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The cooking Journal

Posts in 'Inspiration'

That Old New Year’s Chestnut
For the first time in a long time I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year, not because I have achieved everything, I have set out to do, but rather because I haven’t! Instead, I gave myself a good talking to in a quiet, calm and positive manner about all the things I have achieved and reflected on how I achieved them (essentially with dogged determination and utter willpower).
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10 foods than can cause inflammation in the body and 10 that fight it
Most people tend to think of inflammation in terms of external signs: swelling, bruising, redness, heat and so on, like when you stub your toe, that immediate pain you feel is the body working in action to help fix whatever just happened. It is a normal and effective response that facilitates healing.Unfortunately, chronic inflammation is a different story and can be caused by diet, stress, lack of exercise, smoking, pollution, and lack of sleep. It can be seen in those with arthritis, fibromyalgia, coeliac disease, and irritable bowel disease. It can also play a part in asthma and diabetes.On occasions, weight gain can also be attributable to inflammation as inflammation in the body makes our weight control hormone (leptin) to be less effective, which therefore causes weight gain. Thus, the two often come hand in hand.
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The Hidden Jewels in our Hedgerows and Woodlands
It may be frosty but it's still technically autumn, this year seems to be speeding by? Although the nights are drawing in I do love the misty moisty mornings which herald this season of plenty.As the leaves continue to change colour from green through to glorious hues of red, orange and russet there’s nothing nicer than pulling on a pair of sturdy boots and going for a long walk, kicking up the leaves as you go. Of course a bit of bracing exercise tends to stimulate the appetite and makes one look forward to the comforting dishes that are characteristic of this time of year.
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The Preservation Society
It was good old William Shakespeare who coined the phrase “in a pickle” and it is certainly true that pickling, preserving and fermenting are some of the oldest methods of food preservation. These processes fell out of favour with the advent of mass refrigeration but have now firmly wormed their way back into fashion. All things bacterial and vinegary have sloughed off their slightly fusty image and have become super cool.
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The Rise and Rise of Sourdough
One of my great weaknesses is my love of bread, in any shape or form. A particular favourite is sourdough which is fortuitous as this delicious bread seems to be enjoying something of a renaissance. Apparently we can’t get enough of it and practically every artisanal bakery from here to John O’Groats is offering their own range of sourdough loaves to meet this increasing demand.
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Why you Should Switch to Plant-Based Milk
If you have ever thought about switching up your everyday cows’ milk in your coffee or cereal, then now is the time! Founded by Plant-Based News in 2017, this campaign has proved popular in helping people switch to plant-based milk alternatives. From soya to rice, cashews to coconut there’s so many options to choose from.
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Deal or No Deal- How Will We Eat Post Brexit?
Many of us bang the drum for eating seasonally and buying locally. When we exit the EU on 31st January 2020 it’s highly possible that we will have no choice in this as food importation may be affected- at least in the short term. As a nation we rely heavily on imported produce, according to a recent Government white paper (“Brexit: food prices and availability”) over 40% of our food is imported throughout the year rising to a whopping 70% during March.
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Cooking by Degrees
It won’t be long before September rolls around again and a new batch of students will be wending their way to their chosen University. In these upcoming weeks there are multitude of things to think about but it is fundamentally important not to let the subject of what you’re going to eat throughout the term slide down the list.
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Foraging for the first time and our top tips!
If you are curios about what food nature has to offer but are unsure where to start, then we have some simple tips to set you on your way into the world of foraging.
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A Waste of Thyme?
The effects of climate change have long been a concern of mine, particularly in the arena of food wastage and I’ve been hugely inspired by the young Swedish environmentalist, Greta Thunberg with her call to arms highlighting the imminent dangers of global warming. According to a YouGov poll in June 2019, public concern about the environment has soared to record levels in the UK since Thunberg “pierced the bubble of denial”. Thanks to vociferous campaigners such as Thunberg there can be few amongst us who have been left unaware of the challenges we all face from climate change and I feel strongly that through my role at The Cooking Academy it behoves me to encourage people to make the small changes that I know can bring long term benefits.
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Top Student Cooking Tips- Learn to survive at university
Save Money, Eat Healthily and Learn Essential #Survival Skills, find out our top tips to help you get through university, with a special code for our Introduction to Cooking Class!
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Seasonal Ingredients: Artichokes
It takes a bit of patience to prepare an artichoke, but once cooked you will be rewarded by the subtly flavoured leaves and the mouthwatering artichoke heart. Originating from the Mediterranean region, artichokes pair brilliantly with butter, lemon and parmesan.
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National Growing for Wellbeing Week
For me gardening is the perfect antidote to a hectic life that seems to be increasingly dominated by social media and technology, it’s a simple way of claiming back my place on this earth, of re-establishing a connection with my roots.
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Kumud Gandhi- The Original Spice Girl?
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.
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Cinnamon Spring Lamb
Spring lamb is coming into the shops and this tender meat is traditionally eaten at Easter.   Our recipe for cinnamon spring lamb is a great way to serve lamb.  It uses a formidable list of spices, but don’t be daunted by that as they are all working to making you work better and the lamb even more delicious.
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Improve your cognitive function with Peanuts

A higher nut consumption could be the key to better cognitive health in older people according to new research from the University of South Australia.

In a study of 4822 Chinese adults aged 55+ years, researchers found that eating more than 10 grams of nuts a day was positively associated with better mental functioning, including improved thinking, reasoning and memory.

Lead researcher, UniSA's Dr. Ming Li, says the study is the first to report an association between cognition and nut intake in older Chinese adults, providing important insights into increasing mental health issues (including dementia) faced by an ageing population.

"Population ageing is one of the most substantial challenges of the twenty-first century. Not only are people living longer, but as they age, they require additional health support which is placing unprecedented pressure on aged-care and health services," Dr. Li says.

"In China, this is a massive issue, as the population is ageing far more rapidly than almost any other country in the world.  "Improved and preventative health care – including dietary modifications – can help address the challenges that an ageing population presents.

"By eating more than 10 grams (or two teaspoons) of nuts per day older people could improve their cognitive function by up to 60 per cent– compared to those not eating nuts – effectively warding off what would normally be experienced as a natural two-year cognition decline."  Dr. Li says peanuts have specific anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects which can alleviate and reduce cognitive decline.

Nuts are known to be high in healthy fats, protein and fibre with nutritional properties that can lower cholesterol and improve cognitive health. While there is no cure at present for age-related cognition decline and neurogenerative disease, variations in what people eat are delivering improvements for older people.

The World Health Organization estimates that globally, the number of people living with dementia is at 47 million.

By 2030, this is projected to rise to 75 million and by 2050, global dementia cases are estimated to almost triple. China has the largest population of people with dementia.

As people age, they naturally experience changes to conceptual reasoning, memory, and processing speed. This is all part of the normal ageing process; however age is also the strongest known risk factor for cognitive disease. Thus finding ways to help older people retain their cognitive health and independence for longer is imperative, modifying their diet is a good start and absolutely worth the effort.

Research taken from University of South Australia – Dr li and Dr Shi  published January 2019
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The Alchemy of Food – motivational speaker with a difference
‘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.
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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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