CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Monday, 30 November 2015

Visual Stress: A Symptom of ME/CFS

A research team from the University of Leicester led by Dr Claire Hutchinson from the Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour has examined patients with and without CFS and has found that those suffering from the condition are more vulnerable to pattern-related visual stress, which causes discomfort and exhaustion when viewing repetitive striped patterns, such as when reading text.



Visual Stress: A Symptom of ME/CFS

St. Andrew's Day Menu: Cullen Skink, Beef in Claret and Caledonian Cream



We put this menu together to celebrate St. Andrew's Day, the feast day of Saint Andrew. Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, Greece, Romania, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and Saint Andrew, Barbados, so choosing traditional Scottish recipes is by no means the only option, although it's the one we've chosen for this year. 

We've adjusted all of these recipes to make them more slimming.  

Cullen Skink



There is a recipe for this soup in the Slimming World Food Glorious Food cookbook and it's not a million miles away from the one we use, was from Andrew Fairlie, chef at the world-famous Gleneagles Hotel, the only chef in Scotland to hold two Michelin stars. 

Ingredients


1 leek, well-rinsed, chopped and cut into rough 2cm cubes
1 litre fish stock
200g waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 2cm cubes
300g undyed smoked Scottish haddock fillet
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground pepper
Chives, roughly chopped

Method


Cook the chopped leek gently for a few minutes until soft. Add the stock, bay leaf, potato and haddock. Season lightly with black pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the haddock from the pan with a slotted spoon. Remove the bay leaf. Blend the soup until smooth. When the fish is cool enough to handle, remove any skin and bones, then flake the haddock back into the pan. Sprinkle with the chopped chives and serve. 


Beef in Claret


For our main course, we chose to base our dish on this recipe for Beef in Claret, because, as they say, "Historically, there has been a long "French Connection" between Scotland and France."

Serves 4

Ingredients


    5 oz (150g) lean bacon, all visible fat removed
    6 to 8 small, young onions
    7oz (200g or two cups) chopped button mushrooms (optional)
    1lb (450g) stewing steak
    3 cloves of garlic, crushed
    250ml fruity young claret (Burgundy or Beaujolais) *
    Salt and freshly milled black pepper
    Bunch of fresh herbs

Method


Preheat the oven to 300F/150C/Gas Mark 2. 

Cut the stewing steak into cubes roughly 1½" (4cm) square. Brown the cubes of meat in a frying pan. Place the meat in a casserole, add the garlic. Place in the oven uncovered for 15 minutes to continue the browning process. Stir from time to time.

Add wine (topping up with water or stock as necessary), seasoning and herbs. Cover and simmer for 3 hours or until the meat is tender. (Alternatively, this works really well cooked in a slow cooker.)

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a frying pan until it is lightly brown. Add the onions and cook uncovered for roughly ten minutes. Then add the mushrooms (if desired), stir, cover and cook gently for a further ten minutes. Add the bacon, onion and mushroom mix to the casserole. 

Serve with your favourite vegetables. 

* 250ml of red wine is 8½ syns, just a whisker over 2 syns per portion between 4 people. Always double-check the syn values I give as these can change from time to time.


Caledonian Cream



Based on this recipe, which uses marmalade, a popular ingredient in Scottish cooking since its invention in Dundee in 1797, we adjusted this to make it more "Slimming World friendly".

Serves 2

Ingredients


250g Quark Fat Free Soft Cheese
165g Muller Light Vanilla And Chocolate Yoghurt
1 tablespoon marmalade *
2 tablespoons brandy or rum (we used Armagnac) *
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Sweetener to taste, if desired.
1 large orange, segmented and pith removed

Method


Blend all the ingredients for the cream in a blender or with a mixer, until smooth. Place the orange segements in sundae glasses. Add the cream mixture. Garnish with orange zest. Serve chilled. 

* By my calculations, 1 level tbsp of standard marmalade is 2 syns and 2 tablespoons (just under 18ml each) of brandy are around 4.3 syns, making 6.3 syns in total or 3.15 syns per portion. Always double-check the syn values I give, however, as these do change from time to time.


Saturday, 28 November 2015

Sizzling salmon with bean mash



A very quick and simple, yet sophisticated fish supper, adapted from this recipe.

Serves 4

Ingredients


    4 skinless salmon fillets
    1 lime
    2 tsp clear honey *
    1 tsp mustard powder
    3 x 410g cans butter beans, rinsed
    1 garlic clove, crushed
    100g bag rocket

Method


    Set the grill to its highest setting. Put the salmon fillets flesh-side up and evenly spaced in a shallow flameproof dish. Finely grate the zest of the lime into a bowl, then squeeze in the juice and stir in the honey, mustard and a good sprinkling of salt. Pour the mixture over the salmon and grill, without turning, for 5-6 minutes until it’s golden on top and cooked through (check the centre with a fork).
    Meanwhile, tip the beans into a saucepan and add garlic and plenty of salt and pepper. Turn the heat on to moderate and coarsely mash everything together – a wooden spoon or a masher will do the job – until hot and bubbling. This only takes a few minutes as the beans are already cooked. Tip in the rocket and stir into the mash until it’s hot and just wilted.
    Serve the salmon on the mash, drizzled with the cooking juices.

* Honey (1 level tsp) is 1 syn, so half a syn per portion. Always double-check the syn values I give as these can change from time to time.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Visual stress could be a symptom of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, research suggests

A research team from the University of Leicester led by Dr Claire Hutchinson from the Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour has examined patients with and without CFS and has found that those suffering from the condition are more vulnerable to pattern-related visual stress, which causes discomfort and exhaustion when viewing repetitive striped patterns, such as when reading text.

The results of the study, which is published in the journal Perception, could help in the diagnosis of CFS, as the findings suggest that there are visual system abnormalities in people with ME/CFS that may represent an identifiable and easily measurable behavioural marker of the condition.



Visual stress could be a symptom of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, research suggests

Prawn and chorizo paella




It's ironic in the extreme that I spend 16 years living in Spain and one of my favourite paella recipes comes from Slimming World, but here it is, as seen in the July 2015 magazine. We did make some minor changes. 

Serves 4

Ingredients


2 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
50g chorizo, cubed *
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
2 tsp turmeric
400g dried paella rice
1.5 litres chicken stock
200g frozen broad beans
200g green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
200g frozen peas
400g raw king prawns, peeled
2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon, plus extra wedges to serve
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Steamed asparagus spears, to serve

Method


Put the onions, garlic and chorizo in a large, deep frying pan (or paella pan, if you have one) and fry gently for 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft. Stir in the spices, cook for 30 seconds, then add the rice. Cook for a further minute, then stir in the stock. Simmer for 15 minutes, until the rice is almost tender - if it gets dry, add a splash more water. (The Slimming World recipe tells you to stir occasionally. From experience, I will tell you not to do so during this stage!)

Add the prawns, broad beans, beans and peas to the dish and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the prawns are cooked. Add the lemon juice and season. Serve garnished with the asparagus, parsley and lemon zest with lemon wedges on the side.

* This quantity of chorizo will work out to just less than 1.5 syns per portion. Always double-check the syn values I give, however, as these do change from time to tim.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Beef and mixed bean chilli with rice and salsa




A Slimming World staple, also found in the old Extra Easy Slimming World cookbook. The salsa we made, rather than the salad suggested to acompany the dish, was this one by the Hairy Bikers (minus the corn chips.)

Ingredients


    1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
    3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
    1-2 tsp cayenne pepper or paprika
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    2 tsp ground cumin
    500g lean beef mince (5% fat or less)
    400g can chopped tomatoes
    1 red and 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into small bite-sized pieces
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    400g can red kidney beans in chilli sauce
    400g can mixed beans in brine, drained
    300g dried long-grain rice
    Coriander sprigs, to garnish (optional)

Method


    Place a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the cayenne pepper or paprika, cinnamon, cumin and beef mince and stir fry for 5-6 minutes.
    Add the tomatoes and peppers and bring to the boil. Season well, cover tightly and cook over a low heat for 20-25 minutes.
    Add the beans, stir to mix well and return to the heat for another 10 minutes.
    Meanwhile cook the rice according to the packet instructions, drain and keep warm.
    Remove the chilli from the heat and serve in warmed bowls with the rice. Garnish with the coriander, if using, and serve with chunky salad or salsa.

ethod

  1. Place a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the cayenne pepper or paprika, cinnamon, cumin and beef mince and stir fry for 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and peppers and bring to the boil. Season well, cover tightly and cook over a low heat for 20-25 minutes.
  3. Add the beans, stir to mix well and return to the heat for another 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile cook the rice according to the packet instructions, drain and keep warm.
  5. Remove the chilli from the heat and serve in warmed bowls with the rice. Garnish with the coriander, if using, and serve with the chunky salad.
- See more at: http://www.slimmingworld.co.uk/recipes/beef-and-mixed-bean-chilli-with-rice.aspx#sthash.OeOc0Msv.dpuf

ethod

  1. Place a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the cayenne pepper or paprika, cinnamon, cumin and beef mince and stir fry for 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and peppers and bring to the boil. Season well, cover tightly and cook over a low heat for 20-25 minutes.
  3. Add the beans, stir to mix well and return to the heat for another 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile cook the rice according to the packet instructions, drain and keep warm.
  5. Remove the chilli from the heat and serve in warmed bowls with the rice. Garnish with the coriander, if using, and serve with the chunky salad.
- See more at: http://www.slimmingworld.co.uk/recipes/beef-and-mixed-bean-chilli-with-rice.aspx#sthash.OeOc0Msv.dpuf



Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Sizzling Sichuan pork with greens





Another delightful, tasty recipe adapted from the May/June 2015 Slimming World Magazine.

Serves 4

Ingredients


About 400g of pork fillet, all visible fat removed, thinly sliced
1.5 tbsp dark soy sauce
1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
2 red onions, cut into large chunks
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
150g tenerstem broccoli, cut into 4cm lengths
150g green beans, trimmed
8 spring onions, 6 chopped and 2 shredded
1 large pak choi, roughly chopped
400g dried noodles, cooked to serve

Method


Place a large wok or frying pan over a medium-high heat. Brown the pork slices (in batches, if necessary) until golden, but not quite cooked. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle over half a tablespoon each of dark and soy sauces.

Stir-fry the onions for a few minutes until starting to soften, then stir in the garlic, five-spice and black pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add teh broccoli, green beans, chopped spring onions and 3 tablespoons of water and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes.

Add the remaining soy sauce and the pak choi and return the pork to the pan. Cook for a further minute or until the leaves are wilted and the pork is cooked through. Serve with the cooked noodles (as per the packet instructions), garnished with the shredded spring onions.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Chicken Dhansak



We made this with leftover chicken, which reduced the cooking time, but the recipe (original by Tesco Real Food) is for cooking it from scratch with fresh chicken. We've made a few slimming adjustments, as usual, and substituted brown lentils too, because these have more fibre.

Ingredients


1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1tsp garam masala
½tsp ground cumin
¼tsp ground turmeric
½tsp hot chilli powder
2tbsp tomato puree
500ml chicken stock
500g chicken thigh fillets, cut into chunks
125g brown or red lentils
1 red pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into small chunks
4 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
small bunch coriander, chopped

Method


Turn the slow cooker on.

In a frying pan over a medium heat, sauté the onion for 5 minutes until starting to soften and colour. Stir in the garlic, dried spices and tomato purée. Cook for 1 minute then pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Put the chicken, lentils, pepper, potato and tomatoes in the slow cooker dish, and pour over the hot stock and spiced onions. Mix everything together and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover with a lid and cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve with rice.

Monday, 23 November 2015

David Tuller Exposes Conflicts of Interest on PACE Team

After the authors of the PACE trial brushed off his statement that conflicts of interest were not reported to the trial participants, he did some research. Predictably, he found that not only were three of the four principal researchers hired as consultants for insurance companies, but that decisions made by those companies had direct bearing on PACE findings and on recommendations made by PACE authors.



David Tuller Exposes Conflicts of Interest on PACE Team

Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium. You probably have heard about it and may know a little bit about it, but do you know how beneficial it is to your health? Magnesium is important to nearly every organ, tissue and function in your body. From basic cellular health to heart health, magnesium is vital to your health. A low magnesium level can weaken your immune system and plays a critical role in various acute and chronic diseases.



Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

Busted! Exercise Study Finds Energy Production System is Broken in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Keep your eyes on the oxygen molecule. Your body thrives on it. It’s at the heart of your aerobic energy production system. When it’s working correctly you’re filled with clean, abundant energy. When its not you’re in trouble.

You have a clean and efficient energy producing system and a ‘dirty and inefficient energy producing system. Guess which one is broken in ME/CFS?

Multiple systems explode into action in order to get that oxygen to your muscles when you exercise.  You breath more deeply and your heart pumps harder and  faster to transport it just as quickly as it can to  your cells. That heart/lung/muscle connection is the oxygen highway.

You have a second (mostly backup)  energy production system but it’s a dirty, inefficient and even painful system to use. Called anaerobic glycolysis it mostly kicks in only after your  aerobic (oxygen-using) energy production system has  pooped out.  If you exercise long and hard enough (or if you have ME/CFS –  not very long and not very hard) the pain and fatigue you experience when you switch to anaerobic system is unmistakeable.

As soon as you make that switch  – at what  researchers call your  ‘anaerobic threshold’ – toxins are going to start building up in your muscles and you’re probably not going to be exercising that much longer.  ( ‘Aerobic threshold’  might be a better name for a switch point that represents the end of clean (ie aerobic) energy production, and a dependence on anaerobic metabolism.)

At that point things get complicated quickly.  With anaerobic glycolysis comes lactic acid, and with lactic acid comes lactate, and with lactate comes CO2, and with CO2 comes a big problem.  CO2 displaces oxygen – the life blood of our system – so it’s got to be removed fast, and so into the blood and out the lungs it goes.  As the CO2 levels in your blood rise your breathing rate speeds up automatically just to  get it out of your system.



Busted! Exercise Study Finds Energy Production System is Broken in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Off Balance, Swaying, or Falling to the Side Sensation

Most of us, are very familiar, with the feeling of being off balance. Simply standing up can sometimes, be a challenge.




We run into door facings and cabinets, stagger as we walk, feeling very
wobbly on our feet, miss our mark when we sit down, have difficulty
walking up or down steps, have strange sensations in our head. etc.




We may also feel as if we're falling to one side in bed or walking to
one side when up. Often, I feel myself sway from side to side when
standing still. This is a bit disturbing to me, yet part of this same
issue.



I've found meds to help with vertigo, when the room feels
as if its spinning - however for this off balance issue, nothing seems
to help, when it hits.



This is thought to be due to Fibro and/or ME/CFS causing our equilibrium to me off.



FELLOW TRAVELERS, Support and Chat ( FMS CFS/ME)

How Quickly We Recover Is Effected by ME/CFS/FM

Each of us have experienced overdoing and then trying to recover. As well as getting overly stressed and trying to recover . A recovery period may also take place, from being exposed to a chemical, an odor, too much heat or cold. Of course, we all know that it takes us much longer to recover from a cold, flu, sinus infection, UTI, etc. Having a procedure such as a colonoscopy, dental work, any type of surgery, or getting an injury, leaves us with a lengthy recovery time.



FELLOW TRAVELERS, Support and Chat ( FMS CFS/ME)

Roast chicken with lemon and rosemary, stuffing, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, carrots, cauliflower and sprouts




This recipe was from the Slimming World's Food Glorious Food cookbook. We've made a couple of small adjustments, as usual, but they certainly didn't detract from the flavour. The (syn-free) stuffing balls are made from Linda McCartney Vegetarian Red Onion & Rosemary Sausages.

Serves 4

Ingredients


1 lemon, halved
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, plus extra to garnish
1 whole chicken, about 1.2kg
low calorie cooking spray
salt and freshly ground black pepper
300ml boiling chicken stock
Knorr chicken stockpot

Method


Preheat your oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4.

Tuck the lemon and rosemary inside the chicken and place it in a roasting tin, season well. Roast for 1 hour 30 minutes, spooning over the juices from time to time, or until the chicken is cooked and the juices run clear when the thickest part of the leg is pierced with a metal skewer.

Remove the chicken from the oven, cover with foil and leave to rest in a warm place for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the gravy. Put the stock in a pan and bring to the boil. Add the stockpot and simmer for 3-4 minutes or until slightly reduced.

Remove the chicken skin, drain off all of the fat and carve the meat. Garnish with the extra rosemary sprigs and serve with the gravy, roast potatoes and your favourite vegetables.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

#Nosevember : Tia


Tia, another of our recent guests showing us her best side (which is any side really).

Turkey köfte kebabs with harissa sauce



You'll find the original recipe in the new collection of Slimming World Best-Loved Extra Easy recipes cookbook, though, as usual, we've made some minor adjustments.

Serves 4

Ingredients


800g lean turkey mince
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika, plus extra to sprinkle
2 garlic cloves, crushed
large handful of finely chopped fresh mint, plus extra to garnish
fat-free natural yogurt to serve

For the harissa sauce:
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion finely chopped
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 tsp harissa spice mix
1 tbsp tomato puree
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method


First put all the sauce ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally. Season to taste and keep warm.

Meanwhile, put the turkey, cumin, coriander, paprika, garlic and mint into a bowl. Season to taste and mix well. Divide into 24 portions and, using wet hands, roll each portion into a ball. Thread eight metal skewers (or use wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for 20 minutes to stop them burning) with three balls each (as you can see, we can't count).

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Put the skewers on the grill rack and grill for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through, turning once.

Divide the harissa sauce between plates or shallow bowls and top each one with two köfte skewers. Wisk the yogurt until smooth and drizzle over the köfte, then sprinkle with the extra paprika and mint.

Serve hot with couscous and your favourite vegetables or salad.

Köfte can be made up to 24 hours ahead and kept in the fridge until you're ready to cook.

Carl-Gerhard Gottfries: A Swedish Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Story

It’s a fascinating story. It involves a psychiatrist who over fifty years ago cured his chronic fatigue syndrome using an immune booster. When he was barred from treating others in the clinic with it he resumed his psychiatric work but never stopped thinking about it. Thirty years later he used the same agent to successfully help many people with ME/CFS in an ME/CFS clinic in small town on the west coast of Sweden.



Carl-Gerhard Gottfries: A Swedish Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Story

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Feelgood fish cakes



Based on this recipe, just omitting a couple of synful ingredients, this dish turned out to be an unbelievably pleasant surprise. It uses ingredients that are probably cheaper than chips, yet was a surprisingly sophisticated and very tasty fish supper. As you can see, we served this with roasted red and yellow vine tomatoes and spinach, rocket and watercress salad.

Ingredients


    600g potatoes, cut into chunks
    2 x 120g cans sardines in spring water, drained
    4 tbsp chopped parsley
    zest and juice 1 small lemon
    4 tbsp fat-free Greek yogurt (we used Total 0%)
    green salad and lemon wedges, to serve

Method


Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, about 15-20 mins. Meanwhile, coarsely mash the sardines in a bowl (there’s no need to remove the calcium-rich bones as they are soft enough to eat). Mix in 3 tbsp chopped parsley and half the lemon zest and juice.

Meanwhile, mix the yogurt with the remaining parsley, lemon zest and juice and some seasoning.

Drain the potatoes, then mash until smooth. Gently mix into the sardine mixture and season. Shape into 8 fat fish cakes. Heat a non-stick frying pan and fry half the fish cakes for 3-4 mins on each side until golden and crisp. Keep warm; repeat with remaining fish cakes.

Serve with the lemony dip, salad and lemon wedges.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Vegetable Biriyani



From the SLIMMING WORLD'S FAKEAWAYS cookbook. It made a perfectly good - not to mention cheap - mid-week vegetarian meal. It would be even better as a side dish with a curry.

Ingredients


    3 onions, finely chopped
    1 cm root ginger, peeled and finely grated
    5 garlic cloves, crushed
    1 tbsp cumin seeds
    2 red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
    100 g (3.5oz) dried yellow split lentils
    200 g (7.1oz) frozen peas
    2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
    200 g (7.1oz) green beans, trimmed and chopped
    3 tomatoes, chopped
    6 cloves
    6 cardamom pods, crushed
    1 cinnamon stick
    1 tsp turmeric
    350 g (12.3oz) dried long-grain rice
    1 dollop fat free yoghurt
    1 sprinkle paprika
    1 sprinkle chilli powder

Method


Place a large non-stick saucepan over a medium heat.
Fry the onions for 5 minutes or until softened then add the ginger, garlic, cumin seeds and most of the chillies and stir-fry for a further 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add all the remaining ingredients to the saucepan along with 550ml of boiling water and cook for 15-20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and leave to stand, still covered, for another 15-20 minutes.
Garnish with the remaining sliced chillies and serve hot with a side dish of fat free natural yogurt sprinkled with paprika or chilli powder. 

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Spaghetti with prawns and rocket (Spaghetti con gamberetti e rucola)


This dish has become a real favourite and if we get the chance, we'll try to find the Ristorante La Gondola in Palermo, Sicily (guessing this is the one) to try the original dish one day. In the meantime, for everyday, we take the syns out of Jamie Oliver's version, but to be honest it wouldn't be that bad left exactly as he has it. Here's our adjusted version:

Serves 4

Ingredients


    450g dried spaghetti
    sea salt
    freshly ground black pepper
    2 cloves garlic , peeled and finely chopped
    1 dried red chilli, crumbled
    400g peeled raw prawns
    2 heaped tablespoons tomato puree
    1 lemon, juice and zest of
    2 handfuls rocket, roughly chopped

Method


Cook your spaghetti in a large pan of salted boiling water according to the packet instructions. Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan and toss in the garlic and chilli. As the garlic begins to colour, add the prawns and sauté them for a minute. Add the tomato purée and simmer for a couple of minutes. When the pasta is ready, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water. Toss the spaghetti with the sauce, squeeze in the lemon juice, add half the chopped rocket, adding a little of the reserved cooking water if you want to loosen the sauce a bit, and correct the seasoning. Divide between 4 plates and sprinkle with the grated lemon zest and the rest of the rocket leaves.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

590 Deaths Linked To ESA Plus Will Online PIP Claim Form Be Compulsory?

In this edition, newly published research into ESA claimant suicides and the discovery of another coroner’s ‘prevention of future death report’ offer final proof that the DWP does not care whether its policies are killing many hundreds of claimants.

It only cares that it can still get away with denying it.

We also have news of the testing of a cost-cutting, online PIP claim form and details of our updated guide to successfully challenging PIP medical reports.


590 CLAIMANT DEATHS


Just yesterday, respected academics from Oxford and Liverpool universities published an article in an international, peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Their research shows that the reassessment of incapacity benefit claimants for ESA is linked to an additional 590 suicides in England.

It is also implicated in an additional 279,000 people developing mental health conditions and 725,000 more antidepressant prescriptions being issued.

The relationship between the use of the work capability assessment (WCA) and the rise in deaths was clear and the researchers were at pains to rule out other causes.

Any responsible body, even if they were doubtful of the findings, would have responded with concern and given an undertaking to look closely into the matter.

The DWP, however, instantly dismissed the research out-of-hand.

They know that they are the only people who could provide the data to prove beyond any possible doubt that the WCA is a killer. And they are never going to do that.

Instead, just as the tobacco companies argued for so many years that no causal link between smoking and cancer had been proved, the DWP argue that suicide is complex and you can’t definitively prove that the WCA causes any deaths.

And so the entirely avoidable deaths will continue.

ANOTHER CORONER IGNORED


And there’s more proof of the DWP’s callous disregard for claimants’ lives. Once again, it is campaigning journalist John Pring who has brought it to light.

In 2010, a coroner sent a ‘prevention of future deaths’ letter to the DWP in relation to a claimant with a mental health condition who had committed suicide after scoring zero points at his WCA. The claimant, Stephen Carre, had a community psychiatric nurse and a psychiatrist but they were never contacted by the DWP.

On receiving such a letter from the coroner, the law requires the recipient to respond within 56 days saying what they are going to do to prevent future deaths.

It now seems that the DWP simply wrote acknowledging receipt of the letter and then did absolutely nothing more, in flagrant breach of the la50 ways to challenge a PIP medical report coverw.

Not only that, they also withheld the fact of the coroner’s letter from Professor Harrington, the independent reviewer of the WCA. If the matter had been brought to his attention, it might have prevented the DWP from pushing ahead with the mass reassessment of all incapacity benefit claimants using the WCA.

And almost 600 people might not have taken their own lives.



18 November 2015 newsletter

Fabada asturiana, Slimming World stylee



Being pretty familiar with Spanish food from living in Spain for 16 years, I can tell you that this recipe, which you can find in the Slimming World Mediteranean Magic cookbook, bears not much more than a passing resemblance to the traditional Asturian stew made with chorizo and morcilla sausages, fatty pork and fabada beans. To turn that from a very fatty dish into one that's free was bound to need some very noticable adjustments; To still end up with a really tasty dish that's also simple to put together says much about the skill of the Slimming World chefs. It's a superb version of Pork and beans, whatever you call it. Oh, and it still does its job like any other pork and beans dish!

Serves 4

Ingredients


600g lean pork fillet, visible fat removed, cut into chunks
1 onion, sliced
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
a large pinch of saffron strands (or use 1/2 tsp turmeric)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
100ml boiling vegetable stock
400g can of chopped tomatoes
400g can of butter beans, rinsed and drained
400g can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
handful of finely chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method


Place a large non-stick pan over a medium heat. Add the pork and fry for 4-5 minutes so that it's nicely browned, but not cooked through, then transfer to a plate and reserve.

Add the onion and chilli to the same pan and fry for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the paprika, saffron, garlic, stock, tomatoes and beans, then return the cooked pork to the pan and stir well.

Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over a low heat, cover with a lid and cook for 45 minutes or until the sauce is thickened. Add a few tablespoons of water now and again if the sauce is looking dry.

Ladle the stew into warmed shallow bowls, sprinkle over the parsley and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

This is fantastic served hot with rice and salad.



Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Onward Through the Fog: Why Was the FINE Study Disappeared?

"David Tuller has posted another wonderful article in his series on the PACE trial. In this article he asks the important question, Whatever happened to the FINE study? The FINE study was published shortly before the PACE trial. (You can read the FINE study here.) It used similar treatment strategies as well as a similar timeline as PACE, but unlike the PACE trial the authors concluded at the end of 70-week study that patients had not significantly benefited from "pragmatic care" (supportive listening, and gradually increasing activity). Tuller's question is perfectly valid. Why does everyone cite the PACE trial, with its dubious claims of "recovery," while ignoring the FINE trial, which made no claims that patients had gotten better, let alone recovered?"

Onward Through the Fog: Why Was the FINE Study Disappeared?

68 Symptoms of Fibromyalgia/CFS You Must Know

"You’ve probably read aboutfibromyalgia symptoms such as pain, fatigue and fibro fog, but the list of possible symptoms is far-reaching and body-wide. Those tiny lists don’t even begin to describe our experience! I put together this “monster list” of 60+ symptoms to let you know that you’re not alone!"

68 Symptoms of Fibromyalgia/CFS You Must Know

23 Truths People With Fibromyalgia Wish Others Understood

"The Mighty teamed up with the National Fibromyalgia Association and asked their community what they wish others understood about the disease. Here’s what they had to say:"

23 Truths People With Fibromyalgia Wish Others Understood

‘Shocking’ report exposes failings in ME social care

"A tiny proportion of disabled people with the neurological condition ME are receiving the social care they could be entitled to, according to a “shocking” new report from a charity. Action for ME surveyed 850 people with ME* (myalgic encephalomyelitis), and found 97 per cent of them could be entitled to state-funded care and support, but only six per cent had been given a care package by their local authority, while only 16 per cent had been given an assessment of their needs. The report, Close to Collapse, will form the basis for a formal inquiry led by the charity and supported by the all party parliamentary group on ME, which will examine the challenges faced by people with ME and chronic fatigue syndrome in accessing support. The report also found failings in provision of advocacy support for people with ME, with nearly four in five of those who responded to the survey not having access to an advocate. Action for ME is now seeking funding to establish a national advocacy service."

‘Shocking’ report exposes failings in ME social care

Penne with rich beef and tomato ragu



From the old Extra Easy cookbook (pictured left), this recipe is just so rich: another of those dishes that you think you know well, then you're pleasantly surprised as it's much better than you remembered and were expecting.

Serves 4

Ingredients 


1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced (optional)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
800g extra lean minced beef (< 5% fat)
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp concentrated chicken stock
8 tbsp finely chopped basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g dried penne or rigatoni pasta
chopped basil leaves for garnish

Method


Place a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and red chilli and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the cinnamon and minced beef and fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, concentrated stock and chopped basil and bring to the boil. Season well, cover tightly and cook over a low heat for 20-25 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Drain and return to the saucepan. Pour over the meat sauce. Toss to mix well, garnish with chopped basil. 

Monday, 16 November 2015

Making benefits work for long term health conditions

My own view is that capability for work shouldn’t be assessed by asking whether you can look after your pet, or watch daytime TV, as currently happens in the WCA. It should be based on things like how many hours a week you could work, to what extent your capacity for work fluctuates and whether these variations can be predicted or controlled or not. What matters is not whether you can walk 40 metres or 60 metres as much as whether the effort of a simple commute into work leaves you next to useless once you get there.



Making benefits work for long term health conditions

#Nosevember : Ellie


Ellie, a recent guest, is our pinup girl for #Nosevember

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in Oprah magazine

"After a battery of diagnostic tests for viruses and bacteria, [Montoya] continued Cavanagh Kramer on one of the antivirals she'd been prescribed, but made a few important changes: He added anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating drugs, as well as an antibiotic for the bacteria he found in her blood. ... Historically, many doctors considered CFS a psychosomatic disorder that required psychological—not medical—intervention. But recent research by Montoya and others has compelled the medical community to take the condition much more seriously. ... Montoya and his colleagues, however, were able to pinpoint immune abnormalities in the blood of CFS patients who had recently become ill, suggesting possible biomarkers for the disease. ... A picture of patients with highly inflamed bodies emerged before our eyes and validated what they've been telling us for decades."



Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in Oprah magazine

Pork, cabbage and cider hotpot




Such a simple dish, but with a surprisingly rich flavour. This appears on the page for October of Slimming World's 2016 calendar (free with the last magazine), but I must urge you not to wait until then to try it. We made some minor changes, as usual. Oh and just as you should with wine, choose a cider you'd be happy to drink as it will make a huge difference to the quality of the end result.

Serves 4

Ingredients


750g lean pork tenderloin fillets, all visible fat removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
3 onions, cut into wedges
2 large carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
100ml dry cider
500ml chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 Savoy cabbage, thicly sliced
3 fresh thyme sprigs
800g of floury potatoes, peeled and cut into thick slices

Method  


Preheat the oven to 160C/Fan 140C/Gas 3.

Place a large ovenproof caserole on a medium-high heat and lightly brown the pork for about 3-4 minutes. Remove the pork from the pan and reserve. Turn the heat down to medium, add the onion and cook gently for 10 minues, or until softened, adding a splash of water if they stick. Add the carrots and cook for a further minute. Stir in the cider and stock, season, add back the pork, add the cabbage and thyme. Arrange the potato slices on top so they overlap. Cover and bake near the to of the oven for 1 hour. Remove the lid and cook, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes, until the potatoes are golden.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Cardamom panna cottas


Listed merely as Cardamom Panna Cottas in the Slimming World Christmas book, the Cardamon and Vanilla Panna Cottas recipe online is essentially exactly the same and makes for a very elegant desert.

Ingredients


    198g quark
    ¼ - ½ tsp cardamom seeds, finely crushed
    5 tbsp artificial sweetener
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    2 x 100g pots Vanilla Mullerlight yoghurt/or any Free vegetarian alternative
    1 sachet gelatine/agar agar
    1 egg white
    1 pomegranate, halved and seeds removed

Method


    Whisk the quark. Add the cardamom seeds, sweetener, vanilla extract and yogurt, and continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth.
    Place 2 tbsp of hot water in a small heatproof bowl and sprinkle with the gelatine/agar agar. Stand the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water and stir until the gelatine/agar agar has dissolved. Cool, and then whisk into the yogurt mixture.
    Beat the egg whites until softly peaked and gently fold through the yogurt mixture. Spoon into four individual moulds. Chill into the fridge for 3-4 hours, or overnight, until set.
    Dip the moulds in hot water for a few seconds and tip out onto serving plates. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and serve immediately.

Moroccan roasted sweet potato soup


From Slimming World's Little Book of Soups. We've made some small adjustments to reduce the number of syns, but this is still an amazing soup with a flavour that really packs a punch.

Ingredients


700g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into big chunks
6 large shallots, peeled and quartered
3 plump garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 carrot, peeled and cut into big chunks
1 tbsp harissa paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 litre hot vegetable stock
Generous squeeze of lemon juice
Fat-free natural yogurt to serve (optional)

Method


Preheat the oven to 200/Fan 180C/Gas 6. Put the sweet potatoes, shallots, garlic and carrot in a bowl and toss them in the harissa paste to coat. Transfer to a roasting tin. Season and roast in teh oven, turning occasionally, for 40 minutes, until tender and golden. Remove from the oven.

Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins into the roasting tin. Stir in the stock, then scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Transfer to a blender and whizz until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and reheat gently.

Add a good squeeze of lemon juice and season to taste. Swirl the yougurt on top of each bowl to serve, if you like.

Ras el hanout chicken skewers with warm couscous salad




Of all the new recipes we've tried recently (from any source), Ras el hanout chicken skewers with warm couscous salad has to be the best of the lot. It appeared first in the Slimming World magazine of May/June 2015.

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the chicken:
4 chopped garlic cloves
1 tsp finely grated ginger
2sp ground cumin
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tbsp ras el hanout spice mix
1tsp paprika
Handful of fresh parsley
Handful of fresh coriander
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 spring onions finely chopped
200g fat free yogurt (and more to serve)
Salt and pepper
6 skinless chicken breasts (chunks)
Lemon wedges to serve

For couscous salad:
200g plain dry couscous
400ml boiling chicken or veg stock
Juice of 1 lemon
Low cal cooking spray
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cinnamon
300g cooked beetroot cut into cubes
2 roasted red peppers from the jar chopped
50g rocket

Method

1 Put the garlic, ginger, spices, herbs, lemon zest and juice, spring onions and yogurt into a food processor and blend to a paste. Season well and transfer to a bowl. Add the chicken and mix well to coat, then cover and chill for 3-4 hours or overnight if you can.

2 For the salad, put the couscous in a heatproof bowl and pour over the stock. Cover and leave for 10-12 mins, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff up the grains with a fork, stir through the lemon juice and season.

3 Meanwhile place a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the cumin, ground coriander and cinnamon, beetroot and peppers and cook for 1-2 mins. Add to the couscous with the rocket and toss well.

4 Thread the chicken onto mental skewers and place under a medium-hot grill for 12-15 mins until cooked, turning once throughout. Serve with the salad, extra yogurt and lemon wedges on the side.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Spice-rubbed haddock fillets on orange & parsley couscous





Based on this recipe from BBC GoodFood, we omitted some of the more synful ingredients to make this dish more slimming.

Ingredients

  • 4x haddock fillets
  • 2 tbsp Ras-El-Hanout spice blend
  • 400g couscous
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • finely grated zest and juice 1 large orange
  • small handful flatleaf parsley, chopped

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to fan 170C/ conventional 190C/ gas 5. Rub the haddock fillets with the spice blend and set aside. Put the couscous into a large heatproof bowl. Pour over 500ml/18fl oz of boiling water and leave to soak for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a frying pan, cook the onion gently for 5 minutes, until it’s soft and golden.
  3. Fluff up the couscous with a fork, then add the onion, orange zest and juice, and half the parsley. Stir together thoroughly and season with black pepper. Tip into a roasting tray and level the surface.
  4. Arrange the fish fillets on top of the couscous. Cover loosely with a large piece of foil. Bake for 15-20 minutes, by which time the fish should be cooked – it depends on the thickness of the fillets. To check, the flesh should look opaque and flake easily when prodded with a fork. Serve at once, sprinkled with the remaining parsley.
Serves 4.
Slimming World members: As a guide, the juice of one orange is currently 1 syn, so this would work out at a negligible .25 of a syn per portion. If you have syns to spare, why not add back a few sultanas? Always double-check the syn values I give, because these can change from time to time.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Diet cola chicken





This slightly weird, until your try it recipe is one of Slimming World's most popular and versatile dishes and, as Goodtoknow suggest,
"Slimming World's Diet Cola chicken is simply delicious, made with tender pieces of chicken and served with plenty of fresh vegetables for lighter option. This mouth-watering meal is ready in under an hour and serves 4 people. The Diet Cola adds a sweet flavour and sticky texture along with the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and passata. If you’ve never tasted this quirky classic loved by Slimming World members, you’re in for a treat. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll be hooked!"
(We don't use the cooking spray and find that dry-frying works just fine.)

Ingredients

  •     1 onion, finely chopped
  •     1 red pepper, 1 yellow and 1 green pepper, chopped into chunks
  •     2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  •     4 skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
  •     2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  •     4 tbsp tomato purée
  •     8 tbsp passata with onions and garlic
  •     1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  •     1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  •     330ml can diet cola
  •     200ml chicken stock
  •     200g sugar snap peas

Method

    Stir-fry the chicken, peppers and onion over a high heat for 4-5 minutes, or until lightly browned.
    Add the diet cola, stock, passata, tomato purée, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and dried mixed herbs and stir well.
    Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 12-15 minutes.
    Add the sugar snap peas, stir and increase the heat to medium-high.
    Cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the veg is tender.

Slimming World diet cola chicken recipe


ingredients

  • Low calorie cooking spray
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, 1 yellow and 1 green pepper, chopped into chunks
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 tbsp tomato purée
  • 8 tbsp passata with onions and garlic
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 330ml can diet cola
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 200g sugar snap peas
- See more at: http://www.slimmingworld.co.uk/recipes/diet-cola-chicken.aspx#sthash.iyuOAzBq.dpuf

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Fillet steaks with mustard sauce and hasselback potatoes


This recipe appears in the "old" Slimming World Extra Easy cookbook (I say old, as there is a new Best Loved Extra Easy recipes, which is a different selection.) It also appears online on the USA Slimming World site.

It is really, really worth seeking out the very best fillet steak you can find at a butcher or farm shop, rather than the supermarket for this. We left out the only synful ingredient - the wholegrain mustard - and added a few vegetables.

Ingredients


    600g new potatoes, scrubbed
    Tiny sprigs of rosemary
    Sea salt
    Wilted spinach to serve

For the sauce
    2 shallots, peeled and chopped
    2 tsp mustard powder
    350ml beef stock
    1 level tbsp wholegrain mustard
    300g mixed mushrooms (button, cremini, shiitake), sliced
    6 tbsp fat-free natural yogurt
    Handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the steaks
    4 lean beef fillet steaks
    2 tbsp crushed mixed peppercorns

Method


    Preheat the oven 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6. Cut thin slices into each potato at regular intervals, making sure not to cut right through. Place the potatoes on a baking tray. Put the rosemary sprigs into some of the slices. Sprinkle with salt and cook in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn the potatoes and cook for an additional 30–40 minutes or until cooked through. Set aside and keep warm.
    Meanwhile make the sauce. Place the shallots, mustard powder and stock into a small pan, whisk to mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the mushrooms and simmer for 8–10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt and chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and keep warm.
    Season the steaks with the crushed peppercorns and some salt. Place a pan over a high heat. Cook the steaks for 5–6 minutes on each side, or until cooked to your liking.
    Divide the potatoes and steaks among four plates, drizzle the sauce over the steaks and serve with the wilted spinach.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

A normal BMI with a big belly 'deadlier' than obesity

A high WHR suggests excess fat around the waist, as muscle mass is unlikely to lead to greater waist circumference. Although this study does not explore why WHR may be linked to chances of dying earlier, other studies have shown that carrying excess fat around your waist may be more harmful than carrying it in other areas, such as your legs and hips. Fat around the waist has been linked to inflammation, increased risk of diabetes, and having raised cholesterol.

A normal BMI with a big belly 'deadlier' than obesity

Green tea doesn't promote weight loss



This review looked at 15 weight loss studies and three studies measuring weight maintenance where some form of a green tea preparation was given to one group and results compared to a group receiving a control. Neither group knew whether they were receiving the green tea preparation or the control. A total of 1945 participants completed the studies, ranging in length from 12 to 13 weeks. In summary, the loss in weight in adults who had taken a green tea preparation was statistically not significant, was very small and is not likely to be clinically important.

Green tea doesn't promote weight loss 

Image credit: Will Spark

Linsensuppe (German Lentil Soup)


This began life as Linsensuppe (German Lentil Soup With Frankfurter Slices), but to make it more slimming, we made a few adjustments and haven't put the frankfurters in during the cooking process, leaving them as an optional extra that you can add to each portion (in measured quantity), if desired.

Ingredients


250g brown lentils
1 onion (finely chopped)
1 leek (finely chopped)
1 carrot (finely diced)
2 celery ribs (chopped)
110g lean bacon, cut into lardons
2 bay leaves
1 litre water
Fresh parsley (chopped, plus extra to garnish)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Frankfurters (optional)

Method


Rinse lentils thoroughly under cold running water (brown lentils don't need to be soaked before cooking). Gently fry the onion, leek, carrot, celery and bacon in a large pan for 5-10 minutes. Add the bay leaves, lentils and water to the pan and slowly bring to a boil. Skim the surface & simmer (half-covered) for 45-50 min or till the lentils are soft. Add parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaves and serve garnished with the extra parsley.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Peppered lamb & minty butter bean mash


Based on this recipe at BBC Good Food, those of you who know Slimming World will know that this dish qualifies for the Extra Easy SP plan.

Ingredients


    2 x 410g cans butter beans, drained and rinsed
    1 garlic clove, crushed
    juice of 1 small lemon
    small handful mint leaves, roughly chopped
    4 leg of lamb steaks, weighing about 140g/5oz each (all visible fat removed)
    1 tbsp coarsley ground black pepper
    85g bag watercress, to serve

Method


    Put the butter beans, the garlic and 3 tbsp of water into a pan and heat through. Smash the beans with a potato masher until you have a rough mash, stir in the lemon juice and mint, season to taste and keep warm.
    Season each lamb steak with the black pepper and a sprinkling of salt. Heat a large frying pan until really hot. Add the lamb steaks and cook for 3 minutes on each side for pink meat or until cooked to your liking. Spoon the mash onto four warm serving plates and top each with a lamb steak. Quickly stir half a cup of water into the lamb pan, boil to make a sauce and spoon over the lamb. Add a handful of watercress to each plate and serve.

Vanilla yogurt makes us feel happy

[Researchers] found that eating vanilla yoghurts made people feel happy, and that yoghurts with lower fat content gave people a stronger positive emotional response. Their results also showed that even if people reported differences in liking them, yoghurts with different fruits did not show much difference in their emotional effect.

(My emphasis added.)

Vanilla yogurt makes us feel happy

Monday, 9 November 2015

Slow-cooked gammon with parsley sauce


This recipe appears in the Slimming World Food Glorious Food cookbook, but to be honest, it's so simple it hardly needs a recipe.

Serves 4

Ingredients


800g smoked boneless gammon joint, visible fat removed
1 litre boiling chicken stock
2 onions, halved
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
4 celery sticks, roughly chopped
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
a few thyme sprigs

For the parsley sauce:
150g quark
3 tbsp chicken stock
1 garlic clove, crushed
large handful of fresh parsley

Method


Soak the gammon joint in cold water overnight (this helps reduce the saltiness).

Drain and rinse the joint and place in a large heavy-based saucepan with the stock, vegetables, peppercorns and herbs. Add enough water to cover and bring to the boil over a high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 2 hours 30 minutes or until the meat is very tender, topping up the water if it needs a little more. (Alternatively, throw it in a slow cooker for a minimum of 4 hours.)

About 15 minutes before the gammon is done, put all the parsley sauce ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to a small aucepan. Heat gently to warm the sauce, but be careful not to let it boil and split. Drain the gammon and discard the vegetables.

Slice the gammon and serve with the parsley sauce and your favourite potatoes and vegetables.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Chicken in tomato sauce and watercress mash



From the Slimming World magazine in July 2015.

Serves 4

Ingredients


700g floury potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
200ml hot vegetable stock
200g watercress, very finely chopped, plus extra sprigs to garnish
4 skinless chicken breast fillets
Lemon wedges to serve

For the sauce:
300ml passata with onion and garlic
200ml vegetable or chicken stock
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp each of dried oregano and dried parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method


Put all the sauce ingredients in a pan, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 12-15 minutes. Keep warm.

Meanwhile boil the potatoes for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and return to the pan with the stock. Mash until fairly smooth and season. Add the watercress and mix.

Put the chicken between sheets of cling film and use a rolling pin to flatten slightly. Season well. Place a frying pan or griddle pan over a high heat and cook the chicken for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.

Divide the chicken and mash between 4 plates and top with the sauce. Garnish each with watercress sprigs and a lemon wedge.

Serve with steamed green vegetables, such as beans and broccoli.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Italian fish and chips. Pan-seared tuna


Based vaguely on a Jamie Oliver recipe, we've served this Italian-inspired tuna dish on a bed of cavolo nero (black kale) and surrounded by fat-free and syn-free chips (cooked in an air-fryer).

Serves 2

Ingredients


2-3 cloves of garlic
300g ripe red and yellow cherry tomatoes
8 black olives *
a small bunch of fresh basil
1 lemon
2 tuna steaks
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
4 anchovies

Method


Peel and finely slice the garlic. Halve the tomatoes (cut any larger ones into quarters). Pick the basil leaves off the stalks and reserve the smaller sprigs for serving. Halve the lemon.

Season the tuna with salt and pepper and sprinkle with oregano. Place a large frying pan over a high heat and cook the tuna for 1 minute on each side, then remove to a warm plate. Add the garlic and olives to the same pan and cook for 1 minute, then add the anchovies and tomatoes. Squeeze in the juice from one half of the lemon. Cook for 1 minute, stirring. Just before you take the pan off the heat, throw in most of the basil leaves. Squeeze in the juice from the remaining lemon half, toss everything together and season to taste.

Divide the sauce between 2 plates. Slice the tuna steaks into 2cm strips and lay over the top. Dress with the reserved basil sprigs.

* At time of writing 8 olives are 1.5 syns, so this is negligible .75 of a syn per portion. Always double-check the syn values I give as these can change from time to time.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Thai green chicken curry


Using frozen vegetables, this makes a quick and simple mid-week meal.

Serves 4

Ingredients


2 level tbsp thai green curry paste
400g chicken pieces
600ml chicken stock
100ml reduced fat coconut milk
400g mixed frozen veg
2 tbsp light soy sauce
salt and pepper
1 red chilli and fresh coriander to garnish

Method


Place a large frying pan over med heat, add curry paste and chicken for 2-3 mins, add stock and coconut milk, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 mins until chicken is cooked. Add vegetables, bring back to a simmer and cook for 6-8 mins, remove from heat, stir in soy sauce and seasoning, put into 4 bowls, garnish with chilli and coriander.

We served this on a bed of jasmine rice. 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Spiced root vegetable soup


Ingredients


    2 onions, finely chopped
    2 sweet potatoes, chopped
    2 carrots, chopped
    2 parsnips, chopped
    1 red chilli, roughly chopped
    1 tbsp ground cumin
    75g dried green lentils
    1.3l vegetable stock  
Optional garnish:
    Fat-free Greek yogurt
    Coriander leaves, chopped

Method


    Heat a large pan. Add the onions and fry for 5 mins until softened. Tip in the remaining vegetables and cook for another 5 mins, adding the chilli and cumin for final 2 mins.
    Add the lentils and stock to the pan. Bring to the boil, then lower heat and simmer for 25 mins until vegetables are tender and lentils are soft. Blitz until smooth and add a little extra water or stock, if necessary. Season, then reheat until piping hot.
    Ladle into bowls and serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of chopped coriander.

Adapted from: Spiced root vegetable soup

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Sleep interruptions worse for mood than overall reduced amount of sleep, study finds

I didn't need a study to tell me this:



A study led by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers suggests that awakening several times throughout the night is more detrimental to people's positive moods than getting the same shortened amount of sleep without interruption.



Sleep interruptions worse for mood than overall reduced amount of sleep, study finds

The government response to the WoW petition is irrational, incoherent nonsense on stilts

It’s unacceptable in a so-called liberal democracy that a government endorses  “incentivising” people (a psychocratic euphemism for state coercion) to take any insecure, poorly paid work that doesn’t alleviate poverty, by the use of sanctions, which entail the removal of people’s lifeline benefits originally designed to meet basic survival needs – food, fuel and shelter – making people desperate and placing them in situations of crisis and absolute poverty. How on earth is that “fair” and how does it “make work pay”? It’s morally repugnant, ethically reprehensible, academically nonsensical and democratically untenable.

It’s not possible to “incentivise” people by starving them.



The government response to the WoW petition is irrational, incoherent nonsense on stilts

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