Monday, 20 October 2014

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Turmeric Chicken Tagine

Turmeric is a really exciting spice for people with arthritis. It's been used in traditional and aryuvedic medicine for centuries to treat sore joints but is now also being investigated by scientists looking at the anti-inflammatory properties of one of it's constituent chemicals - curcumin. 

Turmeric goes brilliantly in curries but is also great in stews, soups or sauces. Try eating it in this easy, healthy tagine. The sweetness of the apricots, sweet potato and squash helps balance the slightly astringent taste of the turmeric whilst ginger and paprika add warm, punchy flavour.

I've recently starting using ginger and garlic that comes ready prepared in tubes. It's brilliant for when my hands are sore. You can get it in jars too but for me that is no easier than chopping it as I somehow have to get the jar lid off! You could also used ground ginger and garlic granules but the taste will be a little different.

Ingredients:

2 chicken breast fillets, sliced into chunks
350g packet chopped sweet potato and butternut squash
400g can chickpeas (225g drained weight)
1tsp garlic puree or 1 clove crushed garlic
1tsp ginger puree or thumb sized piece of ginger grated
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp tumeric
1tsp ground coriander
1/2tsp smoked paprika
4 dried apricots, cut into little pieces (I find this easiest with kitchen scissors)
300ml chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon olive or rapeseed oil

Serves 4

Heat the oil in a medium sized casserole dish. Add the spices, garlic, ginger and chicken - gently cook for 5 minutes. Add the apricots, tomato puree, sweet potato and squash, chickpeas and stock. Bring the dish to a low simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken and vegetables are tender.

Serve with couscous.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Cooking with Arthur is featured in Waitrose Weekend

New Waitrose Weekend If you are popping past a Waitrose between now and Monday, pick up a copy of Waitrose Weekend (or you can download it for free on the app store). I'm featured in it talking about how I try to manage my arthritis and there are some great diet and lifestyle tips from experts too. It's all part of National Arthritis Week (12-16th October) and Arthritis Research UK's 'Pain Killer' Campaign which is trying to shine a light on what it is really like to live with daily pain and how you, your friends and family can all help cope with it.

For anyone, who has read the article and stumbled across the blog - welcome! Cooking with Arthur is my way of sharing all that I've learnt over 14 years of having arthritis and muddling on through in the kitchen. You'll find healthy, tasty recipes, tips and reviews of kitchen equipment plus a quizzical look at some of the myths around diet and arthritis. Feel free to browse around and let me know what you think in the comments section.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Arthritis-Friendly Recipe: 5-A-Day Pasta Sauce

Contrary to a lot of what you might have heard or read on the internet, there is no robust scientific evidence that cutting out the 'nightshade' vegetables (such as peppers, potatoes and tomatoes) has any benefits for people with arthritis. It's sometimes claimed that they are high in oxalic acid and the alkaloid solanine and that these chemicals might aggravate joint inflammation - neither of these claims are true. In fact, the nightshade vegetables are actually a fantastic source of anti-inflammatory anti-oxidants and phytochemicals 

This healthy pasta sauce recipe is packed with 5 different veg, including pepeprs and tomatoes. It is a wonderful vitamin boost if you are beginning to feel a bit run down with Autumn aches and pains. Better still, I'm yet to meet someone who doesn't like it - both my tomato-hating husband and 7 month old daughter will eat bowl after bowl of this - so it makes a good family meal.

You can use the sauce thinned down with a little stock as a soup (as pictured) or scoff it on pasta. Throw in a can of mixed beans and it also makes a good vegetarian chilli. You will need a hand blender or jug blender to make it but otherwise there is very little fiddly chopping involved - just cut the vegetables into whatever rough sized chunks you can manage. 

Ingredients:
400g tinned tomatoes
2 sticks of celery
2 medium carrots (if they are organic then you can skip peeling them)
1 red pepper
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
250ml water

Serves 4

Prepare the vegetables: cut the pepper, celery, onion and carrots into large, rough chunks. Peel the garlic.

Pour the oil into a large saucepan and add the onion. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes or until it begins to soften, then add the carrots, garlic and celery. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pepper, tomatoes and water. Bring up to a low simmer and cook, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and puree the sauce with a hand blender until smooth. Serve.


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Arthritis Friendly Recipe: Ginger Sesame Chicken

I love Autumn: the soft golden light; the crisp, crunch of russet leaves; and that sense of festivities around the corner. Autumn, however, does not love me - for as long as I can remember I have had an arthritis flare in September and this year is no exception. I've come to associate the first flurry of horse chestnuts with that familiar twinge in my feet and hands as Arthur makes his seasonal appearance.

The practical upshot of all this is that I want to cook quick, satisfying food that makes me feel better and regular readers will know, that for me, comfort food is generally anything with rice. This ginger sesame chicken is easy to make but also packed full of anti-inflammatory ginger and cold-busting garlic. The sesame seeds add a lovely crunch and a calcium boost. Serve it with wholegrain rice or noodles.

Ingredients:
2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 clove garlic
Thumb sized piece of ginger grated, or you can use ready-made paste
Handful of chopped spring onions
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
250g pak choi (or you could use any other greens)
1 carrot grated (optional)
1 tablespoon sunflower oil

Serves 2-4

Heat the sunflower oil in a large wok or frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger and spring onions and stir-fry for a minute, then add the chicken, pak choi and carrot and cook for a further 5-10 minutes (or until the chicken is done).

Tip in the soy sauce, sweet chilli and sesame seeds and give everything a good stir. Serve immediately.


Arthritis diet notes:
Sesame seeds are a great source of calcium and magnesium - both important minerals for healthy bone maintenance and especially for people with arthritis. Try sprinkling them on your morning cereal, in stir fries or using ground sesame seed paste (tahini) as a spread on toast.

You can read more about the potential effects of ginger on arthritis and the most recent research here.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Acid, Alkaline, Arthritis - Do alkaline diets or apple cider vinegar work for arthritis?

There are many 'alkaline' diets around claiming to help cure arthritis at the moment. Or, you may be familiar with the old classic cure of honey and cider vinegar - favoured by Margaret Hills and much loved by the adventurer Ranulph Fiennes.

The theory on diet, arthritis and acids goes something like this: proponents believe that arthritis is caused by the build up of too much uric acid in the body (as happens in gout) and that by avoiding certain foods (often dairy products, wheat, certain fruits and vegetables and animal fats are cut out) the body can be restored to its natural alkaline state and arthritis inflammation reduced. Doses of vinegar are supposed to help regulate acidity levels in the body and aid the 'alkalising' process.

So does it work? Well, these kind of diets might help arthritis but not for the reasons they suggest. Firstly, acid is not the cause of arthritis. Whilst it's true that in gout, joint inflammation occurs because of too much uric acid this isn't the case for most other types of arthritis. Moreover, the build-up of uric acid in joints isn't due to dietary acid levels but is caused by chemicals called purines. In fact, if you have gout eating an 'acidic' orange will help you because vitamin C can reduce the severity of gout attacks.

Secondly, the acidity levels in your body vary according to the function of different body parts. Saliva is slightly alkaline to help prevent the acids from food damaging our teeth. The stomach is highly acidic to breakdown food and kill bacteria. Your body happily controls and regulates all these different acidity levels independently of what you eat or drink.

Why are there so many fans of 'alkaline' diets for arthritis then? Put simply, the food you eat on these diets is good for you. Most plans encourage you to cut out foods that aren't so healthy, like processed meats, saturated fats and sweets, and instead make wholegrains, fruit and vegetables the focus of your diet - all things we know can help improve not just your arthritis, but also your overall health.

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