Sunday, May 3, 2015

Eat well: what to eat to help your brain

Whether your facing exams or keen to improve work performance, choosing the right foods can have a great impact on mental motivation, concentration and knowledge retention.

Exam time is quickly approaching for HSC and university students. While study is at the forefront, nutrition is often the furthest thing from students’ minds. However, a healthy diet plays a vital role in attaining optimal academic performance during the rigours and challenges of exam time.

Key foods and their components have been found to enhance cognitive function, improve mental alertness and enable sustained concentration to help students learn and remember the themes, concepts or formulas for their final exam.

Protein and brain power

Protein consumed from food sources provide the body with amino acids, or the building blocks, to produce key chemicals, such as neurotransmitters for the brain. Neurotransmitters are vital for brain cell-to-cell communication. Key neurotransmitters in terms of improved cognitive function and brain health include serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine

Serotonin, produced from the amino acid tryptophan, is found in brown rice, cottage cheese, salmon, red meat, carrots, peanuts and sesame seeds. It helps in the regulation of memory, learning and mood.

For a boost of serotonin, try Gabriel Gaté's grilled lamb loin with capsicum and olives.

The amino acid tyrosine is involved in the production of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, key to the transfer of memories to long-term storage, and dopamine, which is involved with improving motivation and activity. Tyrosine-rich foods include avocados, turkey, chicken, red meat, dairy, lentils, lima beans and sesame seeds.

The consumption of foods low in these amino acids, such as many “junk” foods, will result in low levels of serotonin, dopamine and epinephrine. This leaves students with lowered mood, concentration levels and a reduced ability to transfer learning to long-term memory. Similarly, consuming alcohol, caffeine and foods high in refined sugar will lower neurotransmitter levels such as dopamine, resulting in decreased motivation, mental dullness and an inability to focus.

Featuring spiced lamb, cinnamon-dusted chicken, almonds, pine nuts and rice, this traditional Lebanese dish will help improve motivation and activity.

Carbohydrates for sustained energy

Carbohydrates can provide sustained energy for mental alertness and concentration for those long study periods and for three-hour-plus exams. Glucose, the energy storage form of carbohydrates in the body, is the primary source of energy used by the brain. To ensure energy is sustained, students need to be careful which type of carbohydrates they are consuming.

There are two primary forms of carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are found in wholegrain cereals, breads, pastas, fruits and vegetables. Simple carbohydrates, as their name suggests, comprise single carbohydrate units such as glucose or fructose and are found in lollies, muesli bars, energy bars and drinks, and soft drink.

In the body, complex carbohydrates are absorbed a lot more slowly. The slower absorption rate means that energy is slowly released and available for a longer time. This allows students to be more alert, able to concentrate and commit information to memory for longer and more effectively.

Turkey, quinoa and salsa rojo salad combines complex carbohydrates with Tyrosine-rich ingredients.

Sugar burn-out

Sugar burn-out refers to the impending “high” and subsequent “crash” after consuming foods containing high levels of simple or refined carbohydrates.

As the sugar from these foods is quickly absorbed by the body there is a rush of glucose into the bloodstream, creating a short burst of energy, a “high”. The body (and brain) quickly use up this energy and the high is just as quickly followed by a burn-out or “crash”, leaving the person feeling lethargic, irritable and sleepy. Learning is not committed to memory and come exam time information cannot be effectively recalled.

For sustained energy, opt for whole grains, oily fish or an eggs.

Sustaining nutrition for a long exam

To ensure students have energy for that exam of three hours or more, they should eat a light meal comprising carbohydrates and protein - for example, baked beans on wholemeal toast or an egg or tuna salad wholemeal sandwich - one to two hours beforehand.

If the student is nervous, then they should try a snack of vegetable sticks and hummus or wholemeal raisin toast around one hour beforehand. This way their body and brain will be fuelled to go. In terms of fluids, water is best.

Smarter snack: hummus and vegetable sticks.

Brain function is influenced by short-term and long-term dietary changes. For overall health and optimum academic performance it is better to consume a healthy diet comprising a mix of fruits, vegetables, meats, cereals and dairy over the longer term. If nutrition has not been a primary focus over the last couple of months, then making dietary improvements now can help towards students achieving academic goals.

Remember the healthier the food, the more effective your brain is at retaining information and the better you’ll perform come exam time.

Lebanese chicken and rice (riz ala’ dajaj) recipe

Lebanese chicken and rice

The Arabic Food Recipes Kitchen (The home of Delicious Arabic Food) invites you to try Lebanese chicken and rice (riz ala’ dajaj)  Recipe. Enjoy the Arabic cuisine and learn how to make Lebanese chicken and rice (riz ala’ dajaj). 

A traditional Lebanese dish typically served for special occasions, this recipe exemplifies the importance of spices in Lebanese cuisine. The delicately spiced lamb and rice is topped with cinnamon-dusted chicken, golden almonds and pine nuts. Serve with your favourite salad.

Serves 6
Preparation 20min
Cooking 45min
Skill level Easy

Sue Dahman


1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp salt, or to taste
500 g chicken breast fillets
40 g butter
1 brown onion, finely chopped
350 g coarse lamb mince
300 g (1½ cups) long grain rice, washed and drained
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp Lebanese mixed spices (see Note)
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup flaked/slivered almonds
½ cup pine nuts
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Lebanese salad, to serve

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


The following recipe has been tested and edited by SBS Food and may differ slightly from the podcast.

Place the cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 litre (4 cups) water in a medium-size saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, add the chicken and simmer gently for 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave the chicken to poach in the water for a further 7–10 minutes until cooked through. Drain, reserving the stock. When cool enough to handle, coarsely shred the chicken.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C.

To make the rice, place a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and onion and cook for 5 minutes until the onion softens. Add the lamb mince and cook, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes until the lamb just starts to brown. Stir in the rice, black pepper, mixed spices and the remaining teaspoon of salt and cook for 2 minutes, tossing to coat the rice. Add 625 ml (2½ cups) of the reserved chicken stock and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10–12 minutes, until the rice is cooked.

Meanwhile, arrange the pine nuts and almonds on two separate oven trays. Transfer to the oven and cook the almonds for 6–8 minutes and the pine nuts for 3–5 minutes until lightly golden. Set aside.

To serve, place the rice mixture on a serving platter and cover with shredded chicken. Top with almonds and pine nuts and sprinkle over the cinnamon. Serve with salad.

• Lebanese mixed spice is available from Middle Eastern food stores.

Photography by Alan Benson

Recipes related to Lebanese chicken and rice (riz ala’ dajaj):

Makloube: Upside-down chicken and eggplant pilaf | Saudi Kabsa | Chicken biryani | Chicken Majboos | Lebanese Rice | Saudi Rice with Meat - Meat Zurbian

What's healthier, butter or margarine?

Butter gets points for taste; margarine for being easy to spread. But the healthiest option is not strictly called butter or margarine – it’s a “spread”.

Butter gets points for taste; margarine for being easy to spread. But the healthiest option is not strictly called butter or margarine – it’s a “spread”.

To improve the health of your heart, choose a spread with the lowest amount of saturated fat and trans fat per 100 grams. You will find this information in the “per 100 grams” column of the nutrition information panel.

Butter contains about 50% saturated fat, while margarine has a maximum of 20% saturated fat. The fat content of “light” or fat-reduced spreads is lowered by replacing some fat with protein and water, meaning many are much lower than 20%.

If you choose a full-fat spread (best for cooking), aim for less than 27 grams of saturated fat and one gram of trans fat per 100 grams. For fat-reduced spreads (best for bread and toast), aim for less than six grams of saturates and 0.2 grams of trans fat per 100 grams.


For a product to be called butter, it must be derived exclusively from milk and ingredients that are obtained from milk, including at least 80% milk fat. It may also contain water, salt, lactic acid producing microorganisms and flavour-producing microorganisms.

When you see products in the supermarket that are packaged up like butter, or use words such as “butter-flavoured” without specifically stating the product is butter, it’s likely they have been altered in such a way that it no longer meets the content requirements above.

To call a spread margarine, the product must be a spreadable food made of edible oils and water, containing at least 80 grams of edible oils per 100 grams. It may also include water, edible proteins, salt, lactic acid-producing microorganisms, flavour-producing microorganisms and milk products.

Some margarines contain added plant sterols and stanols, a type of fat found in vegetable oil, nuts, legumes, grains, cereals, wood pulp and leaves, which are able to reduce cholesterol absorption from the small intestine into the bloodstream. If you have high blood cholesterol, you may want to use such a product, though you need to consume 20 to 25 grams per day for the maximum effect.

As soon as the fat content of margarine drops below 80 gram per 100 grams, it cannot technically be called “margarine”. This is why the word “margarine” does not appear on labels for spreads that are fat-reduced. These are the healthiest options if you are trying to reduce your total fat and kilojoule intake.

If you are trying to lower your salt intake, check the sodium column on the nutrition information panel and aim for less than 400 milligrams per 100grams.

Cholesterol and saturated fat

Although the debate rages about the potency of specific fats in raising blood cholesterol, most Australians consume too much saturated fat from animal products. Saturated fat from foods and drinks gets manufactured in your body into low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol, which then appears in your blood.

Excess LDL cholesterol that cannot be cleared by the liver ends up lining your artery walls. This makes your blood vessels hard and inflexible and they gradually become blocked. From there, it is just a matter of time before the blockage triggers a heart attack or stroke.

Saturated fat is a solid at room temperature and is the predominate fat found in the white fat in meat and dairy products, including milk, cheese, cream and butter.

Replacing butter for a spread that has a lower level of saturated fat is not the only change that can help lower your total saturated fat intake. For many Australians, the majority of their saturated fat comes from full-fat dairy, foods processed using palm oil or coconut oil, fried and fatty takeaway food, and packaged biscuits, cakes, pastries and dips.

The healthier fats are monounsaturated (avocados, almonds, cashews, peanuts, cooking oils made from sunflower, canola, soybean, olive, sesame and peanut) and polyunsaturated (omega-6 fats from sesame seed, margarine, linseed or flaxseed, sunflower and safflower oil, pine nuts and brazil nuts; omega-3 fats from walnuts, linseed and oily fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines and blue mackerel).

The one exception is trans fat. Technically it is an unsaturated fat. However, chemically it behaves exactly like saturated fat and increases LDL cholesterol. The problem is that trans fat also lowers HDL, the “good” cholesterol that carries circulating LDL back to the liver rather than it being deposited on artery walls.

In Australia, trans fat levels in spreads are among the lowest in the world. While most nutrition information panels indicate trans fat content of spreads, companies currently do not have to report it. When the nutrition information panel does not report trans fats, check the ingredients list for hydrogenated oil and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, from which trans fats are derived.

No matter what the type of fat, they all have the same kilojoule value of 37kJ per gram. So, whether you opt for butter, margarine, a fat spread, nothing, or perhaps some avocado, hummus or tahini paste, keep an eye on the total saturated plus trans fat, and the kilojoules. And overall, try to choose foods that have a better fat quality.

Clare Collins, University of Newcastle, is currently supported by an NHMRC Career Development Fellowship.

Article by The Conversation

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sweet cheese pastry (knafeh) recipe

The Arabic Food Recipes Kitchen (The home of Delicious Arabic Food) invites you to try Sweet cheese pastry (knafeh) Recipe. Enjoy the Arabic cuisine and learn how to make Sweet cheese pastry (knafeh). 

Popular throughout the Levant, this syrup-soaked cheese dessert is commonly encased with kataifi pastry, but this recipe from Sydney's modern Lebanese restaurant Embers Mezze Bar uses a crushed Corn Flakes and semolina mixture instead. The golden crust, topped with rose petals and pistachios, barely contains the molten cheese centre.

Serves 20
Preparation 30min
Cooking 1hr
Skill level Mid

Charles Fisher


160 g unsalted butter, melted
440 g Corn Flakes, finely crushed
4¼ cups milk
110 g (½ cup) caster sugar
90 g (¾ cup) fine semolina
600 ml thickened cream
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp rosewater (see Note)
500 g mozzarella, coarsely grated
rose petals (dried) (see Note) and pistachios, to serve

Ater (sugar syrup)

440 g (2 cups) caster sugar
½ tsp lemon juice
½ tsp rosewater (see Note)

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Chilling time overnight

You will need a 24 cm x 34 cm x 4 cm tray for this recipe.

Place melted butter and Corn Flakes in a bowl, mixing with your hands to combine and completely coat cereal. Press half the mixture evenly onto the base of a 24 cm x 34 cm x 4 cm tray. Refrigerate until needed.

Place milk, sugar, semolina and cream in a large saucepan. Dissolve cornflour in 1 tablespoon of warm water and add to saucepan. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 12 minutes or until very thick. Remove from heat and stir through rosewater. Allow to cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Spoon half of the semolina mixture over Corn Flake base, then scatter over mozzarella. Cover with remaining semolina mixture, then scatter over remaining Corn Flake mixture.

Bake for 25 minutes or until mixture is just starting to bubble around the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely, then refrigerate overnight.

To make syrup, place sugar in a saucepan with 250 ml (1 cup) water over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 200ºC. Cut knafeh into 20 slices in pan, remove pieces with a palette knife and place on large oven trays. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese just starts to ooze from the sides. Drizzle with syrup and scatter with rose petals and pistachios. Serve immediately.


• Rosewater, from Middle Eastern food shops, delis and select supermarkets, is a musky flavouring that is made by distilling rose petals.

• Rose petals (dried) are from specialist and Middle Eastern food shops.

Photography by Chris Chen. Food preparation by Phoebe Wood. Food styling by Justine Poole.


Recipes related to Sweet cheese pastry (knafeh):

Knafeh | Knafeh | Baklava tarts with berries | Easy Baklava Recipe | Baklava | Pistachio Hazelnut Baklava | Baklava with honey syrup

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Baklava tarts with berries recipe

The Arabic Food Recipes Kitchen (The home of Delicious Arabic Food) invites you to try Baklava tarts with berries Recipe. Enjoy the Arabic cuisine and learn how to make Baklava tarts with berries. 

Get the best of both worlds with the sweet combination of sweet tarts and baklava.

To Prep 0:50   
To Cook 0:15

delicious. - December 2008 , Page 90
Recipe by Valli Little
Photography by Brett Stevens


80g walnuts, toasted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 loosely packed cup (80g) brown sugar
12 sheets frozen filo pastry, thawed
100g unsalted butter, melted
1 cup (280g) thick Greek-style yoghurt
1 cup (240g) sour cream
2 x 125g punnets raspberries
Icing sugar, to dust
Honey, to drizzle


Step 1
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease six 12cm loose-bottomed tart pans.

Step 2
Pulse nuts, spices and brown sugar in a food processor to finely chop.

Step 3
Lay 1 filo sheet on the bench (keep the remaining filo covered with a damp tea towel as you work). Brush with a little butter and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons nut mixture. Lay another filo sheet on top, repeat with butter and nut mixture. Fold in half to form a 24cm square, trimming edges if needed. Brush top with butter. Push pastry into a tart pan, then fold edges, crimping and folding to form a 1.5cm-wide rim. Brush with more butter, then cover with a damp tea towel while you repeat with remaining filo, butter and nuts to make 6 tarts. Place on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool in pans.

Step 4
Turn out tart cases and place on plates. Combine yoghurt and cream, then spoon into the tarts. Top with berries, dust with icing sugar, drizzle with honey and serve.

Recipes related to Baklava tarts with berries:
Pistachio Hazelnut Baklava | Easy Baklava Recipe | Baklava with honey syrup | Baklava Cups | How to make best Algerian baklava | Knafeh | Knafeh Dough

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Spicy Dahlia chips recipe

Spicy Dahlia chips recipe

The Arabic Food Recipes Kitchen (The home of Delicious Arabic Food) invites you to try Spicy Dahlia chips Recipe. Enjoy the Arabic cuisine and learn how to make Spicy Dahlia chips.

Frozen French fries never tasted so good. Fried then finished with Lebanese spices with an added kick from Aleppo pepper, you’ll never look at tomato sauce the same way again.  

Serves 4
Preparation 5min
Cooking 5min
Skill level Mid

Shane Delia



vegetable oil, for deep-frying
500 g store-bought French fries
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
50 g flaked almonds, toasted
pinch of red Aleppo pepper
pinch of sumac
pinch of ground coriander
1 lemon, juiced
15 sprigs coriander, torn
salt, to taste


Cook's notes  

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Heat the oil in a deep fryer or deep saucepan to 180˚C. Cook the fries for 3–5 minutes or until golden.  
Meanwhile, place a large frying pan over medium—high heat. Add the oil and garlic and cook for 2 minutes until aromatic. Add the flaked almonds and cook for 1 minute, then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the fries directly from the hot oil into the frying pan. Add the remaining ingredients and toss really well to ensure all the seasonings are well dispersed.  

Transfer the fries to a serving dish and serve immediately.  


Recipes related to Spicy Dahlia chips:

Muttabel with Za'atar-Spiced Pita Bread | Manakish Recipe | Lebanese Olive PizzaCrispy Falafel with Yogurt Dip | Falafel Pita with Tahini Sauce | Labneh Recipe

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Easy Tomato Cucumber Hummus Snack Recipe

The Arabic Food Recipes Kitchen (The home of Delicious Arabic Food) invites you to try  Easy Tomato Cucumber Hummus Snack Recipe. Enjoy the Arabic cuisine and learn how to make Easy Tomato Cucumber Hummus Snack.

Yield 1-2 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Start to finish: 15 minutes


hummus (about 1-2 tablespoons per piece of toast)
cucumbers, thinly sliced
tomatoes, thinly sliced
basil, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
optional: a few pinches of dill


  1. Spread hummus on toasted bread, top with sliced cucumbers and/or tomatoes, and chopped basil.
  2. Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. If desired, sprinkled with dill.
  4. Enjoy!
Recipes related to Easy Tomato Cucumber Hummus Snack:

Fattet Hummus (Chickpeas with Pita and Spiced Yogurt) | Lamb, tabouli and hummus wrap | Hummus Ma Lahma | Extra-Creamy Hummus | Grilled Veggie Hummus Wrap | Spicy Hummus: Quick Chickpea Spread

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