The cooking Journal
January Blues
The poets say April is the cruellest month, however to me it is January and February.  We’ve had all the fun and glitter of Christmas followed by the hope and commitments of New Year’s Day.  Then January seems to drag on for grey week after grey week and payday is a distant hope.  So what can we do to be healthy and motivated during January, and then February, which is mercifully short!

It is a good idea to ensure you are getting the vitamins you need and not resorting to junk food to boost your mood.  As the days are short and dark, we will be lacking in Vitamin D.  The foods to eat are eggs, oily fish such as salmon, herring which also help with strengthening the immune system and the fish will help you with your levels of brain boosting Omega 3.

By eating more complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and vegetables, you are helping your system with slow release energy rather than the quick pick-me-up of highly sweetened foods. So think about cooking a vegetable stew with grains such as pearl barley, or a risotto.  Make yourself some healthy thick soups, that are super healthy when homemade which can be batch frozen and taken to work for lunch.  These are all great for using up leftovers too!

Keeping active is a great way to keep positive and get through January.  If you’re not a gym-bunny try and walk every day – get off the bus a stop earlier, walk round the block a few times at lunch time to get 20-30 minutes of light.  There are some great initiatives out there to keep you focused.  MIND the mental health charity organise the RED for January initiative.  RED stands for Run Every Day, however it’s just about taking exercise of some sort every day, so walking a mile, swimming, getting the bike out.  There is an online community to offer encouragement and support.

Finally, treat yourself occasionally as trying to stick rigidly to a goal can be draining in itself, and quite boring!  For example once you’ve achieved a goal such as walking a mile every day for a week, treat yourself and then try and walk 2 miles every day for the next week.  The sense of achievement will give you a boost.  So treat yourself to a cake or extra glass of wine.

Good luck!

For more information about RED January for MIND click here 
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Going Vegan for January?
Have you decided to try and be a vegan for January and joined the popular Veganuary movement?   There’s been a lot in the press about vegans and veganism, not least William Sitwell’s controversial comments last year about killing vegans.

Whatever your motivation, whether it’s to be a bit healthier or you’ve read/seen information about the meat trade or you’re worried about the impact on the environment made by producing food; it is a good idea to understand what you need to do to ensure you stay healthy and get the nutrients you need in your new diet.  As a vegan you are cutting out all foods and ingredients that are produced by animals – so you have to take out all dairy products, honey and eggs.  And if you’re going the whole hog then being a vegan can also extend to cutting out clothing, toiletries, cosmetics and other items that include animal products.

The proteins and nutrients essential to good health and well-being can be found in other sources. For example: protein is also found in beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, tofu and soya alternatives. Also a number of vegetables contain protein such as broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Omega 3 type vitamins can be found in seeds and nuts such as linseed, chia seeds and walnuts. Milk products can be replaced with soya, almond or oat milks and cream.  For more information visit the Vegan Society’s nutrition pages on their website.

If you have favourite dishes you think you can’t live without, try and find an alternative or adapt a recipe as far as possible to take out the animal products.  It can be expensive buying vegan products and there are many cheap ways of making substitutes.   For instance, did you know that aquafaba, the water from the can of beans or chickpeas, is an egg substitute and can make delicious chocolate mousse, pancake batter and even meringues.  If you don’t believe us, click here for our vegan chocolate mousse recipe!

Being vegan isn’t just for January and can be a lifestyle choice.  If you’d like to learn more about how to cook vegan food, The Cooking Academy’s Vegan class is scheduled for 23 January or 6 April click here to book a place.

The Vegan Society provides lots of information on becoming vegan.

#thecookingacademy #Veganuary #vegan #healthyingredients  #williamsitwell
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Vegan Dark Chocolate Mousse
This luscious chocolate mousse is very easy to make and an ideal dessert.  If you're not sure about using aquafaba, give it a try and you may surprise yourself.


75g aquafaba (chickpea water)
40g caster sugar
¼ tsp xanthan gum
75g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids (dairy free)
100ml coconut cream
Strawberries to garnish

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Break the chocolate into pieces and put it into a medium bowl over a small saucepan half filled with water. Bring the water to a simmer and leave the chocolate to melt.

  2. Whisk the aquafaba in a bowl with an electric whisk until stiff peaks form. Gradually whisk in the sugar a tablespoon at a time and then continue to whisk for up to 10 minutes until glossy and thick.

  3. Remove the chocolate from the heat and stir gently to ensure that it is free of lumps.

  4. Put the coconut cream in a small saucepan and heat gently to boiling point.

  5. Add the xanthan gum to the aquafaba mixture and whisk for a further 3 minutes.

  6. Pour the hot coconut cream over the melted chocolate and mix well. Gently fold the meringue into the chocolate, cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

  7. To serve put a large scoop of chocolate mousse on the plate and garnish with strawberries.

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White Bean, Coconut & Roast Red Pepper Stew
White Bean, Coconut & Roast Red Pepper stew by Nicki Webster, Rebel Recipes

This warming and delicious recipe from the brilliant Rebel Recipes is both vegan and gluten free.  It works well in the summer too when there is a glut of red peppers and tomatoes.  You can vary the selection of beans too.

2-4 Servings

2 organic red peppers chopped roughly
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes
3tbsp olive oil + to drizzle
2 onions chopped
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
4 large organic tomatoes or 20 cherry tomatoes sliced or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
250ml water
1 can organic cannellini beans, drained
1 can organic butter beans, drained
1 can organic haricot beans, drained
1 tsp sea salt
black pepper
1-2 tbsp. coconut yoghurt or coconut cream
handful of fresh thyme
pinch of chilli flakes

Cooking instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 160C. Put the peppers and cherry tomatoes to a large baking tray and drizzle them with olive oil, turning the pieces so they are coated.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until soft.

  2. Put the remaining 2 tbsp. of olive oil to a large saucepan and add the onions.  Fry the onions until soft and browning slightly, approximately 10 minutes.  Then add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.

  3. Now add the tomatoes, stir, turn to low and cover and cook for approx. 5 minutes.

  4. Add in the roast peppers, water, beans and a little fresh thyme.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

  5. Finally season with salt, pepper and more fresh thyme.  Stir in the coconut yoghurt and sprinkle with chilli flakes.

  6. Top with the roast tomatoes and serve.

For more information about Rebel Recipes click here

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Team builds with a difference!
The feedback we get about our team building events, apart from being a hugely enjoyable experience, is often about the additional benefits the employees gain from the event.

The teams are thrown together in an unfamiliar setting and have a time limited task to achieve.  This calls for leadership, teamwork, communications, strategy and project planning even before they’ve lifted a pan.

It is an excellent way to observe how people work together, how they go about achieving the tasks they have been set.

Some teams just ‘go for it’ without much analysis of the task ahead, and quickly find they might have to regroup, read the recipes and ask for help.

Others can be taken over by a strong personality who might be a good at a particular task in the office or their profession, but the skills are not so transferrable to a multi-task project such as producing a Thai banquet.

The most successful groups are those that take some time to read the recipes, sort out who has the skills needed for the task, and thinks about timing.  These teams are often the most innovative and creative, and don’t lose the end objective from their sights.

The team skills they learn, or learn about by making mistakes, are all transferrable and sustainable skills that can be applied to the workplace.  In all cases, the teams go away with some learning and a sense of achievement.

Click here for more information about our corporate offering.
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