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Wimbledon – serving aces and strawberries


Forget the footy! This weekend I’ll be glued to the TV screen watching the Wimbledon men’s singles final. I’m determined to actually go to SW19 and watch a match at the All England Club one of thes
e days. However, in the meantime I’m content to spectate from the comfort of my sofa. I might even treat myself to a couple of glasses of Pimm’s and some strawberries and cream.


How many strawberries are served at Wimbledon?

Strawberries and cream are synonymous with Wimbledon, but I was curious to discover just how much is served during the championships. I therefore visited the website of the catering company that provides them and found out Strawberrythat a whopping 28,000 kilos of strawberries and 7,000 litres of cream is consumed during the two weeks of Wimbledon. 150,000 glasses of Pimm’s are knocked back as well as 17,000 bottles of champagne, 7,000 litres of dairy ice cream and 300,000 cups of tea and coffee – that’s a lot of washing-up!

TennisPlayers aren’t the only ones seeded

At the time of writing fellow Brit, and world number 2 seed, Andy Murray, is yet to play his semi-final match against number 8 seed Thomas Berdych. Let’s hope he makes it through to the final and goes on to win. The players, of course, aren’t the only ones that are seeded at Wimbledon. An average strawberry has around 200 seeds. (No wonder at least one always gets stuck between your teeth). Another fact that you might not know about strawberries is that they are actually members of the rose family.

Why soft fruit goes mouldy so quickly

I really enjoy strawberries, but my one bugbear is that they seem to start going mouldy 16801263 - a packet of rotten mouldy strawberries on a table topafter a couple of days. The reason soft fruits turn so quickly is because they exhale moisture as they respire. This humid surface is particularly attractive to mould spores, which find the thin skin easy to penetrate. They then germinate andmultiply.

To prolong the life of strawberries and other soft fruit you can keep them in the fridge. Ideally separate them out and spread them on a paper towel to absorb any moisture and prevent moisture from becoming trapped between the fruits. The cold temperature of the fridge will also slow the metabolism of the fruit and inhibit mould growth.

It seems that mould spores don’t do well in extremes of temperature. Apparently one of the most effective ways of preventing/slowing mould growth is to plunge the strawberries into boiling water for around 30 seconds. They should then be removed from the water and spread out and dried as above.

Good news! Strawberries are really good for you

Strawberries are not only deliciously sweet; they are also really good for you. We associate citrus fruits, and especially oranges, with being high in vitamin C, but just 8 strawberries contain more vitamin C than a whole orange. The ancient romans certainly believed strawberries to be healthy. They were used to treat all manner of ailments from depression to fever, fainting, kidney stones, sore throats and bad breath.

Nowadays strawberries are still considered beneficial to health. As well as vitamin C, they contain vitamins K, B6, folic acid, potassium, fibre, amino acids and high levels of nitrate. These properties can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. They’re low in calories too, so you can eat them to your heart’s content without feeling too guilty – just watch out for the natural sugar content though.

Simple strawberry recipes

Here’s a really easy recipe for Strawberry Fool

And another for a refreshing Strawberry Daiquiri

Plus don’t forget that our food safety courses can ensure that you avoid any cross-contamination when preparing foods containing this delicious fruit.


SUGAR TAX – Will the new sugar tax really tackle the obesity crisis?

It’s an announcement that has cheered many, not least the ubiquitous TV chef, Jamie Oliver. Within his 2016 Budget, Chancellor George Osborne has declared a sugar tax on sugar-sweetened soft drinks. Effective from April 2018, the money raised from the levy will plough an estimated £5xx million into children’s sports, particularly in primary schools.

diabetesWe all know that obesity is a (pardon the pun) huge issue in the UK. In fact treating obesity-related illnesses, such as Type 2 Diabetes, is racking up costs to the NHS of around £13.8 billion per year. But will taxing sugary drinks actually have the desired effect?

There’s no denying that our consumption of sugar has contributed to the problem. For example in a regular red can of Coca Cola there are 5 more grams of sugar than the maximum recommended daily intake for people aged 11 and above. And take a look at the likes of Old Jamaica Ginger Beer, which has more than twice the amount of sugar found in Coke.

How much will the sugar tax charge?

The new sugar tax will impose a charge of 6 pence per 330ml can for those drinks with a total sugar content above 5g per 100ml and 8 pence per 330ml can for those with a total sugar content higher than 8g per 100ml. That means that for a litre of regular Coca Cola you can expect to pay 24 pence more.  For the same sized bottle of Lilt, you would pay 18 pence more.Cola

These are just examples of well-known versions, supermarket-branded drinks and budget brands will also be hit. In many cases this could mean that people living on low wages, who often buy budget brands could be paying up to twice the price for a 2 litre bottle of pop. However this could still prove cheaper than buying diet versions of familiar brands.

Has it worked in other countries?

The question is: how far will this go towards tackling the obesity crisis? If we take a look at Mexico, where the Government imposed a 10% tax on fizzy drinks, sales went down 12% in the first year. But in actual fact this only represented a reduction of 6% in average calorie intake. In any case, the British Soft Drink Association has said that the total calories in soft drinks has been reduced by an average of 11% in the past 4 years, so the industry is already taking steps in the right direction.

Perhaps in not imposing the sugar tax straight away, the Government is hoping that the threat will be enough to encourage manufacturers to reduce sugar levels yet further to avoid the tax – such as with the call for reduced salt in ready meals…

Sugar picWhy only sugar tax fizzy drinks?

On the subject of ready meals and other convenience foods, this is often where hidden sugar lies. Who would think that, for example, there would be sugar in a savoury dish such as lasagne? Read the label and you’ll find around 3g of sugar per 100g. And there will also be approximately 5g of sugar in 100g of white bread. You will also probably find a higher percentage of sugar than you imagined in low fat versions of foods. Remove the fat and you remove the flavour, so something needs to be increased or added to redress the balance – often that something is sugar.

Interestingly ready meals and convenience foods are not taxed, nor is fruit juice, which often contains more sugar per 100g than a can of pop. Cakes, which – let’s face it– contain a boatload of sugar, are also exempt from sugar tax.

At the end of the day, most people know that regular fizzy drinks contain a lot of sugar. They also know that there are low-calorie versions of fizzy drinks available as an alternative. As a nation, we do seem to be far more addicted to sugar than we were 60 years ago and we’re certainly a lot larger. Putting a tax on fizzy drinks is unlikely to make a huge difference to obesity levels – plenty of people who drink diet soda are still dangerously overweight. If the Government really wants to tackle obesity it needs to look at sugar and carbohydrate consumption across the board.

Embracing the Spirit of Lent: What Sacrifice Have You Made?

So, last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, a period of 40 days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter Sunday.  Although traditionally a Christian discipline of fasting (from both foods and festivities), prayer and almsgiving, to mark the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert before his crucifixion, plenty of non-religious people join in the practice by abstaining from smoking, drinking or sweets, for example.

Whether you’40 daysre religious or not, the lent period is as good a time as any to start to make a small change that could lead to a healthier lifestyle. Cutting down on the amount of sugar you take in your tea, or leaving the salt pot in the cupboard instead o
f putting it out on the table during mealtimes, are good starting points. Another is cutting down on the number of takeaways you eat, or the number of alcoholic drinks you consume.

Or, if you fancy giving it a go, I’m sure a certain Dr Verner Wheelock would applaud you if you cut right back on your carbohydrate intake. You can read his views on the subject

It’s tricky, but we’re trying our best

In the Verner Wheelock office this year, Jodie has pledged to stop eating crisps, Karen has given up chocolate and Rachel is forgoing her daily latte. It’s already proving difficult as temptation is lurking around every corner. Jodie opened her office drawer to find – yes you guessed it – a packet of crisps; Karen has to avoid the huge pile of goodies next to Jason’s desk; and Rachel is trying hard not to cave in to her cravings.  “I had to walk past Costa Coffee with my eyes shut.” She said the other day. Thank goodness she wasn’t driving…

Aside from the usual chocolate, alcohol, fizzy drinks, sweets and meat, it’s interesting to read that the use of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are featuring quite strongly this year in the most common things people are trying to give up for Lent. This is according to website openbible.info.

Here are five things we’d like to see people give up (and not just for Lent):

  1. Licking their fingers when they’re trying to open those flimsy fresh produce bags in supermarkets – then touching the fruit/veg with the same hand.
  2. Talking/rustling sweet papers during a theatre performance or at the cinema.
  3. Texting or using smartphones when out at a restaurant or in company.
  4. ‘Double dipping’ at buffets – i.e. dipping a breadstick/carrot into dip, biting into it and then returning the bitten end into the dip.
  5. Leaving things ‘to soak’ in the kitchen sink. For hours.

If you’ve given something up for lent, we wish you the very best of luck in sticking to it. At the rate this year’s going it will be Easter in no time!

Why the latest healthy eating initiative won’t work – Dr Wheelock’s views

Dr Verner WheelockOur Chairman and founder, Dr Verner Wheelock, has been researching healthy eating and the effect of diet on illness and mortality for several years. He has come to the conclusion that, contrary to Government health guidelines, which advocate a low-fat diet as being beneficial to health, a diet low in carbohydrates and containing fat is the way to lose weight and improve health outcomes.

Last week the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) announced a ‘Healthy Eating’ strategy, which already has the buy-in of major retailers such as ASDA and Tesco. This is based on tackling the amount of sugar in foods and ‘calories in/ calories out.’

Read the full article.

This is Verner’s response:

“Here we go again with a huge initiative to tackle the so-called obesity. I can guarantee that it will not work because it is based on the “Calories In Calories Out” principle which has been totally discredited. For a start there are millions of people who have tried it and failed. Even the relatively few who succeed invariably re-gain the weight lost and frequently end up even heavier than they were at the outset.”

All calories are not equal

“One of the basic assumptions is that all calories are equal whether they originate from fat, protein or carbohydrates. This is rubbish. There is an enormous difference between the way the body handles a diet low carb/high fat(LCHF) diet compared with one which is high carb/low fat (HCLF). A diet which is high carb causes lots of insulin to be produced that directs the glucose (produced from the carbs) to the liver which converts it into fat which is then stored. Slimming diets are usually low in fat (because fat is concentrated calories) and therefore high in carbs. So using this approach is like pushing water uphill. It is almost certain to fail. The only way to make it work is to starve, which explains why the weight is re-gained. The excessive insulin is also bad news because it eventually causes insulin resistance which is the precursor to weight gain, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease to mention a few.

By contrast, fat does not stimulate the production of any insulin. So the way to improve health, including the loss of some excess weight is to replace the sugar and all types of carbs with fat. However the ideal fat is the saturated fat, which is present in foods such as dairy and meat products. Unfortunately the Government is still telling us that the sat fats are bad, despite the fact that many recent studies have confirmed that there is no justification for this advice.”

Swedes’ obesity levels have dropped yet they consume more fat

“It is highly relevant that in Sweden where demand for butter has increased to such an extent that there have been shortages, the rise in obesity has been halted.  There are even signs that the incidence is now falling.  There is now overwhelming scientific evidence that it is the increased consumption of sugar and other carb-rich foods including potatoes, rice, pasta, flour, bread and grains which are responsible for much of the poor standards of public health as shown by the incidence of obesity and even more worrying the continued rise in Type 2 diabetes.

So if we are to progress then it is essential to forget about the calories and focus on the sugar/carbs. But this depends on increasing the consumption of sat fat. Until this is accepted by both the food industry and the Government, it is inevitable that the current efforts are doomed to failure.”

For more articles and insight about alternatives to current dietary guidelines read Verner’s Views at www.vernerwheelock.com

Celebrate seasonal produce during British Food Fortnight

LovebritishfoodIt doesn’t seem two ticks since it was British Food Fortnight, last year (I must be getting old!) but here it is again! Running until 4th October, British Food Fortnight is a celebration of all that is great and good about enjoying food reared and grown in this country.

As Chef Raymond Blanc says “There’s so much you can grow in Great Britain, so it’s really about connecting with food, growing food, enjoying food, respecting food and celebrating food.”

As ever, there is the desire to get children involved in British Food Fortnight. Raymond’s son, Olivier Blanc – an ambassador of British Food Fortnight – said “We want kids to get involved because that’s the message that will with the child as they become an adult.”

Throughout the fortnight Brits are being encouraged to cook with locally-sourced fresh and seasonal ingredients and to explore foods from different parts of Britain. They’re also being asked to ‘Think beyond the chicken nugget.’ In other words if the children’s menu is full of processed food such as nuggets, fishfingers etc. ask for a small portion from the adult menu instead.

What’s in season right now?

Meat in season at the moment includes venison, chicken, pork and grouse and there is an abundance of vegetables and orchard fruits. These include field mushrooms, marrow, rocket, pumpkins, main-crop potatoes, watercress, sweetcorn, radish, squashes, lettuce, shallots, runner beans, kale, turnips, blackberries, apples, plums, pears, elderberries, sloes, damsons and redcurrants. Fish in season includes Dover sole, dabs, skate, flounders, oysters and brill – so why not have a change from haddock, cod and salmon and try one of these instead teamed with a watercress sauce and some roasted root vegetables? Chestnuts are also in abundance right now.

For some recipe ideas to start you off, see the end of this blog.

Are you a Harvest Hero?

BFFHarvestwide2015400wPeople are being asked to actively seek out and try British Food from local butchers, greengrocers, fishmongers, general grocers, farm shops and local produce markets. Plus there is the opportunity to become a Harvest Hero by organising a British food event. ‘Harvest Heroes’ is a campaign and competition in conjunction with Telegraph Living. To enter all you have to do is organise an event, send photos of it and write a description of what you did.

Entries close on 6th October  and will be judged on the extent to which they: Strengthen the local community and bring all ages together; Educate people about British food and eating local; Support the economy by  encouraging people to visit and buy from British producers and retailers; and establish the tradition of celebrating the harvest in their local community.

More information about British Food Fortnight and Harvest Heroes can be found at www.lovebritishfood.co.uk

British seasonal recipes

Beetroot, walnut & goat’s cheese salad

6 beetroots, boiled and peeled

60g whole walnuts, toasted

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar

1 pinch dried oregano

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

75g soft goat’s cheese


Dice the beetroot into 2cm chunks and place in a bowl with the walnuts, olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. Give it a good stir.

To serve, spoon salad on to serving plates and dot with the goat cheese.

Toasted walnuts

To toast your own walnuts, simply heat a dry frying pan over medium heat. Add the walnuts and toast until lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Watch them closely so they don’t burn!

Almond and apple cake

Serves: 8

melted butter for greasing

180g butter, at room temperature, chopped

140g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 eggs, at room temperature

100g ground almonds

150g self-raising flour

80ml milk

2 small Royal Gala apples, quartered, cored & thinly sliced


Preheat the oven to 170 C / Gas mark 3. Brush around 22cm (base measurement) cake tin with melted butter to grease. Line base and side with baking parchment.

Beat butter, caster sugar & vanilla in a bowl for 8 mins or till pale and creamy (by hand or electric beater). Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir in ground almonds. Add half the flour and half the milk. Use a wooden spoon to stir until well combined. Repeat remaining flour and milk.

Arrange the apple, slightly overlapping, over the base of the prepared tin. Spoon mixture into the tin and smooth the surface.

Bake in the oven for 30-35 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Set aside in the pan for 10 mins to cool slightly before turning onto a serving plate. Serve warm.