The cooking Journal

Posts in 'Nutrition & Food Information'

Food Innovation & Consumer Insights
In a world where we are bombarded by all sorts of ideas, going back to basics is often a good call.  This is relevant in the food world as much as anywhere else. There are regularly all sorts of new, strange and sometimes frankly baffling flavour combinations. How about Brussels Sprout flavoured crisps (it is the run up to Christmas), or Jalapeno and Tequila crisps?

At The Cooking Academy our ethos is to go back to basics on herbs and spices, exploring flavours and getting inspiration for delicious, healthy and nutritious foods.

We hold events for food and drinks companies who are looking to ‘go back to basics’ in terms of flavour.  The events focus on how nutritional eating and well-being is vital to peak performance, whether it is physical, mental or emotional.  The link between health and success is increasingly recognised as a key factor in workplace and lifetime productivity.

A plentiful display of herbs and spices is the focus and catalyst for the presentations and subsequent discussions.   Ranging from herbs such as parsley and sage to the benefits of garlic, turmeric and chillies, the presentations are a wide ranging journey around the world in herbs and spices, covering their history, flavour, medicinal and nutritional value.  Our presentations are interactive and so the audience will participate by tasting the various herbs and spices in their raw state – some are familiar others not so! We have a number of workshops that explore the use of ingredients in various forms and combinations.

‘The Science of Food’ presentation is a non-jargon analytical evaluation of the relationship between the chemistry in everyday ingredients, its functionality and effects on the human body.  The presentations are highly engaging and thought provoking sessions with audience participation to start the engagement process of why we eat what we eat, how food has evolved and what has influenced our food habits over the millennia.

The objective is to create awareness of the effects of food on our well-being and behaviour, as well as providing a valuable insight into the nutritional benefits of eating certain types of food and why certain ingredients are paired together.  Most importantly we looked at how to incorporate them into everyday diet and snack plans.

Our customer insights programmes are designed to be inspiring presentations aimed at improving understanding of our food choices and make informed decisions when developing products.

Sprout flavoured crisp for anyone…?

 

 

Discover how cooking can help your business, download our corporate brochure or contact me on Kumud@thecookingacademy.co.uk or call me on 01923 778880.

#TheCookingAcademy #nutrition #spices #nutritionalinformation #KumudGandhi #ACupboardFullOfSpices #TheAlchemyOfFood

 
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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.

www.maldonsalt.co.uk

www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/salt-nutrition/

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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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Staying hydrated in the hot weather
It’s important to stay hydrated, especially during the current spell of hot weather.  We are made up of almost two thirds water and it is essential to life.  Having enough water in our system helps our body and brain function properly.  If you’re not drinking enough, you may find you are subject to headaches, stomach upset and your joints begin to creak!

The recommended amount of water we should drink is 1.5 to 2 litres a day – that’s about 8-10 glasses.  Sounds a lot?  Don’t despair - you take in water in other ways by drinking and eating.

If you don’t like drinking plain H2O then add a slice of lemon, lime or cucumber, a few berries or leaves of fresh mint to the mix.  Fruit juices are good, but beware of drinking too much because of the level of sugar and acid in fruit.  Tea and coffee should be drunk in moderation as they are mild diuretics so drink a herbal infusion instead.  Fizzy drinks also contain a lot of sugar and caffeine and should also be drunk in moderation.

Vegetables and fruit contribute to your liquid intake, as well as helping you reach the recommended 5 a day.  Just adding some salad to your sandwich and a piece of fruit to your packed lunch will help with hydration.

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#thecookingacademy #healthyeating #heathylifestyle #lunch #hydration #fitness #wellbeing #summer #healthtips # fruit
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Seasonal Tomatoes
As we're in the height of the tomato season, today we are highlighting a wonderful starter which truly encapsulates the spirit of these long hot summer days we are currently enjoying.

It is a stunning combination of top quality buffalo mozzarella, gorgeous heritage tomatoes in every hue and peppery nasturtium leaves. The secret ingredient that brings this dish together is an intensely flavoured tomato essence. The very best cherry tomatoes are macerated with shallots, fennel and herbs for several hours and then placed in a muslin bag over a bowl in order to collect the golden juices. The intensity of flavour is sensational and elevates the humble tomato to something quite extraordinary.

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#thecookingacademy #eattheseason #eatfortheplanet #eattherainbow #healthyeating #heathylifestyle #tomatoes #heritagetomatoes #alfrescodining #summerstarters #buffalomozzarella #tomatoessence #nasturtiumleaves #freshfood #lunch #vegetarian
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6 Health Benefits of Chocolate
Great news for those with a sweet tooth, eating chocolate can be healthy. You can finally indulge in your favourite snack guilt-free. However, there’s a catch!

Well of course, there has to be a catch, for me it’s a good one – ‘that it has to be dark chocolate’ and the higher the cacao percentage the better. And also, it’s healthier if you stick to eating just two to three pieces a day. But apart from that, fill your boots.

It can help you lose weight

Chocolate doesn’t have to be a reason for weight gain believes neuroscientist Will Clower. In his book Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, he explains how eating a piece of dark chocolate 20 minutes before and five minutes after a meal can cut your appetite by an impressive 50 percent. According to Clower, this is because chocolate triggers the hormones that tell your brain “I’m full.” However, remember that this applies to cacao-rich dark chocolate only. Milk chocolate would raise your blood sugar levels and leave you craving the stuff even more.

It gives you brain power

Chocoholics are the smartest people around. Or at least they should be, thanks to the flavanol content of the snack. Teamed with reports that it also helps to improve blood flow to the brain, it appears that dark chocolate makes excellent brain food. So much so, that researchers have even put its properties to the test with Alzheimer's patients. In a trial published by Nature Neuroscience, it was discovered that “high-flavanol intervention was found to enhance dentate gyrus (DG) function” - DG being the region of the brain in which “function declines in association with human aging.” Although the study explains, while the flavanols have the potential to perhaps aid those with Alzheimer's, it can’t prevent the disease entirely.

It promotes gorgeous skin


Flavonoids are pretty powerful. Without you realising, they get to work on your skin, acting as a filter to harmful UV rays and protecting you against sun damage. That’s not to say you should skimp on the sunscreen - always apply when out in sunlight. What’s more, as we know all too well, dark chocolate is a great stress reliever, which also helps keep the skin young, fresh and fine-line free.

It’s nature’s tastiest medicine


Dark chocolate is an illness-battling all-rounder, with evidence to suggest that its high antioxidant content has the potential to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve blood flow. It’s believed that the flavanols found in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium (the lining of the arteries) to produce nitric oxide, which in turn relaxes the arteries and as a result, lower blood pressure. This relaxing effect may be minimal, but every little helps.

It gives you an energy boost


If you’re trying to drink less coffee but struggle to get through the day without your caffeine hit, dark chocolate could be the answer - there is 43mg of caffeine per every 100g. A recent study from London’s Kingston University also suggests that dark chocolate could be useful for athletes. Thanks to dark chocolate’s ability to improve blood flow (and in turn, carry oxygen to the muscles at a faster rate), those involved within the project were able to cycle further and faster. Skip energy bars and try a little dark chocolate.

It makes you happy – the best reason of all


Science agrees that chocolate makes you happy, and not just because it tastes amazing. There are chemical components within chocolate that make it irresistible, such as phenylethylamine - an organic compound that when released in the body stimulates a similar feeling to that of falling in love. It also acts as an antidepressant when combined with the dopamine that exists naturally in the brain. Along with its theobromine and tryptophan content (other properties of chocolate that promote happiness and stimulate a natural, albeit weak, high in the body); it’s easy to see why chocolate is considered a certified mood booster.

 
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