….tales of taste and food wisdom, for modern times

YOGHURT IS GOOD STUFF! Eat up your curds and…whey-hay!! March 27, 2012

Primroses. Sweet smelling crocuses and snowy white snowdrops. Cute  newborn lambs gamboling in the sunshine.  Spring is springing and we’re in the season of renewal.

After a winter of excesses, it’s the time of year when we  feel a need to ‘renew’ –  to heal, nourish and refresh our poor abused bodies. It’s a time to say the words ‘must get healthy‘ and nearly mean them.  But what’s to be done?

Well, we can start by eating up our curds.  Specifically, yoghurt.  Thick, organic, pro-biotic yoghurt is not only really, really, really healthy (don’t panic…keep reading) it’s also absolutely de-lic-ious.

Yoghurt  has gravitas:  To the ancient Assyrians, yoghurt was known as “lebney” or “life”.  Its beneficial medicinal properties are prized in both ancient and contemporary cultures – it’s credited with healing everything from gastrointestinal complaints to eczema.  Research shows that a regular diet of cultured dairy lowers cholesterol; protects against bone loss; and populates the digestive tract with beneficial bacteria and lactic acid to keep pathogens at bay, guard against infectious illnesses and enable us to fully digest our food.

The process of culturing – or lacto-fermenting – dairy breaks down the milk protein casein – one of the most difficult proteins to digest.  It restores many of the enzymes which are destroyed during pasteurisation, but which we need to  absorb calcium and other minerals.  One such enzyme is lactase, which helps us to digest the milk sugar lactose, so many who are lactose intolerant, can tolerate lacto-fermented foods.

Cultured dairy foods have been around  since about 10,000 BC and their pedigree is evident in almost all culinary traditions;  In the ancient cultures of Iran and India (around 500 BC) the combination of yoghurt and honey was called “the food of the gods”;  the Pharohs reputedly feasted on it;  Persian traditions believe that Abraham owed his  longevity to eating yoghurt regularly; present day Hindus offer and consume curds – along with milk, sugar, ghee and honey –  as gifts to the gods in their ancient  ritual of Panchamitra (the Five Elixirs of Life).  Yoghurt is the key ingredient in the longevity-promoting diet of  the growing number of Bulgaria’s centenarians.

Not to be left out, I use it at every opportunity:  ‘straight up’,  sweetened with a little honey or seasoned with salt and pepper.

For breakfast: overnight-soaked porridge, bircher museli, cooked or fresh fruit compote or pancakes will  be topped generously with a creamy dollop and given a drizzle of honey, a scattering of toasted flaked almonds and a good dusting of cinnamon.  Sometimes, I also grate some fresh ginger into the yoghurt and let it sit for a while before serving. (Cinnamon and ginger taste good and are anti-inflammatory).

In an ultra-smoothie: the night before I want an awesome  protein and omega hit,  I soak a heaped tablespoon of finely ground mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower and flax) and another of  ground almonds soaked overnight in half a cup of yoghurt.  The next morning, I blitz this mix with fresh soft, or stewed, fruit and enough coconut milk to make up generous glassful.  The addition of a very fresh organic egg yolk to the blitzer sends the protein content into overdrive and will keep you going all morning.

In labne: for a sublime middle-eastern experience, straining the yoghurt in a muslin-lined sieve will produce a delicious soft creamy yoghurt-cheese which you’ll want to devour immediately in as many ways as your imagination can devise: as a spread/dip/pâté – seasoned with salt and pepper;  mixed with finely chopped spring-onions or chives; mashed with smoked mackerel and horseradish; thinned a little and swirled into soups, casseroles, curries, tagines, or to make a creamy salad dressing.

Or, for a sweet treat, sit a quenelle next to slice of Normany Apple Tart (see Recipes), or served in a glass and topped with a fruit compote.  Good quality, organic pro-biotic yoghurt can be expensive, so here’s the good news:  Home-made is far cheaper, far tastier and far, far more beneficial than anything you’ll buy at any price.

And in the next post I’ll explain how….


Granny’s 72 Hour Beef and Lentil Broth

Filed under: Recipes — Isabel @ 9:29 pm
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Our grannies really knew their stuff.…those bubbling stock pots were not for nothing!

Modern science has shown us what grandmother already knew.  As Sally Fallon (President of The Weston A Price Foundation) has explained:  Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It also contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons– chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine,  sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.

A good stock congeals as it cools, due the presence of gelatin. The therapeutic use of gelatin goes back to the ancient Chinese and research in France up to the 1950s showed that it was found to be useful in the treatment of a long list of diseases including: peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, diabetes, muscle diseases, infectious diseases, jaundice and cancer.  Babies had fewer digestive problems when gelatin was added to their milk.  Gelatin attracts and holds liquids, aiding digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the gut.

Broth-based soup did more than please the taste buds:  “Stock is a healthy, light, nourishing food” said Brillant-Savarin, “good for all of humanity; it pleases the stomach, stimulates the appetite and prepares the digestion.”   And, Escoffier said:  “Indeed, stock is everything in cooking. Without it, nothing can be done.”

To read more about the fabulous nutritional value stocks and broths, I highly recommend:

http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/broth-is-beautiful and http://www.westonaprice.org/beginner-videos/stocks-and-soups-video-by-sarah-pope

Well, here’s my warmly-spiced version of a traditional,  time-honoured soup that will  nourish, heal and make you smile:


300g carrots

450g onions

Garlic: 3 cloves

Butter: 1 tablespoon

Beef dripping: 1 tablespoon (or another of butter)

Ground cumin: 2 heaped teaspoons

Ground coriander: 2 heaped teaspoons

Ground cloves: 1/4 teaspoon

Paprika: 1 heaped teaspoon

72 hour beef stock*: 2 litres

200g red lentils **

Tomato purée: 2 tablespoons

Parsley stalks: handful

Fish sauce (nam pla): 1 teaspoon

Ground black pepper: 1.5 teaspoons

Sea salt: 1.5 teaspoons


1.  Peel and very finely dice the carrots, onions and garlic, or blitz in a food processor for a few seconds until finely chopped.

2.  Melt the butter and beef dripping in a large saucepan and add the chopped veg. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 of pepper,  cover with a cartouche (see Techniques: Sweating Vegetables) and sweat over a low heat for 10 mins  or so, until the veggies have softened.

3.  Stir in the cumin, coriander, cloves and paprika and continue to sweat for a further 5 mins, then add the beef stock, drained lentils, tomato purée,  parsley stalks and fish sauce.  Stir everything well and bring up to the boil.

5. Reduce the heat, cover and gently simmer the soup for 25 mins, or until the lentils are very soft. Check for seasoning, adding the remainder of the salt and pepper to taste. Let the soup sit until it has cooled down a little.

6. For a smoother soup, blitz with a hand blender, or in a food processor, until you get a good thick consistency with some texture.  If  you prefer a textured, take out about half the solids and blitz them until you have a smooth purée, then return them to the rest of the soup and stir well.

7.  To serve, re-heat the soup until piping hot and perhaps add a handful of home-made croutons (fried in a little beef dripping) and/or a swirl of thick, live home-made yoghurt (see post  coming soon: “Was Miss Muffet on a health kick?”).


* Simmering the beef bones and vegetables for the full monty -72 hours – gives a tremendously rich, flavoursome broth (and will make the house smell delicious).  However, an 8 -12 hour stock will also be very tasty!

** Red lentils are very nutritious, but (in common with all legumes and beans) contain indigestible phytates and other anti-nutrients  They need to be rinsed well and soaked in water and two tablespoons of whey/cider vinegar/lemon juice for at least 8 hours (then rinsed again and drained) to neutralise these problematic substances and make the highly beneficial nutrients available.