( SERVES 6 )
A really good way to not enjoy food is to believe the rubbish you read about it. Sadly, dieting has become a part of our lives, as if working, running the world and populating it weren't enough.
Take detoxing, for example. As a registered nurse, I have never believed that a normal body becomes toxic. Research has finally shown that our bodies are extremely efficient machines for automatically doing all the detoxing needed and they don't require much help.
I went to The Golden Door health retreat in Australia and subjected myself to no sugar, salt, coffee, wheat, meat, dairy, fat, men or alcohol for a week. Instead I ate mountains of fruit and vegetables.
At the end I felt no different, had lost only 2kg and have never driven so fast to a hotel with unlimited supplies of gin and tonic. For all that deprivation I should have been a shadow of my former self - a walking toxic-free zone. The only real difference was that my sanctimony levels were way up.
Celebrities who, as we all know, have no qualifications in anything, are fond of saying ill-informed things - such as chemicals in our diet being responsible for the rabid increase in cancer. Scientists dispute that there is any link between a person's diet and an increased risk of cancer. Occasionally body cells don't die as they are programmed to do and make a mistake. They start dividing and proliferating wildly - and this is called cancer.
It cannot be caused or prevented by what you eat as far as we know. No one knows why it happens. Normally, billions of cells die every day by breaking down and devouring themselves. Other cells clean up the mess. Cells make the dividing mistake regularly but the body has elaborate mechanisms for dealing with it.
I know it seems as if cancer is everywhere, but in fact humans suffer one fatal malignancy for each 100 million billion cell divisions. Lots of unwanted chemicals enter our bodies all the time. Most leave quickly but some do stay - asbestos and silica in the lungs, dioxins in our blood are examples.
Despite my experience at The Golden Door, I still love fruit and vegetables and do agree that we need to eat more of them.
To this end I am giving you the recipe for one of the most delicious soups ever invented - pistou.
In summer this unforgettable soup is based on fresh white beans and courgettes and the pesto is fresh.
In winter it's equally delicious to make it with dried beans, other vegetables and frozen pesto.
Sometimes little pasta such as orzo or tiny macaroni are put in it.
The trick is to not overcook it. It's really important to add fast-cooking vegetables such as beans, peas and courgettes just before you are about to serve it, because it must look and taste fresh, colourful and summery.
And whoever thought of grating fresh parmesan over soups deserves a medal.
- Soak the dried beans overnight then drain. Put them in a large pot, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer half an hour. Drain.
- Put the white beans back in the pot with the bouquet garni and all the diced vegetables, except the peas, courgettes and green beans. Cover with water, add a little salt and pepper, bring to the boil and simmer till the potatoes are cooked.
- Add the peas, courgettes and green beans and continue simmering until the beans are al dente, maybe five to 10 minutes. Discard the bouquet garni.
Tip: Serve immediately in deep bowls with a spoon of pesto on top and pass around the parmesan in a hand grater.