Ultra-processed foods can be linked to early death, French and Spanish researchers have found. It's impossible to disagree with the fact that ultra-processed foods are bad, but the way they define ‘ultra-processed’ might be confusing. Apparently home-made bread is in the ‘processed foods’ category and anything that has more than five ingredients is ‘ultra-processed’.
I’m guessing their focus is on factory produced food, not home cooking though the homemade bread made me wonder – but they don’t make it clear. You could be forgiven for thinking that anything that’s been cooked is bad and only minimalist recipes are good which leads to idiotic conclusions: icing – brilliant! just sugar and water, and it’s not cooked. Mayo – we should all eat more of it! Plus the researchers only just mention on the side that people who eat overprocessed foods tend to smoke, eat too much and not exercise. Aren’t THOSE facts actually linked to early deaths rather than the diet alone?
In defiance, I’m going to suggest complex dishes that require cooking, baking or grilling (don’t worry, not too difficult) – let’s process some food for our weeknight dinners!
Half minced, half diced – that’s a creative meatball called pojarski. The recipe is for veal pojarski but at a push you could try chicken. Serve it with sautéed new potatoes: first boiled, then sautéed, that’s ultra-naughty!
The same happens in vegetable fried rice for your veggie dinner. Would the researchers recommend eating rice raw I wonder? In aubergine parmigiana you also need to cook the aubergine slices first, only to bake them again with sauce and all. Big ultra-processing.
For courgette and spinach tian the courgettes get marinated and the spinach blanched before baking the tian. Can’t quite imagine a good result throwing both into a dish without initial prepping. And what I call lemongrass fish and samphire salad might not be so according to the scientists: SALAD must be RAW I expect they say. Not always, I say.
What about salmon pâté? I thought naively it was a good use of leftover cooked salmon but it might be the ultra-thing. Eat your salmon raw because curing, fermenting and marinating is all processing too, so the beet cured gravadlax that you could make instead of the pâté will be linked to all kinds of horrors.
And don’t even think about ice cream, however gorgeous the weather – ice cream is EVIL. Both the divine very chocolate ice cream and the easiest in the world salted caramel no-churn. Though maybe the latter is not so bad as it only has three ingredients? But don’t load it in choux buns for ice cream sandwich – choux pastry is first boiled then baked. Ultra!
I should add a disclaimer: factory-produced, industrially processed foods, especially ready meals and the low fat but laden with sugar, salt and preservatives products, are to be avoided even in small portions. But cooking IS processing so a clear distinction should be made between meals you cook at home and TV dinners nuked in the microwave. If scientists oversimplify their findings it’s sure bound to confuse us ordinary people.