The cooking Journal
Seasonal Ingredients: The Radish

The Radish is available throughout most of the year but begins it seasonality in May. It is the root of a member of the mustard family, and has a peppery flavour and a crisp, crunchy texture. Among the most popular varieties are the small, cherry-sized common variety which has a red skin and white flesh.

You can also find black radishes, popular in Eastern Europe, which are more strongly flavoured, as well as large white mooli or diakon radishes, which are shaped like carrots. They are popular in Asian cookery and have a very mild flavour.

Radishes are rich is folic acid and potassium and are a good source of vitamin B6, magnesium, riboflavin, and calcium. It has been proved to aid digestion, boosts immunity; regulate blood pressure and supports healthy skin.
Go for firm radishes, with no blemishes. Any greens still attached should look fresh and perky. The bigger the radish, the less crisp its texture.
To increase the crispness of radish, soak them in iced water for a couple of hours. Wash, then chop off the greens, if present, then slice off the root. Leave whole, slice or chop, as required, and always prepare radishes just before using, as they loose their potency when cut.
Radishes are a great addition to any salad to add a fresh peppery flavor, as well as a hint of vibrancy.

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Spiced Pumpkin Easter Biscuits

These Easter Biscuits are a fun Easter Activity to keep young ones occupied!

1 egg
300g rice flour
100g butternut squash
1 tsp yeast powder
1 spoon of agave syrup (not essential)
1 pinch of salt
125g margarine
105g caster sugar
2tbsp pumpkin spice mix

Pumpking Spice Mix:
3 tbsp ground cinnamon.
2 tsp ground ginger.
2 tsp nutmeg.
1 ½ tsp ground allspice.
1 ½ tsp ground cloves.

400g icing sugar
100/120ml warm water
Food colours ( blue, red and yellow mix to make chosen colour)

1.       Boil some water inside a pot and cook the butternut squash until soft and ready to be smashed
2.       Let the butternut squash cool down then smash it with a fork
3.       In a bowl cream the margarine and brown sugar
4.       Add the agave syrup, butternut squash and the egg and mix until combined
5.       In a separate bowl sift together all the dry ingredients (rice flour, yeast, salt and and pumpkin spice mix)
6.       Then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients
7.       Mix together and refrigerate for at least half an hour – if it is still results “sticky” add some more flour until you get a firm dough
8.       Remove the dough from refrigerator and place onto a floured surface and knead lightly roll out to 5mm thickness and then cut into shapes using cookie cutters
9.       Bake at 170 degree Celsius for approximately 15/20 minutes or till well browned
10.   Leave to cool completely on trays
11.   Meanwhile make the icing by mixing inside a bowl the icing sugar  and  water with a whisk
12.   Divide the icing into small bowls (as many bowls as the colours you want to use) and start adding the colourings drop by drop until you get the desired colour
13.   Once cookies have cooled down, decorate and enjoy!

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Team Building with a difference- 'Ready, Steady... Unite'

Team building events within a work environment can often be rather terrifying at first thought. Climbing up mountains and walking tight ropes or maze rooms springs to mind.  One imagines being put into a team of people, ‘thrown’ together to problem solve, work together and aim to agree on certain strategies to complete a task set. That sounds too much like any other work day. 

At The Cooking Academy, we offer a very different type of team-building activity, a cookery challenge in the form of a ‘Cook Off’ between colleagues – ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ that is a cookery event that has a broad appeal to everyone, united by the need to eat, click here to find out what else we can offer.

To be able to cook together and share the fruit of each other’s labour can create a deep connection between people. Whether you usually enjoy cooking or not, is completely irrelevant, as the pleasure of eating, after having shared tasks and objectives to prepare and cook the meal, creates a union of hearts and minds.

By cooking and eating together in a non-office, social but professional environment, we foster a greater connection, increasing trust and enabling teamwork.

No matter what the level of seniority, the activities become a leveler for all, from CEO and senior board level, right through to individual team members.

As a company, we acknowledge the importance of the nutritional value of food and we believe our passion and expertise are what make our events unique and truly memorable for our clients.

the client says:

Planet IT sharing on LinkedIn about their Ready Steady Cook Team Building Event.

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Kumud Gandhi- The Original Spice Girl?

kumud gandhi from the cooking academy interview about the alchemy of food, a food scientist. healthy living health benefits  author of a cupboard full of spices

To her legions of  satisfied customers she is the undisputed queen of the spice tin, a stimulating  teacher and the possessor of an exceptional palate- woe betide the would be cook that fails to season their dish correctly! To the corporate world she is an inspirational speaker, food alchemist and a passionate advocate for healthy eating and wellbeing in the workplace. To her colleagues she is a workaholic, keen to push boundaries and to explore a myriad of fresh ideas. To the world at large she is a broadcaster, author of “A Cupboard Full of Spices” and creator of award winning spice blends. At heart however, she remains incontrovertibly welded to the muddy vegetables and Ayuverdic remedies of her youth.

Today I am sitting opposite Kumud at the island in the centre of her impressively proportioned kitchen, looking out through the patio doors to her beautiful garden. This is not only a family kitchen but also home to her cookery school, The Cooking Academy. As I soak up the atmosphere the air is redolent with the comforting aroma of warming spices.

Kumud is taking some time out from her busy schedule, to examine the roots of her obsession with food. Reflecting on her childhood she comments “I can’t remember a time when food wasn’t medicinal”.

From an early age, as the daughter of immigrants and growing up in a traditional Gujarati household, food and its provenance was woven into the very fabric of Kumud’s being. Hailing from generations of chemists and spice merchants meant that she was heavily influenced by both the medicinal and flavour properties of herbs and spices. Ingredients were included in dishes not just for flavour but also for their medicinal values, answers to common ailments were found not in the medicine cabinet but rather in the kitchen cupboard. Seasonality was key and herbs and spices were as fundamental to a dish as the main ingredient.

The garden and the plate were inextricably linked, the unbreakable connection of earth to earth. “To this day I find growing things deeply satisfying. Food that you have grown yourself tastes different in the mouth and stimulates chemicals in the brain that are pleasing. It’s a connection with the whole purpose of life”. Gandhi looks rather too glamorous to be found grubbing around in a vegetable patch, nevertheless she exhibits both a scientific and emotional approach to food which is both intriguing and compelling.

holding organic vegetables in my garden of The Cooking Academy, an interview discussing the alchemy of food.

One might assume that Kumud’s clear passion for her subject would have meant a direct trajectory into a career in food. However, having studied economics, “which I enjoyed and was good at” she was actively encouraged by her school to pursue this route and secured a position with the Bank of England. Something of a trailblazer she was the first woman and indeed the first Indian to be fast tracked into this organisation through its graduate training scheme- even as a young woman she was already breaking down barriers. Despite relishing the challenges of a demanding role “food was always on my mind. When I stepped into the kitchen after a busy day at work it took me immediately to a different place and for 90 minutes or so I immersed myself in the cooking process and forgot about anything work related”.

It was while taking a career break to have her children that Kumud began to think about food in a more scientific way. Making baby food from scratch threw up many questions; “why this has separated, how long will this keep, how do I do it?” It was through researching the answers to these and many other culinary conundrums that she stumbled upon the concept of food science and reading around the subject came to realise that the Ayuverdic remedies that were so fundamental to her childhood were firmly rooted in science. Enrolling on a course she was excited to learn the chemistry behind the theories and this knowledge of ingredients and their structures gave her a deeper understanding and the confidence to “play with food”. The “Spice Queen” was born!

Gandhi’s initial foray into the world of food was via her fine dining company, The Saffron House. Word soon spread about the exquisite, hand crafted food and the charismatic woman at its helm. In a very short space of time Kumud found herself drawn into a world of event catering for fashion and television as well as for the celebrity arena. As I attempt to draw her further on the subject she modestly reveals that she has cooked for an eclectic mix of well-known characters ranging from HRH, The Prince of Wales and Nelson Mandela through to the likes of Madonna and Chris Martin. She remains resolutely un-starstruck and winks conspiratorially at me as she recalls asking “why is that guy wearing sunglasses?” on failing unapologetically to recognise P.Diddy.

It was perhaps inevitable that Gandhi would transition from catering into teaching and her mission to pass on what she had learnt and
passionately believed in - that from the womb to our final hour “we are what we eat” culminated in her establishing The Cooking Academy in 2010.

“To this day I find growing things deeply satisfying. Food that you have grown yourself tastes different in the mouth and stimulates chemicals in the brain that are pleasing. It’s a connection with the whole purpose of life”.

kumud gandhi sitting in her home the cooking academy discussing the alchemy of food, her journey as a food scientist

From the get go her aim was to educate her students not only in how to cook but perhaps more importantly to establish a deep connection and understanding of the ingredients they were cooking with. Her view of the act of cooking as a nurturing process, of giving something of yourself to your loved ones is one that she is passionate about communicating to her customers. She wants people not only to cook but to cook with consciousness, with all of their senses, to cook with others, to share. To this end she actively encourages people to think about the nutritional value of the spices in Indian cookery and to cook and eat authentic Indian food.

This mantra has attracted both national and international clientele to attend The Academy due to its reputation for specialism in spices and “real” Indian food. It came as no surprise to me to learn that Kumud has not been content to rest on her laurels, she has extended her influence into the corporate market, where she is in high demand as a public speaker lecturing on “Wellness in the Workplace”, “The Reasons to Season” and “The Alchemy of Food”. This market has proved to be perfectly suited to Gandhi’s blend of food science, nutritional eating and dietary advice.

Undoubtedly her background in the corporate world has contributed to her success in this arena. Her initiation was something of a baptism of fire. “I started making presentations from very early on in my career, addressing rooms of 50-100 men in grey suits, there were hardly ever any women present. I had only my academia to hold me up, to convince me that I was qualified to speak. Now I comfortably straddle two worlds which are by no means mutually exclusive “.

Does it stop there? Is the Earth round? Gandhi has dipped her toe into the world of commercial radio and television, has contributed articles to various illustrious publications and has offered advice on food matters to Government bodies.

And there’s more… Somewhere along the line she’s managed to shoehorn in the writing of a book. Self- published in October 2018, “A Cupboard Full of Spices” is a deconstruction of the herbs and spices that are fundamental to Indian cookery, forming an invaluable point of reference for her readers. The recipes it contains are perfectly balanced both for flavour and nutritional value, her belief that it’s never too late to change our eating habits forms the subtext of the book. Gandhi knocked tirelessly on many doors in an effort to get the book published. Rejection merely spurred her on and with typical aplomb her attitude was “sod it, I’ll do it myself!”

The finished product is mightily impressive by anyone’s standards and more than holds its own on the bookshelf alongside volumes published through the traditional route. Every recipe is accompanied by a stunning photograph. All of the dishes were prepared and shot in this very kitchen where we now sit. “There was no trickery involved- no engine oil or liquid soap ” remembers Kumud “just a lot of hard work- we photographed 18-20 dishes per day, we just kept on going until we lost the light. The photographer didn’t know what had hit her- she was anticipating no more than five set ups per day!” The support of her prep team and in- house chefs was key to a successful outcome. “We didn’t take any shortcuts, it was actually the fact that book was self- published that galvanised us into pushing the boundaries and striving for excellence”

kumud gandhi, author of a cupbaord full of spices, founder and ceo of the cooking academy, food scientist, motivational speaker, business women, bbc broadcaster radio televison chef rickamsnowrth team building events

It’s fair to say it hasn’t all been plain sailing since publication. “We thought that simply publishing the book was the hard part- we were so naïve now I look back as that was the easiest element of the whole process!” As she continues I gather that an uphill struggle doesn’t begin to describe it- resistance from distributors, bookshops, agents- you name it.

Gandhi clearly relishes a challenge as “A Cupboard Full of Spices” is now carried by three of the major distributors, sits on the shelves of an impressive number of bookshops and has recently attracted the attention of a major publisher and by a circuitous route it has even made its way to Australia and the USA, North Seattle to be precise. In addition she’s embarked on a tour of selected independent bookshops, delivering her “Spice Trail” to enthusiastic audiences alongside a selection of dishes from the book. Needless to say her mellifluous tones and deeply rooted knowledge of her subject ensure that there’s a queue at the tills come the end of the evening. Not bad for a novice I remark. “I don’t take no for an answer” replies Gandhi. Curiously that comes as no real surprise.

“We didn’t take any shortcuts, it was actually the fact that book was self- published that galvanised us into pushing the boundaries and striving for excellence”

I sense that our time together is coming to an end and that Gandhi is itching to address the next job in hand, in this case a competitive cookery event for a blue chip corporate client in The Academy training kitchens.

She embraces me warmly as I rise to leave, and I have to fight the impulse to immediately book myself on every one of the sixteen different classes currently on offer from The Academy. In a rare ‘know yourself, girlfriend’ moment realisation dawns that I am something of a fair weather cook and I quickly register the fact that I simply don’t have enough time or energy- something that I imagine Gandhi would find almost impossible to understand!

kumud gandhi, author of a cupbaord full of spices, founder and ceo of the cooking academy, food scientist, motivational speaker, business women, bbc broadcaster radio televison chef rickamsnowrth team building events

Text by Lou Lou Alexandra

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How, When and What you Eat can Affect Stress Levels

We all know that what we eat has a huge impact on our health, wellbeing and mood.  However, you may not be so aware that when we eat and how we eat also has an effect. 

Stress can affect your appetite in two ways.  Initially it will shut down your appetite as your brain reacts to stress by releasing hormones which supress appetite, at the same time as releasing adrenaline which triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response which also supresses appetite. 

However, if you’ve been soaking up the stress over a prolonged period of time, your brain starts to produce the cortisol hormone which increases appetite and the motivation to eat.  In addition to this, it is thought that stress affects food preferences and results in an increase intake of foods high in fat and/or sugar that actually supress stress related emotions in the short term – ergo comfort eating to counteract stress. 

exams stress unhealthy eating brain foods eat healthier

Stress also causes us to reach for caffeine or sugary ‘energy’ drinks, and often alcohol.  The knock on effect of these is lack of sleep, low energy and weight increase, note that one bottle of wine contains almost 650 calories  that are mainly derived from sugar.

Eating a balanced nutritional meal with slow release of sugars will stabilise your energy and insulin levels as well and help you get through to the next meal.  However, if you are stressed, you are more likely to snack on the run with convenience foods that are highly processed, fatty and often sugary which will result in a spike in insulin and you’ll be hungry again before you know it.  If you only have time for a snack, try to eat fruit or nuts, bananas and apples are great for soaking up stress, as are almonds, walnuts and Brazil nuts, all easier to eat and very good for stabilizing the brain. 

How you eat will have an impact on your stress levels.  Breakfast is a very important meal to set you up for the day, if you’re not a breakfast person, try to add bananas to your repertoire, it’s such an easy fruit to eat on the go, or pack a yoghurt in your bag.  If you can face it in the morning, oats in the form of muesli, granola or porridge are excellent; otherwise the humble boiled egg and toast is a great way to eat proteins and carbohydrates which is the best way to balance blood sugar levels and calm the brain. 

breakfast healthy eating nuts fruits exams brain foods

For other meals, try to sit down and take your time over the meal – eating slowly is a very good stress buster.  Think about what you’re eating and savour each forkful. This way you are appreciating what you eat and will not overload your system by eating too fast, your stomach will feel full and your brain will not think you are hungry.  Avoid eating your lunch at your desk, pick another spot – this small step will make a big difference to your state of mind.

To achieve this mindful eating, you need to be organised and have an idea of what you are going to eat during the week.  Like all good habits, it’s worth practising to get into the pattern of planning meals day by day, and shopping appropriately.  Batch cooking is good way to plan meals and eat well and cheaply.  Cooking at the weekend is an excellent way to destress.   This way you will be able to take charge of your eating habits which will in turn help you manage stress better.

For more information click here

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