The cooking Journal

Posts in 'Inspiration'

How good is your sleep hygiene
ONE third of our lives are spent in bed. We all know a good night’s sleep is a great way to recover and rest after a full day. Getting a full night’s sleep is not a luxury, it is a health necessity and for those of us in the world or work or studying it is essential to productivity and wellbeing.  It is recommended that adults have between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and more for teenagers and children. Yet it is estimated that a staggering 40% of adults are not getting enough sleep, Public Health England state that the annual cost to the UK employers is a resounding £30 billion pounds and 200,000 working days are lost to sickness and mental health every year.

Sleep is crucial in the maintenance of our cognitive skills.  Being adequately rested enables us to communicate well, remember key information, be creative and flexible with our thoughts, and improves our decision making ability. Furthermore, sleep is essential to building a healthy immune system, making you less likely to catch a cold and thus less likely to need time off work.

In addition although this may seem obvious, sleep is free, there are no side effects of having a great sleep, unlike taking caffeine tablets or drinking caffeinated drinks to try and stay awake.  Good sleep also makes you less likely to over-eat - so it’s good for your waistline.

There are many reasons we can struggle to fall asleep, work related stress, long hours at work, illness or injury and money worries are just a few issues that keep us awake at night. This is where sleep hygiene comes in effect, (nothing to do with your bed sheets!) but all to do with how you create the ideal settings for a good night’s sleep.

Here are a few points to think about:

  • Try sticking to regular bed times, set an alarm on your phone.

  • Making an effort to relax before your bed time approaches.

  • Avoid caffeinated drinks and heavy meals late at night; they’ll prevent you from falling asleep.

  • If you’re finding it hard to slow down, breathe in for a count of four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds and breathe out for four seconds. Repeat as many times as needed.

  • Also think about how your technology usage too - Checking emails late in the evening or before bed is often a cause of unhealthy anxiety and distraction.

  • Computer screens, tablets and phones all emit a blue light which keep us awake by suppressing melatonin, the hormone which sends us to sleep.

Public Health England and Business in the Community have partnered to put together a free downloadable sleep toolkit for employers.   Click here for more information:


Consider how effective your workplace well-being strategy is working.  If lack of sleep is a growing problem within your organization then it’s time to re-evaluate the strategy and its effectiveness.  You could be contributing more towards the £30 billion then you think. 


If you would like to know more about our corporate wellness strategies then please follow this link:
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Duck Filo Parcels
A delicious canape to impress dinner party guests!


  • 1 duck breast, skinned

  • 1 tsp oil

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning

  • 4 sheets of filo pastry

  • 25g butter, melted

  • about 8 tablespoons hoisin sauce

  • ¼ small cucumber, seeds removed and finely diced

  • 1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped, plus extra to garnish.

Cooking Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/Fan 180ºC/Gas 6 and grease two 12-hole mini muffin tins.

  2. Heat a small frying pan until hot. Brush the duck breast with a little oil and season well. Seal into the pan until golden on both sides. Then place on a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Leave to rest and then chop into small pieces.

  3. Meanwhile, brush two sheets of the filo pastry with melted butter and place one on top of the other. Slice 6 strips down and 4 strips across to make 24 squares. Place one square over another at an angle to make a star shape and then press this into the mini muffin tin (by now you should have four layers of pastry).

  4. Continue until all the squares have been used (this will make 12 tartlet cases)

  5. Bake the cases in the oven for about 12 minutes until lightly golden brown and crisp. Leave to cool.

  6. Mix the duck with the hoisin sauce, spring onion cucumber. Spoon the mixture into the filo parcels. Garnish with an small slice of spring onion.

  7. Serve warm and enjoy!

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Bacon, Tomato & Olive Orecchiette
We’ve partnered up with Villa Plus to celebrate their new destination in Puglia, Italy by sharing one of our favourite Italian recipes. This recipe for Bacon, olive and tomato orecchiette is simple to make, yet full of flavour and uses a selection of fresh ingredients from Italy.

Orecchiette – meaning ‘small ears’ is a type of pasta that originates from the south of Italy.


4 slices of bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 tbs olive oil

1 red onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

½  tbs chilli flakes

1 can chopped tomatoes

Handful of black olives

400g orecchiette pasta

Grated parmesan for serving

Salt and pepper to taste



  1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook for around four minutes, or until it begins to brown.

  2. Add the chopped onion, cooking until soft for 3-5 minutes. Throw in the crushed garlic and chilli flakes, cooking for a further minute.

  3. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

  4. Bring the sauce to the boil, reducing to a simmer and cooking for a further 15 minutes or until the liquid is slightly reduced.

  5. Meanwhile, boil a large pan of water and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and return back to the empty pan.

  6. Add the sauce to the pasta, cooking over a medium heat and coating the pasta in sauce. Add olives and heat them up for a few minutes with the sauce.

  7. Serve with grated parmesan


Have a look at Villa plus here
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Cranberry Brownies
Do not let any leftovers from Christmas go to waste! Transform any unused cranberry sauce & chocolate into these gooey chocolate brownies!


Serves 8


50g plain chocolate

40g plain flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp cranberry sauce

½ tsp sea salt

80g butter

100g sugar, truvia, or syrup from a sweet juice

2 eggs


Preparation instructions:

  1. pre heat the oven to 180 degrees gas mark 4

  2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a heavy based pan over a low heat, stir frequently until melted.

  3. Beat the sugar, eggs and cranberry sauce in a bowl with the vanilla extract, flour and salt.

  4. Pour into a 20cm square tin and bake for 15-20 minutes.

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Seasonal Spuds
Our roast potatoes topped with garlic and rosemary are the perfect accompaniment to your Christmas dinner!


Serves 4


1.5kg small, even-size floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper

Rapeseed oil, for roasting or 6-8 tbsp Goose fat if preferred

6 garlic cloves, unpeeled

2 large fresh rosemary sprigs

Sea salt & Pepper for seasoning


Preparation instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6. Peel the potatoes and cut each one into half or quarter depending on the size of the potato so that they are approximately 2 inch cubes (but not squares).

  2. Bring a pan of well-salted water to heat add the potatoes, bring to the boil and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until soft on the outside but still firm in the centre. Drain well and allow them to bash against the sides of the pan or colander to make them fluffy on the edges.

  3. Pour a thin layer of oil/Goose fat into a large roasting tin. Place in the oven for 5 minutes to get very hot. Meanwhile, crush the unpeeled garlic cloves a little using the blade of a large knife.

  4. Remove the roasting tin from the oven; add the potatoes in a single layer and spoon over some of the oil until they are all well-coated, and season with salt. Sprinkle with the rosemary sprigs and crushed garlic cloves and roast for 30 minutes, turning halfway, and basting until crisp and golden.

  5. Season lightly with salt and cracked black pepper just before serving.

  6. Enjoy!

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