I’ve been reading some of Michael Pollan’s work again, and it’s got me checking the ingredients on food packaging. One of Pollan’s rules for healthy eating is to avoid foods containing lots of ingredients, especially those that you can’t pronounce. On the whole I avoid processed food and cook at home, so I thought our consumption of unnecessary and unpronounceable ingredients was quite low. Last night we ate tortilla wraps with salsa, guacamole and black beans – all home prepared apart from the tortillas. So when I went to make lunch today and use up a leftover tortilla wrap, I had a quick check of the ingredients. What would you expect to see listed? Flour? Yes, flour was the first ingredient, followed by water and vegetable oil. So far, nothing too unusual. But then we get into humectants (what do humectants even do?), emulsifiers and a flour treatment agent. There are also two raising agents – how much raising does a tortilla need?
On the plus side the tortilla wraps do have a best before date on the packet – another of Michael Pollan’s rules is not to eat anything that won’t eventually rot (honey being an exception to this rule).
Do you have rules for food shopping, or ingredients that you avoid?
With tortillas off the menu, at least until I can come to terms with all those ingredients, (and find out what humectants are), how about a nice warming bowl of soup? In its favour, it’s made with a limited number of ingredients, and is warming and delicious. The parsnips came from the garden and the chillies from plants growing on the kitchen windowsill, so I can even trace these ingredients right back to the seed they were grown from. Add a squeeze of lime juice for a fresh, zesty taste and serve with a swirl of Greek yoghurt and some extra chilli.
Parsnip, chilli & lime soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
600ml vegetable stock
juice of 1 lime
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat, and cook the onion gently for 5 or 10 minutes, until it has softened and become slightly translucent. Add the ground coriander, stir and cook for a couple more minutes.
Add the chilli and parsnip to the pan, and stir so that the parsnip is coated with the warm, oil. Pour in the stock and bring the whole lot to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for about 10-15 minutes, until the parsnip is tender.
Remove the pan from the heat, then blend the soup to a nice smooth consistency (or whatever consistency you prefer). Add the lime juice and season to taste.
Serve warm – the soup is great on its own, but some Greek yoghurt and a sprinkling of red chilli flakes make a nice addition too.