If you watch our weekly [email protected] bulletin on Fridays, you may recognise me as the former news anchor. I was tempted to joke about being a woman of many talents, but then it dawned on me that it’s only ever been food, or talking, or some combination of the two.
In any case, I’m hoping this column will inspire you with regards to the former.
It’s been a lifelong obsession for me, food that is (not talking) and one that has had me traipsing around the world on many adventures.
I even have some credentials to speak of.
Firstly, I’m a clinically trained nutritionist and wholefoods chef.
Secondly, I’m a mum, which brings a dose of humility and realism to one’s health advice!
Yes, that’s right, I’ll be leading you in some “from-scratch” healthy cooking, among other things, but I promise to arm you with plenty of tips to make it achievable – and delicious.
Afterall, I’m a diehard foodie, at heart.
There’s no two ways about it, we’re living in interesting times.
I believe this tumultuous period is an opportunity to reconnect with what is truly important: health, obviously, but also community.
Food has traditionally been central to both.
And when it comes to cooking, I’m passionate about teaching the lost skills and know-how of yesteryear.
Grandma didn’t overthink it – she inherently knew how to nourish and heal her family, especially in tougher times.
Her go-to strategy wasn’t panic-buying tinned baked beans, as we saw during the COVID first wave – it was humble, nose-to-tail, root-to-tip cooking, eating seasonally and locally, preserving the harvest, creatively repurposing leftovers and having a grasp on home-made remedies.
In just a couple of generations we’ve lost touch with that old food culture, making us easy prey for the food and diet industries and, in the current climate, in a state of disempowerment.
Rekindling this wisdom is extremely empowering.
And there’s some good news.
The most nutrient dense foods aren’t flying long distances in fancy packaging to get to you – they’re being produced by a farmer, just a little way down the road.
One of the silver linings of this crisis is that so many of our local growers and producers are suddenly being valued for their work.
And their newfound customers are finally discovering the freshness, unparalleled flavour, nutrient density and, of course, a sense of local connection and community.
The other good news is that cultivating health doesn’t have to be expensive, or complicated, or even time-consuming.
The key is gradual skill-building and baby steps – it’s only effort until it’s routine.
Theme 1. Immunity
Topic: Garlic –
a humble superfood.
My aim is to have a monthly theme with the obvious first choice being immunity.
With Winter hard upon us it is more important than ever to do what we can at home to prevent and treat illness and infection, by enhancing our body’s innate immunity.
One humble culinary ingredient that can be found in every kitchen and which happens to be one of the most potent natural medicines available is garlic.
Not only is it one of nature’s most powerful antibiotics, it’s also strongly anti-viral, anti-fungal, antioxidant and anticancer.
Just one milligram of allicin, garlic’s main active constituent, is equivalent to 15 IU of penicillin, so three cloves of garlic contain the same antibacterial activity as a standard dose of penicillin.
The bonus, aside from being cheap, safe and incredibly delicious, is that garlic comes free from the risk of creating antibiotic resistance.
A 2009 in-vitro study showed that quercetin, another powerful phytonutrient found in garlic, was more effective in treating influenza A viruses than Tamiflu.
Together, allicin and quercetin, make garlic the antiviral superfood for the times.
Being a devout foodie and long-time garlic lover, I’ve learnt much about this humble bulb over the years.
And one of the most valuable things I’ve discovered is just how important it is to source local product – and that means shopping seasonally.
Imported garlic is often grown with chemicals banned for use in Australia.
According to the Australian Garlic Industry Association, imported garlic is treated with growth inhibitors to prevent sprouting, bleached with chlorine and fumigated with methyl bromide to kill any stowaway bugs.
We’re just seeing the very last of the Australian garlic at this time of year.
I like to buy it in bulk from a local producer in December when it’s at its peak and preserve what I can’t use over the Summer.
The simplest way to preserve a locally grown stash of garlic, so that you have it on hand year-round, is to store unpeeled cloves in the freezer, taking them out when needed.
But, instead of storing it, why not make it into my all-time favourite cold and flu remedy, especially for young children – fermented garlic honey.
Fermented Garlic Honey
With just two ingredients, this is an easy way to combine local garlic with the incredible antimicrobial powers of raw honey into an immune-boosting powerhouse.
Honey has been shown in the medical literature to be more effective than over-the-counter cough medications, so this is a great one to have on hand when those lingering Winter coughs set in.
Perhaps the most pervasive myth about garlic is that it must be consumed raw to reap the benefits of the allicin.
In Jo Robinson’s brilliant book ‘Eating on the Wild Side’, I discovered that the allicin is indeed effectively destroyed after just 30-60 seconds of heating.
However, if you mince or chop the garlic and allow it to sit for ten minutes before cooking, the full potency remains.
Raw honey (ideally local)
1. Peel the garlic cloves, by placing them under a large chef’s knife and giving them a hard whack with the heel of your hand – aiming to bruise and rather than completely smash the clove. Remove and discard the skin.
2. Place the cloves into a clean glass jar, with enough honey to cover and close the jar with a lid. It’s important to leave at least a third of the jar empty, as the mixture will expand as it ferments.
3. Invert the jar once every few days to keep the garlic submerged in honey. Allow it to ferment for 4 weeks. You’ll notice air bubbles forming after several days (you can release it by gently opening the jar and then resealing). Eventually the honey becomes less viscous and the bubbling will stop.
4. Store exactly as is, in a cool dark place, consuming the garlic or honey as necessary. For children, I like to give a teaspoon of garlic honey several times daily at the onset of illness, or a whole clove for adults. The ferment should last years if stored correctly.