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Posts in 'Inspiration'

Salt – Health or Hazard?
Recently I read a post by Maldon Salt that every cell in the body contains salt, and that an average adult contains about 250g of salt, which is the equivalent to a box of their delicious sea salt.  This got me thinking about salt.  As a food scientist and chef I use it all the time and when teaching, often I am challenged by clients about the amount of salt I’m putting into a recipe.

Salt is essential to human life, and our bodies cannot produce it.  We need salt for our bodies to function properly, regulating the amount of fluid in our bodies and maintaining our nervous system.  Literally our blood, sweat and tears are salty.

Saltiness is one of the basic human tastes.  For millennia we have been using salt to preserve and flavour food.  Wars, revolutions and freedom movements have started over salt.  It is used in many religious rituals and is a symbol of friendship.  Salt is part of our everyday speech in words such as salary and salad or phrases such as “the salt of the earth”.

However government information advises us to only consume 6g of salt a day – that’s just over 1 teaspoon, as that is the recommended daily amount (RDA) an adult needs for their body to function.  Too much and you can be susceptible to high blood pressure and stroke, too little and our blood thickens and affects our nervous systems, thyroid function and blood pressure… so what is right?

To cut out salt completely in our diets is almost impossible as most foods (meat and vegetables) have approximately 12% naturally occurring salt.  We can reduce the amount we consume by how much we add during cooking and at the table.  It is processed foods that are the danger zone, which often contain a higher salt content to improve the flavour and shelf life of the product.   Everyday ingredients such as stock cubes, pasta sauces, cheese and bacon includes salt where it is added by the manufacturer for preservation.  Always check the label and use in moderation and try and cook from scratch – it’s much healthier all round.

When cooking, be practical about the amount of salt you use and think about the ratio of the quantities you are using, e.g. a teaspoon (5 grams) in a dish that will serve 4, will be less than 1 gram per serving.  When researching this topic I realised that many recipes, rather than specify an amount of salt, are using alternatives such as Worcestershire sauce or stock cubes - so take care with the amount you use.  In all cases, as a chef teacher, I would advise you to taste as you cook and add the seasoning, always adjust to suit your palate.

For some recipes the amount of salt is a definite requirement for a successful outcome.  For example, when making bread, a recipe usually requires 1 teaspoon ie 5 grams.  Salt is essential when bread making, not only for flavour but to retard the yeast otherwise you get a dough that looks like an extra in a Science Fiction movie!  5 grams dispersed across an 800g-1kg loaf will not be very much – much less than a ¼ gram a slice.

In hot weather or when we exercise, we need to replace the salt as well as the liquid we lose through sweat – this is particularly important for children and older people.  If we don’t then our blood thickens and affects our blood pressure. By just drinking water the levels of salt in our bodies are diluted and can cause the body to be less responsive.

Children and babies need much less as their internal organs need to develop to process salt.

So in conclusion- Salt - is it fundamental to life, or a health hazard?  We need salt to stay healthy and like many things in moderation.  By avoiding processed foods we can easily cut down the amount of salt we eat.  Cutting it out entirely is risky, so a pinch of salt will definitely make food more palatable and healthy.


The Cooking Academy provides a variety of courses and our chef tutors provide advice and information on the nutritional benefits of ingredients and seasoning.


other info.

  • The word salary is based on salt; therefore “worth one’s salt” refers to the salary of a Roman soldier.

  • Salad, comes from the Roman’s custom of salting leaf vegetables.

  • “Salt of the earth” means the perfect, the worthiest and most honest (quoted in the Bible Matthew 5:13)

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Seasonal Tomatoes
As we're in the height of the tomato season, today we are highlighting a wonderful starter which truly encapsulates the spirit of these long hot summer days we are currently enjoying.

It is a stunning combination of top quality buffalo mozzarella, gorgeous heritage tomatoes in every hue and peppery nasturtium leaves. The secret ingredient that brings this dish together is an intensely flavoured tomato essence. The very best cherry tomatoes are macerated with shallots, fennel and herbs for several hours and then placed in a muslin bag over a bowl in order to collect the golden juices. The intensity of flavour is sensational and elevates the humble tomato to something quite extraordinary.




#thecookingacademy #eattheseason #eatfortheplanet #eattherainbow #healthyeating #heathylifestyle #tomatoes #heritagetomatoes #alfrescodining #summerstarters #buffalomozzarella #tomatoessence #nasturtiumleaves #freshfood #lunch #vegetarian
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Blackberry Gin Gimlet Cupcakes
Blackberry Gin Gimlet Cupcakes, a perfect recipe for summer, with a twist!



175 g (6oz) unsalted butter, softened

175 g (6oz) caster sugar

175 g (6oz) self-raising flour

3 large eggs at room temperature

3 tbsp gin

Finely grated zest of 2 limes



2 tbsp gin

40 g (1 ½oz) Juice of 1 lime



200 g (7oz) blackberries, plus 12 to decorate

2 tbsp Chambord

125 g (4oz) unsalted butter, softened

400 g (14oz) icing sugar, sifted



  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan) mark 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with cases. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar together using an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Gradually add eggs, beating well between each addition. Sift over the flour and a pinch of salt and fold in, then fold in the gin and lime zest.

  2. Divide the mixture between the muffin cases (an ice-cream scoop is useful for this) and bake for 20-25min until risen and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

  3. Meanwhile, make the syrup by gently heating all of the ingredients in a pan, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then bring to the boil and simmer for 1min. When the cakes are cooked, remove them from the oven and poke holes all over with a skewer or cocktail stick. Brush the cakes with the gin syrup and leave for 5min; remove the cakes from tin and set aside to cool on a wire rack.

  4. For the buttercream, put 200g (70z) blackberries into a pan with 1tbsp water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10min, stirring occasionally, until the berries are soft and the juice has thickened. Blend until smooth, then pass through a sieve into a bowl. Stir in the Chambord, if using. Set aside to cool.

  5. In a bowl, beat the butter until soft using an electric whisk, then whisk in the icing sugar in 2 batches; continue to beat until light and fluffy. Whisk in the cooled blackberry purée.

  6. Pipe the buttercream onto the cakes and top each one with a blackberry.

This recipe previously appeared in Good Housekeeping magazine October 2017.
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Pimm’s Summer Jellies- Perfect for hot summer days
Pimm’s Summer Jellies

Serves 4


125 g (4oz) caster sugar
200 ml (7 fl oz (⅓ pint)) water
Pared zest of 1 lemon
Pared zest of 1 orange
5 gelatine leaves
200 ml (7 fl oz (⅓ pint)) Pimm's No 1 cup
200 ml (7 fl oz (⅓ pint)) lemonade
Chopped strawberries, cucumber and orange
Mint leaves to garnish



  1. In a small pan, gently dissolve the caster sugar in 200ml water with the pared zest of a lemon and orange, simmer for 2 minutes.

  2. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes.

  3. Strain the contents of the saucepan into a jug, squeeze the excess water from gelatine leaves and stir into the liquid until dissolved.

  4. Add the Pimm’s No1 Cup and lemonade; pour into 6 serving glasses, cool then add the chopped strawberries, cucumber and oranges, chill until set and then garnish with fresh mint leaves.

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Sesame and Soy Seared Tuna
Sesame & Soy Seared Tuna

 Two ways to prepare tuna in a Japanese style.  Either allow it to marinate in a sauce and serve it thinly sliced in a Sashimi style or sear it in a pan.


1 loin of yellow fin tuna – sushi grade recommended

Marinade ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp oil

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

  • 2 tsp soy sauce

  • 1 tsp finely chopped garlic

  • ¼ tsp chilli flakes

  • 1/8 th tsp Himalayan salt

  • ¼ tsp black pepper

  • 3 finger of pinched fresh coriander

  • 1 tsp sesame seeds garnish towards the end

For a side salad or a garnish

Handful of rocket or salad leaves

4 Sugar snap peas, or mange tout (cut into julienne strips) or edamame beans

¼ red pepper cut into thin julienne strips

Three finger pinch fresh coriander

1 tbsp pickled ginger cut into strips

Drizzle in remaining marinade mix over the salad

 Cooking Instructions:

 Mix all the ingredients for the salad in bowl and set aside.

  1. Place all the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Mix well and season to taste.

  2. Now place the tuna into the marinade and coat the tuna generously. Allow the tuna to soak up as much of the spice blend as possible and leave to rest at ambient temperature for 20-30 minutes.

To serve as Sashimi

  1. Take the tuna out of the marinade and slice thinly. Serve with the salad.

To pan fry

  1. Heat a frying pan until it is smoking hot, place the tuna in the pan and sear on two sides for 1 minute, or longer depending on your preference.

  2. Sprinkle with a little sesame over the tuna on both sides towards the end of cooking on each side.

  3. The tuna should be cooked on the outside and be pink on the inside. When cooked, remove from the pan and allow it to rest for 1 minute before slicing like ham.

  4. Meanwhile add a drizzle of any remaining marinade over the salad and transfer to the serving plate. Put the tuna to the plate and serve at once.

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