Parsnip Polenta for an Autumn Night.

27
Oct

parsnip polenta

It seemed like a good idea at the time to buy that big bag of parsnips but I soon I began to wonder just how many ways I could cook these bold flavored roots up.  Baked or in soup seemed the obvious ways to go, but I felt like something a little different today.  Something that reflected the dreary morning that we had awoken to and the actually quite pleasant evening the day had become. Something brightly flavored, but comforting nonetheless.

For the past few months I really fell out of the routine of creating proper meals.  Lunch has been various veggies dunked in an assortment of dips.  Dinner has been vegetarian Indian delivered to our door. Slowly though, I am coming back on track.  The more we settle in to our new home, the more inspired I find myself.  I knew I was on to a winner tonight too, for I had envisaged this dinner before I’d even left the office, let alone alighted the tube.  It is always a sure sign it’s going to be good when you’ve been contemplating and dreaming it up for the four hours prior, yes?

So no need to stand at the fridge and scratch my head in thought tonight.  This came together inside of an hour, in front of Gossip Girl, and with a glass of vino in hand.  The creamy parsnips had a piquancy about them having been blended with a goats cheese reminiscent of Parmesan and a hint of spicy nutmeg.  The caramelized onions lay in slumber over the top, and the roasted brussel sprouts to the side had been loosely tossed in maple syrup and sea salt crystals before plating.  Even Andy with his mouth full, unable to speak, indicated his enjoyment with a thumbs up! A success of the season, for sure.

Parsnip Polenta with Caramelized Onions and Roasted Brussels.

Serves 2

4 medium parsnips

Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

1/8 cup (or thereabouts) crumbled hard goats cheese

1 and 1/2 red onions, cut into half and then sliced into half moons, separated.

2 cups of brussel sprouts

2 tbsp pure maple syrup

Sea salt

Coconut oil or olive oil or butter – about 3 tbsp total

Method

Pre-heat your oven to 180/350.

Put your onions in a non stick saucepan in a dab of oil of your choice (I used coconut oil) and place them on the stove on a low heat.  Put the lid on and stir occasionally.

Chop your brussels in half, and lightly cover in oil before placing in the oven for around 30 minutes, turning at half time.

Peel and chop your parsnips so that the pieces are around the same size. Boil until soft. I cut my parsnips in to thirds and kept them on the stove for a good ten minutes.

When the parsnips are soft, but not mushy, transfer to your blender with a few tbsps of the cooking water. Crumble the goats cheese in, grate some nutmeg over the top and add a little fat (around half a teaspoon). You could use butter or coconut oil depending on your preference. Blend until perfectly smooth.

Plate the parsnip puree as though it were polenta, in a big dollop in your bowl.  Top with the onions. Put the brussels in a bowl and toss gently with the maple syrup and salt before serving alongside.

Eat on the couch for the perfect end to an Autumn day.

The Solution to Obesity, Part Two.

27
Oct

The Observer on Sunday had an interesting article on obesity last Sunday. They were questioning whether obesity is a self inflicted condition, after it arose that a 70 stone (980 lbs / 444kg) man here in Britain  is costing the tax payer a lot of money. People are as upset at paying for obese people’s treatment as they are paying for illnesses relating to drinking and smoking. The article goes on to discuss how obese people are regularly ostracized by society.  Fatima Parker, the founder of International Size Acceptance Association UK, is quoted as saying that you can be healthy at any size. I agree to an extent, but I don’t believe that anyone could suggest that a 70 stone man, such as in this example, could ever be considered healthy.

What do you think? Is there a stage when you pass the threshold of being considered healthy and what size is that? I definitely think there is.  But for me the biggest tell-tale signs indicating unhealthiness are if facial features are drooping, the bags under the eyes are dark and it’s cumbersome to move the body – obese or not.

Finally, The Observer article listed a few “fun” facts:

1,010,000

The number of morbidly obese people in England.

10%

of six-year-olds are clinically obese. The number of obese children has tripled over the past 20 years.

4,619

obesity operations – gastric bands, balloons and stomach stapling – were carried out last year.

£4.2bn

Primary care trusts’ obesity costs in 2007, set to double by 2050.

1 billion

Number of overweight adults in the world. Some 300 million are obese.

One in four

adults is obese; and nine in 10 will be overweight or obese by 2050.

9lbs

Average extra weight that a child carries now, compared with a child 20 years ago.

5,056

The number of people admitted to hospital as a direct result of obesity in 2007-08.

£600m

Size of NHS drug bill for diabetes, the largest in primary care. Rising obesity has caused a sharp rise in type 2 diabetes.

~ Incidentally, the Guardian maintains a whole section on obesity here.

The Solution to Obesity.

20
Oct

dessert

After taking a rather longer than intended hiatus from blogging due to a multitude of reasons, I find myself inspired to write again after attending a lecture on obesity and the impact it has on the economy.

I scribbled some random figures as the talk went on, such as

  • how 24% of Britons are presently obese
  • it cost the UK’s NHS (National Health Service) some US$5.4m in 2001/2 and the cost is rising every year
  • it cost the UK US$4.25 in loss of earnings through obesity related sick absence in the same period
  • By 2020, if it carries on spreading as it is now, 25% of the UK’s NHS budget will be spent on treating obesity. That figure will be in the billions, not millions.

One thing I noted throughout the whole talk was that obesity was regarded as a disease.  The lecturer spoke about how humans are becoming obese because of our surroundings. My eyebrow raised at both of these suggestions. Is obesity really a disease if it’s (generally) controllable by conscious and deliberate eating? And can we not choose what to eat regardless of where we find ourselves? Where’s the personal responsibility in all of this?

At the end of the lecture there was time for some questions. I had read a few articles relatively recently in the LA Times regarding the fat tax and I asked him for his view on that as a potential solution.  The fat tax idea is to basically add more tax to foods with higher fat contents so that they are not so cheap for the consumer to buy and that if you do buy them, you are contributing to the NHS budget for care you’ll supposedly receive at a later date.  His response was that the consumer should not pay, the manufacturers should.

As I stood on the tube platform afterward, I thought about whether his response and talk as a whole did or did not make sense. Sure, the manufacturers of unhealthy foodstuffs are maybe misguiding consumers with all their health claims but is it not up to the individual to discern what they want in their bodies? Or maybe just because I have the interest and the time to teach myself about nutrition and how the body deals with certain foods, it doesn’t mean everyone else does.

Take the US Food pyramid for one. I think it’s fair to say that most people interested in food and politics are aware that it was put together with a heavy influence from manufacturers and the dairy industry. But so many people guide their lives by it, trusting that their elected government wouldn’t steer them wrong.  If people are eating according to the pyramid and getting some exercise, how can they be getting obese they might well wonder.

I considered the lecturers point on the environment too.  That we are now surrounded by so many foodstuffs it gets harder to make the best decisions for ourselves.  Generally speaking I disagree  on this point.  I believe that if you asked someone what was healthier – vegetables or the ready made shepherds pie, say – they would know the correct answer.  I am not entirely convinced by my own response here though, as I do have a recollection of it being in the news that a young boy somewhere in middle America did not know what a tomato even looked like in it’s whole form.

I also realize what we’re up against when it comes to making our own choices. For example, when we walked in to a a supermarket this weekend, we had to walk all the way to the back of the store to find the vegetables and fruit.  By the entrance were rows of ready meals. It actually felt like a different planet with all the white packaged boxes, on white shelves with the white aisles.  I might well have been on a spaceship! However, I did have a choice. I walked straight past these and found the real food, way down the back.  For about a fiver you can get a cauliflower, a bag of potatoes, a bag of carrots, a savoy cabbage and a bunch of parsnips, which will feed us far more meals than a couple of the sterile packages sitting down the front. And doesn’t it just feel so obvious that the vegetables would be so much better for our human bodies?

After reflecting some more on this talk I began to think that whilst there may be some people out there who can’t or won’t help themselves, there are sure to be some who could use a little support.

The concluding sentiment of the lecturer is one I am in agreement with: to eradicate obesity we need to find the necessary courage and political will to make the overdue changes to our food production system and our environment.

What do you think? Is obesity really a disease or a condition that leads to the onset of disease? Is it a personal responsibility or one that should be shouldered by all of society? How should we go about educating people if the government is not fit or able to do so for political reasons?  It’s a topic I am fascinated with, and one which seems to have a trillion different points of view, emotional reactions and heartfelt individual stories.