One of Your Five a Day


‘Eat Five a Day’, is the super catchy phrase started out as a health marketing slogan in the US in the 1980’s. 

It’s unquestionably a good idea to include lots of fresh vegetables and fruit in our diet, but in practice there’s huge confusion and considerable manipulation about what constitutes ‘one of your five a day’.

It’s certainly been a boom to food manufacturers who have used it to promote their products with phrases like ‘counts towards your five a day’ but for this column, I dug deeper to try to find the source of this nutritional recommendation/advice.

Is it fact or myth? I have to say, I’m more confused than ever. Lots of phrases like ‘recommended by’, ‘studies show’….And what kind of fruit and veg? Surely, we should be encouraged to eat fresh organic vegetables and fruit in season, and surely it should be chemical-free and organic rather than loaded with residue of the chemical pesticides used in growing to produce unrealistically cheap fruit.

Strawberries, for example are one of the most heavily sprayed fruits, raspberries too, peaches, apples, cherries, grapes, particularly imported ones. Vegetables too – potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, celery. Pretty much everything that’s intensively produced and non-organic will have had a cocktail of sprays to inhibit pests and diseases. This information does not have to be on the label.

Not sure about you, but I can distinctly taste the chemicals in many fruits and vegetables. If you are in doubt, look up the Department of Agriculture websites.

So, how do you avoid this? Well, seek out organic fruit or vegetables. Have a conversation and try to buy directly from a small grower at your local farmer’s market. Best of all, try to grow some of your own, you’re unlikely to spray the produce your family plan to eat.

We are super fortunate here in Ireland to have one of the best growing climates in the entire world (Well OK, this year was an exception, at least we hope it was an exception!).

Invest in real nourishing, wholesome food, don’t be conned into imagining that you are doing the best thing by buying some of the well-known brands of fruit juices and smoothies with added sugar and preservatives. Let’s pay the farmers a fair price for their produce to keep us healthy, it doesn’t have to break the budget.

Enjoy lovely fresh, super nourishing and inexpensive cabbage –

how about these cabbage salads and I’ve also included a delicious old-fashioned gooseberry pudding, everyone will fight for the last morsel…

Summer Cabbage Salad with Satay Sauce

Any leftover dressing will keep for several days in the fridge, delicious drizzled over a pan-grilled chicken breast.

Serves 6

summer cabbage, 650g approx.

2 red peppers, 400g approx.

a bunch of spring onions

2 ripe mangoes, 400g approx.

½ a cucumber, 175g approx.

freshly squeezed juice and zest of 2 limes

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and maybe a little sugar

Satay Dressing

Makes 250ml

110g peanut butter (we use Meridian brand)

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

½ tsp fresh turmeric powder

½ tsp Tabasco

2 tsp toasted sesame oil

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp runny honey

freshly squeezed juice of ½ lemon

110ml coconut milk (we use Thai Gold brand)

lots of fresh mint leaves

a handful of toasted salted peanuts, 400g approx.

First make the dressing.

Put all the ingredients into a food processor or blender, pulse until smooth.  Cover and allow to stand for 30 minutes at room temperature to allow the flavours to blend. (Add a little more coconut milk if it’s too thick).

Quarter the cabbage, remove the core and thinly slice crosswise. Toss into a large bowl.

Seed the peppers, dice the flesh into 7mm-10mm and add to the cabbage with the sliced white and green parts of the spring onions.

Peel the ripe mango, slice off the chunks and dice into 7mm cubes. Cut the cucumber into quarters lengthwise and then into 7mm slices at an angle.

Add both to the bowl with the lime zest. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Best served immediately, otherwise, cover and refrigerate.

Just before serving, sprinkle on most of the dressing and the juice of 1 lime, toss gently but thoroughly. Taste, add more dressing and lime juice and adjust the seasoning adding a little sugar if necessary.

Turn into a wide salad bowl, add lots of fresh mint leaves and crunchy peanuts.

Cabbage, Pineapple and Onion Salad

A simple but really tasty salad. Save the juice for a cocktail or for glazing bacon.  It is quite delicious with meat, particularly cooked ham, bacon or pork. 

Serves 6

½ small Savoy Cabbage, 350g approx.

½ tin pineapple (120g)

1 small onion (75g) very finely sliced into onion rings or 4-5 spring onion, sliced at an angle (use the green as well as the white part)

3 tbsp finely chopped parsley

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

French Dressing

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp white wine vinegar, we use Forum

a clove of garlic, crushed

¼ tsp Dijon mustard

salt and freshly ground pepper

First make the dressing.

Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well to combine.

Cut the cabbage into quarters, cut out the hard core and slice into very thin shreds across the grain.  Put into a salad bowl.  Cut the pineapple into chunks and add to the cabbage with the very finely sliced onion rings and 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley.  Toss in French dressing, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.  Sprinkle the rest of the parsley on top. 

Serve with cold ham or bacon. 

Gooseberry and Elderflower Pudding

This recipe brings back nostalgic memories for many of us, and it is certainly one that has stood the test of time. I remember it as an important part of the pudding repertoire of my childhood, and so will my children and grandchildren. Here you use the basic Madeira mixture for the topping and add fruit – whatever you please, depending on the season: green gooseberries, cooking apples, rhubarb, pears, damsons, raspberries. Blackcurrants are also gorgeous, as is a mixture of blackberry and apples or rhubarb and strawberries.

Serves 4-6


700g (1 ½lb) gooseberries

4 elderflower heads

about 275-300g sugar, depending on the ripeness of the gooseberries

For the Topping

50g butter

50g sugar

1 organic egg, beaten

75g (3oz) self-raising flour

1-2 tbsp milk


Caster sugar

crystallised elderflowers if available

900ml pie dish

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Top and tail the gooseberries and put them in a heavy saucepan with 50ml water, elderflowers and sugar. Cover the pan and stew the gooseberries gently until just soft but not burst. Remove the elderflowers. Spoon into a buttered pie dish with a slotted spoon, reserve any excess liquid for a sauce. Allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, using a handheld beater, cream the butter until soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg by degrees and beat well until completely incorporated. Sieve the self-raising flour and fold into the butter and egg mixture. Add about 2 tablespoons milk or enough to bring the mixture to a dropping consistency. Spread this mixture gently and as evenly as possible over the gooseberries.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponge topping is firm to the touch in the centre. Sprinkle with about a tablespoon of caster sugar and decorate with crystallised elderflowers.

Serve warm with homemade custard or lightly whipped cream.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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