ArchiveSeptember 22, 2012

Investing in Healthy Eating

Something needs to be done about what’s happening to our food. The number of people who have food intolerances or full blown allergies is nothing short of alarming. Those in the food business now, see the ‘free from’ market as the fastest growing opportunities and this is not niche more main stream. A list of food allergies were recently sent to restaurant owners to look out for by the FSAI (Food Safety Authority of Ireland)

What research is being done into the cause of this escalating problem? Several times a week I get requests for gluten free, for diary free and egg free recipes.

People are in desperation, a growing number of people have not one but multiple allergies, it’s like as if the ‘cocktail’ effect of eating a variety of additives, preservatives and colourings plus a ton of other strange stabilizers and enzymes over a number of years has suddenly kicked in.
I don’t know the answer but this I do know, fresh naturally produced local food in season is much less likely to cause problems. Follow Michael Pollan’s advice ‘Avoid food containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry’ ‘Avoid foods that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients’ ‘Avoid foods that contain more than five ingredients’ ‘Buy your snacks at the Farmers Market’ and  ‘Eat only foods cooked by humans’

And steer well clear of anything that makes health claims, you’ll find it rarely delivers. Buy fresh, of course there are exceptions and eat soon. I personally avoid food with sell by dates and best before dates as much as possible that eliminates most processed food and a ton of packaging. If you are fortunate enough to have a good country or farmers market near you, patronise them, it’s a myth that farmers markets are more expensive – check it out for yourself, plus you’ll often actually meet the farmers or food producers. Invest in a chicken coop – get a few hens – move them around your lawn, they’ll eat the food scraps from the house and at least you’ll know how and where your eggs come from. A growing number of people can’t eat eggs – it’s definitely time to examine our conscience – the cost of cheap food is too high in health terms and socio economic terms.

Irish people on average now spend 7 per cent of their income on food – how much do we spend on medicine?

Debbie Shaw, a teacher at Ballymaloe Cookery School and Naturopathic Nutritionist has shared some of her recipes using spelt flour with us. She will teach a cookery course Feel Good Food for Winter in October (see Hot Tips)


Debbie Shaw’s Wholemeal Brown Spelt Health Loaf


This little loaf packs a powerful energy-giving punch. It is full of B vitamins and, essential fats, with oats for slow release energy and oat bran for lowering cholesterol. Nutritious and delicious, this bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted.


Makes 1 loaf


400g (14oz) stone ground brown spelt flour

75g (3oz) white spelt flour, preferably unbleached

1 teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda, sieved (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)

1 egg, preferably free range

1 tablespoon oat bran

2 tablespoons oats

1 tablespoon sunflower oil, unscented

1 teaspoon honey

425ml (15fl ozs) buttermilk
2 tablespoons Linnwoods mixed ground seeds
2 tablespoons of mixed pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds for the top


Loaf tin 23×12.5x5cm (9x5x2in)


Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6.


Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bread soda into a large bowl, mix well. Whisk the egg, add the oil and honey and most of the buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid, mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy, pour into an oiled tin. Sprinkle the mixed seeds on top. Bake for 60 minutes approximately or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.


Debbie Shaw’s Banana Bread

This is a lovely, moist loaf and a great way to use up over-ripe bananas, especially at this time of the year.


Vitality Statistics: Bananas are a great source of potassium and energy booster. They are however very high in natural sugar and are best eaten as a snack accompanied by a few seeds or 3-4 nuts to slow the sugar release.Cinnamon is a natural blood sugar balancer, excellent in helping to combat sugar cravings.


Serves 10-12


110g (4oz) white spelt flour
110g (4oz) brown spelt flour (Ballybrado)
1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice
1 teaspoon of salt
75g (3oz) Billington’s unrefined caster sugar
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 large egg, beaten
75ml (3fl oz) of sunflower oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
65g (2 1/2oz) pecan nuts or walnuts, chopped
4 large ripe bananas, well mashed


Place the flour, salt, finely sieved baking powder and caster sugar into a large bowl. Lightly mix the egg, oil, vanilla and maple syrup together and add to the dry ingredient mixing very gently. Fold the pecan nuts and mashed bananas into t this mixture with a fork being careful not to over beat or mix. Place in a lined and oiled 900g (2lb) loaf tin and bake in the preheated oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 1 hour. Allow it to cool in the tin before turning out.

For a Sugar Free Version:
I have also made this bread very successfully omitting the 75g (3oz) of caster sugar and ensuring that the bananas are very, very ripe and it is very tasty.

Debbie Shaw’s Spiced Pear and Ginger Crumble with Pecan Nut Topping

Because of their grainy texture and high pectin content pears are a natural diuretic and help de-toxify the body. They are also high in iodine, which helps to promote good thyroid function. Ginger is a super immune booster with potent expectorant and anti-septic properties. In addition its active compound “gingerol” helps fight cancer, improves circulation and soothes a nauseous stomach. It is a power-packed pharmacy all of its own. Ginger and pears are a match made in heaven!

Serves 6-8

8 large ripe pears, peeled and cored and cut into 1” slices lengthwise
1 scant tablespoon of dark brown Muscavado sugar
1 tablespoon of finely grated, peeled fresh root ginger
finely grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon

For the Crumble Topping

3oz (75g) white spelt flour
2oz (50g) of oats
1 heaped tablespoon of dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
25g (1oz) of cold butter
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped pecan nuts


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

First make the crumble topping. Place the flour in a bowl and rub in the cold butter and the coconut oil. Add the sugar, cinnamon, whole oats, maple syrup and chopped pecans, mix and chill.

Place the sliced pears tossed with the brown sugar, grated ginger, lemon zest and lemon juice into an oven proof dish and sprinkle with the crumble topping loosely. Bake the crumble in the preheated oven until the topping is toasted and the pears are tender, 20-30 minutes.


Debbie Shaw’s Cinnamon and Buckwheat Buttermilk Pancakes with Noel’s Toffee Bananas


Cinnamon not only smells and tastes wonderful, it is also a great natural blood sugar balancer. Buckwheat, despite its name is gluten-free. It is not strictly a grain but the seed from a plant related to the Dock family. It is an excellent source of protein and fibre and high in rutin, which promotes circulation in the body. These pancakes are lovely for breakfast but also make a quick and tasty dessert with the chocolate drops and toffee bananas, adding extra decadence.


Makes 8-10 pancakes

100g (3 1/2oz) buckwheat flour
125g (4 1/2oz) organic white spelt flour
2 small free-range organic eggs
2 generous teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1 generous tablespoon of unrefined caster sugar or honey
1 1/2level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
175mls (6floz) of buttermilk
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil for cooking
Maple syrup for drizzling over the pancakes (optional)
2 tablespoons of chocolate drops (for special treats or desserts)

Sieve the flours and baking soda and place them in a bowl with the ground cinnamon, the caster sugar and the salt. Make a well in the centre and add the beaten eggs (whisk the honey into the eggs if using instead of sugar). Whisking continuously, add the buttermilk a little at a time, ensuring you whisk out the lumps before adding more buttermilk. The batter should not be runny.


Heat a non-stick frying pan and when it is hot add 1/2 tablespoon of sunflower oil and drop 1 tablespoon of the batter for each pancake into the hot pan. When bubbles appear on one side flip to the other side. Before flipping the pancakes you can plant a few chocolate drops in each one, flip and cook. Serve with fresh mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) and natural yoghurt and drizzle with a little maple syrup or serve the pancakes with Noel’s Toffee Bananas.


Noel’s Toffee Bananas


Serves 5

4 ripe bananas
2 tablespoons of honey
2 teaspoons of soft brown sugar
juice of 2 oranges
a few knobs of butter


My Dad used to make these for my sister and I when we were kids (when we were good!) and they are yum. Juice the orange. Peel the bananas and cut them in half lengthwise and then in quarters on an angle. Heat a non-stick frying pan and place the bananas flat side down in the pan. Allow the bananas to caramelise on one side and turn over. Add the knob of butter, the honey and the fresh orange juice and allow to reduce and thicken. Serve hot with the pancakes and a dollop of natural probiotic yoghurt. Serve the pancakes with the bananas and some low fat natural yoghurt. Drizzle with a little maple syrup.


Look out for Michelle and Philip Mansuy’s Bakery stall at Midleton Farmers Market and Glan Gluten at Mahon Point Farmers Market – 0862339519 – both sell superb gluten free food that any cook would be proud to serve. and

Two courses at Ballymaloe Cookery School

Debbie Shaw will teach a one day Feel Good Food for Winter course at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday 13th October 2012 from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Debbie has worked as a chef at Ballymaloe House and as a teacher and cookery demonstrator at the Ballymaloe Cookery School for the past 10 years. She qualified as a Naturopathic Nutritionist in 2010. She’ll teach you how to cook delicious recipes using fresh, healthy ingredients to help build up good strong immunity for the winter and will show you that whole, natural foods have the power to heal and bring vitality, happiness, and well-being.

Gluten Free Cooking with Rosemary Kearney Saturday 6th October 2012
2:00pm to 5:00pm. Rosemary has been a coeliac – and a food lover – all her life and has a keen understanding of the challenges coeliacs face.  In this course a wide range of brand new and exciting gluten-free recipes will be demonstrated promising to tantalize the taste buds of coeliacs and non-coeliacs alike.  – To book both courses phone 021 4646785 or

Slow Food Event at the Ballymaloe Cookery School – Frank Murphy second generation local butcher from Midleton will give a talk on the forgotten cuts of beef, breed and feed, hanging times on Thursday September 27th at 7pm. Proceeds to support the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project. Booking Essential to 021 4646785 or



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