Puddings

Puddings

By
Sarah Raven
Contains
31 recipes
Published by
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
ISBN
978 140883555 5

The noTion of a healthy pudding seems a bit of a contradiction in terms. However, you can make low-fat and low-sugar but still delicious versions of crumble, jelly, pannacotta, even rice pudding, every once in a while. There are recipes here for these, but for every day, why not try and keep it lighter and simpler? A plate of cinnamon apple crisps will hit that sweet craving on the head, as will fruit leathers, which have intense flavour and lots of goodness.

I also like to finish a meal with a plate of fruit. There’s a great Lebanese ‘pudding’ to be eaten when the weather is boiling hot: frozen grapes, frozen chunks of watermelon and some cubes of feta are laid out on a large dish, and it’s healthy and delicious. Or simply cut up a selection of seasonal fruit. In Greece and Italy that’s a very common way of finishing a meal, with traditional restaurants and tavernas bringing it out ‘on the house’. Already roughly chopped into bite-sized portions, the fruit – apples, pears, oranges, peaches or melons – needs nothing more than a squeeze of lemon over it, and perhaps a dusting of cinnamon or nutmeg.

We all know how nice a bowl of strawberries can be, but have you tried strawberries briefly cooked on a barbecue on a sheet of foil? The sugar caramelises within the fruit, adding another level of taste. Quite apart from their flavour, berries are the winners amongst fruit in terms of health. They have a low sugar content (a fraction of that found in pineapple,mango or even apples). They’re low in calories, high in fibre, vitamins and minerals,and super-high in antioxidants, which have a huge range of health benefits. Berries can help to prevent clogging of the arteries and lower cholesterol, so helping to protect us against cardiovascular disease. All the highly coloured berries – blueberries, black- and redcurrants, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries – are also firmly established as memory-protecting foods. Their polyphenol (plant antioxidant) content encourages neurons in the brain to communicate with each other better. Just 50g a day, enough to fill one hand, is associated with reduced risk of dementia. You can add them to breakfast, or why not have themfor pudding? Changing between one variety on one day, and another on the next, is good too.

One word of warning: fruit cultivation is heavily reliant on chemicals so, if you can, buy organic and, out of season, look for cheaper (but ideally still organic) frozen berries, rather than buying more expensive tasteless imports. Two studies have found that picked and immediately frozen berries have more nutrients than so-called fresh berries harvested several days before.

When eating fruit, avoid lashings of cream. Whether you’re having the fruit as it comes, or in ice cream, adding lots of cream is not the only way to make it tasty. Make your ‘ice creams’ with yoghurt, coconut milk or ricotta instead, or make granitas which don’t need any dairy protein at all – and, unlike sorbets, don’t require lots of sugar. But the sugar levels of even these mean that they are not for every day.

And, as a general rule, if you have a sweet tooth, there are several better-for-you alternatives to sugar. Using cinnamon is the best of all, as this is a natural sweetener. And then there aremaple syrup and honey, which offer health benefits as well as sweetness. Coconut palm sugar possesses the same calories as table sugar, but it’s a little sweeter, so this means you can use less. It’s also not a nutritional void. There’s some fibre, plant nutrients and minerals in it – as opposed to processed sugar, which has zero goodness. Lacuma is another option, a nutrientdense fruit from Peru. Dates and any dried fruit are also good as sweeteners, but don’t gomad, as they’re packed with natural sugars. Agave nectar (or syrup) is yet another alternative, but it’s not really the answer, as it’s normally highly processed and very high in fructose, a sugar we want to restrict.

Sugar on its own is best avoided, but it’s fat and sugar together that’s the real no-no as a regular part of your diet. Finally, good chocolate is good for you. Go for one of the brands with over 70 per cent cocoa solids, and wean yourself off the high-sugar, high-fat, chocolate bars that are light on actual cocoa solids – check the label before you buy. As well as hitting the spot, proper chocolate contains micronutrients that are valuable, so one or two pieces on special occasions is an excellent way to end a meal.

So what are the guidelines for puddings?

» Keep themsmall.

» Keep them light.

» Promote berries in your diet.

» An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

» Use natural unprocessed sweeteners wherever you can, but don’t just swap these for sugar.

» Aim to reduce the number of sweet things you have overall. They easily become addictive.

» Move away from the idea of having something sweet with every meal.

You don’t have to rule everything sweet out of your diet to be healthy, but learn to treat sweet things with respect.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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