Syrup

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If you’re on a low salt diet, the words ‘trace’ or ‘<1% GDA’ next to the salt content are a bit like three of a kind on a fruit machine. You’ve hit the jackpot. For me, I read ‘trace’ as, ‘Eat as much as you bleeding like’.

One such item I discovered was Tesco Everyday Value Maple and Pecan Crisp (box of cereal). The best bit about this stuff is its price – 99p or thereabouts the last few times I’d bought it.

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I should say that the best thing about this product was its price as yesterday I went into Tesco, and maple and pecan crisp has a new box, and a new recipe (as the front of the box proudly displays). And a new price – this maple and pecan crisp was £2.09p thank you very much. Still, I bought it because it’s low salt and we’ve nearly ran out.

When I got home, I thought I’d have a quick squiz at the ingredients to witness this ‘new recipe’ that had meant the product needed to double in price.

The two products have exactly the same ingredients, just in a slightly different order (vegetable oil and wheat flakes are switched around – exciting new-recipe-like stuff!). The new recipe has 36% oat flakes, while the old had 37%. The new recipe gives you a stonking 7% pecan nuts, while the old included a stingier 6%. The new recipe’s crowning glory? 3% maple flavoured syrup. Double the measly 1.5% in the old box. In short, they’ve chucked in some extra maple syrup, and charged you between 60p* and a £1 extra for it.

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Even on the Tesco website (yes, they sell both on there!) the prices between the two differ by 60p per pack, this seems to vary store to store. In stores, they tend to sell one or the other, because let’s face it, a supermarket would look pretty stupid to sell two products exactly the same, for two different prices. Wouldn’t they?

Delia

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When cooking everyday, run of the mill dishes in our house, a commonly heard question asked aloud is, “What does Delia say?”.

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What we mean by this is, of course, “I am cooking something I can cook in my sleep* and I just wondered if I’m missing something after all these years, so I’m going to consult the cooking bible, aka ‘Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course’ and see what she says.” Please note, by the way, that the actual copy of the book we use is a ‘New edition for the 1990s’. State of the art stuff.

To get this out of the way for non-Brits, Delia Smith is an English cooking deity, famous for:

a) a drunken ‘Where are you! Let’s be ‘avin you’ rant at Norwich City fans. Norwich City are the Premier League football club that Delia part owns.

b) Her pre-packaged Christmas pudding kits, sold via Waitrose, which sold at a rate of one every seven seconds in 2010.

Back to Delia’s ‘little extras’ in her recipes….. For example, Delia always puts bacon and chicken liver in Spaghetti Bolognese. Unfortunately bacon is saltier than a salty thing, so not a good example  for a low salt blog. Chicken liver, on the other hand is low in salt so throw it in to your heart’s content, if the thought of chicken livers wobbling about in your spag bol doesn’t make you feel a tad sick.

Anyway, tonight I’m cooking Chilli Con Carne, and I asked myself (no-one else is in), “What would Delia say?”. Delia adds in a couple of what I call ‘extras’. They are:

1) Miss Delia uses chuck steak, instead of minced beef. I usually choose to ignore this one, since I am neither a cowboy in the old west, nor the kind of person who would have chuck steak knocking about.

2) Delia doesn’t use tinned tomatoes to add liquid to the dish, instead she uses beef stock with tomato puree stirred in. I choose to only partly ignore this – I use both tinned tomatoes and stock and tomato puree.

20140317_203456[1]I know what you’re thinking – stock! Full of bloody salt. True, mostly, but I’ve been using Kallo ‘VERY LOW SALT’ (it actually says that in the corner) stock cubes. Waitrose sell them. That’s Ocado to you online shoppers.

All in all, chilli can be a very low salt dish. I pretty much go for it on the veggie front (once again, ignoring Delia’s ‘1 large green pepper’ and chucking in whatever’s left in the fridge – tonight that’s 2 carrots, half a leek and half a tub of mushrooms and two tomatoes).

The leek was cleaned using another legendary British pensioner’s leek cleaning recipe, thanks for asking. I am (of course) referring to Glenys Kinnock. Glenys appeared on Dame Edna Everage’s show in the late 80s/ early 90s (it’s late, and I haven’t got time to corroborate this information for you). Having hunted out this clip on YouTube, I realised that the only reason I must have watched this episode, is because my hero of the hour, Jason Donovan, was also a guest on Edna’s sofa. So here’s a must for Jason or Neighbours fans: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NX02P2-e9I. Our pals at Neighblog might like this clip, as it ends with Edna, Jase and Glenys singing the Neighbours theme tune.

Back to my low salt chilli recipe, here it is in all it’s glory:

Ingredients

Minced beef (as much as you can afford!) or 400g in reality

1 big onion

1 chubby bit of garlic

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tin red kidney beans

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne chill pepper

1 teaspoon ‘Very Lazy’ chilli or chilli flakes

500ml/ 1 pint Kallo low salt stock, with a couple of squirts of tomato puree stirred in

As much veg as is knocking about in your fridge, including 2 or 3 fresh tomatoes if you have them

Plain flour (if required)

Pepper to taste

Method

In short – chop the onion, garlic and leek if you’re using one and throw in a wok/ large pan with a lug of oil (clearly I think I’m Jamie Oliver with all this ‘lug’ business. Soften, then chuck in the mince, plus the pepper, chilli, paprika and chilli pepper and cook until brown.

Throw in remaining veg and stir for 2 minutes, then pour in the stock/ puree and tin of toms. If it looks like the whole thing is going to be a bit thin/ have too much liquid, stir a tablespoon of plain flour into the last inch of stock until it’s thick and pastey (an actual word, I assure you) then stir in to the main dish.

Leave simmering for a minimum of 30 minutes (45 if you need to type up a blog post while you’re cooking) and then taste, adding more pepper/ chilli/ paprika if required.

Serve with 1/2 cup of rice per person, and then marvel at how much rice that actually is, and cook less next time.

There you go. A low salt dish that ignores much of Delia Smith’s advice.

*cooking in one’s sleep is unadvisable. I not only can wake you up, it can also burn you, and your house down. If you are going to do this, get someone equally as daft as you to film it so you can at least sell the video footage to Mr Harry Hill, or the YouTube.

Sausage

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What is a Sunday morning without a sausage I hear you ask? It is nothing.

Because I know how much salt sausages contain, I avoided them* like the plague for the first three months of my low salt diet. In fact, the day I declared wistfully in the office that I ‘Hadn’t had a sausage in a long time’, it was met with some amusement.

Sausage related innuendos aside, my quest for a low salt sausage began. After six months of Frodo Baggins like journeying across barren wasteland (the internet), I found it. In Tescos**.

The sausage I found is not in fact a sausage at all, but a chipolata. And we all know that a chipolata is just a skinny sausage (to some extent, this will account for the lower salt content of course). But it’s a bloody good chipolata – an outdoor bred pork chipolata no less. They’re a bit pricey (£3.29 for 12) but they’re often on two for a fiver. To put the salt content into perspective there is 0.5g of salt in two (two!) of these sausages. A regular Tesco Finest pork sausage has 1.1g for two sausages.

Surrounding the offending sausage sandwich with reduced salt products always makes one feel better.

Surrounding the offending sausage sandwich with reduced salt products always makes one feel better.

So I sneak one of these little beauties into a slice of Weight Watchers malted Danish bread (the lowest salt shop bought bread I’m yet to find) spread it with unsalted Lurpack, and squirt a little Heinz reduced salt tommy k/ brown sauce and I’m sorted. Sunday mornings return to normal. Now all I need is low salt bacon and black pudding and I’m the full English again.

 

*As an aside, I also avoided chips (fries) for the first three months, forgetting that actually the salt is added to them. This discovery meant that chips then became a staple of my diet for the next three months, until I remembered that, salt or no salt, chips still make you fat.

** Actually just called Tesco, but it annoys pedants if you call it Tescos.

Heinz

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As if Heinz have heard me, or managed to read my first blog post before I’d even published it, they’ve started making a reduced salt chicken soup. As with many reduced salt products, it’s not drastic enough to be much use to a 2g per day salt diet. But if you’re craving some chicken soup for the soul, and only the canned variety will do, it’s not a bad alternative. Half of a full salt can is 1.3g, half of this can is 0.9g. One thing to note, who eats half a tin of bloody soup? Anyway, more power to Heinz for this. They’re giving it a go. Continue reading

Cheat

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I’m watching daytime TV. There’s only so many times I can hear Patti Stanger shout ‘MEET. MY. MILLIONAIRES!’ and only so many times I can wonder about the sincerity of Teresa Guidice saying, “FAAAAAAAA-MILY is the most important thing to me!’.

So anyway, I’ve turned off the TV, and am blogging instead about how I cheated today.

I have that feeling of impending doom like when you’re a kid and you did something wrong and you’re on borrowed time waiting for your mum to find out. I feel have a vague idea what it feels like to fall off the wagon after a year without so much as a sip of shandy.

How did I cheat? I ate half a can of chicken soup. I’m getting over a fluey virusy buggy thing, and when you’re sick, chicken soup is like a big bowl of hugs. But not if you have Meniere’s Disease and you’re on a strict low salt diet.

I’m advised by the hospital people in the know at the ear, nose and throat clinic (which must of course, in a world obsessed by acronyms be shortened to ENT – *rolls eyes*) that a maximum of 2 grams of salt a day is best for Meniere’s. No caffeine either. Alcohol’s only vaguely been mentioned, so I’m choosing to drink more or less as ‘normal’. 2 grams sounds like a lot. But when you learn that a Chinese takeaway can have up 14g in, you start to realise that cutting down might not be super simple. And though I’m not one who ate takeaways very much at all, I’m a girl who likes her food.

Woman + bike + body board = happy

Woman + bike + body board = happy

As you can see by this pic, I also like to ride bikes, and sometimes throw a body board onto the back of my bike (when I’m closer to the sea than at home in Leicester) so I can chuck myself about in the waves.

So when I was diagnosed with Meniere’s, frankly anything that is going to help me keep doing this stuff and not compromising or lying down in a dark room all day is what I’m willing to try.

I don’t want to dwell on the science of it, as this blog is supposed to be fun, about cooking and eating and trying to keep the demon salt at bay, but there’s a few things I need to explain first.

1. Meniere’s has three main symptoms, all focused around the ears. The first is what the doctor’s call ‘aural fullness’ (I explain it to people like when you land on a plane and your ears feel like they’re going to explode). I have that every day, but not all day. The second is tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. I have this everyday, all day. The third is dizziness and nausea. I have this less frequently.

2. Normal people, as I like to call them, are recommended to have no more that 6mg of salt per day. Even this is not easy, when you think about the salt content of a takeaway.

3. I don’t just like riding my bike, I do it every day and it keeps me sane. If a journey can be made by bike I’d prefer to make it by bike, a cycle journey is not a second choice to me, it is a preference. Except in icy weather of course, when I turn into Bambi on spokes.

So that’s it. The scene setting over. This blog is about sharing some of the things I’ve learned about salt, and ‘outing’ some of the villains of the salt world. For the record, a can of soup is a major salt baddie. It has close to three grams salt inside, so a whole can would make me go over my daily limit in one sitting.  I don’t know why salt affects Meniere’s but it does, I cheated today and my symptoms are slightly worse. When I last TOTALLY cheated (an Indian takeaway over a year ago) I spent much of that night with my head over the toilet.

You don’t need to suffer from Meniere’s to need to cut down on salt. If you eat food (and something tells me you do) you’ll be eating salt, often silly amounts in food we unwittingly eat everyday, and too much salt is not good for you.