modernist home cooking

Caloric restriction and fasting

Caloric restriction is usually associated with dieting, often combined with exercise – the ‘move more, eat less’ cliche. However, as I have mentioned elsewhere, even though this seems intuitive (calories in – calories out), the strategy fails because it ignores our biology. Move more, eat less Most exercise (the ‘move

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Is alcohol a risk-factor for obesity?

This question is really two conflated questions: [1] is ethanol (i.e. the active ingredient in all alcoholic beverages) a risk-factor for obesity, and; [2] are alcoholic beverages themselves a risk factor for obesity. There’s a third, related question: [3] does consuming food with either of these (ethanol or beverages) alter

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Parmesan-crusted scrambled egg omelette

The video (from Lennard Young) shows a simple but effective method for an omelette that I only recently became aware of (but that might be widely known to others). It is excellent. Three layered textures and flavours: crispy parmesan outer crust holding a simple egg omelette encasing a decadent scrambled egg centre. Plus,

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99.9% – an update on antibacterial hygiene products

Around 2½ years ago, I summarised the health, environmental and efficacy concerns being expressed about antibacterial hand and body washes and soaps. The post was called 99.9%, because most manufacturers make the sweeping claim that their products are this effective (and by inference safe). At the time, the FDA had given manufacturers until 2016

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Inflammation

The immune system and inflammation are inseparable – the immune system invokes inflammation as part of its armoury, while inflammation provokes an immune response. So, understanding inflammation is helped by an appreciation of the immune systems that constantly (and usually imperceptibly) protect us. Our immune Systems We have two immune

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Diabetes – update

I recently uploaded a post on how to reverse type 2 diabetes (T2D) (here). It’s a dietary solution (ketogenic diet) to a dietary problem. Some call it a cure because medication can usually be stopped. If you think of diabetes as ‘glucose intolerance’, then the answer is don’t eat glucose.

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Oxidative stress and diet

The reactive oxygen species (ROS) are a diverse group made up of free radicals, ions or small molecules – their common feature is that they need another electron to form more stable configurations. They grab this electron indiscriminately from any weak point on another molecule (fatty acid, protein, DNA etc,

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Diabetes and Diet

People who are gluten intolerant solve the problem in a straightforward way – by not eating gluten. Likewise for lactose intolerance or any other intolerance or allergy, with one remarkable exception – glucose intolerance. Health professionals still recommend that people who are glucose intolerant continue to eat glucose (carbohydrates), and then prescribe

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Calories-in Calories-out

Most people intuitively understand energy balance, particularly when it comes to weight management. This is known as the ‘calories-in calories-out’ (CICO) model, and its premise is that weight loss will occur when calories-out (CO) are greater than calories-in (CI). This is the basis for most diets, which rely on reducing

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Exercise and nutritional ketosis

A low-carbohydrate high-fat ketogenic diet has multiple potential health benefits, but how can one exercise muscles on a high fat diet that restricts glucose?

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Beyond a ketogenic diet for weight loss: Your Brain

Because I do brain research (my professional link is here), I am often asked what is the best thing to do for maintaining brain function – crosswords, reading, lumosity, ‘brain foods’? My answer has always been: “Exercise.” It hasn’t always been a popular answer though. Physical exercise is beneficial for

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The KETO-DIET page

I have been posting on the high-fat, low-carbohydrate, adequate-protein ketogenic diet for a while now. However, a topic like this can become fragmented, as posts dealing with separate aspects of the diet get loaded (in semi-random order) over time. Therefore, there is a new page, accessible from the top menubar, just

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Beyond a ketogenic diet for weight loss: Cancer

Recently, I have been posting on the fat-burning ketogenic diet, so called because the body adapts to use ketones (derived from fat), not glucose (from carbohydrate) for fuel. It is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate eating pattern, and a fairly effortless way to shed weight because the dieter doesn’t go hungry

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Summer Menu 2016

About once a year, in summer usually, I go to a bit of trouble to cook a dinner for various friends. This year it was  a 9-course menu, with a loose theme. The first and last courses were eggs in an eggshell though, just to bookmark the experience. Links to previous years

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High-fat low-carb diet and cholesterol

A high-fat low-carbohydrate (HFLC) ketogenic diet is effective for weight loss, is not onerous to adhere to (luxurious even), and has benefits for the body and the brain that go well beyond weight-management. With HFLC, about 70-80% of energy needs should be supplied by fat (animal fat and cold-pressed oils).

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Fat as fuel

Anyone following establishment dietary guidelines will be dependent on glucose (carbohydrates) for meeting energy demands. However, the body can be trained to burn stored fat for energy instead. It only takes a few weeks. You can lose weight by eating fat.

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Mayonnaise

Making your own mayonnaise can be tricky, but with a stick blender it is fast and easy. The reason for this post is to share the method. If you want to skip my usual diversions (this time into the Battle of Minorca and the science of oil-in-water emulsions), then click

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A brief guide to rendering fat

The simplest method is to accumulate it. That’s how it used to be done, collecting ‘dripping’ from roasts etc in a jar and reusing it. But, this has its limitations – the fat will be flavoured, contain suspended solids and water/gel and may not be enough for the purpose (e.g. deep

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Eating and inactivity as symptoms, not causes, of obesity

What if eating and inactivity are symptoms of obesity, not causes? In that case, it is pointless to target these symptoms, it is necessary to identify the cause and target that.

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The trouble with refined plant oils

Otherwise known as vegetable oils. However, none, or not many, come from vegetables (depending on how vegetable is defined). Plant oils would be a better term. They come from seeds (grapeseed, sunflower seed), grains (maize, rice bran), fruits (avocado, olive), nuts (almond, walnut) or legumes (peanut, soy). A product labelled

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Deep-fried bacon

In lard, of course. Bacon and lard – two ingredients that are demonised (and needlessly so). Previously, I suggested that bacon does not deserve its reputation. More recently, I have argued that we could be healthier if we ate more animal fat (our heritage fats). So, it makes sense to put the two

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On the origins of nutritional slogans III: The 8-glass rule

‘Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day’ – it seems you will be healthier if you’re waterlogged. However, the science has never existed for this slogan, and still doesn’t. Furthermore, how much water a person may ‘need’ depends on age, gender, environment, physical activity, health and a host

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Kindle eBook

Sous vide (pronounced soo veed) is the biggest advance in home cooking methods since the microwave oven. I hope by the time you have read this little monograph you will agree. Sous vide cooking is cooking food in plastic bags (with air removed) in water that is kept at a constant temperature (to better than 0.5C accuracy).

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On the origins of nutritional slogans II: Fibre

A recent post on the 50-year history of the saturated fat slogan ended with this sentence: “Our diet has been experimented on at a national level with an hypothesis that started out as a campaign by a charismatic and influential individual, that went on to become lore, that didn’t and doesn’t have

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Sherbets and Shrubs

A sherbet was a cold, sweet, non-alcoholic and refreshing drink that originated in the Middle East. The name derives from the Arab word for a drink – sharâb. However, later this word came to mean an alcoholic drink, and the word sharbât was used for the non-alcoholic version (‘to drink’, rather than

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Lost weight

We don’t want to lose our keys, our phones, our memory, hair, money, stuff… but the one thing we seem to want to lose is weight, in the form of fat. Which raises the question, if we lost it where did we leave it? The terms lost, shed or reduced

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On the origins of nutritional slogans I: Saturated fat

Eat less saturated fat. This slogan, along with others like it, has been pressed on us by nutritional authorities over the past 50 years or so. At a population level we largely listened and modified our behaviour. Meanwhile, obesity and other ‘diseases of civilisation’ steadily increased. Objectively, the message has

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Fish oil, omega-3 & supplements

The multi-billion dollar supplement industry might have peaked (in the UK at least). It has been a formidably effective industry, selling the promise of better health to the worried healthy. One supplement is holding out though – fish oil. Coming from a natural source (presumably fish) and with a beneficial nutrient

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Pink chicken meat near the bone

Cooked chicken can reveal disconcerting pink juices and meat around the bones. This raises concern about food safety, as we associate pink meat with under-cooking and we seem to worry about chicken more than other meats. However, these juices can be present even when the chicken has been cooked to a safe

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How nutritional science works

Nutritional science is difficult and demanding. Difficult because of the complexity of human biology and behaviour, and demanding because people want answers right now. The thing is that the real answers take time and money. Generally, nutritional research progresses through three stages that I will refer to as S1-3. The

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Sodium, salt, RDIs and health

Health authorities urge us to reduce our salt intake and mostly we have accepted that we should. However, the science behind this recommendation has been shaky from the start. Even the authorities are unsure how dangerous it is. In the US, the American Heart Association (AHA) sets the recommended daily

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Sous vide yoghurt

Yoghurt (a word of Turkish origin meaning ‘thick’) originated in W. and C. Asia. It was something of a breakthrough for the times because it enabled milk to be kept longer, it had a refreshing tartness and it could be consumed by lactose intolerant individuals (i.e. most of W. and C.

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Animal fats

Lard, tallow, suet, dripping – animal fats that were ubiquitous before the modern era (mid-twentieth century) without obvious health issues. Then, as we became more sedentary and convenience foods became, well, more convenient, we gained weight and looked for a culprit (other than ourselves). It was easy to blame fat

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Scrambled eggs

Scrambled eggs are physically a gel, as are other cooked eggs. Raw egg proteins are very large molecules but they are normally folded in on themselves to form smaller lumpy balls that are separate and float in the egg’s water (eggs are 90% water). Agitation by heat unfolds these proteins. When

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Discounting calories

A calorie is a superceded unit of heat energy, defined as the amount of heat required to increase the temperature of 1g of water 1 degree (from 15.5C to 16.5C). A Calorie (capitalised) is the conventional unit of dietary energy; however, it is not the same as a calorie – it

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Tempering chocolate sous vide

After posting about dieting on a food blog, I thought I should make amends – an atonement by way of chocolate. While humans have been drinking chocolate for millennia, they only worked out how to turn it into a block fairly recently (not much more than 100 years). The process

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Diets and their traps

My ‘Four Diet Dictums’: 1: All Diets work in the short term. 2: All Diets work equally in the short term. 3: All Diets fail in the long term. 4: All Diets fail equally in the long term. This is my interpretation of the science. It may seem nihilistic, but I think it’s empowering.

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Melting cheese

The home cook has limited options for melting a non-melty cheese (e.g. cheddar), often resorting instead to a ‘manufactured cheese-like substance’ that has been engineered to melt (something from the Kraft line, for example). What is the problem with melting cheese? It doesn’t melt as an emulsion, it separates into a

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Truffles

Fungi belong to neither the plant nor animal kingdoms. They have their own kingdom (unsurprisingly called the fungi kingdom). Inhabitants include mushrooms, yeasts and moulds. A restaurant truffle lunch next week (it’s the height of the season here), prompts me to look at this most prized (and priced) fungus of

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How to cook a national emblem

In Australia, the kangaroo is a national symbol (sharing the coat of arms with the emu) and readily identified by most of the world. But, not many countries are as confused as we are about their national trademark – variously iconified, culled, harvested, treated as pests and sometimes protected. For

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Cholesterol: an about-face

A recent (February, 2015) report by the Advisory Panel to the US Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) has removed dietary cholesterol as “a nutrient of concern”, thereby overturning decades of stern and adamant advice. They did this unapologetically. Nevertheless, the science has been around for a

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Bacon

Bacon is one of those ‘indulgent’ foods that has been widely consumed despite decades of finger-wagging by the nutrition police. It has the reputation of being high in fat (saturated), salt (sodium), cholesterol and carcinogens (byproducts of curing and smoking). None of these stand up well to scrutiny. Bacon is an

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Deconstructing one-pot cooking

Breaking down a recipe into components and treating them as separate processes is a versatile strategy applicable to home cooking. The previous post (cooking with alcohol) described how and why this might be applied to the French classic coq au vin (rooster with wine), which normally involves a long simmering to

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Cooking with alcohol

As the fridge magnet may say, “I love cooking with wine; sometimes I even put it in the food” – a quote variously attributed to WC Fields or Julia Child (but perhaps neither). There is evidence for the intentional consumption of fermented alcoholic beverages going back to the late stone

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Sanitising surfaces

Bleach is an effective sanitiser, as is acidifying with distilled vinegar. Add some soap to wash your hands and that is all you need – expensive cleaning products claiming to ‘kill 99.9% of household germs’ are best avoided. A 200 ppm solution of bleach can kill microbes in about 2

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Cutting boards – wood or plastic?

The kitchen is a domestic microbe’s playground (well ahead of the bathroom for example). The kitchen sink, dishwashing sponges, linen towels and cutting surfaces can be teeming with microbes. In the US, about 200,000 cases of food-borne illnesses occur every day. Most of these illnesses have a domestic origin rather

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Burning Vegetables

We burn food routinely for flavour – a crispy grilled (or barbecued) lamb chop or seared steak for example. Mostly it is animal proteins that we treat this way. But not entirely – burnt toast for example.  Still, we deliberately burn animal proteins but generally shy away from this for vegetables.

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Stale bread is not dry bread

Bread is only apparently simple and the processes that occur at the molecular level as dough is baked into bread and as bread then ages are still not well understood. In particular, bread staling has been the subject of considerable scientific study because of the economic implications at manufacturing, distribution

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A brief history of canned food

The principle behind canning – putting food in a watertight container and boiling it – was invented by a Frenchman (Nicolas Appert) around 1795. Napoleon was at war (with Britain this time) and had offered 12,000 francs to anyone who could come up with a better method for preserving food

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Beans, dried

I admit to resorting to canned beans, unflavoured (they always come with salt and sugar though), as a starting point for most recipes that call for them. The need to soak the dried beans ‘overnight’ before cooking is the stumbling block for me. But, it turns out that the soaking step

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A Stable Table

A four-legged table inevitably wobbles when positioned on an uneven surface such as in a beer garden or an al fresco dining area. Three of the legs will sit on the ground, but the 4th will be above ground and cause the wobble. The usual solution is to stuff something,

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Chilli, chile, chili

One in 4 people eat chilli daily; but are they eating chilli, chile or chili? And, why peppers? The word is regional and historical. The plants are native to South/Central America, and the word ‘chilli’ was the Latin translation from the Aztec Nahuatl language (an oral language). It has become standard spelling

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Art as food

My posts have always included original content and not just a link to other content. However, I enjoyed this video and so I am being modern and ‘sharing’. It is a promotional video for a 3-Michelin-starred restaurant in Madrid (DiverXO; chef David Muñoz). The Spaniards seem to remain in the vanguard, in

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Summer menu – 2015

I thought I would try a meal in multiple small courses, a classic way to eat in many cultures (especially Spanish-speaking). I settled on 15 courses. It took ~4hrs to get through. If I ever attempt anything as crazy as that again, I think it would work better as a

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Tempura

I’ve posted on the intricacies of batters before. The suggestions there work, and provide the light coating-style batters desired for fish for example. I have tried many variations in the meantime, working on the scientific premise: never leave well enough alone. However, none have improved on the original so far.

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Sugar and other carbohydrates

This post on sugar (and other carbohydrates) belongs to a small series about our most basic ingredients – water (and its solid form ice), salt (in relation to brining) and fat (including saturated fat). The name carbohydrate derives from ‘hydrated’ carbon (carbon combined with hydrogen/oxygen) – shortened to carbohydrate. But

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Wine labels and alcohol content

Wine labeling, regulated by legislation, ensures that the consumer is provided with facts about alcohol percentage and the number of ‘standard drinks’. Or does it? What do those numbers mean? Numbers have a habit of looking scientific, especially if they have a decimal point. So, a red wine label stating

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Thai Basil Daiquiri

Enzymes are naturally-occurring in almost all foods we eat, plant and animal. In plants they are mainly a defense mechanism. The main enzyme group is the polyphenol oxidases (PPOs). These enzymes are stored outside the plant’s vacuoles (flavour and water stores). Plant vacuoles support their parent structure because they are

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Ice

Ice is a naturally occurring inorganic crystalline solid – that makes it a mineral. In a previous post, I described salt as the only mineral we dig up and eat in quantity; but I forgot about this one. Before artificial freezers, lake/river ice was transported all over the world (including

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Water

It is hard to exaggerate how important this stuff is. We are mostly water. Arguably, we are ambulating water bottles. The food we cook is mostly made of water and we cook food in water. Nonetheless, like anything common, it can be taken for granted. Plants are the ultimate water

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