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Savour the flavours of a Cretan summer; Nell Raven looks at a new book that tells us fish and figs are the secrets of a healthy diet.

Byline: Nell Raven

AT this time of year,many of us are either counting down the hours until our long awaited holiday,or mourning the end of those glorious days of sun, sea and sand. But whichever side of the fence you fall on, there's no need to feel gloomy or impatient while waiting for your next summer break.

Because, with a little effort and know-how, you can recreate that warm feeling of well-being that holidays induce by bringing the sunny flavours of the Med into your own kitchen.

And Mediterranean cooking will do more than simply get you in the mood to party or remind you what you are missing.

As explained in a new book called Fish & Figs, written by nutritionist Jacques Fricker and chef Dominique Laty,it can do wonders for your health too.

In the work, the pair concentrate solely on food from Crete. And they explain how research has consistently found that some ailments,including heart conditions and types of cancer,occur significantly less frequently there than in other countries -even neighbouring islands.

For example, a study conducted in 1952 found the Cretan death rate from coronary disease was 50 times lower than in the United States or Finland.

Laty says: ``Traditional Cretan cuisine demonstrates that good eating can also mean good health.''

And he explains the principles of Cretan cuisine are simple and unchanging: ``Every day you should eat bread,cereals,fruit,fresh vegetables,pulses, cheese or yoghurt and olives.

``Cook the food in,and season it with,olive oil, drink plenty of water and a little red wine several times a week,and eat fish,chicken,eggs and sweet desserts several times a week.

``Red meat should be restricted to only three or four times a month.''

The Cretan diet consists of a few highly nutritious,but low fat ingredients.

The basics are olive oil,octopus, snails and vlita, a vegetable the Chinese call African spinach.

These are supplemented by a variety of vegetables,including a few that grow in the wild such as dandelion; pulses such as chickpeas; plenty of fish,including sardines and sea bream; chicken,lamb, rabbit,and sheep and goat's cheese.

The cooking methods are simple and unfussy. Laty says: ``It is the choice of foods, the quality of their ingredients and their combination that brings out the savoury flavours rather than the style of cooking or laboriously made sauces.''

The best news about the Cretan diet is that it is designed to be enjoyed and shared with friends and family. Cretans quench their thirst with fruity red wine as well as water.

However,it is recommended that drinking is restricted to two glasses a day for women and three for men.

Laty says: ``It is the combination of foods,as well as the convivial manner in which the Cretans eat them, that results in the benefits of the Cretan system.''

Fish & Figs by Jacques Fricker and Dominique Laty is published by Hachette Illustrated, priced pounds 16.99

tuna `costes' and courgette tian

(serves 6)

ingredients

6 x 125g tuna steaks 1 bunch coriander 1 tablespoon crushed coriander seeds 1 tablespoon olive oil sea salt

For the courgette tian: 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 kg courgettes,peeled and sliced 250gfeta cheese,diced pinch of freshly grated nutmeg 150mlmilk

method

First,prepare the courgettes. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the courgettes until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for a further 15 minutes. Drain the courgettes in a colander.

Pour the remaining olive oil into an oven proof dish. Spread half of the courgettes over the base, then add half the diced feta cheese and sprinkle with a little nutmeg. Layer with the remaining courgettes and cheese. Pour over the

milk.Bake in a preheated oven,180C (350F),Gas mark 4,for 30 minutes.

About 3- 5 minutes before the ti an is ready, sear the tuna in a non-stick frying pan or griddle for 2 minutes, then season with salt and pepper.

Place the tuna on warm plates and sprinkle with chopped coriander and coriander seeds.

Drizzle half a teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over each tuna steak. Serve immediately with the courgette tian.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 2, 2003
Words:712
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