… who won the Pesto-Off?
The CardioKit team were delighted to be invited to the Taste of Timsbury food and drink festival on 23rd September. The annual event, now in its second year, is an opportunity for the community to celebrate local food and drink and, as CardioKit is all about heart-healthy, fantastic local produce, we had to say ‘yes’.
Those who attended will no doubt have seen Mary, our Project Manager, dishing out our leaflets as well as talking to all the locals who dropped by the CardioKit stall. It was a real treat to see so many people interested in the project, which is currently in its final few weeks of the initial 15 months funded by The Health Foundation, (don’t forget to REGISTER if you haven’t already!).
The highlight for us on the day was the second CardioKit Cook-Off. Christopher Wild, Cardiac Physiologist and ex-chef, and Steve Mercer, Head Chef at Neston Farm Shop and Kitchen, battled it out in a Pesto-Off compared and judged by Dr Ali Khavandi, our resident ‘Cooking Cardiologist’. Although they won’t admit it, they were very competitive and both wanted to win … especially as last time ended in a draw.
The cook-off took place just off the main hall in a bustling Conygre Hall in Timsbury. After being introduced by Dr Khavandi, both cooks introduced their dish. Steve was making a pesto from peas, edamame beans, garlic, mint and thyme. Christopher was going for a rocket, garlic, sunflower seed and lemon mixture, enhanced by an anchovy. Both were a great twist on the classic. They would need to serve these pestos with a salad made from a range of salad leaves (including rocket) and, to throw them a little, figs. We must say a massive thank you to Vicki from Riverford who supplied the fresh produce.
Whilst they got down to producing their pestos, Dr Khavandi supplied running commentary and took questions from the audience. His first piece of heart-healthy advice was that the rocket being used was an excellent source of nitrates. We recommend foods high in nitrates at CardioKit because there is evidence that suggests they help to lower blood pressure.
Next up were lentils, pulses and beans … these are great replacements for refined carbohydrates (a popular question from the audience, who wanted to know how to replace their white pasta) and can be used instead. However, Dr Khavandi wanted to ensure people are realistic. It’s not always possible to refrain from cooking pasta, people have busy lives and fussy people to feed. Another option he gave was to use less and mix it with an additional, healthier, product such as broccoli or courgette; you could also try wholegrain pasta.
Other questions asked were linked to quinoa, which was good timing because we have just more formally endorsed Bath Farm Girls locally grown quinoa (look out for our logo on their new labels). This is an excellent carbohydrate and is also rich in nutrients such as protein. It is a great source of dietary fibre. Extra virgin olive oil was also discussed and an interested audience member asked whether rapeseed oil was a good replacement. Dr Khavandi explained that cold pressed rapeseed oil has had some impressive results in the research that has been conducted but, as it is a relatively young oil, there is less long-standing evidence than there is with extra virgin olive oil.
As with most of our workshops and Q&A sessions, salt was also raised – you can find out about our recommendations on salt here. Plus, a budding heart-healthy advocate asked about calories: the CardioKit advice can be found over on our READ section.
As the Q&A wrapped up, the pesto-off also came to a close. Dr Khavandi was keen to get judging. After sampling both cook’s pestos, Dr Khavandi decided there was not to be another draw and ruled that Chris was to be the King of Pesto. The reason? Dr Khavandi likes a more traditional flavour (his own version can be found here); he hailed Steve’s pesto for being the more imaginative creation. Congratulations, Chris, and thank you to everyone who came to see us on the day and supported us during the cook-off and on the stall.
Recipes to follow soon!