NOVEMBER NURTURE – EXPLORE MOOD FOOD WITH CHEF JP
Explore the connection between mood and food as Chef JP uncovers dishes that will both heal and delight you
We’ve all heard that age-old cliché – you are what you eat. These days, most of us ignore the hidden wisdom in that statement as we lay on the couch binging on Netflix and whatever fast food is only as far away as the kitchen or Mr D – crisps, biscuits, fatty burgers, pizza, you name it.
Right from the start, let’s go straight for the jugular – HOW, WHEN and WHAT we consume, is exactly where what we all know deep down surfaces. The foods you eat dictate your mood, eating late at night makes for a restless night and an irritable morning, wolfing down too many processed carbohydrates or, worse still, high energy drinks and snacks, makes for rapid energy and mood swings – and that’s before we get to those three deadly sins – sodium, saturated fats and sugar which wreak havoc with your general health and certainly don’t help you to feel confident about yourself.
Put that altogether and you will find that achieving food euphoria when you continually are going down the wrong road is a bit of a dead end.
Cindy Bottomley, part of our Out & About Team, who has been a health and fitness coach and struggles with her own food allergies, is a firm believer that food is as good as medicine. Nutrition heals whilst bad choices make you ill to simplify what she often tells us.
The flip side is that food can even be a drug – we’ve all heard about comfort eating, sugar cravings and more. On a more serious note, a massive amount of research has been and continues to be done connecting food choices with depression, the management of ADHD in children and other lifestyle diseases.
It’s too much to list everything that we discuss as we decide what to write each week – but watch this space and we’ll share those thoughts and discoveries as we explore the importance of a healthy relationship with food and how good nutrition can be coupled with enjoying flavour, presentation and imagination when preparing meals.
Because I’m a chef rather than a nutritionist, my focus is on building a healthy relationship with good food, enjoying the dining experience whilst still getting enough of those essential nutrients you need.
Closely related to this is the topic of superfoods which have particular health benefits as well as some advice on incorporating these into meals together with certain vitamin enriched ingredients that will naturally stimulate your taste buds without the need for artificial food enhancers such as MSG. In this case, look out for the salmon and mushrooms below.
One thing that you will realise is that you’ll get no mixed signals from me that are likely to confuse your neurons and taste buds or even season your favourite foods with free radicals. Good food can be healthy food and make us feel good about eating healthy again.
Also, remember that another long lost culinary art – eating seasonally – also plays a role in our moods. In our high tech world, we seem to have forgotten that Mother Nature still sometimes knows best and that the availability of certain fruits and vegetables at certain times had a lot more to do with well-being than convenience.
Although we’ve covered a lot, I’d also like to repeat something that was said last week – achieving a balance in life is ultra-important. You cannot take the joy out of eating and you certainly can’t avoid the odd cheat. It’s when the cheat becomes a bad habit that the trouble begins …
Fortunately, by design, our bodies are built to cope with a certain amount of toxins. But an overdose of toxins which are crammed into modern day foods can lead to ill health, mad mood swings and deterioration of your brain cells. Sadly, we get brain washed at an early age with fancy box meals and colourful pictures, all masking an arsenal of flavour enhancers to get us hooked on junk.
As the photographs in this blog will show you, good food that is served with a bit of imagination and flair is far more beautiful and appealing than a photo shopped version of a meal on the label of a ready meal on a supermarket shelf. In this world of modern day food mayhem, we need more chefs and less graphic designers!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
For me, what is most important is that you need to have a food experience when enjoying a meal. The use of herbs and spices enables you to taste and appreciate the true essence of what you eat. You want to let the ingredients speak for themselves.
In addition to modern medicine which has, to some degree, connected food with mood, ancient Chinese medicine has also linked food with mood, signalling that different foods have different thermal natures (hot and cool foods) which correspond with different personalities. Hence those with fiery temperaments tend to choose hot foods while the more laid back go for the cool things on the menu.
Practitioners tell us that foods can therefore also regulate body temperature and energy levels and that opposites can be used to create balance yet again. Warming foods heat up the upper body functions and increase energy, cooling foods counter excess emotion and stress, for example.
Warming foods and spices include carrots, onion, strawberries, black currant, oats, lentils, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and nutmeg. Cooling foods are broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, citrus, soya, lemon grass, yogurt, seaweed, and tarragon.
BACK TO PARADISE
This is a special culinary story of and apple and an ostrich – one that brings back some beautiful memories of the song “Paradise” where the fluffy animal escapes the city lights and runs into the forest to go back to paradise.
In Biblical terms – and in literary figure John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost – the apple was symbolic of the choice between good and evil.
Not so sure if Eve was a cold personality or had a cooler body temperature, but she apparently loved apples and Adam was clearly sub -consciously craving a nice juicy warm steak- or, maybe, even a spare rib!
An interesting aside, apples happen to contain the most natural cyanide in their pips than any other fruit on the planet. So, we are being a little naughty and pairing the apple with forest mushrooms and lean ostrich fillet.
To avoid cyanide poisoning, slice your apple into disks and remove the core and pips and let it rest in cold water in the fridge. Trim your ostrich fillet, cutting it into a 150-gram portion. Ostrich is very rich in Vitamin B 6 and 12, selenium, phosphorous and zinc as well as thiamine, riboflavin, iron, potassium and copper. It also has hardly any damaging fat in the meat.
FROM YOUR PARADISE PANTRY:
4 crunchy cos lettuce leaves
1 large green apple
100 grams cleaned oyster mushrooms
150 grams ostrich fillet
dash of olive oil
50 ml canola mayo, or some blue cheese
handful of pomegranate
10 g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 medium cucumber
salt and pepper
Steam your oyster mushrooms for 10 minutes and add them into your skillet with your fillet.
Sear your fillet at 180°C with a dollop of butter and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and some oregano. Turn after 3 minutes and repeat for 3 minutes. You want to sear in all the goodness.
Let your fillet rest while you construct your plate with your greens and your apples, making them stick together in multiple layers on a wooden skewer. Garnish with your mushrooms, cucumber disks, pomegranate and onion.
If you’re feeling blue, you can add a blue cheese dip as an accompaniment or just use good old fashioned canola mayo – and there you have an apple that did not fall far from the healthy tree.
HONEY I’M IN THE MOOD
Just like a red rose, this is a dish that is destined to make your partner happy… but, funnily enough, I dated a Dutch girl and gave her black tulips thinking that that would change her mood. It definitely didn’t… pukka.
What’s certain, though, is that you definitely would have a health attack and not a heart attack with this dish.
Let’s turn on the heat and get the heartbeat racing in the kitchen. If you don’t have these ingredients in the pantry, I’m going to get moody, and now one wants a moody chef.
some wildflower honey
a small banana leaf
granola and muesli
gluten free bun
salt and pepper
This dish takes a totally different approach to what you are used to. As a recipe, I want you to be creative and see if you can use the visual pictures to create your own version. I’ll give you a hint… Take out your air fryer for all the ingredients but your gluten free bun.
Once all is cooked, its plating time. Good luck – send us your comments and some pictures of your interpretation on our Facebook or Instagram pages.
There are always three sides to the story, so here are 3 creative and healthy ways to set the mood. In these side dishes, we are going to boost your serotonin levels to the max.
First a sultry mood, with rainbow salmon trout. Not sure if they are swimming up or down stream due to their mood, but in this case my dish is fresh rainbow trout served on grilled mushroom stems and served up with fresh parsley, Himalayan pink sea salt and dill.
HOT AND COLD
Balancing colours, personalities and food is essential to our mental well-being, so a combination of Japanese horseradish (aka wasabi) and a crispy bite of crusted kingklip, served on a cooling platform with a slice of fresh avo, canola mayo, and grated cucumber surely contains and harmonises your taste buds
DOWN TO THE BONE
We are all aware of the important role that our hormones play when it comes to our moods. Bone marrow is a source of goodness. Fluid keeps us healthy and controls the metabolism and the essence of our life, apart from our positive thoughts, so why not indulge in some grilled marrow bone with some saffron butter and enjoy life?
You’ve heard that expression ‘blowing off steam’? Well, this dish is guaranteed to put you in the mood for good health.
Fish is very rich in Omega 3 and 6, zinc and also adds to our dopamine levels. Sadly, the mercury levels in our oceans are extremely high, so the amount of cold water fish that we consume over a long period could be harmful to your health. But, fear not, Chef JP in the house!
This even encompasses that hot / cool balancing act that we were referring to earlier – you can enhance the colder blue hues of the ocean by contrasting them with the warm and spicy reddish colour of the hoisin sauce.
Today, we are steaming some sea bass and I’m going to give you a recipe to enhance your love of fish with homemade hoisin sauce.
Use your bamboo steamer to change the blues into a blissful meal.
You can use any white flaky skinless cold, deep water fish. My mood goes towards sea bass, succulent and tender.
Whilst you steam the fish for between 7 and 10 minutes (200 gram portions) you can get mild and spicy with the sauce.
There are so many variations for this classic Chinese or South Asian sauce. I think that geographical fresh ingredients draw the old age chalk lines between countries. But, keep it natural and don’t stir the pot too much.
My recipe is structured with the perfect balance between sweet and sour:
2 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon miso paste
1 teaspoon dark soy
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon medium chilli oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
10 grams brown sugar
Heat up a medium sized saucepan, add some peanut oil, followed by all of the ingredients. Gently simmer and slowly stir to reduce, before adding 1 teaspoon of corn starch to thicken. Turn down the until you have a velvety smooth paste.
By now, your fish will be in the mood for plating. Serve up with some greens and garnish with dill, pickled ginger and bean sprouts. Serve your sauce drizzled over your fish.
Wrapped in all the goodness that Mother Nature provides, this compilation is a medley of earthy frequencies and a platinum hit when it comes to physical and mental health in November.
Vegan or Vegetarian is the positive vibe this month. You can choose your own veg and consciously decide for yourself what suits your mood and your taste. Grill, steam, air fry or sauté your veggies of choice before wrapping them in either a gluten free or standard wrap – again, your choice. Serve up with nori and cucumber.
So, I’m closing off with something of an early summer culinary benediction.
Enjoy the November rain. Remember that some of us dance in the rain… while some just get wet. So, go out there and discover the beauty that is inside of each of us and, along the way, connect with the power of food and our mood, knowing that both work in perfect harmony with our individual personalities and the health of our bodies.
Most of all, remember to think twice, said the double blind mice. Before you make decisions about your modern lifestyle,
tune out the stress and noise and listen closely to the message that your body whispers to you.
Maintain your own special balance as you always to remember to not only live the moment but also to love the food.