The cooking Journal

Posts in 'Inspiration'

The Alchemy of Food – motivational speaker with a difference
Public speakers come in many shapes and sizes – some are motivational, some inspiring and some frankly obscure.  In my corporate life (before becoming a chef), I sat through many conferences and team meetings with guest speakers – from drivers of sub-sonic cars, to bobsleigh teams, to a woman who rowed solo across the Atlantic, to someone who used geese as an analogy for team building.

All these speakers encourage us to change our lives, or at least our work lives, how to work fitter, faster, smarter, be more competitive and so on.  Very few look at how we look after ourselves to meet those challenges.

‘The Alchemy of Food’ presented by Kumud Gandhi is the exception.   Kumud is a food scientist, published author and keynote speaker on health and wellbeing for peak personal and professional performance.

‘The Alchemy of Food’ is an inspirational non-jargon scientific look at the food we eat and motivates us to understand what we consume and the affect it has on us.

During the interactive speech, Kumud covers the nutritional and medicinal benefits of herbs and spices, and why certain ingredients are put together in a recipe.  Kumud explains how the medicinal value of ingredients, known to our ancestors, that has been lost in the mists of time is present in modern day recipes and medicine.  For example we don’t know why lemon is paired with fish, apart from it tasting nice! In fact it helps us digest the fish.

Using her food science background, Kumud explains how certain foods can affect our health and wellbeing including the changes in our brain, our levels of resilience, need for hydration and nutrition.

The difference with the Alchemy of Food from other motivational speeches is that you can make an instant change to your life, health and wellbeing through understanding what you are eating and how it affects you.  For team managers, it can be part of managing your team and dovetail with your corporate wellbeing programme.   It is always very well received by our clients who go away inspired by ‘going back to basics’ on flavour and information about the ingredients we use every day.

So what was life changing from all those speeches I sat through?  What did I learn from the sub-sonic car driver and the bobsleigh team?  Not much.  Debra, the woman who rowed solo became a friend and her example of ‘choosing your attitude’ encouraged me to run a half marathon.  And as for the goose-herder – the goose bit him, which is some form of feedback and the most memorable part of the speech!

‘The Alchemy of Food’ can be a one off presentation at a team meeting, or the introduction to a team build and is an excellent way of learning about health and wellbeing.

If you are interested in having a different motivational speaker at a team meeting or conference, please contact:

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Pancake day, Tuesday 5 March
Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent starts.  Lent is the time of fasting in the Christian faith lasting approximately 5 weeks before the major festival of Easter.  In the UK, and some other countries, Shrove Tuesday is celebrated by cooking pancakes.  Shrove Tuesday is celebrated in other parts of the world such as Brazil, the US with the Mardi Gras and famously the Carnival in Venice, Italy.

So why do we eat Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday? And what does Shrove mean?

Let’s start with Shrove.  This is a corruption of the old English word shriven.  To be shriven meant a person had gone to church to confess what they’d done wrong and received a pardon from the priest.  This always had to happen before Lent started.

Pancakes were made because Lent was a time of fasting, so people had to use up all the fattening ingredients in the house such as eggs and milk.  By adding flour to use up eggs and milk you create a batter and can make pancakes.  There are pancake races in towns across the UK, the most famous being in Olney in Buckinghamshire where the High Street is closed to allow the runners to race along the street flipping pancakes!

Of course pancakes can be eaten at any time!  They are delicious as a dessert with all sorts of toppings from lemon and sugar, to Nutella, to golden syrup.  Crepes Suzette are a show off dish in a restaurant, where the pancake is served with orange and sugar, and flambéed (set alight) in Grand Marnier at the side of your table!

They can also be used for a savoury dish with fillings such as chicken and mushroom, spinach and ricotta.  Pancakes can also be made in advance, and once cool, frozen with a piece of greaseproof paper between each one. They can then be reheated quickly for either a sweet or savoury dish.

Breakfast pancakes are made slightly thicker as are Scotch pancakes which are delicious as an afternoon tea snack.

For the basic pancake recipe click here

For Crepes Suzette recipe click here
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Here comes the sun and Vitamin D!

We have experienced a very early Spring which has seen lots of sun and high temperatures and sunbathing in February!

Sun is a vital source of Vitamin D which is essential for healthy bones, and our bodies create Vitamin D when exposed to direct sunlight.  It helps us absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet which are important for healthy bones, teeth and muscle.   We can get some Vitamin D from a small number of foods such as oily fish including salmon and mackerel, as well as red meat and eggs.  If we don’t have enough of these vitamins and minerals our bones soften and become weak.

We can make enough Vitamin D from being in the sun every day for short periods of time from March to the end of September – and you do need to be outside, sitting in a sunny room will not help as the glass filters the ultraviolet rays.   Sunscreen is essential to prevent burning, as the weather gets hotter and sunnier during the summer.  It is not known how much time exactly is needed to make enough Vitamin D.  There are a number of factors that can affect how Vitamin D is made, such as your skin colour and how much skin you have exposed.  If you have dark skin such as those of African, African-Caribbean or south Asian origin, you will need to spend longer in the sun to produce the same amount of Vitamin D as someone with lighter skin.

For more information go to the NHS website


Click here to go back to the blogs
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Fairtrade Fortnight - the ethics of food
Do you think about where your food comes from and how it is produced?  You may be concerned about the environmental impact of your foods either the production methods or the air miles clocked up by flying in French beans from Kenya.  Have you thought about who is working in food production and their working conditions, overseas and in this country?  What about the ethics of food waste?

There are lots of questions when you look into the ethics of food, and the environmental sustainability of some of the farming techniques.

There is a lot in the media about sustainable foodstuffs and the ethics of how base ingredients are grown and harvested.   Recently, advertisers have been using dramatic images showing deforestation and the impact on orangutans to source palm oil.  The same level of deforestation happens with soya production, most of which is used for animal feed – but we don’t see that on TV.

We are even less likely to see pictures of the children who are working in cocoa farms in West Africa in the chocolate supply chain to make your favourite treat.  Thankfully, a number of the chocolate companies are finally looking at their supply chains, but not all, so look out for the Fairtrade, Utz and Rainforest Alliance logos or their own accreditation.  Agriculture, fishing and food production are prone to poor working conditions and even modern day slavery, with workers having few or no rights – even in this country.

Even if we started to understand the seasonality of food and start buying and cooking with local and seasonal produce, rather than buying strawberries at Christmas, we will be lessening the impact on the environment.  But importantly we will start to eat foods that still contain the nutritional value that we need, which is surely the point of it at all.

It’s almost too much to take in, and buying ethically sourced food has a price.  There is hope!  There are now many more products available in mainstream shops that are classified as ethically sourced from tea to fabrics to gold.

The Fairtrade mark is the most famous and longest lived ethical brand, and ensures producers get a fair wage for their products and improving working conditions.  It is Fairtrade Fortnight from 25 February to 10 March which is designed to raise awareness of ethical food production.  There are others ethical marks out there such as Utz and Rainforest Alliance.  The major supermarket chains have understood their customers’ concerns about the ethics and sustainability of food and are taking a serious look at their supply chain to work with their suppliers to improve working conditions.

Click here for a delicious Fairtrade Gingerbread recipe

For more information:
Fairtrade Foundation
UTZ and Rainforest Alliance
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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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