LEAF ARBUTHNOT is back with food to feed the brain.
I crossed the threshold of exam term feeling absurdly buoyant. Yeah, work! Yeah, a reduced social life! Bring it, gym trips and early-morning yoga!
I fully believed that getting back down with the books, after two terms of awkward relations, would be good fun, manna for both soul and intellect. Well, it hasn’t been. Revision is dull; not seeing/having friends is depressing. I want my mother.
That said, there are ways of leavening the leaden vibe. One tactic to preserve exuberance is to treat your body well. Eating shrewdly enhances both general cheerfulness and intellectual performance, increasing the efficiency with which one can storm academic citadels.
To this end, I have spent many a lunch break experimenting with ‘superfoods’ – particularly nuts, fish, fruit and vegetables, renowned for their ability to boost brainpower. Even if you don’t feel instantly Einsteinian after a meal based on these kinds of ingredients, you will at least feel smug because they are sickeningly healthy.
Here are four recipes that are guaranteed to get you a starred first and a fellowship from your college. Maybe.
I am aware that not everyone relishes the idea of picking nettles for their lunch; fortunately, this soup is just as good without them.
Fry one onion and two cloves of garlic in a pan with olive oil. Add two leeks, chopped up into rough pieces, and half a litre of chicken stock. Boil for a bit. Add three large handfuls of fresh spinach, or a Sainsbury’s bag full of freshly cut nettles (avoid ones that have flowered; the sting will go out of the nettles as soon as they have been boiled.)
Simmer for a bit, then add salt, pepper, cream and curry powder to taste. Blend.
Fail-safe fish sauce
The key to doing fish well is the sauce. This is very versatile and will go particularly dazzlingly with salmon, cod and prawns.
Combine ½ a cup of vinegar (rice, apple cider or white wine ideally), one tablespoon of honey, 4 cloves of garlic (chopped), ½ a teaspoon of chili powder and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce in a cup. Mix with a fork, and fry with fish.
I know this is pretty niche, but fig jam is delicious, and one of the healthiest spreads around.
Chop up about twelve large figs into coins, about 1cm thick. Transfer to a large pan. Add the juice and rind of one lemon, and one cup of granulated sugar. Allow to soak for two hours. Then heat for one hour or so on a hob, stirring frequently, until it looks like jam.
These are healthier than most flapjacks because of the heavy fruit and nut contingent. They are also made in the microwave; hooray, yippee, huzzah.
Melt 100g butter and 50g caster sugar in the microwave, in a baking tray. Add 4 tablespoons of golden syrup or honey. Stir in 150g oats, and 50g bran flakes. Microwave for three minutes on full power. Then stir in a cup full of raisins and a cup full of mixed nuts. Microwave for another minute, then refrigerate.
There you have it – four foods to feed the brain. Superfoods are the way forward this term, they’re guilt-free and intellect-enhancing. So go on, ditch the Basics digestives and grab some Nutty-fruity flapjacks smeared in fig-jam.