The cooking Journal

Posts in 'Inspiration'

“A Cupboard Full Of Spices”
My book, “A Cupboard Full Of Spices”, has finally gone to press.  It has been a labour of love and 10 years in the making.  I have learnt so many things on the journey for instance; designing a cover requires so many complicated and technical decisions!  I think I’ve become a print expert along the way!

It was a real dichotomy to decipher which recipes to include and which to leave out.  Once decided, we tested all the recipes again to make sure the instructions are clear, as a favourite recipe can be second nature!

The fun, and the hard work involved in a photo shoot was phenomenal.  Cooking the recipes, plating and presenting them in their best light for the photographer.  I marvel at the chefs who look so well coiffed and calm in the photos in their books!

The book describes my journey in food, and all the influences I have had from childhood in a traditional Indian home in the UK and India to the present day. The book is a compendium of spices, explaining their uses and medicinal properties.  I have included a reference icon for each recipe showing the influences on health and wellbeing that the ingredients of the recipe can bring.

The book will be published at the beginning of October and is available to order on the website today. Buy yours now!

I hope anyone who buys it has as much pleasure in reading and cooking the recipes as I have had in creating the book, and here's a little taster...  [3d-flip-book mode="thumbnail-lightbox" urlparam="fb3d-page" id="12023" title="false" template="short-white-book-view" lightbox="dark"]



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Beginners becoming confident in the kitchen
I find one of the most rewarding things about teaching cooking is seeing the sense of achievement in the clients as they produce good food.   This is doubly rewarding when they are beginners or unconfident cooks.

I have taught many beginners, of all ages and experience and there are many different barriers that people face in cooking.  Ironically it is often the  people who are not confident in cooking are also reluctant to book a Beginner’s class as they don’t feel they are good enough to join a class.

Cooking is one of those skills that we are expected to have.  Women in particular are expected to be able to cook, however increasingly men also find they have to cook for themselves.

We may have had a taste (sorry!) of cooking at school through Home Economics, as it was known in the dim and distant past, or Food Tech as it’s called these days.  However, I remember “Home Ec” classes being pretty boring, not particularly practical and the food we produced not something I’d repeat at home (it was the late ‘70s).

There are so many influences on our relationship with food including family background, culture and health, even our understanding where food comes from and when, will have some impact on our willingness to cook.   Government information and TV shows will give us all sorts of information that can contradict and confuse us.

All is not lost!  Our “Introduction to Cooking” course is designed to be a friendly and safe place to learn.  We limit the number of clients in a class so our experienced chef-teacher can devote their time and attention to each person.  We explain what we are doing and why, taking away some of the mystique, as well as giving lots of hints and tips and answering any questions.  The class takes place in a large domestic kitchen so there is no scary industrial equipment.  We teach a range of delicious recipes that build on the skills learnt during the day, and that can be easily replicated at home.

There is such great satisfaction and reward in seeing beginners or people who think they can’t cook, realising they can, losing the fear they had and gaining confidence.   A memorable occasion for me was at a recent class.  Two clients, one a highly successful business woman the other a recently widowed gentleman, I taught them how to cut an onion correctly.  They said if that was the only thing they had learnt that day, it had made their life complete!


The Cooking Academy provides a variety of courses and our chef tutors provide advice and information on the nutritional benefits of ingredients and seasoning.  Details of our Introduction to Cooking class can be found here.
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Frightened by fearful looking fruit? Think again…

Are you put off by protruding parsnips? Or frightened by fearful looking fruit? Think again…

Did you know that more than a third of farmed fruit and vegetables never reach supermarket shelves because they are misshapen, unsymmetrical and discoloured? In support of Zero Waste Week, (3rd September-7th September) we want to share with you why this happens and what we can do to make a difference.

A recent study from the University of Edinburgh has shown that more than 50 million tons of fruit and vegetables are discarded each year. This monumental waste is principally due to strict regulations set out by supermarkets and the government. Produce may be rejected if it fails to comply with EU laws, as well as the supermarkets’ own strict standards of what is visually appealing to customers.

Is your squash too small? After harvest, produce is sorted according to size. Tons of fruit and veg are rejected for being too big, small or misshapen. Supermarkets want symmetrical produce to fit neatly and evenly into display cabinets, any shape otherwise is deemed unacceptable. They also want produce that looks beautiful, meaning scarred or discoloured fruit and veg go to waste. Despite having the same taste and nutrients as ‘perfect’ produce, those considered misshapen will have to wait for a juicer to show interest, or risk being binned. Stephen Porter of University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said,  “Encouraging people to be less picky about how their fruit and vegetables look could go a long way to cutting waste, reducing the impact of food production on the climate, and easing the food supply chain.”

As well as unsightly produce being disregarded, the problem also lies within the overproduction of food.  Farmers contracted to supermarkets typically grow more food than obliged, to allow for a proportion that would be deemed unfit to sell. In order to tackle food waste, supermarkets must change their relationships with suppliers. A number of supermarkets are working with WRAP, ‘Waste and Resource Action Programme’ to do just that. WRAP have started a campaign ‘The Courtauld Commitment of 2025’, that gives the opportunity for all industry partners across the supply chain to come together and make a real step change in tackling food waste. Their aim is to cut the waste and greenhouse gas emissions associated with food and drink by at least one-fifth per person in ten years.

Whilst supermarkets are doing their fair share; you at home can do the same. Support the companies fighting for the rights of ugly produce!  Companies include Oddbox, Riverford, Able & Cole, Waitrose, Morrisons, and many more!

So ‘lettuce’ stand up and take ‘chard’ of our future! Join the fight against food waste and make your mark for zero waste week!






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I will survive! …Freshers’ week
The prospect of University can be a daunting experience not only for the new undergraduate, but also for their loved ones!

Being torn away from their ‘family’ environment, students find that they’re fending for themselves. Often new undergraduates suddenly find they have to put into practise, or quickly learn, basic lifestyle skills such as cooking, cleaning and staying healthy.   Sharing accommodation or a kitchen can prove challenging.  I remember during my student days, arguments about owned the milk/cheese that was in the fridge, which could have done with trained negotiators to resolve.

With all the excitement, pressure and new experiences of living away from home for the first time, eating healthily comes low on the agenda and it’s common for students to fall into bad eating habits.

The Cooking Academy is here to help with our ‘Student Survival Kit’ providing the ingredients every student should have to help them get started in the kitchen.  Cooking is a life skill, one you can share with friends, and enjoy.

The Pack Includes:

  • Three ‘Introduction to Cooking’ recipes from our popular cookery class, including a delicious chili con carne and a sizzling stir fry;

  • A set of measuring spoons;

  • A spice tin filled seven different spices to help get phenomenally flavoursome dishes;

  • Turmeric Latte Blend to drink to help you avoid the dread ‘Fresher’s flu’!

  • A delicious Garlic and Black Pepper spice blend used to flavour fish or chicken

The kit will make a great gift for students starting on their new adventure and also put loved ones’ mind at rest that they are sending them off, well looked after.  When they return home at Christmas we offer the opportunity for students to replenish their kit with spices at discounted prices!

Our Introduction to Cooking tutors Xenia Murray, Sarah Leary and Kumud Gandhi are also available Monday to Friday (9am – 5:00pm) to assist students with their questions regarding the recipes included in the pack.

Call us on 01923 778880 before Monday 3rd September and quote ‘I’m a survivor’ to receive 10% off your survival kit!


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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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