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.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Soy Ginger Salmon

This marinade also works well on chicken or any firm white fish. You can make up extra of the marinade and store it in a jar in the fridge for about a month or so. I like to serve this with jasmine rice and brocolli dressed in sesame oil and garlic for a lovely supper.

2 fillets salmon
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sweet white miso (optional - you can find this in health food shops and some supermarkets)

Serves 2
Mix together all the ingredients except the salmon to make the marinade. Pour over the salmon fillets and allow to marinade for at least 20 minutes.

Line a grill pan with foil and heat grill to medium-high. Wipe excess marinade of salmon and place on pan. Grill for about 8 minutes or until the centre of the salmon is just opaque.

Arthritis diet notes:
This is a pretty neat anti-inflammatory supper. Salmon is rich in omega 3 fatty acids which have been proven to help reduce inflammation in arthritis. Buy wild or organic salmon if you can because it is much richer in these good oils than the farmed kind. You can read more about ginger in this post in the 'Arthur investigates...'series.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Frozen Yoghurt - Snog, Frae and Pinkberry watch out!

There is a bit of a frozen yoghurt craze going on this summer in the UK. Suddenly, all over London places selling the stuff with a myriad of toppings are popping up - we now have Snog, Frae, Itsu , Moosh and Yog to name just a handful. And for the most part it is pretty yummy and reasonably healthy as an occasional treat, but it is sooo expensive.The good news is that frozen yoghurt is really easy to make at home. Serve with a load of little bowls of things to sprinkle on top and you'll have your own fro-yo stand. Try chopped nuts, fresh and dried fruit, coconut, peanut butter and grated dark chocolate. 

You will need an ice cream maker for this.

500g fat-free greek style yoghurt
150ml semi-skimmed milk
100 grams icing sugar/ agave syrup or other sweetener of your choice
2 drops vanilla extract (optional)

Makes 4 servings

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. Churn in ice cream maker until it reaches 'Mr Whippy' consistency. Eat greedily.

You can flavour this pretty much anyway you like or change the type of yoghurt used. Try the following:
Mango - swap the sugar and milk for 350g of pureed fresh mango and 100ml apple juice. Add a twist of lime and fresh ginger to serve.
Double chocolate chip flavour - add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Once churned stir in 40grams of darkest chocolate chips.

Maple and pecan - swap the sugar for 100mls of pure maple syrup. Once churned stir in chopped pecans, dates and cinnamon.
Peanut butter swirl - my favourite! Use 100g honey for the sweetener. Once churned stir in 3 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter.

Arthritis diet notes:

Homemade frozen yoghurt is a great source of calcium for strengthening your bones. It makes a nice change from ordinary yoghurt and works out much cheaper than buying a tub of ice cream.

I'm afraid I don't really buy the whole 'agave' is a miracle sweetener thing. Yes, it may be low-ish GI but it is high fructose which has been linked to gout (and a load of the conditions but so have most sugars). Please just choose whichever sweetener you feel most comfortable with - it's swings and roundabouts which is best for you.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Banana Oat Muffins

Another quick and easy recipe that is great for having to hand when friends come over. These are good served as part of a brunch or in a picnic. Feel free to dress the recipe up with chopped nuts or dark chocolate chips and use them a tea time treat. These also freeze well - I tend to make double and put half in the freezer ready for any muffin emergencies!


2 large ripe bananas (about 200g peeled weight in total)
225g porridge oats
70 grams honey or maple syrup
35 grams peanut or other nut butter (or you can replace with 2 tablespoon sunflower oil)
1 large egg
1 large egg white
100ml semi-skimmed milk
1 tsp baking powder

Makes 12

Mash the bananas in a bowl. Add the eggs, milk, peanut butter and honey and beat with a fork until combined.

In a seperate bowl, mix the oats with baking powder. Add the wet ingredients and stir lightly until everything is only just blended together (this keeps the muffins light).

Divide mixture between 12 muffin cases. Bake at 180c for 20 minutes. Allow to cool before trying to remove from cases - patience!

Arthritis diet notes:
This muffin recipe is low in saturated fat, thanks to using only one egg yolk and adding the nut butter or oil. Saturated fat can encourage inflammation in arthritis and raise levels of unhealthy cholesterol so it's good to cut back on it. Swapping butter and fatty dairy products for nuts or vegetable oils is one easy way of doing this.Nuts are high in health monsaturated fats which can help lower levels of unhealthy cholesterol and reduce risk of stroke and heart disease. Remember, that if you are watching your weight, all fats are high in calories.

Oats are amazing. They are higher in soluble fibre than any other grain so keep you feeling full for ages and the fibre also helps lower unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Spiced Cod and Couscous

Cooking for friends doesn't have to be tricky or tiring. I love having people over but I don't want to have spent so long preparing the meal that I'm too floppy to enjoy their company. I have a few recipes that I know I can whip up quickly and always please a crowd. This one is great for summer entertaining - you can prepare everything ahead of time and then just steam the fish when you are ready to serve. The flavours are incredible, the fish is aromatic with just a touch of heat and the couscous salad is fresh, zingy and green.

I tend to give people dips and pitta for a starter - I recommend also serving some tzatiki alongside the main course as a refreshing take on the more traditional tartare.


4 small fillets of sustainably sourced cod or other white fish
1tsp paprika
1tsp cumin
2tsp coriander
1tsp salt

300g couscous
Bunch of spring onions
Juice of one lime
1 courgette
Bunch of fresh mint, parsley and coriander
Handful of fresh rocket leaves
50 grams green olives finely chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

First prepare the couscous by placing in a large bowl and pouring over just enough water to cover. Put cling film or a plate on top of the bowl and leave to steam covered for 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Fluff up with a fork and put to one side.

Grate the courgette and finely slice your spring onion. Put the herbs, olives, oil and lime juice in a blender or food processor and blitz the herbs are coarsely chopped. Toss this dressing over the couscous and add the spring onion and courgette. Stir in the handful of rocket leaves. The couscous salad is now ready so you can either eat it immediately or pop it in the fridge and serve later at room temperature.

To cook the cod, mix the spices and salt together in a small bowl. Sprinkly a teaspoon's worth over each fillet. Either steam the cod in the microwave, in a dish covered with clingfilm, for approximately 2 1/2 minutes (depending on your microwave and the size of your cod fillets) or place on a steamer rack over a pan of boiling water, cover and steam for between 5-7 minutes. The fish is cooked when the flakes are no longer translucent and break away easily.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Wheat-free Soda Bread

Now I'm not much of a wheat free kind of a girl. Wheat doesn't seem to excite any nasty side effects in me and I really couldn't be without pasta - however, I know some people do find it doesn't agree with them or their Arthur. Also, a few people with associated tummy problems have told me it sets them off, so I thought it would be churlish not to think of them. Finally, my lovely other half and my wonderful friend are both bread monsters but find wheat upsetting (!) so this loaf is dedicated to them.


100 grams buckwheat flour
100 grams rice flour
100 grams oat flour (or oats blitzed in the food processor until a fine powder)
250mls buttermilk (or milk with 1tsp lemon juice added)
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
1/2 tsp salt

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Add the buttermilk and mix well to combine. You should get a sticky, stiff dough.

Spoon the dough into a well greased loaf pan and bake at 180c for 30 mins. Allow to cool before cutting.

Arthritis diet notes:
This is a very quick and easy wheat and yeast free bread. Buckwheat is actually no relation to ordinary wheat whatsoever - it's more closely related to rhubarb, and has an earthy, musky flavour. The flour is made from grinding the seeds. Buckwheat is a good source of iron, zinc and selenium. It's being investigated for its potential to stabilise blood sugar and it is a rich source of the antioxidant rutin. Rutin may help strengthen capillaries and veins so could help if you bruise easily. Perhaps, most usefully for people on methotrexate for rheumatoid, psoriatic arthritis and other auto immune types, rutin can help soothe those annoying mouth ulcers the medication sometimes causes.

(PS. That's Bertie the Basil in the photo. He just looked so lovely I couldn't help but take his photo!)


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