Have you noticed the change? The crispness in the morning air. Umbrellas in full flight. A bevy of scarves, coats and boots. The bareness of your garden. Winter is here, and for me the tell tale sign is always a craving for soul warming, nourishing and satiating comfort foods.
I’ve been cooking up a storm over the past few weeks like a woman possessed (my Instagram account can attest to this!), and in reflection I’ve realised that so many of my recipes contain spices. Clearly I’ve been seeking out the winter friendly health benefits of these piquant, pungent, tangy, warming and sweet treasures.
Spices not only excite our taste buds and generate internal warmth, but also provide a broad range of medicinal benefits. Where would we be without them!
However not all spices are suitable for people with haemochromatosis, with anise, caraway, cumin and licorice advised as promoting iron absorption. Substitutes for these spices, whilst not always a “like for like” alternative, are suggested below:
- Caraway – Dill, Cardamom, Celery Seed
- Cumin – Ground Coriander, Turmeric, Chilli Powder, Cardamom, Smoked Paprika
- Licorice – Tarragon, Fennel
- Mint – Sage, Basil, Marjoram or Rosemary
The good news, however, is that so many other spices provide substantial health benefits for people with haemochromatosis, including reducing the symptoms of arthritis and joint pain, infections and abdominal pain and swelling. Further, many spices contain tannins, oxalates, phenolic compounds and phytates, which bind iron and help to reduce its absorption from non heme foods.
Here are just a few benefits of the spices I’ve used in today’s recipes:
Ginger – one of the most popular cooking spices in the world, ginger provides a wealth of potent medicinal properties, including treating colds and digestive problems, relieving nausea, lowering cholesterol, improving circulation and helping to relieve inflammation and joint pain.
Cinnamon – winter is unimaginable without this spice and thankfully it brings relief from arthritis, helps fight bacteria and lowers bad cholesterol.
Chilli – rich in phenolic compounds which bind iron, chilli peppers contain capsaicin which is known to be anti inflammatory and a natural pain reliever, which can assist in the treatment of joint pain often experienced with haemochromatosis.
Turmeric – again rich in phenolic compounds, turmeric is one of Mother Nature’s healers due to its anti inflammatory properties, cold and flu fighting abilities and promotion of glucose control and insulin activity. Containing the presence of antioxidant curcumin, this spice is also said to be beneficial in the treatment of heart disease, stroke, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.
Mustard Seeds – rich in phyto nutrients, this spice is anti inflammatory, said to help lower cholesterol, assist the functioning of our nervous system, regulate our metabolism, assist with managing sleep disorders and control the symptoms of asthma.
Cardamom Pods – helping to keep our respiratory system in good working order, the benefits of cardamom also include lowering cholesterol, improved circulation and cardiovascular health.
Black Pepper – often overlooked as a beneficial spice given it is so readily integrated into our daily lives, black pepper helps to fight chest congestion, improve digestion and promote intestinal health.
I hope the recipes below help get you through the depths of winter. Send me a photo of your creations or tag me on Instagram or Twitter at @ironicwellbeing. I’d love to see your results.
- 1 tbsp. oil
- 25g butter
- 1 onion, chopped finely
- 2cm piece of fresh ginger, chopped finely
- 3 stalks of rosemary, finely chopped
- ½ red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
- 1-2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. ras el hanout
- 1 tin diced tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 1kg chicken thigh fillets (around 8)
- 1 tbsp. manuka honey
- ¼ cup dried apricots
- ¼ cup pitted prunes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Small bunch of coriander
- Preserved lemon (if desired)
- Heat oil and butter in a large heavy based tagine or saucepan until the sizzling subsides.
- Add onion, ginger, chilli and rosemary, and sauté until the onion is soft.
- Add the cinnamon sticks and remaining spices, cooking until there is a wonderful aroma (2-3 minutes).
- Add the tinned tomatoes and water (enough to cover the base of the tagine).
- Partially submerge the chicken and add the honey, dried apricot and prunes.
- Bring to the boil, then reduce heat, cover with a lid and cook for 35-40 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add preserved lemon if desired and sprinkle over fresh coriander.
- 1 whole cauliflower
- 2 litres chicken stock
- 50g butter
- 1 tsp. chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp. mustard seeds
- 6 cardamom pods
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place all ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to the boil.
- Reduce heat to medium, cover with a tight lid and cook for 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
- Remove cauliflower from saucepan and place in a deep sided baking dish lined with baking paper.
- Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid, pouring ½ cup over cauliflower.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Pour over the balance of the reserved cooking liquid and cook for a further 20 minutes.
- Enjoy with Spicy Chicken Tagine and Brown Rice.