A few years back, 16 actually, after I had my first child I recall being brought home and fussed over by my mam and my granny. They put so much effort and thought into making sure I was comfortable and relaxed. I came home and got into bed and was told I had to stay there for 12 days. They assured me that they were there to help, to cook and clean and look after my new born baby. I was to be pampered but I don’t think I even knew that word back then. This was unfamiliar territory for me, a new experience and though I was unfamiliar with this kind of care and attention I knew I liked it! In Mauritius the older women enforced full bed rest after childbirth. I can hear the silent sigh from all the mothers out there as they read this. Unfortunately this kind of care for new mothers is not practiced everywhere, I know, I had 3 more in Ireland. I’ll say no more than that!
Let me tell you a little more about the care I so gratefully received. On my bedside locker there was a thermos flask of fennel tea that I was to drink everyday instead of water. They said this was to help with the healing of my womb and to aid digestion preventing constipation. Constipation after childbirth is not a good thing. Every day for 12 days I received a hot massage with coconut or mustard oil. They told me this was to bring heat to my body to speed up recovery. 3 times a day a fire was built to heat a bundle of cloths to apply to my tummy and other parts. My goodness I was so well looked after and pampered. I felt like the most important person in the world. On the 6th and 12th day a group of women, sisters, cousins and aunties would gather to celebrate a ‘Bath’. This involved, I believe, boiling 7 different kinds of leaves for hours in the water I was to bath in. After the bathing there was a feast prepared for me and the whole family to celebrate. There was whiskey, wine and our local rum. Some of the dishes prepared would include lentils, fish, meat, pharatas and my favourite 7 leaves. 7 leaves included pumpkin leaves, spinach, watercress among others. The 7 leaves were sautéed with onions, garlic and chilli. I don’t know the history or myths behind these treatments but I do know that everything was done to look after a new mother after childbirth. The food was so nutritious, it was rich in protein and fibre. However this culture and these treatments started it is clear that somebody sometime knew something. We often disregard or even forget old knowledge as old fashioned but I think we disregard the wisdom of our elders at our own peril. The same culture of using herbs and food for healing and medicinal purposes was evident in my childhood home.
My mother would make mint and fennel tea for herself or my Dad to cure stomach cramps. I continue this little tradition at home today. Fennel and mint are both very helpful to the digestive system, studying nutrition today makes clear to me what my elders with little education knew for generations. Perhaps we run to the pharmacy to quickly these days when a homemade cure that our elders would have made, a ‘la tisan’, would do just as good for minor ailments. I hope I can continue at least some of these traditions that I was brought up with.
In this Fennel Pork Loin Steak I have used some fennel seeds, obviously. I believe we can make a big difference by just adding a little of the healthy components to our food everyday. I used my George Foreman grill to cook the meat which again is a little improvement over frying. I used fennel because it goes well with pork and because fennel aids digestion. I like to pick my ingredients carefully considering diet and mood. On that day I felt fennel’y.
A little more on the health benefits of fennel seeds. They contain numerous flavonoid anti-oxidants like kaempferol and quercetin. These compounds function as powerful anti-oxidants by removing harmful free radicals from the body thus offering a level of protection from cancers, infection, aging, degenerative and neurological diseases. Fennel seeds are a good source of dietary fibre. 100g of seeds provides 39.8g of fibre. If you are not familiar with fennel seeds they have a mild liquorice flavour. You can use them in sweet or savoury dishes and tea of course. To make fennel tea simply add hot water to about 1 tea spoon of fennel seeds per cup. Cover and let it steep and rest for about ten minutes. Make sure not to boil the seeds as this can kill the majority of the nutrient value.
Cooking and eating healthy is not impossible if you plan it and make it happen. In less than 30 minutes you can have this meal ready with some baby potatoes in the microwave for 10 minutes and broccoli in the steamer at the same time. A simple homemade marinade with fennel seeds, ginger and garlic can make a big difference to a piece of meat but you have to educate yourself on how you can cook with simple ingredients and seasonal produce. Have you any family ‘tisan’ using any herbs or spices? We could all benefit from hearing about it. Spread the word don’t keep it to yourself. You can comment below or send me an email and I will make sure to post it on my social media.
Grilled Fennel Pork Loin
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Number of servings: 4
4 slices of pork loin
2 cloves of garlic
1 inch ginger
1 tea spoon fennel seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
- Grind the fennel in mortar and pestle. It doesn't have to be too fine. Add the ginger and garlic to the fennel and crush all together to make a paste. Add salt and pepper to the crushed fennel mixture.
- Rub the mixture to the pork loin. You can rest the meat in the fridge overnight or for a few hours before cooking it or just grill straightaway using a George Foreman grill for between 5-8 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat.
- Rest for about 1 minutes before you cut through otherwise you are going to lose all the juices from the meat.