The cooking Journal

Posts in 'Nutrition & Food Information'

Wake up your work force!
With the average worker losing 11 days of productivity each year due to tiredness, isn’t it time to eat yourself fit and energetic again.

At 6.30am when you are dreading the busy rush hour commute you are more than likely turn to a strong cup of coffee and a sugary bowl of cereal to start your day. STOP! This is probably the worst thing you can do! Foods that are high in sugar are great for an initial energy boost, but as the sugar rush starts to fade you will find your energy will come crashing down.

So try perking up your morning porridge with this delicious recipe!

Our tried and tested breakfast porridge is perfect for filling you up and giving you the energy you need to get you through to lunch.

Share this recipe with a work colleague today and give them the wakeup call they need!

Carrot cake Porridge
Ingredients (serves 2)
100g oats
100g carrots
1 apple
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
150ml milk
50g raisins
2 tablespoons of yoghurt a handful of walnuts or pecans
1. Start by soaking the oats in boiling water, in a small pan; pour the water about 1cm above the oats.
2. Now peel the carrots and then grate the carrot and apple separately and set aside. Once the oats have absorbed the water, add the cinnamon, carrot, apple, nutmeg, ginger, salt, maple syrup, raisins, and the almond milk.
3. Stir the ingredients, and cook on a low heat until the mixture thickens and becomes creamy. Once you get your desired consistency and the carrot pieces have softened, remove from the heat.
4. Serve in two bowls, topping with a splash of honey, a blob of yogurt and a handful of chopped nuts.

Nutritional Tips: Did you know Ginger has many health benefits; it is a highly effective digestive aid and carminative ingredient. By increasing the production of digestive fluids and saliva, ginger helps to relieve flatulence, indigestion as well as stomach cramps. Ginger is also anti-bacterial and an anti-inflammatory, easing pain in inflamed joints or arthritic conditions.

Preparation tips: Soak the oats in the ingredients and milk and place in the fridge before you go to bed, then pick up the recipe from No3 in the morning. The oats will be more nutritious from having soaked overnight, and the flavours will be more intense and creamy.
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Can a Pumpkin help you see in the dark?

Wiki-How Wiki-How

Perhaps... If you hollow it out and light a candle inside it…but there might be another, more delicious way to sharpen your night vision and go trick or treating with an advantage.

Don’t bin the Pulp!

Pumpkins contain so many great nutritious things that next time you hollow one out to make a jack o’ lantern, don’t waste any of the pulp! Why not think about making a warming and delicious seasonal treat?

The list of Nutritious elements in a humble pumpkin are astounding. Although we all might have guessed Vitamin C, fibre and Iron, perhaps even magnesium and zinc – how many would have known that the pesky little seeds of a pumpkin are a valuable source of Omega 3 fatty acids?

So, if oily fish is not for you, you should think about our round, orange buddy t

o help to jump start the neurons in your brain that feed on fatty acids.

Oh, I see…

Pumpkins also contain beta carotene (also found in carrots) which is a building block of Vitamin A. Hence the reason WW2 RAF pilots were encouraged to eat carrots to help them see better at night!

This was actually part of a campaign to help convince the enemy that British pilots had superhuman eyesight – and helped distract from the fact that England had stealthily invented Radar – an enormously important secret weapon that could actually ‘see at night’.

Although the quantity of carrots consumed to achieve ‘night vision’ would, scientifically have been unrealistic, there was some logic behind the thinking. Certainly Vitamin A is an essential part of caring for good eyesight. A shortage of this vitamin is a genuine problem for children in the third world today.

How fortunate, then that beta carotene can be eaten in such a tasty way in a perfect pumpkin pie recipe.

See for yourself

Here, at the cooking academy, we believe passionately that healthy eating equals tasty eating, so why not join us – whatever your cooking ability – in an amazing voyage around the world of spices and cuisine?

On any one of our one day classes we can take you in an effortless and informative way through the theory and practice of making healthy food that will open your eyes to a world of flavours.

Our gift vouchers also make a great present for that certain someone who might need to sharpen up their cooking skills.

So book a class today. It’s plain to see, you can’t go wrong…
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Pasta to Perfection
Cooking Pasta is one of the easiest things to cook, ever, right?  Boil the kettle, transfer the hot water into a pan, add the pasta, and cook until ready, right?

In my opinion I think it’s the easiest thing to get wrong, wrong meaning soggy, overcooked pasta.  And it’s more common than you might think.  Good pasta is “al dente” pasta, which is essentially, properly cooked pasta.  The literal translation of al dente in Italian means “to the tooth” or perhaps “firm to the bite” – not soft.  Pasta when cooked properly should be firm, and will need to be chewed properly, not soft in the mouth to dissolve.  If the texture is soft, then it is overcooked; and overcooked pasta is not so much about being too soft but rather the affect it will have on your blood sugar levels when you eat it.  That’s to say the sugar load (glycemic index) of the pasta dish has now increased significantly than if it was cooked to al dente.  In the cooking process, every minute past al dente is increasing the sugar load and making the pasta more calorific.

In order to get it right, you really need to be checking the pasta every 30 seconds after 10 minutes of cooking, and keep checking until there is no white core to the pasta.  Check by biting into it to be sure.  Also remember it will continue to cook after you have drained the water, so factor that into your consideration.  Furthermore, if you are adding a hot sauce then it will continue to cook in that liquid too.  If in doubt, err on the side of caution, better to take it off early and return to a hot sauce.

My personal preference is to pull the pasta off the heat 1 minute before al dente if I am adding a sauce to it, as I will likely return the pasta in the hot sauce and possibly on the heat for a minute or two to allow the sauce to infuse the pasta.

Here are some quick tips to cooking pasta that may dispel some misconceptions:

  1. Add pasta at boiling water - Always make sure the water is at a rolling boil before you add the pasta, this will also avoid the pasta from sticking together as it cooks. It will also help to develop a full nutty flavour.

  2. Add salt to the boiling water - This is a must. Just as the water is coming to boiling add a tsp per 1 litre of water.  By adding the salt to the water you will be able to taste the sea in your food, don’t worry, not in an overly salty way but that your pasta will not be bland and flavourless.  Let’s be clear, starches need a bit of salt to balance out the carbohydrate.  Even if the sauce you intend to add has been seasoned, let the pasta stand on its own flavour.

  3. Never add oil whilst cooking pasta or after draining the water - The common misconception is that the pasta could stick to each other whilst boiling and that the oil prevents this from happening. Not at all!  Oil is completely unnecessary, all you have to do is ensure there is plenty of boiling water in the pan and top it up as necessary with additional boiling water from the kettle, and give it an occasional stir.  Really you should have twice as much water to pasta to start off with.  The water will get gloopy and starchy, so top up with more to dilute the starchiness.  More importantly, if you add oil to the water the pasta will have a film of grease on it, then the sauce you will be adding to it will simply slide off and not soak up into the pasta to absorb the flavour.

  4. Draining the pasta - It is important that you drain the pasta immediately, if it continues to sit in the hot water it will continue to cook. However I would recommend that you reserve 200 ml, a mug basically, of the pasta water separately, to potentially let down (thin) the sauce you are going to add.  The starchy water is full of flavour.  I would recommend that you use a colander to drain, put a small bowl under the colander as you drain, when you got as much water as you need, move the bowl away and continue to fully drain the pasta.  Then as you add the sauce, you can add a tablespoon of the starchy water at a time to achieve the right consistency.  As for the practice of rinsing pasta after cooking, I would only rinse the pasta after cooking if I were using the pasta for a cold salad.

  5. Proportionality! - Less is definitely more! Don’t drown the pasta in loads of sauce, believe it or not, a pasta dish isn’t about the sauce, it’s about well-cooked tasty pasta.  The sauce should be applied very lightly and sparingly.  I find that by returning the pasta into the sauce in the pan – the flavours infuse more intensely.

  6. Any shape and size will do? - Shape matters – I think!  Don’t underestimate the importance of shape, the shape of any food is about texture and how it feels when it lands in the mouth, and most critical how it feels against the roof of your mouth.  The shape of the pasta will also determine how the sauce wraps itself around and so certain types of sauce are better suited with certain type of pasta shapes.

  7. For example, a good ragu or meat sauce is more suited to a wider pasta shape such as pappardelle, or tagliatelle, whilst the thinner pasta shapes such as vermicelli, linguine, or capellini, will go with slightly oily, watery sauces. As the sauce gets thicker I find the more tubular shapes work better, as the sauce can be contained within the tubular shape.  Then as you move on to the chunky vegetable based sauces the shorter shapes such as farfalle or the shells work really well.

  8. Fresh versus dried - One is not necessarily better than the other – they are just different, just as shapes are different. The joy of fresh pasta comes from the satisfaction of having made it yourself, time permitting, and only if you can get your hands on really good fresh flour, which makes all the difference.  The exception to this is perhaps fresh ravioli, where I think you can really tell the difference and is worth having a go at making yourself.

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Beginner's Cookery Classes for Life Skills
If you’ve got youngsters that are preparing for University this September then you should definitely read on …..

Cooking is an essential part of independent living and is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle.  If you’re worried about how they’ll cope with meal preparation being away from home then they probably need to learn some essential cooking skills to take away with them.

At The Cooking Academy, we provide beginner’s cooking classes which will enable them to learn simple, nutritious recipes on a budget, that will not only help them fight fresher’s flu, but also teach them valuable cooking skills that they can carry with them all throughout the rest of their lives.

Click here to download information about our beginner’s cookery classes, whether you’re about to leave home or just want to learn how to cook, this class will be highly rewarding.
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Protein: How much do we actually need?
The recommended amount of protein intake is calculated to be 0.8g per kg of body weight

The continuing debate over how much protein the average person needs has done little to change our hunger for it.  It’s understandable really, since protein is one of the basic building blocks of life.

When most people think about protein, they think of ingredients associated with animals, a leg of lamb, cheese, eggs fish.  But, here is a little known fact - every whole food contains protein! Starting with your breakfast banana, and going all the way through to fresh salad leaves and green beans.  Each of these plants is packed with super delicious proteins that are in fact easier for your body to process than the proteins associated with meats.

Green Proteins

Plant-based foods are also practically free from cholesterol; they tend to be high in fibre, and are usually alkalizing to the body.  On the other hand, all animal products are highly acidic and contain no or little fibre.  Over time, a diet with greater acidity will cause calcium to be leached from your bones, as well as decreasing oxygen levels in the blood, and negatively impacting the digestive/lymphatic system.

Vegetable proteins are not usually complete proteins, there are a few exceptions such as soya beans, or Quinoa.  That is to say they do not contain all nine amino acids that are present in a correct protein, to enable our bodies to build protein.  Whole foods (vegetables, fruits, lentils) however, do not contain all nine amino acids, instead they have all the ‘essential amino acids’, and for this reason they are often relegated   to the status of limited amino acids.

While it’s true that most whole plant foods have one or more limiting amino acids and are thus “incomplete”, this shouldn’t turn you into a raving carnivore.  Our bodies are brilliant, and every food that goes into your system must be broken apart and its nutrients absorbed.  During the digestion process, amino acid chains from all sources are broken down and made ready for our bodies to use. If you’re eating a good mix of fruits, veggies, grains and lentils, then your body simply collects what it needs from the “amino soup” that your digestion system has absorbed.  There are a growing number of vegan bodybuilders, ultra-marathon runners, and award-winning athletes out there to prove that meeting your protein needs on a plant-based diet is simple and successful.

Since every whole food has protein in it, you have lots of great choices to create a balanced diet with the right percentage of protein for your body.

Here are ten high protein vegetables to add to your diet

  • Peas - 9g per cup – good source of Vit A, B and C, Thiamin, phosphorous, and iron. High in Fibre

  • Spinach

  • Kale

  • Broccoli – fat free protein 2.8 per 100g + 100% of your Vit C & K Recommended daily need

  • Sprouts

  • Brussel sprouts - this cruciferous vegetable is not only high in protein, but also fibre

  • Mushrooms

  • Artichokes

  • Corn

  • Mange tout

Here are some more amazing reasons to pack in the wholefood proteins.


Soybeans contain more protein than any other bean variety, cooked soybeans have about 28 grams per cup, roughly the amount of protein that can be found in 150 grams of chicken.


These pods pack a mighty punch. Edamame are immature soybeans that are boiled or steamed in the pod and contains 22 grams of protein per cup. Pair that with your main protein dish, and you'll be well on your way to the recommended 30 grams of protein per meal.  Protein content: 16.9 g per cup (cooked)


From string beans to chickpeas, beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein. When it comes to legumes, lentils are among the winners. They contain about 18 grams of protein per cup when cooked, and at 230 calories per serving, they're good if you’re watching your weight.  Another nutrient dense ingredient.


Asparagus is considered protein-rich in the vegetable world. Just 100 grams contains 2.4 grams of protein. Asparagus is also the number one plant source of vitamin K, as well as a good source of potassium and antioxidants.  Protein content: 2.4 grams of protein per 100 grams

Pumpkin Seeds

Once you've ground that gourd into a delicious pie, you might find yourself wondering what to do with the seeds.  Roasting them provides a good snack alternative to chips, but did you know that just one ounce provides more than 5 grams of protein, more than half of the protein found in an egg?

In addition to being a plant-based protein bomb, diets rich in pumpkin seeds have been associated with lower levels of gastric, breast, lung, and colorectal cancer.  Pumpkin seeds are also rich in antioxidants, which can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.  And if your suffer from insomnia then the L-tryptophan in pumpkin seeds has been suggested to encourage a good night's sleep.  Protein content: 5.2 grams per ounce (roasted)

Mung Bean Sprouts

Whether incorporated as part of a stir fry, or as an added crunch to a salad dish, mung bean sprouts are a great choice for some additional plant-based protein.

Once cup of cooked beans contains 2.5 grams of protein, and is packed with other nutrients such as lecithin, which may lower cholesterol, and zinc, a mineral that plays an important role in optimizing physical performance.  Protein content: 2.5 grams per cup (cooked)
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