Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pass On the Salt

A couple of posts back I mentioned that I never use salt in cooking, and the only time I ever use it at the table is on chips (French fries), and Emiline asked me why? To be honest, it was always just a matter of personal preference, and it wasn’t until I decided to write an article about it that I discovered the American Medical Association is advocating a low salt diet. I wrote this article two years ago, and never succeeded in getting it published, so here it is.

Pass On the Salt

It is not a new health threat. Doctors have been advising us to reduce our salt consumption for years. Yet salt is set to become the latest bad boy on the dietary chopping block. In 2006 the American Medical Association called for drastic reductions in the amount of salt we eat. They agree that excess salt contributes to high blood pressure. This in turn leads to hypertension, and can ultimately result in heart disease, still the number one killer in America today.

How much salt is too much?

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the human body requires a minimum of 500 milligrams of sodium per day to maintain health. The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, sets a maximum limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, (or approximately 1 teaspoon of salt). The levels for adults over fifty, and people with high blood pressure, cardiac disease, or other medical conditions are actually much lower, 1,500 milligrams per day.

Most Americans, however, consume as much as two or three times the maximum recommended dose of sodium every day. The main reason for this is our over-reliance on convenience, restaurant, and fast food. Pre-prepared foods are loaded with salt.

Dr. Rohack, a practicing cardiologist and board member of the American Medical Association explains, "Just one cup of canned soup can contain more than 50 percent of the FDA recommended daily allowance. A serving of lasagna in a restaurant can put a diner over their recommended daily sodium allowance in just one meal. These examples stress the importance of a national reduction in the amount of sodium in processed and restaurant foods."

Why are so many of us addicted to salt?

The human body requires salt or sodium to maintain good health, and since prehistoric times, man has obtained salt naturally from the foods he ate. But, despite being one of the most common minerals on earth, salt wasn’t widely used as a food additive and preservative until the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Chinese learned how to mine it. The high cost of transportation, however, made salt a very valuable commodity, so much so, that Roman soldiers received part of their pay in salt. The English word salary is derived from the Latin, salarium, meaning salt. Salt was such a valuable commodity because of its importance as a food preservative, and preserving food was essential to survival.

Yet, despite modern day refrigeration practices, our love affair with salt continues. The main reason for this is we are usually exposed to salt at an early age and that predilection continues throughout our lives. Even if you eat a diet of fresh meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables, and don’t add salt to your food, you are still exposed to high levels of sodium in: breakfast cereals, bread, cookies, cheese and salty snacks, such as potato chips and nuts.

How can I reduce the amount of salt in my diet?

Until the American Medical Association’s recommendations for a 50% reduction in the amount of sodium in processed and restaurant food are adhered to, the only way to reduce your sodium intake is to retrain your taste buds to prefer less salt.

Expect that it may take several weeks for your palate to adjust, but if you persevere, you will find your tolerance for salty foods diminishes. If you have ever given up taking sugar in your tea and coffee you will understand that it only takes a week or two before sugary drinks become unpalatable.

Healthier alternatives do exist that can add flavor to your food without recourse to salt. Experiment with fresh herbs, spices, and citrus fruits in your recipes.

Doctors agree that following a low-sodium diet is one of the most beneficial things you can do for the health of your heart. So, don’t wait for the American Medical Association’s recommendations to become law. Take control of your eating habits now. Eat a healthy diet of fresh meat, fish, and produce, and avoid convenience and fast food. You owe it to yourself and to your heart.

Tips on reducing your salt intake:

  1. Read the labels on the products you buy to check for high sodium levels. The amount of sodium quoted is per serving, not per box or can.
    As a rough guideline:
    If a product contains 500 milligrams of sodium or more per 100 grams that is a
    lot of salt.
    If a product contains 100 milligrams of sodium or less per 100 grams that is a little salt.
  2. Buy low or no sodium products whenever possible.
  3. Experiment with herbs and spices.
  4. When ordering food in restaurants ask the chef not to add salt to your meal.
  5. When visiting fast food chains ask for information on the nutritional values of their products, or check out their web sites.
  6. If after several weeks, lack of salt still causes culinary consternation, add salt at the table rather than in the cooking process. That way you will still get the salty taste you crave, but the level of sodium will actually be much less. And, always taste your food before you reach for the salt shaker.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Green Garden Veg Pie

Just a quicky post tonight, as I have a deadline to meet with my latest article for Oklahoma Living Magazine. This is another recipe from the BBC Good Food magazine, (God bless Auntie Beeb, and all who sail in her), and it’s a definite keeper. As usual, I made a few changes to it. The original recipe included cauliflower, which I didn’t have, so I substituted mushrooms. It also required that all the vegetables be partially cooked before being baked, other than the potatoes, I didn’t think that would be necessary, and it wasn’t. You could serve this as a vegetarian main course, or as I did, as a side dish.

Green Garden Veg Pie


4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground mustard powder
1 pint milk
¾ cup sharp cheddar, shredded, divided
2-3 large russet potatoes, sliced into thin rounds
1 broccoli crown, cut into florets
6 ounces mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed and drained
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

  • Pre-heat oven to 420°F
  • Put potatoes in a pan of water, bring to the boil, and simmer for 3-5 minutes, until slightly tender. Drain into a colander and set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt butter over a medium heat. Take pan off heat and gradually stir in flour and mustard powder. Return pan to heat, and gradually add milk, stirring constantly until sauce thickens.
  • Remove pan from heat and stir in ½ a cup of cheese.
  • Reserve the largest of the potato slices to place on top of the dish. Put all remaining veggies in a 3-inch deep, 11x 8-inch baking dish, top with cheese sauce, sprinkle over chives, and a dash of fresh ground black pepper. Top the dish with reserved potato slices, and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of cheese.
  • Bake for 25 minutes until topping is golden and crisp.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Mick made an amazing discovery recently, we can download British TV programs from the internet and watch them on our TV (telly to us Brits). If you want to know more about it, see my post on

This week I have been watching British chef, Gary Rhodes, in a series called "Rhodes Around China," and what a fabulous series it was. Gary Rhodes was just coming to prominence as a TV chef when I left England, and I loved his punk rock spiky hair-do and his cheeky grin. Obviously he’s older now, but aren’t we all? The spiky hair has gone, but he is still one kick-ass chef. I really look forward to watching more British telly, and more British cooking progs in the future.

Last night we had pasta for dinner, Mick always calls this dish, bacon and egg pasta. It’s a popular Italian dish in England, though I don’t recall ever seeing on an Italian menu here. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, I lead a sheltered life. ;-)

And the good news, after a short lay-off my neighbor, Corky’s hens have begun producing again, so we had free-range eggs for this recipe. We have been buying organic eggs at the store but they are very expensive, so keep up the good work girls.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

This dish is not terribly photogenic, but believe me it tastes great!


8 ounces spaghetti
8 slices thick bacon, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 eggs
½ cup + 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped + a little for garnish.
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

  • Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add spaghetti, and boil gently for 6 -7 minutes until spaghetti is al dente. Drain and toss spaghetti with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.
  • While spaghetti cooks, in a large skillet over a medium high heat fry chopped bacon in its own juices until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels.
  • Discard bacon grease and wipe skillet clean with paper towels.
  • In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add onion and sauté over a medium heat until onion is translucent.
  • Add garlic and sauté for a further minute.
  • Return bacon to pan, add reserved spaghetti, cream, parsley, and season with black pepper, heat gently, stirring often.
  • In a small bowl beat eggs, add to pan and toss all ingredients with a large fork. Cook until eggs begin to set.
  • Add ½ cup of Parmesan cheese, and toss mixture again until cheese is combined.
  • Transfer spaghetti carbonara to a warm serving dish, top with remaining Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cottage Pie

Lately, I’ve had a hankering for mashed potatoes and gravy. I’m getting fed up of barbecuing and salads, and I’m ready to start eating some cold weather food. Although our temps have cooled quite a bit, and a few leaves are starting to turn on the trees, the warm weather isn’t quite done with us yet.

On Saturday, however, the remnants of Hurricane Ike moved through our area and gave us a good old soaking. It started raining on Saturday afternoon and didn’t stop bucketing it down until Sunday morning. All that rain and the cool weather allowed me to satisfy my craving for mash with some good old British comfort food, Cottage Pie, lovely.

The difference between Cottage and Shepherd’s Pie is in the choice of meat. Cottage Pie is made with minced beef, and Shepherd’s Pie with minced shepherds, sorry I couldn’t resist, actually ground lamb. I think I’ve mentioned before that lamb is as rare as rocking horse poop here in Oklahoma, hence Cottage Pie.

Another thing, although I have said to use corn starch to thicken the gravy, I actually use a British product called Bisto gravy powder. According to their mantra, Bisto browns, seasons, and thickens all in one go, it’s what my mum always used, so I was weaned on it. But, I should point out that I have made this dish exactly as in this recipe, one time when I couldn’t get hold of any Bisto, and it was still good. If you’re interested you can check out Bisto here:

Cottage Pie


1lb ground sirloin
1/2 tablespoon butter
2 lbs. mashed potatoes, mashed with milk and butter
1 onion, chopped.
3 carrots, sliced
2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
A generous dash of fresh ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water


  • Pre-heat oven to 400°F
  • In a large skillet melt butter over medium high heat and brown meat.
  • Add the onion and sauté for two minutes.
  • Add carrots and beef stock. Bring to the boil, add Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, and bay leaves, and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  • Using a slotted spoon transfer the mixture to an 11-inch x 7-inch ovenproof dish, reserving most of the stock, and removing bay leaves. Add about ½ of a cup of stock to the meat. I know a lot of people prefer to add most of the stock to the dish, but I find this make the mash to soggy. I like my mash to stay firm, but it’s a matter of personal preference.
  • Cover the mixture with mashed potato, and form grooves in the surface with a fork.
  • Bake for 50 – 60 minutes, or until potatoes are golden brown.
  • Skim any fat from surface of reserved stock. Mix cornstarch with a little water and add to stock. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until gravy thickens, add more seasoning if required.

Serve pie with seasonal vegetables and lashings of gravy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Blackened Szechuan Chicken

Whoops-a-daisy, I just realized I published the last post without a recipe.

Blackened Szechuan Chicken


¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup szechuan stir-fry sauce
Juice of 1 small orange and a couple of teaspoons of zest
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
2 chicken breasts with ribs


  • Combine first six ingredients in a small bowl. Pour 2/3 of the marinade into a gallon size resealable plastic bag, add chicken and turn to coat. Marinate chicken in refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours. Cover and refrigerate remaining marinade.

  • Pre-heat BBQ to low.

  • Drain and discard marinade from chicken. Grill chicken, ribs side down, directly on the bars, basting occasionally with reserved marinade. Cook times will vary according to size of chicken breasts, and outside temps, so just grill to desired doneness, and until juices run clear.

The British One Hundred, and an Award

In response to the Omnivores One Hundred, Helen at Food Stories: has created The British One Hundred. I love lists so I couldn't resist having a go.

Here are the rules if you would like to play along:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

4) Link back to Food Stories, if you would be so kind.

1. Grey squirrel. (Having eaten crocodile, wilderbeast, and zebra in Kenya, I think I’d give it a try).

2 Steak and kidney pie

3. Bubble and squeak

4. Spotted dick

5. Hot Cross Buns (A traditional Easter favorite)

6. Laver bread

7. Toad in the hole

8. Shepherds pie AND Cottage pie

9. Scotch egg

10. Parkin

11. Welsh rarebit

12. Jellied eels

13. Stilton

14. Marmite (I hate this stuff)

15. Ploughman’s lunch

16. Cucumber sandwiches

17. Coronation chicken

18. Gloucester old spot.

19. Cornish pasty

20. Samphire

21. Mince Pies

22. Winkles

23. Salad cream

24. Malt loaf

25. Haggis

26. Beans on toast

27. Cornish clotted cream tea

28. Pickled egg

29. Pork scratchings

30. Pork pie

31. Black pudding

32. Patum Peperium or Gentleman’s relish

33. Earl Grey tea

34. Elvers

35. HP Sauce

36. Potted shrimps

37. Stinking bishop

38. Elderflower cordial

39. Pea and ham soup

40. Aberdeen Angus Beef

41.Lemon Posset

42. Guinness

43. Cumberland sausage

44. Native oysters

45. A ‘full English’ breakfast

46. Cockles

47. Faggots

48. Eccles cake

49. Potted Cromer crab

50. Trifle

51. Stargazy pie

52. English mustard

53. Christmas pudding

54. Cullen skink

55. Liver and bacon with onions

56. Wood pigeon

57. Branston pickle

58. Oxtail soup

59. Piccalilli

60. Sorrel

62. Chicken tikka masala

63. Deep fried Mars Bar

64. Fish, chips and mushy peas

65. Pie and mash with liquor

66. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding

67. Pickled onions

68. Cock-a-leekie soup

69. Rabbit and Hare

70. Bread sauce

71. Cauliflower cheese

72. Crumpets

73. Rice pudding

74. Bread and Butter Pudding

75. Bakewell tart

76. Kendall mint cake (horribly sweet)

77. Summer pudding

78. Lancashire hot pot (I'm from Lancashire, I was weaned on this)

79. Beef Wellington

80. Eton mess

81. Neeps and tatties

82. Pimms

83. Scampi

84. Mint sauce

85. English strawberries and cream

86. Isle of Wight garlic

87. Mutton

88. Deep fried whitebait with tartare sauce

89. Angels on horseback

90. Omelette Arnold Bennett

91. Devilled kidneys

92. Partridge and pheasant

93. Stew and Dumplings

94. Arbroath smokies

95. Oyster loaves

96. Sloe gin

97. Damson jam

98. Soda bread

99. Quince jelly

100. Afternoon tea at the Ritz

I think I would add Bangers and Mash, Kippers, Victoria Sponge, and Jam Roly Poly.

Which ones have you tried, and are there any you would like to add?

Also, Beth at: has given me this award

Thank you so much, Beth.

I’m a little pressed for time right now so I’ll be passing this on at the weekend.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tuna and Pasta Bake

As I said in my last post, mid-week we had a lot of rain and our temps cooled tremendously, so I got the opportunity to make some soup. I had seen this recipe for Tomato and Basil Soup on Cheryl’s blog at: and wanted to try it.

We still had loads of fresh heirloom tomatoes from our garden and tons of fresh basil so here was the perfect opportunity. I have to say this soup was absolutely delicious. The only changes I made to her original recipe are, I didn’t add any salt, as I don’t use salt in my cooking, I added a green pepper as well as the red, and I very naughtily doubled the amount of cream. This recipe is a definite keeper, and I’m sure I’ll be making plenty more over the fall and winter. Thanks a lot Cheryl.

Now I have a favor to ask of y’all. It’s my birthday mid-month (don’t even ask!), and I’d like hubby to get me a new cookbook for my presi, so I’m looking for some recommendations. I just want something that has great everyday recipes, nothing fancy or gourmet. Can you help me out?

Anyway, enough of that birthday humbug, back to the recipe. On Thursday, as it was still cold, and as I didn’t plan to make my pilgrimage to the store until Friday, I made this old store cupboard stand-by.

Tuna and Pasta Bake


8 ounces tri-colored rotelle, or rotini pasta
1 jar of Alfredo sauce
1 12-ounce can albacore tuna
6 fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1½ cups sharp cheddar, shredded, or sufficient to cover the top of your baking dish.

  • Pre-heat oven to 350°F
  • Add pasta to a pan of boiling water and boil gently for 5 minutes, drain.
  • While pasta drains, in a medium saucepan, heat Alfredo sauce, tuna, mushrooms, basil, and black pepper over a low heat until sauce bubbles gently.
  • Add pasta and combine.
  • Pour mixture into an 11 x 8½ -inch baking dish, top with cheese, and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until the cheese gets a bit crusty looking.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Slow Roasted Pork with Garlic and Onions

Yes, you are in the right place! I’ve had to do a bit of a re-vamp on the old blog, because the margins on the other one were too narrow for the new Foodie Blogroll widget. It was overlapping my recipes, and that will never do.

After bitching on everybody’s blogs that it was too hot here to make soups and chilies, would you believe it’s suddenly got cold? Yesterday, it was 90°F, but it started raining last night, and has chucked it down all day today, the temperature has now plummeted by 25 degrees. But I have a sneaky suspicion that the weather is only teasing me into thinking fall has arrived. I’m sure there will be more hot weather lurking around the corner for me yet, but hopefully low 80’s instead of 90/100’s.

Even though the rain has never stopped the intrepid Brits from barbecuing before, I’m still going to cook something on the stove tonight, just for the sheer novelty value. But more about that later. Today’s recipe is what we had for our Labor day feed.

Slow Roasted Pork with Garlic and Onions

The slow cooking of this meat allowed the onions and garlic to virtually disintegrate into a galze, and to infuse the meat with their lovely flavors, it also kept it really moist.


I pork joint, I think this one was called a boneless ribeye roast, but I’m not 100% certain.
1 onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped.
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper

  • Pre-heat BBQ to low.
  • Place a layer of sliced onions on a sheet of heavy-duty foil and top with pork.
  • Drizzle pork with olive oil, a generous amount of black pepper, top with garlic and another layer of onions. Wrap foil loosely around meat.
  • Roast on grill until the little thermometer thingy pops out, approximately 1hour & 20 minutes. Unwrap foil parcel and cook for a further 20-30 minutes until browned.
I served the pork with roasted rosemary potatoes, I think I’ve posted these before, but they are so good here they are again. We also had a salad, but you can figure that one out yourselves.

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes


6 red potatoes cut into quarters.
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves only.
1/3 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Fresh ground black pepper
A drizzle of vegetable oil

  • Pre-heat BBQ to low.
  • Brush the center of a large sheet of heavy duty foil lightly with oil, add potatoes, pour over wine, sprinkle them with rosemary and black pepper, and dot with butter.
  • Seal package loosely, and grill over a low heat, stirring frequently, for 45 – 60 minutes.