Today food is more than just a necessity to live. With food comes the pleasure of creation and inspiration, sharing with friends and family, creating comfort and reliving memories. While the majority of us enjoy food with out a seconds thought of what we are really eating, there are many people out there who cannot share this simple joy.
I myself am lucky because as far as I know I am tolerant to most foods, and can eat and drink anything I like. As a chef however, I am often confronted with people who are not as lucky. Personally, I do not know much about allergies and intolerances, as I do not have to deal with them every day. I have a friend however, who is salicylate sensitive and often asks me how she can create foods that are not bland and boring.
Here I share with you what I have recently learnt and hope to inspire food intolerant people and friends to enjoy creating food as much as I do.
Allergies vs. Intolerance
There is an overall assumption that allergies and intolerances are much the same thing. Truth is that they are not.
•Is an immune reaction to food proteins. Meaning simply that ones immune system recognises and responds differently to something that is normally harmless to everyone else.
•Can happen very quickly, normally within the hour.
•Can occur with the smallest amount of the allergen.
•Is not as common as we think. It is thought that 1% of adults have allergies, while more children will, as their immune systems develop.
•Does not affect the immune system at all.
•Is triggered by chemicals in food, which cause reactions by irritating nerve endings in different parts of the body.
•Is dose related. Some people are sensitive to small doses of particular food chemicals while others will only have a reaction with large amounts.
•Is more common in children as the doses of food to weight and size are increased.
•Can take up to 48 hours to appear.
While there are major differences from allergies and intolerances the symptoms remain to be similar and are very extensive from anything as itchy skin, rashes, bloating, headaches, nausea and blocked airways.
Salicylate sensitivity is when a person is intolerant or sensitive to salicylates.
Salicylates are a natural group of chemicals found in a wide range of foods. In plants salicylates act as a natural immune system against insects and fungus. In manufactured form salicylates are used to preserve items, such as smells in perfumes and flavours in foods. The main food sources of salicylates are certain fruits, vegetables, dried spices, teas and food flavourings.
Salicylates are also highest in unripened fruit and vegetables and are often concentrated just under the skin. Salicylate sensitive people should peel all fruit and avoid the outer layers of vegetables.
Salicylates have a similar chemical structure as salicylic acid, which is manufactured to produce aspirin, and as a result most salicylate sensitive people will be sensitive to aspirin.
Extensive studies have been made to classify different fruits and vegetables and foods from negligible and low in salicylates to high and very high. By eliminating moderate to very high foods and minimising the intake of moderate to low foods one can easily maintain control their reactions. A list of foods with salicylate contents can be found here.
Low Salicylates Recipes:
Fresh herbs always brighten a meal. This pesto is great to add texture and depth to the simplest of meals.
3 handfuls parsley
1 handful raw cashews
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon malt vinegar
1 cup sunflower oil
In a food processor blend the parsley, cashews and garlic until they form a thick paste. Add the vinegar and while the processor is running slowly add the oil until desired consistency.
Serve in pastas with peas, sweated leeks and chicken. Or spread on meat or fish and bake in oven.
Store in the refrigerator for 3 weeks.
Chive and Parsley Salad Dressing
This light dressing has the perfect balance of sweetness sourness and bite to make any salad a standout.
1 handful chives, chopped
1 handful parsley, chopped
1/4 golden delicious apple cut finely
2 cloves garlic
1 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup lime juice
Mix the lime juice, chives, parsley garlic and apple in a food processor of blender until ingredients form a puree. Slowly add 1 cup of sunflower oil and blend together.
Serve as a dressing on iceberg lettuce tossed with fresh peas and thinly sliced peeled apple.
Drizzle over cooked meats and fish.
Use to marinate raw meat and fish.
Celery and Potato Gratin
A hearty and delicious gratin that is perfect with fish, chicken and meat or simply on its own.
6 stalks of celery, peeled and thinly sliced
3 white potatoes, peeled and sliced as thinly as possible
2 shallots, sliced
3⁄4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, or another white cheese such as fetta or ricotta
1⁄2 cup cream
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Combine the celery, potato, shallots, 1⁄2 the cup Parmesan, salt and cream in a bowl and toss gently.
Lightly oil a baking dish and lay the potato, celery and shallot mix in firmly. Drizzle with the left over cream and cheese from the bowl, cover with foil and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Uncover, scatter with the rest of the Parmesan (or any other cheese) and bake for 10 minutes uncovered until the top is golden.
Vodka Poached Salmon
Vodka has a unique way of bringing out the flavours in food much like salt. The Italians often use vodka at the end of pasta sauces to heighten the sweetness of tomatoes or the salty bite to anchovies. In this dish it gives an extra depth to beautifully poached salmon.
1⁄4 cup vodka
1⁄2 cup water
2 salmon fillets, roughly 250gr each with skin off
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 celery stalks cut roughly
1 small handful chopped parsley
1 bunch parsley stalks (kept from the chopped parsley)
3 cloves chopped garlic
Heat vodka and water over medium high heat in a saucepan large enough for the fish and add the celery, garlic and parsley stalks. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the salmon and dot with butter. Turn the heat to a simmer and poach the fish covered with a lid or foil for 10 minutes.
Remove using a slotted spoon and allow to sit covered for 2 minutes.
Serve with a sprinkle of parsley and a dot of butter.