Hot Spot Recipes
Fresh fish, caught the same day, oven-baked in a herb and tomato sauce with roasted vegetables. A home-made black bean tortilla garnished with cilantro with a heap of guacamole on the side. Ripe, juicy mangoes just picked from the tree. Succulent lamb and bean stew for a special occasion. Everyone sitting down to the table together, relaxed and happy after a full day, to enjoy their meal and each other’s company.
This is how food is in the Longevity Hot Spots. It’s fresh, it’s high in nutrients, it’s delicious, and it’s one of life’s great pleasures. No guilt, no overindulgence, no dieting, no addiction – just good natural food every day.
Here are some authentic recipes from the Longevity Hot Spots. These dishes are not just full of nutrients, but full of flavour too.
I collected these recipes though a combination of research and visiting some of the Longevity Hot Spots. In some cases I have slightly adapted them. These recipes and more can also be found in my books, 50 Secrets of the World’s Longest-Living People and The Live-Longer Diet.
Tortillas with black beans, guacamole and salsa (Nicoya, Costa Rica)
The lithe and glowing Nicoyans of Costa Rica eat black beans every day – often three times a day – either with rice or a corn tortilla. Combined with guacamole and salsa, this classic South American meal provides complete protein, plenty of vitamins and minerals, fibre, and antioxidants. It makes a great breakfast, brunch, lunch, or supper, and you can also use the salsa and guacamole for dips or spread them on toast later.
If you can, use proper ‘masa’ corn flour to make the tortillas – this is corn (either purple or yellow) which has been soaked in a calcium solution and ground into flour and should not be confused with cornflour. Because of the soaking process, it is much more digestible than corn in other forms and makes a great gluten-free carb. I buy mine from a Mexican shop in Bristol, but you can also get it online. I recommend you also invest in a tortilla press – corn tortillas are incredibly easy to make, and children also enjoy rolling the dough into balls and then pressing them flat. You can get tortilla presses online for around £17 or so.
If you can’t get hold of masa flour, you can use bought tortillas, but they are usually made with white flour and have preservatives added. Alternatively, you can have the beans with quinoa, a baked potato, or brown rice.
Ingredients (serves 2):
For the tortillas:
2 or 3 cups masa flour
Put the flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt and add enough hot water to mix the flour into a dough, making sure that the dough coheres but isn’t too sticky or moist. Cover and leave for 15 minutes.
When your black beans are almost ready, you can cook your tortillas. Take a small fistful of the dough, roll it into a ball, then flatten it in a tortilla press. (Tip: put the tortilla between two squares of baking paper to stop it from sticking to the press). Heat a frying pan and dry-fry the tortillas on a fairly high heat for around 3-5 minutes, turning once.
For the beans:
500g black beans, soaked overnight and cooked (you can add onion, garlic and a small bunch of coriander stems to the cooking water enhance the taste)
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 organic chicken stock cube
A small knob of butter or ghee (optional)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
Chopped tomatoes and/or tomato paste (optional)
To serve: soured cream, guacamole and salsa (see below)
Heat a tablespoon or two of water in a frying pan until steaming, with half an organic chicken stock cube crumbled in if you like. Add a little butter or ghee if desired. Add the chopped onion and cumin and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
At this stage, I add half a carton of chopped tomatoes and a tablespoon of tomato paste, although this is not an official part of the recipe – I do this purely because my daughter likes it this way. I then simmer the mixture for five minutes to reduce the water content.
Add the black beans. Mash them up in the pan with a potato masher, adding a little water or stock if necessary. You want to end up with a kind of lumpy purée. Once you have turned the heat off, add the olive oil and stir in.
Serve on the tortillas with guacamole and a dollop of soured cream, and salsa on the side.
Avocados are a wonderful health food because they are high in beneficial fats and vitamin E and are also a complete protein, containing all eight essential amino acids.
1 large avocado, mashed with a fork
1-2 tablespoons coriander, finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
The juice of one lime (use a lemon if you have no limes)
1 small chilli pepper, finely chopped (optional)
A pinch of salt
You can either mix the ingredients together as they are, or you can first pound the onion, coriander, chilli pepper, tomato and salt in a pestle and mortar before mixing with the avocado and lime juice. The guacamole should be a little bit lumpy.
Having salsa as an accompaniment to your dishes will add not only an exciting bit of flavour but also some powerful health benefits. The tomatoes provide the antioxidant lycopene, the onions and garlic are immune-boosting, the chilli peppers contain anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial capsaicin, the lime provides vitamin C, and the coriander is very high in antioxidants.
You can either chop these by hand or throw them into a food processor.
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped or minced
1 onion, finely chopped
3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped small
1-2 chilli peppers, chopped small
3 tablespoons coriander, finely chopped
The juice of one lime
Pepper and a little salt, to taste
Combine the chopped ingredients in a bowl and serve on the side with your tortilla. You can also use the salsa as a dip.
Gnocchi with parsley and thyme (Campodimele, Italy)
This recipe is from Campodimele, a serene hilltop village in Southern Italy, whose death-defying inhabitants have sometimes led to it being called ‘Europe’s village of eternal youth.’ I ate some of the best food I have ever tasted here, made with the type of fresh, local, seasonal produce which is any top London chef’s dream. As with most Hot Spot recipes, this one is quick and easy to make.
The parsley, chili, capers, olive oil and rocket are all Sirtfoods, which trigger fat-burning, cell-rejuvenating genes called sirtuins. In fact, Longevity Hot Spot foods contain many staples which are in the top Sirtfood list. Garlic is great for immunity, whilst thyme kills unfriendly bacteria and is a good remedy for coughs.
Traditional Italian cooks make their own gnocchi, but as I have discovered a gluten-free one from Bionita, I use that.
Amounts serve one, so just double/triple etc the recipe accordingly.
100 g gnocchi, preferably home-made or gluten-free
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
approx 50-75 g mushrooms, eg porcini or chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 large pinch thyme
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped small or crushed
A small pinch of sea salt (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 pinch chili pepper (ground or in flakes)
Parmesan cheese, preferably organic (optional)
For the salad:
Mixed green salad, preferably including rocket
A handful of pumpkin and sunflower seeds
A teaspoon of capers
Dressing – I use apple cider vinegar with mustard and extra-virgin olive oil
Put a pan of water on to boil for the gnocchi.
Put a splash of water and, if you like, a small knob of butter in a frying pan or heavy-based pan – this is known as the ‘healthy sauté’ method and it involves adding the oil at the end so that you get all of the benefits of oil undamaged by heat.
Once the water is steaming, add the mushrooms and thyme. Cook, stirring, for a minute, then add the garlic and salt if you are using it. Cook for another two or three minutes, then add the parsley and chili pepper. Stir in and remove from the heat.
When the gnocchi water is boiling, add the gnocchi and cook for a minute or so until they float. Drain and put into the frying pan with the mushrooms. Add the olive oil and stir in. If you want to have cheese, use organic cheese and make it a small amount – the flavour can come from the herbs and garlic.
Serve with a large green salad sprinkled with the capers and some dressing – I use apple cider vinegar mixed with olive oil and mustard. I also add seeds to increase the protein content of this meal which is, let’s face it, a bit carb-heavy. If you are going to eat a carb-y meal, the evening is probably the best time to do it, as you need protein at lunch time to keep your blood sugar steady through the afternoon, whilst carbs in the evening can promote sleep by increasing serotonin production.
Pasta and bean soup (Campodimele, Italy)
This succulent soup is worthy of a meal in itself, although for extra health-giving value try serving it with a mixed salad. If you happen to have some freshly-caught wild boar handy, as the Campodimelani sometimes do, that works well in place of pork – or you can use chicken and chicken stock instead.
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped small
3 tomatoes, chopped small
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 cups pork or vegetable stock (home-made pork stock is best for taste)
1 cup fagioli or cannelloni beans, pre-soaked or canned
1 pinch chilli pepper
4 oz pork, in small pieces
4 ounces fettucine, broken into short strips
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
Fresh basil leaves
- Cook the garlic and tomatoes gently in the olive oil, with the lid on, so they stay moist.
- Add the stock, then the beans (if using uncooked beans) and chilli pepper. Put in the raw meat and simmer with the lid on for 45-60 minutes or until the beans are cooked, adding more stock if necessary. If using canned beans, add them at step 3.
- Add the fettucini and cook until it is al dente.
- Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and the grated cheese and garnish with the basil leaves.
Pork or salmon noodles with dashi (Okinawa, Japan)
You will be amazed by how easy this is to make and yet how authentic the flavour is. Eat it with some steamed green vegetables on the side, or add the vegetables to the soup to make it extra-rich in nutrients and taste.
For the dashi:
Dashi is a classic Japanese stock made from seaweed and dried bonito fish flakes, and is a versatile staple of many traditional dishes. It is popular as a medicinal soup for maintaining and restoring vitality.
2 strips kombu seaweed
1 large pinch bonito flakes (available in packets from Oriental supermarkets)
¾ tablespoon soy sauce (use the traditionally-brewed, low-salt kind such as tamari)
- Boil the kombu for 3-4 minutes in about half a pint of water. Remove from heat
- Add the bonito flakes and return to the heat. Remove from heat just as the water comes to the boil.
- Allow to stand for 5 minutes, then strain and keep the liquid. Discard the solids (or keep them to re-use if you are going to make dashi again soon).
- Add the soy sauce.
For the soup:
4 oz cooked pork slices or pieces of salmon
1 tablespoon cooking oil (use groundnut oil, grape seed oil or canola oil as these are safer to use for cooking than other oils; olive oil is also good but not suitable taste-wise for Asian cooking)
½ clove garlic
1 tablespoon dashi
1-2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon saki or sweet white wine
1 cup stock (pork or vegetable)
4 oz udon noodles or other Oriental-type noodles, cooked so that they are still a little firm
3 stalks green onions, chopped very fine.
- If using pork, boil the meat in about a pint of water for 25 minutes. Skim the fat off the top of the water and keep the rest of the liquid to use as stock.
- Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan. Add the garlic and fry gently for a minute or two without letting it brown. You can ‘steam-fry’ it by adding a tablespoon of stock – this is a gentler way of cooking.
- Add the pork or salmon and stir for a few seconds.
- Add the dashi, soy, sake and stock and bring to the boil.
- Add the noodles and heat.
- Garnish with the onion and serve.
Spinach with onions and feta (Hunza, Pakistan)
This is a staple dish of the ultra-healthy Hunzakuts from the beautiful Hunza valley in Northern Pakistan, apart from the feta which I have borrowed from the Greeks, since the Hunzakuts have their own home-made variety. Spinach is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, beta-carotene, folic acid, magnesium, calcium and non-heme iron; onions are excellent for the immune system and for helping the liver to detoxify.
1.5 lbs spinach, washed and chopped
1 large onion, chopped very small
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, ground nut oil or grape seed oil
4 oz organic feta cheese
- Steam the spinach for 1-2 minutes in a steamer and drain.
- Sweat the onion in the oil for a few minutes until soft. If you want to be a bit naughty you can add a bit of butter at this stage – or try clarified butter (ghee) which is used in traditional subcontinental cooking. Add the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Serve with a little feta cheese crumbled over the top.
Greek salad, Symi style (Symi, Greece)
Perfect for a warm summer’s day out in the open air – use the freshest, best-quality ingredients you can find. This is an ideal low-GI meal providing a wide range of valuable nutrients, including essential fatty acids. Apple cider vinegar has some amazing health-giving properties – I have had clients who have been in pain for years who feel as though they have been given new bodies after taking apple cider vinegar (it also kills verrucas, also known as plantar warts, very effectively!)
2-3 large fresh sardines, skinned and boned or tinned if you can’t get them fresh (the Symiots salt theirs and marinate them in white wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped small
4 fresh tomatoes, sliced
1 cucumber, sliced
1 onion, sliced thin
15-20 black olives
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1-2 teaspoons oregano
1 oz capers (with leaves and stalks, if you can get them)
5 oz organic feta cheese
Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Mix the oil, vinegar and garlic together to make a dressing. Mix together the other ingredients, except for the fish, and sprinkle with the dressing. Lay the fish on top and add a little salt and pepper to taste.
Sweet potato and carrot soup (Bama, China)
This will give you a good dose of anti-cancer, see-in-the-dark beta carotene and is an ideal warming soup for winter. The people of Bama do not make this exact recipe but they eat a lot of sweet potatoes and this is a good way to use them – extra nutrients come from the cumin and cardamom. One shouldn’t really use olive oil in this Asian-inspired dish, but you can just about get away with it if you want to use it.
2 or 3 sweet potatoes, chopped (you can keep the peel on for extra nutrients if they are organic)
4 or 5 large carrots
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, ground nut oil or grape seed oil
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 pinch of ground cardamom seeds
1.5 pints chicken or vegetable stock
- Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the vegetables. Stir.
- Add the cumin and cardamom, stir, and sweat the mixture for a few minutes by keeping the heat low and the lid on.
- Add enough stock to cover the vegetables and simmer for about 5-10 minutes or until they are soft.
- Blend in a food processor until smooth. Add more liquid if necessary.