Welcome to this week’s post where Carol Taylor and I hope to give you reasons and recipes to include some of nature’s medicine cabinet in your daily diet. Today some really basic vegetables that add taste and nutrition that can help boost your immune system and have been utilised for 1000’s of years by ancient cultures for the treatment of disease.
Despite the current emphasis on healthy eating and weight, not many of us look at a plate of food and separate the ingredients out according to their nutritional or therapeutic benefits. However, many foods have a long and distinguished history in natural medicine and the inclusion on a regular basis in your diet can bring many benefits.
One of the enormous benefits of living in Spain was the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables available in supermarkets, most of which is sourced from within Spain and the Islands. Despite my concerns about our modern diet, there is a positive, and that is with vastly improved transport links and methods, the same foods can be enjoyed in most countries in Europe.
Although the French may lay claim to being the ‘Onion Kings’, Spanish onions are well known for their pungent and flavourful addition to cooking around the world.
Onions and garlic fit well into the category of ‘Superfood’ as they are both nutritional and can influence health in a very positive way.
Despite any claims to the contrary, onions (Allium cepa) originated from Asia and the Middle East and have been grown for over 5,000 years. They were even used by the Egyptians as a weekly wage for the workers who built the pyramids, not something they would get away with today. They were sent into the afterlife with Pharaohs and used in this life by many different cultures to prevent a premature passage to the other side. The Israelites apparently wandered the wilderness longing for the onions, leeks and garlic that they had left behind in Egypt, something to think about when you next pass them in the grocery section of the supermarket.
The onion is part of the Lily family, which includes garlic, leeks, welsh onions and chives. The word onion comes from the old English word unyun derived from the French word oignon, which in turn came from the Latin unio. There are words for the vegetable in ancient languages but none seems to be related to each other indicating how widespread the use of the vegetable was.
Onions have been used for thousands of years as a seasoning for otherwise bland food and today we can buy them all year round and use them raw or cooked in a wide variety of dishes.
The onion has a powerful sulphur-containing compound, which is responsible for the pungent odour and for the health benefits. Onions contain allyl propyl disulphide, chromium, Vitamin C and flavonoids, the most beneficial being Quercitin.
Allyl propyl disulphide lowers blood sugar levels by competing with insulin, which is also a disulphide for space in the liver where insulin is normally deactivated. This results in an increase in the amount of insulin available to move glucose into cells causing a lowering of blood sugar.
Chromium is a mineral that also helps cells respond efficiently to insulin, which in turn decreases blood sugar levels. These two properties in the onion make it a vegetable worth including in our daily diet as we get older to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Chromium has also been shown to improve glucose tolerance, lower insulin levels, and decrease total cholesterol levels whilst increasing levels of the healthy cholesterol (HDL).
The reduction in unhealthy cholesterol levels leads to reductions in blood pressure levels, which is of course a leading cause of cardiovascular disease. Eating onions with other foods with high levels of Bioflavonoids (tea, apples, broccoli, cranberry juice etc.) has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease
Quercitin combined with Vitamin C work together to kill bacteria, which is why they are so valuable added to soups and stews during the cold and flu season.
There are other areas where eating onions regularly can reduce your risk on developing degenerative and sometimes life threatening diseases. These include Colon cancer, Osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and other inflammatory diseases.
An exciting area of research into bone health has identified that a compound in onions with a mile long name but GPCS for short, may inhibit the activity of osteoclasts, which are the cells that break down bone.
Onions also contain healthy amounts of other nutrients such as manganese, Vitamin B6, tryptophan, Folate, potassium, phosphorus and copper making onions a well-rounded nutrient source.
The garlic is a multi-bulb cousin to the onion. Again originating in Asia it has been used for thousands of years as a pungent additive to food but also as a healing agent. In recent years, its reputation has been validated by hundreds of research studies and like the onion; it is worth including in your diet very regularly.
Garlic contains many helpful compounds including thiosulfinates such as allicin, sulphates including alliin and dithins the most researched being ajoene.
Research has identified that garlic lowers blood pressure, decreases the ability of platelets to clump together forming clots, reduces blood levels of lousy cholesterol (LDL) whilst increasing levels of healthy cholesterol (HDL). It also helps our blood vessels relax which prevents atherosclerosis, heart disease and the risks of heart attacks and strokes.
Garlic, like the onion is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. With the current concerns that we have about potential ‘Super bugs’ it is interesting that garlic appears to be an effective antibiotic, even against some of these resistant strains.
Cancer protection is essential for all of us. The compound ajoene might be effective in the treatment of skin cancer and eating two or more servings a week of garlic may help prevent colon cancer.
Allicin has also been researched in regard to weight loss, as there is some indications that in the laboratory at least, that this compound may inhibit weight gain.
As in the case of most spicy and pungent foods ‘less is more’ with this particular flavouring especially if you wish to maintain close relationships with family and friends.
Now it is time to hand over to Carol Taylor, who as usual, has been working very hard this week to turn these two nutritious ingredients into wonderful recipes.
Onions and Garlic every day.. keep the doctor away!
Onions and garlic…Not as easy as it first seems as I use onions and or garlic in practically every dish I make on a daily basis….
But making the Onion or the garlic the hero of the dish as all these cookery programmes like to say…Is much harder than first thought…
Cooking head on and into the kitchen…first job though is to get my ham on…There is nothing like Home cured ham but after teasing you with the thought that recipe unless you trawl through my archives is for another day….lol.
Onions…. Do you know your onions???? Sally has given us the low down at the beginning of this post and the health benefits of the onion…I would say most people use the onion every day as part of their cooking whether it is shallots, red onion, brown onions, spring onions( green onions) so many varieties.
They can be eaten cooked, raw or pickled.
Lovely with some fresh bread, cheese and either pickled or raw they make a lovely Ploughman’s lunch.
Raw in a cheese and onion sandwich….
Spring onions are lovely in an omelette or quiche… A cheese and onion turnover which is a pastry eaten as a snack.
Who hasn’t has Onion Bhaji with your Indian meal?
Popped into cold water they curl up and look so pretty decorating a green salad.
This stuffed Onion is one I have made many times and it is lovely for a vegetarian and quite special so looks like you have made an effort to cook something nice and tasty. But equally as nice for a light meal with a glass of vino…
Stuffed Onion with goat’s cheese and sun dried tomatoes.
- 4 large onions.
- 150 gm goats cheese
- 50 gm fresh breadcrumbs ( I use olive oil breadcrumbs)
- 8 sun dried tomatoes in oil chopped and drained. I am lucky that I live somewhere nice and sunny so I can sundry my own tomatoes please click HERE to see how.
- 2 tbsp oil from the sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 small egg, beaten
- 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
- 2 cloves of garlic chopped
- 1/2 Tsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 Tsp chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste.
Just reading that list of ingredients makes my mouth water….I am salivating.
Add the onions in their skins to lightly salted boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the onions from the boiling water, drain and cool. When they are cool enough to handle cut in half and remove skin.
Using a small dessert spoon scoop out the centre leaving a thick outer layer… 3 layers are sufficient.
Reserve the flesh for later.
Pre-heat your oven to 190C/375F
Place the onion shells in an oiled oven proof dish.
Add all the other ingredients except for the tomato oil and pine nuts to the scooped out onion flesh and season well. Stir in the pine nuts.
Divide the mix between the 4 scooped out onion shells and cover the dish with foil.
Bake for 20 minutes, remove foil and drizzle with the sun-dried tomato oil cook uncovered for a further 25-35 minutes until bubbling and cooked.
Baste occasionally during cooking.
And smell…. your kitchen will be filled with such a lovely aroma and even those who are not onion lovers will be salivating…I have had many a convert to this dish.
It is lovely just served with warm bread or as a side to some lovely grilled sardines.
Now all of those ingredients have amazing health benefits.
Some lovely variations to this recipe include using Feta cheese instead of goat’s cheese and substitute mint and pitted green/black olives instead of the other ingredients for a real Mediterranean taste. Just stir into the scooped onion mix; you could also add some currants or sultanas.
If you don’t want sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts use 75 gm chopped walnuts add them to the scooped out onion mix add 115 gm chopped celery and cook in a tbsp oil until the celery is soft and put in the onion shell.
Experiment by substituting your own favourite ingredients that is what cooking is all about.
Onions and garlic are also lovely pickled.
- 8-10 garlic bulbs
- 500 mls white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 90 gm sugar
- 1 tsp salt…I always use salt mined here locally or Himalayan salt.
- 1 tsp per jar of either mustard seed or fennel seeds (optional)
- 2 x 250-300 ml jars with good lids
Separate the bulbs of garlic into cloves and peel.
In a saucepan bring the vinegar, salt and sugar to the boil, stirring occasionally to make sure the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add the garlic cloves to the pickling liquid. Bring it back to the boil and simmer for five minutes.
Transfer the garlic cloves to sterilised jars. Add the mustard or fennel seeds if using. We actually couldn’t decide Fennel or mustard seeds so I normally do some of both they are equal in taste to us. Carefully fill the jars with the hot pickling liquid. Seal.
The garlic will be ready to use in about a week but improves over time.
Pickled onions I have tried many ways and this way seems to produce the crispiest onions and we love a crispy pickled onion…Don’t you?
Pickled Onions. There is nothing like your own crispy pickled onions… I use shallots…But pickling onions are fine.
- 2 lb Pickling Onions, peeled.
- 11/2 pints pickling vinegar…I use white vinegar or a mix of apple cider and white vinegar.
- 2tbls Pickling spices or your mix…again I mix black, white peppercorns, coriander seeds.
Method…2 days before mix 2pts water with 4 oz salt pour over onions, cover and keep in cool place. I keep in the fridge due to the heat here.
Then drain onions and pat dry. Pack into sterilised jars layering pickling spices as you go then pour over vinegar making sure onions are completely covered. Store for 4-6 weeks and they ready…They are the crispest onions I have eaten, far better than shop bought and generally don’t get to 4 weeks let alone 6 weeks as they get dipped into …men!
Pork Belly in Onion Sauce.
This recipe has been handed down through the generations.
I just roast belly pork until it is nearly cooked, then scatter with 2 onions sliced then pour over some white sauce and then pour over some gravy.
I then cook for a further ¾ of an hour until the onions and the white sauce are all bubbling with the gravy. This is very tasty and again my 20% comes into play…lol
- 2 large onions , sliced
- Milk to soak
- Flour to dredge onions
- Oil to fry.
There is nothing like lovely, crispy fried onion with a hot dog or a steak sandwich… Top a lovely Biryani or Indian curry and it is then to die for…That’s healthy gone right out of the window but hey ho….That’s why I follow a 80%/20% diet (not every day)
Just slice those onions and soak them in milk for 5 mins them lightly take them through the flour with a fork and pop into a pan of hot oil…Stirring to brown evenly….
Baked garlic and shallots with sherry.
This to me is perfection…. Lovely young garlic cloves and beautiful banana shallots… Serve on grilled bread, with a spoonful or two of goat’s curd, or as an accompaniment to a simple roast chicken. Serves 4
- 4 garlic bulbs
- 8 banana shallots
- 5 lemon thyme sprigs (or ordinary thyme)
- 4 bay leaves
- 600 ml fresh chicken stock
- 180 ml sherry
- 50g unsalted butter, in pieces
- 50g parmesan, freshly grated
- Salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
Slice the garlic bulbs in half horizontally and place in a roasting tray. Halve the shallots, slip off their outer skins and add to the garlic. Season, with salt and pepper, and then scatter the lemon thyme and bay leaves over the garlic and shallots…
Bring the chicken stock to the boil in a small pan; pour over the garlic and shallots. Drizzle over the sherry.
Cover the tray tightly with foil and roast in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes, until the shallots and garlic are golden brown and the stock has reduced down and thickened. Add the butter and parmesan and stir to combine. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and then serve.
Garlic is also a lovely thing infused in Olive oil and is a base for many dishes, a lovely garlic aioli or roasted garlic puree alleviates a dish to new heights. It is such a versatile little bulb as well as being packed with health benefits.
That’s all for now on Onions and garlic…I could go on and on….but I won’t… I hope you have enjoyed reading about the health benefits of these bulbs of goodness and if you have any favourite recipes for onions or garlic then please share with us….
My thanks to Carol for all the amazing ideas on how to bring these two powerful immune boosting foods into our daily diet.
We eat spring onions, red onions and garlic everyday.. It keeps the doctor away and probably the neighbours..
I am sure that you will discover a whole new world of taste by trying out Carol’s wonderful recipes and we look forward to hearing how you get on.
About Carol Taylor
Enjoying life in The Land Of Smiles I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them.
I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables ones I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.
Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have become to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I use have to improve our health and wellbeing.
Exciting for me hence the title of my blog, Retired No One Told Me! I am having a wonderful ride and don’t want to get off, so if you wish to follow me on my adventures, then welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride also and if it encourages you to take a step into the unknown or untried, you know you want to…….Then, I will be happy!
Connect to Carol
New additional Blog: http://myhealthyretirement.com/welcome-to-orienthailiving-my-first-post/
Carol is a contributor to the Phuket Island Writers Anthology.
Phuket Island Anthology: https://www.amazon.com/Phuket-Island-Writers-Anthology-Stories-ebook/dp/B00RU5IYNS
Please feel free to share thanks Sally
If you have missed previous posts in the Cook from Scratch series you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/cook-from-scratch-with-sally-and-carol-recipes/