Carol Taylor will be back in the New Year with the Food and Cookery Column after a well earned Christmas break.
In the meantime, I am sharing a breakfast that I was introduced to when we lived in Madrid. I love tomatoes and they were always readily available all year round. With some other simple ingredients, tomatoes provide a wonderful start to the day that keeps you going until lunchtime.
I would love to invite any of you who have favourite recipes that use fresh ingredients, to get in touch at the email at the bottom of the post. And of course another chance to promote your work.
Most of us associate a breakfast with cereals, breads, butter and jams, a fry up, boiled eggs or perhaps sliced meats and cheese. However, when living in Spain we adopted a different and delicious alternative which is toasted fresh baked bread with olive oil and a spread made from tomatoes.
Over the years I have developed various recipes for this simple dish and it is so easy to whip up and so delicious that I thought you might like to find out more about it.
Although the dish is really easy to make and serve, it is absolutely packed with nutrients that work on so many levels in your body and benefit virtually every major organ, your skeleton and your immune system.
Whilst it makes this post a little longer than a simple recipe I wanted to illustrate how nutritionally important this dish is for our health by giving you a brief overview of the ingredients too.
But first the recipe.
You can make several days’ worth and store in an airtight container in the fridge. As there are no artificial additives and refined sugars it is a great alternative to other spreads and you can enjoy any time of the day. We have eaten in the evening for a supper from time to time. When we have guests we might also add some lean chicken or a piece of roast beef to the top.
I tend to use my own homemade wholemeal Irish Soda bread which is yeast and sugar free. It can be a little crumbly but delicious with the tomatoes.
Or you can buy a wholegrain baguette from a bakery where it has been made on the premises (no additives).
You will need one tomato per serving. Using up tomatoes that have gone a little soft is great and just wash and take out the central stem. This recipe is based on four tomatoes cut into cubes and put into a blender.
Add 1 dessert spoon of Extra Virgin Olive oil and a pinch of salt. Blend until a puree.
The skin of the tomatoes will solidify the mix so scrape into a dish or a storage container to serve as soon as blended.
If you would like to add some more depth to the spread you can add 1/2 teaspoon of Pimiento Dulce which is lovely and smokey.
To make the tomato spread especially rich and also even more nutritionally dense, chop up half a red pepper, half an onion and a clove of garlic and cook off with a little coconut oil or olive oil in a pan; or in a microwave without oil with a little water for 10 minutes. Add to your tomatoes and blitz it all up together.
Putting it together
Take a fairly thick slice of bread and toast both sides, or split a small sized wholegrain baquette and then drizzle a little olive oil over while hot. Use a spoon and add a good amount of the tomato spread making sure that it covers the surface of the toast.
Here is a brief look at the health benefits and the nutrients that are packed into this easy to make and healthy alternative to a sugar laden breakfast.
Although it contains fats they are healthy fats and if you need to lose weight just use less on your toast as there is plenty of flavour in the spread already.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are necessary fats that humans cannot synthesise and must be obtained through diet.
Omega-3 (Linolenic Acid) is the principal Omega-3 fatty acid and is used in the formation of cell walls, improving circulation and oxygen. A deficiency can lead to decreased immune system function; elevated levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.
Omega-6 (Linoleic Acid) is the primary Omega-6 fatty acid. Omega-6 can improve rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis.
In a human trial it was found that polyphenol rich olive oil included in the diet improved the health of blood vessels which was not the case for another group of volunteers that included oil in their diet with the phenols removed. Obviously the healthier the blood vessels the more effective the entire circulatory system
Tomatoes are another very nutritious food that tends to be taken for granted. We expect to see in the summer with salads but raw or cooked the tomato is a powerhouse of health benefits.
Tomatoes contain Vitamins A, C, and K. Folate and Potassium and provide good quantities of B Vitamins Thiamin, Niacin, B6 as well as the minerals magnesium, phosphorus and copper.
With the addition of fibre, regular inclusion of tomatoes in your diet, helps protect you against high blood pressure, too much oxidised low density lipoprotein cholesterol (the unhealthy kind) and heart disease.
Combine this with beta-carotene which is found in brightly coloured foods such as carrots, eating tomatoes offers some protection against sun damage. The lycopene content also has been show to make the skin less sensitive to UV light damage helping keep your skin looking younger.
As we age we also lose bone density and the Vitamin K, calcium and lycopene are essential in the production of new bone.
Red peppers are packed with vitamin C, in fact more than most citrus fruits, and they have a high anti-oxidant level including Vitamin A, adding to that already present in the tomatoes.
They also add more B vitamins into the recipe including B6 which makes neurotransmitters that might help inhibit the development of breast cancer.
As well as the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, red peppers have a good amount of manganese, needed for bone density and tendons and cartilage.
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).
Garlic contains many helpful compounds including thiosulfinates such as allicin, sulphates including alliin and dithins the most researched being ajoene.
(Just a quick note on the addition of garlic you might want to time this ingredient so that it does not clash with a business meeting or a romantic date….)
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.
You can find out more about the essential nutrients we need to be healthy in this Directory
If you have a favourite recipe that is made from all fresh ingredients then please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope you have enjoyed the recipe and that you will enjoy eating tomatoes for breakfast from time to time…thanks Sally