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The cooking Journal

Posts in 'What's happening'

The Cooking Academy Delivers 100 Cooked Meals for NHS Staff at Watford General Hospital
On Monday 30th March, Kumud delivered 100 cooked meals for the frontline NHS staff working in the COVID-19 wards at Watford General Hospital. Kumud and one of our teaching chefs Sarah Leary, volunteered their time to prepare and cook nutritious meals to keep the dedicated staff going on their long shifts.
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Tesco cooks up a storm in Dunstable
esco recently joined us at our Dunstable venue for an evening of cooking, learning and team building!Our Dunstable location in Bedfordshire is an ideal location for larger teambuilding events, with three kitchens there is more than enough space for everyone to get involved. Delegates got to experience what it's like to cook in a professional kitchen and find out what it might feel to be on Masterchef!
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Corporate Cookery Team Building Events Milton Keynes
Are you looking for a team building event which everyone can enjoy? Here at The Cooking Academy we specialise in corporate cookery events which are fun, friendly and competitive. We have several venues near to Milton Keynes and throughout Buckinghamshire and in nearby Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. Our venues can accommodate groups of 8 right through to 80 delegates.
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Corporate Cookery Team Building Events Hemel Hempstead
Bring your team together and let The Cooking Academy create a fun yet friendly competitive cookery team building event. Hertfordshire is the home of The Cooking Academy and we have several venues near to Hemel Hempstead and throughout Hertfordshire for groups of 8 right through to 80 delegates at our Dunstable Cookery teambuilding location.
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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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Nick Coffers Weekend Kitchen with Kumud Gandhi

Here are the latest podcasts from Kumud Gandhi's appearances on Nick Coffers 'Weekend Kitchen' show on BBC Three Counties Radio. Kumud discusses recipes from her book, from festive specials to classic comforts. Find all the links below:


 

3rd March 2019- Mixed Lentil and Pulses Medley, Chicken Tikka Masala, Aloo Gobi, Lime Possets with mango and mint salad

 

27th January 2019- Spicy Ceylonese Chicken Curry, Pan fried paneer in cashew nut sauce

 

16th December 2018- Lamb Raan, Christmas Samoas with Cranberry Dipping Sauce, Makha Raja Tiger Prawns and Spiced roast potatoes

 

14th October 2018- Agni Chili Wings

 

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Valentines Day Italian Masterclass at The Cooking Academy

Valentines Day Italian Masterclass at The Cooking Academy...


How does cooking and relationships go together you might ask?

Well it’s a bit like salt & pepper, champagne and strawberries or even a knife and fork!   Cooking together can definitely spark excitement in the kitchen; working with each other to follow a new recipe, tasting as you go, creating delicious new flavour combinations. No need to remember to make reservations, shout over the loud music or strain to see your food in the dim lighting. You can turn your home into the hottest and coziest new restaurant and even keep your slippers on! Cooking together allows couples to connect and communicate in different ways, and as we say in our motto you can Inspire, Discover, Enjoy!

Join us this Valentine’s Day to learn to cook the most romantic beautiful Italian meal, here at The Cooking Academy for our Valentines inspired Italian Masterclass Evening event.

 Inspire

Not only will you learn how to cook a delicious meal together, but you will learn new culinary terms and techniques. Unsure what Al dente is? Sick of soggy sauces? Maybe your partner knows the answer, maybe not! You can both learn together from an expert Chef!

Discover

Communication is as key as it is in cooking as it is in love, arguments can simmer and efforts can feel wasted. But we’ll show you how to smooth things over with the perfect sauce recipe and discover the perfect pomodoro or arrabbiata for some added spice!

Enjoy

When you’ve finished getting down and dirty with the past making lesson You can sit down and enjoy your hard work and appreciate the joint effort that went into your delicious meal.

 

Join The Cooking Academy on Valentine’s Day for a fun filled evening, learning to cook the food of love! 6:30pm-9pm. An Italian Masterclass to get stuck into with your other half. Enjoy delicious hand-made pasta and sauces all made from scratch and a glass of wine or two! Only room for 4 couples so hurry and BOOK NOW! 1 Ticket admits 2 people and are only £149.

 

Contact katherine@thecookingacemy.co.uk or call 01923 778880 to Book your space.
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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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Ice cream Vs Gelato
We all deserve a treat from time to time, and I plan to take advantage of this when visiting the Gelato festival this weekend at Spitalfields Market, London.

Since I was little ice cream has always been my weakness. Every holiday a tub of strawberry ice cream would do the trick to keep me quiet.  Since having visited Italy on numerous times, renowned for their gelato (the Italian word for ice-cream) I have been transformed into a gelato addict! And let me tell you - there is a big difference!

Before even placing a spoon into my mouth, the beautiful silken, smooth, and flawless appearance of gelato makes me salivate with anticipation. It has a beautiful elasticity that can be easily moldable to create beautiful swirls and gloopy gelato peaks that simply cascade like cold lava in the mouth.

In texture ice cream is much fluffier and lighter.  When making ice cream, milk, cream and egg yolks are cooked together to form a custard base.  This is then churned at a high speed to add air and volume. The fat content from the cream binds with the water molecules, eliminating large frozen crystals forming and creating a light density which allows air to be present.  The lower the fat content or cream content, then icier the ice cream will taste, ergo cheaper brands.

Compared to ice cream, gelato is very dense as it is churned at a slower rate, meaning less air is whipped into the mixture. Gelato uses more milk than cream, so shouldn’t contain as much fat and therefore doesn’t bind as easily with the water, hence the denser consistency.

The serving temperature also differs from one another. Although both are ice cold, gelato is served at a warmer temperature, keeping its silky soft texture. The air content in ice cream means it can be frozen solid, yet still scoop able, especially if the cream content is higher.

Whether you have a preference for ice cream or gelato, they are brilliant as a delicious dessert or a naughty daytime treat.  If this summer weather is set to continue, I’m afraid I wouldn’t say no to either!

 

#icecream #gelato #gelatofestival #spitalfields #icecreamorgelato? #summer #makingicecream #makinggelato

Image - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFruit_sorbetto_at_Gelato_Naia%2C_September_8%2C_2008.jpg
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Be Summer Skin Ready
Usually I can’t wait for hot weather, just the thought of basking in the warmth, spending time in the outdoors catching the sun, meeting friends for pub garden lunches, and evening drinks making the most of the warm summer evenings.

It’s also a time for the skin to get the much needed Vitamin D from sunlight which benefits us in many ways, such as taming the reproduction of cancer cells, allowing us to absorb calcium, and boosts our immune system.  Vitamin D also helps prevent inflammation which reduces acne, and when exposed to the sun safely, it gives our skin a healthy bronzed glow.

However, the hot weather isn’t always the welcome ray of sunshine for everyone.  Increased heat can cause skin to gradually lose moisture, resulting in it becoming very dry and chapped.  Dry skin can lead to more serious problems such as Dermatitis, Psoriasis, and Eczema.  Whilst continuously apply a soothing moisturizer can help, nutritional cookery is the best way to increase your intake of foods that help hydrate our bodies internally.

Foods high in Vitamin E are essential, and are known for its incredible benefits to skin.  It not only moisturises, but contains powerful anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties.  As much as we love the sun our skin’s natural vitamin E levels are reduced when exposed to sunlight, resulting in unsightly, dry complexion.

 

Foods that help benefit skin

  • Almonds are a strong contender as they are enriched with vitamin E. Just 30 almonds contain 7.3mg which is 27% of our daily value. Raw almonds are best, yet almond milk and almond oil still supply our needs.

  • Spinach shouldn’t just be known for its iron content, as it contains 6.9mg of vitamin E, 26% of our daily value. It’s one of the best leafy vegetables to add to your diet as it also supplies our bodies with calcium and potassium.

  • Avocadoes are important for healthy skin as they are filled with vitamin E and antioxidants. Yet they also contain monounsaturated fats, good fats, which keeps skin moist.

  • Sweet potatoes contain the pigment beta-carotene and vitamin A, both are brilliant to prevent dry skin. Beta carotene is also an antioxidant that fights against premature aging and helps repair tissue damage.

  • Tropical fruits such as papaya and mango are an excellent way of nourishing skin while on the move. They contain an abundance of Vitamins A and C, and antioxidants that help replenish nutrients in skin and help produce collagen production. Collagen keeps your skin’s elastin and repairs dead skin cells.

  • Broccoli is another source containing three skin protecting properties; vitamin C,E and antioxidants, plus it’s a brilliant versatile vegetable suitable for stir-fry’s, fish or any meat dinner.

  • Fish such as salmon and sardines are both high in Omega 3 which helps strengthen skin cells and protect skin from sun damage. Symptoms of omega 3 deficiency involve dry skin. Certain fish also contain selenium, which is important as it helps preserve the elastin in the skin.

  • Oysters are one of best sources for zinc, which helps in cell reproduction and wound healing. Yet zinc also helps with the absorption of fatty substances to nourish the skin.

  • Water rich foods such as celery and cucumber contain Silica, an ingredient that boosts moisture and elasticity. fruits and vegetables that are high in water  are surrounded by molecules that help deliver the water they contain into cells more easily

  • Water! It may seem obvious but the best way to keep your skin hydrated is to supply it with lots of water.



By incorporating these nutritional foods into your diet, you’ll have summer ready skin in no time! All you’ll need to worry about is the weather forecast!

 

#healthyskin #summerskin #hydratedskin #healthyliving #healthytips #healthtipsforskin

 

Image - https://www.flickr.com/photos/aquamech-utah/24441559784
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Honey - 'Bee' In The Know
Honey’s existence dates back to as far as we record, samples have even been found in Egyptian tombs from over 3,000 years ago and still edible! Yet this deliciously sweet preserve has more benefits to us than most realise.

I recall when I was younger and had caught the common cold, my mum would make me a hot lemon and honey drink. I never understood how something so sweet would soothe my coarse throat. Yet Honey is a brilliant antiseptic, antioxidant and has healing properties which aids tissue healing, reduce inflammation and scarring. As always, my mother was right, and soon my throat was soothed.

However, now honey is being used to treat the ‘hospital superbug’, MRSA, which has developed a resistance to penicillin and other antibiotics. Honey has four attributes that make it effective at battling infection:

  • H2O2 which may be more familiar as hydrogen peroxide or bleach. Consuming or applying large quantities of H2O2 is not a good idea because it’s highly corrosive, but scientists have found that honey contains low levels of the chemical and it can kill MRSA bacteria.

  • Dextrose and fructose (C6H12O6 in chemistry-speak, or sugars in chef speak). This makes up 75% to 85% of honey, which means that it doesn’t contain much water – and bacteria can’t thrive without water.

  • Bee Defensin-1 This protein, also found in the bee secretion royal jelly, is a natural antibiotic.

  • Methylglyoxal (C3H4O2, or sometimes simply ‘MGO’). This chemical compound inhibits bacteria’s ability to produce the proteins needed to survive, and makes honey a powerful remedy to infection and illness.


The list of Honey varieties can be confusing. The most renowned is Manuka honey, which is known for strengthening our immune system. Yet we shouldn’t forget Buckwheat which is healthier alternative to cough syrup, or Lavender Honey which is brilliant for pregnant women for suffer from calcium deficiencies as it encourages the body to use any calcium consumed. Darker honeys tend to have higher levels of antioxidants, and by opting for raw honey as these contain vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that are not found in refined honey.

So that’s plenty of food for thought the next time you have a slice of toast and honey.

#honey #ishoneygoodforus #ishoneyhealthy #benefitsofhoney #lovehoney
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The Best Before Myth
Yes I’m on my hobby horse again, I’ve still got the bug bear about food waste and I noted with avid interest an article in last weeks Guardian about the average cost of food we Brits throw away every month.  Apparently, we throw away twice as much food as we think we do, in total, its an astounding £58.30’s worth per month.  I can’t imagine any other circumstances under which you would be happy to put 3 £20 notes in the food bin every month?  It is as though once money has been exchanged for a physical object, in this case food, it loses its monetary value in our minds.

This article tied in with a blog post on food wastage I wrote several months ago, but highlighted a new issue, that most people dispose of food based on “sell by” and “best before” dates printed on the packaging, regardless of the visible condition of the food.

Supermarkets and manufacturers are required by law to display a date of expiry, which is usually a guide.  Sometimes they get it right but invariably the food still has a number of day’s life before it is not fit for consumption.  This self-preservation tactic employed by the vast majority of food companies means that the date on a package is often days, weeks and even months earlier than the food’s true shelf life.

The best way to judge is by sight.  The visual appearance, particularly for fruit and vegetables, is usually instantly recognisable.  With proteins such as cheese and yoghurt, the dates can usually extend by at least a week or so.  Milk is usually fine for a few days.  When it comes to other proteins such as poultry, meat, fish etc…. there is often a little lea way but smell is the best way to judge.  Eggs are usually good for at least 5-7 days post the date and ambient products such as noodles, pasta and canned foods are usually good for at least 6 months past the date.

People often seem to confuse the meanings of each type of label, and act on them all in the same way.  In reality, “sell by”, “best before”, “use by” and “expires on” dates are not all the same thing.

For example “Expires on” is probably the one date listing you should actually pay attention to, and is generally found on the packaging of things such as baby food and medication.  This kind of date is usually imposed by a medical board and involves you or your child’s physical well being.

“Sell by” dates are the date by which a product must be sold, and therefore removed from the supermarket shelf by law.  This isn’t a time limit for you as the consumer, I have often times used carrots, onions, and potatoes 10 days or more after their date perfectly well.

What “best before” and “use by” states is how long an item will remain at its optimum freshness or quality whilst still in the packaging, again its not a time frame of safeness to eat.  For example, if you open a packet of mushrooms, and their best before date is a week later, they could still go bad before that due to being exposed, negating the value of their use by date anyway.

Think about it another way, only 1.5 times our average monthly wastage would buy you a Nutri-bullet, and then you could throw half the usual wasted fruit and veg into the Nutri-bullet to create healthy soups and smoothies!  Now that makes sense to me.

Furthermore, if a food item is getting close to the date or deterioration before you have the chance to use it then FREEZE IT

In my opinion?  Ignore the date on the label and take a look at the food itself. If it’s furry or harbouring tiny wildlife, you should probably throw it away.  If it looks fine, it mostly likely is, so save yourself some money, use what you need,  then wrap it up and freeze the rest.

Cook’s Tip:

Left over vegetables or fruit that don’t look so pretty anymore can be frozen and kept to throw in a blender later.  Perfect for days when you haven’t had time to go shopping or it’s a tight month.
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Parsnip Soup
Did you happen to catch this article about so-called 'ugly' vegetables? In 2015, when we all know how important sustainable living is, about how many children die every year from malnutrition, how can we justify throwing perfectly good food away because it isn't aesthetically pleasing. The poor parsnip, tossed aside for not being all that pretty. This got me thinking about Christmas, too. A time for festivities, family and most importantly food. But while we indulge this month, it is important to not let anything go to waste.

The first time I made this parsnip soup, it was as a result of having nothing else in the house to cook with. Sometimes those are the best dishes we produce. Sweet parsnips make a wonderfully creamy soup without any need for the heavier potato or even cream. With very little effort, the consistency is velvety smooth and makes a fine dish to counter the unhealthier options we enjoy over the Christmas period. I serve this soup with a goat cheese crostini topped with caramelised walnuts. The salty tangy cheese is a great foil to the sweeter parsnip. A brie and fig crostini would also be perfect. Use what you have, keep it simple and you can't go wrong!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium sized onion, finely chopped

500g parsnips (and carrots if desired), cut into chunks

350ml milk

350ml vegetable stock

2 bay leaves

  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat.

  2. Fry the chopped onion until softened but still pale.

  3. Add the parsnips - and carrots if using - to the pan along with the bay leaves, milk and stock.

  4. Let the soup simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the parsnip is very soft.

  5. Remove the bay leaves from the soup. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Taste and season more if necessary.

  6. Blitz the mixture in a blender or using a hand blender until completely smooth and velvety.

  7. Serve the soup with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh herbs if you have some - I had some sage lying around and fried some leaves in salted butter to garnish.


For the crostini, lightly grill one side of your bread until golden at the edges. Turn, drizzle with olive oil and top with the cheese. Grill until bubbling and slightly golden. Top with caramelised walnuts. 
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Eat more fish - Live longer, be sharper!
Fish is one of the healthiest meats available to man.  We should incorporate fish into diets at least 3 times per week; by doing so we can significantly reduce the risk of heart related diseases, lowers the chances of brain degeneration; lowers the chances of getting kidney cancer, depression, lowers blood pressure .  I know many of you are already aware of this but perhaps your biggest challenge is knowing how to buy fish and cook fish to make it interesting and tasty. If that sounds familiar to you, you should get yourself onto a Fish Cookery Class faster than you can say Omega 3 fatty acids.

Why should we eat more fish?

The key component that makes fish so healthy is the fact that fish is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, one of the acids the body cannot make it self. The omega 3 is also essential for fetal brain development and can potential strengthen a baby's brain connections as early as in the womb if you eat plenty of fish during a pregnancy.  If you are unsure about what fish you can eat during a pregnancy check with your local fish mongers.   Fish is also a great source of protein, it is easier to digest than chicken or meat, it is low in saturated fat, yet high in vitamins A, B & D as well as other mineral.

Salmon is probably one of the best fish – it has more Omega 3 fatty acids than most other fish.  Salmon helps your brain develop tissue to increase your brain power. Furthermore, salmon also plays a key role in fighting Alzheimer’s and other age-related cognitive disorders.   There are many different ways of cooking salmon to make the recipes variable and interesting without repeating the same flavours and your fish cookery course will enable you to extend your repertoire.

How to buy fish – what should you look for

When buying fish you need to look out for certain signs of what fresh fish looks like – a comprehensive fish cookery class will also demonstrate what a good piece of fish should both look and smell like and ways to identify healthy skin and texture.

How much fish should we consume

We should consume around 3 x 100g servings of fish per week.  By doing so we stand a much improved chance of good health, strong brain and supple joints.

To reduce the risk of mercury contamination, avoid eating swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel altogether. 

The healthiest fish to eat

Fish really is an ideal protein, and the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the risks...when you choose the right fish.  Your fish cookery course will also provide a list of recommendations and hopefully provide the recipes to go with it.

Here are the Omega 3 rich fish that I recommend :

  • Salmon

  • Rainbow Trout

  • Mackerel

  • Halibut

  • Tuna

  • Cod

  • Sardines

  • Anchovies


 Difference between Farmed or wild

On the grounds of optimising health I would recommend line caught and wild fish.  Although farmed fish by and large contain the same amount of Omega 3, when it comes to fat and calories farmed fish has more.  Essentially as farmed fish don’t have as much room to swim around they are given anti-biotics to prevent diseases and tend to be dyed to give them a healthy colour.  They are also more likely to have toxins than wild fish, and as with outdoor bred meat wild fish has more flavour than farmed.
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Good habits start young

Practical ways to hone healthy food habits


Obesity is now set to overtake smoking as the number one cause of cancer. Poor diets and excessive portions are primary factors for the growing rates of obesity in the UK, causing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and the increased the risk of stroke.  Almost 40% of NHS funding is currently being spent on preventable lifestyle related illnesses.

Such alarming statistics are hardly surprising when consumers are presented with overly salty, fatty and sugary options at every opportunity.  We are constantly targeted by advertising for unhealthy foods, whilst supermarkets strategically place items attractive to children and adults alike at a lower eye level to ensure they see them and are lured into buying them with special offers. Of course, ads on the television invade our domestic space too, but the only way to really alter eating habits is at home. The earlier children are exposed to healthier lifestyle habits, the more likely they are to embrace them throughout their life.  As individuals, how can we reinvigorate our lifestyle and eating patterns?

  1. Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables

  2. Increase variety of whole grains and legumes

  3. Reduce our sugar intake

  4. Develop a realistic and achievable meal plan, likable to children and adults


One very real way that can help to achieve this is by knowing what’s in your food and Cooking at home. 

Learning Skills for Life


Cooking truly is a core life skill, something that can transform one’s appreciation for food, pique interest in new ingredients and increase our knowledge of nutrition. For the ambivalent eaters, cooking can awaken a new point of interest make food a more enjoyable experience.  Families who cook together tend to enjoy the whole food experience, having invested in the meal from start to finish. Developing children’s tastes for new and unusual flavours and ingredients will inform their relationship with food, developing a positive emotional connection for years to come.  If you don't already cook with your children then book them onto a kids cookery class.

A study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed that healthy eating is a learned skill that starts in the home. It is more difficult to ensure children are eating healthily at school, so it is all the more important to encourage good habits at home. This goes for working parents too, of course, where lunch options are often limited and either unhealthy or prohibitively expensive. The majority of us learn our food habits from our parents and those habits manifest themselves in the future in everyday decisions. For example, will we cook our own food or order a takeaway? Will we snack on an apple or a chocolate bar?

Here are some practical ways to hone healthier food habits.

  • Encourage children to take a more active role in choosing, preparing and cooking simple meals. Let them buy an ingredient at the supermarket and then involve them in making something with it. This can open their eyes to a wider variety of foods and gives them autonomy.

  • It is important for children to see where food comes from. You could go to a farmer’s market or apple picking. Even better, get growing! Children love to eat what they’ve grown – and you don’t need a garden. A pot of herbs like basil will grow on a windowsill. You can then make simple pesto pasta.

  • Eat together and at the table. Studies have found that we eat smaller portions when we eat at the table and with company. Eating in front of the television distracts us, and can stop us from deciding we are full when we have eaten enough. Serve children whatever you eat, they’re more likely to try things that the whole family’s tucking into.

  • Try not to have unhealthy snacks in the house, out of sight out of mind! Fruits, carrot sticks, low sugar cereals, low sugar yogurts are better options than crisps, biscuits and chocolate.

  • Hide the veg. Sometimes it’s necessary to disguise vegetables in children’s favourite meals. Throw carrots, peppers and onions into bolognaise sauce and add cooked and mashed carrots, butternut squash, sweet potato or swede to normal mashed potato.

  • Centre puddings around fruit. Crumbles, fruity cakes and tray bakes are all simple to make with children and can be low in sugar and high in fruit.

  • Chop ripe banana into bite-sized pieces and freeze them. Frozen banana chunks look and taste great and make a healthy alternative to ice-cream and lollies.


 

Cookery classes are available for Young Adults aged 16-19 years, as well as Kids cookery classes starting from aged 10 to 15 at thecookingacademy.co.uk
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Food for Thought
Last week saw the introduction of the 5p charge for plastic carrier bags at our local supermarkets. In my opinion this charge is long overdue and I can’t think why it's taken so long to implement this, given they've been doing it in Germany for over 30 years.  Carrier bags are the ruination of our countryside with bags caught up in the hedgerows, not to mention the blighting of our coastal areas and impact on wildlife.

This waste is only one of its kind.  Last year in Britain alone, we threw away over £12 billion worth of food.  This figure is made up of food and drinks not used in time (£5.6 billion) as well as cooked or prepared food (which accounts for another £4.1 billion).  So for the average person, this equates to approx £16,000 of wasted food over the course of their lifetime.

Each year 1.3bn tonnes of food, about a third of all that is produced, is wasted worldwide.  This includes about 45% of all fruit and vegetables, 35% of fish and seafood, 30% of cereals, 20% of dairy products and 20% of meat. Meanwhile, 795 million people worldwide suffer from severe hunger and malnutrition.  According to the UN if the amounts of food wasted around the world were reduced by just 25%, there would be enough food to feed all the people who are malnourished.

Waste not – want not


I think food has become a greater source of comfort then we realise.  We‘ve developed a terrific sense of food materialism where food symbolises more than its functionality.  This behaviour extends to over-buying at the supermarket to feel that we have a well-stocked larder/fridge for the week ahead with the vain notion that we might actually use it all.   There is a sense of panic that we may run out of food and so the safer option is too over buy.  Furthermore, we want choices and so we buy more than we need, to give us a variety of options.

Then there’s the collection of single recipe ‘off the beat’ ingredients.  The ingredients we buy to make a particular recipe and never quite get round to using again.  I think I’m guilty of that trait on occasions.

Another contributory factor is the sale of pre-packaged foods, such as packs of tomatoes and carrots as opposed to loose weight.  How often do you use half a packet of sugar snap peas and never quite get round to using the rest?  I highly recommend buying loose ingredients as you can at your local grocers.  Loose weight enables you to buy just what you need for your family meal requirements rather than 200G.

I think the BoGoF (buy one get one free) offers are also responsible to some extent.  Tempted by the offer (which it never really is) we hoard things then never get round to eating them, or worse still over indulge.

If you find you do have an abundance of leftover ingredients then one simple way I have found to use food efficiently and nutritionally is with tray bakes, smoothies and soups.  You can generally just chop the ingredients up, throw them all in with a few choice herbs and job done. Simple, tasty and nutritious.  My Nutri bullet (or any smoothie maker) is a real money saver and nutrient angel for using up random bits of fruit and veg and turning them into a super meal.

I think its time to reconnect with food and share one of the greatest joys of life - cooking and eating together as a family. The sharing of food is singularly one of the greatest pleasures when done with family and friends.   If we were to share more then perhaps we would throw away less of our precious food and prevent hunger.

 

 
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Pancakes - Do Something Different
It's Pancake Day! Time to get those pans out and whisk up a satisfying supper. We all know the score when it comes to Pancake Day: Forget it's coming around, remember whilst at work and stop in at the supermarket on the way home for some emergency lemons. But why not try something different this year? Plan your pancakes and they can be incredibly delicious (and nutritious!). Below are my suggestions for some alternative fillings and toppings to enjoy tonight, followed by my recipe for Foolproof Pancakes. Enjoy!

Sweet:
Banana and Maple Syrup
Blueberry, Strawberry & Crème Fraîche
Greek Yoghurt with Fresh Figs and Crumbled Walnuts
Blueberries, Raspberries & Nutella
Nutella & Banana
Peanut Butter & Banana with Chocolate
Toffee syrup, Banana, and Chocolate
Rhubarb & Vanilla with Crème Fraîche
Protein Pancakes (click for recipe)

Savoury:
Cheesy Broccoli
Creamy Mushrooms with Gruyère Cheese
Mushroom & Bacon or Pancetta
Tomato & Creamy mushroom with Spinach
Stilton, spinach & egg
Cheese & Leek (click for recipe)

Foolproof Pancakes:

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 150g plain flour

  • 2 medium free-range eggs, beaten

  • 220 ml milk

  • 60g of butter, to fry the pancakes

  • Pinch of salt


Preparation Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°c/fan180°c/gas 6. Butter a shallow baking dish.

  2. Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the eggs, milk into the well. Using a wooden spoon gradually beat until smooth.

  3. Place a medium sized (20 cm) non-stick frying pan or crepe pan over a medium-low heat. Add a knob of butter and when hot, pour in a little batter and rotate the pan so that it is evenly coated in a thin layer.

  4. When it begins to set, loosen the pancake with a palette knife and flip over. Cook for 30 seconds more, then slip onto a plate and cover with a cloth. Repeat until you have used up all the mixture.

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What Does Your Pantry Say About You?
What does your pantry say about you?

Well, where do I start? I am a food hoarder; if war broke out tomorrow, we’d be OK for a couple of months I’m sure. This is learned behaviour, and possibly also a little cultural since lentils, pulses, grain and flour in usually bought in large sacks in a traditional Indian household. Whilst I wouldn’t exactly call myself traditional, there are some aspects of childhood traditions I have carried forward, somewhat unconsciously.

A well-stocked pantry should have all the basics, something I emphasize to all my beginners’ students in my class, though I do accept to some degree.  The problem is, the word basic is relative.  My version of well stocked and basic means tins of tomatoes, olives, sun dried tomatoes; some emergency pesto sauce, at least a few kilo’s of onions and potatoes, butter, plenty of Parmesan and cheddar cheese, lentils of all kinds, pasta of all shapes, stock cubes and frozen peas, spinach and soya beans, teabags, and coffee and sugar.  Shall I continue?

Essential or Posh?

What started this conversation was the Waitrose essential range - Waitrose essential Parmesan cheese to be exact. “Really? Is Parmesan cheese an essential?” cried my friend. “Only posh people think Parmesan cheese is essential!” Well actually yes, in my house it is, it’s a staple, we use it all the time and it’s the means to a very easy simple supper that even my 14 year old can make very quickly.  That, according to my friend, makes me posh. To exacerbate the point I also have Himalayan salt which is apparently another ingredient that puts my pantry in the posh league. According to Harpers or some such magazine ingredients such as smelly cheeses, seeds like chia, hemp or sunflower, and bitters and tonics for cocktail mixes, are typically to be found in a posh kitchen. I am, of course, utterly bemused since I am guilty as charged on all counts as I have all of the afore mentioned items. I really don’t think I’m a food snob, or posh for that matter. I think it just makes me a 'foodie'. I've always enjoyed impromptu cooking, so its quite useful to have odds and sods in the cupboard, it's always useful.

It got me thinking about the ‘average’ person’s essential ingredients list and pantry. I think this somewhat depends on whether you cook to eat or cook to enjoy eating and sharing. My pantry reflects the need to constantly feed people and often at a moments notice. As a child I remember we always had loads of extra food, cooked for extra people. When I questioned the need to have ‘extra’ food, my mother used to say, “You never know when you might have guests.” That was actually quite true, there were always people dropping by, staying for lunch, whether they were friends passing through or relatives just in town. Impromptu entertaining was really a way of life, so having a few staples on-hand all the time meant that you were always ready any time someone was knocking on the door, whether you planned on their arrival or not.

I've also found that having a good spice cupboard (which in my case is an occupational must!) is essential. It is the key to turning a few basics into something quite special, and aren't you the shinning star for being able to rustle something up so effortlessly!

Posh or otherwise, I think the larder is important part of my home-making process. For my children it’s their nest – whether I’m home or not, they have the means to enjoy a decent meal.

- Kumud Gandhi, founder of The Cooking Academy
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The Easiest Diet is Portion Control
If you’re trying to slim down after the mince pie madness over the last month then portion control might be the best way to achieve it.  Our cooking habits have changed over the years and if you refuse to be a slave to the kitchen weighing scales and you routinely guess the amount of each ingredient, then you could be quietly eating your way through more calories than you realise.

Simply dropping back to the recommended portion size could reduce your food intake by a staggering 25-30%.  Surprising isn't it?  Over time we've developed 'green eyed monster' syndrome I’m afraid, cooking more than we need and then eating it to finish it.  The problem is that we all have such a varied understanding of what a portion is, and it's this that makes such a difference to our calorie intake.  So the answer is to revert back to weighing the ingredients before cooking until we get back into the habit of eating correct portions.  So what is the recommended amount, and who decides what that is?

Here at The Cooking Academy our team have taken to the kitchen to find out exactly what a recommended portion should look like and I have to say: the results are really quite shocking and read more like war rations!

Let's start with Carbohydrates:

We contacted BUPA who shared with us their advice on "published guidelines that estimate an average person’s nutritional and energy requirements”.  According to BUPA they recommend 40g of cereal per portion. That’s right, a measly 40g which actually barely covered the base of my cereal bowl - I think I managed to count about 50 bran flakes!  For rice they recommend 75g dry weight. But don’t panic: This may seem like very little in dry quantity but once cooked, rice fluffs up.  Pasta on the other hand came in at a very mean 60g (dry weight) and definitely looked more like a child's portion. In fairness and all joking aside once we cooked the 60g of pasta, it wasn't quite as bad when you consider the fact that you'll be adding more to it before consuming.  Remember the cooking water will take up the content a bit so that the rice and pasta will effectively almost double in weight, although no such luck with the potato I’m afraid!

To summarise:

75g dry weight rice equals approx 150g when cooked.

60g dry weight pasta equals approx 110g when cooked.

40g cereals and potato remain unchanged when cooked.

If you’re trying to lose weight it’s best to aim for between two and four portions of starchy food throughout the day.

40g of cereal

60g of dry pasta

75g of dry rice

4 small potatoes, each the size of an egg

1 slice of bread

1 medium baked potato

1 block of dried noodles

1 filled pitta bread

So for example, that could be one slice of toast for breakfast; a baked potato for lunch and 75g of rice for dinner.

Proteins are next:

You should aim for three portions of protein a day, with at least one portion of oily fish a week. One portion is equal to 100g raw/75g cooked lean meat, 75g oily fish or 150g white fish, two medium-sized eggs, half a tin of Baked Beans, four tablespoons of pulses such as lentils or chickpeas, or two tablespoons of nuts.

Dairy: 

Dairy contains calcium for healthy bones and teeth, and is also a good source of protein. Do not exceed three portions a day. One portion is equal to 200 ml milk; 110g pot of yoghurt; 30g hard cheese; or 90g cottage cheese.

Fruit and Veg:

Fruit and vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals to keep you fit and well and so are essential to your well-being. If you are really struggling to drop the portion size then here’s where you could go a bit mad. Aim for five to seven portions of fruit and veg a day. One portion is equal to one or two slices of large fruit such as mango or pineapple; one medium-size fruit, such as an apple, orange, banana or peach; two small fruits, such as kiwis, plums, satsumas or clementines; one to two handfuls of grapes or berries; three heaped tablespoons peas, carrots, sweetcorn and mixed vegetables; one dessert bowl salad leaves; or three heaped tablespoons beans. Although juices are included in this list I would recommend you steer clear if you’re trying to lose weight – opt for water instead as fruit sugars can steer you off course. If you’re in diet mode then try to eat more vegetables than fruit as they contain less sugar.

Remember measuring may only be for a short time until you've got the hang of the smaller portion. Try user smaller plates so that you feel as though you’re still eating a plate full rather than a half empty large plate. And once you've finished your food remove the plate so that you’re not tempted by a second helping. You could also try to keep an empty container next to the cooker to remind you to store leftovers away for another day. This method will enable you to continue eating all the foods you enjoy without the guilt and denial syndrome which is so often the cause of failed diets.

To learn more about portion control and how to enjoy eating healthily without missing out on enjoyment, join us on our One Day Nutritional Cookery Class!
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