Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Main meals: What’s left to eat?

Events rather took over last month, but I've been meaning to get back to the series I started, based upon Diamond Geezer's cholesterol reducing diet.

Breakfast seriously lacked viable alternatives, so let's see if we can do any better at main meal times.

NB: I've called these "main meals" instead of lunch or dinner, because I follow the eating plan that goes, "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper" - Adelle Davis. Folk wisdom holds that, to promote good health, one should begin the day with a large breakfast and consume progressively smaller amounts with each successive meal.

The results of the present study support that concept and suggest that such a pattern of eating might help prevent obesity. Your mileage may vary.

Actually, this is the eat like a pauper all day plan, but because I'm almost always at home, I eat my larger meal at lunch time to attempt to avoid eating any great amount in the evening. You might do this the other way around.

So, once we've crossed off the list everything that I can't buy here, won't or prefer not to eat, it looks like meals will consist, mainly, of jacket potato and something! Actually, I don't mind too much. Would you like monotony or hard work Pamela? Oh, I'll take the monotony, thank you! :)

Anyway, I'd be happy to have jacket potato and cottage cheese, if I could buy cottage cheese. Jacket potato and salad. Jacket potato, sardines in escabeche, with salad is not bad, even 4 times in a row.

Jacket potato, tuna and salad will ring the changes!

Spuds can be thrown in the microwave ...

So it won't win any culinary prizes, but at least it probably won't kill me! And 2008 is the International Year of the Potato, after all. Oh and year of the potato prices rises too, which hiked 7.2% this year so far.

We also have chicken and fish, mostly, and those can be served in a gazillion different ways (thankfully). The emphasis is on oily fish, what the Spanish call pescado azul (blue fish), such as; herring, mackerel, sardines, tuna, salmon.

Buying fish should be a doddle on an Atlantic island, shouldn't it? Being a long way from the main road though, without mind reading when the vans are going to come round selling their fish fresh from the sea, I'd have to be capable of running faster than a cheetah to get down there in time as the van speeds past.

On Saturday, I picked up mackerel, salmon and tuna (sardines I'd managed to get in Buenavista), as well as hake from the supermarket in Puerto de la Cruz. But by the time I got home, after waiting an hour for one bus and it would have been a 3 hours 20 minute wait for the second bus change (had I not thumbed a lift instead), it was hardly fresh fish any more and you begin to understand why I don't make a habit of going out of my way for things not available locally.

Here's a tip for the uber-lazy cook (like me): When I buy spuds in my local store, I always say to them that if they have large potatoes, I'll take those (yes, old fashioned store where you have to ask for stuff and they serve you and the potatoes are kept out the back). Anyway, last month they were mostly small to medium, so they weren't really suitable for doing in their jackets and would need boiling instead. So, I selected 2-3 of the right size to make a single portion, times 7, scrubbed them well (hell, no I won't peel them), chucked 'em all in my biggest saucepan with a couple of sprigs of mint from the garden and, hey presto, spuds cooked for the entire week.

Cleaning 14-21 potatoes doesn't really take that much longer than doing 2-3; it doesn't seem to matter how many potatoes you're cooking at once, they still take the "regulation" 15-20 minutes - so cooking in bulk, you've just saved 6 / 7ths of the energy it would have taken to have cooked them separately, on a daily basis - and, you only have one saucepan to wash up, once in 7 days.

When they're cooked, I rinse them once more, drain them and then put them in a large bowl (leave the mint with them, because it smells nice each time you open the 'fridge door.) Dry, with skins still on, they keep perfectly well.

On a daily basis, you can peel them (or not), dice them into salad, warm them (or not) ... If you do this pot full on a Sunday, then when you come home from work late during the week, you could grill a bit of fish (that will only take five minutes tops), just throw the spuds alongside, if you're really tired, add sauce / vegetable / salad and you've got a healthy dinner, no mess, no waiting.

Some of the other dishes I've made in the last month or so (there would be photos too, but the memory card in my camera decided to break):

Half-Baked Potatoes

On a bed of sliced onions and sliced (deseeded) green peppers in a flat oven tray (like a school dinner tray), lie halves of washed (no need to peel), cut potatoes (cut side down). Cook in a medium-hot oven for 45 - 60 minutes. The spuds kinda half-bake, half-steam and you get veggies ready done too. Goes with any chicken or fish. Keeps for a few days, so you can make a batch.

Fish Casserole

This fish casserole again, because, with the simple white fish (mine was hake), boiled spuds and vegetables, it is suitable and it's super easy to make.

Persian Chicken Salad

With one chicken breast (after I'd roasted it in foil, with some garlic), I made a variation on this Persian chicken salad. Mine didn't have prohibited mayo or eggs in it, because I don't remember there being any eggs in the one I used to have regularly (as a starter) in the restaurant on the Pershore Road in Stirchley, Birmingham. (Theirs, I am certain, didn't have carrots either), but there's something about the combination, especially with the pickle to add bite, that is just heavenly. The other thing is that this would make a good dish to make on Monday from leftovers, if say, you had roast chicken, potatoes, carrots and peas on Sunday - you could even cook extras, on purpose.

Beans and pulses

What weren't mentioned in the table are legumes, like red beans, white beans, chick peas (garbanzos), lentils, etc. I am presuming they come under the general vegetable and vegetarian things. I hope so, because I'm making this delicious lentil and spinach stew again and a three bean salad (red beans, white beans and green beans, chopped onion, a dash of olive oil, lemon juice and a sprinkle of 'erbs.) The latter will also go well with wholemeal bread.

Obviously, I need to rethink my whole cooking regime and recipe choices to get some variety in my meals, before I go completely round the bend here and, I picked up a free magazine supplement with 132 recipes "para cuidarte" (to take care of yourself), your heart, cholesterol ... which will make a start.

You might also consider:

NB: Whilst I still eat the ocassional fish and seafood, I have re-eliminated chicken and all other meat from my diet since writing these food posts.

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