It all starts with A
Apples, avocado, aubergine. All the good stuff.
Apples are a great addition to everyone's diet. As the old saying goes; 'an apple a-day keeps the doctor away'.
They're amazing for gut health, naturally fat-free and help keep you fuller for longer.
Here are five food facts about apples as to why they should make their way in to everyone's fruit bowl.
1. Apples are high in soluble fibre.
Apples are high in soluble fibre which helps to lower cholesterol. They also help to keep your blood sugar levels stable and keep your bowels regular.
2. Apples contain vitamin C
Apples are a very good source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is necessary for the growth, development and repair of all body tissues. It is involved in many body functions, including helping our immune system to work well, heal wounds and the maintenance of healthy cartilage, teeth and bones.
3. Apples could help to fight cancer
Apples are high in cancer fighting antioxidants. However most of these antioxidants are mainly in the peel - so make sure you eat the apple skin as well as the flesh!
4. Apples are grown in the UK
Apples are grown in great quantities in the UK and have been grown here for centuries.
They are at their best from September through to February.
There are many grown varieties here - including apples for eating, cooking and making cidre.
The common eating apple varieties grown in the UK are: Royal Gala, Braeburn, Jazz, Cox, Russet as well as a few more varieties.
So if you can eat them when in season - I'd always recommend it! as they have lower food miles and should taste a lot better!! See if you can taste the difference.
5. Apple juice can count towards only ONE of your 5-a-day
No matter how much apple juice you drink - only a 150ml glass of unsweetened apple juice will count towards your 5-a-day. So it will only ever count as one portion - even if you drink litres and litres.
You're better off eating the whole apple as that also have the important nutritional benefits from the dietary fibre which are missing in the juice!
How to: Store Apples
Apples are a great fruit when it comes to shelf life - as they can last for weeks if stored correctly.
Keeping them in the fridge will help them stay fresh - but you can also keep them in a cool dark place if you want them to last a while - a larder or cellar are perfect! But as many of us are not lucky enough to have one of those - the fridge is probably a better option!
Food Hack: How to stop apples from turning brown once cut
Apples turn brown once they have been cut because they are exposed to the air which allows oxygen to get to the cut surface. This is what causes the brown colour. However browning doesn't mean you can't eat the apple. It's simply that it's been exposed to oxygen so you don't need to cut the brown off or throw it away!
Sometimes, however this can be unsightly when cooking so to stop discolouration, you can add a fruit juice to the apples (if for instance you are making a fruit salad this is a great option. However if you are just using apples - you can just squeeze some lemon juice over them if you have peeled or cut them to stop them from discolouring.
Quick Eats: Pomme Puree
What I class as the ultimate comfort food - warm, cooked down apples, mixed in with thick Greek yoghurt or vanilla ice cream, depending on how decadent you want to be.
Pomme puree - is simply a puree of apples. However - I don't often even blitz it to make it smooth. I leave it what I call 'rustic'.
It's also a great way to use up old apples which have probably seen better days.
Peel them, chop them up. Pop them in a pan with a very small amount of water and a sprinkling of sugar if you like things a little sweeter, or no sugar is how I like to do it. Then pop a lid on.
Gently simmer away until they fall apart and become mushy. The longer you cook them the mushier they will become. I like to cook them so that some pieces still have a little bit of bite to them.
They don't take long to cook - so keep having a look and giving them a little stir to make sure the heat is equally spread through the apples.
Use this warm on ice cream. Or add to yoghurt or top your porridge with it for a yummy breakfast. You can even eat it on its own if you're feeling naughty with a little drizzle of dark chocolate over the top.
Delicious and nutritious.
The deliciously creamy, nutritious fruit - that can be added to smoothies, salads, eaten on its own or smashed and spread generously on toast.
Here are five food facts about this tasty fruit:
1. Avocados are high in potassium
Avocados are high in potassium and actually contain more potassium than bananas. We are often lacking potassium in our diets but it is an important mineral because it helps to support healthy blood pressure levels.
2. Avocados can help to lower cholesterol
Heart disease is a huge killer of people worldwide. High cholesterol levels are a contributing factor to increasing the risk of heart disease. Avocados can help to reduce total cholesterol levels.
3. Avocados are low in saturated fats
Don't be under the illusion that these nutritious foods are low fat! They are not. However the fats that they do contain are good fats and are 'healthy-heart' fats.
4. Avocados go with lots of food
Avocados are a great nutritious addition to both sweet and savoury recipes. They are very versatile and can be scooped out and eaten on their own (a great thing to do is to cut an avocado in half, remove the stone then add a yummy garlic, balsamic dressing in to the hole left by the stone.)
You can blitz them in to a guacamole or just smash them and spread them on toast and sprinkle with feta! They can even go in to brownies. Lots of fun possibilities to play with!
5. Avocados are loaded with antioxidants
Avocados can help protect your eye health as they contain high levels of antioxidants which are important for good eye health.
How to: Peel an avocado
Avocados can be messy or mushy to peel. So there are a couple of easy ways to peel them depending on which variety you are eating.
Here are my top tips to peeling them.
1. If you are eating an avocado with a thick, bumpy skin (quite often the ones you find especially in the supermarkets, and the ones pictured here. These are known as hass avocados.)
For hass avocados the easiest way to peel them when ripe, is to half, then take a pudding or serving spoon and scoop the entire half out of the skin. It should come out all in one go - you can then slice however you like when it is out.
Florida avocados (pictured here) have a smoother, bright green appearance - and often have a much thinner skin. These can be much harder to peel when not ripe, however, when ripe, you can often remove the skin by simply peeling it off.
It's a good gauge as to whether or not the avocado is ripe.
Both varieties when ripe will also just squeeze out of their skin.
Food Hack: How to tell if an avocado is ripe
There is a really easy trick to tell if an avocado is ripe. Where its hung from the tree - there is often a little 'cap' left in. Sometime this does fall off. However, if you can look to choose an avocado with the 'cap' still intact. You will know when it's ripe when it is green or yellow underneath the cap.
If the avo has been left too long, and under the cap has gone brown, it will likely be brown inside.
And if the cap doesn't want to come out of its little hole, it is likely that it is not ready inside.
This is a really simple, but pretty accurate way to tell whether or not your avocado is ripe and ready to eat, overripe or not quite there yet.
Quick Eats: Smashed avo on toast
Smashed avocado on toast is one of the most delicious and a highly nutritious and simple meals you can make when short of time.
Packed full of 'good' fats. You can pair it with poached or fried eggs, bacon, or simply nuts and seeds and have it by itself.
How to make:
Take a ripe avocado, scoop out flesh in to a dish and discard the stone and skin.
Very finely chop a very small amount of onion - about a 1/4 of a small onion (red I prefer to white)
Optional add ins:
chilli flakes, a crumbly, salty cheese like feta or similar, a few cherry tomatoes chopped up. These all make great additions - either individually - or all combined (which is my preference)
Add a squeeze of lime or lemon juice a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and mash all together.
You might want to add a little more lime/lemon juice for preference or even a little more salt and pepper depending on how you like it.
Load on to buttered toast and enjoy.
As I mentioned you can add eggs and/or streaky bacon if it takes your fancy - or some more crumbled up cheese, or toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds or maybe some crushed walnuts too!
What I believe to be a completely underrated vegetable! It's packed full of goodness, low calorie and a great addition to any dish - as it goes with so many flavours!
Here are five food facts about aubergines to see why you should incorporate this totally delicious food in to your mealtimes!
1. Aubergines are high in dietary fibre
Aubergines are high in dietary fibre which helps to lower cholesterol, keep blood sugar level stable and keep your gut movements regular.
2. Aubergines are rich in minerals and vitamins
Aubergines are rich in vitamins and minerals such as potassium which has many positive benefits for our bodies (moving nutrients in to cells and waste out of our cells for one), vitamin B-6 and vitamin C which are both beneficial for heart health (as is potassium)
Vitamin B-6 also helps to keep our immune system and nervous system healthy.
3. Aubergines help to boost memory
Rich in antioxidants, particularly nasunin (that's what gives it the deep rich, purple colour in the skin). Nasunin can help to improve memory.
4. Aubergines are low in calories
Aubergines are a great addition to anyone's diet who is looking to reduce their calorie intake. They are a great source of food for anyone who is at risk of diabetes or managing weight concerns. Low calorie and high in nutrients.
5. Aubergines can be used in lots of ways
Aubergines are a great vegetable and ingredient in general to cook with as they can be used in so many different ways and in so many different recipes.
They can be baked, roasted, boiled, grilled, stuffed, sauteed; pretty much cooked in any which way - added to stews, eaten on their own, be the star of the show or blend in to the background. Dips, sides, you can use an aubergine to create pretty much anything.
Any time you want to bulk out a curry, or a bolognaise or similar, use aubergine to do this. It's relatively inconspicuous flavour allows it to take on the flavour of the food its being cooked with.
How to: Choose an aubergine to buy
When buying aubergines, depending on which variety you are buying, if its the common ones you often find, make sure the skin is dark purple. Not pale.
Ensure there are no skin blemishes which show the aubergine might have been bruised etc.
Also make sure that the skin is smooth and shiny.
Aubergines should be firm to the touch (but not hard as this shows they were picked under-ripe) and feel heavy for its size.
The stem at the top should be green.
Food Hack: Aubergines turning brown when cut
It might not look appetising but don't worry. Aubergines often go brown when cut. But don't worry. This is normal and doesn't mean that they cant be eaten. In fact, the quicker they go brown, the more antioxidants they have in them! It's just them oxidising when they are exposed to air!
Quick Eats: Miso & Honey Roasted Aubergine
This is a super simple and very tasty supper that you can pop together with a salad and some grains like tabbouleh, or buckwheat or quinoa and a good dollop of hummus. Or simple, devour it on its own.
Sweet, sticky, meaty flesh from the aubergine makes a super yummy and simple, quick dish for any lunch or supper.
White miso paste
Spring onions to finish
Cut your aubergine in half. Score the flesh in a criss-cross pattern.
Take a bowl and mix in a dollop of miso and a dollop of honey (you want more miso than honey.)
Add a little warm water so that it helps to mix the honey and miso together and makes it runny.
Marinade the aubergine in the mixture by covering the cut and criss-crossed surface.
Put the oven to 200oC.
Ideally let the aubergine marinade for about 30 mins if possible, then wrap in greaseproof and twist the ends to make a parcel and cook until soft and gooey - you might want to turn the oven down to 180oC if it starts to become too dark and caramelised (because of the honey, it can burn quite quickly).
Serve just as it is or scatter some sliced spring onion on drizzle with a little sesame oil and scatter with sesame seeds.
A wholesome, quick, tasty and easy dish to make.
Quick Eats: Aubergine Add-In & Roasted Aubergine with Yoghurt
Because aubergine is such a meaty type vegetable, it can make a great meat substitute and is a lot cheaper too. Because of it's many nutritional benefits and it's low calorie value, it's a great vegetable to add to any meal.
As a result, when cooking almost any stew, veggie or meat, bolognaise, a great way to add extra nutrients, get another of your five a-day-in without it being obvious (if you're cooking for those who don't like veggies!) and bulk out a meal without adding extra cost, you can cut the aubergine in to small pieces, and gentle sauté (cook in the pan with a little oil - make sure the heat isn't too high!) before adding in to any dish with mince or chunks of meat, or veggies. It's also a great way to add extra fibre in to a dish.
Roasted Aubergine with Spiced Yoghurt
A great way to make a simple supper when you're short of time and uninspired is to cut an aubergine in half, and drizzle with some salt, pepper and a little oil (ideally coldpressed rapeseed or normal olive oil (not extra virgin), wrap in foil and roast in the oven until soft and mushy 40 mins or so at 200oC (keep checking to make sure it's not burning - and if it is browning too much, turn down to 180oC).
Once cooked - remove from oven, take some plain yoghurt and if you have it some harissa paste, or if you have some, some herbs like parsley, mix in a bowl, add some salt and pepper and top your aubergine. Delicious served with tomatoes and even a sprinkling of feta cheese or a crumbly salty cheese that is similar.