Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Nothing fishy about a fish diet

We all know that fish is good for us. There is a growing body of evidence which clearly indicates that eating oily fish, such as mackerel, sardines or wild salmon has significant health benefits for our hearts as well as our brains. It seems it is all down to the omega 3 oil found in the fish. Fish oil lowers blood fat levels and dramatically reduces the risk of heart attacks. New evidence now indicates that increasing omega 3 in your diet can not only reduce the risk of a cognitive decline and memory loss generally but also cut your risk of getting Alzheimer's disease by 50 per cent. Swedish scientists have undertaken research which indicates that children on fish diets actually did better academically than those who rarely eat fish.

Omega-3s are a family of essential unsaturated fatty acids that include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The body can’t make them very efficiently, so we have to consume them in our diet.

According to Dr Ryan, author of The Brain Food Diet, omega-3s contained in fish oil, and its DHA component specifically, play a vital role in the structural integrity and function of our brains, with a lack of it increasing the risk of brain malfunction and disease.

What a great reason to include fish, specifically mackerel,salmon or sardines high up on your menu list. Here is a nice recipe to get you started:

Poached Salmon with Sorrel Sauce
2 lb (1k) piece salmon fillet
1/2 pint white wine
fresh ground black pepper, bay leaf

Put your piece of salmon into a pan, season with pepper, bay leaf and pour the wine over.

Add water to cover the salmon.

Bring up to the boil, cover the pan and turn off the heat - leave until the salmon is cold and it will be perfectly cooked.

If you want your salmon warm, then simmer for 5 minutes or so and allow to cool enough to handle and then divide into four portions.

Sorrel Sauce
1 small bunch of young sorrel leaves
5 fl oz cream or soured cream
ground black pepper
lemon juice to taste

Whizz the sorrel and cream together in a blender - season with pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Preventing Alzheimer's Disease

The simple solutions are often the most effective. If you keep to a healthy diet you are more than half way to maintaining a healthy body. Here are a few key ingredients to include in your balanced diet to ensure you keep healthy and reduce your chances of getting Alzheimer's disease.

Eat half a cup of various berries, raspberries,strawberries, blueberries, blackberries every day. They contain compounds which improve neuron function.

Eat low fat or fat free dairy products. Cut back on both fatty and processed meats.

Eat apples,or drink 2 cups of apple juice per day. It boosts the production of acetylcholine in the brain, a key resister to Alzheimer's.

Enjoy tea & coffee. Caffeine has been found to help prevent the onset of the disease as well as repair some of the damage it causes. 400-500mg of caffeine per day or around 5 cups of your favourate brew. Check with your doctor first though if you are pregnant or suffer from HBP before drinking caffeine.

Enjoy cocoa and chocolate which contains high flavanol content. This increases the blood supply to the brain and reduces cognitive decline.

Add cinnamon to your dish, 1 teaspoon per day as new research from Sweden indicates it may prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Try Alcar supplements (lipoic acid) one of the strongest antioxidant rejuvenators for the mature brain. Also found in yeast.

Avoid iron and copper supplements if you are over 50 unless recommended by a doctor.

Enjoy yellow curry or specifically turmeric. It contains curcumin a compound reputed to help against memory decline.

Enjoy a glass of wine every day. Keep within the unit health guidelines.

Include folic acid, proven to slow down memory decline, in your diet(if you have a medical problem check first with your doctor).

Enjoy walnuts and almonds (and their skins) in your diet. They are rich in antioxidants.

Eat fresh oily fish like salmon, sardines, herrings and tuna three times a week. The more fish you eat the less likely you are to get Alzheimers's disease.

Cut back on red meat and enjoy poultry.

Avoid sugar as it increases the production in the body of the toxin beta-amyloid which kills neurones.

Drink Tea and more Tea especially black or green tea without milk. They are packed with antioxidants and a powerful benefit for the mature brain.

Love vinegar (4 teaspoons per day) as it has been shown to reduce the risk factors related to memory loss including high blood sugar, insulin resistance, diabetes and weight gain.

Use olive oil (cold press if you can)as benefits against memory loss.

Enjoy your spinach as it is full of elements, minerals and antioxidants which benefit the brain as well as the body.

Take multivitamins - a low dose every day containing no iron is best for slowing down ageing in the brain.

Finally keep body and soul active in different ways such as brisk walking, cycling working in the garden,swimming, socialising, reading, conversing with neighbours and friends all of which will keep you young at heart.

Be happy - relish every moment of every day and enjoy it to the full. Remember you have already won the lottery just by being born!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Walking and cycling in Brittany

It's not just the food folks! Brittany has to be one of the best places in the world to go on a walking or cycling holiday. The countryside is unspoilt, the roads are relatively empty and drivers take great care for cyclists and pedestrians.There are over 800 km of dedicated off road cycle routes crossing the countryside with another 20000 km being scheduled. Old train lines and tracks take you through medieval villages and forests where you can really get away from it all. Only last month we stood in amazement and watched a family of wild boar cross our path! What a shame my camera was at home in the car!

Britons are exceedingly friendly folk especially if you try at first to speak a little French with them. After all that is only being polite. With so many French words in English, no one has any excuses! There are excellent facilities along the cycle routes and you can find plenty of interesting places to explore. As you will see from the map above, it does not matter where you start your trip as the routes are easy to access from any direction. We have a number of dedicated walks and cycle tours we recommend so no excuses to get lots of wonderful exercise and as we are a cooking school you get to eat exceedingly well too!
We are located right in the middle of Brittany close to route 8 on the main map above. If you are staying on one of our cooking courses, we can prepare a nice picnic for you too. Here is a link which shows you our little village of Kerrouet in more detail.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Even William the Conqueror was on a diet

When William the Conqueror reached his fortieth year on the throne, he became very concerned about his weight. Being overweight presented real problems for his riding skills and swordsmanship. For a king in the age of chivalry this was real disaster. Apparently his solution was to go on a very strict diet giving up food completely and drinking lots of wine instead! It is never an easy thing to refuse your King a drink! Anyway this was all very well until one day he was so inebriated that he fell from his horse and sadly died from the complications which set in later. He was only 59 years old.

Current guidelines say that the average working adult should consume no more than 720g of food per day and drink around 3 litres of water. The food ideally should consist predominantly of carbohydrates (530g), proteins (130g) and fats (60g). If William had been aware of this he might have lived a lot longer and his horse might have suffered a lot less!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

La Bonne Vie

We try to keep you fit and lean
With exercise and fine cuisine
Our chef will show you how to cook
Gourmet food without gobbledygook
With guided walks after lunch we stray
Where butterflies and birds do play
You don’t have to be a Queen
To dine well on French cuisine
So come to Brittany, make it your mission
Healthy nutrition is our ambition
Keeping fit the gourmet way
So you have la bonne vie every day!

Monday, 21 March 2011

You are what you eat.

It has often been said that you are what you eat. Not surprising this also includes what you drink or don't drink. Most of us don't drink enough water for example. What you do and don't do also applies to the amount of exercise you take. All three activities eating, drinking and exercising are major determinants in our lives impacting upon our health, our energy and our longivity. It has never been easier and cheaper to eat well and exercise. However look into most supermarket baskets or on the shelves and you will see food products which are not conducive to good health. This applies to France as well as the UK. Have you ever tried to buy decent bread in France? Those white baguettes should carry a health warning and to think that the dough is defined in French law!! Too much refined processed foods and too much sugar or fats dominate the scene and we have not even mentioned other nasties including additives, preservatives and artificial colouring.

The good news is that we don't need to get complicated. The secret to healthy eating is so simple. For a healthy and nutritious diet follow these four basic rules:

1. Eat more fruit and vegetables. These are packed with vitamins, fiber and antioxidants. Keep it organic.

2. Include whole grains. This includes whole-wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal and whole-grain pasta, provide more fiber and nutrients than refined grains such as white bread or white rice. Keep it organic.

3. Eat high-protein foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol and provide other nutrients as well. Buy fresh fish, poultry, beans, legumes, egg whites, tofu and other soy protein products. Keep it organic.

4. Avoid junk foods which are high in saturated fats and sugars and low nutrition value.

If you follow the four simple guidelines above you can still enjoy gourmet cuisine. Our cooking classes will show you how. But remember to drink plenty of water (before not after meals). Watch the alcohol intake and keep to the recommended units. Take regular exercise at least 30 minutes per day minimum. A brisk walk is good for both body and soul. Try to grow your own organic vegetables and herbs which will save you money and force you to keep fit! What could be easier?! Now you know the secrets of a long and healthy life.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Champagne Exercises

We met a lovely lady in Chelsea a few years ago who had just published her book with the intriguing title "Champagne Exercises". Lady Joan Oliphant-Fraser was looking as fit as a fiddle and as energised as an uncorked bottle of Bollinger and her message was sparklingly clear. Champagne and physical exercises are good for you so why not combine them both? Her book is full of wonderful illustrations of various stretching exercises and movements one can do at any time of day or night and all with the obligatory glass of champagne. Her books are in high demand and I see even used copies on Amazon today are priced at £1262 each!*

At our cooking school we have tried to combine the two great determinants of health and happiness. Fine dining and exercise. Creating wonderful meals requires knowledge and skills which everyone can learn directly from our chef in the kitchen. Whether it be buying, preparing, cooking or serving, our Michelin trained chef will guide you with knowledge, skills and tips acquired over many years. We now know that a varied and well balanced diet which includes key vegetables, fish, oils, minerals and nutrients can significantly reduce the risks of diseases such as cancers and heart attacks.

The other determinant for good health is physical exercise. That is why we have incorporated some wonderful walks and cycling into our cooking course programme. We are located in the middle of "The Mene", an area of outstanding natural beauty and unspoilt countryside where rolling hills and quite country lanes link up medieval villages and forests. This is a wonderful place to exercise and enjoy the flora and fauna as you do so.

Walking is encouraged both before and after our cooking courses. Our guides are ready to take you on simple hour long walks or more with some wonderful healthy gourmet picnics included at various places of interest. What more could you want? Oh yes of course champagne! Well we even take care of that with our very own "Kerrouet Royale" which is made up of our home made elderflower cordial and bubbles of course! Bonne Santé!


Monday, 14 March 2011

White Tea is good for thee

Next time you’re making a cuppa, new research shows it might be wise to opt for a white tea if you want to reduce your risk of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis or even just age-associated wrinkles. Researchers from Kingston University teamed up with Neal’s Yard Remedies to test the health properties of 21 plant and herb extracts. They discovered all of the plants tested had some potential benefits, but were intrigued to find white tea considerably outperformed all of them.

Professor Declan Naughton, from the School of Life Sciences at Kingston University in South West London, said the research showed white tea had anti-ageing potential and high levels of anti-oxidants which could prevent cancer and heart disease. “We’ve carried out tests to identify plant extracts that protected the structural proteins of the skin, specifically elastin and collagen,” he explained. “Elastin supports the body’s natural elasticity which helps lungs, arteries, ligaments and skin to function. It also helps body tissue to repair when you suffer wounds and stops skin from sagging.” Collagen is a protein found in connective tissues in the body and is important for skin, strength and elasticity, he added.

Results showed white tea prevented the activities of the enzymes which breakdown elastin and collagen which can lead to wrinkles that accompany ageing. These enzymes, along with oxidants, are associated with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Professor Naughton said: “These enzymes and oxidants are key components of normal body processes. However, in inflammatory conditions, suppressing the activities of these excess components has been the subject of decades of research. We were surprised to find such high activity for the white tea extracts in all five tests that were conducted.”

The researchers were blown away by exactly how well the white tea had performed. “We were testing very small amounts far less than you would find in a drink,” Professor Naughton, one of the country’s leading specialists on inflammation, said. “The early indicators are that white tea reduces the risk of inflammation which is characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers as well as wrinkles.”

Eight of the other plants and herbs analysed also helped protect against the breakdown of both elastin and collagen. After white tea, bladderwrack performed well followed by extracts of cleavers, rose, green tea, angelica, anise and pomegranate.

Allium Vegetables for a healthier Life

Researchers at King’s College London and the University of East Anglia have discovered that women who consume a diet high in allium vegetables, such as garlic, onions and leeks, have lower levels of hip osteoarthritis.

The study, funded by Arthritis Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and Dunhill Medical Trust, looked at over 1,000 healthy female twins, many of whom had no symptoms of arthritis.

The team carried out a detailed assessment of the diet patterns of the twins and analysed these alongside x-ray images, which captured the extent of early osteoarthritis in the participants’ hips, knees and spine.

They found that in those who consumed a healthy diet with a high intake of fruit and vegetables, particularly alliums such as garlic, there was less evidence of early osteoarthritis in the hip joint. To investigate the potential protective effect of alliums further, researchers studied the compounds found in garlic. They found that that a compound called diallyl disulphide limits the amount of cartilage-damaging enzymes when introduced to a human cartilage cell-line in the laboratory.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Traditional Buckwheat Galettes

Brittany is world famous for her traditional buckwheat galettes. These vary according to local customs and regions. In our local village of Kerrouet, only two persons still make galettes the traditional way over a wood fire using materials and knowledge which have been handed down over generations. Today most people simply buy their galettes in the supermarket and fill them at home with processed meats and cheeses. Needless to say the purchased galette is not a scratch on the real home made variety and it is worth while attempting to replicate the real thing. However you don't need to be a culinary historian to make great galettes but using the following ingredients from Edith, our wonderful neighbour who kindly supplied both the recipe, skills and knowledge.

You will need for 12 galettes:

225 g buckwheat flour
225 g unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons salt
500 ml milk, more if needed
500 ml water
110 g butter, clarified
Fillings (lard for pan, eggs, cheese, ham)
18-cm crepe pan

If you can cook over a real wood fire then do so as the wood smoke adds a wonderful
fragrance to the dish. However even here keeping a consistent heat can be problematic and not everyone can manage it as well as Edith can. So if you don't have a fire place perhaps you should stick to the gas stove or an electric crepe maker which are available on the market.

To make the batter:

Sift both flours into a bowl and add the salt. Make a well in the center and pour the milk into the well. Whisk one cup of the milk into the flour, forming a smooth paste. Whisk well with your hands folded over each other for 15 minutes, then add the remaining milk in 2, stirring well after each addition.It is useful for your helper to add the milk as you mix. You will note the texture of the sauce changes and becomes more creamier as you continue to mix. Cover and let the batter rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Stir in the water and beat again for 15 minutes. If necessary add more milk until the batter is the consistency of light cream. Stir in half of the clarified butter.

Heat the pan to hot (150+ degrees) and screen with lard or duck fat or butter. Ladle batter gently on to the hot pan. Using a palette knife spread it gently with a turn of the wrist so the pan is completely covered. Cook the galette quickly (around one minute)until lightly browned on the bottom. Lift the galette off the griddle and place the other side down. Cook partially as it will be cooked again with the ingredients added. Remove to plate and keep warm. Continue to make as many galettes as sauce allows.

Traditionally the galette was placed in a bowl of buttermilk and consumed for breakfast and this can still be observed around Brittany. However you are more likely to be offered ham, cheese and eggs to the galette today. The beauty of the dish is that you can be as flexible as you wish adding what you like best. I prefer to add spinach, cabbage leaves, pak choi or red peppers with wild mushrooms. We serve this dish with local home made cider.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Gaelic Steaks for the Royal Wedding

If you have not yet been invited to Prince William & Kate Middleton's Wedding Ceremony at Westminster Abbey on April 29th., please don't feel too disappointed. You can always treat yourself to a nice tasty Gaelic steak on the day. I understand Gaelic Steaks are likely to be on the royal wedding dinner menu* as they are a great favourite of HRH Prince William himself!

You will need for 4 persons:

4 sirloin mature aged steaks from reputable source(8 oz each room temp)
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup Irish whiskey (Jameson)
1 cup heavy cream
freshly ground black pepper to taste
sea salt to taste


* Dry steaks with a paper towel and season with black pepper and sea salt.
* Heat butter and oil in a frying pan and add steaks.
* Cook steaks until your preferred doneness, turning only once.
* Return steaks to a warm plate and pour off excess fat from pan.
* Return pan to stove and add Irish whiskey.
* Stir, being sure to scrape up drippings from bottom of pan.
* Reduce heat and add cream.
* Simmer for a few minutes until cream thickens.
* Add salt and pepper to taste.
* Pour over steaks and serve immediately.

I usually serve gaelic steaks with celeriac cakes and watercress salad.

* at Kerrouet House (where we will also be serving on the big day our very own royal cocktail "Kerrouet Royale").