Tuesday, 17 April 2012

April 16th - Detox: paying more to eat less.

Dear Nigel,

Chocolate over- indulgence soon turns to post-easter guilt. Out comes the running gear and the annual  burst of zeal to cleanse and detox the system. Carol Vorderman beckons - and I could certainly do with some of her energy (even that emanating from her mouth could probably fuel a small power station). I have only twice ever completed her 28 day detox, and it was hell. I was crossing off the days on my cell wall like a modern day Robinson Crusoe, basically living on roast veg and feta cheese and lots of fruit.

The last time I let the lad at the gym loose with his callipers to measure my BMI - fat - he decided I was in the obese category. As a fairly standard size 10ish I wasn't very impressed. A fairly easy way to measure it yourself  is to use the calculation (your weight in kilogrammes) divided by (your height in metres, squared). Otherwise, just look in the mirror.

I flick through Carol's book and note that parsley leaf is great for helping the kidneys. Very convenient as I'd just found a great recipe for Parsley soup. The recipe is from New Covent Garden Food Co. 'A soup for every day'. This one is under 5th April, fortuitously, and, having now made and eaten a bowl of it, I can tell you that it tastes very good indeed. Like you, I thought it might be at best bland or repetitive or disgustingly healthy (in every sense of the word). But no; there is a good balance of flavours with a leek base, and, although it uses an enormous amount of the main ingredient, because it is cooked the flavour mellows and becomes almost lemony. I used reduced fat crème fraiche instead of the ordinary, as written, and a considerably larger amount of freshly grated nutmeg. There is a wonderful springtime optimism to this soup, and anything that helps cheer away the unpredictable hail and snow we've had of late is to be welcomed.

The main cost to any detox diet seems to be to the purse strings as well as to the soul: It's difficult to get enthusiastic about the relative lack of variety on offer, at least after the initial few days. I glance down the list of supplements - chlorella, spirulina, kelp, milk thistle...- and realise I still have a whole drawer full of half-empty bottles from last time.

Of course, the main aim of a detox diet isn't necessary to lose weight but the two usually go hand-in-hand in most people's expectations. I turn for more interesting recipes and more civilised guidance to Ed Victor's 'The obvious diet'. Nigella Lawson gleefully points out in her foreword to the book: "why should someone lose weight without suffering". She has a point. We all know we over indulged on the old easter eggs - cheap chocolate along with the organic and the hand-made, mini eggs in their chocolate crispy baskets - made with love (and hopefully clean hands), foil-covered treasure found on egg hunts and hot cross buns and lots of cake - simnel or otherwise.So it seems almost right that we should have to pay the penalty of hard work, both physically and mentally (at no other time in your life will you become so obsessed about food than when you are willingly denying yourself).

Many of Ed's favourite recipes come from The River Cafe cookbooks. There is a lovely recipe for baked red onions and thyme (taken from Book Two) which particularly catches my eye. Carol tells me such foods are rich in fructo-oligosaccharides - and I'm prepared to believe her - and very good for anyone with irritable bowel syndrome. Ruth Rogers and (the late) Rose Gray simply say "our advice is to eat small portions of beautifully and carefully considered food". This seems to me a far kinder and easier way to rein in. And if this carefully considered food should taste amazing as well, like their Zucchini carpaccio (book two again), then I might be tempted to put the carbs back in the cupboard and feed the chocolate to any passing child.

You roast spring pigeon and serve with a sorrel puree. Like the parley in my soup this herb is so wonderfully fresh and lemony that it is worth growing a bushel of the stuff in your borders (even if it does have the unfortunate habit of looking like a bunch of dock leaves). I noted, as your did, how little of the wilted leaves  remain from even  a huge bunch: "Heaven knows what would happen if the leaves met boiling water". Luckily the taste is highly concentrated, so a little goes a long way. I like it with fish, instead of lemon at this time of the year. Later on, it bolts very easily and the leaves become thick and leathery.


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