ArchiveMay 1, 2010

Feel Good Food

For years now we’ve been getting conflicting messages about what’s good for us nutritionally and three quarters of it I disagree with totally. For a start I avoid all low fat or ‘lite’ products. For me low fat or ‘lite’ means less flavour, less nutrients, less real value, every bite of food we eat should nourish us rather than just fill us with empty calories and fill the pockets of the multinationals. So how do we find nourishing food? Look out for and eat as much fresh, preferably home-grown local food in season as you can lay your hands on. Not always possible but ideally start to grow something yourself even if it’s only a few salad leaves in a pot or box on your window or balcony, it’ll taste a million times better. I know that sounds like a cliché but it’s totally true. Freshness is everything in most vegetables, herbs and fruit.

Involve the children as well in the growing – you’ll be astonished how they eat everything, spinach, broccoli, radishes, broad-beans, leeks… I’m convinced the reason why it’s so difficult to get children to eat vegetables is that their fresh palate can pick up chemical flavours and distinguish the difference between freshly picked vegetables that are full of natural sugars which quickly turn to less appealing starches as the vegetable ages.

Children and indeed all of us love the natural sugars so freshness is a key. If you are trying to make sense of the plethora of conflicting advice you would do well to be guided by Michael Pollen – who wrote the Omnivores Dilemma published by Puffin – in his book Food Rules – An Eaters Manual.

Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food.

Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.

Avoid food products that contain high-fructose corn syrup

Avoid food that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients.

Avoid food products containing ingredients that an eight year old child cannot pronounce.

Avoid food products that make health claims.

Avoid food products with wordoid ‘lite’ or the ‘low-fat’ or ’non-fat’ in their names.

Avoid foods you see advertised on television.

Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle

Eat only foods that will eventually rot.

Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature.

Buy your snacks at the farmer’s market.

Eat only foods that have been cooked by humans.

Don’t ingest foods made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap.

If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.

It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.

It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language… (think Big Mac or Pringles)

It’s unquestionably a good idea to eat lots of vegetables and fruit but do your utmost to find produce that is chemical free.

One of our teachers at the Cookery School – Debbie Shaw who is a fully trained nutritionist gave me some of her delicious healthy recipes and tips to share with you.

Debbie Shaw’s Humus in a Hurry

Humus is a delicious, highly nutritious and versatile Middle Eastern dish.


1 x 400g can of cooked chickpeas (“Suma”, organic, salt & sugar free beans), drained
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
Juice of ½ a large lemon
2 tablespoons of dark tahini paste (Meridian brand)

½ teaspoon of salt 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika

N.B. Tahini paste is made of ground sesame seeds. The light Tahini is not lower in calories, the sesame seeds have been hulled and are thus less nutritious!

To make it, drain and rinse the chickpeas. Cover in fresh cold water, place in a saucepan and boil for 2 minutes. Drain them holding back some of the cooking water. The chickpeas absorb all the flavours better when they are warm. Add the tahini paste, garlic, lemon juice, cumin and salt and blend with a hand blender to a puree. It should be soft. If it is too stiff add some of the reserved hot cooking water. Place the humus in a bowl, drizzle with a little cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with the paprika.






Serving Suggestions

Crisp Crudités  


Humus is delicious as a starter with fresh crudités (raw vegetables), including baby spring onions, French beans, asparagus, celery sticks, carrot sticks, courgette sticks, sweet pepper strips, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli or cauliflower florets. Pop the humus in a tub and bring it to work with a bag of veggie sticks.Wholewheat Pittabread Sticks



Mix 2 teaspoon of extra virgin olive with a pinch of coarsely ground cumin seeds, a pinch of smoked paprika and a pinch of sea salt. Cut the pitta bread into long strips and toss in the oil mixture. Cook in a hot oven or under a grill until crisp. Use them to dip into the humus.

Humus is also great in sandwiches instead of mayonnaise.


Debbie Shaw’s Seared Organic Salmon with Baby Spinach, Wild Garlic
and Watercress Pesto & Brown Rice Tagliatelle

This delicious light summer recipe is packed with nutrients offering maximum energy for minimum effort.

Serves 4

1lb 4oz (510g) of dried brown rice tagliatelle or spaghetti
1 lb (400g) Fresh Organic Salmon, skinned and cut into 1″ cubes
Salt & freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons of pine nuts, toasted in a dry frying pan with no oil
2 oz (50g) baby spinach


For the Pesto


1 oz (25g) wild garlic, long stalks removed
2 oz (50g) baby spinach
1 oz (25g) watercress, leafs only
1 clove of garlic, finely crushed
1 oz (25g) of walnuts
2 ½ – 3 floz (75–90 mls) of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 oz (25g) parmesan cheese, grated on a medium-sized grater, hold back 2 tblsp for sprinkling

First make the pesto. Ensure the greens are totally dry before blending. Place the first 5 ingredients in a blender (or use a hand blender or pestle and mortar). Blend briefly on pulse until the greens and walnuts are chopped. Whiz again briefly, pouring in the olive oil. Remove to a bowl and fold in most of the parmesan cheese, keeping a little for sprinkling. If you cannot pick wild garlic or watercress, use 4oz of baby spinach.

To cook the pasta, bring 8 pints of water to a fast rolling boil and add 2 teaspoon of salt. I have chosen brown rice pasta because it is delicious, highly nutritious and gluten-free. This dish could equally be made with other wholegrain pastas (high in B vitamins for energy) such as quinoa or buckwheat, which are also gluten-free, or whole wheat or wholegrain spelt pasta. They take a bit longer to cook than white pasta. Follow the cooking directions on the packet.

Place the brown rice tagliatelle in the vigorously boiling water and stir immediately to separate the strands. The pasta will take 6-8 minutes to cook. While the pasta is cooking, heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the salmon cubes and season with salt and pepper. Cook over a low to medium heat until the salmon is cooked through.

When the pasta is cooked, leaving a slight bite (“al dente”), drain it, reserving some of the pasta cooking water. Rinse the pasta under hot water to remove excess starch. Mix 4 tablespoons of the pasta water into the pesto to thin it out (this allows you to use less oil when making the pesto). Place the pasta in a large warm bowl and coat evenly with the pesto. Finally add the cooked salmon cubes and the uncooked baby spinach leaves. Toss gently without breaking up the salmon. Sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts, grated parmesan and wild garlic flowers on top. Voilá, you have a delicious, highly nutritious, energy-giving meal. Bon appetite.


Debbie’s Energising, Revitalising Homemade Herbal Teas

Grow some herbs and try making your own fresh herbal teas to energise and revitalise your body and mind. They are easy to make and less expensive than herbal teabags.

To make rosemary or mint or lemon balm tea:


Place 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary or 4 large sprigs of fresh lemon balm or 4 large sprigs of fresh mint in a small flask and cover in 400ml boiling water (this is enough for two cups of tea) Put the lid on the flask and allow to infuse for 10 minutes. I like to use a flask to keep the teas hot while they are infusing, but you can also use a teapot and tea cosy. Pour and enjoy.

Rosemary Tea

Stimulates circulation, releases energy

Improves memory

Lifts the spirits

Lemon Balm TeaInvigorates the body,

Relieves stress/anxiety,

Settles the stomach

Mint Tea

Refreshes body and mind

Aids digestion

Aids memory

Mild aphrodisiac




Cinnamon Tea
To make cinnamon tea, break 1 large cinnamon stick in half. Add the cinnamon pieces to a flask and cover with 400mls boiling water. Put on the lid and infuse for 10 minutes. Sometimes I also pop a star anise in as well. Serve with a teaspoon of Manuka honey and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.


Balances blood sugar and relieves sweet cravings

Warms the body

Lifts the spirits

Helps lower cholesterol


Root Ginger and Fresh Lemongrass Tea



To prepare the tea, slice a 1 inch piece of fresh unpeeled root ginger and bruise a stalk of fresh lemongrass with a rolling pin. Place the ginger pieces and lemon grass in a flask and cover with 400mls boiling water. Cover with the lid and allow to infuse for 20 minutes. Pour and enjoy.


Energises the body

Stimulates circulation

Aids digestion, relieves headaches and nausea





Debbie’s Eat for Energy Tips

Where do we get our Energy from?

We get our energy from what we eat and our bodies convert it into useable fuel. Here comes the science bit. In every cell in your body there is a little “power house” called the Mitochondria, which makes your energy. In order for this power house to function well it needs key vitamins and minerals, from food.

Introducing the high energy vitamins: B vitamins (B1-B3, B5, B6), EFA’s (essential fatty acids), iron, magnesium and vitamin C.

For B-Vitamins Eat More

– wholegrains (wholewheat, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, wholegrain spelt), wheat germ, bran, brewers yeast, dried & sprouted beans, nuts & seeds (walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds), eggs, fish, game, asparagus, avocados, broccoli & carrots. B vitamins also help us distress. 

For EFA’s Eat More

– fresh oily fish such as salmon, herrings, sardines, trout and seabass; flaxseeds, nuts and seeds, nut and vegetables oils. EFA’s are also essential for good brain function and promote serotonin production. Serotonin is the brain’s “happy” chemical.

For Magnesium Eat More – leafy green vegetables including spinach and watercress; wheatgerm & bran, brewers yeast, walnuts, almonds, cashews, soyabeans and seafood. Magnesium is also essential for heart health and restful sleep. For Vitamin C Eat More

– fresh fruits and vegetables, in particular kiwis, blackcurrants, strawberries, green vegetables (including watercress & broccoli) and sweet peppers. Vitamin C is also essential for immune health, dental health and helps relieve hay fever (it is a natural anti-histamine). For Iron Eat More

– green leafy vegetables (including spinach & nettles), parsley, avocados, kelp, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pine nuts. Hottips

Join Debbie Shaw on her “Feel Good Food Course” on Saturday, July 3rd, 2010 at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and learn how to cook more delicious recipes to energise your life. Her recipes are inspired by the fresh, healthy flavours of the Mediterranean, Asia and the Middle East, and will include superfood salads, fabulous fish, family favourites and tasty treats. Book online or phone 021 4646785. 

Gorta Soup for Life

Help make hunger history by gathering friends and colleagues for a fun get together over a cup, bowl or pot of soup (or any other meal that takes your fancy!) and making a contribution to gorta’s work aimed at eliminating hunger and malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa.  


Mustard Seed Limerick Celebrates their 25th Anniversary this year

Dan Mullane’s

The Mustard Seed opened its doors in a cottage in the centre of Adare village 25 years ago. From small beginnings with 5 staff members, a basic herb garden and lots of good will, the Mustard Seed has grown to a four star country house that was awarded the Georgina Campbell Country House of the Year 2008. It’s worth taking a trip just to try head chef David Rice’s pan fried turbot with potato fennel salad, charred asparagus and rocket aioli, it’s really really good. To book 06968508 –


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