Cardiologist’s Kitchen Workshop #1

When Cardiologist’s Kitchen put forward its Health Foundation application, it stated that it would run patient workshops at Neston Park Farm & Kitchen to engage patients with professionals and good, healthy food. 

Neston head chef Steve Mercer cooked a fabulous 2-course meal for guests, and after a brief interlude by Ali Khavandi and Mary Fifield, there were some indroductions for myself, nurses in Cardiac Rehabilitation and the CardioFITr team (more on these guys in the future), as well as local food producers Fussels, and Fresh Range, whose ingredients made up some of the food.

The workshop wasn’t about us, however; it was a patient-centred event, so the real stars of the evening came in the form of the service users themselves. A select few were gracious enough to share their stories regarding the improvements that Cardiologist’s Kitchen had made to their lives. One had lost a considerable amount of weight and thus, could do normal, everyday things that she had previously found difficult as a result of her (now greatly improved) angina, another was part of the CardioFITr programme, which, run by healthcare professionals and in conjunction with Cardiologist’s Kitchen, uses evidence-based science and medicine to improve physical fitness and promote a continued change in lifestyle. He too, had seen a considerable and positive reduction in weight and blood pressure, and was almost ready to cease his medication for the latter. This is a particularly palpable achievement for the scheme, and proves it actually supports patients to persevere.

A 2010 paper by Curtis Triplitt of The University of Texas titled Improving Treatment Success Rates for Type 2 Diabetes cites clinical inertia as the biggest barrier to treating the condition, so by beginning to see positive results in this manner, initiatives like this really do matter with regards to health and wellbeing. It’s long been known that diet and exercise have a massive impact on health, but anyone who’s struggled with dieting, knows that support is one of the most important factors in sticking to whatever regime one is using to better their health.

As I chatted to patients and heard their stories, I became aware of just how thankful they were for Cardiologist’s Kitchen, and the positive impact it was having on their lives. Many of them had been rushed to the Catheterization Laboratory with a suspected infarct, and regardless of the findings had assumed their lives were irrevocably altered. The advice and specific support given by CardioKit meant they were now turning a corner and seeing measurable changes in their own health. The best part was knowing that they had essentially been encouraged to do it themselves with their own willpower. 

Cardiologist’s Kitchen can be found on TwitterFacebookInstagram and the web.


Review: The Bunch of Grapes

14 Silver Street
BRADFORD ON AVON
BA15 1JY
To book, call 01225 938 088

Price: Lunch £20 (3 courses), Dinner £6.50-£18.50

I (probably) know exactly what you’re thinking; “why is a a cardiology website reviewing a restaurant?”

The reasons are three-fold: firstly, before I began this career, I was a professional chef, and as such, I know my way around food and kitchens. Secondly, The Bunch of Grapes features a menu developed in part by Ali Khavandi, the man behind Cardiologist’s Kitchen, and finally, I was invited to an evening hosted by Ali himself and project manager Mary, and we ate some of the food, so it seemed entirely appropriate.

I’ve always had a lot of love for Bradford on Avon. It looks like the generic description of a town in this country that you’d receive if you were to ask an American to describe “England-but-not-Central-London” – picturesque, quaint, cobbled, Downton Abbey, etcetera. Its subtle gentrification has given rise to a few more shops with the word “craft” in the name, but it isn’t a detriment to the town, and I didn’t see pulled pork on any menu as I wandered around. In fact, this shift has kick-started the local economy, and allowed middle-to-high end gastropubs like The Bunch of Grapes to open.

The eatery sits at the end of a terraced row, and looks rather unassuming from the outside. Once through the doors, however, oak furniture leads you past the deceptively wide casual dining/drinking area, and into the bar.

Now, if you’ve ever been to an establishment that serves both Butcombe Bitter and duck confit (read: gastropub), you’ll know two things are an absolute certainty:

1) Refreshments are the usual fayre, encompassing local ciders, lagers, ales and fancy-looking soft drinks (if you’ve ever tasted an “artisanal” cola, you’ll be well aware that they’re not bad, but they aren’t normally any better than the usual suspects). There isn’t a huge selection of each, but all are reasonably priced and work well with the surroundings and menu.

2) The bar area is found before the more formal dining room, which features smaller, more intimate tables and is far enough away that one can avoid the loud, busy Friday and Saturday evening drinkers.

Both of these things are true here, but The Bunch of Grapes still has a certain individuality to it.

The restaurant offers two main types of menu, one that presents as a kind of upmarket but classic pub food list, and another, more refined selection that seemingly draws more influence from French cuisine. There exists a third nestled in amongst them, however: the CardioKit menu. Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Ali Khavandi and head chef Steve Carss have joined forces to create a professionally cooked, heart-healthy range of dishes for patrons. Dishes which I was invited to sample.

First up, the whole roast poussin. It arrived on a heavy, ceramic plate (not a wooden board, thank heavens), and despite having a rather downplayed menu description, was something of a delight! Liberally doused in apple and wholegrain mustard during cooking, and stuffed with whole sprigs of rosemary, the slow roasting process meant that not only was it incredibly tender, but the flavour of both the baste and the rosemary permeated through the wonderfully textured skin and the soft meat. The accompanying mixed leaves and ash roasted leeks were a more underwhelming by comparison, but they weren’t a bad thing by any stretch. Besides which, they were never really going to be the star of the dish. Both elements combined didn’t quite sate my hunger as I wished, and could have done with a starch to accompany them, but it didn’t detract from what was there.

Whole chicken picked clean, dessert was served, and it was another knockout. Indulgence and healthy don’t usually go together when dining out, so it was a refreshing change to be presented with just that. A sweet, roasted half peach served on a just-bitter-enough berry compote. On top of that was a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and a smattering of cress, because healthy eating is boring without something that feels a lot naughtier than it actually is.

In all honesty, it’s just nice to eat a dessert in a gastropub that isn’t cheesecake, or something that’s been baked in the same ceramic bowl that you eat it from. The peach had a lovely crunch to it, and given that the rest of the dish effectively existed as a cold sauce, it summed up both courses; this was an exploration of textures as much as it was of healthy flavours.

I didn’t know what to expect from the CardioKit menu items, to be completely truthful, as I doubted how versatile it was possible to be to justify charging restaurant prices for healthy food, but I was (and still am) happy to be proved misguided. I worked in kitchens that revelled in being an unhealthy treat, but I almost find myself regretting not having brought something like this to customers myself. As a result, I’ll be championing The Bunch of Grapes and Cardiologist’s Kitchen, and I’ll be back to taste the rest of the menu.

Oh, and CardioKit patients get 50% off their food, so there’s no excuse for those in the South West not to visit.

For more information abut both The Bunch of Grapes and Cardiologist’s Kitchen, visit their websites:

cardiologistskitchen.com

thebunchofgrapes.com

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Cardiologist’s Kitchen

Barely a month goes by without a national newspaper displaying words like “science says _________ is bad for your health”.

Daily_Mail_24_1_2017
Don’t get me started…

I concede that *some* of these headlines might be correct, but it’s worth taking them with a pinch of salt, if you’ll pardon the pun; firstly, “science” isn’t an all-powerful being that performs every possible study single-handedly, so it’s difficult to know exactly who has put forth the particular claim and how many people through whom the information has passed before it gets to the news media, and secondly, “science says…” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s double-blind, peer-reviewed, evidence-based or ethically funded, so between the debunked results of Andrew Wakefield’s infamous autism/ MMR study and big pharmaceutical companies potentially protecting their interests by omitting unfavourable study data, it isn’t a great idea to believe that eating bacon causes your lips to fall off, simply because the junior science editor for The Daily Express tells you it does.

What, then, do you believe? Nobody wants to find themselves being brought into a Cath Lab, and they don’t want the uncertainty that comes with not knowing whether the food that they’re eating is going to help put them in that position. This is where Cardiologist’s Kitchen comes in; Consultant Interventional Cardiologist Ali Khavandi would rather intervene well before you’re being consented for an invasive procedure, and addresses issues with cholesterol, weight, blood pressure and diet by way of a pre-emptive strike using evidence-based dietary and lifestyle changes.

alikhavandi
Cooking Cardiologist, Ali Khavandi

Not unlike this site, the initiative began as a humble health-based blog in 2015, featuring advice and recipes, and was borne through personal, clinical experience. Khavandi’s passion for both cardiology and cooking pushed him to create a resource, and seek a wider market using the same mechanisms employed by the media and the food industry, but using an evidenced basis in cardiovascular wellbeing. The Health Foundation has since granted the Cardiologist’s Kitchen project an award that has allowed the trial of this innovative approach to healthcare to really take off!

Currently, Cardiologist’s Kitchen has partners in GP surgeries, a restaurant and various South West England food suppliers that combine to make conduit for the project’s entire message. Despite still being in relative infancy, Cardiologist’s Kitchen has made headway, and continues to open up avenues via which to get the message out there.

CardioKit

Patients with new or existing high blood pressure can get a CardioKit pack at affiliated GPs. I got one to sample, which contained some money off vouchers, health advice and information about the project. In addition, The Bunch of Grapes gastropub, found in Bradford on Avon, just outside Bath, offers some menu heart-healthy menu items devised by both Ali Khavandi and head chef Steve Carss (I’ve sampled some of these too; they’re delicious).

Chinese Chicken
The recipe for this Chinese chicken and more, is available on the Cardiologist’s Kitchen website 

The website is the real central feature of the initiative, with healthy recipes, incentives for transforming your attitude to heart health, and evidence-based discussion on food fact, cutting through scaremongering in the bad science which can sometimes surround food.

CardioKitTeam

Rather marvellously, it encourages the use of local suppliers by offering deals and home delivery on their seasonal produce. They’re also in the process of developing ready  meals specifically designed to improve cardiovascular health.

By using CardioKit, the aim is to lessen the need for medication, and support local business as well as your own heart. If you’re reading this, and it applies to you as a patient, then I urge you to have a look. If you’re a practitioner, definitely do the same, and get in contact with the CardioKit team to see how you can get involved.

For more on Cardiologist’s Kitchen, visit their website at: cardiologistskitchen.com

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Inspired by the advice presented on Cardiologist’s Kitchen, I made a rather lovely Jamaican beef curry, the (really easy) recipe for which I will share here:

250g lean diced beef

4 banana shallots, thinly sliced

1 x jalapeno chili, diced. (Leave the seeds in if you’re a daredevil)

1 x carrot, peeled and chopped

1 x small sweet potato, peeled and diced

1/2 mango, diced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 box passata

1 tbsp. jerk paste (jerk seasoning will do fine, but add 2 tbsp.)

1tbsp garlic granules 

1 tsp. tomato puree

100ml chicken stock

Greek yoghurt

Flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Rice, any kind, and enough to feed 2 people

With a little oil, brown the beef until sealed sufficiently. Add the shallots, sweet potato, and sliced garlic, and cook for another few minutes. Throw in all of the other ingredients and reduce heat. Simmer for 60 mins, or until the beef is tender, and use this time to cook your rice. Serve with some chopped parsley and a dollop of yoghurt.

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