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Posts in 'Nutrition & Food Information'

The Moody Foodie - Fed up with Feeling Hangry?
It’s that time of year again when many people’s thoughts turn to eating more healthily. Most sensible eating is about commonsense- we know that it’s not good to miss breakfast, eat too many sugary salty snacks or subsist on a diet of convenience food. We also know it’s wise to exercise moderation, eat a good variety of fruit and vegetables, consume less meat and drink plenty of water. What we probably pay less attention to is what’s in a diet- isn’t food just fuel?
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The Daily Dozen - The Only Checklist You Need to Eat Healthy
So you want to be healthy and you’re on-board with Veganuary, but how do you make sure you have a healthy balanced diet throughout the day? The Daily Dozen are the 12 essential things to eat, drink and do to maintain a healthy mind, body & soul ready for to face the challenges of the new year and be fit for life and fit for the new you.
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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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Is turmeric the solution to fighting superbugs?
In this week’s Sunday Times I read a very interesting article by Andrew Gregory about how scientists have discovered the power of using curcumin (the plant compound that gives turmeric its colour) along with other natural ingredients to fight superbugs without the need for antibiotics. Using nanocapsules of curcumin they have successfully neutralised one of the world's most pernicious superbugs- helicobacter pylori. In a world where we are increasingly hearing about antibiotic resistance, a discovery like this could spell a huge change in the way we fight these bugs.
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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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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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Best foods to eat this summer!
Summer is the perfect time to buy fruits and vegetables. Look for fresh seasonal ingredients that are low in fat, cooling, light and nutritious. Here are some of our top ingredients and recipes to try out this summer!
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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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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.
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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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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. 
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Eating for Exam Performance
Soon after the Easter holidays, young people will be starting their GSCEs and A Levels.  This is an important time for those at school, and the pressure to succeed and move on to the next stage of their lives is very high to.  So how can eating help our young people cope with the pressures, how can they eat to improve their exam performance? 
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Seasonal Ingredients: Rocket
Rocket is coming into season in April.  It’s a dark green peppery leaf that can be grown at home like other salad leaves, but is readily available in supermarkets.  It is known as arugula in Italian and particularly in the US.
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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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Seasonality, The Spring Onion
The humble Spring Onion, also known as Scallion, is a worldwide star of cuisine appearing in many dishes from Afghanistan to Wales, via Mexico, Singapore and Latvia.
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Bread – the staff of life
Bread is one of the oldest manmade foods and is a key part of many cultures and religions.  It is shot through our language too, ‘to bring home the dough’ to refer to money, ‘breaking bread with others’ to represent hospitality, and ‘the best thing since sliced bread’ to signify a new idea.
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Oils and fats… which are the best to use and why
When I am teaching I am often asked about oils and fats and which are healthiest to use when cooking or preparing food.  The answer is “it depends”.

There is a huge variety of oils on the market which can make it a challenge to decide what to use and when.  The TV chefs might be using a particular type of oil with gusto.  You may have tasted something delicious in a restaurant and want to replicate it at home.  Are roast potatoes cooked in duck fat a guilty pleasure?  I have a particular food memory from my childhood in Austria of the wonderfully oleaginous emerald green and nutty pumpkin seed oil drizzled on the orange pumpkin soup.

Having researched this topic, there are arguments raging on the various health benefits of oils, and the cooking uses.  The scientific research contributes a number of different interpretations around the world, which are often controlled by local legislation and health advice.

Firstly, what is the difference between oils and fats?  Oil is the melted form of a fat.  Some oils are better at cooking at high temperature than others and each oil or fat has a temperature at which it starts to smoke.  This varies depending on the oil, for example refined vegetable oils such as sunflower or rapeseed oils which have a smoke point of 205⁰C; animal fats such as duck fat are 190⁰C; and butter has a smoke point of 150⁰C, unless it is clarified (ie the milk solids are taken out) when the smoke point reaches 200⁰C.

The heating of an oil or fat will change its chemical structure and this is where health advice will apply as mono/poly, un/saturated fats and antioxidants are converted or damaged by heat, which in some types can result in carcinogenic properties.  It’s best to use oils once only for frying, as it becomes unhealthier the more times you heat it.  You must dispose of large quantities of cooking oil responsibly; most local recycling/waste disposal sites will have provision for cooking oil.

Flavour comes into the discussion too.  Fat is flavouring; it is not just for cooking with, so think about what you are using the oil or fat for.  Meats contain levels of fat, think of the beautiful marbling of fat in a piece of lamb, which will baste the meat as it cooks.  If you see a recipe that calls for both oil and butter, the butter is there to enhance the flavour.  If you have an extra virgin olive oil, which will have a distinct flavour of grass and pepper, you may not want that affected by the cooking process and a salad dressing or drizzle of this oil is the best use.  You wouldn’t use olive oil to cook an Asian dish as the flavours will not complement the other ingredients and a neutral oil is a better option.

Olive oil has been used for millennia with uses ranging from medicinal to cooking and religious rites; it is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and other ancient texts.  It continues to be the main cooking oil of the Mediterranean diet.  Elizabeth David, the famous cookery writer, introduced it to the UK in the 1960s, however it was not readily available outside an Italian deli or a chemist until the ‘80s.   Olive oil is very healthy.  It contains more mono-saturated fat than any other oil at 15%.  This is the type of unsaturated fat that lowers LDL the “bad” cholesterol and raises the HDL the “good” cholesterol.  The polyphenols in the oil act as antioxidants.  It has a low smoke point which affects the quality, the flavour and the health benefits of the oil.

Rapeseed oil is becoming more popular in the UK and can be found in supermarkets rather than at health food shops or delis.   Those sulphurous yellow coloured fields that we see in the summer are full of the plant which gets transformed in to rapeseed oil.  It is very low in saturated fats (only 7.5%), high in vitamin E, and high mono-unsaturated fats.  It is the only unblended oil that can be heated to a high frying temperature without affecting its flavour or the antioxidants.

Coconut oil has been promoted as a healthier fat; however there have been some strong counter claims.  It has a high smoke point, and can be used as a substitute for butter which makes it popular with those following a vegan or lactose free diet.  However, it has one of the highest levels of saturated fat at 86% (compared with butter around 52%) which means 2 tablespoons of coconut oil represents 19g of saturated fat.  The daily recommended amount of saturated fat is 20g for a woman and 30g for a man.

Goose or duck fat are a real treat and should not be used for everyday cooking as it is high in unsaturated fat.  We generally only use it for roast potatoes and parsnips at Christmas as the fat adds flavour to the vegetables.  It is also used, if you’re brave enough, to make a confit dish, which involves cooking meat very slowly, submerged in lots of duck fat.

Delicious oils such as walnut, truffle and pumpkin seed are best used for drizzling or dressings.  Sesame seed oil can be used for dressings and stir fries, but add it at the end of the cooking process as it burns easily.  Truffle oils can vary in strength and can overwhelm a dish if used too liberally.

Despite the main health benefits of oils and their delicious flavours, unfortunately they are all high in calories, so choose wisely!
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Eating the Seasons
Seasonal eating is really easy as well as being more economical.  Because of the abundance of produce available in supermarkets we have got out of the habit of knowing when fruit and veg are in season.  If you think eating seasonally is all about endless root vegetables in winter, you may be surprised with what is available.

Fruit and veg are not the only ingredients that are affected by seasonality.  Some ingredients such as game are controlled by law.  It is not possible to buy game such as pheasant, grouse or deer at certain times of the year.  Fish has its season too and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has a helpful guide to what fish is available at certain times of the year and what alternatives there are.  As with game, the fish will breed at certain times of the year, and need time to grow and develop.

You might have to be a bit more adventurous with your cooking but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.  There are a number of websites that give you information on the produce that is available in certain seasons, including Eat Seasonably and the Vegetarian Society.

January and February may seem bleak months to be thinking about fresh vegetables however there is a wide variety available.  Including parsnips, leeks, onions, butternut squash, purple sprouting broccoli and a range of cabbages.  You can make some really tasty dishes from these vegetables such as leek gratin, a stir fry with the broccoli, a butternut squash tagine.

Apples and pears, although harvested in autumn, store well and can be kept for a year in the right conditions and are available at this time of year.  Try and buy English varieties so that you’re not using up the air miles of apples flown in from New Zealand or South Africa.

As the year goes by you can consider preserving vegetables.  You could pickle them or if you have the capacity, keeping them in the deep freeze.  By blanching green vegetables such as green, runner or French beans in hot water for a few minutes and then chilling quickly in cold water, you will be able freeze them without them losing too many nutrients or colour.

Eating seasonally means things taste better.  If you are picking the veg at the time it is ripe/ready for harvesting it will taste better.

Click here for more details on what foods are in season

For details from the vegetarian society

For details about the MSC

Back to more blogs

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The Unstoppable Rise of Veganuary
Unless you have been living in a cave or hole in the ground there can hardly be a soul alive who hasn’t been aware of Veganuary in some shape or form this year. Founded in January 2014 by husband and wife team Matthew Glover and Jane Land, Veganuary was set up as a registered charity to encourage people to go vegan for January. As well as veganism being one of the fastest growing lifestyle choices for a number of different reasons, this year in particular Veganuary has literally exploded into the collective consciousness.

All of the major supermarkets now have a dedicated fresh “Veganuary section and many well-known chain restaurants have introduced a wide variety of vegan dishes into their menus; GBK, Wagamama and Las Iguanas to name but a few. Hence we’re also becoming much more conversant with previously hard to find ingredients such as tempeh and jackfruit.

It seems that we’ve got the savoury dishes pretty much nailed and even hardened meat eaters appear to have cottoned on to the fact that the massive advances in vegan cookery and ingredients are producing incredible dishes that can be universally enjoyed. If you don’t believe me, check out the queues outside Temple of Seitan in Camden just before the doors open.

As a chef teaching students to cook delicious vegan food, the most exciting discovery recently has been aquafaba, which coincidentally also occurred in 2014. Essentially the liquid from tins of cooked chickpeas, aquafaba mimics the properties of egg whites in cooking and can be utilised to make a whole host of sweet treats including meringues, mousses, marshmallows, ice cream and brownies- the list is almost endless. This has liberated anyone following a vegan diet from the ubiquitous fruit salad and paved the way for an amazing variety of truly delicious desserts and baked goods. On a personal note I’m almost beside myself with excitement now that I have finally succeeded in cracking the conundrum which is the vegan macaron. After two failed attempts I have managed to produce a pretty close facsimile to the real thing.

The real message underlying this piece however is that recent research suggests that enormous reductions in meat eating are going to be required to avoid dangerous climate change. Realistically our population isn’t going to go vegan overnight but right now has never been a better or easier time to make some changes to our diets, and this can be very easily achieved either when dining out or cooking at home. For those of you who don’t already I would like to gently encourage you to introduce at least a couple of meat free days into your weekly diet and to show willing I am sharing my recipe for a simply stunning vegan chocolate cake to satisfy those sweet cravings.


Rich Vegan Chocolate Cake

You will need 2 x 23cm loose bottomed cake tins for this recipe


275g plain flour

100g cocoa powder

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

450ml soya milk or unsweetened soya milk
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
320g caster sugar
320ml sunflower oil
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

For the chocolate frosting

600g pitted dates

60g raw cacao powder

½ tsp fine sea salt

Grated zest of 2 oranges

250ml rice milk


  1. Heat the oven to 160°c. Grease the sides and base and line the base of 2 x 23cm loose bottomed round cake tins with baking parchment.

  2. Put the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Sift twice. In a separate bowl, whisk together the soya milk, vinegar, sugar, oil and vanilla extract. Pour into the flour mixture and stir until well combined.

  3. Spoon/pour the mixture evenly into the prepared cake tins, place on a large baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven (middle shelf) for 45-50 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out with no crumbs attached, the middle of the cake, when pressed, should spring back slightly instead of sinking in.

  4. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes if necessary. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Slide a table knife carefully around the inside edge of the tin to release the cake, then remove. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool for an hour.

  5. To make the frosting soften the dates in warm water for an hour and then drain before using. Combine the dates, cacao powder, salt and the orange zest in a food processor and pulse to break up the dates. Then slowly add the milk with the processor running until you have a thick, silky and spreadable frosting. Sandwich the two halves of the cake with generous lashings of the frosting and spread the frosting over the top of the cake. Any leftover frosting can be kept in the fridge, covered, for up to 2 weeks.

  6. Enjoy!


For more information on Veganuary CLICK HERE!

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