Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten
australiaphen375.com

Berries – The Superboosters


The song says: 'if there’s anything you like you can be certain that it's illegal, it's immoral or it makes you fat.'

So, isn't it great that there's one group of foods which are so delicious that they're everybody's favourite and they don't make you fat; that's all the berries.

They simply burst with vitamin C, beta-carotene and the most extraordinary protective and healing chemicals. Blueberries protect your eyesight; cranberries prevent and treat urinary infections; strawberries relieve the pain of gout. They all help protect against the degenerative diseases like heart disease and many forms of cancer and whether you're 8 or 80 you need to be eating berries as often as possible.

Berries have always been part of the food and medicinal armoury of native peoples, though in some cultures, these traditions have not been passed on. Consequently it's been the work of modern nutritionists, dieticians and ethno botanists to unravel some of the secrets. Native Americans knew all about cranberries and introduced them to the earliest English settlers, and that's what saved them from dying out within the first few winters. Tribesmen and medicine men in Africa and South America used varieties of berries for food and health. They ate them, squeezed them, used them as poultices and even made body paints out of them.

Berries can be used in many different ways and although the French laugh at our customs of eating jam with meat, mixing berries with savoury dishes complements the body building bricks of protein with the disease-fighting and life-lengthening benefits of these super-protective foods.

Some of the most up to date research by scientists at the US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Centre on Ageing has produced a league table of Superfoods based on their ability to protect the body from damage. Berries account for five of the top 10 foods. These are the facts, here are the recipes so get eating, you've got no excuse.

Roast Duck with Berries
Serves four

Cold duck is delicious for summer parties in the garden - fingers crossed – for picnics and buffets.

Here it's teamed with a wonderfully tart sauce which complements its rich but sometimes fatty flavour - see my cooking Tip to make sure yours ends up crisp.

All you need to add to this dish is a bowl of cold new potatoes and mixed salad.

1 crispy roast duck, cold
175g/ 6oz mixed cranberries, blueberries, raspberries,
a little water
1 tbsp honey
2 cloves
pinch of ground cinnamon
2 white cardamom pods
pinch of Chinese 5 spice
glass of port
knob of butter
juniper berries

Put berries, honey and spices in water on a gentle heat. Bring very slowly to the boil stirring all the time.

Add port. When all mushed down push through a sieve with a wooden spoon to remove bits.

Return sauce to the heat. Add knob of butter to glaze, then add juniper berries and some fresh berries and leave to cool.

COOKING TIP
My wife is the real duck expert in our house and she says it can often be rather greasy.

But one way to remove the fat and ensure you get lovely crisp skin and succulent but not fatty flesh, is to cook it on a trivet in a roasting pan with about 1cm/half an inch of water in the bottom.

Thoroughly wash and clean the bird inside and out, removing any obvious fat from within the cavity. Rub the surface with coarse sea salt, cover the bird with foil so that it effectively steams for the first half an hour of cooking in a medium oven.

Pour off the fat and water from the pan, return to the oven without the foil until cooked and crisp. This method works equally well with goose but watch out because there’s so much fat you need to empty the pan at regular intervals.

Berry Quiche with Feta cheese & Yoghurt

Yet another super treat which is delicious and good for you at the same time. With masses of calcium from the feta and yoghurt, with vitamins and all the protective antioxidants from blueberries and raspberries, this is SO simple and yet it looks like a serious pastry cook has been in your kitchen.

You can cheat and buy readymade flan cases, you can start from scratch and make the pastry yourself or you can use readymade pastry which, to be honest, saves a great deal of time and effort and tastes better than many people can make themselves.

You can make one large quiche if you like but I always think that individual ones are no more work and look so much nicer.

To make two:

200g feta cheese
500g 0% fat Greek yoghurt
2 medium eggs
1 tbsp double cream
2 sprigs fresh mint leaves
1 tsp fresh thyme – lemon thyme if possible (see fresh tip)
4 fresh basil leaves
freshly ground black pepper
1 defrosted pack frozen short crust pastry
2 small punnets raspberries
2 small punnets blueberries

Grease two 8" fluted quiche tins with removable bottoms. Roll out pastry leaving it a bit thicker than you would normally. Cutting it about 1" larger than the tins, press it into the tins, working it round the circumference with your fingers. Brush with a little milk, cover with foil and bake in a medium oven until done – about 20 minutes.

In the mean time put all the other ingredients into a blender and whiz together into a nice thick, creamy paste. Fill each case with the mixture, replace the foil and return to the oven for 20 minutes.

Remove foil, add the fruit in circles and continue cooking till the mixture sets and begins to brown. Finish under a hot grill for a minute or two and enjoy.

MICHAEL'S TIP – You may not find lemon thyme in your local supermarket but you'll certainly find it at the garden centre, so why not buy a couple together with a pineapple sage and one or two of the unusual mints, like apple mint, and start your own little herb garden.

 

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