I received a phone call last week asking if I would like to go and chat about the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet on the lovely Julia Hankin's show, BBC Radio Newcastle (http://www.bbc.co.uk/tyne/content/articles/2005/12/19/presenter_profile_julia_hankin_feature.shtml). Anybody that thinks this Med diet stuff is all a lot of nonsense need to look at the simple facts. And they ain't too nice.
Over here in the United Kingdom alone, we already have the highest numbers of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis in Europe. This is because we are THE most obese nation in Europe. Obesity has managed to treble in only 20 years in the U.K. alone. We eat the most confectionary. We eat the most crisps. We eat the most fast food and convenience food. Very scary, and something that needs to be reversed quickly. Too much saturated fat and salt and not enough consumption of fresh fruit, vegetables and fish means we are an island with one or two 'large' issues to contend with.
I'm not going to go on and on about this as it becomes a bit preachy. But just think about it with some common sense. A typical Med diet is one rich in fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, grains and pulses and the liberal use of olive oil in their cooking and salad dressings. Antioxidants and monosaturated fats aplenty there. And more importantly, some pretty tasty food there too. Very simple and fantastic tasting food. It isn't rocket science why they have relatively few health problems.
Here is a recipe that I have cooked often; I suppose it is a typical meal in my house. The reasons are that it is very tasty, my daughter will eat it and it is also very good for you. It also takes minimal time to prepare. It is packed with all the right things - the long words I described previously which will help keep nasty things at bay and lots of flavour and texture. The simple things are always the best and a Mediterranean diet proves that on every level.
Fish with a Fennel, Leek, Tomato and Olive sauce
Serves 2 and 1 child
1 fresh fish, skinned and flesh cut into chunks (no need to be picky here, use what you like best but of course an oily fish such as mackerel or salmon will make for an even healthier dish)
1 Fennel bulb, chopped finely
1 Leek, halved and chopped finely
1 bunch of spring onions, chopped finely
1 clove of garlic, chopped
A handful of black olives, chopped roughly
1 tin of tomatoes (or 250g fresh tomatoes, chopped)
Fresh basil, torn
Salt and pepper
1 - In a large pan, heat the oil then add the fennel, leek, spring onion and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes until softened and slightly coloured.
2 - Add the tomatoes and olives, and simmer for 5-10 minutes until slightly reduced.
3 - Add the chunks of fish and cover lightly with the sauce. Cut on the lid and cook for 10 minutes on a low heat until the fish flakes easily.
4 - Taste for seasoning, go easy on the salt as the olives will make the sauce salty.
5 - Serve with rice and a simple salad (I used wild and long grained rice and fresh uncooked spinach), sprinkled with the torn basil.