Sunday, July 28, 2013

Kiwi, lemon, apple and mint juice

Drinking water is the best way to maintain your fluid intake but sometimes you want something a bit more interesting and flavourful.

Fruit juices are delicious but they can contain quite high levels of free sugars like glucose and fructose, so it is best not to consume too much and to choose juices that are relatively low in sugar.

In an earlier post I provided a recipe for a watermelon, strawberry and rose water crush which is low in sugar.

Here is another fruit juice recipe which is low in sugar and is very refreshing. 

This recipe contains kiwi fruit, lemon, apple and mint, all of which are rich in nutrients and phytochemicals which have powerful health benefits; you can read more about these benefits below. 


Serves 1

  • 2 kiwi fruit
  • 2 slices lemon
  • 1 apple
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh mint
  • Sparkling mineral water


  1. Place all ingredients in a vegetable juicer and collect the juice
  2. Pour into a glass and top up with sparkling mineral water
  3. Serve with a sprig of mint and/or a slice of lemon and ice if required

Nutritional and health benefits

Kiwi fruit

Kiwi fruit belongs to the genus Actinidia (Actinidiaceae) and is derived from a deciduous woody, fruiting vine. It is composed of different species and cultivars that exhibit a variety of characteristics and sensory attributes.

Kiwi fruit originated in China where it was called yang tao, which translates as "sunny peach" or "strawberry peach".

Europeans changed its name to Chinese gooseberry but, in 1962, New Zealand growers decided to start calling it 'kiwi fruit' to enhance its market appeal; this was officially adopted as the trade name in 1974.

Kiwi fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C and a very good source of dietary fibre if eaten as a whole fruit. It is also a good source of folate and of the minerals potassium, magnesium, copper and phosphorus, as well as the antioxidants vitamins E and A.

In addition to these nutrients, kiwi fruit also contains abundant phytochemicals, including chlorophylls, carotenoids, flavonoids, lutein and anthocyanin. Indeed, kiwi fruit has one of the highest concentrations of lutein in fruit, which is readily bioavailable.

In ancient China, kiwi fruit were used for symptom relief of numerous disorders, such as digestive problems, rheumatism, dyspepsia, and haemorrhoids, as well as a therapy for various cancers.

Recently, there has been increased attention given to investigating potential health benefits associated with consumption of kiwi fruit.

Kiwi fruit's content of nutrients and biologically active phytochemicals has stimulated investigations into its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions that might help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other degenerative disorders.

Some studies also report improvement of gastrointestinal laxation, lowering of blood lipid levels, and alleviation of skin disorders.

Kiwi fruit can trigger an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. Compared with other common food allergies, such as those to tree nuts and peanuts, the allergic response to kiwifruit in general appears to be considerably less severe. In adults, it is often a mild localized oral allergy syndrome that is characterized by itching and swelling around the mouth.


Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C. They are also a good source of vitamin B6, potassium, folic acid, flavonoids and the phytochemical limonene.

Limonene has been promoted as a treatment for gastroesophageal reflux. In vitro and animal studies suggest that limonene has anti-inflammatory, bactericidal and anticancer effects.


Apples are a good source of vitamin C, pectin and other fibres, and potassium.  Most of the apple's important nutrients are contained in its skin.  If apples are raw and unpeeled, they are also a great source of many phytonutrients, such as ellagic acid and flavonoids such as quercetin.  The old saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" has a great deal of truth in it.  In a review of various studies, apple consumption was shown consistently to be associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, asthma and type 2 diabetes, compared with other fruits and vegetables.


Mints have traditionally had a wide range of medicinal uses.

Their primary benefit has been as a carminative (relief of intestinal gas) and digestant.

Mint has been shown to relieve spasms of the gastrointestinal tract and wind.

Mints also contain numerous antioxidants which have been investigated for their ability to enhance the immune system and protect against cancer.

Details of the nutrient content of this kiwi fruit, lemon, apple and mint juice are shown in the table below.

Nutrient content of one serving of kiwi fruit, lemon, apple and mint juice

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Watermelon, strawberry and rose water crush

"The true Southern watermelon is a boon apart, and not to be mentioned with commoner things. It is chief of this world's luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took; we know it because she repented."
Mark Twain (1835-1910)

The Ancient Chinese considered watermelon to have cooling and moistening properties and to be useful for removing heat, including summer heat problems.

In this recipe, watermelon is combined with strawberry, another fruit with cooling and moistening properties, together with a little rose water, to create a naturally sweet and refreshing juice with a delicately exotic flavour, ideal for a hot summer day.

It is important to note that fruit juices of all descriptions contain fast-releasing sugars and should not be consumed to excess or in place of whole fruits. If you are suffering from type 2 diabetes you need to be particularly mindful of this. 

That said, this particular juice contains only one-third of the total sugars found in an equivalent volume of unsweetened orange juice and one-quarter of the total sugars found in an equivalent volume of cola. It is also rich in nutrients which are beneficial in blood sugar regulation. More details are provided below.

This juice is thus ideal for occasional consumption as part of a whole plant-based diet. 


Serves 1


  • 1 slice (200 g) watermelon
  • 12 (120 g) strawberries
  • 1-2 tsp rose water
  • 1 sprig fresh mint to garnish
  • Serve with ice cubes


  1. Place watermelon and strawberries in a juicing machine and collect the juice.
  2. Add rose water to taste
  3. Serve with ice cubes and a sprig of fresh mint

Nutrients and health benefits

Key nutrients in this watermelon, strawberry and rose water crush are shown in the table below.

This refreshing juice contains over 91 per cent water and is relatively low in calories.

Sugar content

As mentioned above, fruit juices can be high in fast-releasing sugars and it is best not to consume them to excess.

This watermelon, strawberry and rose water crush is, however, relatively low in sugars compared with unsweetened orange juice and with commercial soda drinks such as cola. It is therefore a better choice than orange juice to quench your thirst.

Vitamins and minerals

Remarkably, it contains almost three times the daily guideline amount of vitamin C and over half the daily guideline amount of vitamin B6.

Vitamin B6, or pyrodoxine, is an extremely important B vitamin involved in the formation of body proteins and structural components, neurotransmitters such as serotonin, red blood cells and prostaglandins. Vitamin B6 is also critical in maintaining hormonal balance and immune function.

Deficiency of vitamin B6 is characterised by depression, convulsions (especially in children), glucose intolerance, and impaired nerve function.

This drink is also a rich source of potassium, providing 11 per cent of the recommended daily intake of potassium.

Researchers recommend a dietary potassium to sodium ratio greater than 5 to 1 to maintain optimum health. In this recipe, the ratio of potassium to sodium is 35 to 1.

Potassium is the most important dietary electrolyte and is essential for the conversion of blood sugar into glycogen, which is the storage form of glucose found in the muscles and liver. A shortage of potassium results in a lower level of stored glycogen which, in turn, results in great fatigue and muscle weakness.

Potassium deficiency is also marked by mental confusion, irritability, weakness, heart disturbances, and problems in nerve conduction and muscle contraction.

This drink is also a good source of vitamin A, through its relatively high carotenoid content.  It also has good levels of vitamin B1, folate, and magnesium.

Amino acids

L-citrulline is a naturally occurring amino acid found in high quantity in watermelon; it is found in other foods and is also made in the body. Our bodies change L-citrulline into another amino acid called L-arginine and also to nitric oxide. L-citrulline might help increase the supply of ingredients the body needs to make certain proteins. It might also help open up veins and arteries to improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure and may also be useful in treatment of erectile dysfunction.

Watermelon juice was given to athletes and found to help to reduce the recovery heart rate and the muscle soreness after 24 hours.


Watermelon is packed with some of the most important antioxidants in nature, including lycopene - the red carotenoid pigment, which is also found in tomato. Indeed, some studies suggest that watermelon contains even more lycopene than tomato.

Numerous studies correlate high intake of lycopene-containing foods or high lycopene serum levels with reduced incidence of cancer, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and macular degeneration. There has been particular interest in the protective effects of lycopene with respect to prostate cancer.

In Chinese medicine, watermelon is used to treat thirst, urinary difficulty, oedema, canker sores, depression, and kidney and urinary tract inflammations such as nephritis and urethritis.

It is not advised for those with weak digestion, anaemia, or excessive uncontrolled urination.

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lychee, lime and rose water sparkle

Imagine yourself in a lush, shady, green, Persian garden. A fountain is softly bubbling with cool, clear water. Birds are singing. Sunlight is flickering through the leaves of the trees and bees are humming amongst the myriad blossoms. A faintly sweet, almost undetectable fragrance of roses is lingering in the air.

That is the taste of rose water.

In Ancient Persia, gardens were seen as a metaphor for paradise on earth - the archetypal Garden of Eden.

The rose, claimed by some to have originated in Persia, became a sacred symbol found throughout the mystical writings and poetry of Judaism, Islam and the esoteric Christian traditions. It is a symbol of the soul that has awakened to divine love.

The Sufi mystic Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi, who lived in Persia from 1207-1273, wrote:
That which God said to the rose,
and caused it to laugh in full blown beauty,
He said to my heart,
and made it a hundred times more beautiful

Rose petals and rose water have thus long been a feature of the cuisine of Persia and the Middle East.

The flowers are consumed as a medicinal tea and used to garnish meat and vegetable dishes.

Rose water is a by-product of the process of steam-distillation of crushed rose petals, originally developed in Persia to make perfume.

Traditionally, rose water has been used in sweets like nougat, raahat, baklava and Turkish delight and added to drinks like lemonade.

In the 13th century it was common for tired travellers to be offered rose-scented water to wash their hands and feet.

Rose water is said to be good for the skin and is sometimes used as a toner and astringent.

The delicate and unusual flavour of rose water combines well with many fruits, drawing out their gentle aromas. Try adding a little to a bowl of strawberries, or sprinkling sliced melon, plums or peaches with rose water mixed with a little orange juice.

And if you add a tiny amount of rose water to vinaigrette you can transform a salad of bitter greens.

In this recipe, rose water is added to the juice of lychees (litchis) and limes to create a simple, refreshing summer drink with a delicate and exotic taste.

Even though I live in the depths of the English countryside, I managed to buy a bottle of rose water in the nearby town of Yeovil. Those who know Yeovil will testify that if you can buy rose water there you can probably buy it almost anywhere.

The supermarkets Sainsbury's and Waitrose in the UK both stock rose water; it is usually in the section with cake baking products.

Please click here to read more about the use of edible flowers in cooking and their nutritional benefits.


  • 1  can (425 g, 15 oz) lychees (litchis) in light syrup or juice
  • 1 dessert spoon (10-15 ml, 1/4 - 1/3 fl oz) rose water
  • 1 dessertspoon (10-15 ml, 1/4-1/3 fl oz) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 cup sparkling water
  • Ice
  • Rose petals to garnish


  1. Open can of lychees and drain, reserving syrup. Put fruit to one side for use as a garnish or in a fruit salad.
  2. Add ice to a cocktail shaker, pour in 1 cup lychee juice together with the rose water and lime juice. Shake for 20 seconds.
  3. Pour into two or three glasses and top up with sparking water
  4. Garnish with rose petals and/or a slice of lime and/or a lychee

Then sit in the shade of a beautiful garden and enjoy.  Ummmm.

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Celery, fennel, cucumber and radish pressed salad

Celery, fennel, cucumber and radish pressed salad

The ancient Chinese believed that the seasons have a profound cyclical effect on us and we should aim to live in harmony with climatic changes.

The summer offers an abundant variety of plants and our diet should ideally reflect this.

Aim to use brightly coloured summer vegetables and fruits and combine them imaginatively.

On the hottest days, we need to balance the heat of the external environment with a cool atmosphere - eating outside under a gazebo or picnics by the river - and by serving more cooling, fresh foods, such as salads, sprouts (alfalfa, mung), cucumber, tofu and flower and leaf teas, such as mint, lime flower and chamomile.

This recipe uses a simple technique called pressing.  This involves salting the vegetables, applying pressure, draining off any excess liquid and then rinsing to remove the salt.  Salting and pressing has the effect of "cooking" the vegetables in the sense of making them more digestible, but preserves the active living enzymes.

The recipe also uses a product called ume plum seasoning, which is fermented from umeboshi plums.

The umeboshi, salt pickled plum, is one of Japan's most remarkable traditional foods, revered since ancient times both as an everyday food and a potent health tonic.  The oldest Japanese record of pickled plums is in a medical text written about one thousand years ago.

Umeboshi were used to prevent fatigue, purify water, rid the body of toxins, and cure specific diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, and food poisoning.  Slowly, extensive folklore developed about umeboshi's ability to prevent and cure certain diseases.

During the samurai era, the pickled plum was the soldier's most important field ration. It was used to flavour foods such as rice and vegetables, and its high acidity made it an excellent water and food purifier, as well as an effective antidote for battle fatigue.

Its taste has been described as the culinary equivalent of a cold shower.

Besides its dramatic flavour, the Japanese pickled plum has remarkable properties:

  • Alkalizing effect.  Regular consumption of umeboshi ensures the maintenance of a mildly alkaline pH level in the blood.
  • Antiseptic and antibiotic potency.  An antibiotic substance has been extracted from umeboshi plum which can destroy pathogens in the gastro-intestinal tract.
  • Stimulates the function of the liver.  A substance called picric acid found in umeboshi plums helps the liver to clear out artificial chemicals from the body.
  • Enhances peristaltic movement of the intestines.  A substance called catechic acid found in umeboshi plums speeds transit time through the gut, has an antiseptic effect and helps the digestion of proteins.
  • Laxative effect.  Pectic acid in the peel of umeboshi plums relaxes the muscles of the gut.

Other medicinal uses of umeboshi plums include:

  • Prevention of fatigue
  • Prevention of ageing
  • Stimulation of detoxification
  • Stimulation of appetite
  • Treatment of food poisoning
  • Treatment of hangover
  • Treatment of motion and morning sickness
  • Treatment of common cold and influenza.

In Japan, a piece of umeboshi each day is regarded as one of the best tonics available.

A variety of umeboshi-based products such as whole plums, paste or vinegar are available on the market. All of them can be used as a salt substitute in cooking, adding variety and valuable healing properties to our daily food.

In the UK you can buy ume plum seasoning in supermarkets like Sainsbury's and Waitrose and also in health food stores.



4 stalks celery, washed and finely chopped
1/2 cucumber, washed, thinly sliced and chopped in quarters
12 radishes, washed and finely chopped
1/3 bulb fennel, washed and finely sliced
Few drops ume plum seasoning
Sea salt
1 tsp apple juice concentrate
1 tsp fresh lime juice



  1. Mix cucumber and radish together, add a few drops of ume plum seasoning and leave for 30 minutes
  2. Place celery and fennel in a bowl with a few pinches of sea salt and mix together, place another bowl on top containing a heavy item, such as a bag of flour and leave for 30 minutes
  3. Rinse vegetables and drain well
  4. Combine celery, fennel, cucumber and radish and season to taste with a few drops of apple juice concentrate and fresh lime juice
  5. Serve garnished with alfalfa sprouts if available
Celery, fennel, cucumber and radish pressed salad

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Celery and sweetcorn chowder

Celery and Sweetcorn Chowder

This simple, sweet, soup recipe was given to me by my cookery teacher Montse Bradford.  It can be served warm or cold.

Soup helps to relax us and prepare the digestive system for the rest of the meal. 

The basic ingredients of any soup are: a sea vegetable; two or more land vegetables; and usually one fermented seasoning, such as miso or soya sauce.  

Sea vegetables have numerous health benefits and are added to increase the mineral content of a dish and to enhance flavour.

You can use regular sea salt to season if you wish but this does not contain the other beneficial nutrients found in fermented foods like miso.

This soup contains celery, which has traditionally been used for a variety of medicinal purposes and contains vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients with numerous positive effects on our health.  


1 strip kombu sea vegetable, simmered in 4 cups water for 15-30 min
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pinch sea salt
1 bunch celery, washed and chopped into small pieces
285 g/10 oz sweetcorn kernels
1 dessert spoon white (shiro) miso, dissolved in 2 tbsp water


  1. Place the dried kombu sea vegetable in a pan with 4 cups of water and simmer gently whilst you are chopping the vegetables
  2. Chop the onions and celery and saute in olive oil with a small pinch of sea salt until the vegetables are soft and translucent.  The salt helps to draw water out of the vegetables and prevents burning.
  3. Remove the kombu from the water and add the water to the chopped sauteed vegetables until it just covers them.  If you need to add more water at this stage you can.  Simmer the vegetables for 15-20 min or until soft.
  4. Blend until smooth using a hand blender or food processor.
  5. Add the diluted miso a little at a time until and taste until you achieve the level of seasoning you require.  If you do not have miso, you can use sea salt to taste.
  6. Simmer the soup for 2 minutes and serve garnished with fresh herbs.  You can also serve it cold.

Sauteing the vegetables in a little olive oil

Nutritional information

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