Monthly Archives: May 2009

Rhubarb ramblings…and elderflower

Earlier this year I had a thing for tarragon and now it’s rhubarb.

Can’t quite explain how these things float up to my conscious mind until they become a minor obsession – almost.

Possible reasons:

1. My mother, who loves rhubarb, is coming to stay in a couple of weeks.

2. It is the season for rhubarb, not the forced variety which is available from Jan – April, but the rhubarb which is grown outdoors from May – Sep.

3. My first (Dutch) friend, aged 3, was called Barbara but I called her rhubarb – which (before you start to think how sad that I lost the plot at such a young age) is quite close to the Dutch word for rhubarb: rabarber. This also reminds me of an interesting chat I had this week about language – but that is a story for another time.

3. Savvy Cook was baking delicious rhubarb polenta cakes this week.

4. to stay in my other half’s good books I made a rhubarb and almond sponge pudding the other day ….it was a bit of an experiment, but a successful one and for those if you who want it I am happy to let you have the recipe (really more a case of assembling a few ingredients if truth be known).

Here are couple of things I have gleaned about rhubarb which I want to share with you.

Rhubarb facts

Nutrition: rhubarb is very low in calories, about 21 per 100g and it contains lots of vitamin C and fibre.

History: rhubarb was first grown on the banks of the Volga in Siberia and used as a medicinal plant as early as 2,700BC. Marco Polo brought the plant to Europe where it arrived in Britain in the 16th century and it was then used to treat stomach and liver complaints.

Varieties: there are about 50 (!) species of rhubarb.

Harvesting: strikingly pink, forced rhubarb is picked by candlelight in heated forcing sheds – somehow, this seems entirely appropriate for such a pretty, delicate vegetable.

Earlier today I was given a bottle of home-made elderflower cordial by one of our neighbours. I thought it was a little bit early to go picking elderflower heads, but apparently not.

Need to make a mental note to get down to the woods soon before all the elderflower bushes are bare….which will be very quickly once the retired brigage get on to it. It is the same with blackberries every one. One morning you are out with the dogs and spot loads of bushes heavy with fruit, the next day: all gone! 

It is also a really nice thing to do with children, who can make the cordial themselves with a little bit of help from a grown-up. See if they can taste the difference between the (often) chemical laden shop-bought variety and the real thing!

It is made me think about doing something this weekend with elderflowers ….. and rhubarb.

Talking about elder flowers: I attended a roundtable meeting earlier this week to discuss the theme: “can you design your way out of a recession”. To keep us all fortified, and the conversation flowing I guess, delicious Courvoisier cognac cocktails were served. I tried one made with elderflower which was delightful (and this is real praise from someone who usually doesn’t like cocktails). Now that I have got cordial on tap, I am going to try and replicate the delicious drink.

It may take my mind of the rhubarb.

Proost!

Enjoy the sunshine,

Monique

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Buns in the oven!

Caught your attention, didn’t I!

No, there is no pitter patter of tiny feet in Savvy Cook’s kitchen, here’s what’s baking next week though:

 Apricot, mango and coconut bars (£ 1.65 each)

These bars are  deliciously satisfying but quite unusual in so much that they are made with coconut cream and a drop of olive oil instead of butter. They remind me of a date bar “Cranks” (remember them, the health food chain – the forerunner or Leon et al) sed to do.

Dried apricots are one of the richest fruit sources of iron. They also provide useful amounts of beta-carotene, which is converted in the body into vitamin A, as well as some calcium and dietary fibre. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats and very low in saturated fats. Olives and their oils are thought to be a factor in the low rate of heart disease in Mediterranean countries where the oil is used extensively.

Energy

(kcal)

Protein

(g)

Fat

(g)

Of which saturates

(g)

Carbo-

hydrate (g)

Of which  sugars (g)

Fibre

(g)

Sodium

(mg)

Salt

(g)

333 

 

4

20

14

35

20

3

15

0.04

 

Parkin (serves 10 – 12, £ 9.50)

This Scottish original is a cross between a bread and a cake and yummy with a cup of strong tea (hold the milk for me!).  Perhaps a bit “wintry” this cake, but I think ginger kind of transcends the seasons – it is a warming spice but a bit of heat in your diet can also have a cooling effect on the body (hence the spicy cuisine in countries with a hot climate).

Oatmeal is an excellent source of soluble fibre. This can help reduce high blood cholesterol levels. It also slows the absorption of sugar in the body which in turn helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. Blackstrap molasses is the most nutritious type of molasses. It contains lots of minerals important for health including iron, calcium, copper, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc

Energy

(kcal)

Protein

(g)

Fat

(g)

Of which saturates

(g)

Carbo-

hydrate (g)

Of which  sugars (g)

Fibre

(g)

Sodium

(mg)

Salt

(g)

279 

 

5

10

5

46

27

2

275

0.6

 

 

You can place your order by mailing Savvy Cook at info@savvycook.co.uk or leave a comment here and one of us will get in touch.

Wishing you a sunny weekend when it comes round (not long to go now), best,

Monique

Savvy hints for healthy eating

Savvy Cook is asked often about what we think constitutes a healthy diet.

This is a difficult question to answer, because everyone’s lifestyle and nutritional needs are different; personal needs also change depending on age, whether you are 100% well or recovering from illness, going through a period of stress etc., but here is a very basic guide.

Our philosophy

Looking after your wellbeing and giving your body the fuel it needs is a vital part of being healthy.

Savvy Cook believes good nutrition is about going back to a simple, straightforward way of eating and shaking off the marketing-led hype and diet obsessed confusion which has clouded the basic principle that delicious food can be implicitly good for us.

Re-connect with real food

So it is time to forget the things we should not eat and instead re-connect with real food and start concentrating on the things you actually enjoy eating.

Practically all lean meat and fish are naturally low in fat; fruits are naturally sweet and don’t need added sugar. Most vegetables and grains are high in fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Top 5 Savvy tips

The first thing is to start enjoying the food you eat!

1. Eat three meals a day – and definitely don’t skip breakfast.

2. Always sit down to eat, preferably with familiy or friends, but certainly not whilst watching TV, in front of your computer or on the run.

3. Eat meals made with good quality, fresh ingredients.

4. Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of, preferably seasonal, fruit and vegetables every day.

5. Eat more oily fish.

If you want to find out more, have a look at an earlier blog I wrote: Top 10 Savvy foods, for my thoughts on specific foods and why they are good for you.

I am going to write something about food marketing and portion sizes soon: watch this space!

Best,

Monique

Tasty outdoor treats available to order now

Inspired by the Bank Holiday weekend weather forecast and beyond, Savvy Cook’s thoughts have turned to picnics.

I am not a great BBQ fan: although I like the idea of open air cooking, the reality never quite measures up. It is I think a combination of not being totally in control of when dinner will be ready, the need to start the fire well in advance of when you want to eat and it invariably being too chilly to eat outside comfortably – so you end up decamping back inside halfway through the meal.

You will probably guess that camping is not really my thing either…..in fact, I have never camped in my life. We have got friends who love camping; before their kids came along, they would go “wild” camping when given half a chance.

Me, I have always preferred a permanent roof over my head and at least as many (but preferably more) creature comforts than at home.

OK, I am a light weight , a good weather girl – I admit it!

Picnics however, are a different ball game: I love the ritual of the preparation, loading a coolbag with all sorts of delicious finger food, finding a nice spot, spreading out the rug …..Food tastes so much better outdoors, even a humble sandwich, especially when accompanied by a glass of (pink) bubbly.

So, if you get the urge next weekend you might enjoy this week’s Savvy Cook’s tasty treats….

Apple, raisin & rosemary picnic loaf (serves 6 – 8, £ 5)

A rustic little loaf, made with wholemeal flour, juicy raisins and fragrant rosemary.  The apples contain pectin, a soluble fibre, which helps to reduce the highs and lows in blood sugar levels and lower blood cholesterol. The butter milk we use is a particularly good source of several important nutrients including calcium and phosphorus which are needed to keep our bones and teeth healthy.

Energy

(kcal)

Protein

(g)

Fat

(g)

Of which saturates

(g)

Carbo-

hydrate (g)

Of which  sugars (g)

Fibre

(g)

Sodium

(mg)

Salt

(g)

262 

9

4

 

49

 

14

6

428

1.1

 

Banana & walnut muffin (£ 1.50 each)

We make these little darlings with gram (chickpea) and barley flour, so they are suitable for those of you who avoid wheat flour. The bananas are great energy providers and one of the best sources of potassium, a mineral which helps to regulate fluid balance in the body. Walnuts provide useful amounts of vitamin E, many of the B vitamins, potassium and protein. Though they have a high fat content, this is mostly in the form of polyunsaturated fat (a “good” fat) rather than saturated fat.

Energy

(kcal)

Protein

(g)

Fat

(g)

Of which saturates

(g)

Carbo-

hydrate (g)

Of which  sugars (g)

Fibre

(g)

Sodium

(mg)

Salt

(g)

353

 

8

19

7.5

40

19

3.5

184

0.5

 

We look forward to receiving your comments and orders at info@savvycook.co.uk .

In the meantime, enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend when it comes round!

Best,

Monique

Wind & Savvy meet in Rotterdam and the marshmellow experiment

Who is a Savvy cook?

Who is a Savvy cook?

Last week Wednesday found Savvy Cook in sunny Rotterdam for a meeting with Pierre Wind.

Pierre is a well known TV Chef, creator,  teacher, author, founder of the “Week van de Smaak” and human tornado! A self-confessed workaholic, Pierre’s life revolves around enthusing others about good food.

To find out more about Pierre and “De Week van de Smaak” (= annual national taste festival taking place in September this year) visit Piere’s website www.pierrewind.nl or check out www.vimeo.com to see Pierre in action.

Pierre and I met to discuss the importance of teaching children about good food – and both firmly believe that not be educated about food adversely affects a person’s quality of life.

I have always suspected that how a child behaves around food – greed, timidity, sharing, patience – reflects how this child generally behaves in life. A report, due to be published today, confirms this.

Researchers claim that self-control, patience and being able to defer gratification are critical in succeeding in life and should be taught in schools. The report’s findings echo renewed interest in America in the marshmallow experiment of the late 1960’s conducted by Walter Mischel, which linked children’s self-control with educational achievement in later life.

I believe that unless schools deliver on this, society is not going to tackle bigger social issues.

Savvy Cook leaves you with this thought, have a good week!

Monique

More tasty treats…..

Available for delivery w/c 18th of May (already – where is this year going?)

Rhubarb polenta cake (serves 8 – 10, £ 15.00)

A limited edition cake!

Rhubarb is in season now, although it is no longer as prettily pink as those first forced stalks always are.

Did you know rhubarb is a vegetable in fact and not a fruit, although it is invariably used in puddings?

This delicious cake is really versatile and can be eaten plain at room temperature with a cup of tea or tart it up with some cream or perhaps a blob of Mascarpone (or less rich ricotta) as a pudding.

Last but not least, even polenta haters (yes, they exist) love this cake. Its grainy texture is perfect for mopping up the rhubarb juices so this fruit laden cake does not go soggy.

Nutrition per portion (without cream): 245 kcal, 14.7g fat, 6.7g saturated fat, 17.3g carbs, 0.4g salt

Zesty carrot & walnut cupcakes (£ 1.50 each)

How do we do it? Read guinea pig Helen’s comment from earlier this week.

That is for Savvy Cook to know and you to guess…. anyway, we’d have to kill you if we told you.

Suffice to say these are very more-ish without being sickly like some carrot cakes can be; a kick of  warming nutmeg and ginger and crunchy walnut pieces makes them perfect with a cup of Earl Grey or as a pick-me up with your mid-morning espresso.

Nutrition per cupcake:  275 kcal, 9.5g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 22.9g carbs, 0.4g salt

Check “How the cookie crumbles”  to find out how to place your order or e-mail Savvy Cook at info@savvycook.co.uk .

Our Savvy bakers are looking forward to hearing from you.

Best,

Monique

Tasty treats for week commencing 11 May

I hope you liked the sound, if not the taste, of last week’s tasty treats.

Savvy Cook has gratefully received requests for “a moist apple cake” , “a coffee & walnut cake” and “millionaires’ shortbread” ….. testing and tasting will commence forthwith!

Last week I did some cake swaps with a little girl who lives a few doors down from us; Savvy Cook exchanged fig & walnut crunchies (see below) with some moorish chocolote brownies, yum, yum, which she had baked with her Dad over the weekend.

It is great to see children getting involved in food preparation!

There is medical research which shows how a child behaves in relation to food – impatience, greed, timidity, sharing – reflects how that child behaves in life.

This is certainly the case with our young neigbour who is a very sociable, engaging and chatty little girl!

Right, back to business.

I know it is officially Spring and we have had some warm(ish) days but I still think that black sticky ginger bread always hits the spot.

It is quite a plain cake (which I have been reliably informed is good with custard too: Savvy Cook is not sure about the colour combination – very 70’s – but can see that the flavours might work well together), but the flavours and texture I think are very satisfying.

The other treat we’ve got in store for you next week are the above mentioned fig & walnut crunchies.

They are made with chickpea and barley flour, so are wheat free and suitable for people who avoid wheat.

Details of both tasty treats are as follows:

Black sticky ginger bread (serves 10 – 12, £ 9.50)

A family favourite, made with blackstrap molasses, freshly grated root ginger and wholemeal flour

Nutrition per portion: 204 kcals, 8g fat, 4g saturated fat, 0.4g salt, 34g carbohydrates

Fig & walnut crunchies (£ 1.65 for 3)

Deliciously crunchy biscuit made with chickpea and barley flour, jumbo oats, dried figs and walnuts – flavoured with ground nutmeg

Nutrition per portion: 85 kcals, 2.1g fat, 0.9g saturated fat, 0.1g salt, 16.3g carbohydrates

Details of how to place your order can be found in one of Savvy Cook’s earlier posts (“How the cookie crumbles”)

or simply get in touch at info@savvycook.co.uk

As always, we look forward to hearing from you!

Best,

Monique