There is something magical about the Mediterranean countries, the bleached buildings, golden sunshine, sun kissed shores, salty sea air and of course the fresh and delicious food – but there’s nothing supernatural about the power of Mediterranean food. Studies show that the Mediterranean people owe their good health to a combination of a few simple ingredients which they make a basic part of their daily diet: lots of grains, ample fresh fruits and vegetables, dried peas and beans, fresh legumes, some nuts, olive oil and a little wine. Each of these foods contribute its’ own specific disease fighting characteristics and they are easy to incorporate into a real world lifestyle.
Olive oil, which is an important component of the Mediterranean diet, is known to have a cardio-protective effect. At the core of the Mediterranean diet are fresh fruits and vegetables, which have been proven to contain antioxidants. Tomatoes, garlic, squash, eggplant, lettuce, spinach, other green leafy vegetables and loads of fresh herbs, head the list here.
Then there are legumes, better known as the “poor man's meat”, like lentils, other dried peas and chickpeas. These all help to protect us against cancer and heart disease.
The grains are all rich in complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals and contain minute amounts of saturated fat. These are dominated by brown rice, freekeh, couscous, bulgur and wheat berries to name a few, whole grain artisan breads, and pastas.
All of these key ingredients are readily available to us here in TT as we are blessed with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis and we are accustomed to dried peas and beans in our Caribbean diets. So lets try to incorporate a little of the Mediterranean into our meals and embrace the difference in the way we feel!
Falafel (Chickpea patties)
1 cup dried channa/chickpeas, soaked in 5 cups water for 24 hours, drained
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
¾ cup finely minced onion
3 tbs finely minced parsley
2 tsp ground roasted geera
2 tsp ground coriander seeds
4 cloves garlic. minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs lime juice
1 tsp salt or to taste
2 slices bread, made into crumbs
1 carrot, grated
Vegetable oil for frying
In the bowl of a food processor place chickpeas with baking soda, onion, carrot, garlic, parsley and salt. Process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, making sure the mixture does not become pasty.
Empty mixture into a bowl add the balance of ingredients and mix gently with a fork, the mixture should hold together.
Place two inches of oil in a wok or frying pan, set on medium low flame.
Using a light touch form the mixture into 2 inch in diameter x ¾-inch thick patties.
Fry the patties for about 4 minutes turning once, drain on paper towels and repeat process for all patties. (Makes 18 patties)
Tzatziki sauce (yoghurt cucumber sauce)
2 tubs or 12 oz thick natural yoghurt
1 tsp salt
1 or 2 small cucumbers, peeled, seeded and grated to make 1 cup
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs chopped fresh mint or 1 tsp dried
2 tsp lime juice
1 tbs olive oil
Line a strainer with a thin, tea towel, place yoghurt and salt into strainer and let drain for 4 hours or overnight. Repeat the above process and this time place the cucumber in the strainer and let drain for 30 minutes. Combine all the ingredients and season to taste with salt. Let sit one hour before using. (Makes 2 cups)
Couscous with almonds
2 cups instant couscous
2 cups boiling water
2 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cinnamon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped almonds, toasted
Chopped parsley for garnish.
Place couscous into a glass bowl and cover with water, cover and let stand for 15 mins.
Heat oil in a sauté pan, add garlic and onion, add the rest of the ingredients but not the nuts, cook until mixture is almost dry add nuts.
Fluff cous cous with a fork and add to the tomato mixture, toss in pot.
Garnish with parsley.
Serves 6 to