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How lowly prunes can beat killers.

PRUNES are like rice-pudding and liver. Profess to liking them and someone will wrinkle up their nose and pretend to retch.

I'm quite happy with prunes and can't understand how they have acquired the same reputation as over-cooked cabbage.

They're lovely with yoghurt, delicious in stuffings, a useful addition to flapjacks, ice-cream and hot fruit puddings - and now recognised as a major protector against disease.

Prunes have hit the big time. As the headlines have been proclaiming, this humble fruit has topped a league table of produce capable of combating cancer.

The power of the prune is such that it is nearly twice as effective as its nearest rival. Many doctors believe that oxidisation is responsible for the body damage that leads to illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.

New research shows that eating fruit and vegetables gives anti-oxidant protection to prevent such damage. The antioxidant level for prunes is 5,770 per 100 grams, compared with 2,830 for raisins, 949 for plums and 670 for cherries.

One person who wasn't surprised at the role prunes have to play in good health was Esther Rollason of the California Prune Board which supplies more than 70 per cent of the world's prunes.

She said: "We were well aware of the high antioxidant levels present in prunes, although clearly we are delighted to see that we have come out tops in terms of the antioxidant scores. We have always been keen to promote the health benefits of prunes which, as well as supplying antioxidants, offer an excellent source of vitamin A - which is good for hair, nails, skin, growth and vision - fibre, potassium and iron. Prunes are also an excellent source of energy and are particularly suitable for anyone seeking a low sodium or cholesterol-free diet."

Prunes then are ideal for people trying to eat more fibre (most Britons eat only half the amount recommended for good health) and for those trying to reduce their blood pressure. Prunes act as an anti-depressant and help to boost the immune system. Their iron content makes them important for women during their menstrual cycle and for revellers needing a pick-me-up on the morning after.

They can also have a go at cellulite. By eating a prune you cut down on saturated fats (prunes have no fat) and step up fruit and vegetable intake in one swoop.

You can also add puree of prune to your hair for extra shine and turn a couple into a purifying face-masks.

Most people know that a prune is a dried plum, but not any old dried plum. It takes a special sort of sweet plum to become a prune.

n Prune trees were first introduced to North American soil in 1856 by Louis Peilier, a European nurseryman who went to the California in search of gold.

n In the USA prunes are rapidly overtaking the strawberry as the ideal accompaniment to champagne.

n Forget red roses. Eros dipped his arrows in prune juice to strengthen their effect while Roman centurions would send prunes as a gift to their sweethearts at home.

n For a copy of Something You Can Do, a brochure published by the Imperial Cancer Research Fund which gives advice on diet and details ways of preventing and detecting different types of cancer, send a stamped addressed envelope to Communications Department, PO Box 123, London, WX2A 3PX.

Prune & pancetta pizza

Pizza dough

25ml/tsp active dried yeast

Pinch of granulated sugar

450g/1lb/4 cups strong white flour

5ml/1tsp salt

30ml/2tbsp olive oil

Tomato sauce

400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes

150ml/pint/2-3 cups passata

1 large garlic clove finally chopped

5ml/1tsp dried oregano

1 bay leaf

10ml/2tsp malt vinegar

Salt & ground black pepper

Pizza topping

1tsp olive oil

Lightly smoked pancetta

Roasted pine nuts

50g/2oz/ cup sliced California pitted prunes

250g/9oz/1 lge cup sliced mozzarella

Makes 4x25cm/10 inch crust pizzas

Method

Make a dough. Put 300ml/pint/1 cups warm water into a measuring jug. Add the yeast and sugar and leave for 5-10 minutes until frothy. Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Gradually pour in the yeast mixture and olive oil. Mix to make a smooth dough. Knead on a lightly-floured surface for about 10 minutes until smooth, springy and elastic. Place the dough in a floured bowl, cover and leave to use in a warm place for 1 hours.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan. Cover and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, remove the lid and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the pancetta and fry, turning occasionally, until cooked. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 220c/425f/Gas mark 7. Brush the baking sheet with oil. Knead the dough for two minutes, then divide into four equal pieces. Roll out each piece to a 25cm/10 inch round and place on a baking tray.

Spoon the tomato sauce over each dough round. Brush the edge with a little olive oil. Add the pancetta, prunes and cheese. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown and crisp.

Prune & bacon kofta kebab

250g/9oz lean streaky bacon rashers, chopped

50g/2oz California prunes, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

1 celery stick, chopped

75ml/5tbsp fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs

45ml/3tbsp chopped fresh thyme

30ml/2tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 egg, beaten

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Oil for brushing

Method

Place the bacon, prunes, onion, celery and breadcrumbs in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the thyme, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and enough beaten egg to bind to a firm mixture.

Divide the mixture into even pieces and use your hands to shape the pieces around eight bamboo skewers.

Cook the Kofta Skewers under a medium grill for 8-10 minutes, turning regularly.

Prune & Bacon Kofta Kebab mix can also be flattened and shaped as prune burgers - cooking time may need to be increased according to weight.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Cowen, Sarah
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 28, 1999
Words:1011
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Next Article:It's your starter for 10!; Scots telly chef NICK NAIRN serves a tasty treat.


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