Foodie Resolutions 2017

Every year the Food Revolution becomes stronger and reaches further. This year is going to be a big one – I can feel it. The number of concurrent initiatives combined with growing media coverage is helping us to build awareness. Every little action adds to the snowball effect that will ultimately turn the tide and deliver change.

So. For 2017, my resolutions are as follows:

  1. Carve out additional time for supporting the Food Revolution charity. I’ve found it quite challenging over the last year as I’ve been involved in more activities and events than ever before, but it never feels like enough. I want to do more, so I’ll have to develop a strategy for allocating time.
  2. Run. I honestly don’t think that there’s any other sport as accessible and ’rounded’ for mind, body and soul. I’m slowly returning from my running hiatus and I need to focus on getting out there as often as possible.
  3. “Why not?”. I love pushing the envelope and forcing myself into situations where I have to try something new, different or out of my comfort zone. Last year I made a list of specific ingredients that I’d work with and it was hugely satisfying. Whatever comes up, my initial response will be to ask myself “why not”. Relax and go with the flow; what’s the worst that can happen hey?!?
  4. Make more videos. Hmmm, see point 3 ref: comfort zone. Do I wish that I had more clips of events and moments from the last few years? Absolutely. Let’s be a bit brave and see how it pans out.

Now, when I suggested this monthly ambassador challenge to the team, I was feeling, like every year to date, quite optimistic and positive about what the following year may have in stall.. Little did I know that the world would be facing such troubling developments with potentially long-lasting and catastrophic implications.

Good luck all, I hope it’s a good one.

 

Christmas Cake

Here’s a classic fruit cake which I reluctantly refer to as a Christmas Cake, as it seems a shame to restrict beautiful food to a particular time of year, religion and belief :o)

Festive Cake?

Albeit an incredibly delicious cake, the joy of this is all in the making for me; the family can all get involved in the various steps of the process and feel equally proud of the results – there’s always going to be plenty to go round, and more than enough to share with friends and family. I was so chuffed at how well received it was this year.

This recipe is lifted from Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook, his latest (and potentially greatest) book to date. Developed from refinements on classic recipes and innovative twists over nearly two decades, it certainly won’t be gathering any dust on my shelf.

My 5-year-old daughter, Winter, was particularly keen to get involved with this bake and I found myself having to reel her in at times so I had a moment to pause and think before crashing ahead. #SuperKeenBean

Ingredients:

  • 75g dates
  • 75g prunes
  • 100 glace cherries
  • 400g mixed dried fruit
  • 1 apple
  • 100ml stout or porter
  • 1 clementine, zest and juice
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g soft light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder

Method:

  1. Find yourself a 20cm square cake tin, grease it with butter and line it with greaseproof paper.
  2. Roughly chop the dried fruit in a food processor and transfer to a mixing bowl.
  3. Grate in the apple, add the stout, clementine juice and zest, and set aside.
  4. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy and then mix in the eggs one at a time, followed by the milk, a little at a time.
  5. Combine the two mixtures and then sift in the flour, spices, baking powder and cocoa, folding everything together.
  6. Pour the cake mixture into the lined tin and bake for 2 hours at 150°C.
  7. Allow the cake to rest in the tin for 30 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. You can finish the cake however you like – you may want to just eat it like that – but we chose to coat it in a thin layer of apricot jam followed by marzipan and finally a fairly thin layer of royal icing.

Coating with Jam

Little hands working hard to roll out the royal icing on a sprinkling of icing sugar. rolling out the icing for the Christmas cake

We used a simple Scandinavian (Ikea!) cookie cutter to stick mini sugar pearls to the cake with a dab of water.

decorating the christmas cake

The finished ‘Festive Cake’:

Christmas Cake

Enjoy!

(Note to self – steady on the royal icing).

Gluten Free Hoisin Sauce

I’m hoping that I’m not the only person who struggles when deciding what to cook when friends come over to eat. I get a bit anxious when said friends have allergies or a particular intolerance. Thankfully there are thousands of recipes and ideas out there on the internet, but I still seem to have a bit of a mental block about it.

I thought I’d cracked it last time with ‘Char Sui Pork’ until I realised that Hoisin sauce (one of the key ingredients) isn’t gluten free..

Given that I aim to make everything from scratch, I thought I’d have a go at making the hoisin sauce as well – it turned out better than expected and made quite a nice little parting gift as well.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 1tsp Five Spice powder
  • 125ml Red Miso paste
  • 125ml Honey
  • 2tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar

Method:

  1. Blend it all together.
  2. Marvel at how clever you are.

You can use your GF hoisin sauce straight away or pop it into sterilised jars, refrigerate and use within a month.

homemade Hoisin

This blog post is part of December’s Food Revolution challenge to make your own condiment.

And for interest, here’s how the Char Sui Pork belly strips turned out:

GF char sui pork

Happy eating!

 

Going Green

I’m a convert. I’ve been initiated into the world of smoothies.

Inspired by the request for an ‘Alien Food’ cooking lesson at St James’ Primary School, I too have ventured into a somewhat mysterious and unfamiliar world..

This has long been the domain of my wife (For The Wellness Of Winter) and her dawn blender sessions that act as my daily alarm clock.

This recipe is just so perfectly quick and easy, but more importantly for me, the result is more ‘juice’ than ‘smoothie’ (personally I struggle with texture of smoothies).

Today’s four classes proved that children just adore this recipe, even though it’s loaded with raw spinach – a great way to pack in essential vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

green smoothie classes

Green Juice

Ingredients: (1 glass)

  • 100g Baby Spinach
  • 1/2 Lime
  • 125ml Apple Juice
  • 1/2 Banana

Method:

  1. Wash your spinach, peel your banana and squeeze the juice from your lime.
  2. Blend it!
  3. Serve.

If you have a Nutri Ninja/Bullet then great, but a normal blender will be just fine. The baby spinach leaves are not fibrous like kale so you won’t be left with any pulp.

happy face

 

 

 

Fighting Talk

I’m feeling a little despondent following the panel discussion on the UK Obesity Strategy this morning. Just when things were looking so promising with the Sugar Tax and David Cameron’s wholehearted support for the cause, we’re having to rally the troops yet again.

The long awaited Childhood Obesity Strategy delivered by Prime Minister Theresa May simply doesn’t hit the mark, and without a significant and meaningful plan of action, the outlook for the NHS is bleak, bordering on futile.

Lucky for us, we have a pretty formidable line-up in our corner… Olympian James Cracknell OBE, Dr Dawn Harper of Embarrassing Bodies fame, Justine Roberts of Mumsnet and Jamie Oliver gathered together at Fifteen to re-open the debate with Channel 4 Social Affairs Editor Jackie Long.

Jamie Oliver, Jackie Long, Dr Dawn Harper, Justine Roberts and James Cracknell

I’m not going to regurgitate all the details from the day for you, as proceedings were broadcast on Facebook Live and you can watch the entire event here.

The solution isn’t straight forward, it’s not as simple as just enforcing one particular change, we have to influence behaviours over time, and tackle the problem on a number of fronts.

So what happened exactly? Why did we end up with a watered-down, limp version of what could have been, in the words of Jamie Oliver, a real moment: a moment where we took charge of the future for our children, and corrected our course to protect the welfare of millions. I’m at a loss, I have theories, but I’m not one to speculate.

The conversation is not over yet – you can hear more about it all on Channel 4’s Dispatches at 8pm tonight (31st October 2016): The Secret Plan To Save Fat Britain.

Let’s not fail our future generations – please join us by contacting your local MP (http://www.tweetyourmp.com/) and #TellTheresa what you think about it.

chatting with jamie oliver

I’m going to end on a positive note as I’m confident that we can resolve this; the stakes are higher than you think, and the issues affect millions of us. There’s still hope.

Hey junk food, leave our kids alone.

 

 

Vietnamese Sweet Potato Curry

This recipe completes the set; 10 twists on Jamie Oliver’s 10 recipes to save your life. It has been an honour to share recipes for such an important cause. The concept is simple: master these basic recipes and you’ll be empowered to cook good, nutritious and delicious food for yourself, and your family. If you can learn to cook those dishes, you can easily extend your repertoire to a whopping 1oo dishes with our twists and tweaks.

Vietnamese curries are milder than Thai curries but you can always add extra chilli as a garnish if you like it hot.

This curry starts with a paste that will deliver the wonderful aromatic flavour – you could always buy a paste, but I like to do things properly.

Ingredients:

Vietnamese Curry Paste

  • 1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer leaves removed
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of galangal or ginger, peeled
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 shallots, peeled
  • 2 small green chillies
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 bunch coriander stalks
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar or light brown muscovado
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil

 

Sweet Potato Curry

  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3 tbsp Vietnamese curry paste
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 600g sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 200g green beans, halved
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • dash of fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 1 red chilli
  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • coriander leaves

Method:

Begin by blending the curry paste ingredients together.  vietnamese-ingredients

curry-paste

You can keep the spare curry paste in an airtight sterilised jar in the fridge or freeze it for future use.

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil for a few minutes and then stir in 3 tablespoons of the curry paste.

Cook it out for a couple of minutes and add the sweet potato, palm sugar, fish sauce and coconut milk.

Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes until the sweet potato is tender.

Taste the curry, you may want to tweak the flavour with a dash of fish sauce or sprinkling of palm sugar.

Add the green beans and spinach and cook for another 5 minutes until the beans are tender.

vietnamese-s-p-curry

I serve this dish with cauliflower rice, fresh red chillies, fresh coriander leaves and a wedge of lime, but it would work well with rice or even noodles.

You can add chicken to this recipe if you like, but to be honest, I really don’t think that it needs it.

Enjoy!

Roast Guinea Fowl

Here’s my twist on Jamie’s classic roast chicken recipe – if you can cook that, you can cook this!

It’s easy to master and I think you’ll find it really satisfying. Mixing it up a little extends your repertoire and I hope that it gives you the inspiration and confidence to keep experimenting with lovely ingredients and different techniques.

Originating in the jungles of Guinea in West Africa, this unusual little bird isn’t as gamy as pheasant (it’s not really a game bird), but it’s certainly has a deeper and richer flavour than chicken.

Guinea fowl is very lean and carries little fat, so it’s not as forgiving as chicken; it’s inclined to dry out easily if overcooked. The trick is to bard it before roasting (wrap with bacon) and/or baste it throughout cooking to keep it moist and juicy.

I chose to serve this roast with lemon thyme celeriac, cavelo nero (Italian black cabbage), roasted parsnips, dauphinoise potatoes, broccoli, gravy and redcurrant jelly, but of course you can choose whichever sides float your boat. It’s all about balance and variety for me.  You could simply roast the bird with carrots, potatoes and garlic cloves as per Jamie’s roast chicken recipe.

Method

Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan). This is relatively low, as guinea fowl is more delicate than chicken.

Top the bird with some thin slabs of butter and then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lay strips of bacon or pancetta over the top and then roast for around 60 minutes (15 minutes per 500g plus 15 minutes), until the juices run clear. The bird will then need a good 10 minutes to rest properly so once you’ve taken it out of the oven you can increase the temperature to finish your dauphinoise and parsnips whilst you make the gravy.

Dauphinoise potatoes are always a winner. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone that doesn’t adore them. Finely slice potatoes (a mandolin or food processor is ideal) and layer them into a buttered ovenproof dish, seasoning as you go. I often add a little minced garlic and thyme leaves along the way. Pour over a generous splash of double cream so that it can seep through the layers of potato, and then top with grated cheese and bake for about an hour.

Potatoes dauphinoise

The parsnips can simply be quartered, turned in olive oil and roasted in the oven alongside the guinea fowl and dauphinoise.

Jamie’s celeriac recipe works brilliantly with guinea fowl. Peel and cube a celeriac and then cook it in a covered pan for about 25 minutes over a low heat with a swig of olive oil, lemon thyme, salt and pepper.

jamie oliver simple celeriac

Steam your greens for just a few minutes and dress them with a squeeze of lemon juice, flaky sea salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Keep the water from your steamer for the gravy.

To make a gravy whilst the guinea fowl rests, combine the roasting juices, some vegetable cooking water and a little redcurrant or quince jelly in a pan.

 

Sit down, fill your plates, fight over the crispy bacon and enjoy the rustic flavours with a warming glass of red wine.

Roast Guinea fowl

Must. Try. Harder.

Well, it’s finally out there. I know I should be jumping for joy to see it, but alas, although I haven’t even read it yet, the public reaction tells me that the UK Government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy doesn’t hit the mark.

govt_strategy

 

I’ve had an opportunity to pore over it now, and here’s what I think.

Reading the introduction inspires me to go out for a run; this is serious stuff that we can’t ignore. More needs to be done to get the facts into the public domain and reinforce the severity in the minds of those not inclined to read Government strategy papers.

There’s absolute sense in what they state about long-term, sustainable change only being achievable through the active engagement of schools, communities, families and individuals. This is the core objective for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. It follows the basic principles of change, as we must raise awareness, create the desire, and help people to understand what they can do to make a difference.

The sugar tax is a positive step, but is it enough? If I were a food manufacturer, I don’t think I’d be too worried about any of this..

I see a lot of wishy-washy wording that leaves plenty of room for localised interpretation. I would have liked to have seen some more decisive moves rather than merely ‘encouraging’ change with a limp carrot.

The plans around sport for schoolchildren are great, but I’m concerned that the mindset will become “I do lots of physical activity, so I can get away with eating whatever I want”. The balance is paramount, and if those affected don’t have a clear understanding, then what hope do they have?

In conclusion, I’m glad that we have this, but we had a real opportunity for transformational change, and I can’t help but feel terribly disappointed that we didn’t grab it with both hands and really capitalise on it.

As stated, the launch of this plan represents the start of a conversation, rather than the final word. I for one will be making sure that I’m involved in that conversation, will you?

 

French Onion Soup

For this year’s Food Revolution Day, Jamie Oliver shared ‘10 recipes to save your life‘ – learn how to master these dishes and you can successfully cook nutritious food for yourself and your family for the rest of your life.

As Ambassadors for the revolution, we’re all about inspiring others, sharing skills and knowledge, and helping people to build confidence in the kitchen.

My alternative to Jamie’s Minestrone Soup is the one and only French Onion Soup. It’s a fantastic example of how you can transform a humble ingredient by concentrating the flavour. You have a couple of options here: make a relatively quick and acceptable soup, or show it the love, give it the time and attention it deserves, and make a beautifully deep, complex and truly sensational bowl of joy.

brown onions

Ingredients:

  • 500g brown onions
  • 50g butter
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 glass white wine
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • Splash of cognac or brandy (optional)
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1.5 litres beef stock
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 150g Gruyere cheese
  • ½ baguette

 

Method:

Finely slice the onions and sweat them in a pan on a very low heat with the butter, sugar and a little olive oil for about an hour until beautifully soft, caramelised and almost melting.

sweating onions

Increase the heat, add the garlic and thyme and cook for a few minutes before carefully flambéing with the cognac/brandy if using.

Stir in the flour and cook it out for two of minutes.

Add the wine and let it bubble away and reduce by a third.

Add the beef stock, season and simmer for a further 30 minutes.

Serve the soup with Gruyere-topped croutons – they’re essential.

I like to make the croutons by frying garlic-rubbed slices of baguette in a pan with butter until golden, but you can just toast them or bake them in the oven to dry them out. Pop them onto the soup, grate Gruyere cheese over the top, and slide everything under the grill or into the oven until gorgeously molten.

Enjoy!

Onion Soup

Seabass with Samphire & Lemongrass Butter

Here’s my twist on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution fish recipe. Using very similar skills to his classic pan-fried salmon and vegetable dish, I’m mixing it up a little and showing how you can create incredible variations in flavour.

If you’re buying whole fish and filleting it yourself, make sure you look out for bright, clear eyes.  The brighter the eyes, the fresher the fish. My children are fascinated by the whole process and we’ve luckily avoided any squeamishness by making it the norm whilst they’re still young.

Samphire is the asparagus of the sea. Delicate, tender, delicious.

I’ve chosen to accompany the fish with Swedish Hasselback potatoes. They’re really easy to make, and I love how this little twist transforms the humble potato to make it super-crispy and delightfully moreish.

The lemongrass butter gives everything a clean and zingy lift. You can make it ahead and store it in the freezer for future use; it’s stunning on charred corn on the cob.

Ingredients:

(serves 2)

  • 2 Seabass fillets
  • 150g Samphire
  • 100g Butter, softened
  • 1 Lemongrass stalk
  • 1cm Ginger
  • 1 Parsely sprig
  • 1 Tbsp Ponzu
  • 6 Small waxy potatoes (you may wish you’d cooked more though…)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

To make the butter, remove the tough outer leaves of the lemongrass and finely slice the core with the parsley leaves. Peel and grate the ginger into a bowl and mix it together thoroughly with the lemongrass, ponzu, butter, parsley and pepper. Tip the butter onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and form it into a log shape. Wrap it up like a Christmas cracker and pop it into the fridge so that it firms up.

The potatoes need to be evenly sliced without cutting all of the way through, so that they fan out when cooked. The more slices, the crispier the results. I use a wooden spoon as a jig to hold the potato in place and stop the blade. You’ll find it easiest with a very sharp, thin bladed knife.

wooden spoon jig

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a roasting tray with a knob of butter and then carefully add the potatoes, making sure that they’re nicely coated. Roast for about 50 minutes until beautifully golden and crispy.

Slash the skin of your fish. This will help the heat to penetrate the thickest part so that you have evenly cooked fish.

Seabass fillet

Heat a non-stick frying pan and add a little oil just to coat the surface. Season the fish before placing it skin-side down into the pan, pressing it down for the first few seconds to prevent it from curling up. Cook the fish for 3 to 4 minutes without touching it or moving it around. Once the skin is golden and crispy, gently turn it over and cook for a further minute.

seabass

Steam the samphire for just 3 minutes and dress it with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Rock Samphire

Assemble your dish, topping with a slice of the lemongrass butter. Don’t place the butter directly onto the skin as I have done below if you want to keep it nice and crispy.

seabass with samphire and lemongrass butter

As always, recipes are merely guides; mix it up a little, adapt to your tastes and build on the foundations to satisfy your soul. The next time I cook this dish I’m going to focus on the Swedish angle and switch the lemongrass for some form of dill sauce.