I tinkered with the title of this article for a while, considering trinkets such as “detox deschmox” or “cleanliness is next to boredom” or “carpe diem: vita est pro victus” (meaning life is for living and a motto of the Greeks oft quoted in relation to matters of gastronomy). I intend to carp on about the need to purge your body of toxins and how to do it in such a way that you don’t find yourself wishing you were wearing a noose for a necktie. Dietary restraint has proven easier this year than in previous years, owing to the accumulation of “everything-free” recipes that don’t taste like you’re eating something swept off the floor of a rabbit hutch.
Years ago at the tender age of 24 I bore an ankle injury that dogged me for months. It was sustained through running platters across Armadi’s polished floors in the hallowed glint and sheen of La Belle Epoque in Chelsea over the Christmas holidays. To this day I have no medicinal or scientific explanation as to why it persisted or how it was that a detox rid me of the pain, but that was how I slayed the beast: the grape cure. Anybody who has eaten Muscat grapes will know they are virtually a meal in themselves. Ok who am I kidding, of course they’re not, but the mind is a remarkable tool and a man sentenced to a grape diet will convince himself he is feasting on a fillet steak as he pops each fruity morsel in to his mouth. However we should not understimate the importance of these incredible berries and their curative values. For ten days I ate nothing but muscat grapes and drank nothing but water. The effects were incredible. The first thing to come back to you in all its glory is your sense of smell, which in London is not exactly what any sane man would wish for. You can smell the pollution haze, the dog foul, the rancid cheap perfumes, the claggy armpit stench of fellow commuters, the waft of mustiness and rodent essence that permeates tube tunnels, the sickly stickiness of the pavements. So that was pleasant. You then notice other changes which it just wouldn’t do to discuss but suffice it to say that the cure has an amazing ability to rebalance your entire system. Whether or not I needed to last the entire ten days I couldn’t really say; the main thing was that I had my ankle back, restored to its former glory, and was no longer a depressive wreck. Admittedly it was tough. There were times when I would stand at the fridge just looking. Salivating. Dreaming. I became a master of culinary daydreams and during that time concocted some of what are still my favourite dishes, including a club sandwich with fried eggs, smoked bacon, basil, vine tomatoes, tabasco and dressed cos that works every time. Whilst a grape cure might be too extreme for a lot of people, a good detox featuring grapes heavily can have profound health benefits. This year the month long detox means simply excluding red meat, wheat, alcohol and dairy.
The dish I am about to describe came about as a result of a desire to eat noodles without eating meat or wheat, and a need to cook something fast, filling and delicious. You will need salmon steaks, rice noodles – preferably fresh, green beans, garlic, ginger, red chilli, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, nam pla – fish sauce, sesame seeds, cashew nuts, fresh coriander – cilantro, lime juice and toasted sesame oil. Top and tail the green beans and cut them in half. Slice the steaks in to 1/4 inch strips. Heat 2 tbsps of the oil over a medium heat and throw in finely chopped garlic, ginger, chilli, green beans and chopped cashews and fry for 2 minutes with a good splash of the sauces. Fry the salmon strips in with the ingredients, taking care not to let them break up, and adding enough of the sauces to keep the mix moist. Add the noodles and a tablespoon of sesame seeds and stir all the ingredients through, again adding sauces to flavour. Finally squeeze in the juice of a lime and throw in the chopped coriander and give one last mix before serving. When detox tastes this good who needs saturated fats, cholestrol and carbs?