Four ways to boost your probiotic pals

Veggie-based foods are good for the planet and better for animals. Yep, we all know that. But did you know it’s also better for the animals that live inside you?

We’re talking about the 100 trillion microbes that live on and in you – and particularly live in the intestines. And just like you need to eat, so do your gut bacteria.


IMG_0719 (6)
A delicious way to boost your probiotic pals!



More and more research is proving what ancient cultures have known since history began. That feeding the right bacteria can have profound effects on your health – from your body weight to your mood , reducing the production of compounds that trigger with inflammation and a vital part of your immune system. Plus, certain foods, the ones that contain resistant starch, are favourite foods for your probiotic people. Resistant starch might even help the body absorb more minerals .

Fibre only comes from plant foods – it is a range of plant materials that your body can’t digest. So, they reach the large intestine virtually unchanged and here, they provide food for gut bacteria.

Here’s how you can boost the fibre and the nourishment for your little guys:
1. Eat fewer white flour foods (which have had the fibre and nutrients removed from the unprocessed, natural flour). These don’t feed your probiotic microbes. And without food, they won’t survive and this can have major effects on your health and mood.
2. Love your legumes. Pulses and lentils contain soluble fibre, which probiotics love to eat . Add lentils and beans to your salads, soups and more.
3. Treat your probiotics with special starch. Some foods are especially rich in resistant starch including artichokes, asparagus, leeks, chicory, onions, garlic, bananas, oats, wheat, lentils and pulses – chickpeas and beans.
4. Love chocolate Dark chocolate (fair trade and organic please) are rich a great snack – rich in antioxidant flavonoids for you, rich in resistant start for your probiotic pals.

Okra sabsi

Okra may have originated in Africa West Africa or Ethiopia) or south Asia and history tells us that the ancient Egyptians cultivated it in the 12th century BC. Known as ladies fingers (or gumbo in the Americas), okra is a member of the mallow family. You can find dishes that feature in the cuisines in many counties around the world.


Okra sabsi – lovely and a little bit different


400g fresh okra

6-8 tbsp light olive oil

1 large onion, finely sliced lengthwise

1 tsp red chilli powder

½ tsp turmeric

½ teaspoon fennel seeds ground

1 tsp cumin seeds, ground

Salt to taste

2 green chilies, sliced lengthwise

Wash the okra, drain and dry really well (otherwise the veggies can feel a little slimy – yuck!). Cut off the ends and slice into 2cm pieces.

1 tsp ground pomegranate powder or a splash of lime juice.


In a large pan, heat the oil and add the onion. Stir and cook until golden.

Add the spices to the pan (except the pomegranate powder or lime juice) and roast for a minute or so to allow the spices to become fragrant.

Add the okra, stir to coat and cook, uncovered on a medium heat for about 20 minutes (the veggies should simmer). Don’t add water but do stir occasionally so the mixture doesn’t stick. The dish is done when the veggies are tender.

Sprinkle with the pomegranate powder or lime juice and serve with naan, pitta or roti.

Turmeric: the spice that could benefit your life!


In 2010, scientists examining ancient pottery from the site of an ancient civilisation near Delhi found traces of eggplant with ginger and turmeric in clay pots. They dubbed it the world’s first curry. So, Ayurvedic medical practitioners have used the vibrant yellow spice, currently starring in teas, smoothies and dinner dishes in café and homes near you, for four thousand years or more. So what did the ancient food doctors in India know about turmeric that we’re only just learning? And can this flavour and colour boost also come with health benefits?

Amazingly effective anti-inflammaotry action

Botanist Dr James A. Duke, writing in Alternative & Complementary Therapies, has reviewed around 700 studies examining the benefits of turmeric (curcuma longa). He found that in some studies, turmeric has been show to be even more effective than a number of pharmaceutical where it comes to anti-inflammatory action – and with virtually no adverse effects.


Turmeric gives a vibrant colour to mustard and curry powder and has powerful anti-inflammatory effects


Here’s where ancient wisdom and modern knowledge combine and just a few fast facts about this surprisingly beneficial spice …

Turmeric contains over 20 active medicinal compounds called curcumunoids; the most important of these is curcumin and this may have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antioxidant properties according to Harvard University[i].

  1. The plant compound in pepper (which gives pepper its bite) is called piperine and this boosts your body’s ability to absorb turmeric by 2000 times[ii].
  2. Because curcumin is fat-soluble, it needs fat to dissolve in before it can be absorbed. Could be one reason why many curries begin with the frying of onions and garlic in oil? Try using olive oil – it contains a unique range of beneficial phenolic compounds that aren’t found in any other food.
  3. Turmeric may have a role to play in the prevention of dementia. It does this by reducing the formation of a substance called beta-amyloid (responsible for the formation of plaques that obstruct brain) in Alzheimer’s disease.
  4. Curcumin fights oxidative damage and inflammation which both contribute to dementia. This may be especially important since curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier – i.e. it can pass from the blood into the brain helping to keep blood vessels clear and in this way, allow for oxygen and nutrients in blood to nourish the brain.
  5. Turmeric contains six different COX-2-inhibitors. COX-2 enzymes promote pain, swelling and inflammation but COX-2-inhibitors selectively block this enzyme. Because of this, it may be able to play a role in keeping blood vessels clear. In one study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was even more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug[iii].
  6. Powdered turmeric root contains around three per cent curcumin[iv]. Many of the newer studies examine the effect of 1gram of curcumin extract so you may want to consider a supplement as well as upping your intake from dishes that contain turmeric.
  7. Turmeric may have a role in fighting depression, again due to its potent anti-inflammatory action. In one small study of 60 people, one group took a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI), called Prozac (fluoxetine), another took a 1g dose of curcumin daily while a third group took both the SSRI and 1g curcumin. After six weeks, the results showed that the group that took both curcumin and fluoxetine displayed the best results where it came to mood and depression[v]. The severity of depression was assessed using a common test for depression called the Hamilton Rating Scale (HAM-D). This evaluates mood, guilt, suicidal ideation, sleep problems, agitation anxiety, and more. Results showed that overall, the average change in the HAM-D scores was similar for curcumin and fluoxetine i.e. curcumin worked as well as fluoxetine in terms of improvements in the severity of depression. One of the ways in which curcumin may exert its effect is by boosting the feel-good brain transmitters serotonin and dopamine[vi].
  8. Raw turmeric may have greater anti-inflammatory effects than cooked turmeric.
  9. Cooked turmeric may have greater antioxidant effects than raw.



Ready to give it a go? The University of Maryland recommends a dose of 1.5 to 3 g cut root per day, 1-3 g dried turmeric or 400 to 600 mg standardised powder (curcumin) three times per day[vii].

Buy fresh turmeric from groceries and dried ginger from grocers and supermarkets.

Five ways to enjoy turmeric:

  1. Yellow curry
  2. On vegetables such as cauliflower and Brussels sprouts (which contain the powerful anti-cancer compound sulphurophane)
  3. In soups and dahl



[i] Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School. Can everyday spice make you healthier?

[ii] Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Med. 1998 May;64(4):353-6.

[iii] A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Phytother Res. 2012 Nov;26(11):1719-25. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4639. Epub 2012 Mar 9.

[iv] Nutr Cancer. 2006;55(2):126-31. Curcumin content of turmeric and curry powders.

[v]Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Phytotherapy Research. Volume 28, Issue 4, pages 579–585, April 2014

[vi] Psychopharmacology December 2008, 201:435. Antidepressant activity of curcumin: involvement of serotonin and dopamine system.

[vii] University of Maryland Medical Center. Turmeric

Mummy’s saag

Spinach is a great source of nutrients – the darker the leaf, the more concentrated the nutrients. Spinach is particularly rich in eye-protective pigment including lutein and zeaxanthin.

The traditional spinach dish is fast and delicious.

Serves four to six


Olive oil for frying

I onion, sliced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp turmeric

3 fresh tomatoes, chopped

2-4 chilies, sliced

1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated4 x 12g packs of spinach leaves



In a large pan, fry the onion until golden brown.

Add the garlic and fry for another five minutes taking care not to burn the onions

Stir in the turmeric, tomatoes and ginger and cook for another five minutes.

Add the spinach leaves, one pack at a time – the leaves will wilt quickly allowing you room to add more. Then add 250ml water.

Using a stick blender, blend until the puree is smoothish.

Serve with roti or flatbread or as a main or as a side veggie for your Indian feast.



Choccoco blue bites

These easy bake cookies use the goodness of fair trade cocoa full of flavonoids and sweet anthocyanin-packed blueberries. Bound to be your family’s next favourite thing …


Fair trade cocoa plus sweet blueberries equals yum!

Make 16-20


200g margarine, softened to room temperature

100g brown sugar

185g plain flour, sieved

25g fair trade cocoa powder, sieved

60g desiccated coconut

Handful of blueberries

A sifting of cocoa to garnish



Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Line two oven trays with baking paper.

In a food processor, blend the margarine and sugar

Add the flour, cocoa and coconut and blend until combined.

Take an ice cream scoop full of the choccy dough, roll into a ball and place on the lined tray. Press lightly to flatten.

Add three or four blueberries to each cookie and gently flatten.

Bake, swapping trays halfway if the cookies are baking unevenly.

The cookies are done when they are firm at the edges (10-12 minutes).

When cool, sift with more free trade cocoa powder. If there are any left, these hazelnut chocolate cookies will keep for around two days in an airtight container.

Punjabi chole

A hearty and healthy family favourite.

Serve this tasty favourite with chapati and chopped tomatoes, onion and cucumber


2 x 450g can of chickpeas, drained (or 400g dried, soaked overnight then cooked in fresh water until tender)

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 large onions, chopped finely

9 garlic cloves

Thumb size piece of fresh ginger

6 green chillies, finely chopped

1 bunch of fresh coriander

2 tbsp ground coriander

2-4 tsp chilli powder

2 tsp ground turmeric

1 x 700 jar of sieved tomatoes (passata)

3 tsp salt

2 tsp garam masala

2 tbsp lemon juice




Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the cumin seeds; fry until fragrant (about five minutes).

Add the onion and cook until golden brown (this will help to give the sauce a dark, rich colour)

Blend the garlic, ginger, chillies and half of the coriander and chillies into a pastel add to the pan.

Add the ground coriander, chilli power and turmeric (and more oil if you need to) and cook for a few more minutes.

Pour in the sieved tomatoes and add the chickpeas to the mixture. Add around 1 litre of water.

Bring to the boil then lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until thickened (about 20 minutes).

Before serving, stir in the garam masala and lemon juice and finish with the remaining coriander leaves.



Easy raspberry fruit spread

You only need a little of this fruity, jammy spread to introduce an intense, delicious raspberry flavour. The chia seeds in this recipe swell up and absorb fluid providing a jelly-like consistency so you don’t need the traditional gelling agent, pectin. Oh, and chia seeds also provide essential omega-3 fats. So go on – try some on your toast, bagel, bun, bap …



1 cup frozen raspberries

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 tablespoons chia seeds



Place all of the ingredient into a blender and blitz until smooth-ish. You may need to add some extra water to help it combine.

Spoon into a pan and heat until the mixture bubble, reduct the heat and stir until thickens – this should take around five minutes.

Allow to cool before pouring into a sterilised jar.

Store in the fridge.

This jammy spread will last for around a week – unless the family doesn’t grab it all first!



If stress makes you blue, go green, go micro green …

All greens are full of stress-fighting vitamin C – it does battle with your body’s level of cortisol (a major stress hormone) Cortisol boosts your belly fat and is also linked with poor memory anxiety and even depression. Cortisol also dampens your immune system. So, for all these reasons, it’s important to get enough vitamin C.

You already know that veggies and fruits are vitamin C rich, but did you know that  when they are spouting, tiny plants are super rich in this antioxidant vitamin? Baby versions of beetroot, cabbage and coriander aren’t just a pretty garnish – they can contain up to four to six times the vitamin C as their more mature relatives!

Ancient Chinese mariners sprouted seeds on ocean journeys to get the vitamin C they needed on long voyages and avoid scurvy



Think it’s just a fad? Think again! The ancient Chinese knew about the vitamin C wonders of sprouting veggies – while the British used limes and other citrus to ward off scurvy, sailors from the orient sprouted seeds and munched on the young plants to avoid the vitamin C deficiency disease, scurvy.


Grow your micro greens

Decide on your seeds – choose from:

  • Radish
  • Watercress
  • Mustard seeds
  • Fenugreek
  • Chives
  • Kale
  • Carrot
  • Coriander
  • Chia or more.


  1. Place some organic potting soil in the bottom of a shallow planter and smooth the top.
  2. To speed the germinating process, try soaking in water before sowing. This will make it more difficult to sow evening but don’t worry about overcrowding (you’ll sow more than you would when growing seeds to fruiting plants outside).
  3. Cover with a thin layer of soil and spray with water or gently water them.
  4. Place on a sunny windowsill and water at least once a day to make sure the water doesn’t dry out.
  5. Snip with scissors above the soil level, rinse in a sieve with cold, running water.
  6. Enjoy with salads and sandwiches to get the most out of the vitamin C. or garnish casseroles and curries – the heat will destroy the vitamin C, though.


Raspberry and walnut brekkie bars

Great for kids – whatever their age – who never have time for a healthy breakfast. Well relatively! Enjoy as a snack or dessert. Boost the nutritional value by enjoying with fresh fruit and a glass of water so that the oats can do their cholesterol-lowering thing …


Easy, delicious and they’ll be gone super quick …



200g plain flour

200g porridge oats

250g margarine

140g brown sugar

Juice and zest of 1 lime

100g walnuts, broken into small pieces

2 punnets raspberries (250g)



Preheat the oven to fan 170C.

Grease a 23cm square cake tin.

Place the flour, oats and margarine into a mixing bowl and using clean fingers, work the mixture together to make coarse crumbs (or use a mixing attachment in a food processor). Add the sugar, lime zest and three-quarters of the walnuts.

Press the crumb mixture together well until you get large sticky clumps.

Place about two-thirds of the oat mixture evenly into the tin, pressing down lightly.

Place the raspberries on top and then cover evenly with the remaining crumb mixture.

Throw over the remaining walnuts and press the mixture down evenly and more firmly so that the bars stay together.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until pale golden on top.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes and cut into 12 bars. Leave to cool in the tin before removing.

Will keep for 2-3 days. Unless the family spots them first.


Warm aubergine orecchiette salad

Did you know that pasta is a low GI food? And that aubergine – AKA eggplant – is rich in antioxidants? Plus, the walnuts supply essential omega-3s which many of us are short of.

Try this deliciously simple and flavoursome warm salad – whether it’s cold outside or warm, too.




Tasty little pasta ears (orecchiette) with herbs, garlic and aubergine



400g orecchiette pasta

1 aubergine (eggplant) chopped into cubes

3 cloves garlic, crushed

400g spinach

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Handful of sundried tomatoes, sliced into strips

Handful walnuts, broken into smaller piecesSmall handful fresh mint, roughly chopped

Small handful fresh mint, roughly chopped

Small handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Large handful fresh basil, torn

Salt and pepper to taste


For the dressing

1 large lemon

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Heaped teaspoon wholegrain mustard



Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and leave aside.

Make the dressing by stirring together the lemon juice with the olive oil, garlic and mustard. Set aside.

Now cook the veggies. Heat the oil and add the garlic. After a minute, add the aubergine and when it is soft and beginning to turn brown on the outside, add the spinach and sauté until wilted.

Add the pasta to the aubergine and spinach, along with the walnuts, herbs and sundried tomatoes.

Stir into the pasta and serve immediately.