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.

What have you given up for Lent? #Lent

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 here.

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 upchocolate muffin 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.’

You can read the full article here.

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 #BritishFoodFortnight

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

Method

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

Ingredients
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

Method

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.

Verner’s Views on Nutrition #LCHF #sugar #cholesterol

If anyone would like to follow up on the points covered by Verner in his talk at the 25th Anniversary Celebrations on 17th August 2015, here are some links to relevant articles on his blog:

SONY DSC
  1. Cholesterol/Statins
  1. Type 2 Diabetes
  1. Weight loss
  1. Sugar

You can also contact Verner by email: verner.wheelock@vwa.co.uk

25 years of Verner Wheelock Associates (part 3): Healthy Eating and BRC Audits #VernerWheelock

VWA celebrates 25 yearsAnyone who knows Dr Verner Wheelock will be aware of his passion for and research into healthy eating. He had, of course, worked as Head of the Food Policy Research Unit at the University of Bradford prior to setting up Verner Wheelock Associates Ltd in 1990.

On 10th May 1995 VWA organised a conference at the Royal Society of Medicine entitled ‘Healthy Eating: What’s in Store?’ VernerDietarywhich was attended by local authorities, representatives from the health service and some of the more pro-active food manufacturers. The programme included presentations of papers by eminent food technologists and nutritionists with titles such as ‘Antioxidants: The case for fruit and vegetables in the diet’ and ‘Wine and health: red wine in a balanced, healthy diet.’

The Government had a healthy eating policy well before the Food Standards Agency introduced the Eatwell Plate in September 2007. The conference was an opportunity to present awards for the best products and share ideas and experiences. The following year Dr Wheelock published a book entitled Implementing Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Eating. It was also around this time, the mid-nineties, that a VWA delegate won the first RIPHH Nutrition Award – in fact VWA delegates won several awards in the 1990s and 2000s and it was a disappointing year if they didn’t get one!

VWA_book_Page_1Healthy Eating in Schools – Verner’s next book is published

You could be forgiven for thinking that TV chef Jamie Oliver was on a one-man mission to improve school meals. His programme ‘Jamie’s School Dinners’ was recorded in 2004 and broadcast on Channel 4 in early 2005, but there were plenty of others looking into this area. Step forward one Dr Verner Wheelock, who had commissioned and compiled a series of case studies focusing on schools, local authorities and businesses that had successfully improved the food being served to school children. These were brought together in his book Healthy Eating in Schools which was published in 2007.

As well as the case studies themselves, the book included valuable information and guidance on improvements in the choice and quality of food; Pupil involvement in Healthy Eating Policies;

HEIS2006aBetter behaviour of children due to the provision of breakfast; and Fruit tuck shops as well as other relevant aspects of school food such as Allergies; Research on Food and Behaviour; OFSTED and Healthy Eating; and Procurement and Local Sourcing.

The TES Magazine gave it the following review:

The book is entertaining, readable, and a useful, practical handbook for anyone who wants to do something about what’s on the menu in their school.”

Around the same time, VWA also ran a number of conferences entitled ‘Healthy Eating in Schools

 

The birth of the BRC Global Standard

The British Retail Consortium had been formed in 1992, a couple of years after the birth of VWA. But it was not until 1998 that they produced the first edition of what has now become their Global Standard for Food Safety. In those days it was called the BRC Food Technical Standard and Protocol for food suppliers.

The Food Safety Act of 1990 had introduced ‘due diligence’ into the mix, which meant that compliance was now a whole different ball game. Before, retailers used to rely on supplier warranties, now this could no longer be the case, so most of the major food retailers set up their own inspection teams. This meant that a supplier could be visited by a number of independent EFISIS-approved auditors. The BRC standard meant (or was supposed to mean) that only one audit was necessary.

VWA introduces auditor training

To become an auditor within a company, you needed to have Lead Auditor training, something that VWA were prepared for. They had developed a four-day course that was specifically targeted to the food industry. The first tutor to teach the course was John Gymer, who was highly-respected in this field. Later the mantle was taken up by Peter Clarke, one of our longest-standing and popular trainers, who still trains the Lead Auditor course to this day and has developed it over the years to keep it fresh and relevant.

PrintWe are currently on issue 7 of the BRC Global Standard and continue to assist companies by providing a BRC V7 Update course, as well as our various auditing courses that are now approved and certificated by FDQ.

To find out more about our auditing courses, please click here

Live long and prosper – become a vegetarian! #nvw15 #veggie

Some studies have shown that people eating a plant-based diet tend to live longer and healthier lives than meat-eaters. In fact vegetarians have a lower incidence of cancer, especially colon, stomach, mouth, oesophagus, lung, prostate, bladder, and breast cancers. It’s reckoned that this is probably attributed to the phytonutrients present in plant foods, as well as the amount of fibre consumed. Sufficient fibre is also the reason they suffer less constipation and diverticulosis. (Obviously this is all true as long as they don’t also go loading up on cakes, chips, biscuits, bread pasta and other carbs.)Veggie

National Vegetarian Week 18th-24th May 2015

In addition, some studies show that vegetarians are less likely to have cardiovascular disease or diabetes. So, having a longer, healthier life? Surely that’s worth swapping beef burgers for bean burgers once in a while? The Vegetarian Society certainly seems to think so. And to encourage more people to try a vegetarian diet, the theme for this year’s National Vegetarian Week (18th -24th May) is sharing.

Visit www.nationalvegetarianweek.org and you can download a sharing toolkit, which gives you plenty of ideas and tips to make your vegetarian food sharing event a success. Even the most seasoned meat-eater can’t fail to be tempted by some of the colourful and tasty vegetarian and vegan recipes in the toolkit and on the website; and as they mention, whilst some of the more unusual vegetables can be pricey, the building blocks of a good vegetarian diet are inexpensive. We’re pleased to see that they’ve also included a section on food hygiene.

VegSome interesting facts

They’ve also included a number of interesting facts. For instance did you know:

  • Around 2.5 million animals are killed in the UK every day for food
  • All livestock on the planet produce more greenhouse gases than the world’s entire transport system
  • Swapping lean minced beef for a meatless alternative or some beans or lentils can reduce the fat content of your meal by a whopping 75%

But don’t I need to eat meat for iron and protein?

It’s a common misconception that vegetarians don’t get enough iron or protein. You don’t need to eat meat to make muscle or make red blood cells. Instead you can get all the protein required by eating eggs and dairy products, grains, nuts, legumes etc.Eggs

As for iron, there’s plenty of iron in cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, dark chocolate, nuts, sunflower seeds, tofu etc.  Even though the iron in plant foods is not as well absorbed as the iron in animal foods, vegetarians usually eat a higher volume of iron-containing foods. Also, many plant foods naturally contain vitamin C, which aids the absorption of the iron. So, go on – throw caution to the wind and try out some vegetarian recipes – we like the ones below from the Vegetarian Society.

Thai Mushroom Soup with Crispy Wontons

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 125g shiitake mushrooms
  • 1½ litre vegetable stock
  • 2 stalks lemon grass, finely chopped
  • 4 cm ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1½ tbsp lime juice
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1½ tbsp shoyu sauce
  • 100g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed
  • 1½ tbsp sweet chilli sauce

 

For the wontons: These wontons are quite small and delicate. Make sure all of your filling ingredients are finally chopped to make sure you get a good mix of flavours in each wonton.

  • 60g shiitake mushroom tops, diced (use stalks in soup stock)
  • 75g pressed tofu, (e.g. hazelnut or smoked with sesame seeds), finely diced
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1½ tsp red chilli, very finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp shoyu sauce
  • 30g vegan margarine, melted
  • 100g ‘Jus-Rol’ filo pastry (Leave the filo in its packet until ready to use as it may dry and be difficult to use without cracking.)
  • For the garnish:
  • Sprigs of coriander, red chilli, chopped

Method

To make soup:

1. Take stalks out of shiitake mushrooms and reserve caps.

2. Put stock into a saucepan together with the shiitake stalks (add stalks from shiitake mushrooms used in wontons), lemon grass, ginger, lime juice, lime leaves and shoyu.

3. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain, reserving liquid and discarding vegetables. Return liquid to pan and reheat.

4. Add sliced shiitake mushroom caps to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile sauté the garlic and sliced chestnut mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of oil, stirring all the time, until the mushrooms are softened. Add mushrooms and garlic to the pan together with sweet chilli sauce.

To make the wontons:

5. Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas 4.

6. Mix first six wonton ingredients together. Melt the vegan margarine. Cut filo into twelve 10cm squares. Make an 8 pointed filo star – by placing one square of filo on your work surface brush with a little melted margarine then place a second square on top rotated 45° to create your star. Brush with a little more margarine.

7. Put 1 tbsp wonton mixture in the centre of the filo star and draw up edges and twist to make a money bag. Brush the outside with more margarine. Place on baking tray lined with baking parchment. Repeat until you have 6 wontons.

8 Bake in oven for about 7-10 minutes until golden and crisp.

9 To serve: Reheat soup and pour into 6 warmed small soup bowls. Just before eating, place a wonton in the centre of each and garnish with coriander sprigs and red chilli.

 

Veggie Bangers

Ingredients

  • 50g butter
  • 225g onions, skinned and finely chopped
  • 225g leeks, trimmed, washed and finely sliced
  • 1 level tsp dried sage
  • 125g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 125g medium oatmeal
  • 125g ground mixed nuts
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten
  • Salt and pepper
  • Vegetable oil for cooking

Method

  1. Heat the butter in a frying pan, add the onions and leeks, and cook over a low heat until softened. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the oil, and mix thoroughly. Leave until cool.
  2. Shape the mixture into 6 large fat sausages.
  3. Heat a little oil in a frying pan, add the sausages and cook until browned on all sides. Alternatively, place on a baking sheet and brush lightly with oil. Bake in the oven at 200C/400F/Gas 6 for about 25 minutes or until brown. Serve hot.

Are you eating too much salt? #NationalSaltAwarenessWeek

SaltNational Salt Awareness Week 16th to 22nd March 2015

There have been several awareness campaigns aimed at getting people to realise how much sugar is in the foods they consume – for example a can of regular cola contains 35g of sugar – but in order to improve our health we also need to be looking at the other end of the scale.

High salt intake = health problems?

An excessive salt intake can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, stomach cancer, osteoporosis and poor kidney function, as well as heart attacks and strokes. Although apparently our bodies only need 1g of salt per day the recommended Government daily salt intake for adults is 6g i.e. around one teaspoonful. Nevertheless most of us exceed this quota due to the amount of hidden salt we consume in processed foods. In fact 75 per cent of the salt we consume comes from this source.

It’s easier to identify some high salt culprits than others: For example, bacon, ham and smoked foods taste pretty salty, as do crisps and other savoury snacks. Other offenders are less obvious, for example soups and sauces, ready meals, restaurant and takeaway foods, cereals and breads and even some foods that taste sweet.

Is eating salt simply a habit?

Dietary habits in childhood and adolescence have been found to influence eating patterns in later life. Enjoying and being used to the taste of salt is an acquired habit, so this year National Salt Awareness Week is focusing on children. If a child gets used to a low level of salt in his food at an early age, then the chances are that he’ll eat less salt in adulthood and avoid the health problems listed above.

Just as people looking to lose weight get used to eating less sugar, it’s not long before our taste buds adapt to less salt in our food. Good alternatives to salt when cooking include lemon, chilli, ginger, dried herbs, black pepper and spices. It is the amount of sodium in salt which is the main problem, so if you really can’t do without the taste of salt, you can use an alternative such as LoSalt, which contains potassium instead of sodium.

You can find out more about salt at www.actiononsalt.co.uk where you can also download a low salt recipe book.

How much salt should we be consuming?

Too much salt is extremely dangerous to babies and very young children. That’s why the guidelines for salt intake are much lower than for adults:

0-6 months         less than 1g per day

6-12 months       1g per day

1-3 years              2g per day

4-6 years              3g per day

7-10 years           5g per day

11 years +            6g per day

Calls for industry to reduce salt in kids’ foods

Action on Salt are asking the food industry to reduce the amount of salt they add to children’s food and stop advertising high salt food to children. Until reduced salt is commonplace in processed foods, there are plenty of steps we can take ourselves to reduce the level of salt in our diets. First and foremost is to read labels on packaged food so that you can monitor your salt intake. Secondly you could stop putting the salt cellar on the table at mealtimes and use less in cooking.

Should we take Government guidelines with a pinch of salt?

Some estimates state that if everyone only ate 6g of salt per day by the time they reach adulthood, there would be 17,500 fewer deaths from strokes and heart attacks every year. According to Action on Salt, the evidence that links salt to high blood pressure (a contributory factor in heart disease) is as strong as that linking cigarette smoking to cancer and heart disease.

On the other side of the coin, should we always take what Government health officials say as being gospel? After all, let’s not forget that they were the ones recommending that we eat low fat diets and yet obesity levels continued to climb. For all the studies which advocate a low-salt diet, there are also several studies which suggest that a reduction in salt intake can actually increase a person’s chance of dying prematurely.

They claim that the results of original studies which linked increased salt consumption to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke simply don’t stack up. For starters, in the first tests (and on which public advice was based) rats were fed 50 times more salt than the average intake. Additionally, in subsequent tests on humans where salt intake across the population was lowered and deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke decreased, other factors had not been taken into account. For example, during the period in which the data had been collected there had also been a significant drop in the number of smokers.

Too much sodium? Or not enough potassium?

Jimmy Moore’s popular low-carbing website  livinlavidalowcarb has reached the conclusion that we are not an over-salted nation, but one that is deficient in potassium instead. Indeed, there is plenty of research evidence revealing that a low-salt diet could be potentially as harmful as a high-salt one.

In 1988 the Intersalt study in the USA failed to demonstrate any linear relationship between salt intake and blood pressure. Inversely data published in 2012 suggested that long-term salt restriction may pose serious health risks, particularly in those who already have health and lifestyle issues. Studies show that people suffering from Type 2 diabetes are, in fact, more likely to die early if they have a low sodium intake. And a 2010 Harvard University study linked low-salt diets to the immediate onset of insulin resistance. If the body receives too little sodium the kidneys secrete rennin, an enzyme which can lead to high blood pressure.

It seems that, like the high-fat/low-fat debate, this is a topic that will continue to run for years. There seems to be no definitive right or wrong answer. As ever, it seems that the key to remaining healthy is moderation, but do be aware of hidden salt in your diet.

 

Is your food marketed towards ‘Millennials’?

Marketing to Millenials

Two reports I have read recently seem to concur that food companies will be looking for new ways to tap into what is known as the ‘Millennial’ market in the next few years. If you’re not already familiar with this categorisation, Millennials are people born between 1982 and 1998, although these dates do vary slightly depending on where you find the information.

Who are Millennials?

What makes this sector of the population different is the fact that many of them were introduced to a much wider variety of tastes, textures and flavours in food than any generation before them. They’ve also been subject to a wealth of information via the internet etc. about food, health, packaging and environmental concerns. These factors have played a major role in the way they purchase and eat food.

For instance, whereas their parents might eat three square meals a day, at set times, cooked by the mother of the household; Millennials are much more likely to eat four smaller snacks or meals per day at unconventional times. Interestingly as many men as women of this generation enjoy cooking.

They’re also far more adventurous and spontaneous when it comes to food – some have even termed them ‘thrill-seekers’. They enjoy extreme textures and intense flavours and like experimenting when preparing and cooking food at home. For this very reason they’re fans of ‘build-it- yourself ‘ foods, where you cook from scratch and can customise dishes with add-on and mix-in products.

A desire for more information about food

Not only do Millennials enjoy food, they’re also very interested in its origins – what’s in it? How is it made and produced? According to reports they’re likely to scan barcodes to find out more or watch online videos – and natural/organic products and unprocessed food is much more likely to feature in their diets, even if it is a little more expensive.

To satisfy consumers’ desire for more information about food, there are a growing number of mobile apps available, such as Prep Pad which will give nutritional information about food from a bar code. But it’s not just about nutritional panels in pre-packaged food. People are also wanting to know more about food sold loose and in restaurants and other outlets.

As socially-respMillenial Manonsible adults, the type of packaging is another significant factor in their decision to purchase. The more eco-friendly it is, the more likely they are to be drawn towards the product.

How to cater for Millennials

From a food manufacturer and retailer’s point of view, they are more likely to attract this market by offering a greater choice of fresh foods and ingredients for cooking from scratch. They can fuel Millennials’ desire for the different and extreme by using recipe suggestions to help elevate everyday foods and encourage and inform purchases; and by using minimal recyclable packaging they will meet their customers’ eco-friendly requirements.

The rise of the craft food industry and 24/7 food delivery

New ethnic and artisan foods also feature strongly on Millennial plates. It’s therefore likely that, in the same way that the micro brewery industry has really taken off in recent years, food will go the same way. USA Supermarket Guru, Phil Lempert, predicts that ‘Craft Foods’ will be big business in 2015/16 i.e. tasty flavoursome foods made in small batches using quality ingredients.  He believes that this type of food manufacture will be replicated on a larger scale with established food manufacturers operating sub-brands.

Mr Lempert also predicts 24/7 food delivery and the diversification of supermarkets to become much more than vendors of food and drinks. In line with consumers’ desire for more information he envisages chef demonstrations and high-end on-site restaurants, cookery classes and more. It will be interesting to see if this takes off in the UK.