falafel, chopped up a few ripe tomatoes and some baby cucumbers, mixed a tablespoon of tahini with water and a squeeze of lemon juice, opened a tub of houmous and a jar of dill pickles and let everyone get on with making their own lunch. Result!
For 4 people:

4 – 8 flatbreads
12 falafel balls
3 large ripe tomatoes
3 baby cucumbers
1 tablespoon tahini
A tablespoon of lemon juice
1 tub houmous
4 dill pickles (optional)
1 small tub tabbouleh (optional)

Simply warm up the falafel at 180 C for about 10 minutes. For the last two minutes add the flatbreads.

Meanwhile chop up the tomatoes and cucumber, open the tabbouleh, dill pickles and houmous and place in bowls. Add about 100ml cold water to one tablespoon of tahini and ix well until you have a pouring consistency. Add lemon juice to taste.

Lay everything out on a table and load up the flatbreads. You could roll them up and eat like a wrap but we ate these with cutlery as we had so much on the flatbreads they were too full to roll!

The Steaks are High – 28 September 2016

Last week I attended the World Steak Challenge 2016 – hardly the sort of event deemed suitable for someone trying to lower her cholesterol! Having taking the precaution of eating a light lunch, I arrived peckish to the event in Hyde Park, where a magnificent sunset showed off the London skyline in a blaze of early Autumnal splendour.

Long before the steaks were slapped on the grill for guests to savour the outstanding meat that a panel of judges had been chewing over all day, we were treated to bite-sized portions of Japanese Wagyu beef. Considered the finest meat du monde, these mouthfuls really were the bees’ knees. With a texture more like butter than meat – due to the tenderness and fantastic marbling of the fat – I was in carnivore heaven, giving not a thought to my arteries. OK in honesty I felt a bit guilty about my arteries. But when one has the choice of another helping of a brilliant Wagyu tartare with pink peppercorns and a yuzu ponzu (a soy sauce and yuzu mix), well, I am not the sort to turn it down.

I was asked to answer a few questions about my experience of the different cuts of Wagyu. Most of the boxes to tick related to taste, texture, fattiness, appearance and healthiness. The last category surprised me and I responded that I did not think about meat in terms of health. But it got me thinking and when I returned home, stuffed with steak, I read up on what healthy properties Wagyu brings to the table for lowering cholesterol.

Wagyu beef has a high fat content and the fat has a lot of oleic acid. Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fat and is the main fatty acid in olive oil. It decreases the amount of LDL cholesterol in the body while leaving the HDL untouched. As those watching their cholesterol need to lower levels of LDL while boosting levels of HDL, oleic acid seems to be doing at least half the job.

Now I am not prescribing daily eating of Wagyu beef, although once you have tasted it you may be sorely tempted – until the eye watering price tag is produced. Mind you, I heard a programme on the radio this week where a representative from Iceland (the store) said they are now selling Wagyu burgers for £3. Hmmm. What I am mindful of is that when eating red meat it is worth getting the very best quality affordable. I eat very little red meat in general and try to eat lean cuts if I do. Paradoxically, it seems that some fattier (and expensive, top quality) meats – like Wagyu and Iberico ham (which I have written about previously) seem to have increased quantities of healthy fats! And as these are some of the most delicious meats, in my view, it may just be a win-win situation so long as I don’t overindulge. Did I heed this advice at the World Steak Challenge? Of course not, it was all just far too delicious.

Scales tell it like it is – 14 September 2016

The problem with social life is that it gets in the way of trying to lower cholesterol – not to mention weight. If I lived in a cave – or at least led a hermit-like existence – I might have a decent shot at keeping to my resolve. However, the past couple of weeks have been anything but conducive to my plans to get back in shape, or to make a start at the least.

No sooner had I declared my intentions a fortnight ago than a very fancy scale arrived at my door for me to review. I was delighted by the synchronicity. I have never owned a scale larger than one that sits on the kitchen worktop and that only goes up to 4kg so not much use for weight control. I loathe the idea that I should feel up or down depending on what the scale says in the morning so I have never wanted a bathroom scale. I can tell whether or not I need to lose weight by the feel of my clothes. Sadly, that tells me nothing about my cholesterol level. The timely arrival of this new scale, however, felt like a good omen. It is very high tech, so much so that my teenagers had to help me set up an app on my phone. The idea is that you stand on the scale and the app works out your BMI as well as your percentage body fat and muscle mass. Frankly, this is more information that I care to know, but my lack of tech savvy has saved me from the worst. Standing on the scale I can see what I weigh and that is bad enough. When I complained to my son that the app did not give me any further information, he asked me whether I had my phone switched on to the app while I stood on the scale! As I said, too high tech for me. And in any case do I really need to know what percentage I am of body fat? Just looking at the tyre around my stomach tells me all I need to know.

Having the equipment to measure my progress is one thing. Making progress is quite another. And that is where life gets in the way. Deliciously perhaps, but still in the way. Last week I was invited to a diner at a Spitalfields restaurant called Taberna do Mercado where top Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes adds his inventive touch to the cuisine. (You can read about it here if you wish ).

Later in the week I attended a book launch at Brindisa where the inimitable Monika Linton has written a long awaited cookbook. The tapas were plentiful and delicious. This evening I am eating a 10 course tasting menu at The Frog (once more to Spitalfields neck of the woods) and tomorrow I will be having afternoon tea at The Dorchester followed by dinner in a lovely restaurant with visiting cousins.

I don’t expect sympathy. Not from people at any rate. It would be nice though if my new fancy scale with its app could be a little kinder under the circumstances. That is the problem with a piece of equipment – it has no interest in excuses.

Orange Blossom Iced Tea

Orange Blossom iced Tea From The Healthy Heart

Since we are having such a warm September I have been making iced tea to enjoy in the garden before the trees start to drop their leaves. Iced tea is so easy to make and just feels that little bit special. I make mine with Redbush (Rooibos) Tea which is caffeine free but you could use an ordinary teabag or Chamomile if you prefer.

Whenever I feel a cold coming on I make a hot cup of Rooibos with honey and lemon. That always makes me feel better. I have used the same idea here – Rooibos, honey, and orange to replace the lemon. I also add a splash of orange blossom water to add a touch of the exotic.

Make the tea a good few hours before you plan to use it so that it can get really cold. In fact, I have found that it tastes even better the next day if left overnight in the fridge. I usually make a large jug and cut up a couple of oranges to steep in the tea.

For two glasses:

1 Rooibos teabag
1 teaspoon honey – I like to use a good quality honey as it adds extra flavour
2 orange slices
a splash of orange blossom water – taste to see how much you need. Rather add too little at first and add more. It has a strong scent so you don’t want to use too much.

Boil the kettle and pour boiling water over the teabag set in a medium sized bowl. You will need enough for two glasses or cups. If you are making a jugful then use 2 -3 teabags. Allow to steep for 10 minutes. Add the homey and stir well to combine. Remove the teabag and allow to cool.

Add the orange blossom water and the orange slices. A few sprigs of mint will not go amiss. Refrigerate until cool.

Serve well chilled and add a few ice cubes.