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Loquats are amazing! Who knew

Food4ThoughtTaking a nutritionist to Wadson’s Farm shop is like taking a kid to a candy store. Wide-eyed excitement, over-the-top spending and considerable stuffing-of-face. There is something so great about buying tons of locally-grown veggies and then working them into your meals for days. Nothing makes me feel more clean and alive from the inside out. A good job too as I’d just had a brush with death, courtesy of norovirus. Okay, that’s maybe a touch dramatic, but that’s how it felt. At one stage, if you’d offered me a plank, I would happily have walked it.One hundred percent recovered, we bought bags full of sweet potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli, mustard greens …. all the richly-pigmented veg, which is where some of the most powerful antioxidants lie. Since then it’s been non-stop soups, green juice and roasted vegetables which seem all the more tasty and nutrient-dense given their quick trip from the Earth to our table.Coincidentally, this was also the week a friend gave me a gift of loquats. I am not quite sure how I have lived in Bermuda for nine years without eating loquats, but there you go. They were amazing! I did some research into their nutritional value too which was interesting. It turns out they are super-rich in vitamin A (beta-carotene) and contain a decent amount of minerals too. Loquats are a good source of manganese especially which is an important co-factor for one of the most powerful antioxidant enzymes in the body, superoxide dismutase.So, keen not to waste any, after surveying the contents of my fridge and taking some inspiration from the ‘Island Thyme’ cookbook, I came up with this loquat, sweet potato and red lentil curry. It’s super mild as I made it with the children in mind, but you could always kick up the fire factor with some finely-diced fresh chilli.I love this curry as it’s a great vegan option for when you want to dilute meat a little. The combination of red lentils and chick peas provides a decent amount of plant-based protein, which you can improve on too by serving with something like brown rice or quinoa. It was good straight away, but even better after 24 hours in the fridge. I often think curries are better that way, as the flavours come out over time. The first time around we served this with steamed broccoli and mustard greens. If you’ve never tried the latter, you really should. Just like kale, mustard greens stay robust and almost “meaty” when they’re steamed (vs spinach which can go a bit slippery).This was a big hit in our house. I hope it is in yours too!Loquat, sweet potato and red lentil curry (serves 4-6)Ingredients: ½ c dried red lentils, soaked and rinsed; 1 onion, finely chopped; 1 ½ c loquats, seeds out and chopped (1 cup after preparing); ¼ c raisins; ¼ tsp dried ginger; ¼ tsp dried nutmeg; 1 ½ tsp curry powder; 1 c chick peas (drained and rinsed); 2 c sweet potato, peeled and chopped (I used 1 large, 1 medium); 2 c organic vegetable stock (chicken works fine too, but then not vegan); ½ tin coconut milk; 2 tbs honey; 1 tbs tomato purée; Oil — coconut or light olive oil.Method: 1. Soak your red lentils for up to 24 hours, but for a minimum of half an hour. Drain and rinse well. 2. Put a large pan (Le Cruset works well) over a low heat with a tablespoon of oil coconut or light olive oil are both great. 3. Add the chopped onion and spices (ginger, nutmeg, curry powder) and sweat over a low heat until the onion is tender. 4. Add the raisins and loquats, coating well in the spice mixture and allow to cook for a few more minutes. 5. Stir in the sweet potato, red lentils and chick peas. 6. Pour over the stock and stir in the honey and tomato purée. Stir well. 7. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover with the lid off-set and cook for at least 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. 8. Shake/stir up the coconut milk and make sure it is well mixed. Add half the can to the curry and allow to heat through. 9. If your curry is too liquid, mix 1 tbs corn flour into a paste with 2 tbs water and then stir in to the curry over a low heat. Keep stirring until the sauce thickens. 10. Serve with plenty of steamed green veg!The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION is the managing director of Natural Ltd and a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. For details, visit www.natural.bm or call 236-7511. Join Catherine on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nutrifitandnaturalnutritionbermuda