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Interview with 'PuurJackie'

jackieHealth & Beauty was fortunate enough to have Blogger, Health & Nutrition Consultant and Cook, Jackie, visit us for an interview. I had so many questions: What does she eat before a tough workout? What flavours does she combine? What high protein snacks does she consume? How does she get her fresh groceries, and still afford to "survive" on St. Maarten?

This knowledgeable chef exudes such positive energy and tends to show up from time to time with super delicious healthy treats. Jackie is also a fitness buff and can be seen doing Crossfit workouts on the beach, hiking trails, biking, swimming and remaining really active in general!

We quickly got into her becoming a vegetarian chef, and talking about why people who decide to give up meat or go without it for a while miss it. "We learned that people who eat meat miss "the bite"(the chew) the most, and something called umami. With vegetables, fruit and nuts, etc., it's not always easy to get the chew, the soft mashed stuff is not always enough to "satisfy" them.

Umami

Jackie explained that there are the four basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty and bitter but that umami is the fifth taste. The umami flavour comes from an amino acid, the main source of the taste of glutamate which occurs naturally in many foods including meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products, but more heavily in meat, fish and dairy products. "We (vegetarian/vegan chefs) use the process of fermentation to get the rich umami flavour." Examples of umami flavour can be comparable to old cheeses, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, tempeh, soy sauce and marmite. "That's what we use in vegetarian cooking to get meat-lovers to love vegetarian food," says Jackie.

Extra info about the discovery of Umami:

Umami was discovered by a Japanese scientist, Dr. Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University (now University of Tokyo) who undertook research to ascertain the true nature of the "deliciousness" found in the taste of Kombu(kelp). In 1908, Ikeda succeeded in extracting glutamate from kombu. He discovered that glutamate (or glutamic acid) was the main active ingredient in kombu and coined the term "umami" to describe its taste. He was sure that this taste was held in common by other foods that possessed a savoury flavour, including those used in Western meals such as tomatoes and meat, and, indeed, upon investigation it was discovered that these foodstuffs also contained umami. ( www.umamiinfo.com)

"Those who pay careful attention to their taste buds will discover in the complex flavour of asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat, a common and yet absolutely singular taste which cannot be called sweet or sour or salty or bitter..."- Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, Eighth International Congress of Applied Chemistry, Washington 1912

Flexitarians

The goal, especially in restaurants (if you are looking to make more money) is to cater to the recently termed "flexitarians." These are the growing number of persons who don't consume as much meat/meat products as before, for various reasons, whether they be ethical, environmental, but mostly for health reasons. Flexitarians do consume a lot more plant-based dishes, and a lot more vegetables. This growing number of the population consumes meat maybe two-three times a week. Many times when they are going out for a nice dinner, they would prefer to opt for a healthy AND tasty vegetarian or vegan dish from a bit of a selection. So, nope, just plain old salads won't do anymore, and people want the satisfaction and something different, knowing that they don't have to feel guilty about it.

When chefs can give people, whether they be vegetarian, vegan, flexitarians or just regular diners who want something new that satisfaction, all they have to do is make sure the "texture" (the bite) and the umami are there, that is the combination so that they don't miss the meat.

Jackie says of flexitarians: "This is the future, to cater to them."

She goes on to say, "I'd like to teach people how to cook without having to eat meat or fish, that it can also be so healthy and tasty. Vegetarians have less heart disease, lower blood-pressure, lower rates of diabetes, less fat on their bodies in general (if they are not living off the bad stuff like macaroni & cheese, pizza and chips). For health reasons such as antibiotics and hormones, people are turning vegetarian."

"It is very difficult to find a restaurant on St. Maarten with organic meat and fish" and it is also quite pricey. So this is why people are going flexitarian. In Europe, it's an already growing, known trend, such as "Meatless Mondays" for instance. When serving food, Jackie always watches nutrition; "calcium, protein, iron, vitamin B should be on the vegetarian/vegan plates. You can have all four elements in foods such as nuts, seeds, greens, quinoa, avocado and many more."

A food which is very popular in vegetarian and vegan cooking is Seitan. "It is used a lot in Chinese cooking; it's made out of gluten so, unfortunately, those who are gluten intolerance shouldn't consume it." You can purchase it readymade, or you can make it yourself, but it is a lot of work. Another tip that Jackie gave was about frying. If you must fry, do it in coconut oil, this is because of coconut oil's high smoke point, the oil won't be destroyed in the process.

When I asked Jackie about her favourite dishes to prepare that meat-eaters love, here's what she came up with:

-Portobello Mushrooms as a meat replacement (think steak). Jackie's talking about the large ones. The secret she says is to NOT wash the mushrooms (eew I thought) but she assured me to wipe off any remaining soil from the mushrooms with a kitchen towel or napkin, as washing them with water makes them shrink, and makes it harder for them to get firm. Marinate your Portobello Mushrooms with Tamari sauce, a bit of crushed garlic and oil, and anything else you would marinate your steaks/meats with, then grill. The grilling will also keep them firm and will give part of that meaty flavour. Enjoy on your plate with your veggies and starches like pasta, bread and potato.

-Leek Burgers sound delish if you've ever tasted leeks, they have a lovely heavy flavour (almost like meat or cheese).

You'll need:

- 3tbsp olive oil

- 200gr leeks cut into small rings

- 40gr unsalted cashew nuts

- 400gr lentils

- 40gr Parmesan cheese

- 1 egg

- 150gr breadcrumbs (for coating)

Sauté the leeks (cut in small rings) in a pan with olive oil for about 10 minutes until they are soft, then let cool. In the meantime, chop 40 grams of unsalted cashew nuts and mix them in a food processor with 200 grams of lentils, parmesan cheese and egg, and half of the breadcrumbs. Put everything in a bowl and mix in the leeks and the rest of the lentils. Let it sit in the fridge for about 20 minutes. You can then make small burgers (or meatballs) out of the mixture and bake them in a frying pan for about 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Want to know more about Jackie? Check out her Blog: www.puurjackie.com

Visit www.umamiinfo.com to learn more about umami.

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