Friday, August 19, 2016

Dental health month and a sample recipe

If Phil were a cake...thanks to Annabelle from My Little Panda Kitchen for these cupcakes which helped our team get through the day yesterday.
Its dental health month, which means my companion animal colleagues are all up to their armpits in canine and feline dentistry. During dental health month, routine dental work is discounted. It began as an initiative to increase awareness around dental disease in companion animals, and it’s been very successful in doing so. And that's a good thing.

A couple of decades ago, veterinary dentistry was pretty undeveloped. These days – thankfully – nerve blocks, dental radiographs and appropriate tools are the norm. And clients can see the difference in their pets. We’re starting to get owners presenting animals for bad breath, chewing on one side of the mouth or having a build-up of tartar. This week I even had a client who said to me before I could say a word, “I am fully aware that because cats live so much longer they need more dental work." 

Of course checking your own pet’s mouth is often not easy, especially if they happen to be a cat. Some cats are happy if you gently flip their lip. Mine are not. They’ve decided that if I need a nurse to assist me with animals at work, they’re certainly not going without the benefit of this at home (especially a certain Hero). If you're not sure about your own animals, ask your local vet. Many clinics perform free or discounted dental health checks during dental health month.

We anaesthetise our patients and perform pre, peri and post-operative pain relief so that they don’t experience anything like this, catchy song though it is (apologies to my dentist friends).

In other news, we’ve had a lot of interest in the VetCook Book so co-editor Asti May offered to share her healthy Kale Tabouleh recipe. Asti is a qualified veterinary nurse but also a chef. She is one of those people who can look in your cupboard, see a whole bunch of disparate things, and whip them up into some sort of gourmet meal. For those of us who lack that kitchen imagination, its pretty formidable.

If you’re keen to contribute please drop an email to vetcookbook [at] and we will send you the instructions.

Asti's Kale Tabouleh

vet cook book
Asti's kale tabouleh.
Preparation time: 30 – 45 mins
Serves 6 (well, depending on how hungry you are)

Salad Ingredients
1 bunch of kale
2 medium tomatoes
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch Thai mint
2 shallots
1 ½ Cups pearl cous cous
1 small red onion
Zest of 1 ½ Lemons

Dressing Ingredients
¾ Cup of plain unsweetened Greek yogurt
Juice of 2 lemons
½ Cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 Tb caster sugar
1 clove garlic smashed
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

To begin, we need to place some hot water on to boil for the pearl cous cous. Please follow the instructions on the packet. I like to add some olive oil into the water to help in separating the cous cous once cooked. Pearl cous cous could also be replaced with other smaller types of pasta, for example rissoni.
While you are preparing the rest of the salad the cous cous should be on the stovetop cooking. Once the cous cous is cooked, strain any water and rinse with cold water to cool, toss with olive oil and refrigerate.

Now to create your salad dressing, this can sit in the fridge and infuse overnight, and if there are any left overs it can be used for any future salads that need an extra zing! I like to make extra simply for this purpose. Before squeezing the lemons for juice, zest one and a half of the lemon rind and place aside to mix through the salad. To make dressing combine all ingredients into a jar with a lid and shake vigorously until mixed well. Store this in the sealed jar in the fridge.

Chopping is an opportunity to exercise mindfulness - just mind you don't chop your finger!

Now for the salad: Kale in all of its glory is not the tenderest leaf in the salad section so needs a little help in becoming satisfying to the bite and complimentary to all the other tasty ingredients we are about to put together. So this can be achieved in two ways: kale massage or quick blanching in hot salted water. Today we will massage the kale, kneading it as if it were pizza dough, this also brings out the intense green colour of the chlorophyll, so there is no doubt you are sharing not just a great dish, but a wonderfully healthy one [Ed. I like to imagine the kale is in a day spa and I am helping release the tension...].

Asti's kale tabouleh in progress.
Once the kale is massaged through, and feels more pliable, roll the leaves up tightly and finely slice at different angles making a kale coleslaw of the leaves. Place this in to a large mixing bowl. Finely slice the parsley and stalks, mint leaves, shallots and add to the kale mix. Finely dice the red onion and dice the tomatoes into small cubes. Toss all ingredients including the lemon zest put away from earlier.

Time to check that the cous cous has cooled down to fridge temperature, don’t mix the cous cous and kale until cooled as this will heat and wilt the salad! Once cool mix together and place in a sealed container in the fridge. In the morning you could take your salad, a serving bowl and nice loaf of bread into the clinic and share, or simply pack up a couple of small containers for you and that special colleague for a chat. Take the dressing in and let everyone dress their own.

Variations: Add in Capers (as seen in the pics below) or chickpeas instead of cous cous. I tend to go with whatever is conveniently available.