Saturday, 8 November 2008

Some Things I Take For Granted, That You May Not.

Some things I take for granted, that you may not take for granted or know about:

To me, "rice" means basmati, arborio, or very occasionally, jasmine rice.  Basmati is one of the breeds of rice that is better for nutrition, and I tend to use it for most things except some fine flavoured Asian dishes, where jasmine rice is just a smidgen nicer.  And arborio is great for rice/meat stuffings, and of course desserts.  Brown rice is also nice but takes ages to boil, and sometimes, barley is nice to use instead of rice in some dishes, but also takes ages to prepare.

Rice is generally easiest cooked in a pot (or a microwave rice cooker) at the ratio of one cup uncooked rice to two cups of water, plus a sparing teaspooon of salt if cookign for a savoury dish.  Wash the rice first (I use a strainer) and then put the rice and water and salt in a pot and start it boiling, as soon as boiling starts reduce the heat to a fast simmer, then slowly reduce the heat as the water is absorbed.  It's gonna take 15 minutes, get used to it.

"Oil," to me, means extra virgin olive oil. Often, I use a mixture of 1/2 EVOO and 1/2 grapeseed oil.  As a good rule of thumb, anywhere I am asked to use ( for example) beef dripping or other form of fat, I use 2/3 olive oil and 1/3 required fat.  Keeps the flavour but makes it a lot healthier.  Also, if there's a recipe which has good antioxidant ingredients or vitamins (anything with tomato paste, or the livers in the previous recipe) I use 1/2 and 1/2 because grapeseed oil is a good source of oily vitamin E, and that assists the body to absorb the antioxidants and vitamins much more effectively.

When I say "vinegar," I do NOT - ever! - mean plain old white vinegar.  White vinegar is made from fermented wood pulp, not grapes.  Sorry, white vinegar industry - but screw that.  My body deserves something other than rotten wood.  Use white vinegar for cleaning, or to add a bite to pickles made with other, more nutritious vinegars.  Good vinegars to have in your arsenal are rice vinegar, palm or date vinegar, malt vinegar, red and white wine vinegars, and the old standby, balsamic.  Take a good look at what your vinegar is made of, because nowadays the name is no guarantee.  Vinegar manufacturers are labelling it white wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar or whatever - but if you read "acetic acid" as one of the major ingredients they are flavouring and colouring woodpulp vinegar.

I also heartily recommend using red wine, white wine, honey mead, apple cider (same thing - check that it really IS apple cider, honey mead, etc) and good beers in cooking.  By good beers I mean a beer that came from a brewery that doesn't use preservatives or chemicals, or which at least uses very little of them.

When a recipe calls for flour and is not a baking/pasta recipe, I look for ways to get buckwheat flour, or spelt flour, (or anything other than white overprocessed flour,) into the recipe.  Also, think about adding a touch of  psyllum husk - a half teaspoon can make a gravy glossy smooth and beautiful.  Plain white flour is bleached to within an inch of its life and is not very good for you.

On that subject - ANYTHING is better than white sugar in recipes! White sugar also is bleached, and a good friend's doctor father made the observation, almost a century ago now, that wherever he went in Africa and India, there was no major incidence of cancer until a few years after white sugar and white flour arrived.

To anyone that says that's bullshit, I urge you to go to the supermarket and get a bottle of bleach, pour some into a cup, and ask yourself if you'd really drink that.  Because why shouldn't you, it's just white sugar with the sugar taken out... (By the way - DO NOT DO THIS, IT WILL KILL YOU!  I am making an extreme example here, not to be taken as a literal invitation.)  But you do see my point - anything that is bleached is no longer alive or conducive to life.

So those are simple rules of the kitchen that I live by and encourage - and I encourage you to do the same, it may be the difference between a long healthy life and a life with diabetes, cancers, and digestive illnesses and cancers.  And it certainly won't hurt to think about healthier choices.

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