A New Beer that boosts immunity and improves gut health

Beer lovers may soon have a gut-friendly drink to raise a toast to, thanks to the creation of a novel probiotic sour beer by a team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS). This new specialty beer incorporates the probiotic strain Lactobacillus paracasei L26, which was first isolated from human intestines and has the ability to neutralise toxins and viruses, as well as regulate the immune system.

The idea of producing a probiotic beer was first mooted by Miss Chan Mei Zhi Alcine, a fourth-year student from the Food Science and Technology Programme under the NUS Faculty of Science, who consumes dairy-based probiotic beverages daily.

“The health benefits of probiotics are well known. While good bacteria are often present in food that have been fermented, there are currently no beers in the market that contain probiotics. Developing sufficient counts of live probiotics in beer is a challenging feat as beers contain hop acids that prevent the growth and survival of probiotics. As a believer of achieving a healthy diet through consuming probiotics, this is a natural choice for me when I picked a topic for my final-year project,” said Miss Chan, who will be graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Science with Honours (Highest Distinction) from NUS in July 2017.

Infusing beer with health benefits

Studies have shown that consuming food and beverages with live counts of probiotics are more effective in delivering health effects than eating those with inactive probiotics. Currently, the recommendation by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics is to have a minimum of 1 billion probiotics per serving in order to attain the maximum health benefits.

Under the supervision of Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan from the NUS Food Science and Technology Programme, Miss Chan took about nine months to come up with an ideal recipe that achieves the optimal count of live probiotics in the beer.

By propagating the probiotic and yeast in pure cultures, and modifying conventional brewing and fermentation processes, Miss Chan managed to increase and maintain the live counts of the strain of probiotic. “For this beer, we used a lactic acid bacterium as a probiotic micro-organism. It will utilise sugars present in the wort to produce sour-tasting lactic acid, resulting in a beer with sharp and tart flavours. The final product, which takes around a month to brew, has an alcohol content of about 3.5 per cent,” explained Miss Chan. The NUS research team has filed a patent to protect the recipe for brewing the probiotic sour beer.

Assoc Prof Liu said, “The general health benefits associated with consuming food and beverages with probiotic strains have driven demand dramatically. In recent years, consumption of craft or specialty beers has gained popularity too. Alcine’s invention is placed in a unique position that caters to these two trends. I am confident that the probiotic gut-friendly beer will be well-received by beer drinkers, as they can now enjoy their beers and be healthy.”

Looking ahead, Assoc Prof Liu and Miss Chan are keen to collaborate with industry partners to introduce the beer to consumers.

Henry Sapiecha

These beans with a delicious flavour have a toxic secret

Tonka beans have an intense flavour that chefs and food manufacturers have enthusiastically embraced. There’s just one problem – it contains a chemical that could, in large enough doses, kill you.

It’s led to raids by law enforcement agencies and mass deaths in animals; in the United States, chefs have ‘dealers’ who smuggle it into the country.

Given these facts, I’m unwrapping my online delivery with a level of suspicion usually reserved for bomb disposal. Inside is a jar of wrinkled black beans, each resembling an elongated raisin. These are ‘tonka beans’ – the aromatic seed of a giant tree from deep in the Amazon rainforest.

When grated into desserts or infused into syrups, they impart a flavour so transcendent, tonka has been dubbed the most delicious ingredient you’ve never heard of.

Notes of freshly cut grass mingle with vanilla, liquorice, caramel and clove, topped off with a suggestion of warmth and a hint of magnolia – that is, according to the internet. I unscrew the lid and take a whiff. They smell faintly like furniture polish.

Chefs in the US are banned from using tonka beans in their gourmet desserts

“As long as you don’t use a copious amount of it – obviously a copious amount could cause death – it really is delicious,” says Thomas Raquel, head pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Le Bernardin in New York, not particularly reassuringly.

Selling tonka beans to eat has been illegal in the US since 1954. Foods containing tonka are considered to be ‘adulterated’, though that hasn’t stopped them appearing on the menus of Michelin-starred restaurants, from New York to California. In fact, the United States is the biggest importer of tonka on the planet.

Tonka beans contain unusually high levels of the chemical coumarin, which gives them their flavour and is found naturally in hundreds of plants, including grass, lavender and cherries. Even if you’ve never seen a tonka bean in your life, there’s a good chance you know what they smell like without realising it.

It was widely used in place of natural vanilla, added to chocolate, sweets and cocktail bitters, vanilla essence and even soft drinks

Coumarin was first isolated from tonka beans in 1820 – the name comes from the Caribbean term for the tonka tree, ‘coumarou’ – shortly afterwards, an English chemist better known for inventing the first synthetic dye worked out how to make it in the lab.

By the 1940s, artificial coumarin was really taking off. As one of the first synthetic additives, it was dirt cheap. It was widely used in place of natural vanilla, added to chocolate, sweets and cocktail bitters, vanilla essence and even soft drinks. It swiftly became a staple ingredient in tobacco and lent its complex aroma to the perfume industry.

But there was a problem. Studies in dogs and rats had revealed it to be toxic, with relatively low levels causing considerable damage to the liver in just a few weeks. In sheep, just 5g (around two teaspoons) is fatal. Both tonka and coumarin were outlawed.

Fast-forward to 2017 and they’ve never quite disappeared. “Let’s just say I know where to get em’, it’s not a problem to get them,” says Paul Liebrandt, the former co-owner of the Corton in New York.

This is despite a government crackdown nearly a decade ago, including raids on several gourmet restaurants. Grant Achatz, who is head chef at Chicago restaurant Alinea, later told The Atlantic “They [the supplier] said, ‘Don’t be surprised if the FDA shows up soon’…. Two days later, they walked in: ‘Can we look at your spice cabinet?’”.


Cinnamon rolls were nearly banned in Denmark because nearly half those tested were found to contain high levels of coumarin

Tonka and coumarin both still regularly turn up in Mexican vanilla flavouring, where they’re used to mask a low quality product. “I was talking to a vanilla purveyor recently and he offered me tonka bean paste,” says Raquel. “I was like ‘If I want to use tonka bean, I’ll use tonka bean.’”

Even if fancy restaurants aren’t your scene, there’s a good chance you’re being exposed from other sources. It’s still perfectly legal to add coumarin to tobacco and cosmetics, though it’s easily absorbed through the skin and the fragile lining of the lungs. The chemical is used copiously in detergents, shower gels, hand soaps and deodorants and blockbuster scents such as Coco Mademoiselle (Chanel) and Joop! Homme. It’s even found its way into e-cigarettes.

In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve got some coumarin lurking in your kitchen cupboards. True cinnamon is made from the bark of the plant Cinnamomum Zeylanicum and is native to Sri Lanka. This type naturally has extremely low levels of coumarin and proven medicinal properties, but that’s probably not what you’ve got in your spice rack. That’s because what we think of as cinnamon isn’t really cinnamon at all, but a Southeast Asian imposter made from the bark of the cassia tree.

Coumarin is mostly toxic to the liver, which plays a central role in mopping up poisons and clearing them from the body

Not only is this plant completely unrelated, but it contains around 25,000 times more coumarin. The US doesn’t regulate the amount of coumarin in cinnamon, though the European Union has set safe daily limits – and just one teaspoon of cassia cinnamon could send you over.

In 2013 Denmark’s beloved kanelsnegle, or cinnamon rolls, narrowly escaped being banned after a study found that nearly half of the products tested exceeded the maximum coumarin content allowed in food. “Only very rarely do we find an exceedance of a toxic compound in such a high percentage of foods,” says Nicolai Ballin, a food chemist from the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration who authored the study. “The worry is that many of these products are aimed at children.”.

So how dangerous is coumarin really? On paper at least, the forbidden flavour has never caused a single human death and there have been calls to lift the ban. But that’s not quite the full story.

Cattle have died after eating coumarin-rich clover that had been infected with fungus


Coumarin is mostly toxic to the liver, which plays a central role in mopping up poisons and clearing them from the body. As the front-line defence, the organ is extraordinarily resilient, able to regenerate from just a quarter of its original size. Just like alcohol, coumarin is thought to be toxic over the long term, with repeated bouts of damage.

“The problem is it’s not like you’re going to realise when you’ve got to the level where you’re eating too much – the effects build up over years,” says Dirk Lachenmeier from the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Laboratory (CVUA) of Karlsruhe, Germany, who has developed a new way of detecting coumarin in foods.

The easy way to find out is obvious; alas, it turns out feeding people toxic chemicals isn’t allowed. Instead, the safe limits in humans are based on studies in animals, from baboons to dogs. To account for an any differences in our biology, the highest amount which hasn’t caused any harm in animals is multiplied by 100.

For most people, the current limit is probably ultra conservative

For an average-sized person, this works out at a measly one quarter of a tonka bean or a quarter of a cinnamon bun per day – though if you remove the safety factor, your allowance shoots up to more like 25 tonka beans or 20 cinnamon buns (5680 calories, a challenge for even the most hardened binge eaters).

For most people, the current limit is probably ultra conservative. Many animals, including rats and dogs, remove coumarin from the body in a completely different way, breaking it down into highly potent chemicals which are toxic in their own right. Instead, we have enzymes which subtly tweak coumarin’s structure to render it safe. But not all people can do this.

Back in the 90s, a woman arrived at Frankfurt University Hospital with severe liver disease. She was promptly diagnosed with “coumarin-induced hepatitis”, but in fact she hadn’t overdosed on tonka beans. She had been taking the drug warfarin.

What was going on?

Chefs around the world have used tonka beans to flavour their desserts


It all began in 1921. Hundreds of cattle across North America and Canada had been struck down by a mysterious illness, which meant that operations usually considered routine – such as surgery to remove their horns – would cause them to bleed to death. Farmers would find their animals slumped on the ground, surrounded by pools of blood.

The cattle had been eating sweet clover, a bitter and especially resilient herb which was imported from Europe, where it grew abundantly. In the unusually wet weather at the time, the clover had gone off and farmers could not afford to buy new feed.

The crisis dragged on for years, until eventually a farmer, desperate for help, showed up at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (Warf) with a dead cow and a bucket of uncoagulated blood. There biochemist Karl-Paul Link set to work uncovering what had happened.

Sweet clover contains high levels of coumarin, which a fungus had converted into the potent anticoagulant dicoumarol. The discovery inspired the development of warfarin, which today is both a particularly gruesome form of pest control and one of the most widely prescribed drugs on the planet. Coumarin itself is not an anticoagulant, but the two chemicals are extremely closely related.

Armed with the knowledge that tonka may or may not kill me, it’s time to put my baking skills to the test

Which brings us back to the patient with liver disease. For people with a different version of the enzyme which deactivates coumarin, both warfarin and coumarin are thought to be particularly toxic. There’s no way of knowing which camp you fall in, short of a trip to the emergency room or a genetic test.

“It has an effect on the liver and all kinds of other compounds have an effect on the liver, like alcohol especially. And so you never know if you get liver disease from coumarin or something else,” says Lachenmeier.

Globally, there were around a million deaths from liver disease in 2010 – that’s around 2% of all deaths. We may never know if coumarin was involved, but a recent report concluded that for those with the highest intakes, health risks cannot be ruled out.

Armed with the knowledge that tonka may or may not kill me, it’s time to put my baking skills to the test. Raquel recommends grating some tonka bean into macaron batter, then coating the finished shells in chocolate ganache and serving them with a sour cherry in the middle. Alas, my cooking skills are usually limited to microwave mug desserts, so I opt to bake some into cupcakes instead.

Half an hour later, I’m standing over a batch of slightly sad-looking cakes, which smell faintly of almonds. It’s only polite to share your toxic snacks with your friends, so I test one on my flatmate. She takes a bite and chews thoughtfully. “It tastes like feet.”


Henry Sapiecha

China Was Growing Domestic Rice 9,500 Years Ago

A new report shows evidence that prehistoric hamlets in the area around Shangshan of southern China were growing half-domesticated rice

Terrace rice fields in the Yunnan Province of China.

For many years, archaeologists and researchers have been trying to figure out where and when rice was first cultivated. There’s evidence that rice first came from perhaps Japan, Korea, China, even Australia. Now, reveals Sarah Zhang at The Atlantic, a new study suggests the process to domesticate rice from its wild form probably began in southern China.

In the early 2000s, Stephen Chen at the South China Morning Post reports, archaeologists first discovered 18 prehistoric villages in the area of Shangshan along the Yangtze river with some evidence that the people were eating and maybe cultivating rice. Rice hulls (hard protecting coverings of grains of rice) were used to strengthen their clay pottery and researchers also discovered early agricultural tools and large mortars and pestles used to de-hull rice. But it was not clear whether these early settlers were collecting wild rice or had started to domesticate and cultivate rice.

That’s what the current report investigates. While acidic soils decompose and destroy the organic matter from rice, including its grains and stems, rice plants produces microscopic bits of silica called phytoliths that form in distinctive patterns in rice leaves. Compared to wild rice varieties, domesticated rice has distinctive phytolith patterns. By noting the “fish scales” in these patterns, researchers can tell the difference between cultivated and wild rice since cultivated rice has more than nine scales, Chen reports.

According to a press release, the researchers examined the phytoliths in each layer of three of the village sites, finding that over time the percentage of rice with more than nine fish scales gradually increased, indicating that the villagers were producing a larger and larger percentage of cultivated rice versus the wild stock. They also sifted sufficient numbers of the tiny particles to test them using carbon-14 dating, finding that the oldest rice phytoliths in Shangshan date to 9,400 years.

“We have a high confidence it is not wild rice,” Lu Houyuan, professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and lead author of the study in The Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, tells Chen. “It is not the same as rice today, either. It’s a half-domestic species.”

Jiang Leping from Zhejiang’s Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, tells Chen that he believes the Shangshan village sites were surrounded by rice paddies and that the team hopes to continue excavations in the area to find evidence of that.

But not everyone is convinced that these villages along the Yangtze are the epicenter of Chinese rice. Wang Zixuan, also a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, tells Chen that a large scale genetic study of rice published in the journal Nature in 2012 suggested that it emerged in a single location along the Pearl River valley, not on the banks of the Yangtze. “They could spread,” Wang tells Chen. “It is likely that the early farmers along the Pearl River took the rice seeds up north to the Yangtze during migration.”

While Chinese rice may be the earliest found so far, it doesn’t mean it’s the only place rice was developed. While researchers agree the rice variety known as japonica first appeared in China, some argue that another strain, known as indica was domesticated in locations between India and Indochina. Genetic studies show a third major variety, a drought-tolerant variety known as aus rice, was likely developed in the area of India and Bangladesh from wild rice strains.

Henry Sapiecha


About Polish food

Traditional Polish fare is a blend of Slavic influences, while it also shares roots with French and Italian cuisines. At the turn of the second millennium, root vegetables, wild mushrooms and coarse breads formed Poland’s basic food staples, but, over time, a variety of European influences began to appear.

When Italian Princess Bona Sforza became the Queen of Poland in 1518, she brought along her Italian court staff, who soon introduced ingredients previously unknown to the Polish, including tomatoes, lettuce, leeks, cauliflower and chives. Today, the Polish word (wloszczyna) for standard soup greens, including parsley root, celeriac, cabbage and leek, translates to “Italian stuff”.

Poland’s relentless cold climate means soups play a key role in Polish meals. Barszcz, a bright red fermented beetroot soup, is often served with beans for festive occasions, as is Żurek, a soup made of sour rye flour and boiled meat. A hearty hunter’s stew, bigos is the national dish of Poland, made from a combination of cabbage, mushrooms and various meats. Traditionally, the rich and dense stew is made from pork or Polish sausage, cooked over several days to intensify, but it can also contain venison or duck.

Polish cuisine is also renowned for its distinctive dumplings, especially pierogi, dough filled with minced meat, brined cabbage, mushrooms, potatoes, onions or cottage cheese. Meanwhile, popular desserts include pastries and cakes, commonly made from yeast dough; including Polish doughnuts, paczki, stuffed with jam, chocolate or even liqueur.

But one of Poland’s most famous specialties is clear vodka, traditionally enjoyed neat, without ice or mixers. One of the most distinctive varieties is Żubrowka, known as bison grass vodka, where each bottle contains a blade of grass from Poland’s Białowieża Forest.

www.sapiecha.com  << GREAT STUFF ABOUT POLAND HERE

1…Krakow-style cheesecake (sernik Krakowski)

This Polish cheesecake is recognisable by the lattice pattern layered over the sweet cheese and sultana filling, which is created using a reserved portion of the pastry base.



  • 400 g soft unsalted butter
  • 200 g caster sugar (see note)
  • 600 g plain flour
  • 1 egg, plus 1 extra, beaten, for brushing


  • 1.5 kg Polish-style cottage cheese
  • 300 g caster sugar
  • 150 g sour cream
  • 1 orange, rind finely grated
  • 150 g sultanas
  • 5 eggs, plus 5 egg yolks
  • 100 g plain flour

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Chilling time: 1 hour

To make the pastry, using an electric mixer or wooden spoon, cream together the butter and sugar. Sift in the flour and combine until a dough forms. Remove two-thirds of dough from bowl and roll out on a lightly floured work surface until 7 mm thick. Use to line base of a 30 cm round springform tin (or 2 x 22 cm round springform tins). Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, to make dough for lattice, add the egg to remaining dough in bowl. Combine well and shape into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Use a fork to prick pastry base all over. Bake for 12–15 minutes, or until light golden. Remove from oven and cool.

Roll out the lattice pastry on a lightly floured work surface until about 5mm thick. Cut into strips, carefully place on a tray and refrigerate until needed.

To make the filling, combine the cheese and half the sugar in a bowl. Add the sour cream, orange rind and sultanas and combine well. Beat together the eggs, egg yolks and remaining sugar and fold into the mixture. Fold in the flour. Spoon into prepared pastry case and arrange lattice strips over the top. Brush pastry with the beaten egg and bake for 30–40 minutes, or until golden and set.


• To make the pastry, you could use half caster and half vanilla sugar, if you like.

2…Potato pancakes with mushroom sauce (placki ziemniaczane z sosem grzybowym)

Mushroom picking is a popular Polish activity, and there are places across Australia where you can go to harvest your own fresh mushrooms. Autumn is the best time to pick mushrooms and to cook this recipe.


  • 500 g large kipfler potatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • salt and pepper, to season
  • olive oil and butter, for pan-frying
  • sour cream and chopped parsley, to serve

Mushroom sauce

  • 25 g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (optional)
  • 500 g slippery jack or pine mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp plain flour
  • 125 ml (½ cup) chicken or vegetable stock (see Note)
  • 125 ml (½ cup) thickened cream

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Peel the potatoes and onion. Using medium–size holes, grate into a bowl. Add the egg and flour, season with salt and pepper and combine well.

Heat a little oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. When bubbling, cook large spoonfuls of potato mixture for 2–3 minutes on each side, or until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towel and keep warm in oven.

To make the mushroom sauce, heat the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 6–8 minutes, or until soft and light golden. Add the mushroom and cook for about 2–3 minutes. Scatter over the flour and stir for a few seconds before stirring in the stock. Season to taste, then simmer for 2 minutes. Add the cream and stir until heated through. Serve the hot potato pancakes topped with mushroom sauce, sour cream and parsley.

• Homemade stock is best for this recipe.

3…Duck with apples and cranberries (kaczka z jablkami i borowkami)

Duck is a favourite meat in Polish cuisine, and serving it with apple and cranberries is a traditional combination. If you have time and want to ensure you get the skin as crisp as possible, season the duck inside and out with salt, pepper and dried marjoram and leave uncovered in the refrigerator overnight before roasting.


  • 1 young duck about 1.8 kg)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2–3 tsp dried marjoram
  • 3 granny smith apples (see Note)
  • 1 small orange, rind grated
  • 2 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 3 tsp butter
  • 100 g fresh, frozen or dried cranberries (see Note)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped dried apricots
  • 1 tbsp chopped toasted walnuts, briefly soaked in 2 tsp Krupnik (Polish honey vodka)
  • 1 tbsp Krupnik (see Note) (optional)
  • 2 tsp fresh marjoram leaves

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Rinse the duck with water and pat dry. Make a small slit at base of each breast and push drumsticks into slits.

Lightly prick duck all over to help release some of the fat. Remove the parson’s nose, since this contains oil glands that can affect the taste of the dish. Season duck inside and out with the salt, pepper and a little of the dried marjoram (see note).

Slice 1 apple and place in a bowl. Add salt, pepper, orange rind and 1 tsp dried of marjoram, and toss to combine. Stuff into duck cavity. Tie legs together to seal opening, then place on a rack set in a roasting pan. Combine the olive oil and honey and brush all over duck skin.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Remove duck from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.

Bake the duck for 20–25 minutes, or until skin is starting to brown. Reduce temperature to 180°C and bake for another 1½ hours. Every 20–30 minutes, baste duck with juices from base of pan.

Remove duck from oven, cover loosely with foil and rest in a warm place for 10–15 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and core the remaining 2 apples and cut into wedges. Heat a large frying pan over medium- high heat. Add apples and toss for 1–2 minutes, then add the sugar. Season to taste. Toss for 5–6 minutes, or until golden and caramelised. Add remaining dried marjoram and the butter and toss well. Add the cranberries, dried apricots, walnuts, Krupnik, if using, and fresh marjoram. Toss to combine.

Cut the duck into pieces and serve with caramelised apples and cranberries.

• You could also use half red apples and half green apples, if you like.
• If you use dried cranberries, be sure to soak them first.
• If you can’t find Krupnik, use any vodka.

4…Cold beetroot soup (chlodnik)

Vibrantly coloured chlodnik is a popular summer dish in Poland. The warm version of beetroot soup is called barszcz.


  • 300 g (3 medium) beetroot, trimmed
  • 100 g (1 medium) brushed potato
  • 500 ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
  • 1 small Lebanese cucumber, coarsely chopped
  • 2 small French shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 250 g natural yoghurt
  • ½ lemon, juiced, or to taste
  • salt and white pepper, to season
  • 60 g crème fraîche
  • 1½ tbsp very finely chopped chives
  • 1–2 cm piece fresh horseradish (see Note)

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Using gloves, peel and chop the beetroot and place in a saucepan. Peel and chop the potatoes and add to pan. Add the stock. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20–25 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the heat, cool, then refrigerate until chilled.

Place the beetroot mixture in a blender. Add the cucumber, French shallot and yoghurt. Puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Ladle into bowls, top with a dollop of crème frâiche and chives, then finely grate over a little fresh horseradish.

• If you can’t find fresh horseradish, use Eksal or Krakus brands of preserved horseradish, which are available in the international or kosher section of your supermarket, or at any Polish or Russian deli. Blend the preserved horseradish with the beetroot and potato.

5…Warm sauerkraut with sausage and bacon (bigos)

Traditionally, Polish bigos is served with rye bread and Zubrowka (bison grass vodka). This warm dish can also be served with young mashed or steamed potatoes.


  • 4 cups sauerkraut, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup pork or duck fat
  • 250 g pork neck, cubed
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 200 g sausage ends, chopped
  • 60 g smoked bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, halved and sliced
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • salt and pepper, to season
  • 100 g tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 250–500 ml (1–2 cups) beef stock
  • 60 ml red wine
  • ½ savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 2 dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in water for 30 minutes, drained and rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 250 ml (1 cup) water
  • 8 prunes, pitted and chopped
  • chopped parsley, to serve

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Place the sauerkraut in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, then drain.

Heat a little of the pork fat in a large saucepan over high heat. Cook the pork neck and onion, seasoning, until browned. Add the bay leaves, sausage, bacon, mushroom, allspice, salt and a good amount of black pepper, and combine well. Add the sauerkraut and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, for 30 minutes.

Melt the remaining pork fat in a saucepan, add the tomato paste and stir for 1 minute. Add the flour and cook for 1–2 minutes, to cook the flour. Add a little bit of the beef stock and stir until smooth, then add the remaining stock and combine well. Pass through a fine mesh strainer into the sauerkraut mixture. Add the wine and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the savoy cabbage in another saucepan. Add the porcini, garlic and water. Cook over medium–low heat for 15 minutes, or until wilted. Remove from the heat.

When the sauerkraut mixture has been cooking for 30 minutes, add the wilted savoy cabbage and prunes, cover with the lid slightly open, reduce heat to as low as possible, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. Top with chopped parsley and eat immediately, or cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight. Bigos gets better as it is reheated, so on the third day it should be at its best.

6…Polish pate (pasztet)

Pasztet is a festive Polish dish often served at special occasions like Christmas. Unlike other spreadable pates, this full flavoured and sophisticated pasztet resembles a terrine and should be served in slices.


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 500 g gravy beef, cut into 3 cm pieces
  • 500 g pork shoulder, trimmed, cut into 3 cm pieces
  • 300 g boneless pork belly, rind removed, cut into 3 cm pieces
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 20 g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4–5 whole allspice
  • 200 g chicken livers, cleaned
  • 1 white bread roll
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp dried marjoram, or to taste
  • Maggie soup seasoning, to taste
  • 2–3 tsp sea salt
  • ¼­ tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 pinch freshly ground nutmeg
  • bread, gherkins and horseradish sauce, to serve

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Soaking time 20 minutes
Resting time 1 hour
Chilling time overnight

Place a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and the beef and cook for 3–4 minutes until evenly browned. Remove the beef and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon oil and the pork shoulder and cook for 3–4 minutes until evenly browned. Return the browned beef to the stockpot with the pork belly, onions, celery, mushrooms, bay leaf and allspice.

Add 1.75 litres (7 cups) cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for
1 ½–­2 hours or until the pork and beef are almost falling apart. Remove the stockpot from the heat.

In a separate saucepan, blanch the chicken livers in boiling water for 30 seconds, then drain. Add the livers and bread roll to the braised meat mixture. Allow to cool at room temperature for 1 hour, then drain (discard liquid). Using a mincer, pass the mixture through the finest setting twice.

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Lightly grease two 21 cm x 9 cm loaf tins.

In a bowl, combine the braised meat mixture with the eggs, marjoram, Maggie soup seasoning, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix well to combine. Spoon into the greased loaf tins and bake for 45 minutes until firm and the top is golden. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.

To serve, cut into slices and serve with bread, gherkins and horseradish sauce.

Photography by Alan Benson

7…Young spring cabbage with dill and bacon

As spring progresses and the earth blooms, fresher tastes start coming into play in Polish cooking. Side dishes begin to require young vegetables – this is especially true of the cabbage, which has a completely different flavour later on in the year. Young cabbage has a sweet taste that can be replicated through the use of another sweet cabbage such as the oblong Napa cabbage at other times of the year.


  • 4 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 200 g (7 oz) streaky (lean) bacon, cut into fine strips
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 leafy young cabbages or Napa cabbages, shredded
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 bunches dill, finely chopped
  • 3–4 tbsp tomato paste (purée)
  • 1 tsp caster (superfine) sugar
  • salt and white pepper, to taste

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Heat the oil in a large frying pan (skillet) and fry the bacon strips over a medium heat until crispy. Add the onions and continue to fry for a further 4–5 minutes.

Add the shredded cabbage and water and stir together. Season and cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice, three-quarters of the chopped dill, tomato paste and the sugar. Continue to fry, stirring every couple of minutes, for a further 10 minutes with the lid removed. Try a bit and season again to taste.

Just before serving add the reserved dill. This dish works well as an accompaniment to chicken, or can be eaten on its own with crusty bread

Recipes and images from Polska: New Polish Cooking by Zuza Zak (Hardie Grant Books, $45, hbk).

8…Crispy-baked pierogi stuffed with pork and pine nuts

Crispy pierogi are not a common dumpling, but they are a great alternative to uszka with clear red borscht and also work well with zurek. You should eat these on the side of soups, so that they retain their crunchy consistency. Baked pierogi require a slightly different dough, similar to that of the famous Russian kulebiak, which is just one massive ornately decorated dumpling


For the dough

  • 350 g (12 oz/scant 3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 150 g (5 oz/1⅔ sticks) salted butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 100 ml (3½ fl oz/scant ½ cup) ice-cold water
  • beaten egg yolk, to glaze

For the filling

  • 200 g (7 oz) minced (ground) pork
  • 50 g (1¾ oz/½ cup) pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 egg
  • salt and white pepper, to taste

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Resting time 30 minutes

Tip the flour into a bowl and add the butter and oil. Work into the flour using your hands for a few minutes, then add the ice-cold water, a little at a time. Start kneading until it comes together into a smooth ball. Knead for a further 3–4 minutes then place in a plastic food bag in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas 6) and lightly grease a baking tray.

To make the filling, combine the pork mince, pine nuts, egg and seasoning together in a bowl, using your hands.

Roll out your dough as thinly as possible on a floured surface.

Use the pierogi method below, filling them with the pork and pine nut mixture.

Place the pierogi on the baking tray and brush with a beaten egg yolk to glaze. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

How to
Folding Polish dumplings
Dumplings are incredibly simple to make and very much part of Polish heritage, all you need is a little confidence in the art of folding and preparing the dough, to make these little wonders. Once mastered, dumplings can be made in minimal time and truly are little flavour bombs you can fill with whatever mixture your heart desires!

Recipes and images from Polska: New Polish Cooking by Zuza Zak (Hardie Grant Books, $45, hbk).

9…Polish onion-filled ‘bagels’ (bialy)

Created in the Polish city of Bialystock (hence the name), this small, chewy round roll is often compared to a bagel. Rather than a hole in the centre, an indent is made and filled with cooked onions and poppyseeds, and the dough is baked rather than boiled.


  • ½ x 7 g yeast sachet
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 400 g (2⅔ cups) bread flour (’00’) or strong plain flour, plus extra, to dust
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra, to brush
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp poppyseeds

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Cooling time 15 minutes
Resting time 3 hours 5 minutes

Dissolve yeast in 60 ml warm water in a bowl. Stir in sugar and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 5 minutes or until mixture bubbles. Combine flour and 2 tsp salt in a large bowl. Make a well in centre, add yeast mixture and 185 ml water, then stir to form a dough.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 8 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 2 hours or until dough doubles in size.

Punch down dough on a lightly floured work surface, divide into 8 equal portions and shape into 10 cm rounds. Transfer to 2 oven trays lined with baking paper. Cover with tea towels and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour or until dough doubles in size.

Preheat oven to 220°C. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook onions, stirring, for 8 minutes or until golden. Season with salt and stir through poppyseeds.

Using your thumb, make a deep indent in centre of each dough round and fill with onion mixture. Brush with extra oil, sprinkle with salt and bake for 12 minutes or until golden. Cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Photography Chris Chen

As seen in Feast magazine, March 2014, Issue 29.

10…Rice cakes with pickled beetroot

While this combination of shredded celeriac, prosciutto and fresh herbs is a more refined take on the traditional version of Polish rice cakes – typically paired with grated or mashed potato – the resulting rendition is every bit as satisfying. Pickled beetroot is also popular in Poland and is characteristically served alongside heavier fare to provide taste and textural contrast, as well as a flush of colour.


  • 2 eggs
  • 125 ml (½ cup) milk
  • 75 g (½ cup) plain flour
  • 200 g (3 cups) cooked white rice (made from 1½ cups uncooked rice), cooled
  • vegetable oil, to shallow-fry
  • 300 g (about ½) celeriac, peeled, thinly shredded
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 120 g (½ cup) sour cream
  • 2 tbsp chopped dill leaves
  • 12 slices (180 g) prosciutto

Pickled baby beetroot

  • 250 ml (1 cup) white wine vinegar
  • 55 g (⅓ cup) caster sugar
  • 1 tsp whole mixed peppercorns
  • 6 juniper berries
  • 2 bunches (1 kg) baby beetroot, trimmed, peeled

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


DRINK Franziskaner Hefe Weissbier, Bavaria, Germany (500 ml, $5)

To make pickled baby beetroot, place vinegar, 125 ml water, sugar, peppercorns, juniper berries and ½ tsp salt in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add beetroot, increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, cover surface with a cartouche (see Note) and simmer for 45 minutes or until beetroot is tender. Cool beetroot in cooking liquid.

Place eggs and milk in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and whisk to combine. Sift in flour, whisking to combine, then add rice, mixing until well combined.

Fill a large, non-stick frying pan with 3 cm oil and place over medium heat. Working in batches, add ¼-cup portions of batter to pan and cook for 2 minutes each side or until golden. Drain on paper towel. Repeat with remaining batter to make 12 rice cakes.

Combine celeriac, lemon juice and parsley in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside. Combine sour cream and dill in another bowl and set aside. Top rice cakes with sour cream mixture, celeriac mixture and prosciutto slices. Serve with pickled baby beetroot.

• This is a paper lid that is placed directly on the surface of food during cooking to slow down the reduction of moisture. To make your own, take a square sheet of baking paper slightly larger than the pan you intend to use. Fold in half on the diagonal, then repeat to make a small triangle. Unfold paper and gently place over pan, with centre crease marking lined up over the centre of your pan. Using scissors, trim overlapping edges of paper to create a circle that fits snugly into your pan.

Photography by Chris Chen. Drinks suggestions by Dan Coward.

www.sapiecha.com  <<< Videos on Poland here

Henry Sapiecha




internal-liver-sketch image www.newcures.info


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Food with lots of fibre can help your liver work at its best. Want one that’s a great way to start your day? Try oatmeal. Research shows it can help you shed some extra pounds and belly fat, which is good at keeping away liver disease.

2…Stay Away From Fatty Foods

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Fried chips and burgers are a poor choice to keep your liver healthy. Eat too many foods that are high in saturated fat and it can make it harder for your liver to do its job. Over time it may lead to inflammation, which in turn could cause the liver to be scarred that’s known as cirrhosis. So next time you’re in the takeaway food line, think about ordering a healthier option.

3…Broccoli… >>> MORE HERE



Henry Sapiecha

This is Why Stouts Are Much More Than Just a St. Patrick’s Day Tradition

As a beer most associated with the Emerald Isle and its most iconic brewery, stouts are much, so much more than a St. Patrick’s Day drinking tradition.

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Between the death rattle of winter and St. Patrick’s Day, March is the month for stouts. Rich imperial stouts sooth away those final snow storms, and Guinness practically runs in the streets of any town feeling the teeniest bit Irish. While it’s an ideal cold-weather companion, the darkest of dark beer shouldn’t be doomed to languish exclusively during the dreariest time of year.

“Stouts should be enjoyed summer, winter, spring, and fall,” says Bells Brewery director of operations John Mallett. His Michigan brewery turns out roughly 15 stouts annually, including the coffee-infused Java Stout, the sweet Double Cream Stout, and the bourbon-barrel-aged Black Note Stout.

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“Stout” Only In Name

The obsidian ale might appear out of place when the weather warms, but the beer’s color is a product of the barley used and bears no actual indication of strength or thickness, says Mallett. The world’s most popular stout, Guinness Draught, is a reasonable 4.2 percent alcohol and 125 calories for a bottle, making it lighter in body than almost all pilsners and pale ales.

Few (if any) beers survived from what was the stouts’ Stone Age.

The “stout” name did originally mark it as a stronger brew. But this was back in the early 18th century, when it was the headier substyle of the English porter—a beer that was wildly popular at the time in London. These stout ancestors relied on brown malt for their color and flavor, but the result would likely resemble a very dark brown ale by taste today. The roasted flavor we associate with stouts was developed in 1817 (per the patent date) when a technique similar to roasting coffee beans in a drum over heat created what was call black patent malt. This grain offered brewers a more cost efficient ingredient for making dark beer, while also infusing the style with deeper, darker flavors.

Few (if any) beers survived from what was the stouts’ Stone Age, but you can see a shadow of it in Guinness. An 1821 recipe from the Dublin brewery for “Extra Superior Porter” evolved into today’s Guinness Extra Stout and Guinness Draught, says Guinness archivist Eibhlin Colgan. The creamy nitrogenation we know the Draught for, however, came later in 1959, created mathematician-turned-brewer Michael Ash.

Pints of Guinness at the St. James Gate Brewery, home of the Guinness stout.image www.foodpassions.net

Pints of Guinness at the St. James Gate Brewery, home of the Guinness stout.

Today’s Dark Brew

Along the way to our modern beer aisle, the dark styles diverged as stouts became increasingly popular. Today’s stouts, also spurred by craft beer’s boom, bring a sharper, deeper roast to your pint glass than a porter. And yes, most are indeed thicker than a Guinness, but Mallett says that’s because the style offers a canvas for the fullest expression of malted barley you can get in a beer. “You can develop a rich, nuanced roasted and caramel character with coffee and chocolate.”

Those flavors largely come from a brewer’s mix of dark roasted barleys, and if they taste similar to coffee and chocolate, it’s because the grains are similarly roasted in high-temperature drums, says Mallett.

Great Divide Brewing's Yeti stout.image www.foodpassions.netooo

The majority of the barley used in a stout, however, is the same pale malt used in blonde ales and IPAs. Commonly called base malt, it provides easy-to-ferment sugars that heavily roasted barley lacks. It’s also unnecessary to pack a stout recipe with more than 15 percent of the barley as a dark roast, says Brandon Jacobs, brewery manager at Great Divide Brewing, known for its line of Yeti imperial stouts.

“A very small percentage can have a big impact on the color of the beer, and the flavor of these malts is pretty intense, too,” adds Jeremy Kosmicki, brewmaster at Founders Brewing. “Using too much dark malt can result in a bitter, astringent character that isn’t always that pleasant to drink.”

There’s also an unseen element of caramel malt used to round out a stout’s flavor, says Jacobs. Like the name implies, the starch of the barley has been converted to sugar and then caramelized. “This leaves more sugar in a beer. Without it, you’d have a thin mouthfeel and more tar or ashtray flavors.”

Beyond the Barley

Many brewers, including Jacobs and Kosmicki, like to add a similarly small portion of oats to their stouts. “Oats are more noticeable in the mouthfeel than it is in the flavor,” Kosmicki says. “They thicken up the body and add a nice silky or oily texture.” It’s the main reason why so many brewers have Oatmeal stouts.

And Kosmicki would know best. His brewery’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout, and it’s more obtainable sibling Breakfast Stout, both use oats—as does Founders’ excellent but underrated 4.5 percent alcohol Nitro Oatmeal Stout.

Founders-KBS stout.image www.foodpassions.net

Founders’ KBS stout.

Guinness has had a monopoly on nitrogenated stouts for decades, with craft brewers like Founders only adding the smaller, softer bubbles in recent years. The appeal of the creamy feel is obvious, but it works especially well because of the dark grains, says Mallett.

Heavily roasted barley brings acidity to the beer, which piles onto the acidity of CO2 and can overpower a beer, he explains. “But when you have great rich creamy smooth mouthfeel from a nitro product, then that really plays nicely with chocolate essence.”

Some mistake the flatter, smoother feel of nitrogen for strength and weight, says Todd Usry, president and brewmaster of Breckenridge Brewery. His Colorado operation produced a nitro Irish stout in collaboration with Belfast’s Boundary Brewing.

“You remove the bloat from CO2 and replace it with smaller nitrogen bubbles, then it’s a beer built surprisingly for speed,” says Breckenridge sales director George O’Neill.

That’s a far cry from the big, heavy stouts most associate with the style, but it speaks to the stouts versatility. It is, after all, a beer defined by its color, says Mallett. “You can make stout with a fairly low dark grain flavor contribution, but get it dark visually. Or you can go for a completely rich, sweet malty bomb.”

It’s along that spectrum that you can find a stout for any season. From a fast-draining beer to enjoy in your backyard (or during a marathon St. Patrick’s Day celebration), to a bourbon-barrel-aged imperial coffee stout when weathering a blizzard, there’s a stout for every occasion.

What Makes a Lager?
What to Expect From Guinness’s New U.S. Brewery
Drink Nitro Stouts Straight From Oak Barrels


Henry Sapiecha

Forget the green stuff — be convinced that burgers are actually better for you than ‘superfood’ salads

delicious-hamburger image www.foodpassions.net

BURGERS are bad, right? Nope. The dish could actually be a better choice than a so-called ‘superfood’ salad if you’re trying to trim down.

Healthy burgers made of bread, beef, lamb or chicken patty, a slice of bacon and cheese, and salad, could contain less calories than cafe-style “superfood” salads that are loaded with high calorie haloumi, nuts, seeds and fatty dressings, a nutrition expert says.

But before you reach for a greasy Big Mac or Huxtaburger and fries, there are a few rules to consider.

A nutrition analysis shows the average “superfood” bowl — made up of ingredients including quinoa, chicken and feta — contains at least 820 calories, while a burger has about 740 calories, according to a leading Melbourne-based fitness coach and diet expert.

superfoods-on-plate image www.foodpassions (2)

This ‘superfood’ salad containing quinoa, avocado and apple salad contains a lot of hidden calories.
“The theory that a salad is healthy versus an unhealthy burger is misconstrued,” Jacob Schepis, of JPS Health & Fitness, told News Corp Australia.

“They add a lot of tasty extras to a salad and it ends up becoming more calorie-dense than a burger.

“That’s not to say a salad doesn’t contain more micronutrients, vitamins and minerals than the burger, but at the end of the day, eating more calories than what we think isn’t healthy either.

“That’s why sometimes, a burger actually has less calories than a salad.”

Those “extras” include feta, seeds, nuts, cheese, crumbed meat and fish, oils and dressings that drive up calories in an average “superfood” bowl, Schepis — who trains elite bodybuilders and fitness models — said.

He did a nutrition analysis of several restaurant-style burgers compared to superfood salads, published on his blog.

huge-hamburger-with-hands image www.foodpassions.net

A burger may be better … within reason.

“Anything that says ‘superfoods’ is typically going to have lots of calories, unfortunately,” Schepis said.

“If you’re getting a lot of nutrients in, you’re probably getting a lot of calories too. And if your calorie intake exceeds your energy expenditure, you’ll gain weight.”

What Makes a Food a ‘Superfood’?

So what do you need to know if you’re trying to cut kilos … and are thinking about ordering a burger for lunch?

“If you’re going out with the intention to eat healthy, then you need to be aware of what’s in your food and the calories it contains,” Schepis said.

superfoods-on-plate image www.foodpassions (1)

This salad may have almost 840 calories, a nutrition guru advises.

“An ideal burger would be some form of lean meat — keep it to one slab,” he said.

“Obviously, there’ll be cheese and sauce. Salad on the side instead of chips, and opt for some form of diet soft drink as opposed to a milkshake or regular Coke.”

There are other ways to reduce calories in a burger by making some adjustments.

“You could ask for sauce on the side for the burger so you can have a small amount as opposed to it being doused in sauce,” Schepis said.

“Opting for grilled chicken as opposed to deep fried chicken. At the end of the day, if you’re going to have a burger, eat the burger and just try and minimise the calories that come with the burger.”


Henry Sapiecha

15 Cancer Causing Foods as one Web Posting has claimed-You be the judge

Some of these statements make sense others are questionable in my eyes.ENJOY.


We probably do not think the food we are eating every day might be cancer causing. However  there is a clear connection between diet and cancer. As cancer became the plague of our modern age, a lot of research has been done on its prevention. With many reports on the relationship of diet to cancer available nowadays, we want to inform you about the most cancer causing foods. One part of the prevention plan is avoiding such foods, some other tips on the prevention we will discuss at the end of the article. So keep reading and stay healthy!

Farmed-Fish image www.foodpassions.net

15. Canned Tomatoes

canned-tomatoes image www.foodpassions.net

Though fresh organic tomatoes help the body resist infections and actually fight cancer, canned tomatoes are carcinogenic (cancer causing) food. Mostly because the lining of food cans contains Bisphenol A (BPA) which is considered a harmful substance by Canadian Cancer Society.

Tomatoes are especially bad in cans because they are acidic which promotes leaching of chemical BPA out of the lining into canned tomatoes. Another reason this unassuming food isn’t as healthy as we think is that tomatoes are heavily sprayed with pesticides. Since the skin of tomatoes is thin and absorbent, it is now included in Dirty Dozen food list. So it is better to consume tomatoes fresh and organically grown.

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14. Sodas

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Sodas have no nutritional value, contain high amounts of phosphates, and tremendous amounts of white sugar and chemicals. They can easily deplete the body of nutrients and can cause weight gain and promote obesity. Sodas often contain artificial flavoring, artificial coloring and artificial sweeteners, all of which are cancer causing substances [2]. Among artificial sweeteners, saccharin is the greatest concern.

Research studies have linked it with cancer in laboratory animals as a cancer initiator and promoter. Another sweetener,  aspartame is widely used in soft drinks. Furthermore,  research studies found it caused brain tumors in lab animals.

Sodas also happen to be quite acidic, and when packaged in aluminum cans, can leak quite high amounts of aluminum. Aluminum itself has been connected with weakened gastrointestinal tract and with Alzheimer’s disease, there are increased aluminum levels in the brain tissue.

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13. Farmed Fish

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We tend to think that eating fish is very healthy, especially cold water ones like salmon because of high omega-3 content. The omega-3 essential fatty acids found in saltwater fish come from a diet of deep-water plankton and smaller fish. Farm-raised species of fish do not have such high omega-3 content. That is because farmed fish are usually fed an unnatural diet.

Also,  they are contaminated with antibiotics, pesticides, chemicals and other cancer causing substances. These farmed fish have been shown to have higher levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a group of industrial chemicals. Synthetic pigments (canthaxanthans) are often added to the fish so that it gets its pink color, while in the wild it happens naturally [3].

Wild-caught fish is still definitely the best choice. Though nowadays even wild-caught fish can be contaminated with chemicals like mercury. To read more about what kind of fish is safe and what fish is the most contaminated, click here.

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12. Processed Meat

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Processed meats include bacon, sausages, hot dogs, deli meats, beef jerk, ham. These meats have been modified to change their taste or to extend shelf life, to do this  the main methods of processing are smoking, curing, adding salt and preservatives.

Recently the World Health Organization (WHO)’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that consumption of processed meat is “carcinogenic to humans”. Twenty-two experts from 10 countries reviewed more than 800 studies to reach their conclusions. They found that eating 50 grams of processed meat every day increased the risk of colon cancer by 18%. That’s the equivalent of about 4 strips of bacon or 1 hot dog. Cancer causing chemicals form during meat processing. These include N-nitroso compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

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11. Microwave Popcorn

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While popcorn is so convenient snack, you should be aware of negative health impacts of microwave popcorn. The bag inside is lined with a non-stick coating,  and the chemical used in the lining, as well as in Teflon coating, decomposes, producing a dangerous compound called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFOA is a known carcinogen, which is toxic to the liver, immune system, and affects hormones as well as altering thyroid hormone levels, studies suggest. This chemical has been associated with increased risk of certain cancers, including liver, bladder, kidney and prostate cancer.

As for the popcorn itself, it can be a healthy snack if it is non-GMO organic air popped (not microwave) product. When air-popped and prepared the right way (not smothered in unhealthy fats, artificial flavorings and high amount of sugar and salt) it is naturally low in calories and high in fiber.

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10. Hydrogenated Oils

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During the process of hydrogenation, a canister of hydrogen gas is positioned below a vat of oil, and under controlled circumstances, the hydrogen gas is allowed to bubble up into the oil. In this way, the oil is soaking up more hydrogen, and unsaturated fat is transformed into saturated ones [2]. This transformation produces a semi-solid fat (most margarines, vegetable oils), and the shelf life is extended. Business benefit is great but the health cost is significant!

Hydrogenation transforms some of unsaturated fatty acids into trans-fat. Even the FDA has stated that trans fats are not safe for consumption. They increase blood cholesterol levels, as well as the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries).  They can act as irritants, generating free radicals, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The products with hydrogenated oils include margarine, most chips, vegetable oils, and many manufactured baked goods, such as crackers, cookies, etc. The natural food brands that avoid hydrogenated fats are a better choice.

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9. Potato Chips

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Being one of the most popular snacks, potato chips are cheap, tasty and very convenient to munch on. However, they usually contain artificial flavors and colors and numerous preservatives. They are very salty and their high sodium levels can cause high blood pressure issues for many people. Moreover, potato chips are high in fat and calories and can help to gain excess weight. They are also full of trans fat, which are really bad for your health, reports say, and can cause high cholesterol in most people.

Potato chips are prepared at very high temperatures, which creates Acrylamide, cancer causing chemical. According to American Cancer Society and European Food Safety Authority, acrylamide is a carcinogen. Evidence from animal studies shows that acrylamide can damage DNA and cause certain types of cancer.

Healthy alternatives to potato chips can surely be dehydrated apple or banana chips. Try them, they are also tasty and crunchy!

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8. Alcohol

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You may be surprised to find out that drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon and rectum, esophagus, larynx, liver, mouth and pharynx, as per Canadian Cancer Society. These risks are increased when alcohol use is combined with cigarette smoking. Alcohol abuse is also associated with poor diet and many nutritional deficiencies. In our bodies, alcohol (ethanol) is converted into a toxic cancer causing chemical called acetaldehyde. It can cause cancer by damaging DNA and stopping our cells from repairing this damage. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified acetaldehyde formed as a result of drinking alcohol as the cause of cancer, along with alcohol itself.

Though the occasional drink may be even beneficial and lead to a reduced risk of heart disease, excessive drinking has a detrimental effect on your health. Studies suggest, that the less alcohol you drink, the lower the risk of cancer.

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7. Artificial Sweeteners

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Artificial sweeteners are usually used to minimize obesity or help regulate blood sugar in diabetes. However, studies show that artificial sweeteners do not really help weight loss in most people, but actually promote weight gain. Another research shows that aspartame, in fact, worsens insulin sensitivity to a greater degree than sugar. And artificial sweeteners make you crave even more sweets as well.

Among all synthetic artificial sweeteners, aspartame (NutraSweet) is most widely used. It can actually be a neurological irritant and can affect the user’s mood and energy. Studies have found intake of aspartame to be associated with migraine headaches and increased risk of brain tumors in animals.

A better choice would be to use a moderate amount of natural sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, molasses, stevia.

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6.  Refined White Flour

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Nearly everyone nowadays knows that white flour is not good for your health. It can encourage weight gain and is a main cause of obesity when overeaten. Refinining grains and flours creates the loss of nutrients and lowers fiber content which can lead to a variety of digestive problems such as constipation, but do you know that bleaching (whitening of flours) makes it really bad for you?

Chemical treatments to the flour to make it white results in the formation of alloxan in the flour. Alloxan is a toxic contaminant causing diabetes. It is actually used in labs for causing diabetes in healthy animals so that the researchers can experiment with treatments for diabetes. White processed flour has a high glycemic index which quickly raises the blood sugar level. Cancer cells feed mostly on the sugars in the bloodstream. So avoid refined carbohydrates such as white flour and white sugar, as they can encourage cancer growth.

As an alternative option, there are many delicious whole-grain products now available, including breads, cereals, pastas, cookies, crackers.

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5. Refined White Sugar
Refined-white-sugar image www.foodpassions.net

Excess sugar consumption can suppress the immune system, upset the body’s mineral balance, cause hyperactivity, anxiety, fatigue, weight gain, depression, and arthritis.  As sugar weakens the immune system, it can increases cancer risk. Sugars feed harmful intestinal yeasts, toxic organisms, fungi and all forms of cellular cancer [3].

Though glucose is required by our brain and every cell for normal functioning, researchers say sugar feeds cancers. Especially those highly refined products are bad, such as white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. The reason for that is that they are metabolized by cancer cells most quickly and easily.

To sweeten your meal, the healthier option would be using a moderate amount of natural sugar, such as honey or pure maple syrup or simply sweeten with fruits

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4. Pickled or Salt-cured Foods

Pickled-or-salt-cured-foods image www.foodpassions.net

Highly salted pickled foods may influence stomach and digestive lining.  Furthermore, these foods can be very high in nitrates and nitrites. Nitrates and nitrites may convert to cancer causing nitrosamines in the body, which damage DNA cells.

Studies suggest, that people whose traditionally diet includes lots of salted-cured or pickled foods are more susceptible to stomach and nasopharyngeal cancers.

As a healthy option, you can make fermented (pickled) foods at home controlling the amount of salt you are using.

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3. GMO Products

GMO-products image www.foodpassions.net

GMOs are genetically modified products, which are created by inserting DNA from another species. They do this in order to enhance the desired traits of a product. For example, tomatoes are modified to increase shelf life and resistance to pests and some protein genes are added to zucchini to protect against viruses. The research links GMOs to cancer, liver and kidney damage and severe hormonal disruption. Though there are still debates on this topic.

Unfortunately, there is no requirement to state that the product is GMO on food labels in Canada and US. So one of the best strategies would be buy organic foods and meats from grass-fed animals. You can also look for labels such as NON-GMO or GMO-free products.

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2. “Dirty” Fruits and Vegetables

Dirty-fruits-and-vegetables image www.foodpassions.net

“Dirty” fruits and vegetables are those that are most contaminated with pesticides. Canadian Cancer Association says that the research suggests a possible connection of pesticides with cancers such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and prostate, testicular, pancreatic, lung and non-melanoma skin cancers. According to the studies of pesticides and childhood cancer, there is a possible connection with leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

You can protect yourself and your family by knowing “The Dirty Dozen list” and buying organic at least the most contaminated as much as possible.

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1. Meat Raised with Hormones and Antibiotics

Meat-raised-with-hormones-and-antibiotics image www.foodpassions.net

Various hormones are used to increase weight of animals, while antibiotics are used to compensate for bad conditions and to prevent any illness, some of them promote growth as well. The use of hormones and antibiotics in food-producing animals has provoked many concerns about their effect on human health. There are a number of studies that suggest that hormones and antibiotics in meat are not safe for consumption.  In 1989, The European Union banned the sales of hormone-treated US meat in member countries. On top of that, most of estrogenic hormones are carcinogenic (cancer causing) in humans, especially in women [2].

The safer option here would be to enjoy organic or grass-fed/pasture-raised meat. It reduces your exposure to traces of antibiotics and artificial hormones that are given to conventionally raised animals. It also reduces exposure to toxins from pesticides that might accumulate in animal fat.

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Henry Sapiecha


The Qantas in flight mile high club meal that will get your mind working overtime with sexual overtones

A WOMAN travelling in business class from Sydney to Brisbane Qld Australia on a Qantas flight last Friday was greeted with an amusing sight when her meal arrived.Egg plant penis meal with dumplings..

The passenger, who spoke to news.com.au on condition of anonymity, had opted for the dumpling option for her afternoon snack.

When her meal arrived she drank in the sight of six charming looking dumplings, accompanied by a side of something charred and limp and decidedly phallic.

“I asked the server what it was … and he told me that it was a root vegetable,” she explained.

“I asked him to pass me my phone so I could take a photo … I never take photos of food but this was too funny to pass up.

“He blushed and was very apologetic, I don’t think he had ever seen anything quite like it … the lady next to me was cracking up.”

The woman left the blackened rod untouched, but ate the dumplings and declared they were “delicious”.

When she posted the image on her Facebook page it was greeted with more than 50 comments and 100 likes.


Some of the more entertaining comments on her Facebook post included:

“A root vegetable is one way to describe it … I think you inadvertently just joined the mile-high club.”

“Is that food, or in-flight entertainment?”

“Did you ask for a stiff drink to accompany it?”

“This is a hotbed of innuendo.”

“From a food stylist’s perspective, this will give you nightmares for years to come.”

“Definitely a root vegetable they couldn’t serve on Virgin.”

After much discussion it was declared that the confronting side serve was almost certainly eggplant.

The Qantas business class menu is developed in conjunction with Rockpool chef Neil Perry.


On Perry’s Rockpool website, under the Qantas section is states “the cornerstone of good cooking is to source the finest produce”.

“Rockpool Consulting endeavours to deliver above and beyond in-flight, bringing restaurant quality to the skies with one eye always cast on consistency, seasonality and quality of food …”

Qantas and Neil Perry have been contacted for comment but are yet to respond.

The woman says she remains a fan of the airline and will be flying with them to Los Angeles next week.

She says she has “high hopes” for her next in-flight meal.

www.club-libido.com  <<<Sexual matters

www.clublibido.com.au  <<<Online adult products

www.mylove-au.com  <<<Stuff about love & marriage

www.handyhomehints.com <<<Short cuts to sanity DIY.

www.goodgirlsgo.com  <<< Woman’s views & great girl things


Henry Sapiecha

MSG an issue? Try memorising the 129 terms food companies prefer to use

Food companies are declaring products have ‘No added MSG’ despite using ingredients that are ultimately chemically indistinguishable from the flavour enhancer, sparking accusations of misleading labelling.

Companies such as Coles, Campbell’s and San Remo are using the claim on foods that contain ingredients such as hydrolysed vegetable protein and yeast extract, which experts say are chemically the same as MSG when dissolved in water.

A selection of foods labelled No added MSG but contain identical ingredients image www.foodpassions.net

A selection of foods labelled “No added MSG” but contain identical ingredients. Photo: Janie Barrett

The Food Intolerance Network, made up of 10,200 families in Australia and New Zealand, said not only was the claim often misleading, but companies were using at least 129 different terms and forms of MSG to “confuse” consumers.

“The food industry preys on our ignorance. MSG is monosodium glutamate. There are lots of ways to break down proteins to release glutamates. Added glutamates then look like an anonymous ingredient in the food,” said Howard Dengate , food technologist and co-founder of the group.

Coles' declared No added MSG on the box, but the ingredient panel lists hydrolysed vegetable protein, yeast extract and natural flavours. image www.foodpassions.net

Coles’ declared “No added MSG” on the box, but the ingredient panel lists hydrolysed vegetable protein, yeast extract and natural flavours. 

“Who would think that ‘soy protein’ or ‘vegetable protein extract (corn)’ might be MSG in another form, added legally but avoiding regulation as an additive?”

A scan of supermarket shelves by Fairfax Media found dozens of processed foods which used ‘No added MSG’ as a selling point but had ingredients and additives which were chemically the same as or contained the flavour enhancer.

Some Continental pasta products, Red Rock Deli chips, Mamee Monster rice sticks and Campbell’s soups were labelled ‘No added MSG’ when they contained yeast extract.

Natural Chip Company chips contained vegetable extract, and some San Remo pasta and Patties’ beef pies contained hydrolysed vegetable protein despite being labelled ‘No added MSG’.

Professor Merlin Thomas, who heads the biochemistry of diabetic complications laboratory of the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute, said because MSG had a bad reputation, many manufacturers were using other sources of glutamate to achieve the flavour kick.

“These include vegetable, corn, yeast or soy protein extracts, in which the glutamate has been released from the protein by enzymatic digestion or chemical hydrolysis,” he said.

“When dissolved in water, the free glutamate in these extracts is chemically identical to that contained in MSG and enhances flavour in precisely the same way.”

But he added that rigorous studies over the decades had failed to confirm a firm link between the consumption of large amounts of glutamates and health impacts cited by self-described “MSG sensitive” people, who claim they have symptoms such as headaches, numbness and weakness.

“Most reactions have little to do with the MSG, as many of the same people who are ‘MSG sensitive’ have no problems with Vegemite or parmesan cheese,” he said.

Mr Dengate said the key issue was that consumers who wish to avoid MSG should easily be able to do so and not be misled by ‘No added MSG’ claims.

“Consumers shouldn’t have to remember over 129 names of ingredients if they are trying to avoid glutamates. Instead, all food companies should make the simple statement on their ingredient panels ‘May contain naturally occurring glutamates’,” he said.

In February 2012, supermarket behemoth Coles announced it was banning the use of “added MSG” in its products, saying “our customers are clearly concerned by food additives and the effect they believe they have on their health”.

Fairfax Media found a slew of Coles products with the ‘No MSG’ claim which contained hydrolysed vegetable protein, hydrolysed wheat and soy protein, including in its sausage rolls, meat pies, pizzas and rice crackers.

A Coles spokesman said: “Coles Brand products have detailed ingredient lists to assist customers in making informed choices.”

Woolworths products that have the ‘No added MSG’ claim, such as Homebrand instant noodles and flavoured noodle cups, have a line on the back saying: “May contain naturally occurring or other forms of glutamates”.

Mr Dengate called this “best practice”.

No. Ingredients and additives
One word 620, 621, 622, 623, 624, 625, Flavour*, HPP, HVP, Yeast* (not baker’s yeast)
Two words Ammonium glutamate, BBQ flavour*, Calcium glutamate , Cheese powder*, Corn protein, Flavour (gluten)*, Glutamic acid, Hydrolysed casein, Hydrolysed corn, Hydrolysed maize, Hydrolysed protein, Hydrolysed rice, Hydrolysed soy, Hydrolysed vegetable, Hydrolysed wheat, Hydrolysed yeast, Kelp extract, Magnesium glutamate, Maize protein, Miso powder, Monoammonium glutamate, Monopotassium glutamate, Monosodium glutamate, Natural flavour*, Nutritional yeast, Plant protein*, Potassium glutamate, Rice protein, Savoury yeast, Soy protein*, Soy sauce*, Umami flavour, Vegetable extract*, Vegetable protein, Wheat protein, Yeast extract
Three words Autolysed yeast extract, Natural flavour soy, Nutritional yeast extract, Savoury yeast flakes, Soy sauce powder*, Vegetable extract (maize), Vegetable extract (soy), Vegetable extract (wheat), Yeast extract powder; plus any combination of the words below in groups of 3: Autolysed, Hydrolysed, or Lyophilised with Casein, Corn, Maize, Plant, Rice, Soy, Vegetable, Wheat, or Yeast with Extract or Protein eg Hydrolysed rice extract
Four words Dehydrated vegetable seasoning (corn), Dehydrated vegetable seasoning (maize), Dehydrated vegetable seasoning (rice), Dehydrated vegetable seasoning (soy), Dehydrated vegetable seasoning (wheat), Flavour natural (contains corn)*, Flavour natural (contains maize)*, Flavour natural (contains rice)*, Flavour natural (contains soy)*, Flavour natural (contains wheat)*, Plant protein extract (corn), Plant protein extract (maize), Plant protein extract (rice), Plant protein extract (soy), Plant protein extract (wheat), Vegetable protein extract (corn), Vegetable protein extract (maize), Vegetable protein extract (rice), Vegetable protein extract (soy), Vegetable protein extract (wheat)

In the United States, the law dictates foods with any ingredient that naturally contains MSG cannot claim ‘No MSG’ or ‘No added MSG’ on the packaging. These ingredients include hydrolysed vegetable protein, yeast extract and soy extract.

A Food Standards New Zealand and Australia spokesman said ‘MSG free’ and ‘No added MSG’ were not classified as health claims and therefore not under its jurisdiction.

“FSANZ advises [companies] that care may be needed in using these types of claims, as MSG can be naturally present in some foods,” she said.

“Consumers can check the label if they are concerned about the presence of added MSG or added permitted glutamate food additives.”

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission regulates the use of the claims. It declined to answer whether a company stating ‘No added MSG’ on a product that contains, for example yeast extract, was misleading shoppers.

“Under the Australian Consumer Law, it is illegal for a business to make representations that are incorrect or likely to create a false impression,” a spokesman said.

An Australian Food and Grocery Council spokesman said the claims must be truthful and accurate.

“The ‘No added MSG’ claim means that glutamate has not been added and it may be necessary, for example, to qualify in the context of the claim that the food contains ingredients with naturally occurring glutamate,” he said.

“There is no wriggle room for companies, otherwise they risk significant financial penalties.”


Henry Sapiecha