2014 August |

Monthly Archives: August 2014

Turkish sweet potato savoury cake


We ate this delicious ‘cake’ – a giant Turkish kibbeh –  on a bed of rocket and watercress.  I tweaked the original recipe (from Salma Hage), using rice flour, slightly different spices – and more sweet potato  as we couldn’t taste it in the original.  Delicious served warm from the oven.

Serves 6

2 kg sweet potato
350g bulgur wheat soaked in water for 15-20 minutes
4 tbsp rice flour
1 red onion, roughly grated
250 g mozzarella, grated
120g well drained sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp cayenne (or more it you like hot)
1 tsp sweet paprika
freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh basil, chopped
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
olive oil for brushing and drizzling



Note:  After soaking the bulgur wheat, put in some  muslin and squeeze well so that all the liquid is removed.  A sieve is not enough!

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 6.  Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork and bake until tender, about 45-60 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool so you can handle it.  Cut in half, scoop out the flesh and put into a bowl together with the grated onion, all the spices and chopped herbs, flour, mozzarella, tomatoes and the drained bulgur wheat.
Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly.
Brush a 30cm round cake pan with oil then line with baking paper.  Put the mixture in the prepared pan, pressing down firmly.  Score the top into 8 portions and make a 2cm hole in the centre (a clean index finger does the job!)
Drizzle with oil and bake for about an hour.
Cool before cutting – best served still warm from the oven.  Either enjoy a slice on a mixed bed of salad greens and herbs, or as an accompaniment to a larger mezze meal.

Salt – we love it but it hates us!

First of all, some relevant facts:  Salt contains sodium which is an essential nutrient that maintains our water balance as well as our blood pressure.  Salt also helps regulate muscle and nerve activity, so, yes…. we need it, but not as much as we’re consuming.  The recommended limit is about 6g (1 tsp daily) – less for children – but the UK is currently estimated to be consuming around 8.5g salt daily.You say you’re not adding that teaspoon to meals?

Hmmm, you don’t need to.  According to research papers [He and MacGregor, 2009, Journal of Human Hypertension; & SACN, 2003 ‘Salt and Health’] about 70-80% of our daily salt intake is already in our foods.  Breads, cereals, ready meals , canned food products and snacks are all the obvious culprits.And this is why salt is a very real health problem.   We’re consuming it daily without even realizing it.Not only is salt intake a major risk factor in high blood pressure & cardiovascular disease (the latter still being the leading cause of death worldwide), it’s high intake is also linked to stomach cancer (irritates the gut lining a.o.), oedema and kidney disease.  It can also cause osteoporosis because high salt leads to high urinary loss of calcium which in turn leads to our body compensating for this loss by drawing calcium from our bones.

Look at this salty list on the NHS ‘Choices’ website:  ham, cheese, bacon, olives, pickles, prawns, anchovies, salami, soy sauce, stock cubes, yeast extract, smoked fish, smoked meat, gravy granules… and of course salted nuts and crisps.  A lot of these foods may not be obvious salt sources to everyone.  And even sweet snack foods are on the list because the food industry knows that taste buds love sweet ‘n salty!

The following too can also be high in salt:  tomato ketchup, takeaways, pasta sauces, bread products (like ciabattas or bagels), pizzas, ready meals and soups.

The word ‘salt’ is invariably not listed on labels, however ‘sodium’ may be.  But sodium isn’t salt, it’s just part of it.  In fact 1 g sodium is 2.5g salt…which is a lot more salt intake in a given food than we may have realized.

Is there any good news about all this?

Firstly eating less of any processed snack will be a great start.  Unsalted nuts and seeds or a piece of fruit because really it does seem as though most snack foods contain salt (apart from, for example, salt-free crisps – but those are deep fried and full of trans fats which is another topic for another time).
And if we cook more from scratch we will be in charge of how much salt goes in the pot.
Checking labels is another obvious step.  Choose the canned or packaged goods with the lowest salt or sodium content.

The really good news however is that as our salt intake drops, our salt taste receptors in the mouth adapt.  After 1-2 months we won’t miss it at all!