Thursday, 11 September 2014

Vegan poached eggs with yummy runny yolks

These are vegan 'eggs' that look and taste almost identical to real eggs. 
Some credit for this recipe needs to go to Maresa's vegan deviled eggs which is where I got the recipe for the ‘egg’ white. They made some really nice vegan devilled eggs. I didn’t want devilled eggs though. I wanted something that looked and tasted like runny yolked eggs.
I also don’t like things with too many hard to find or expensive ingredients. This recipie has the bare minimum of these ingredients necessary. The three main unusual ingredients I used are:

Indian black salt: Also known as Kala Namak. This is a special rock salt that contains a very small amount of iron and sulphur (which give it its distinctive color and smell). It is used in indian cooking and you should be able to find it in any good Indian spice store. This is really important to give the eggs their egginess, (however if you don’t mind them not really tasting or smelling like eggs this can be left out). (make sure you buy Kala Namak NOT black sea salt which is a completely different thing). The quantities I use give a very subtle eggy flavour  don't use too much.
Agar Agar: This is a seaweed extract and comes as either a powder or flakes (powder is a lot easier to work with). This is what sets the egg ‘white’ into a Jelly consistency. This cannot really be substituted for anything. Agar is unique as a Jelly as it will set at room temperature (and harder than gelatine) then can be heated to almost boiling point before it liquefies again. Most Asian shops carry this as it is a key component in a lot of Asian cooking (I got mine in the same place I got the black salt) you can also find it in health food shops (but it is often a lot more expensive).  Gelatine will not work for this recipe (firstly because it is not vegan, but if you are making these because you cannot have eggs rather than for ideological reasons that may not matter) but also gelatin melts at too low a temperature thus the eggs cannot be heated up.
Nutritional Yeast: This product is available in health food stores. It imparts a strong savoury flavour and is also very high in proteins and nutrients (particularly B vitamins). This can be substituted for low salt stock powder (although it will make the eggs a bit more salty and will impart a slightly different flavour).

This recipe will make approx. 8-10 eggs. It will take about 3 hours, but most of that time is waiting for things to freeze/ cool, actual working time is about 10-15min.

Equipment required
Ice cube bags (preferably) or Ice cube trays
Cling wrap
8-10 small bowls
1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1/8 teaspoon Black salt powder
1/4 cup walnut pieces
1/4 teaspoon tumeric powder
1/2 cup water
4 cups unsweetened rice or almond milk (I have also used oat milk which is quite nice just a little sweet)
1/2 teaspoon black salt powder
4 teaspoons agar

Step 1: Make and freeze yolks
Blend ingredients together in a good blender. You want them really smooth so blend for a long time (and preferably use a bullet blender).
Pour the mixture into the ice cube bags or an ice cube tray (this will be the shape of your yolks so it is better if they are rounded rather than square).

Step 2: Agar layer
Line 10 small saucers with cling wrap and place to the side. Get two flat dinner plates and put to the side. 
You will be making 3/4 the whites now and the rest after the yolks are frozen.
In blender put 3 cups of rice milk, a bit over 1/4 teaspoon of black salt powder and 3 teaspoons agar (ie 3/4 your whites ingredients). Blend until agar is incorporated into the milk (If you are using a smaller blender use 1 cup milk and add the rest of the milk after blending). 
(if you prefer you can just slowly add the agar/salt to the milk while stirring constantly, since I already had the blender out I did it with the blender)
Put your blended milk in a pot on the stove and bring to the boil stirring constantly.
Once boiled take off the heat and pour a small amount of the liquid into your two plates (you want to cover the plate in about a 3-4mm layer of liquid. Then put put the pot in the sink and stir constantly for a few minutes until the mixture is not so boiling hot (Ie no steam rising) and gets just slightly thicker (you can put some cold water in the sink to speed things up). At this point pour mixture into the moulds and put the molds into the fridge.
If you misjudge things and it sets hard before getting to the moulds just heat it up again and redo.

Step 3: putting together
After the yolks have frozen (about 2 or 3 hours) it is time to start putting together (the agar should be well and truly set by then).
Firstly get your egg white saucers out of the fridge and spoon out a small depression(for the yolk to sit).
Put the rest of your egg white mixture in the blender and put it on the stove to heat up (as you did in step 2).
While this is heating up get your egg yolks out of the freezer. Place the yolks on the small depression in the whites (make sure you take the plastic off first)
Now get your two plates of agar.
Cut a 8-10round circles in the agar large enough to cover your yolks (with about 2cm extra around the edge). I suggest you do one first  before cutting them all.
(this provides a barrier between the yolk and the hot agar stopping it melting the yolk and turning yellow).
Now return to your hot agar cool it as you did previously in the sink mixing constantly. As soon as it is not steamy hot gently pour into your molds making sure to cover the edges of the agar sheet completely.

Step 4: heating
This should be done right before serving
After the eggs are set take them out of the fridge and out of the cling wrap.
Place the eggs in cold water and put on the stove. Heat over a low to medium heat and watch closely. You want to slowly heat them up to almost boiling point (watch and take them out as soon as the water starts getting steamy hot and almost boiling). You may want to do one to start with to get the hang of it as it would be a bit sad if you ruin all the eggs just because you didn't watch and they melted into the water.  
End note
can do this as a dessert recipe by using half a mango and half a cup of apple juice blended for the yolks and using sweetened almond/ coconut milk and no black salt for the whites. 

I have served this with balsalmic onions, bread (specifically a bread with no soy/ dairy I checked) and my homemade chili/ chocolate and blackstrap molasses barbecue sauce (i might write the recipe fo that later). 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

A weight loss patch?

What is thrive dft (patch).
So recently I came across a people selling this miracle weight loss, feel great patch called 'thrive'. It seemed a bit strange to me, particularly because the person selling it was not exactly saying what it was (this was compounded by the fact that I remember a doctor who episode where some future civilisation got addicted to feel good patches and all subsequently died).
Anyway what is in these patches and are they conceivably good?

So after a bit of digging I found they contain:
forslean: a registered trademark
Green coffee bean extract:  ?caffiene
Garcinia Cambogia: a herb
CoQ10: I see this a lot in skin creams
White Willow Bark: another herbal thing
Cosmoperine: another registered trademark

So are these ingredients good?
Forslean: So firstly forslean is an extract from the Coleus forskohlii plant using their special method. This plant is a herb used in Indian cooking. According the company website sites 3 studies (one study of only 6 people without any blinding, which I am not going to talk about as it is too small and poorly designed so of no consequence), one study of 23 people that showed no weight loss but slightly lower weight gain, and one study of 60 people that showed mild weight loss. I have not been able to ascertain if these studies were done independently. This benefit was found with forslean capsules. I could not find any evidence that this can be absorbed through the skin past the dermal layer (it has been shown that it can cause epidermal thickening and tanning of the skin underneath in mice, not really desirable qualities in a patch). Looking at pubmed and other studies into Forskolin (the main ingredient of Forslean), this is an actual medication with benefits and side effects (ie may benifit glaucoma, interacts with some blood thinning medications, increases stomach acidity).
It is possible that Forslean may help promote weight loss, however I would like to see larger, better designed studies (and in particular studies that can prove it is absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream of humans).

Coenzime q10: one ingredient that has had a lot of press. It has been shown to decrease inflammation particularly in people with heart disease. It was trialled in large doses in people with Parkinson's disease with no benifit (but also no major side effects). I could not find any studies proving that doses applied to the skin can actually get into the blood stream (or how much actually does) did find a report that topical administration may cause vitiligo (skin whitening, what Michael Jackson apparently had) in susceptible individuals.
So this ingredient I would assess as possibly beneficial with minimal side effects, but would like to know if it is actually absorbed.

Green coffee bean extract: on the companies Facebook page they say that 'only the antioxidant benefits' were used. Does this mean there is no caffiene in the extract? Seems a bit counterproductive to me given that the caffiene is the part of green coffee that promotes weight loss....

Willow bark: willow bark is basically asprin (high concentration of salicylates). Asprin is a drug and has been shown to have many benefits (as well as risks). It can defiantly be absorbed transdermal lay, thus this may be the only actual thing you are getting from this patch. I am not sure what the actual dose of asprin you are getting from this patch is and would never consume a medication like asprin without knowing exactly how much I am taking. (I assume actual dose is very, very low to reduce risk of complications, but this sort of negates the point of having it in the first place).

Garcinia Cambogia: a herb that has been shown to promote satiety and weight loss in the short term when taken orally (most studies have been 12 weeks or less so little is known about the long term side effects/ benefits). There is some debate as to weather this compound may cause liver damage (one study in MICE, showed it can cause liver damage, other studies despite this). Could not find any studies into how this was absorbed through the skin. (Although on their Facebook page they state that their "derma fusion technology" means that you get 30-60 times "anything" that you can take orally, I could not actually find any proof of this, ie blood test results following oral and skin exposure).

Cosmoperine: this is a pepper extract that is supposed to increase skin permeability of their other ingredients. The only safety data I could find was found the company website which found no skin irritation in the 48 people tested.

Just because something is natural does not necessarily mean it is safe or effective. Many natural products (even some that are used in foods) are quite dangerous. For example liquorice is a poison in large quantities (and ricin, the worlds most deadly poison is a natural product).
From what I have read thus product is MOST LIKELY safe but probably has minimal benefits. I would like to know exactly how much of the active compounds is actually entering the bloodstream (most importantly how much willow bark there is in the product and how much is absorbed, as thus is actually a drug with significant side effects).
Personally due to the willow bark and the unknown quantities of the other ingredients I would avoid this product. I would especially avoid it if I was pregnant or breastfeeding (I could not find any instances of where these products have been tested on pregnant women and willow bark has blood thinning properties).
If I was convinced by the claims that  Garcinia Cambogia or Coleus forskohlii could promote weight loss (and I think there is reasonable evidence that Garcinia Cambogia may assist in weight loss with minimal side effects, at least in the short term) I would take them as single agents, orally at a specified dose so I know I am getting the right amount of the drug.