I love food and experimenting in the kitchen, making food healthier and tasty, is just something I enjoy, but even more than this I love to inspire others to get brave in the kitchen. It wasn’t always this way! The reason I use the word ‘brave’ is that many people are frightened of a failed product, and take great pains to follow the recipe to the letter, or even worse find the recipe is too difficult to follow and they never try at all, believing themselves a failure and unable to cook!
This was me! I used to look at the list of ingredients and get so confused I would not bother. It would be a hilariously funny notion to my 20-year-old self that I actually teach cooking skills and nutrition to hundreds of students, twenty years on.
The biggest driver for me – as it is to so many others – to cook from scratch was becoming a mum, but it wasn’t until my studies for a BSc in Food, Nutrition and health science that I became passionate about the functions/purpose of specific ingredients. A basic grasp of this can change everything. I remember buying the famous Harold McGee book as recommended from my university lecturer (thank you Nigel!) and just absorbing so many facts for example when you bake bread or a cake every ingredient has a particular purpose, flour for structure, fat for the moisture and softening of the structure and on it goes… This is a huge and wonderful book and I still take it off the shelf often, however, numerous foodie books incorporating food history, health and the science of nutrients have taken my attention since.
My first tip is to experiment and if you are worried about waste and budget, use small quantities of ingredients. Secondly, take note when you see different combinations used together in dishes for example in a restaurant, blog, website, cafe or at a friends house. You will soon build on this knowledge and have an understanding of which ingredients go together and which do not. Be patient, it takes some time to learn to be a cook and I certainly do not class myself as so.
Depending on where you are on your health and cooking journey it will be a different focus, for some it is that you enjoy baking, and so experimenting with using half quantities of sugar (amazing how it does not make a big difference in taste), or as I encouraged one of my teenage students to do this week, cook an apple into apple sauce replacing the fat and most of the sugar in a carrot cake. Being an avid stick to the recipe baker, she was so excited by not only how successful the cake was, but also the redevelopment of the actual recipe.
When you are in tune with your body, there will be foods that just don’t feel good, only last week I shared information on the FODMAP investigative diet and have also written about potential issues with casein from dairy and gluten from wheat. Sometimes it can feel that you will miss out when you are excluding these from your diet, even when you feel so good from doing so. This is why finding and using new ingredients in a fun and innovative way of adding in rather than having the feeling of taking away.
Limited time offer alert!
This summer I am delivering a limited number of plant-based cooking classes in the home, in these, we will cook up quick and easy family suitable dishes, with ingredients which may be new to you, but add wonderful flavours in a natural way. If this is something you are interested in, please contact me – details below.
Recipes of the week – I hope you enjoy and are inspired to add your own twist x
PassionAtely summer pud
cashew cream section
- 180g cashew nuts
*Soak the cashews in a covered dish or Tupperware for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight – water just covering – drain and rinse when ready to use
- 1 tbsp cacao or no sugar added cocoa powder
- 3 or 4 dates
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp of coconut milk (the cream from the tinned coconut is what I prefer to use) or an alternative of your choice
*Blitz everything together in a powerful blender and it’s ready to serve (best when chilled for a little while in the fridge)
- two handfuls of frozen fruits, I used mango and raspberries
- juice squeezed from half of a lemon
- a handful of mint leaves and one for decoration
*Blitz all of the ingredients together – add a little water if required to blend the fruits
tip: I take the fruit out of the freezer and place in the fridge around an hour before using
Spicy roasted veggies
Use any leftover veggies you have, here are the vegetables I used this week for this recipe:
- 1 head of cauliflower – broken up into florets
- 1 green pepper – roughly chopped
- half a head of broccoli – broken up
- 1 red onion – roughly chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic – chopped into thick chunks
*sprinkle over then rub the following ingredients onto the vegetables in a large baking tray
- avocado or olive oil
- 2 tsp cumin seeds/ground cumin
- 2 tsp garam masala
- paprika, black pepper and Himalayan salt
*Place the tray of veggies into the oven (preheated at 200 degrees celsius) for approximately 15 minutes.
Serving suggestion: Sprinkle over nutritional yeast for a cheese flavour and added B vitamins – Yum! I also like to add a serving of sauerkraut for my gut health xxx