James Whelan Butchers: Eat Fresh

If you’re just up it might take a second to wrap your brain around this but stick with me.  New research has just been released that suggests people are not fat because they are lazy and don’t move but instead are lazy and don’t move because they are fat!  It took me a while too, but I’m got it in the end.  Basically this study was all about junk food and processed food and the long term health effects they have on the human body and, more interestingly, on the human brain.

Lamb KebabsOn the surface the results seem pretty obvious but they’ve discovered that long term ingestion of junk food and highly processed foods actually contributes to cognitive impairment.  This is a big discovery.  Who would have thought it could slow and damage the brain, essentially making us lazy and unwilling to move.  Now again we must be clear, the results are based on long term and consistent ingestion of these types of food, short term or a once in a while encounter will have no effect.  Of course the natural progression then is that when you become overweight from this type of eating and you then become sluggish and tired all the time you are into a disastrous cycle.  Eventually the weight gain will lead to further complications as it has been regularly linked to heart disease, strokes and certain types of cancers.  As someone once said we are digging our graves with our teeth!

Family BBQ

Many people are mindlessly eating junk more regularly than they like to acknowledge.  Drive through any town in Ireland at lunchtime when the secondary schools spill out and you will see lines of uniformed youths outside fast food restaurants getting their daily fix.   Most children have a daily ‘treat’ of something unnatural and chemical laden while others are on a constant diet of processed convenience foods from the centre, long life shelves of the supermarket when it comes to weekday meals.   “We don’t have time to cook”, is often the mantra from overburdened parents.

I don’t want to get all preachy, especially during a nice summer, but now is the time to make a few changes because there’s so much great fresh produce around at this time of year.  All the berries are out, the plums are ripe, fresh lamb is in abundance, asparagus, baby new potatoes, tomatoes, baby carrots, beetroot, celery and spring onions.  A huge variety of salad leaves abound and pots and hedgerows overflow with herbs, edible flowers and vegetables as they respond to the bright sunshine and warm rain of a proper Irish summer.  It’s also a great time to cook lightly, simply and fast on a grill or barbecue outside or even inside on a pan or in a wok.  Poultry is a meat that cooks quickly – chicken or duck perhaps with a glossy and light fruity sauce.

If we’re planning or thinking ahead we can even spend a little time in these long evenings making jams, chutneys and sauces in plenty of time for the autumn and winter ahead and you can even preserve fresh herbs by freezing them.  Just wash and dry the herbs and place them in freezer bags, you’ll be glad of them come the winter.

With the kids off school maybe now is the time to let them have a hand in preparing, choosing and planning meals.  Do not be tempted to change the diet of the whole household in one fell swoop.  It will be overwhelming and you’ll end up with resentment and failure.  Instead of taking away the junk or processed foods if you feel there is too much of it, try instead introducing one or two new fresh ingredients or recipes.  The changeover is a process, a step by step, day by day journey with food that should be enjoyed.  Eating is one of the great sensual pleasures and we take it so much for granted.  Take the time this summer to really taste your food, including the junk and see, indeed, if you really like it.

I love the lightness of summer evening eating; lamb skewers done on the barbecue, steak sandwiches with lots of salad leaves, red onions and a great tomato salsa or chutney on a fresh bread or even a home made olive flat bread.  How about a little pan fried chicken with some fresh herbs or even a little home made pesto?  Use cheaper cuts such as chicken thighs and coat them in a mix of natural yoghurt, sweet chilli sauce, a little chutney, curry powder, grated fresh ginger and crushed garlic.  The thighs only need to marinate in this mix for about 30 minutes or so (or leave them all day in the fridge) and then bake them in the oven at about 200° C for about 40 to 50 minutes.  You could serve them with rice or a huge bowl of salad.  You could make homemade burgers but instead of beef mince try some lamb mince and make it all a little Greek with a homemade coriander raita; 6 baby tomatoes deseeded and chopped up, 250g of Greek yoghurt, a handful of fresh coriander and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.  Just mix it all together in a bowl and set it aside to pour on your lamb burger.  You could even swap the burger bun for a pitta pocket maybe or use the burger mix to create meatballs rather than burgers.  These are all great family favourites and are so easy to prepare.

Sometimes the reality is that we’re just too lazy to think.  Aha……is your laziness caused by eating a diet of junk or processed foods?  Maybe you just need some new ideas.  Drop by James Whelan Butchers in the Oakville Shopping Centre, Clonmel any time for a bit of great fresh food inspiration.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of  James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Handweavers Rathcoole and Kilmacanogue, Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt, Rathmines and Swords in Dublin. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers

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