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