Archives for posts with tag: superfoods

Salmon

Not a day goes by without a story about what we should or shouldn’t eat and everyone has an opinion about it. I was thinking about the benefits of salmon and avocado yesterday simply because a friend of mine who really eats to live was extolling the virtues and it reminded me that my Mum also swears by these two good-fat-foods. And honestly, whatever my Mum says has to go because anyone who knows her will testify that she genuinely does defy her decades. She looks fab!

I am no nutritionist but I do see what is happening in the food world and there is no doubt that certain foods are gaining in momentum because of their perceived if not actually proven values. And you know when both Jamie Oliver and, shock, horror, Nigella Lawson are going down the healthy route that things must be in the mainstream.

Jamie has not only initiated the fight against sugar, which I have written about before on this blog, but he has also integrated nutritional top tips into his cooking … as well as researching the healthiest places in the world and looking at what they eat. His recent book and series: Everyday Super Food is a lesson in how to make small changes without compromising on the taste and enjoyment of eating. He throws in lots of facts as to why you need to put a squeeze of lemon in your spinach or how a handful of nuts a day can reduce your risk of heart disease by 50% and increase your life expectancy by two years! But the bottom line is that he is making balanced simple food from the best that our earth has to offer. Less meat, more veg, less fat, more fibre, less sugar, more whole fruit. He also puts his own recent weight loss down to more sleep and using more seaweed in his cooking! For his top ten tips, read on here

Nigella is not as overt about the choices she is making but does refer to catering to friends who are gluten free, or just having a feel good meal. Her Simply Nigella: feel good food is not as specific as Jamie but it is absolutely nodding to the different choices that she is clearly making in her eating and ones which strike a cord with increasingly more people who want to choose healthier options without compromising on eating quality.

My ginger, sour cherry and seeded bar

My ginger, sour cherry and seeded bar

We are finding much the same at work. In years gone by, I remember that anything with blueberries at Marks and Spencer was a top seller. It almost didn’t matter what it was: a blueberry yogurt or a blueberry muffin. It was about this superfood and as I left, we were exploring findings from the West coast of the USA where they are ahead of the health curve and talking about weird ingredients like goji berries which at the time were cited as Madonna’s source of eternal youth! Of course now they are pretty normal and we have moved on to other discoveries such as kale, chia seeds and spirulina. The team at work are doing lots with natural sources of sweetness, different seeds and berries, leaves and veggies but everything in the name of good food and it is going down a storm. Today I made my version of their Goodness Bar to have something better for me as a snacking option and it really worked out well.

Mind you, what I find interesting in all of this is the history of it all. The Aztecs seemed to have a lot sussed as early as the 14th century and the South Americans generally have great sources from the rainforest and their land. It is sad to know that our recent fad for quinoa is ruining the lives of the people of Peru as we hoard their core staple in the name of health, driving up the price and making it out of reach for those who have been quietly living on it for centuries.

And as a nice Jewish girl, I hark back to my roots every time I am going down with the sniffles, turning to good old fashioned chicken soup as my remedy. Made to our family recipe it is my go to medicine and it seems that it is now proven to have carnosine which helps the body’s immune system. You can read more about the Science of Chicken Soup here in this New York Times article.

So whilst I am no picture of virtue I am doing pretty well for my own years and maintaining a healthy outlook. That said, I don’t smoke and I don’t drink that much, I need to exercise more and drink more water but I do keep my food healthy and sleep pretty well. My doc seems to think that’s all good in my neck of the woods and that’s all that matters to me.

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I have just returned from a long weekend in Amsterdam. This was my first time there and it was great to share it with my Dutch friend who showed me a insiders guide to the city.

It really is a beautiful place with lots of streets over the bridges to browse and little places to discover plus loads more that I am sure I missed. You feel a real sense of history here with the old Dutch buildings lining the canals and the sandy ground giving way underneath resulting in some precarious abodes.

We went on a bit of a research trip and it was fascinating to see just how far the international brands predominate. It is difficult to discover anything new when the streets are lined with the same places you see internationally across all ends of the retail spectrum from Hugo Boss to MacDonalds. I also wanted to see how the design was influenced locally and once again was disappointed to see so many cafes and eateries conforming to the same pseudo industrial look that pervades so many cities nowadays. We pondered what the new look should be, as I am a little bored of chalkboards, upcycled lights with Edison bulbs and recycled wooden crates.

The 2012 showcase Starbucks

The 2012 showcase Starbucks

Mind you, it was refreshing to see for myself the showcase Starbucks that was designed in 2012 as the precursor to more individual and less branded coffee shop chains. The attention to design was refreshing picking up on local Dutch cues and even two years later, it is cosy and inviting.

SLA's salad bar is encapsulated in a glass free conservatory feel frame

SLA’s salad bar is encapsulated in a glass free conservatory feel frame

Decor is pared back and natural and the kitchen is open to peak into keeping that natural honest tone

Decor is pared back & natural and the rear kitchen is open to peak into keeping that natural honest tone

There were two outlets that particularly inspired us. Firstly SLA. It means salad and is indeed a salad bar. I am told that the Dutch approach healthy food in a more holistic way. They better understand grains, superfoods and often link spirituality with healthy eating. SLA encapsulated these principles without falling foul of being too worthy. They just kept everything clean and simple in design. The menu is small: soup, salads, juices & sweets made in their kitchen and there is a good make-your-own section allowing you to pick and choose what you want, from the leaf & veg, to the grain, the dressing and the toppings. The choice of grain include things like black quinoa and amaranth. The choice of home-made dressings include superfood ingredients such as spirulina, pomegranate vinegar and spelt syrup. They are all tasty and healthy at the same time, which can sometimes challenge even the best cooks. We came away believing this concept would go down well in yummy mummy land.

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Each counter merchandises a different recipe and recipes are changed weekly

Each counter merchandises a different recipe and recipes are changed weekly

The other place that was new to me was Bilder & de Clercq. They tell me that this concept was inspired by a place that the owners saw in Berlin but whatever the driver was, it is interesting to see this retail outlet made up of bespoke counters that pull together ingredients for different dishes. Recipes are printed on easy to follow leaflets and ingredients are weighed out, assuming an element of store cupboard ingredients will be at home. Everything you could possibly need to make the dish is merchandised on each counter including kitchen utensils, recommended wine matches and of course the product itself, both chilled and ambient.

Simple signage and clean VM make it easy to shop including the wine recommendations and any store cupboard ingredients you may need to top up with

Simple signage and clean VM make it easy to shop including the wine recommendations and any store cupboard ingredients you may need to top up with

I think it was the care and attention to the visual merchandising that really clinched it for me. Whether I would spend that sort of money on a meal that I still have to make at home is another thing, but clearly enough people are buying into the concept as it recently expanded to two outlets. I am sure as convenience continues to be a key driver that more cities will develop this idea.

La Place is still worth a look and see

La Place is still worth a look and see

Other retail offerings that were worth a nose are La Place which looks a little tired so many years on but still shows the potential for a fresh food offering with open production, simple counters and made-to-order service. There are also a couple of PapaBubble shops in town. And you really have to go and see the hammock shop at the flower market. Sadly, I couldn’t squeeze one into my hand luggage!

Lovely jars of pesto, mustard etc. are refilled by regular locals

Lovely jars of pesto, mustard etc. are refilled by regular locals

The weekend markets remind me just how good organic produce can be presented. And the green footprint is enhanced with fill your own stalls of condiments, milk and yogurt. Lovely old pottery pickling jars of home-made pesto make the best of the herbs and it is common practice to bring your own jars to be filled. All very lovely.

Harking back to the pancake houses of old...

Harking back to the pancake houses of old…

Restaurant wise: we didn’t get to De Kas so I will have to go back for that one. We really wanted to eat the local specialities, by visiting Brown Cafes, partaking in Dutch apple pie, croquettes and also pancakes. I went to the oldest pancake house in town: “Upstairs Pannekoekenhuis“. The vertiginous stairs take you up to a tiny little room that has been serving pancakes made on two gas rings since 1962 in this typical Amsterdam house dating back to 1539. They say this is the smallest restaurant in Europe with only 4 tables so it is advisable to book, although I managed to get a seat at the counter giving me prime viewing of the kitchen and the cook.

Amsterdam is highly recommended and a place I know I will return to so that I can discover even more.