Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Root Vegetable Risotto

Otherwise known as 'how to use up the leftovers' risotto. It is almost worth making extra on Christmas day, just so you can eat this. It could easily be made from scratch by substituing the gravy and water for chicken stock and the leftover vegetables for peas and spinach or any other no chop vegetables.

2 cups of risotto rice
3 cups of boiling water
1 cup of leftover gravy (or use 4 cups chicken stock)
1 cup leftover turkey or chicken (optional)
2 cups of leftover vegetables (I used carrot, leeks and chestnuts)
Handful of chopped sage
1 tablespoon light cream cheese
Splash of sherry (yes really, it is Christmas, but white wine will do)

Serves 4 generously

Pour the rice, water and gravy into a large saucepan and bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes or until creamy and the rice just has a slight bite.

Add the leftover vegetables, sage, cream cheese and sherry. Cook for a further 5 minutes and then dish up.

Arthritis diet notes
This is a great soothing dish, easy to make and eat, which is just what you need after the festive rush. Sprouts, carrots, parsnips, squash, peas, spinach etc would all work in this dish. The only tip is to use a variety of colours and textures to ensure you get a wide range of vitamins and antioxidants.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Oat and Almond Crusted Fish

Fish is traditional in many countries on Christmas Eve so I thought I'd share one of my favourite easy recipes for a fantastic fish supper. It's an incredibly versatile recipe, check out the Christmas stuffing variation for the best alternative use of stuffing mix ever.

4 white fish fillets
4 tablespoons rolled oats
4 tablespoons light cream cheese
2 tablespoons flaked almonds
1 tablespoon chopped parsley or dried herb of your choice
Black pepper to taste
Olive oil spray

Serves 4
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with foil and place the fish fillets on it.

In a bowl, stir together the herbs, oats and almonds. Season with black pepper.

Spread the fish fillets with the cream cheese and then sprinkle on a tablespoon of the crumb mixture. Spray each fillet with a light mist of olive oil and bake for about 8 minutes (depending on the thickness of your fillets).

Christmas stuffing fish - replace the oats and almonds with a sprinkle of any dried, breadcrumb based stuffing mix.
Pesto-crusted fish - mix a tablespoon of pesto from a jar with the cream cheese. Spread on the fish and top with ciabatta breadcrumbs and pine kernels.
Seedy salmon - add a tablespoon of whole grain mustard to the cream cheese. Spread on fish and top with breadcrumbs mixed with sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Arthritis diet notes:
Regular fish eaters have been shown to be less likely to get arthritis and have milder symptoms, probably due to the omega 3 fatty acids in fish. There is less in white fish than oily fish but you still get some of the benefits. Fish is also a good source of low fat protein. Crumbing the fish with oatmeal, almonds and olive oil helps add cholesterol lowering soluble fibre and boost the omega 3 content further.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas Eating and Arthritis

A few people have been asking me about cooking over Christmas with arthritis and what to eat to help avoid a massive festive flare. I thought I'd share a few suggestions on the eating first. Christmas is about family, friends and enjoying celebrating together. It's important to have fun and not worry too much about the tightening waist band or mince-pie sugar high. But we all want to stay happy and healthy for the holidays,  so here are some practical eating hints and links to the relevant recipes.

1. Love your spices - all the ginger, cloves and cinammon in Christmas cooking are great anti-inflammatories so throw them in everything and enjoy their benefits.

2. Go nuts for nuts - almonds, walnuts, brazils, pecans, cashews and so on are good sources of healthy omega 3 and monosaturated fats which can help reduce inflammation. They are also rich in magnesium, zinc, selenium, fibre and protein. Eat them plain (rather than honey roast or salted) or try using them in your cooking; you can replace some of the cakes with ground almonds or hazelnuts for a delicious and healthy change.

3. Watch your fats - it is very fashionable to cook your roast potatoes in goose fat or beef dripping. For a once off on Christmas day, that's fine but it's much better to roast in olive oil for your heart and joints over the festive season.

4. Be creative with your fruit and vegetables - people with arthritis are consistently found to eat less fruit and vegetables that our un-joint-challenged friends. Probably because carrying and chopping them is such a hassle when Arthur is nipping at your toes! Christmas can seem particularly tricky, with so much to do and prepare. Easy ways to make sure you are getting enough are to have juice with your breakfast, dried fruit as a snack (and there is loads around at Christmas) and serve veg that don't need a lot of work: spinach, peas, sprouts, beans etc all are easy to cook.

5. Drink with decorum - this one is from experience...most of us don't tend to drink much throughout the year because of our medications. Being limited to 5 units or so a week usually can make all the Christmas alcohol a bit of a shock to the system. Falling asleep before the main course is not a good look for a Christmas guest! And a hangover is a sure fire way to set off a flare, so enjoy the mulled wine and eggnog but for every glass, drink one of water. Make sure you eat and take it S-L-O-W.

6. Start the day well - getting in a healthy breakfast is an easy way to keep your eating on track over Christmas. Even if the rest of the day is a wash with champagne and chips (here's hoping...), having a nice bowl of porridge with berries or a banana muffin will set you up nicely for all that shopping,wrapping and partying.

Check back in a few days for some festive recipes and cooking hints.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Healthy Hummus

Everyone likes hummus. It's the universal dip - welcome at any party, in any lunchbox and for any snack. It's very easy to make and the homemade version tastes much better than the odd supermarket sludges. It's also fun to top yourself for some interesting variations; try a spoonful of pesto, harissa or red onion marmalade to ring the changes.

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Juice of one lemon (you can replace with a tablespoon of white wine vinegar if you find juicing difficult)
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 peeled clove of garlic
Salt (to taste)

Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend and you are done!

Arthritis diet notes:
Pulses, like chickpeas, are a great source of fibre, protein and a reasonable source of both zinc and folate. Using them in dips is a great way to introduce them to the more timid eaters in your house! The olive oil and tahini both provide anti-inflammatory fats which may help reduce pain and inflammation in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. They are also useful in protecting against heart disease.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Cooking with Arthritis Gadgets: Braun Multiquick Hand Blender

It feels like time for another  arthritis friendly tools and gadgets review, so this time we're looking at the Braun Multiquick hand blender.

What is it supposed to do?
Pretty much everything a food processor, mixer and blender could do. It chops, whisks, purees and blends.

Does it work?
It makes light work of creaming, pureeing and finely chopping pretty much everything. I've tried onions, nuts, soup and even raw vegetables and it chopped or pureed them all. Mine does a decent job of whisking but to be honest, I prefer to use a double hand held whisk just as it is slightly more powerful. I'm sure one of the newer varieties would do a better job through (mine is a model 1 and the new, basic one is a model 3). I normally use it in whatever bowl or pan I'm cooking in so it saves on washing up. To clean, you twist the bottom section off and pop it in the dishwasher or rinse it in the sink. The attachments clean easily so no scrubbing is required.

Does it making it easier to cook with arthritis?
Yes! No more lifting up pans of boiling soup and trying to wrestle them into the blender without spilling scalding fluid everywhere. It's light, easy to hold and the button is simple to press even with sore arthritis fingers.

Overall verdict?
A - top of the class, and an arthritis essential!

For some helpful tips for making life easier when you are cooking with arthritis, click on the 'Handy Hints' page.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Gingerbread Oat Bars

I'm already feeling very festive and when that wintry feeling strikes, it has to be gingerbread in our house. These combine the rich flavours of gingerbread with the comforting stodge of a flapjack. Now,annoyingly at the moment I can't eat these particular goodies as I have just had a jaw op, but I did try microwaving one in milk and blending it for a porridge-like treat and it was very nice (for anyone else out there not chewing). Luckily, I found some willing volunteers who could chew and they gave these a big thumbs up.

200g rolled oats
50g all bran
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
1 tablespoon milk
75 grams stoneless dates and figs (or just dates/figs if you prefer)
2 medium eggs
100g dark brown sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg

Makes 12
Preheat the oven to 180c.

Put the dates and figs in a microwave proof bowl and pour over just enough boiling water to cover. Microwave for 1 minute. Drain and allow to cool.

Combined the oil, eggs and sugar in a blender or food processor. Add the cooled dates and figs. Whizz the whole lot together until smooth.

In a large bowl, mix the oats and all bran with the blended egg and sugar mixture. Sprinkle in the spices. Stir everything until all the oats are coated with the liquid.

Pour into a well greased baking tin or brownie pan. Spread out until about 1 1/2 inches thick. If the mix doesn't fill your pan, simply spread out to the desired thickness and then push the mixture into a straight edge.

Bake for 25 minutes. Cut into 12 pieces whilst still warm.

Arthritis diet notes:
A high fibre, energy-dense snack like this is great when you are on the go. The added spices give it warmth and have anti-inflammatory benefits. If you'd like to try these for breakfast, have them with a glass of milk to add protein and calcium for a well-balanced start to the day.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Arthur investigates...Beetroot

There has been quite a buzz about beetroot recently (beets) with it being reported to reduce high blood pressure and increase exercise performance. So, is there anything in it and how might it affect arthritis?

It seems that the high nitrate content of beetroot helps dilate blood vessels and so helps get your blood flowing. But, it's not alone in having these properties, other vegetables such as spinach and radish have a similar effect. Beetroot also contains anthocyanins, a chemical pigment which gives it it's rich rich colour. Anthocyanins are found in other deep red and purple fruit and vegetables and have been linked to helping reduce inflammation.

Eating beetroot might be useful then for people with inflammatory arthritis, like rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, as they have both been linked to increased incidence of high blood pressure and heart disease. But the benefits aren't unique and we should all be enjoying lots of lovely blackberries, redcurrants, spinach and any other pretty coloured fruit and veg as part of a healthy diet.

Thai Sweetcorn Soup

Creamy and satisfying, this soup makes a speedy wintery lunch. You can heat up leftovers on the hob or in the microwave the next day or try taking it to work in a flask. Using curry paste really cuts down on chopping and preparation time for those cooking with arthritis. But I suggest adding 1/2 teaspoon of spice paste first and then tasting - they differ hugely in how hot they are! Sweetcorn can remain a little 'bitty' even after blending. I don't mind it like that and it makes it easy to make but if you prefer a very smooth soup, pass it through a sieve before serving.

360g tin of no added salt or sugar sweetcorn
500ml hot chicken stock (from a cube is fine)
1 teaspoon thai green curry paste
1 inch piece of fresh ginger
4 spring onions
100ml low fat plain yoghurt
1 tsp sesame oil

To serve:
Handful of fresh mint or coriander
Toasted cashew nuts

Makes enough for 2 generous portions

Roughly chop your spring onions and ginger. Put in a large saucepan with the sweetcorn and hot chicken stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the curry paste, yoghurt and sesame oil and then blend until smooth.

Serve topped with the herbs and nuts.

Arthritis diet notes:
Soup makes a filling lunch. It takes longer for your body to digest food blended into a soup than it would the raw ingredients, so it really can help keep you going on cold winter days. Making them from canned or frozen vegetables is easy if arthritis means you are not able to do lots or preparation and the soup will still be bursting with vitamins. Canned sweetcorn is high in insoluble fibre to help keep your digestive system ticking over (although if you suffer from Crohn's or IBS related to your arthritis, you may want to give it a miss as insoluble fibre can aggravate digestive symptoms in some people).

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Aromatic Spiced Mince with Couscous

This is a very quick, cheap and easy dish that is packed full of flavour. Any leftovers make a brilliant lunchbox salad the next day. Do give the Quorn mince a try - it works really well in this and takes up the flavours brilliantly. If you really don't like the idea, you can replace it with lean lamb or chicken mince but you will need to make sure your brown it first before you add the rest of the ingredients.

350g Quorn mince
160g dry weight couscous
2 courgettes
200g chopped carrots (substitute the same weight ready chopped or use frozen pre chopped carrots if you prefer)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (or ordinary if you can't find it)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 clove garlic crushed
1 tsp dry chilli flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

To serve:
2 good handfuls of chopped mint
Greek yoghurt or tzatiki
Lime wedges
1 tablespoon pinenuts

Serves 4

Put the dry couscous in a bowl and pour over 250ml of boiling water. Cover with clingfilm and microwave for 1 minute, then leave to stand.

Grate your courgette either by hand or in a food processor. Heat the oil in the pan and add your garlic and add your carrot. Cook over a low heat for about 4 minutes or until slightly softened. Add your courgette and cook for a further 2 minutes. Finally add the spices, salt and Quorn mince and cook for 3 more minutes.

Turn off the heat and stir in the cooked couscous. Dish up and garnish with the lime, mint, pine nuts and a good dollop of yoghurt.

Arthritis diet notes:
This recipe is a filling and well balanced meal, particularly for anyone who doesn't eat meat. The quorn and yoghurt provide high quality vegetarian protein sources (about a third of your daily needs). As a recipe it is also high in the anti-oxidant vitamins A,C and E.

 High intakes of red meat are linked to increased incidence of rheumatoid arthritis and some studies show that vegetarian diets are linked to less joint pain in arthritis, possibly due to both the greater amount of fruit and vegetables being eaten and the smaller amounts of saturated fat being consumed.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

World Arthritis Day Cake (or Red Velvet Cake)

Today is World Arthritis Day, part of a campaign to raise awareness of the many types of arthritis. This years campaign is tagged 'Move to Improve' to remind us all that a just getting out and about, walking and taking gentle exercise can help manage arthritis and keep us healthy.

I thought Word Arthritis Day was a wonderful opportunity to have a bit of a celebration here. Yes, arthritis is miserable sometimes, but we don't have to be. Arthritis has introduced me to new friends, opportunities and skills. So here is a cake recipe to toast Arthur and everyone out there with arthritis.

250g cooked beetroot (I buy the ready cooked vacuum packed type, don't make it with the ones in vinegar by mistake! Yuck)
300 g self raising/all-purpose flour
150g greek yoghurt
3 large eggs
150g dark brown soft sugar
50 g cocoa
50mls strong coffee 
30g chopped hazelnuts

250g low fat cream cheese
75g honey
1tsp good vanilla extract
2 tablespoons semi-skimmed milk

To make the cake, first grease a 23cm/14in cake tin and heat your oven to 180c.

Put all the ingredients for the cake in a food processor and whizz until well combined. The mixture should be the consistency of wallpaper paste, if it is a little thick add some milk, a tablespoon full at a time.

Pour the cake batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes until well risen and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave in pan to cool for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

Meanwhile, make the icing. Whisk your cream cheese, milk, honey and vanilla extract together with an electric whisk until well combined into a thick frosting.

Once the cake is cool, spread the frosting on top working gently to smooth it across. Dust with cocoa and serve in celebration!

Arthritis diet notes:
Right, this is cake. It is not going to be a health food but you can have a delicious treat without eating things that aggravate your arthritis. This cake uses beetroot, hazelnuts and yoghurt to replace butter which makes it fudgey and rich but low in saturated fat. Saturated fats can aggravate the inflammation in arthritis so cutting back on them may help reduce pain.

Beetroot has been shown to help lower blood pressure due to its rich nitrate content. It's also rich in antioxidants. More usefully for bakers, it is naturally high in sugar so less needs to be added to this cake batter. You'd have to eat a quarter of the cake to get one portion of beetroot towards your five a day, which would be rather too easy to do but not recommended...

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Fresh Apple Sorbet

We had this last night using the last of the apples from the tree in our garden. It's incredibly easy to make but does involved some peeling and chopping - I recommend checking out some of the apple coring/peeling gadgets if you find it tricky because most of them are very useful.

4 large apples
Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
1tsp ground ginger
250ml cold water
1 tablespoon sugar (to taste)

Serves 4

Peel and chop the apples into thumb-sized chunks. Put in a food processor or blender with the rest of the ingredients and puree until you have a nice loose paste.

Taste and check the levels of sweetness versus acidity. You may need to add an extra spoonful of sugar or a little more lime/lemon.

Pop into an ice cream machine and churn until just at soft scoop texture. This recipe is best eaten the day you make it (which it is impossible not to do!).

Arthritis diet notes:
Apples are a great source of anti-oxidant vitamins and phytochemicals (vitamins A and C) which have been linked in studies to everything from reducing risk of colon cancer to reducing incidence of heart disease. Some researchers have linked the phytochemical quercetin to inhibiting inflammation in arthritis. Apples are also a good source of fibre so can help keep your digestion ticking over nicely!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Roasted Spicy Chickpea Snack

These are delicious, crunchy, moreish little chickpeas with a lovely spicy coating. Serve them as a tasty pre-dinner snack or stash them in your lunch box for a great healthy snack. You can buy very similar snacks in the supermarket now for vast amounts of money - don't bother these are way better and very cheap to make!

2 cans of chickpeas
2 tablespoons of your very best olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried powdered garlic
Salt to taste

Makes enough for about 4 snack-hungry people

Pre-heat your oven to 180C.

Drain the chickpeas well and blot off any excess water with kitchen roll (this will help them go really crunchy). Tip them into a bowl and coat with the olive oil, paprika, garlic and salt to taste.

Spread them out on a large baking tray so that there is enough room for them to roll around a little and pop in the oven. Roast for 30-40 minutes, shaking the tray gently every 15 minutes. The chickpeas are done when shaking the tray makes them rattle against it.

You can spice these with pretty much any combination you like but try:
Spicy Indian - switch the paprika for 1 teaspoon of turmeric and also add 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin, ginger and coriander.
Sweet Chilli - use 1 tablespoon sesame oil and one of sunflower oil. Add 1/2 teaspoon each of dried chili flakes, ginger and garlic. Roast until almost done then add one tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce and stir to coat the chickpeas. Pop back in the oven for 5 minutes until the sauce caramelises (but remove before it scorches!).

Arthritis diet notes:
Chickpeas are a great sustaining snack as they are a good source of fibre and a good vegetarian source of protein. They will help give you a long lasting energy boost whilst satisfying that snack urge. Chickpeas are also a good source of folate for those of you taking drugs like methotrexate.Cooking them with olive oil means you are getting a dose of healthy monounsaturated fat and adding spices (like paprika, which contains capsaicin) gives them an added anti-inflammatory boost.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Cannellini Bean, Rosemary and Garlic Spread

I say 'spread' but you could use this in so many ways - it makes a nice mash substitute, a great dip or can even be thinned down with hot chicken stock into a super speedy soup. Try it in a roast chicken sandwich on some good wholemeal bread with a handful of salad leaves for a delicious lunch.

1 tin of cannellini (navy) beans
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of light soft cheese
1 clove garlic
A good handful of fresh rosemary

Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender an blitz until smooth. Dish out and serve.

Arthritis diet notes:
Cannellini beans are an excellent source of vegetarian protein, fibre, folate and magnesium all of which are important in a healthy diet with arthritis. The magnesium in beans and pulses helps develop and maintain healthy bones. Three heaped tablespoons (about 1/4 of this dip) count as one portion of your 5-a-day and about a third of your magnesium needs.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Cooking with Arthritis Gadgets: Master Class Food Chopper

There are an enormous number of gadgets and tools on the market for helping you cook with arthritis. Some are good, and some are...not so good. I've tried most of them and so thought I would share my reviews with you.

What is it supposed to do?
You put whatever you would like chopped-up in the little container at the bottom. You then put the top on and push down on the plunger. The zig-zag blade slices the food and then shifts about 90 degrees as it comes up, ready for the next chop.

Does it work?
I've tried it with onions and nuts; it did an ok job of dicing the onion but really struggled with the nuts. It occasionally got stuck chopping the onion. The bottom bowl can be put in the dishwasher but the top needs to be washed by hand.

Does it making it easier to cook with arthritis?
It was pretty difficult for my wrists chopping either with it as you have to really push the plunger down and then it sort of springs back up so it feels pretty high impact. I think if your main problem is your grip though, this could be very handy.

Overall verdict?
B- Must try harder.

You can buy the chopper online here and there are lots of similar gadgets around. If you have come across a better version, let me know!

For some helpful tips for making life easier when you are cooking with arthritis, click on the 'Handy Hints' page.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Guilt-free Chocolate Mousse (FODMAP friendly)

I'm afraid my only excuse for posting so many puddings recently is that we keep having people over and I wouldn't dream of serving dinner for people without giving them pudding! I'm not a great fan of low-fat dessert recipes, if you are only having pudding once or twice a week then you should have something delicious and thoroughly enjoyable: the real thing - not a substitute. But, that doesn't mean it can't be nutritious. This chocolate mousse recipe is an adaptation of Raymond Blanc's 'maman's chocolate mousse'; like the original it only uses egg whites and good chocolate to make a cloud of frothy dessert.

80g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
3 egg whites (or equivalent of pasteurised egg whites - see notes at end)

Serves 4

Break the chocolate into squares and heat in the microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds. Poke around and microwave again for another 30 seconds. Let it rest for a moment and then stir - it should be molten but if not give it another 30 second blast. Put the melted chocolate to one side.

In a large bowl, use a handheld electric whisk to beat your egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Your chocolate should now have cooled a little so stir in one large spoonful of the egg whites to lighten the mix. (If the mixture suddenly seizes up and goes grainy, your chocolate is too warm still. Don't panic! Add a splash of milk and stir gently until it loosens back up and goes smooth again).

Take the lightened chocolate and pour into the bowl with the egg whites. With a large spoon gently fold the two mixtures together until just combined.

Spoon the mousse into 4 little ramekins and leave to set in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Arthritis diet notes:
Young children, older people and those on immune-suppressants for arthritis, such as methotrexate or anti-TNFs (Humira, Enbrel etc), should be cautious with raw egg white because of the risk of salmonella. You can buy pasteurised egg whites in the fridge section of most supermarkets now and these are safe to serve.

The anti-oxidant properties of cocoa are being investigated: I'm sorry to say that I can't really find any evidence that they might help arthritis but who really cares when chocolate tastes so yummy?! If it is any comfort, there is no evidence that cocoa is bad for you either - it's the sugar and fat in chocolate that is naughty.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Chicken Curry

This is my spin on homemade curry. I've reduced the fat content by cutting back on the coconut and using butternut squash and yoghurt to make the most delicious,thick and satisfying sauce. Whizzing up the ginger, onion and garlic spice paste saves on chopping but if you prefer you could crush or grate them yourself. 

Butternut squash can be tricky to cut up. It has skin thicker than a rhino and takes quite a bit of brute force to slice through. You can buy it ready chopped but I make it softer to chop by pricking the skin all over and then popping it  whole in the microwave for about 7 minutes or the oven for about 30 minutes. Let it cool and then it should be easy to deal with. For other tips see the Handy Hints page.

Try serving this with steamed basmati rice, yoghurt with mint and cucumber and some good chutneys. Lightly spiced spinach makes a nice side dish. Pop your own poppadoms buy purchasing the uncooked ones at the supermarket and then putting them one at a time into the microwave for 30 seconds. They will puff right up and make a fantastic, cheap and grease-free alternative to the ready made variety.

400g chicken breast fillet cut into thumb sized chunks
250g peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
2 inch piece of fresh ginger
21/2 tsp mild curry power
1 tsp turmeric
Pinch dried chilli flakes (optional)
150 ml chicken stock (from a cube is fine)
1 heaped tablespoon dessicated coconut
150ml low fat natural yoghurt
1 tablespoon sunflower oil

Toasted flaked almonds and coriander to serve

Serves 4

Peel your ginger, garlic and onion. Put in a food processor with the coconut and oil and blend until just combined.

Tip into a casserole dish and gently fry the mixture for 3-4 minutes until the onion goes translucent. Add the turmeric, chilli (if using) and curry powder and stir.

Add your chicken pieces and fry for a further 5 minutes. Then tip in your squash, stock and half of the yoghurt and bring pot to a simmer.

Cook covered on a low-medium heat for 25 minutes, until chicken is tender and the butternut squash has begin to breakdown into the sauce. Stir in the rest of the yoghurt and serve sprinkled with toasted almonds and fresh coriander.

Arthritis diet notes:
A healthy homemade curry is very close to a perfect meal for those with arthritis.This recipe is packed full of anti-inflammatory spices which can help with the pain and swelling in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Using lean cuts of white meat, and reducing the amount of coconut dramatically, also keeps it low in saturated fats. 

There is more info on turmeric here in the 'Arthur Investigates' series of posts. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

One Pan Honey Mustard Salmon

The nights are drawing in, so I felt like making something with a real autumn flavour.And, what could be more seasonal than golden, roasted root vegetables? This is a very easy one-pan salmon supper that will cheer you up on a grey day.

2 salmon fillets
3 medium sweet potatoes (or mix up other root vegetables - squash and parsnips are tasty)
1 red onion
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

Serves 2 (easily doubled)

Mix the mustard and honey together in a small bowl then spoon onto the top of your salmon fillets and leave to marinade whilst you get the potatoes roasting.

Slice the onion into rough quarters. Chop you sweet potatoes (skin on) into rough cubes (about the size of your thumb). Put in a roasting tin and add olive oil. Stir around until all covered and then pop in the oven at 180c for 25-30mins.

When your potatoes and onion are looking nicely roasted, take out of the oven and add your salmon fillets to the tin. Pop back in the oven for about 7-10mins (depending on the thickness of your salmon fillets).

Arthritis diet notes:
As a recipe, this is an arthritis-busting treat.Sweet potatoes are full of betacarotene (vitamin A) which is a powerful antioxidant and has been linked to a reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Onions have anti-inflammatory properties, whilst mustard is a traditional home remedy for aching joints (although that often involves putting it in your bath). Finally, salmon is packed with healthy omega 3 oils which can help reduce pain and inflammation in arthritis (see this post for more info)

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Proper Rice Pudding

This is the real, traditional English rice pudding and it is a fantastically comforting pudding for the impending Autumn days. It's also about as easy as recipes come - sling it in the oven and forget about it for a few hours. You will be rewarded with soft, creamy rice under a caramelized skin. If you like a slightly richer pudding, you can either use whole milk or evaporated milk.

Almost every culture has a variation on rice pudding and as something of an addict, I'll be posting a few of them over the next few weeks.

60g pudding rice
600ml semi-skimmed milk
30g soft brown sugar

Serves 4

Put all the ingredients in a deep oven-proof dish. Give a little stir and then pop in the oven at 150c for about 2 hours. Easy.

Arthritis diet notes:
As this recipe is based on milk, it is a great source of calcium. One serving will give you about 25% of your daily calcium requirements and 25% of your daily vitamin D requirements, both of which are vital to build and maintain strong bones and prevent osteoporosis.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Marvelous Marinades

I'm optimistic that someone,somewhere might get good enough weather for a BBQ this weekend so I thought I would post some easy, arthritis-friendly marinades. If the weather isn't quite up to it, these marinades also work well under the grill!

2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh oregano (or other herb of your choice)
1 crushed clove of garlic
Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 crushed clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of good curry paste
150g low fat natural yoghurt

Spicy BBQ
2 tablespoons BBQ sauce
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh red chilli (or dry or pre chopped if easier - add more if you like things hot)
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

These all make enough marinade for 4 pieces of fish, pork or chicken.

Mix together all the ingredients in a blender or by hand. Put your meat or fish in a non-metallic dish and cover with marinade, turning to make sure all the surface is covered. Cover and allow to marinade in the fridge for at least 30mins.

When you are ready to cook the meat or fish, wipe off any excess marinade and grill until cooked through.

Arthritis diet notes
A marinade is a great way of making meat or fish tender and flavoursome without alot of fat or salt. Each of these marinades has anti-inflammatory herbs or spices packed into them: the Indian marinade combines turmeric and ginger; the BBQ has chilli; and, the Mediterranean one uses powerful oregano. You can read more about the effects on arthritis of including garlic, turmeric and ginger in your diet by checking out the 'Arthur investigates...' series of posts.

Try them on pork, fish or chicken rather than red meat, which has been linked to an increased risk of inflammatory arthritis.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Arthur Investigates...Garlic

Garlic is powerful stuff. Able to ward of vampires, over-amorous admirers and, apparently, fleas. With that kind of might behind it, you would expect that including it in your diet might have some benefit for arthritis, so Arthur has been looking into it.

The chemical that gives garlic it's powerful smell is called 'allicin' and it's this compound that is thought to give garlic it's other benefits. Garlic has been shown to be effective in helping reduce high blood pressure and help prevent stomach and bowel cancers. It also has powerful anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

It's effectiveness in helping arthritis is less clear: there is some recent and promising evidence to suggest that women who consume garlic (and related leeks and onions) are less likely to suffer from early osteoarthritis of the hip. In rheumatoid arthritis, it's usefulness is even less clear. I found one Russian study claiming that a compound made with garlic was as effective as other treatments, but the study was very small and is 12 years old...

Regardless, garlic is certainly a good healthy addition to your diet and a tasty one at that. If you find it very pungent, it might be worth trying to slice in rather than crush it. When you crush garlic you break the cell walls so more allicin is released creating that powerful flavour. Slicing it results in a milder flavour.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Fruit and Nut Energy Bars

This recipe is an adaptation of Nigella's breakfast bars and is a brilliantly straightforward alternative to making flapjacks. Really all the preparation you have to do is to open a can of condensed milk - no faffing around weighing out butter/sugar/syrup etc and getting in a sticky mess. I've played with the recipe to make it a little more arthritis-friendly and slightly less fruity, but you can fiddle around with the mixture and try different combinations.

397g can of condensed milk
300g rolled oats
50g chopped dates
50g brazil nuts
50g almonds
50g cranberries

Makes 16

Pre-heat your oven to 120c.

In a large bowl, stir together the all the ingredients. Grease a 23x33 tin well with sunflower oil or butter. Pour mixture in and press down well with a fork.

Bake the bars for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before cutting into 16. Leave to cool entirely before removing from tin.

These will keep for about two weeks in an airtight tin.

Arthritis diet notes:
These are a great way of getting a big energy boost in a small package, so are perfect for when you are feeling worn out and hungry. You get a quick burst of sugar from the dried fruit and condensed milk, followed by the slower release of energy from the healthy fats in the nuts and the fibre-full oats. They are very high in sugar so go easy if you are watching your weight or your teeth!

 Check out this post if you want to find out more about benefits of brazil nuts in arthritis.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Arthritis:Turmeric

First and foremost, food should be tasty. But, some ingredients go beyond tasty and have chemical components that may help your arthritis. Certain vegetables, herbs and spices are packed with phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that can help reduce arthritis inflammation. Some are well-established and others are just beginning to be studies. I sort the fact from the fiction for some of the key ones touted to help arthritis in the 'Arthur Investigates' series of posts and let you know how they can help and how to incorporate them into your diet through cooking tips and recipes.
Turmeric – Today 'Arthur' is investigating turmeric.Traditionally used in Aruyvedic medicine to treat arthritis, this bright yellow spice has shown some success in easing inflammation in both inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid, psoriatic and ankylosing spondylitis and osteoarthrtitis) mainly thanks to a chemical in it called curcumin. 

In animal and laboratory studies of rheumatoid arthritis, turmeric extract has been shown to reduce inflammatory chemicals and slow joint destruction. Similarly there have been some studies showing it could also help reduce the inflammatory response in osteoarthritis. However, there have been very few trials on whether supplements help patients with arthritis and there isn't enough evidence at the moment to recommend taking turmeric supplements.

As a spice, turmeric is safe to eat and worth adding to your food for the taste alone as well as it's potential anti-inflammatory properties.Try adding a teaspoon to your rice to turn it bright yellow and accompany a curry. It's good in root vegetable soups to add a subtle, smoky spiciness. Turmeric is also fantastic in stir-fries, particularly singapore noodles or sweet and sour chicken dishes. You can find all my recipes using turmeric here
(A word of warning, turmeric turns anything and everything neon yellow! If you spill it on your work top or yourself, wipe it off with a good cleaning product immediately - you have been warned!).

For further information on turmeric, I recommend the excellent Medline resource here.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Baked Sweet Potato

My hands and wrists are playing up this week so I though it was timely to share a few of my favourite quick meal ideas for when chopping, stirring or mashing is not possible. A baked sweet potato makes a great lunch or side dish. Top with something that just needs to be spooned from a tub and you have an almost 'no hands' dish.

2 medium sweet potatoes (about 240g each)

Serves 2
Heat oven to 180c. Prick the potatoes a couple of times. Put in oven and cook for about 40 minutes or until potato has sagged slightly and is soft to touch.

Serve with choice of toppings. Try the following:
Hummus and pine kernels
Low fat herb and garlic soft cheese
Tahini (sesame paste) and cinnamon
Yoghurt and sprinkle of curry powder

Arthritis diet notes:
Sweet potatoes are a fantastic food. They are rich in soluble fibre and beta-carotene (which the body turns into vitamin A). We all need vitamin A for healthy eyes, immune systems and skin. There is some good evidence that beta-carotene can help prevent osteoarthritis from getting worse - but it can't prevent it. It's best to get through food sources, like sweet potatoes. Adding some fat from  oil, nuts or yoghurt will help your body absorb the beta-carotene.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Easy Pad Thai

We eat this a lot as it is so easy, involves little chopping and is really fresh and zingy. I'm sure it isn't particularly authentic but it certainly tastes similar to what we get at our favourite local Thai restaurant. Use whatever stir fry vegetable mix you like best – if you buy the ones with onion in you can omit the spring onions which will save you some chopping. If you want the recipe to stretch to 4, I recommend adding some chicken or prawns.


150g rice noodles (cooked as per instructions on packet or 300g straight to wok noodles)
2 eggs

Large bag of stir fry vegetables (about 300g)
4 spring onions chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
1tsp fresh grated ginger (or minced from a jar)
2tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sunflower or groundnut oil

To serve:Lime wedges
Peanuts or cashews
Handful of mint

Serves 2-3

Beat the eggs together with one tablespoon of the soy sauce and set to one side.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Tip in the garlic, ginger and spring onions and fry for a minute or so until slightly softened and aromatic. Add the vegetables and stir fry until they just begin to soften slightly. Toss in the noodles and mix everything together.

Push the mixture to one side of the pan until you have a space to pour the eggs into. Add the eggs and allow to cook for a moment. Once the eggs look slightly set start stirring it to break it up and mix in into the rest of the stir fry.
Add the sweet chilli sauce and remaining soy sauce. Serve with a lime wedge for squeezing over, a sprinkle of nuts and mint.

Arthritis diet notes:
Homemade Pad Thai is much lower in fat and salt than the takeaway kind. There are loads of vegetables in this so it will also help you reach your five-a-day. The chilli, ginger and garlic all have good anti-inflammatory properties so may help with joint pain, but best of all they taste great.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Bircher Muesli (or Overnight Oats)

This isn't so much a recipe as a breakfast blueprint. For those of you who, like me, chow down porridge most mornings, summer days can be a little bit befuddling. Bircher muesli, porridge's more refreshing cousin, still hits the spot and won't leave you missing your oats too much. You can make up extra of the oat base and keep it in the fridge for up to three days.

40g rolled oats
100 grams plain yoghurt
150 ml milk, soymilk or even juice
1 grated apple
Handful of nuts, ground flax and seeds

Serves 1
Mix up the oats, yogurt and milk. Pop in the fridge overnight. In the morning add the grated apple, nuts, seeds and any other toppings you like.

Think of this recipe as a blueprint and be creative. Some combinations I like are:
Pineapple and coconut - add chunks of fresh pineapple and swap the seeds for dried coconut
Cinnamon and pecan -  add pecan nuts, a teaspoon of cinnamon and chopped dates.
Apple and ginger - add a squeeze of lime, use apple juice instead milk and stir in a teaspoon of fresh ginger

Arthritis diet notes:
Getting a decent breakfast is a good idea if you have arthritis - it will help set you up for the day and line your stomach before you take any medications. Something that can be prepared the night before is particularly handy if you suffer from morning stiffness.

If you choose something sensible, breakfast is a great opportunity to get one of your five-a-day and a serving of calcium rich milk or yoghurt. Bircher muesli is rich in soluble fibre from the oats and apple so will keep you going all morning. The milk, yoghurt and nuts also help boost the protein content to stabilise your blood sugar.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Arthur investigates...Selenium

So, another day and another investigation. It's time to talk about selenium, which may sound radioactive, but is actually pretty good for your health.

An important antioxidant, selenium has been proven to help protect against heart disease and cancer. Selenium is a trace element and is mainly found in the soil. That means food produced in different regions may have different amounts – for example, parts of China and New Zealand have very low amounts in the soil.

Some studies have also suggested that people with rheumatoid arthritis may have lower levels in their blood than the general population. There is also a link between low blood levels and severity of osteoarthrititis.  It's thought that the anti-oxidant properties of selenium might help slow the development of the disease. However, there isn't much evidence to suggest that taking more than the RDA will help arthritis.
To get what you need to meet your RDA, try having a couple of brazil nuts (two will give you all the selenium you need so don't overdo it) and eating more mushrooms, fish and eggs.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Sunday Pancakes

Sundays need a special kind of breakfast and pancakes always hit the spot. Light, fluffy and satisfying, these are easy to whip up in about 10 minutes. They are even better if you make the batter the night before and then just give a quick stir before rustling them up for a lazy Sunday brunch. You will need a blender (hand or machine) for this recipe, if you don't have one substitue the oats for the instant cook type (like Ready Brek).

75 g rolled oats
50 g wholemeal flour
150 ml semi skimmed milk
1 large egg
1/2 tsp baking powder
Sunflower oil for greasing pan

Makes 12 pancakes

Tip the ingredients into the blender an whizz up until slightly frothy and the oats are in sesame seed sized pieces. Allow mixture to stand for a minimum of 10 minutes (even better if you can leave it longer).

Grease a non-stick frying pan with a small amount of oil wiped around it with kitchen paper. Heat until piping hot. Spoon tablespoons of the mixture into pan. When bubbles appear on top and edges are set, flip the pancakes over, they usually take about 2 mins a side.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Arthritis diet notes:
The combination of oats and wholemeal flour here will give you a nice boost of sustained energy to help keep you going all morning. Wholegrains, like oats and wholemeal flour, help keep levels of unhealthy cholesterol in check too. If you serve the pancakes with salmon, you will get a serving of fish oil which can help reduce joint pain. If your prefer them sweet, try yoghurt and berries for a blast of bone-boosting calcium and one of your five a day.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Arthur investigates...Fish Oil

I've put off writing this one for a while because it is such a biggy. But, as I've posted a salmon recipe recently, I thought now was the time to tackle it. Fish oil (or omega 3 fatty acids) and it's effects on arthritis are well document and discussed, I'm going to sum up what the deal is and give you a few links if you want to get into more detail.

What is fish oil and where does the omega 3 stuff fit in? Fish oil contains two types of omega 3 fatty acids - eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These essential fatty acids help our bodies fight inflammation by regulating the production of inflammatory chemicals (cytokines) and encouraging the release of anti-inflammatory chemicals.

For inflammatory arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, there are a good number of studies that suggest doses of fish oil can help relieve both pain and inflammation. A range of studies all show that subjects needed fewer painkillers when taking about 1.5g of fish oil a day and some studies also show a reduction in inflammatory cytokines in those who take fish oil. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be much evidence to support the idea that fish oils prevent joint damage.

There isn't any conclusive research on osteoarthritis at the moment. Given, that fish oils are also good for your heart, brain and skin, you could give them a go anyway.

You can get plenty of omega 3s through what you eat. Eat oily fish 3 times a week (2 if you are planning on getting pregnant) - salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna and sardines all count. You can also try a supplement of 1-3 capsules of 1000mg fish oil a day. When you are choosing one look for good levels of EPA and DHA (at least 180mg and 120mg respectively). Cod liver oil is not the same thing at all - don't bother with it!
For further info, try this by Arthritis Research UK for a good, straightforward summary. If you want to get more into the science, then you I recommend the US National Institute of Health research summary. You might also want to read about how to make sure the fish you eat is being caught sustainably by checking out the Marine Stewardship Council.
Finally, if all this talk about fish is too much for you, there are some vegetarian sources of omega 3 fatty acids. These can be converted by your body into some of these beneficial fatty acids, but I will post more on this soon.


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