Professor Jane Plant, a pioneering scientist and remarkable woman, died in March of this year.
I had not heard of Jane Plant until last year, when a relative who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer recommended that I should read her book Prostate Cancer – Understand, Prevent, Overcome.
Jane Plant was a geochemist by profession, whose personal circumstances ended up taking her in an unexpected direction: researching the impact of diet on human health.
The implications of her research were, and are, revelatory.
Back in 1993, at the age of 42, Jane Plant was diagnosed with breast cancer for a fifth time and was told that she had just a matter of months to live.
With little time and a mounting sense of urgency, Jane applied her scientific mind to a review of all available research into breast cancer and its causes. Up until this time there had been plenty of research into the possible causes of breast cancer, but little attempt to link those various strands of research together.
Eventually, she discovered an interesting anomaly. Women in China and other parts of the far east had a 1 in 100,000 chance of developing breast cancer, whilst in the Western world the chances were over 100 times higher. She also discovered that Chinese women living outside China in (then) more affluent parts of the world, such as the UK and Singapore had almost the same chance of developing breast cancer as other women in the Western world. This suggested it was environment rather than genetics that increased the chances of developing cancer.
Drilling deeper, Jane Plant then looked at the components of the typical Chinese diet, considering for example whether soy consumption provided protection against breast cancer. Eventually, she had a “eureka” moment: Chinese women did not eat dairy products.
On the basis of her discovery, Jane Plant immediately took up a vegan diet alongside other lifestyle adjustments (she did not, however, renounce “conventional” treatment, and also went through a programme of chemotherapy and radiotherapy).
To her astonishment, and that of the doctors who had been treating her, the cancer had disappeared completely within 6 weeks of her change of diet.
Years later, however, the breast cancer returned. At the time, Jane had started to feel confident enough to relax her strict dietary regime and had gone back to eating dairy products.
In total, Jane Plant survived breast cancer 8 times. It was not breast cancer that killed her in the end.
I am pleased to report that following radiotherapy treatment and converting to veganism my relative has made a full and remarkable recovery.
Jane Plant is, or rather was, a brilliant scientist who was also blessed with the ability to explain the complex in a way that made it understandable, and I would recommend her books Prostate Cancer: Understand, Prevent and Overcome and The No-Dairy Breast Cancer Prevention Program to anyone who has a strong interest in the impact of diet on health.
On to the recipe, which I have created in association with Suma Wholefoods Cooperative. Under the terms of our arrangement, I select products from the Suma Wholefoods range which Suma provide free of charge. From these I create an original recipe which appears on the Suma website as well here, on the Circus Gardener’s Kitchen.
These lovely individual pear tart tatins, accompanied by cinnamon flavoured ice cream, make a great vegan, and far less heavy, alternative to Christmas pudding.
You could use powdered cinnamon in the ice cream as a short cut, but I find that using freshly crushed cinnamon gives a richer, woodier and spicier flavour, perfect against the delicate sweetness of the pear.
individual pear tatins with cinnamon ice cream
for the ice cream
1 400 ml can organic coconut milk
1 160 ml can organic coconut cream (liquid not solid form)
1 cinnamon stick, bashed to a powder in a pestle and mortar (equivalent to 2 generous tsp ground cinnamon)
60 ml coconut blossom syrup
for the tatins
1. Place the crushed cinnamon in a saucepan with the coconut milk, coconut cream and coconut flower syrup. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat, then remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes then pour the chilled ice cream mixture into an ice cream maker, giving it a quick whisk first, and churn. Once it is starting to set, tip the ice cream out into a freezer proof container. Cover the container with a lid and freeze for at least 4 hours. Remove the ice cream from the freezer and leave to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.
3. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F, gas mark 6). Roll out the puff pastry to a thickness of about 3mm and then divide this sheet of pastry into four roughly even pieces. Peel and halve the pears. Lay each pear half cut side down and then mold one of the pastry sheets around it. Trim any excess pastry from the edges.
4. Have to hand a shallow metal baking tray. Place the 100 ml coconut flower syrup and the coconut oil in a pan over a low heat. Whisk until the coconut oil has melted and combined with the syrup, then remove from the heat and pour into the baking sheet, making sure it is evenly distributed.
4. Carefully place the pear tatins on top of the syrup mixture in the baking tray. With a thin bladed sharp knife poke a couple of slits in the pastry shell of each tatin. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, or until the pastry has turned golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and immediately but carefully lift the individual tatins from the baking sheet with a metal slice and place on individual plates, pear side up. Serve while still warm, with a scoop of the cinnamon ice cream.