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IAN & SPAIN

WELCOME TO MY BLOG. I WILL BE WRITING ABOUT SPANISH FOOD AND DRINK AND IN PARTICULAR MY OBSESSION FOR OLIVE OIL, ONE OF SPAIN'S MAJOR ASSETS AND GREATLY MISUNDERSTOOD BY THE MAJORITY OF CONSUMERS WORLDWIDE. I WILL ENDEAVOR TO PROVIDE YOU WITH ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO ENJOY THE WORLD OF OLIVE OIL WITHOUT BEING TAKEN FOR A RIDE! HOPE YOU ENJOY IT AND PLEASE LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS!

Olive oil during pregnancy and childhood
25 August 2014

Olive oil plays a key role in foetal development during pregnancy and a shortage may have pernicious effects on the baby's subsequent development.

It has been demonstrated that the post-natal development of babies of mothers who consumed olive oil when pregnant is better in terms of height, weight, behaviour and psychomotor reflexes.
The foetus needs vitamin E to grow. The newborn baby also needs a store of vitamin E to fight against the oxidative stress caused on entering an oxygen atmosphere. Although not very abundant in olive oil, it is present in sufficient quantity thanks to the resistance of olive oil to oxidation.

So, both the amount and the type of food consumed in the diet during pregnancy play a key part in the metabolic adaptations that occur in the mother and in her functional relationship with the foetus.

During labour, the vitamin E in the mother's blood is concentrated in the breast glands and so, during breast feeding, the mother continues to supply vitamin E. It is essential to maintain the levels of this vitamin during breast feeding.

Vitamin E is also recommended for premature and new-born infants with kidney or pancreas failure because of the favourable effect it has on the hepato-biliary system.

But olive oil not only provides enough essential fatty acids for the development of the new-born child; its ratio of linoleic acid to linolenic acid (essential fatty acids) is similar to that of breast milk.

The beneficial effect of oleic acid lasts beyond pregnancy. Besides its documented effectiveness in preventing hypercholesterolaemia and atherosclerosis, which is a process that can begin in childhood, oleic acid also appears to exert a positive influence on growth and bone mineralisation and development during infancy.

During pregnancy and breast feeding it is advisable to consume more fat, primarily monounsaturated fat, while reducing saturated fat and cholesterol as far as possible. General dietary guidelines should be followed and calorie intake should be controlled to avoid excessive weight gain.

Under-three-year-olds have different dietary requirements to children over this age. Forty per cent of the energy they consume comes from fat, whether it be in breast milk or any other kind of milk. It is recommended to maintain this dietary pattern and to ensure that energy and nutritional intake cover the developmental requirements of the child.



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Olive Oil and the digestive system
19 August 2014

As soon as we eat olive oil it has a number of effects all the way along the digestive system. As far back as in ancient times it was recommended for assorted digestive disorders, and its beneficial properties are now being corroborated by epidemiological studies and a wealth of scientific data.

When olive oil reaches the stomach it does not reduce the tonus of the muscular ring or sphincter at the base of the oesophagus. Because of this, it reduces the risk of the flow or reflux of food and gastric juice up from the stomach to the oesophagus.

Olive oil also partially inhibits gastric motility. As a result, the gastric content of the stomach is released more slowly and gradually into the duodenum, giving a greater sensation of "fullness", and favouring the digestion and absorption of nutrients in the intestine.


One of the effects of olive oil on the hepato-biliary system is that it is a cholagogue, ensuring optimal bile drainage and full emptying of the gall bladder. Another effect is that it is cholecystokinetic, i.e. it stimulates the contraction of the gall bladder, which is extremely helpful in the treatment and prevention of disorders of the bile ducts. It stimulates the synthesis of bile salts in the liver and it increases the amount of cholesterol excreted by the liver.

In short, owing to its beneficial effect on the muscle tone and activity of the gall bladder, olive oil stimulates the digestion of lipids, because they are emulsified by the bile, and it prevents the onset of gallstones.

When consumed, olive oil produces a small amount of secretion by the pancreas, making this organ "work" little, but efficiently and enough to carry out all its digestive functions. Olive oil is recommended in diseases where pancreatic function has to be maintained, such as pancreas failure, chronic pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, malabsorption syndromes, etc.


Owing to the sitosterol it contains, olive oil partially prevents cholesterol absorption by the small intestine. It also stimulates the absorption of various nutrients (calcium, iron, magnesium, etc.).

Olive oil, therefore, is a fat that is digested and absorbed really well. It has choice properties and a mild laxative effect that helps to combat constipation and bad breath.

 

Other popular olive oil articles by Ian Mackay ©

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Introduction-Part 1

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil- Olive Oil Categories-Part 2

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - How to recognise an authentic extra virgin olive oil - Part 3

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Olive Oil Tasting - Part 4

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - True Virginity - Part 5

Go to article: Can I fry with Oilve Oil?

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - The perfect Crime Scene - Part 6

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Harvesting Olives - Part 7

 



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Dip, Dip and Dip again! Wicked Guacamole
15 August 2014

 In Valencia the temperature has been around 36ºC, which as far as I’m concerned is bloody hot and the only things I feel like are cold drinks, cold soups, salads and well anything cold! It just happened that I was talking to an old Mexican friend who used to run a restaurant here in Valencia the best Mexican restaurant ever, called La Mordida (now they are only in Madrid where they have 6 restaurants. www.lamordida.com) and as we were chatting I remembered the incredible guacamole they used to serve. It was unbelievably good. I was soon craving it and when I got home I decided to make some. Funnily enough, that evening we had some guests over so I thought it might be a nice appetizer with a glass of Albariño, to get things off to a start.

I have been making fresh guacamole for quite a long time mainly because the guacamole here in Spain that can be bought from the supermarket look processed and the wrong colour, so I don’t tend to go near it. I must admit that the fresh guacamole sold in the UK is much better.  But after trying the guacamole from La Mordida there was no going back, I stole the recipe and it was dip, dip, and dip with my tortilla chips from that point onwards! 

Guacamole is really simple, almost so simple I feel a bit daft publishing this post, but I decided to do it as I know there are a lot of people out there who still buy their guacamole in plastic tubs from the supermarket because they think it must be too difficult to make or haven’t really ever given it any thought. I was one of them until I saw it being made. It’s a joke, once you’ve done it, you’ll never buy ready made again. I still have friends who ask me how I make it and when I tell them the recipe they can’t believe how simple it is. So I thought I would share this really simple recipe with you all. I am sure many of you already know how to make guacamole but for those who haven’t made it yet, this will help you along. 

Like all traditional recipes everyone has their own touch or twist, but this recipe is apparently the authentic one according to my dear Mexican friends… so who’s to argue with them! In Europe many people include tomato in their guacamole that isn’t exactly traditional. Traditionally the tomato is eaten along side the guacamole in a “salsa” called ‘Pico de Gallo’, which I will also share the recipe for, don’t worry, absolutely fantastic too!

These are the ingredients you’ll need for 4 people:

3 large mature avocados (nor green, nor over-ripe, make sure there at the right point in the maturation process.)

This diagram will help :

   

2 dessert spoons of finely diced red onion.
2 dessert spoons  of coarsely chopped fresh coriander.
½  Serrano chile (optional) also finely chopped
½ lime squeezed (or lemon)
Salt and Freshly crushed black pepper 

 

Quite simply cut in half, remove the  pit, sccop out the flesh and mash coarsely with  a fork in a bowl. Add the finely chopped red onion, the coriander and the chili, if you want it. Then squeeze the juice of half a lime over the top and sprinkle salt and freshly ground pepper over the top. Mix with a fork and taste for seasoning. It should not become a creme it should be like a lumpy paste. Let it sit for 10 minutes in the fridge and serve with a bowl of “pico de gallo”.

  

The “pico de gallo” couldn’t be simpler,  it is exactly the same as before except you substitute the avocado for 2-3 ripe plum tomatoes (but not too ripe – the skin shouldn’t wrinkle when you press it), which are the most similar in flavour to the tradicional mexican “jitomato”. Now all you need to do is serve them up with a bowl of nacho corn chips.

Easy and delicious.

I know it’s not very Spanish, but it’s “Latin” and very refreshing!

Enjoy!



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Olive Oil and Cardiovascular Diseases
11 August 2014

Cardiovascular diseases are the top cause of death in the industrialised world. A host of studies have documented that arteriosclerosis is closely linked to eating habits, lifestyle and some aspects of economic development. The progression of arteriosclerosis depends on many factors: the most important ones are high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and cigarette smoking.

"… The lowest rates of death from coronary heart disease are currently recorded in the countries where olive oil is virtually the only fat consumed." Professor Francisco Grande Covián
 
WHAT IS ARTERIOSCLEROSIS?

Arteriosclerosis is the condition in which cholesterol-rich patches (known as atheromas) deposit on the walls of the arteries. This stops blood from reaching the tissues and obstructs the functioning of vital organs, such as the heart and brain.

WHAT ARE ITS CONSEQUENCES?

When the heart is affected, arteriosclerosis causes angina and heart attack and it increases the risk of sudden cardiac death. When the brain is attacked, cerebral thrombosis occurs, leading to muscular paralysis, loss of cognitive capacity and the risk of dementia. The aorta and leg arteries may also be damaged, causing pain and difficulty in walking and the risk of necrosis and gangrene.

When a fatty patch bursts, for instance because of a rise in blood pressure, the small arteries in the patch also burst. This triggers a response where certain cells found in blood, known as platelets or thrombocytes, join together to form a thrombus or blood clot.

The blood clot travels through the arteries, but when it is larger than the vessel it causes blockage. Because blood cannot get through, the tissue or organ dies.

OLIVE OIL AND ARTERIOSCLEROSIS

It has been demonstrated that olive oil has an effect in preventing the formation of blood clots and platelet aggregation. It has been observed that by avoiding excessive blood coagulation, olive-oil-rich diets can attenuate the effect of fatty foods in encouraging blood clot formation, thus contributing to the low incidence of heart failure in countries where olive oil is the principal fat consumed.

WHAT IS CHOLESTEROL?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance contained in foods of animal origin. Diets containing a large amount of animal fats raise blood cholesterol level, which is one of the chief risk factors of cardiovascular disease.

Fats (triglycerides) and cholesterol are transported in the blood by lipoproteins. The cholesterol bound to low-density lipoproteins [very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL)] is atherogenic, damaging the vessel walls. In subsequent stages, this may lead to acute heart attack. Such cholesterol is known as "bad cholesterol". In contrast, the cholesterol bound to high-density lipoproteins (known as HDL-cholesterol) is called "good cholesterol" because it provides protection against the onset of cardiovascular diseases. The high-density lipoproteins remove free cholesterol from the cells, then esterifying it and transporting it to the liver where it is eliminated with bile.

OLIVE OIL AND CHOLESTEROL

Olive oil lowers the levels of total blood cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides. At the same time it does not alter the levels of HDL-cholesterol (and may even raise them), which plays a protective role and prevents the formation of fatty patches, thus stimulating the elimination of the low-density lipoproteins.

The beneficial effect of olive oil consumption with regard to cardiovascular disease has been demonstrated in primary prevention, where it reduces the risk of developing the disease, and in secondary prevention, where it prevents recurrence after a first coronary event.

At present, research is revealing the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet in the prevention of secondary coronary events and the positive influence of olive oil on the depression associated with such events and on mood. These findings are very important in view of the high incidence of depression in the modern-day world and the great risk it poses in recurrent heart disease.



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Storing Olive Oil
05 August 2014

In summer due to the high temperatures and hours of light, the storage of your olive oil is even more important. When olive oil is exposed to oxygen, light, and heat, it is subject to oxidation and may become rancid. (Go to article on how to detect oils gone bad). However proper storage can prevent this. Depending on the quality of the oil and on how it was made, extra virgin olive oil in a sealed bottle may last from 3 months to 2 years depending on the variety and the if it was filtered or not. Unfiltered olive oils should be consumed very quickly, in a question of weeks and storage of these oild is even more important. 

As soon as you open the bottle, the oxidation process accelerates and the oil will degrade fairly rapidly. Make sure you keep your oil in a closed bottle, in a dark container or closet, away from sources of heat like your stove. You do not have to refrigerate it, although refrigeration will not hurt the oil. Buying your oil in bulk is a great way to save money, as good oil can be rather expensive. If you do so, the best way to preserve it is to keep it in a stainless steel container, called a fusti. Fusti are an excellent way to preserve olive oil. For even better preservation, you can top your fusti off with inert gas from a small spray can. Inert gas prevents oxidation by blanketing the surface of the oil and displacing the oxygen, unlike vacuum systems. It is completely safe and will not affect the flavour of olive oil. "Private Preserve" is the original inert gas, and has been used by wine and olive oil lovers worldwide more many years.

If you are using a regular bulk container, try not to open it too often. Fill a couple of bottles for day-to-day use and leave the bulk container carefully closed the rest of the time.



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Horchata Chicken
05 August 2014

Last week I wrote about Horchata de Chufa, a wonderful drink made from pressed tiger nuts. Although this drink is normally associated with refreshments or desserts I though I would show you a rather unusual recipe which uses horchata in a savoury dish with chicken. It is quite different and I doubt very much that any guests you may have in the future have tried it before, so if you are looking to surprise someone this may be the dish. These are the ingredients you will need for 2 people:

½ Chicken.
4 Mushrooms.
3 Sun dried tomatoes.
50g of Pine nut kernels.
2 Spoonfuls of white rice (basmati) with freshly chopped dill.
500 ml of Horchata.
1 Teaspoonful of refined cornflour.
Olive oil.
Salt.
Pepper.

First you will need to season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper, put it in a small non stick baking tray and smear it with olive oil. Roast it in pre-heated oven at 180C degrees for one hour and a half approximately. Baste the chicken every ten minutes with a little horchata. When the chicken is golden, remove it from the oven and cut it up into pieces.

Pour the juice from the chicken and the horchata into a frying pan to reduce it and then thicken it slightly with a little refined corn flour that needs to be previously diluted in water. Once the sauce is ready place to one side.

Now cut the mushrooms in julienne and cook them on a low heat in a frying pan with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste. Lower the heat, add the pine nut kernels and toast them slightly. Once golden in colour add the chopped-up sun dried tomatoes and toss them all together in the pan for a minute

Serve the chicken and place the mushrooms, tomatoes and pine nut kernels garnish on top, next pour over the horchata sauce. Accompany the dish with basmati rice mixed with finely chopped fresh dill. Finally decorate with a sprig of parsley.

Enjoy!



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The Immune system and EVOO
04 August 2014

It has also been demonstrated that olive oil plays an importantrole in the immune system.

The immune system defends the body against invasion by foreign substances (toxins, microorganisms, parasites, tumour processes, etc.) by coordinating specific and non-specific mechanisms.

The non-specific or innate defences are the front-line protection against microorganisms. They are made up of the skin, mucous membranes, the complement system (the complement, a group of some 20 proteins manufactured in the liver, helps to destroy micro-organisms) hormonal factors, etc. and their action is not affected by prior contact with the foreign substance.

Specific mechanisms occur following exposure to the substance and they require the involvement of the B-lymphocytes (humoral system) and the T-lymphocytes (cell system).

Innate immunity responds in a similar way to the majority of microbes whereas the specific immune response varies according to the type of microorganism in order to eliminate it as effectively as possible.


It has been documented that olive oil intake bolsters the immune system against external attacks from microorganisms, bacteria or viruses.

It has been known for some time that mineral and vitamin deficiencies can have an adverse effect on the immune system.

Recent research has concluded that the fatty acids in the make-up of olive oil are good allies in lowering important immunological parameters such as the proliferation of lymphocytes induced by specific mitogens of both B- and T-cells.
These fatty acids have been reported to play an important part in various immune functions. They are involved in regulating inflammatory processes and they may be effective in the treatment of some autoimmune diseases and in the regulation of the immune system in general.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory immune disease of unknown causes that affects the joints. Genes, infective factors, hormones and diet have been suggested as possible associates in its onset. Although some studies had suggested that olive oil could help to alleviate its symptoms they did not provide confirmation of such a protective effect.

Now, the results of a recently published study suggest that regular consumption of olive oil may reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

According to the authors of the study, the people on diets containing high levels of olive oil had less risk of suffering this disease. The study found that the people who consumed less olive oil had 2.5 times more possibility of developing rheumatoid arthritis than those who consumed it more frequently.

Although the mechanism involved is not yet clear, antioxidants are suspected to exert a beneficial effect.



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