Feeling Good, Tasting Great - Performance Foods from the Steel City

In this post you will find a super pork loin recipe, recommended eats for peak nutritional performance for each meal of the day and a nutritional bombshell regarding the dangers of vegetable oil!  But first do we really have two brains?

Scientific advances in the rather unglamorous field of neurogastroenterology (the study of the alimentary canal) seem to support the old adage that we are what we eat. We effectively have an additional brain formed from the sheaths of neurons embedded in the walls of the long 9m length of our gut.  As Michael Gershon has written in his book, The Second Brain” the amount of neural firepower is far in excess of what is required simply to manage the daily grind of digestion.  The fact that 95% of the bodies serotonin comes from the bowel points to the health of our gut being hugely influential on our mood and sense of wellbeing.


Eat your way to Olympic performance

Looking after our second brain by choosing to eat a variety of wholesome and nutritionally balanced foods rather would seem to be sensible, but does this mean taking the joy out of eating?  Quite the reverse I would argue.  By finding a way to break away from the monotony of shopping exclusively at the large multiple retailers with their emphasis on more processed foods and discovering local food it’s easy to boost nutrition and eating pleasure simultaneously.  So in this piece I will show how you can balance your energy for peak performance throughout the day – Olympic performance without the training!

I have unashamedly use some examples from our product range at PJ taste, the fact that our customers buy these healthy and nutritious dishes because they look and taste good rather than consciously thinking they are good for them proves these principles work!

Local Sheffield nutritionist, Claire Gillis, advocates balancing blood sugar levels through the day as a key to promoting good gut health.

“Often energy slumps throughout the day can be attributed to keeping blood sugar levels balanced. In terms of general health, this is essential as over time, imbalanced blood sugar levels can be attributed to complaints such as sleep problems, difficulty loosing weight and even affects stress levels due to hormonal imbalance”

So how do we prevent “spiking” our sugar levels?  Let’s start with breakfast.  There is an expression, perhaps originating in Mongolia “Keep breakfast for yourself, share lunch with your friend and give dinner to your enemy”.  It’s certainly excellent advice not to miss breakfast but better to ensure you eat dinner too (hopefully in good company) as eating moderately but regularly helps the desired steady release of sugar into the bloodstream.  Research shows that people who skip breakfast tend to be heavier than people who eat this meal, probably because skippers end up eating more during the day as a result of hunger cravings.

Steel City Power Food Number One.  Porridge with Our Cow Molly Milk

PJ taste Porridge Pots

An excellent breakfast choice would consist of natural porridge oats customised into your favourite porridge with local milk, some nuts and seeds and perhaps some fresh fruit and local bioactive yoghurt.  Oats have been shown to slow the release of sugar into the blood and actually reduce the effects of harmful cholesterol.  Combining the carbohydrates from the oats with protein in the nuts and dairy is a method of further slowing the absorption of glucose which is released as the oats are digested .  Variety through the seasons makes this a dish which can be varied each day with good quality dark chocolate grated over the top or little local Sheffield Honey added for treats.  If you’re up for a bit of foraging, autumn’s a great time to find berries and local apples. In spring, Yorkshire rhubarb starts to appear. It’s delicious cooked down to a lovely pink puree and the forced variety of this vegetable from the famous Yorkshire triangle within Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield won EU protected status in 2010.

There’s also a surprising ‘taste imposter’ for rhubarb in the unlikely form of Japanese Knotweeed.  The young shoots look a little like asparagus when they sprout up and when up to a foot tall taste amazingly like rhubarb when cooked.  Be careful though as this is extreme foraging!  As well as potential dangers from pesticide treatments that have been unleashed on these unwelcome invaders, it’s an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to plant or otherwise cause the species to grow in the wild.

Given busy lifestyles many of us rush out of the house in the morning without a chance to get breakfast on.  The PJ taste ready to grab and go Porridge Pots offer a solution.  Made with organic Yorkshire oats with some dried fruit, nuts and a little organic Yorkshire hemp and are packed with nutrients.  We use Our Cow Molly milk delivered fresh from a few miles away at Dungworth when ready to eat.  The freshness ensures top nutritional quality (supermarket milk is often at least 5 days old before reaching the shelves) as does the individual attention to the animals possible through farming a small herd.

Sour Dough Loaves from Seven Hills Bakery

A common alternative breakfast is toast and jam.  The choice of bread is important.  White bread made from refined flours in an industrial process is a much less favourable choice than breads made from wholegrain flours using more natural leavening processes. These types of bread are available in Sheffield from the excellent Cat Lane Bakery and the newer Seven Hills Bakery.  You can find these and others in your area on the easy to use Real Bread Finder on the real bread Campaign’s site.

And it’s worth having a thought about the jam, real Seville orange marmalade with the bitter sweet oranges from Southern Spain being in season now.  Nothing wrong with jam once in a while (especially if you use some PJ taste preserves!) but using the principle of combining protein with carbohydrate why not have a fresh poached egg instead?

PJ taste Seville orange marmalade

Steel City Power Food Number Two.  Lunch – Roast Squash and Buckwheat salad with Pomegranite, Olives, Fresh Herbs and Pumpkin Oil Dressing

In many ways the traditional sandwich is not the best choice for lunch, particularly if the bread is of the white variety and the filling a mayonnaise rich affair which is tempting to grab when in a hurry but which will reduce our afternoon performance.  With a little planning we can instead ingest more beneficial fats and again apply the slow release energy principle.

PJtaste Squash and Buckwheat Salad

The Roast Squash salad is a typical offering in the PJ taste range of nutritious salads.  The local box is ticked with the Sheffield grown squash and the buckwheat is a nutritious, tasty and filling base.  Buckwheat is not related to wheat but part of the sorrels, knotweeds, and rhubarb family.  In studies of breads made from buckwheat flour against refined white wheat flours there was significantly lowered blood glucose and insulin responses, as well as finding a lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure.  The use of olive oil against other vegetable oils gives beneficial boosts to blood cholesterol levels (unlike saturated oils or even other vegetable oils like sunflower which contain an imbalance of omega 6 oils over the required omega 3 oils).

Steel City Power Food Number Three.  Dinner – Moss Valley loin of Pork with a Cider and Apple Sauce, Sautéed Leeks and Brown Basmati Rice.

Povey Farm Pork Loin in PJ taste Cider Sauce

This is a dish inspired by the excellent pork produced at Povey Farm in Sheffield’s Moss Valleyby Stephen and Karen Thompson.  Last autumn we used wild apples from trees around Sheffield which gave us much scrumping fun.  But it also turns out that pork loin is a high quality nutritious meat.  A 150g portion has just 180 calories with a low fat count—just 5 grams in this portion with no carbohydrates and 40g of protein along with high levels of  vitamins and minerals.  Prominent amongst these are iron which helps keep energy levels high while building red blood cells to stave off illness and boost immunity.

The Crook Barn at Povey Farm

The seasonal leeks provide an excellent source of vitamin C as well as iron and fibre. They provide many of the health-giving benefits associated with garlic and onions, such as promoting the functioning of the blood and the heart.  Brown basmati rice being less processed than white rice retains it whole-grain nutritional values.  The most beneficial nutrient found in basmati rice is manganese, essential for the metabolism of protein and carbohydrates and regulating your nervous system. Approximately 88% of an adult’s daily recommended dietary allowance for manganese is available from just one cup of cooked rice.
Recipe – serves 4

500g cooking or wild apples
30g butter
200ml cider – a dry local or even homemade one is good
seasoning and perhaps a slug of cream

Sheffield Wild Apples

Make the sauce by gentle stewing down the first 4 ingredients until they can be pureed.

600g Pork Tenderloin

Cut the pork into 8-12 round slices (2-3 per person) – they will be quite thin approximately 1.5cm-2.5cm thick each and will cook quite quickly, so be careful not to dry them out.  See the note on cooking temperatures below.

1.  Add a little olive oil to a frying pan.  Season the loin steaks with salt and pepper or for a variation some ground fennel seeds work well.  Seal the meat for 1 minute on each side in a hot pan then continue to cook on a lower heat for 5 more minutes.  Check the core temperature has reached 145F (62C) for 3 minutes and for the last 2 minutes pour in the cider and apple sauce and heat until bubbling and piping hot.

2.  Good accompaniments and in season too are sliced leeks sautéed in olive oil and garlic along with a brown basmati rice.

Note on Cooking Temperatures

From a food safety perspective meats such as poultry and pork should be carefully cooked to meet some minimum time/temperature values to kill harmful bacteria.  Pork in the past has often been infected by trichina, the parasite that can cause trichinosis and the advice was thorough cooking until no sign of pinkness remained.  In the UK pigs are currently clear of the disease and so buying your pork from reliable, local sources such as Povey Farm gives you reassurance that the meat will be disease free.  (Not so in parts of Europe where Trichina is still present).  Relying on cutting into the meat to check a subjective range of pinkness is not particularly scientific so although it sounds a little “geeky” buying a simple meat probe thermometer is a very useful investment.    The minimum temperature/times decreed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is 145F (62C) held for at least 3 minutes.  In the UK the government does not legislate as specifically for temperatures although generations of college trained chefs will have be trained to cook poultry and pork to 75C  (approx. 167F).  At these temperatures the meat will certainly be drying as above around 55C the collagen fibres break down and start to release their juiciness. Modern restaurant kitchens often use sous vide cooking techniques which allow precise temperature control in water baths, allowing lower temperature cooking over a longer period to achieve succulent meat which is still safe because of the longer cooking time.

See some general food safety guideline here.

Nutitional Notes and References

Benefits of Buckwheat.  Containing high levels of flavonoids buckwheat has been linked to lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The Yi people of China consume a diet high in buckwheat (100 grams per day, about 3.5 ounces). When researchers tested blood lipids of 805 Yi Chinese, they found that buckwheat intake was associated with lower total serum cholesterol, lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL, the form linked to cardiovascular disease), and a high ratio of HDL (health-promoting cholesterol) to total cholesterol.  See more from www.whfoods.com

Balancing the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6.  Omega 3 and 6 are both essential fatty acids which help produce essential biochemicals in our bodies.  It appears that a lot of modern diets supply too much omega 6 compared to 3 with the ratio being far higher than the desired 2:1.  Some of the problem is that oils which can be perceived as “healthy” such as soybean, safflower, sunflower, corn and cottonseed oil have unknown to many a very high omega-6 and low omega-3 fats profile.  The inbalance can be as much as 200:1.  The result disrupts the balance of pro- and anti-inflammatory agents in the body, promoting chronic inflammation and elevating the risk of health problem such as asthma, allergies, diabetes and arthritis.  See more at the conscious life web site.

The Benefit of Brown Basmati Rice.