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Healthy eating: Susan Jane White on fresh apricots

An apricot is basically a bundle of nutrients squeezed into a juicy little amber bauble. They fit into trouser pockets, desk drawers and little fists. What's not to like?

These low-calorie fruits are a dietary staple of the Hunza people, who are lauded for their long lives and luminous skin. For a start, apricot kernels contain vitamin B17, one of the most potent anti-cancer compounds we know of, as well as a smashing measure of anti-aging vitamin E. Their skin and flesh house lots of immune-boosting artillery such as vitamin A, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. They make a truly nourishing gift to someone you know in hospital.

Fresh, raw apricots are not the sort of thing you'll find in your average supermarket. They require a little sat navving. I've learnt that anything worthwhile doesn't come easy, and that the hunt is usually half the crack. We visit Pearse Street's veggie market every Saturday morning to get our fill, skipping through the doors with industrial amounts of giddiness. But tired limbs can have them delivered from www.organicsupermarket.ie to just about anywhere in Ireland. Even Leitrim.

Apricot and Cardamom Quinoa

The weather is pretty poxy as I write this, quarantining us from St Stephen's Green and HB ice creams. Dining al desko has become the default setting of summer 2011. But bad weather doesn't have to disable your taste buds, or deport your lunchtime merriment. Give this recipe a go and I guarantee the plaudits will last for months. You won't even notice the doleful skies outside. Remember to make enough for envious colleagues. Sharing your own portion is not an option.

Fresh apricots and quinoa are both low glycemic foods -- dried apricots are not. What this means is that the energy you get from the fresh fruit releases slowly into the bloodstream, drip-feeding your battery and your mood. High glycemic foods such as white rice, pasta and bread release their energy much faster into the bloodstream and spike our blood sugar levels. We experience a sudden surge, followed by an almighty low. Sound familiar?

The second catch with high glycemic food is that we look for something sugary as a quick pick-me-up to counteract this low. This usually happens an hour or two after lunch. Let's say you grab a cappuccino and a bun in the afternoon to boost your lagging energy after your high glycemic rush. Say, five times a week. This would amount to almost a thousand euro and thousands and thousands of extra calories per year just to remedy your afternoon slump. Eek.

Fuel your body with low glycemic foods such as quinoa, and your body will fuel you. Serves 3.

You will need:

1 1/2 cups chicken stock or seasoned water

1 cup quinoa

4 cardamom pods

4 fresh apricots, halved and de-stoned

1 cup roughly diced cucumber

1 avocado, flesh diced

Juice of 1 small lime

Good lick of olive oil

Bunch of fresh coriander, roughly torn (optional)

Bring the chicken stock or seasoned water, whichever you are using, to the boil. Briefly rinse the quinoa in a sieve under running water, and add to the stock. Bash the cardamom pods with the base of a pan until they split open. Add them to the stock. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the quinoa reaches your preferred texture. Beige quinoa needs less cooking than the red variety, so watch your clock or follow the directions on the package.

Once cooked, drain the quinoa completely and let it cool. Quinoa is easier to manage when it's chilled, so pop it in the fridge overnight. Then, in the morning, tumble with the halved apricots, the roughly diced cucumber, the diced avocado, the lime juice and the olive oil, as well as the coriander, if you are using it.


See www.susanjanewhite.com