Business Times - 23 May 2009
GUEST CHEF SPECIAL
From vegetarians who seriously believe soy cheese tastes just like the real thing, to depressed dieters poking at their raw greens, eating for health or weight control are not the most enjoyable pastimes. Two health gurus and a celebrity chef show how clean eating can cross the threshold from sterile to haute cuisine
Valentine Laperle and Sigrid Grobys
An Apple A Day
AS THE saying goes, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But depending on what ails you, a bit of salmon or some walnuts could do the trick too, say fettle fixers Valentine Laperle and Sigrid Grobys.
The Singapore-based Canadian duo is behind the six-month-old gourmet-food-and-healthy-living solutions provider, An Apple A Day which - not quite as its name suggests - works to offer more than just that fruit to diners. The company's main service, the $1,700 Healthy Living package, comprises three consultations with Grobys, who is a qualified award-winning naturopath, as well as appropriate meals for a month from chef Laperle, who draws experience from working alongside fruit and veg guru Alain Passard at the three-Michelin-star restaurant L'Arpege in Paris, among other stints.
Far from being ensconced in a cocoon of dried husks, Grobys and Laperle are aware that healthy eating isn't the most tempting of notions. 'People think of healthy eating as what they do when they're sick,' says Grobys. 'They need to know that it's possible to make something at home that is easy to prepare and good to eat. It's not just prevention but people will find that they feel better - the effect that food can have over our body symptoms is quite powerful.'
Skin problems such as acne and eczema, for instance, can be cured by cutting out dairy, red meat, soy products and nuts from one's diet, she explains. That's because when the single-cell-thick membrane that separates the intestine from the bloodstream gets damaged and becomes porous (as it usually does when people eat junk food), these foods enter the bloodstream in particles. 'The cells recognise them as invaders and cause the body to react against them, which results in skin problems,' says Grobys. 'Staying away from these foods for about six months to a year gives the membrane time to heal.'
Similarly, abstaining from simple carbohydrates such as white rice and pasta will help prevent diabetes and obesity as they are 'just sugars and are absorbed very fast into our bodies, contributing towards those conditions'.
To circumvent the various complications when it comes to preparing meals for her clients, An Apple A Day's Laperle uses substitutes such as quinoa, a grain-like South American crop, instead of pasta.
She also travels to all corners of Singapore to source her ingredients (for someone who's been here for less than two years, she's a veritable encyclopaedia on where to get good produce). There is 'great basil' from boutique producer Cynthia Wee-Hoefer and more veg from the biodynamic organic eco-farm Green Circle. A wet market in Bedok, meanwhile, is good for wild-caught prawns. Then there's the Australian company The Fishmonger for fish, and Swiss Butchery for meat.
And the chef cannot get enough of Sakura chicken from FairPrice, about which she gushes: 'It's hormone and antibiotic-free and it's fresh. Organic chicken here is always frozen and, in my experience, not always that great. The Sakura chicken, on the other hand, is not certified organic but it's as close as you can get!'
The final step is, of course, coaxing the best out of all those carefully selected ingredients. 'You have to play around with different combinations, think out of the box a bit to make the food interesting,' says Laperle. Which means a succulent salmon fillet cooked at low temperature is drizzled with a zingy orange sauce and served with fresh salad topped with orange wedges, and carrot sticks come with a creamy chickpea dip that the chef calls a 'flavour helper'.
In place of deep-fried foods, there are crisp pumpkin seeds, while scallops are lightly browned a la plancha instead of being pan-seared 'because that requires tons of oil'. And as an alternative to French fries, Laperle roasts slices of potatoes sprinkled with olive oil and salt in the oven.
The food, considering how healthy it is, makes quite an impression on the palate. But it will have an even greater effect on the body - no sugar cravings, an improved complexion - when taken over at least three months, promise the An Apple A Day owners. 'It's not just an investment in your future but it will make your present that much more enjoyable,' says Grobys.
Orange-glazed New Zealand king salmon, mixed greens and pumpkin seeds
This recipe combines salmon fillets with both pumpkin and flax seeds, all of which are rich in healthy omega-3 fats. Although these are crucial for the proper function of our brain, skin and for their protective effects on the cardiovascular system, they are often difficult to include in our standard diet. The fresh oranges and mixed greens add the final touch to make this recipe a truly healthy delight.
4 150g New Zealand king salmon fillets, skinned and deboned
1 cup orange juice (freshly pressed or from Tropicana or Florida's Natural)
2 tbsp honey
1 pinch togarashi or any spicy dried chilli (optional)
4 navel oranges
100g raw pumpkin seeds
4 tbsp ground flax seeds
The juice of a lemon
4 tbsp olive oil for the orange dressing
+ 1 tbsp for searing the salmon
Organic mixed greens, washed
Salt and pepper to taste
For the orange segments
1. Cut the ends off the oranges just far enough to expose the flesh.
2. Place orange, cut-end down, and cut away as little as possible of the peel, following the orange's shape.
3. Using a sharp knife, cut along the inside of the membranes that separate the orange segments. Continue around the entire orange, cutting out each section and leaving out the membrane. Once done, press the membranes with your hands to extract all the good juice left in them, and set it aside for the dressing.
For the orange dressing
1. Mix the orange juice obtained from cutting the segments with the lemon juice, 4 tbsp of olive oil and ground flax seeds. Season with salt and pepper.
For the salmon
1. Preheat a non-stick pan on medium-low heat (don't let it become too hot).
2. Season the fish with salt.
3. Pour 1 tbsp of olive oil into the pan, and place the salmon in it.
4. Sear the salmon on each side for approximately 3 to 4 minutes, keeping the pan temperature quite low so as not to destroy the omega-3 or overcook the fish. Once cooked to the desired degree, remove from the pan and plate.
For the orange glaze
1. In a clean pan, bring the orange juice and honey to a boil and reduce to obtain a syrupy consistency. Add the chilli if desired, then spoon the glaze on top of each salmon fillet.
For the salad
1. On each plate, assemble a heap of mixed greens and top with the orange segments, pumpkin seeds and orange dressing. Season to taste and serve.