Sunday, August 10, 2014

Eat well for the colder months

Nutrition guru Janella Purcell shares some of her favourite immune-boosting foods.
Eat well for the colder months
Nutritionist, naturopath, author and TV personality Janella Purcell shares tips on cooking for season, plus how to create one of her feel-good food favourites.

Can food really boost our mood?

More than boosting your mood, I believe processed foods lower it. Once you start to reduce these foods from your diet, you will feel so much better in every way. The foods I eat regularly are those that agree with me, and my digestion including seafood, veggies, quinoa, legumes cooked with kombu (seaweed) and fruit.

What foods are good for our immune system?

Garlic and shitake mushroom for their anti-viral and immune boosting properties. And all green, yellow, orange and red veggies, and spelt products. Also eat lots of slow cooked foods like casseroles, soups, curries and stews. This will help nourish your blood and keep you warm. Avoid cold foods and drinks and quick cooking methods like stir-fries and salads too.

What inspires your cooking?

Creating new recipes that I know are easy to digest, high in nutrients, simple to prepare, and importantly, taste great. Teaching others how to use less than familiar ingredients like millet, quinoa and freekeh, seaweeds and other Asian foods is hugely inspirational too.

What do you eat to stay healthy?

Breakfast is usually an omelette in a piece of mountain bread that's spread with a little goat's cheese. I add baby spinach, rocket or kale, drizzle with tamari and add spring onions or coriander.
Lunch depends on the season. In these cooler months I'll have a casserole or soup I've made for the week, with lentils, veggie, seaweed and homemade stock with a scoop of quinoa. Or I have a roast veggie salad with smoked trout, cannellini beans and lots of greens. And there's always my trusty brown fried rice with smoked tofu. I eat very lightly in the evenings. I don't have great digestion so it suits me better to eat more during the day. I may have some miso soup with greens, or steamed or stir fried veggies with a little tahini dressing. If I eat out I'll have fish and veggies, eat really slowly and walk home.

Your ultimate dinner party feast: what would you cook?

I would start with a cocktail to stimulate digestion, like Campari and soda with a dash of blood orange juice. I like tapas style at my own dinner parties – lots of different little plates, and let everyone graze. It's about the experience, not just the food. I always include seafood dishes, different veggies, frittata, lentils maybe some paella, dips, great spelt sourdough bread, and a green salad with a fabulous dressing. All depending on the season of course. Dessert involves something with dark chocolate and fruit. Or a vegan cheesecake and mint tea fresh from the garden with bush honey.

And who would you invite as your guests?

My oldest friends, the ones that love and accept you no matter what you're going through. And some new friends that get along with the old ones – I like introducing people. And then I'd throw in Bernard Fanning as my celebrity crush and probably Candace Pert so I can pick her brain about neurobiology and her work in bridging the gap between science and spirituality.

What do you wish people knew more about nutrition?

That it's not that hard. All we need to remember is to mostly eat whole foods. That is fruit and veggies, whole grains like oats, millet and spelt; nuts and seeds like almonds, macadamias, quinoa, pepitas and sunflower seeds; legumes like tofu, lentils and chickpeas; lean protein from fish, organic chicken and meat in moderation; dark greens such as rocket, baby spinach and Asian vegetables. If you want to, include seaweed. That's it. Keep it simple. And chewing properly is vitally important to assimilate the nutrients.

Your thoughts on sugar?

There's sugar and then there's sugar. As with all foods, eat them as close to their natural state as possible. This means as unprocessed and unrefined as possible. So white sugar is to be avoided but other complex sugars like demura, coconut palm sugar and maple and rice syrup can be included in a balanced diet. What would life be without its sweetness?

Five kitchen ingredients you can't cook without?

Only five? Really? Olive oil, garlic, kombu (seaweed), coriander, quinoa. Then there's ginger, lentils, tofu, pumpkin, spring onions, sesame oil…

Your favourite vegetable, herb and fruit?

For vegetables, it's pumpkin and all types of mushrooms. Herbs, coriander and mint. And fruit, watermelon and pomegranate.

What's your feel-good comfort food? How to make it?

In the cooler months I love my silken tofu and eggplant dish with a scoop of quinoa. Here's how to make it.
What you need:
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
8 long/4 cups eggplants, (Asian/long variety works well for this)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large leek, halved and cleaned
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green chilli, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, finely sliced
1 tablespoon coriander stems, chopped finely
2-4 sachets dashi (available from most health food stores)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoon tamari
2 packet silken tofu, cut into large squares
2 tablespoon coriander leaves
4 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal

To make:

  1. Slice eggplants into wedges of approximately 4cm. Lightly fry in the olive oil until starting to brown all over. (The eggplant will soak up all of the oil so you may need to add more. If you're avoiding too much oil, then brush the eggplant with oil and grill or bake it.) Remove from pan and place on a paper towel.
  2. Slice leek into half moons and place in same pan with a bit more oil.
  3. Cook over medium heat, adding garlic, chilli, ginger and coriander stems and cook for a further 1 minute. 
  4. Add the eggplants, water to cover plus a bit more dashi stock, sesame oil and tamari to the pan.
  5. Let simmer until eggplants are soft and tender, about 15 minutes.
  6. Now gently add the tofu to the pan – be gentle with silken tofu as it easily falls apart.
  7. Garnish with spring onions and coriander leaves.
  8. This dish is nice served with quinoa or organic brown rice.
To vary this recipe:
  1. Add fresh or dried shitake mushrooms in with the dashi. Allow 2 per person and keep them whole.
  2. Organic chicken is a nice addition. Brown chicken pieces first in oil, then drain. Add them back in with the dashi.

  3. Brown chopped green capsicum with the eggplant.
 What's your feel-good comfort food? How to make it?

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