What is healthy eating?

Looking after yourself is important, we all know that. The mantra that ‘you are what you eat’ is becoming increasingly apparent to me as I get older, and so recently I have been favouring an intake of more lean protein, ‘good fats’ and fibre, and in turn less sugar, saturated fats and unnecessary carbohydrates.

All the big dogs seem to be on the health-hype too. Deliciously Ella promotes a healthy lifestyle with her “clean-eating, gluten free” recipes. The Hemsley and Hemsley sisters also promote a healthy approach with their #TheArtOfEatingWell campaign, and I have recently taken to following @TheBodyCoach (Joe Wicks) on Instagram, as I love the way he is revolutionising quick-and-easy meals for gym buffs with his “#LeanIn15” recipes.

Jamie Oliver has also recently released his Everyday Super Food book, along with a full series on Channel 4; really promoting a healthy approach to food to the masses. Another firm favourite of mine is Gizzi Erskine, she’s always promoted healthy eating and her newest cookbook, Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite, shows us how healthy can be delicious and doesn’t always have to be rabbit food!

I love all of the above chefs and foodies and have taken tips from all of them (as well as recipes, of course) over the past 12 months. My version of the Hemsley sister’s light cottage pie makes use of cauliflower and sweet potato mash instead of the usual mashed white potatoes. And Gizzi’s roast duck and noodle soup is low on calories but doesn’t compromise on flavour whatsoever.

My approach to healthy eating is simple, I try to follow a sort of 80:20 rule (eating more considered 80% of the time, and relaxing it a little for the remaining 20%). When I first started my blog, there was a split between ‘Mid-week rustle up dinners’ and ‘Weekend gourmet’ dishes – so I am going to be focussing more on this approach going forwards. It works for me and can work for you too!

Below is a short list of some of my favourite bloggers who promote a healthy lifestyle:

www.spamellab.com – Pamela focusses on gluten-free, high protein, healthy AND tasty recipes, made from clean ingredients. Her #IndulgingInnocently campaign proves that you can have your cake and eat it, its shows that sweet treat don’t need to be packed full of sugar and additives.

www.tessward.com – Tess says ‘Count colours not calories and goodness not grams with simple, unprocessed, stripped back dishes.’ Her ‘naked’ recipes are vibrant, simple and gorgeous.

www.thebodycoach.co.uk/blog – I mentioned him earlier, and I will again. You can catch most of Joe’s amazing #LeanIn15 recipes on Instagram for now, but I mean it when I say his recipes are SO QUICK, SIMPLE, LEAN and taste fantastic.

www.minimalistbaker.com – these guys are so cute, and their ethos is simple: easy-to-make, delicious food, all recipes either require 10 ingredients or less, 1 pot, or 30 minutes or less to prepare. Many are vegan and/or gluten-free too.

How do you define healthy eating, and which approach do you prefer? Who are your favourite bloggers, cooks or chefs that inspire you to eat well and use fresh, quality ingredients? 

In my next blog post I will be sharing my key tips for keeping your diet healthy, fresh and interesting. Make sure you stay posted our subscribe so you don’t miss it ❤

With love, Sophie -x-

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Cheshire Food Blog

Campfire Gourmet Challenge: British Macaroni Cheese

I was recently asked by Park Resorts to create a gourmet, campfire-inspired recipe using British produce; something a family could easily rustle up on a camp site holiday in the UK.

My initial thoughts were of a family sat around a campfire in the middle of the woods, toasting marshmallows on long sticks, singing along to a gentle guitar-strummed rendition of kumbyyah… Then I thought, hang on a minute, nobody actually does that any more… and did they ever?!

These days, a more common way to get all gourmet when camping is to make use of gas camping stoves. I take them with me whenever I go camping, as they are a safe and easy way to cook up favourite staples like pasta, but still with the fun novelty of outdoor cooking. Win win!

For my take on the ‘Campfire Gourmet Challenge’, I decided keep it simple with a British take on the all American family classic, “Mac and Cheese”. This is a stove-top version, so no need for an oven and it really tastes just as great (if not better!)

Using a generous mix of Welsh cheddar and English Red Leicester, British pancetta rashers, English mustard and some hearty oregano to season, this recipe is delicious, easy and cost-effective. Making a Mornay sauce (Béchamel with cheese) using the French roux technique in front of your fellow campers is sure to show off your gourmet skills, and might even get you out of doing the washing up. I should hope so anyway!

If you prep your ingredients before you leave and arrange them in your cool bag, once you’ve set up camp getting started couldn’t be easier. For a really quick and easy gourmet campsite dinner, cook the pasta at home before you leave and take it along with you in an airtight container. Then all you have to focus on is cooking the pancetta and getting the cheese sauce perfect to feed all your hungry campers after a long day of fun and adventure ❤

Serves 4, 30 minutes.

Recipe: Camp stove British Macaroni Cheese

Ingredients

  • 300g dried spirali pasta (cooked beforehand)
  • 60g Welsh cheddar, grated
  • 60g Red Leicester, grated
  • 50g dried mushrooms
  • 12 rashers pancetta
  • 500ml semi skimmed milk
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tsp English mustard powder
  • 50g butter
  • good handful fresh oregano, roughly torn into small pieces

Method

  1. Fire up your stove and first of all, cook the pancetta over a low heat in a frying pan. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn, but cook until crisp then set aside on some kitchen paper. Heat a cup of water to the boil, and pour over the dried mushrooms to rehydrate while you make the Mornay (cheese, to you and me) sauce.
  2. Gently heat the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat. Add the flour and mustard powder and stir until combined and you have a smooth paste-like consistency. Cook for 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk and continue to stir until the sauce begins to thicken. Give it a bit of elbow grease as it thickens, you don’t want any lumps! Season to taste.
  3. As the sauce comes to the boil, drain and squeeze out any moisture from the mushrooms and add them to the sauce. Stir well and cook for 5 minutes over a low heat. Take off the heat and add the grated cheese. Stir until the cheese has completely melted.
  4. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce along with the pancetta (break the crispy pancetta into small pieces so it distributes evenly throughout).
  5. Just before serving, stir through the torn oregano and check the seasoning. Serve immediately with extra oregano to garnish, if desired.

 

Cheshire Food Blog

Review: Recipe Kits

My life has been a little hectic as of late. I won’t bore you with too much of the detail, but there’s been a fair bit going on. So over recent weeks, I have found myself looking for a little help in the kitchen, with a view that I could put a little review together of each item for you all. Yes, I’m talking about those handy little ‘recipe kits’ you can buy in the majority of supermarkets these days… And I’ve had quite a bit of fun doing it too!

I’m not talking about those fajita kits… Although they always were very popular in my University digs. The sort of recipe kits you can get now are much more adventurous, and along this mini home-culinary journey I’ve created some really authentic flavours from Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Jamaica, all reasonably (fairly) priced and easy to put together. Some I’d recommend higher than others, and below is a summary of them all in terms of taste, ease and value for money. I have scored them all out of 5 🙂  1 = worst, 5 = best. I hope you enjoy!

Waitrose Cooks’ Recipe Katsu Chicken Curry Kit, £3.99, serves 2

Contains: 1 pouch of katsu curry sauce, 1 pouch of panko bread crumbs and 1 sachet of gochujang chilli paste.

Shopping List: 1 egg, 2 chicken breasts, rice and oil to cook.

Verdict: Overall, this was a fantastic tasting dish. The katsu curry sauce is fruity, spicy and really authentic (I’m comparing to decent restaurant versions). The gochujang chilli paste is an excellent, sweet yet spicy addition. In terms of value for money, I think £3.99 is a little steep, as other supermarkets (such as Tesco) do a version which also includes the rice for only £2.99. However, based on the quality and authenticity of the katsu curry sauce and addition of the gochujang chilli paste, I’d say overall this is a fantastic, cost-effective alternative to a Friday night takeaway for you and ‘bae’ 😉

In terms of ease, it couldn’t be simpler. The instructions, although brief, are easy to follow and the results looked and tasted great. The chicken breasts I used were quite large, I cooked them for about 7.5 minutes on each side over a medium-high heat, and used Rapeseed oil to shallow fry them. Just make sure you check the chicken is fully cooked through before serving!

Score 4.5 / 5

Tesco’s Vietnamese Spring Roll Meal Kit, £1.99, serves 2

Contains: 6 rice paper wrappers, vermicelli noodles, peanut dipping sauce.

Shopping List: Cooked prawns or meat, fresh crunchy veg and coriander.

Verdict: Overall, this was easy and they did taste good. The peanut dipping sauce, however, was a little on the tangy-side for me. But then again I was recently spoilt at the launch party of Vietnamese restaurant Pho, in Manchester’s Corn Exchange, so I might just be being a peanut-dipping-sauce-snob.

The instructions were simple, with little illustrations to demonstrate each stage. In terms of value for money, the price  is OK to just serve 2, and only 2 (makes 6 rolls) but if you wanted to make any more buying the ingredients separately is much better value.

I wouldn’t buy this kit again, as rice paper sheets and vermicelli noodles are so cheap. If they don’t sell them in your local shop you can easily order them online. The best thing that came away from this experience was the desire to create my own peanut dipping sauce that rivals that of Pho restaurant. Yuuuum.

Score  2 / 5

Spicentice’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken, £2.00, serves 4

Contains: 1 pouch Jamaican Jerk Spice Mix.

Shopping List: Chicken (12 Wings or 8 drumsticks or 8 thighs), 1 small onion, 5 spring onions, 1 lime, 2 garlic cloves, 1 inch piece ginger, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 2 tbsp cooking oil.

This isn’t really a recipe kit, it’s a spice kit, but I am including it anyway because it tasted amazing. It probably tasted amazing because you add so many fresh ingredients to it, but hey-ho, it tasted great and was actually pretty healthy so it’s worth a mention! You do need a food processor or blender to prep the paste, which I guess is a downfall if you don’t have one. The instructions are thorough, clear and include handy tips and extra information which is a nice touch. I got mine via the Portly Grocer,  but you can also purchase them direct from their own website.

The instructions are to skin and wash the chicken and score it several times, so the marinade really penetrated the meat perfectly, and you lost all the fat content of the skin. Win win. The paste clung to the chicken and it says to marinade for at least 30 minutes, I left it for 3 hours or so which worked well. Overall, an easy bit of Jamaican sunshine right into your own kitchen. Highly recommended.

Score  4 / 5

Taste Thai’s Easy Pad Thai Kit, £2.29 in Tesco, serves 2.

Contains: Rice Noodles, Pad Thai Sauce and ‘Peanut Mix’.

Shopping List: King Prawns or Veg, 1 egg, fresh coriander, a lime to serve.

Verdict: I do really like the Taste Thai range, their curry pastes are delicious and so is their palm sugar. So I had quite high expectations for this Pad Thai sauce to be authentic and delicious. And it was. The rice noodles were a decent portion for 2 on a weeknight, but Bradley was pretty hungry about an hour later, so next time I would bulk it out a little with more veggies.

The instructions were thorough and straightforward and I guess the best thing about this experience is that now I’ve tried this recipe out at home, next time I’m going to re-create my own ‘pad Thai sauce’ by combining tamarind, fish sauce, palm sugar and chilli. Overall though, a cracking little recipe kit!

Score 4.5 / 5

What sort of recipe kits have you tried recently? Have I missed any which you would recommend trying?

Drop me a note in the comments box below or use the hashtag #sophiesscran on Twitter / Instagram to show me your creations!

Cheshire Food Blog

Recipe: Lean, Hearty Turkey Curry with Cauliflower ‘Rice’

As part of my move towards a healthier lifestyle, I have tried to rely less on carbohydrates at meal times and focus more on lean meats, fresh veggies and lots of FLAVOUR. At first, the concept of cauliflower rice did not appeal to me in the slightest. Cauliflower isn’t the most exciting of vegetables in terms of flavour… Which is probably why it’s often teamed with cheese in the classic cauliflower cheese dish, to jazz it up a little.

However, I was blown away when I first made the so-called ‘cauli-rice’. I do have a food processor, so I must admit, to make it this way is very easy. To get to grips with it, I first read this great article by BBC Good Food which sets out all the different ways you can make it, both with and without a food processor. Below is the method I follow (with a food processor) but feel free to check out the link to see which method is best for you. I find the method below turns out great each time both in terms of taste and texture. 1 large cauliflower head can make anything up to 6 portions of ‘rice.’ It can portioned up and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen, so great to prep-ahead on a Sunday if, like me, you have more time then!

This recipe serves 2, with some leftovers for lunch or the curry can be frozen. It takes about 40 mins to prep and cook. Let me know if you give this recipe a try!

What you need:

  • half a medium-sized cauliflower
  • tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 400g turkey breast (or chicken), diced into 2-3cm chunks
  • 1 tbsp hot curry powder
  • 1 tbsp Garam Masala
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup organic chicken stock (I use Kallo)
  • 2 green chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
  • 3 tbsp Rapeseed oil (I use Calvia)
  • 200g steamed broccoli
  • 1 few handfuls spinach
  • fresh coriander (optional)

What to do:

To make the curry…

  1. Heat 2 tbsp Rapeseed oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan. Add the diced red onion and cook for 3 minutes, until it softens and begins to turn translucent. Add the garlic and chillies and continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the spices and stir well for 2 minutes, until the fragrance is released. Add the diced turkey breast and stir well to coat well in the spices, cooking for 5 minutes or so over a medium-high heat so the meat browns.
  3. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and the chicken stock, cover and simmer for 25 minutes over a low heat. Check occasionally and stir as needed.
  4. Once the timer is up and the sauce has thickened, add the cooked broccoli and spinach and cook for a further 5 minutes until hot. Serve with the ‘cauli-rice’ below.

To make the cauliflower rice…

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C and get out a large, flat roasting tray.
  2. Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower and most of the thick core. Roughly chop into large chunks.
  3. Add a few pieces of the cauliflower chunks to the food processor at a time (as not to overload). Using the pulse setting, blitz for 30 seconds or so, until the cauliflower resembles fine rice, or couscous.
  4. Toss the ‘rice’ in a drizzle of Rapeseed oil and season with a tsp of ground cumin and some freshly ground black pepper. Tip: don’t add salt, apparently that tampers with the texture!
  5. Spread the ‘cauli-rice’ out to a thin, even layer on the roasting tray, and roast in the oven at 200C for 12 minutes, mixing it up halfway through cooking.
  6. If desired, top with some chopped fresh coriander and serve with the above curry recipe.