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.

 

 

Harissa Houmous

Love Houmous (or hummus even)?

Fancy a little twist to spice things up?

How about a super-simple Harissa Houmous for a change; my twist on Jamie Oliver’s Simple Houmous recipe

Harissa is the North African equivalent to Gochujang or Sambal Oelek chilli pastes.

Ingredients:

  • 400g tin of Chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp Tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 tbsp Harissa Paste
  • 1 Lemon
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Method:

Rinse and drain the chickpeas in a sieve or colander, and place them in a food processor. Add the tahini and harissa with about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Squeeze in half of the lemon juice, pop the lid on, and blend away.

You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl and add a touch more oil, water or lemon juice before blending it to a smooth consistency. Always be sure to give it a little taste and adjust to your liking – you shouldn’t need to add any salt as you would with plain houmous, but you may want to adjust how much harissa you add.

Serve with vegetable crudites or sliced pitta breads.

Now, if you fancy having a go at making your own Harissa paste, here’s how.

Harissa Hummus

Superfood Cereal

Jamie Oliver recently published his ’10 recipes to save your life’ – if you can master these simple recipes, you can feed yourself and your family for the rest of your life. We’re bringing you easy twists on each of these recipes to extend your repertoire.

My twist on Jamie’s DIY Oaty Fruity Cereal is to guild it with delectable flourishes that are both stunningly beautiful, and wonderfully nutritious.

The basic cereal is ridiculously easy:

  • 100g dried fruit, such as sultanas, raisins, dried apricots
  • 50g mixed unsalted nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts
  • 50g mixed seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, poppy
  • 400g porridge oats
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Just roughly chop the nuts and dried fruit, give it all a mix, and serve with milk or natural yoghurt.

Now here’s my list of nutrient rich tweaks that you can pick and choose from to elevate this simple breakfast bowl. The health benefits of superfoods are much debated – above anything, these little treats are both interesting and tasty:

  1. Goldenberries – these are dried Physalis (Physalis peruviana) or as they’re also known, Cape Gooseberries, Ground Cherry or Capuli. High in iron and fibre, they’re both tart and sweet.
  2. Bee Pollen – tiny little pollen pellets that have been packed by worker honeybees!
  3. White Mulberries – (Moras alba) – Delicious dried fruits and a good source of protein, fibre, iron, vitamin C and K.
  4. Blueberries – or ‘star berries’ as the Native Americans called them. Rich in antioxidants such as anthocyanins from their blue colour, they truly are a star of the fruit world.
  5. Cacao Nibs – the basis of chocolate without the dairy or sugar added, these are simply smashed up cacao beans. (Note that Cocoa has been processed further at a higher temperature).
  6. Coconut shavings – containing lauric and caprylic acids, the fruit of the ‘tree of life’ acts as a natural antibiotic.
  7. Goji Berries – also known as Wolfberries, they are dense in minerals and contain selenium, vitamin C, B2 and A, iron and polysaccharides (antioxidant). These berries have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

Give it a mix, add your milk or yoghurt and enjoy the variety!

Winter, my 5-year-old daughter, thoroughly enjoys creating her own “bowl of deliciousness” as she calls it, raiding all the kilner jars and balancing her breakfast just how she likes it.

superfood cereal mix