It has been some week. I am normally a very ‘even’ person – not much ruffles me. Perhaps it is because I can tick nearly all of the boxes that add up to a nice life. I won’t bore – or irritate – with the details but trust me, I’m one lucky person. But that doesn’t mean that underneath it all I am not paddling furiously, like everyone else. And this week I paddled hard enough for a personal best.
Recent events have given me pause to reflect on what I hold dear. Nothing horrible has happened, not at all, but let’s just say I was running the emotional gauntlet this week – deep happiness and fulfillment, sudden terror followed by shock, corrosive frustration, and finally – best of all – joy. My poor adrenal glands don’t know what has hit them. To be honest, I’m wrung out. Pathetic when compared to those who deal with tragedy and emotional upheaval – and the aftermath of it – on a daily basis. For many, just getting by requires strength of character and determination that the rest of us pray we never have to draw upon. I have merely dipped my toe into the roiling sea that is many peoples’ day-to-day existence. Man-alive it’s made me grateful, thankful and all of those other positive ‘-fuls’.
Challenging, emotionally fluid times require comforting, yet nourishing foods. Riding a metaphorical rollercoaster uses up a heck of a lot of energy. Simple, full of flavour, visually-wow recipes can really hit the spot when you are ‘all over the place’. At least for me. Some of you may crave uber-comfort foods like macaroni-cheese, puddings, bars of Dairy Milk when emotionally challenged and looking for solace. But I’m sure there are at least some of you who require a shot of spice, a dose of colour and an infusion of bold flavours to make you feel like yourself again.
As you can probably tell if you read this blog regularly (thank you if you fall into this gorgeous and clever group), I favour punchy over safe and I make no apologies for this trait. Although raised on meatloaf, pot roast, bologna and mustard sandwiches, and the occasional salad, I adore more ‘exotic’ foods. My comfort zone is book-ended by pan-Asian and Middle-Eastern dishes. But I promise to give you something more sedate, less challenging in the next post. I also promise to put some mini recipes and ideas up in the Nutrition and Cancer pages that may be especially suitable for those going through active cancer treatment (to access, click on the top bar above); still full of flavour, but perhaps kinder to wonky digestion. If you have any ideas for this section get in touch and I’ll see what I can do. I am always soliciting my Maggie’s Centre Nutrition Workshop groups for their suggestions; I want to open that out to you, too.
Todays’ recipe fits the bill of good mood food. Nearly all of the ingredients have something about them that help resupply us with stress-depleted B and C vitamins, or provide potentially mood-enhancing Omega 3 and tryptophan (from the prawns). All in a luridly bright, tangy, tongue-tingling sauce. But without the MSG, weird not-of-this Earth colourings and flavourings and copious amounts of added fat and salt. My underlying motto is get good ingredients and let them do all of the work. All you need do for this one is chop, stir and eat. Oh, and a good knife wouldn’t go amiss.
Nutrition and Usage Notes: The word soba is Japanese for buckwheat, a highly nutritious seed ‘fruit’ related to rhubarb and sorrel. As well as having protein and some important antioxidants and B vitamins, delicious buckwheat is gluten-free and therefore highly useful to coeliacs. And, the prism-like, dark golden seeds are quite pretty.
For all of you interested in the benefits of wine and green tea, believe it or not buckwheat shares the key phytochemical rutin, a compound that may helps lower dangerous LDL cholesterol and raise helpful HDL. Buckwheat is also a great source of blood vessel-relaxing, blood pressure-lowering magnesium. Anyone under constant stress would benefit from making sure they get enough magnesium.
A native crop of China and Northern Europe, buckwheat – roasted and ground -makes a great flour. It is also useful as an unroasted or roasted ‘grain’ – the latter known as kasha, and as the basis of a nourishing tea-like drink (soba cha in Japanese). Buckwheat is also fermented with soya beans to make sobamugi miso paste, a staple item in any Japanese pantry. This grain-like seed is used in many countries, perhaps best known to us in the West as a main ingredient for Russian blinis, usually caviar and sour cream-topped but nice with a nippy wholefruit jam too.
Buckwheat’s nutty, rounded flavour makes it a candidate for delicious porridge, vegetable and herb-flecked salads and as a floury add-in for many cake recipes. I have a rotation of grains and grain-like seeds such as buckwheat that I use as a straight swap with rice, couscous and ‘normal’ pasta. Try this link for different ways to cook buckwheat as a grain. And this one at Doves Farm for baking ideas.