Piled with zinc, a mineral known for its memory-enhancing attributes, pumpkin seeds are fun to play with.
In Mexico, where I often get inspiration for meals, pepitas aka the seeds are used prolifically in cooking.
Snack attack: empty a packet of pumpkin seeds into some olive oil, add salt, a pinch of ground cinnamon, ground coriander and cumin. Ratio of spice to seed is approx 1tbsp to 100g. Sizzle until golden. Taste and season accordingly. Eat as a snack or sprinkle over salads.
Easy butter: Seed butters are in, nut butters out. To make a pumpkin seed butter, pour a packet of seeds into a decent blender like a Nutribullet or Vitamix (not one which will explode from all the whizzing). Season. Add a little olive oil if you wish to help it along. Keep buzzing until it becomes a thick pate. Include in chocolate brownies or spread on toast.
A simple guacamole for your grey matter: Mash avocado, red onion, chilli and lime juice. Whizz the pumpkin seeds into a paste. Mix the paste into the avo. Taste, season with salt, garnish with coriander. Serve.
Eggs offer a wealth of nutrients linked to the cerebrum including vitamins B6 and B12, folate and choline which helps memory. In one study, reports showed those with more choline in their diet performed better in exams. Who knows … but an unequivocal bonus is that eggs – dubbed “nature’s multivitamin” – are delish.
Indian-style scrambled eggs: Fry some onions, add cumin seeds, ground coriander seeds. Or for a cheat, 1tsp garam masala or curry powder. For a veg boost, I pop in some sliced pepper (my preference is green), sometimes tomatoes. Saute until ready, then pour in two beaten eggs per person. Stir gently as it cooks and decorate with fresh coriander leaves and chilli.
Eggs in a cup: This is a winner for the gluten-free tribe. Root out your old ramekins from the back of the cupboard. You’ll need 1 x egg with 1tbsp creme fraiche per ramekin. Season. Now tinker with any of the following flavour combos: ham & spinach (wilt a packet of spinach in the pan first). Smoked salmon & dill. Gruyere cheese and black pepper. Brown shrimps and fennel. Or just a quality Cheddar will do. Oven onto 180C. Grease the ramekin. Mix the egg with your combination. Pour into the ramekins. Bake 15mins. Serve with salad (if gluten friendly, consider a hunk of sourdough).
Get the grey matter revved up with some of this spicy yellow powder. A study in the US has found a daily dose of curcumin from turmeric may not only prevent memory loss but improve it. It’s also hailed as an anti-inflammatory. Of course, you can take it as a shot as one does in LA, but why would you when it brings such pleasure to cooking?
For the marinade: Mix natural Greek yoghurt with cumin, garlic and ginger
Spices you can use: turmeric, ginger, cumin, garam masala, cloves
Additional ingredients: 1 tin of tomatoes and chicken thighs
Marinate the chicken either the night before or for 20mins minimum. Smear it and place in fridge.
The next day, over a gently heat, fry one finely chopped onion, 5 sliced garlic cloves, and the spices in a pan. Add the tomatoes, let it reduce for about ten minutes. Blend the mix and return to the pan. Season it with salt and pepper. Pour in a 200ml of thick cream if you wish (I would!). You may want to add 1tsp honey to balance out the acidity. Meanwhile sear the chicken. When cooked, mix with the sauce. Taste and season. A garnish could be fresh coriander and ginger. Serve.
One-Pot turmeric chickpea stew:
In a large frying pan, heat some coconut oil or veg oil. Add a base of onion, garlic, ginger finely sliced - feel free to omit any of them if they’re not in your larder. Cumin and sliced green chilli are options. Definitely add 1 red or yellow pepper, sliced. Drain a tin of chickpeas and pour in. Drizzle over a veg stock or coconut milk.
Grate in fresh peeled turmeric or use 2tsp ground turmeric powder.
Simmer for about 7-10minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Garnishes can be chopped mint, coriander and yogurt.
What makes oily fish beneficial is it contains the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, in a form that the body can easily use. And that dear reader, is key to optimising cognitive performance.
Saporous sprats: I adore sprats, they taste of holidays. I’m not sure if they’re available from the supermarket, they’re certainly rife in fishmongers. Very simply, roll them in flour and deep fry. Dampen in kitchen roll. Squeeze over lemon. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or with garlic mayo. Eat the whole fish and teleport yourself instantly to the sunny Med.
Oily fish, lemon and anchovy butter: Make the butter: Wash 30g anchovies, then puree them with a nudge of garlic and 60g unsalted butter. Add lemon juice and black pepper. Season. Serve on any grilled oily fish, from salmon to mackerel. Wilted greens alongside will bring happiness too.
The short-term effects on the brain are notable when eating these blue dynamos. Scientists found that blueberries for breakfast can have a positive effect on memory and concentration five hours later, most likely due to the swathes of antioxidants stimulating blood flow.
A flavourful salad: Mint and citrus are great flavour pairings with blueberries. Try this: rocket leaves, mint, goat’s cheese, blueberries, lime zest and juice, olive oil and seasoning.
For a smoothie, the following combos will dance: 1 knob ginger, peeled; seeds from 3 cardamom pod (shells removed); 1tsp dried lavender (if you have it in the garden). Flax seeds are a further ingredient linked to brain health which I throw into nearly all my smoothies.
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