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Juicing: Hype or Holy Grail

Juicing to aid the digestive system

green juice

During my trip to Chennai, India in June 2015, I was sipping on what the hotel staff called a cooling drink and became inspired to put down my thoughts on juicing. This cooling drink is called Jaljeera. Mint, tamarind, fennel, black pepper, cumin. The initial taste does feel cool and soothing on the throat and not till you finish the drink do you get the spicy aftertaste at the end. Nice touch.

My pet peeve with juicing is that so much hype surrounds it that you have to shift through the chaff to get to the Holy Grail.

Yet I would say if I had to conclude on the single most important equipment in my kitchen, it would be the juicer. It would not be for taste either. It is exclusively for health reasons.

Our body needs living enzymes to break down the nutrients in the food that we eat so that our body can easily digest it. When we cook the food much of these enzymes are lost. By drinking juices in the morning, you are providing the body these much needed enzymes to prepare the digestive system to function smoothly for the rest of the day when we consume cooked food as most people do.

If the body does not have this, it will draw from our internal storage of enzymes. This will mean there will be a lack of enzymes for other important functions of the body, most importantly  to rejuvenate and rebuild damaged cells.

Everything I prepare is driven to achieve the best in taste and health — except for juicing. Juicing is solely for health and when the mainstream make it for taste I find myself dismissing all their marketing ploy as just another health buzz. Health buzzes annoy me. They give people a false sense of assurance.

Juicing pumpkin leaves
Juicing choko celery and pumpkin leaves

At home, on the farm, we drink juices five times a week which I make with my Vitality4Life Oscar 900 juicing machine. In the morning I would forage my garden for fruits and vegetables to juice. Due to the high content of sugar in fruits it is best to have a higher ratio of vegetables.

You could make an all-veggie juice but avoid making an all fruit juice. I drink one 400 ml glass a day and that is enough to get a good nutritional boost as most of us cannot eat as much fruit and vegetables as we should in a day.

My concoctions are usually not something you would like to be sipping on over an hour. When you juice bitter melon leaves, kale, pumpkin leaves, rhubarb and celery [not all combined together because each one is overpowering] the taste is not something to relish. Instead, you gulp it down. Even when you mix them with orange and rock melons and tomatoes, the dominant taste of these leaves can be quite pronounced.

For instance home-grown celery is very different from commercial celery. Home-grown celery could have a bitter taste. Commercial celery is usually sweeter. The stalks are a lighter colour because they are protected from the sun by mounding dirt around the entire plant so that only the leaves remain exposed. Stalks also get blanched by wrapping them with newspaper. I prefer to leave my celery alone as darker celery is said to be more nutritious.juicing oranges rhubarb celery

You can dilute your juice with water or add sweet fruits and vegetables like oranges and carrots to balance out the bitterness. One healthy glass of juice is definitely worth the discomfort when you get to eat delicious but healthy food for the rest of the day.

While people may be drawn to juice bars for health [or could it be hype?], I doubt there would be a bee-line if the bars compromised on taste.

Today there are even juice recipes available online. Frankly, unless you are treating a particular illness and your list is prepared by a nutritionist solely to treat that illness, don’t go seeking recipes for juicing.

You just tie yourself down to standard formulas and then you get stressed when one or two ingredients listed are not available in your fridge. Sometimes you get caught up with the latest craze, such as Acai berry and end up including that in every single juice you make as though leaving it out will somehow diminish the power of your juice.

Let juicing be fun. Go with the variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Keep changing the combination so your body is exposed to a myriad of nutrition. And always be sure to include one or two different herbs or spice like cinnamon or even alfalfa powder for a potent blend. As I have lemongrass and ginger growing in my garden, they are my favourite choices.

Essentially juicing machines can be divided into two types. A masticating juicer that gently presses and thereby retains the fibre. A centrifugal juicer that tears and during this process of ripping and shredding much fibre is lost.

My Vitality4Life Oscar 900 is a masticating juicer which cold presses the produce at 200 rpm or less. Centrifugal juices can move from 1000 to 30,000 rpm. Its high speed blade creates friction heat and destroys vital nutrients. The high speed also intensifies oxidization. This is why browning of the juice from a centrifugal occurs very quickly.

cold-press-juicers-vitality4life

A masticating juicer is also the only kind that can get the best extraction from dark, leafy greens such as kale and spinach. Avoid juicing carrot tops and beetroot leaves as they are high in oxalic acid. This acid binds with the calcium in the gut and interferes with the absorption of it and other minerals.

The added advantage of a good masticating juicer is that it can also produce nut butters and nut milk. In Chennai I find badam milk or almond milk very popular on the menus of restaurants and they are usually served up with a dash of cardamom.

Corporate crowd in the city are fond of stopping at juice bars to get their nutritional fix. Most of these juice bars however have a centrifugal. The reasons for these could be because it is faster to make, quicker to clean and also the juice is thinner. As a masticating juicer produces more fibre the juice is thicker and while you can easily dilute at home if this bothers you, it is not practical to do this at a shop.

As consumers grow more health savvy, they are dictating to the market what they would like to spend their money on. And the city of Chennai does not lack health savvy professionals. Juice producing companies such as Relish are thriving. Relish is a healthy alternative to a typical juice bar, the brainchild of a former banker and his wife. It supplies fresh, cold-pressed juice, nut milk and smoothies to people across Chennai on a subscription basis (minimum of 12 servings). Their cold press machine exerts hydraulic pressure on the fruit and no heat is generated. Their juices are 80 – 90% vegetable based with a low glycaemic index. Another company in Chennai called Splash offers 70 types of fusion juices and supplies also to schools.

For those who are busy this might be a viable options. If you choose this option make sure the fruits and vegetables juiced are fresh and organic.

The best way is still to make it yourself at home because juices oxidize quickly. Even when fresh produce are cold pressed ideally it is best to consume it immediately. If you keep it in a fridge, drink it within 48 hours and put it in an air-tight container.

If you are juicing organic fruits and vegetables you can safely juice them with the skin but if they are not organic, you may want to remove the skin before you juice.

I start each day with the juice of half a lemon in hot water and have nothing else for at least half an hour (if you do this, do rinse your mouth or brush your teeth to remove the acidic effect of lemon on your teeth).  I have this in addition to my regular juice.  You may opt just for the regular juice. Only 400 ml for a boost that will give you peace of mind that you are well on your way to a balanced diet for the rest of day.

 

Banana Blossom Salad

Banana Blossom Thai Salad 2Banana Bell1

Banana Blossom Salad

Ingredients

1 medium banana blossom

One stalk lemon grass

Spring onion leaves

½ cup Vietnamese mint leaves [blanch in boiling water or it will be too tough]

2 tbsp tamarind

2 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp palm or demerera sugar

8 – 10 pieces of Gyoza

Vietnamese mint
Vietnamese mint
Banana Blossom
Soak peeled fingers or flowers in lemon water

Roast and then dry grind together:

4 tbsp dried prawn

4tbsp coconut

One or two dried chillies depending on how hot you like it
toasted coconut

Method

Fill a bowl with water. Cut one lemon in half. Squeeze the juice of the lemons into the water and drop the lemon rinds into thedried prawns water too when finished. Peel the flowers to make the banana blossom salad.

Banana Bell
Remove stamen in the centre of each flower finger

Guide to peeling

After you peel each finger of the blossom, remove the tough stamen in the centre, then drop the peeled fingers/flowers into the lemon water.

Ideally these fingers/flowers should be light yellow but as I leave them on my banana comb as long as it takes for the fruits to form completely, I have found that my blossom fingers are usually brown, but that’s all right. It’s still edible and tasty. If you are buying at the Asian grocery shop, then look out for a blossom that is firm and does not have wilted petals.

Prepare the dressing by mixing tamarind, fish sauce and sugar.

Finely slice lemon grass and spring onions.

Blanch frozen gyoza in hot water for about 1 – 2 minutes

Drain the flowers in a colander then in a large salad bowl add the flowers, the blanched Vietnamese mint, the sliced lemon grass and spring onions and then toss with the dressing.Banana Blossom serving suggestion3

Add the ground coconut prawn mixture and toss again and finally mix in the gyoza gently. Do not toss or mix vigorously or the gyoza will break. There is no need for salt because the dried prawns and fish sauce provide the salt this banana blossom salad needs.

Serving Suggestion: Serve with rice and bitter melon chutney

Banana Blossom serving suggestion2

 

Red Velvet Cake

Red velvet cake made with beetroot
Red velvet cake made with beetroot

Usually red velvet cake is made with red food colouring. This is the REAL red velvet cake which is naturally coloured by beetroot from my garden. You will not find this cake bright red as you would see in commercial bakeries but it does have a reddish hue. Despite the chocolate giving it an overall dark appearance, you can still make out the maroonish colour of the cake. This is definitely healthier than adding colour to your cake.

Coconut milk chocolate pieces in the sliced Red Velvet
Coconut milk chocolate pieces in the sliced Red Velvet

Ingredients

300g beetroot

200 ml or 2/3 cup coconut cream

150g raw sugar

150g demerera sugar

4 free range eggs

1/2 cup oat milk

350 g wholemeal flour

4 tbsp raw organic cacao powder

100g block of organic coconut milk raw chocolate

Pinch of salt

Method

Preparation

  • Steam beetroot until soft. Leave to cool. Then blend in a food processor until smooth.
  • Line baking pan with baking paper
  • Roughly chop up the block of chocolate
  • Make a dry mixture of flour, cacao powder, salt and chopped up chocolate in a bowl

Process

  • Beat sugar and coconut cream in a bowl. Add eggs one by one
  • Add oat milk and then beetroot puree
  • Pour the mixture into the dry mixture and fold in with a large spoon