Sunday, 30 October 2011

Dogs Benefit from Good Diet too.

I inherited an in-bred dog.  Anyone who knows anything about dogs, pure bred or otherwise will agree that in-breeding causes huge problems to the health and well-being of the animal.  In fact, now there is a drive away from breeding pure lines and other breeds are being introduced to Pugs and King Charles spaniels among others.  The dog I inherited is an English Bull Terrier. He is the dog that was in the original Oliver movie.  He looks terrifying and is always mistaken for a Pit Bull.  Actually a Pit Bull is not half as challenged in the beauty stakes.  He was bought as a pup with all his papers for €1000.  If the person buying the dog had done any research or even looked at his "pedigree" he would have realised he was buying " a pig in a poke".  His grandmother on his maternal side is his great-grandmother on his paternal side for starters.

He is the most gentle, loving dog and in fact goes out of his way to avoid confrontation.  He is a terrific guard dog in that he has a big deep bark.  The fact that he can't be bothered to get out of his bed while barking, lying on his side, is a deterrent?  Well, it is when he eventually gets out of his bed and appears at the garage door.

He started suffering with skin problems early on and then he started developing sore pads with bleeding ulcers between his toes.  His pads were cracked and infected and he had difficulty walking.  He is a clumsy dog and tends to head butt everything out of his way and I put down all the unhealed sores on his head to this.  However, as it went on, I got weary going to the vet and trying to treat all his problems myself with saline and sudocreme.  I started to trawl the internet to try and find out what was wrong with him.  There was lots of information but nothing really concrete until I stumbled upon a paper written by a Glasgow university vet.  In it he described my dogs symptoms and indeed recommended a treatment.  The condition was named as Lethal Acrodermatitis caused by an inability of the dog to metabolise zinc and thus his immune system is continually compromised. This is due to generations of in-breeding and is usually lethal.  Pups affected fail to thrive and usually die before 6 months.  The treatment was long term use of an antibiotic and a steroid.

The drug treatment was going to be really costly so I contacted a friend who lives in Greece and regularly rescues animals and has a good relationship with her vet.  She now posts me the steroid in a large quantity for peanuts in comparison to what it would cost here.  Even there the antibiotic is an outrageous price so I don't use it.  I decided to try and improve his diet first.

I did a lot of research and read on the internet that commercially produced dog food is full of preservatives, colouring and stabilisers.  So off I set to make his food myself.  I used rice, pasta, lentils, meat, fish and vegetables (everything excluding anything from the onion family as they are apparently toxic for dogs).  I used brown rice, wholemeal pasta and added different meats and fish and raw egg.  Dogs can also be given fruit!  I fed him like this for weeks and his skin started to improve dramatically and his sores started to heal.  When he has an outbreak now and is slow to heal I use the steroids for a week or two.  The change in his energy level was phenomenal and instead of his picking his way along beside me with sore feet, he now bombs off in front.  His whole gait has changed and is now chirpy and happy.  I then changed to a dried dog food called Burns which has no additives and I add some meat and veg to it.  So far he is still great and he has been on this diet now for over a year.  The Burns food is very expensive - it works out at in or around €60 for 15kg but it has saved me a fortune in vet bills. 

If ever there was a doubt that "you are what you eat" or in this case a dog is what he eats then this surely proves it.

Dog's Diet   English Bull Terrier  Lethal Acrodermatitis  Dog Food Recipes  Inbreeding in Dogs

Candied Peel

organic oranges and lemons
The stuff you buy in the shops is a travesty and how they manage to make something so bland from something so zingy and tasty is beyond me.  It is really easy to make your own and I have been doing it for years.  Last year I made loads and put it in pretty jars and gave to family and friends as an early Christmas present.  I squeeze oranges every morning for breakfast and to build up a supply of peel I save the orange shell and put in a plastic bag in the fridge.  I also make lemon and lime peel and just freeze the juice for later baking.


Candied Peel
Orange, lemon and lime peel
Sugar syrup made of 2:1 ratio sugar to water. (600g sugar : 300ml water)

When you have a decent quantity of peel, usually 7 oranges and 4 lemons and limes. Remove the skin of the orange or fruit removing most of pith (the soft white spongy stuff).  Put in a saucepan with a teaspoon of bread soda and water to just cover.  Bring to boil and simmer until the peel is tender.   Be careful as they will soften at different times. Just whip out the ones cooked first with a tongs.  Drain and cool.  Make up your sugar syrup by dissolving the sugar in the water and bringing to the boil.  Place the peel pieces in and lower heat to simmer until almost all of the sugar syrup has been absorbed.  Lift out your pieces of peel and place on a wire rack on top of a flat metal tray covered with foil or baking paper.  Place in a warm, dry place overnight until dry.  I put mine on top of stove and am waiting to see if it has a smoky taste but don't think it has.  Do not throw out the rest of your sugar syrup.  Next day re-heat syrup and dip peel into it and place back on rack for more drying.  When completely dry, store in jars in a warm,
dry place such as a hot press.

When you want to use it, just cut to size and add to mincemeat, puddings and fruit cakes.  The taste is spectacular and really noticeable in a Christmas cake in particular.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

My grandmother.

My grandmother was 75 when I was born and I was her 40th grandchild.  She had 12 children, the last my mother born when she was 47.  She was a passionate and knowledgeable cook.  She had to rear her children on the small Land Commission salary of my grandfather.  He used to grow a lot of their fruit and vegetables and also was a bee keeper.  My uncles used to go out hunting for rabbits and river trout and they kept hens, turkeys, geese and goats.  My grandmother only had primary school education but she was incredibly interested in food and nutrition and apparently used to read avidly in the local library.  She used to tell us about nutritional aspects of food that are really only being discussed now in media .  How she knew this stuff is a mystery to me and how she managed to get certain ingredients in the west of Ireland is even more surprising.
My uncles would shoot rabbits and my granny would make curry with them.  I asked my mother where she got spices or curry powder and even my mother doesn't know.  My mother used to tell us how she had to have freshly ground coffee (she said once it is ground it loses flavour - she was right). My mother was dispatched to the local grocer - Henaghans in Castlebar and the shop attendent would mumble and grumble as my grandmother would only buy it if he tramped up the stairs to grind it there and then.
She was very against peeling vegetables as the nutritional value was just under the skin.  She abhored anyone adding bicarbonate of soda while cooking cabbage to keep it green ( a very common practice when I was young).  She used to only steam vegetables never boil them.  She baked all their bread, including yeast bread.  I remember years ago, some sort of strike and bread was unavailable in shops.  My mother just rolled up her sleeves and produced bread far nicer than anything available in the shop.  My grandmother taught me how to knead bread, how to check if the yeast was active (in those days there was no such thing as dried yeast).  She probably wouldn't have used it anyway as she would have been suspicious of dreaded additives in it!  My grandfather used to take the train to Dublin to go to the Yeast Company to buy her fresh yeast.  She absolutely loved my first attempts to make pizza and tucked in with relish.  Everything that was new to her was an adventure and she was very cosmopolitan in her tastes.
My mother was also very open to trying new foods and I remember years ago going to Dunnes Stores in Cornelscourt, where peppers were on display and my mother picking them up and saying I wish I knew how to cook these...!!  It wasn't long before they were included in our weekly shopping.  My son laughs now when I tell him this, but when I moved back to rural Ireland from the UK where he was born, in the early 90's, it was a similar story.  I needed garlic and when I asked in the local shop had they any; they smiled delightedly and produced a wizened bulb and asked what I would use it for.  My sister-in-law was asked in the same shop when she bought a bottle of water "would she use it to make tea?"

My mother on the right with two of her sisters.

It is still to a certain extent, a similar story here.  The local supermarkets really only stock the basics - meat and two veg. and very often I have to go to Dublin or to one of the bigger towns to get "exotic" ingredients.  I know the owners of the local Supervalus and they say that they just can't shift anything unusual. They used to say they got fed up throwing out cheeses when the only one in demand was processed cheddar. This, I am glad to say has changed in the last few years. There is still so much ignorance about food however, just stand in any supermarket any day of the week and look at what people put in their trolley.  I am thankful that I had a great education in food from my grandmother born in 1888!!