PIGS IN BLANKETS

Everybody loves this traditional Christmas side dish and we’ve got three tasty twists including black pudding, butternut squash and chestnuts – you choose!

Ingredients:

  • 8 rashers smoked streaky bacon
  • 16 chipolatas

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Cut the bacon rashers in half. Wrap a piece of bacon around each of the chipolatas.

  2. Place on a baking tray and cook for 30-35 mins until golden.

VEGAN BLT

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Toast bread (optional). In the meantime, heat skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add eggplant bacon (if using coconut bacon, no need to heat) and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes on the other side until warmed through. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. To assemble sandwich, spread vegan mayo (or hummus) on the toasted bread slices. Then top one piece with Eggplant or Coconut Bacon, onion, tomato, and lettuce. Top with other piece of bread, slice (optional), and enjoy.
  3. Could be made ahead of time (up to a few hours), but best when fresh.

REDUCETARIANISM

One was  the study of  more than 77,000 Seventh Day Adventists reported earlier this month that found that compared to non-vegetarians, vegetarians had a 20 per cent lower risk of colorectal cancer (although, interestingly, adding fish to the veggies was better still, with plant and fish eaters having an even lower risk).

The other was the analysis of the lifestyle habits of 451,256 Europeans that found those eating the most plant foods – around 70 per cent of their diet – had a 20 per cent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, compared to those eating the least plant foods.

But not everyone’s ready to swap bacon for beans which is why Brian Kateman from the Earth Institute Centre for Environmental Sustainability at New York’s Columbia University has come up with the term reducetarian, meaning someone who’s cutting down on, but not eliminating, meat.

So why is that any different to “semi-vegetarian” or “flexitarian” – words for those eating mostly plants with small amounts of meat, poultry or fish? Because it’s broad enough to include someone who’s taking baby steps to reduce animal foods – like doing Meatless Monday or eating meat once a day instead of twice.

It’s a long way from being vegan but the important thing is that a reducetarian has made a conscious decision to eat less animal food, says Kateman – and even a small reduction helps. Or as Australian philosopher Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation and a supporter of reducetarianism puts it: “Reduce now, and next month reduce more. Maybe you’ll get to zero, and anyway, you’ll be doing less harm.”

Kateman also sees this approach as a way of soothing the hostility that can creep into debates between vegans and non-vegans by uniting everyone who’s reducing animal products at some level.

“It’s a message that allows us to focus not on our differences but on a shared commitment to eating less meat regardless of where we are on the spectrum,” he said in a TEDx talk last year. “If you can go meat-free, great, but if you can’t, just eat a little less.”

Easy ways to do this include using mushrooms instead of bacon or chorizo; swapping a meat meal for a lentil and veggie soup – or replacing ham in a sandwich with cashew or almond butter. It’s also surprisingly easy to de-flesh many dishes like curries or pasta sauces by swapping the meat or poultry for a legume like chick peas. You might sacrifice a little flavour but the payoff is that nothing died in the making of this meal – or lived its life shut inside a sunless shed.

But if arguments for better health and animal welfare aren’t enough to get us eating more plants and fewer animals, here’s another. Eating less meat is one of the most effective actions we can take to protect the climate, says Associate Professor Andrew McGregor of Macquarie University’sDepartment of Geography and Planning. 

Around 30 per cent of the world’s non-ice surface is taken up by producing livestock, a key contributor to greenhouse gas production, he explains – but if we all ate less meat it would have two big benefits – reducing greenhouse gases directly from livestock emissions and freeing up more land where we could plant more trees to act as a sink to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  

“Changing meat consumption is something that can be done today, right now, by everyone,” McGregor says. “Rather than complaining about the lack of progress on climate change people can get active one meal at a time.”

VEGAN PROTEIN

In recent years, boxers David Haye and Mike Tyson, the Williams sisters, UFC fighters, cricketers and footballers have all reportedly “gone green”. Most famously, of course, did Popeye not develop huge biceps on a plant-based diet? 

If you are thinking about making the change and worried about your protein intake, the good news is experts say with a little planning, plant-based protein can be just as effective to maintain an active lifestyle and repair and build muscle. 

Can I get enough protein from a plant-based diet?

After speaking with several nutritionists, the general response was “yes, but…”. This was invariably followed by suggesting vegans should plan meals carefully.

“You need a variety of different plant-based sources to make sure you’re still getting all the essential amino acids”, says Bethan Hamilton, registered associate nutritionist and National Educator for Vega

Dr Adam Collins, Director of MSc and BSc Nutrition at the University of Surrey, agrees: “In the UK people eat around 150pc of their protein requirement. You’re probably still meeting your requirements on a vegan diet in absolute terms. If you’re combining plant protein sources you could equally get a full complement of amino acids.” 

“I think there’s a big misconception that a plant-based diet is devoid of protein,” says nutritional therapist Lily Soutter. “Make sure you are focusing on the good-quality protein sources, like tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, nuts and seeds. When you combine them it almost makes a jigsaw puzzle and can help to make a complete protein.”

This goes back to the debate on how complete a protein you’re consuming. The best vegan protein powders are composed of a variety of protein sources, from pea and rice to hemp and algae.

While vegan protein is proven to be very effective, its efficacy may not be quite as high as whey, which has “been shown to be more effective than vegan protein”, according to Roberts. 

“Whey protein is a good promoter of building muscle, if that’s one of your aims,” says Dr Collins. “That’s not to say you can’t build muscle through a general intake of protein.” Dairy-free alternatives “take a bit more effort to release the protein, and they’re not going to give you a quick-release super-stimulus in the same way.”

With all this in mind, I set about trying some of the leading vegan proteins powders. They were all tested primarily for flavour, with nutritional information taken into account. I cannot vouch for their ability to leave you looking like Arnie – we’ll catch up in a few months’ time on that front.

All the powders (of course, they’re all suitable for vegetarians as well) were tested with milk substitutes or water, as per packet instructions. But as a useful tip, I preferred them all either sprinkled on cereal or in a fruit smoothie.  

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING

Ingredients

For the sponge

For the sauce

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4 and lightly grease your dish. 

  2. Put the chopped dates, boiling water and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl, stir and then leave for 10 minutes.

  3. Cream the butter and black treacle together in a stand mixer until well mixed, then add the sugar and mix again, beating out any lumps. Beat in an egg and keep beating – scraping down as necessary – until completely incorporated, then do the same with the other egg. Beating more gently, add the flour and baking powder until you have a smooth, thick batter.

  4. Using a fork, stir the soaked dates, squishing them a bit, then pour the dates and their liquid into the batter and beat gently to mix in.

  5. Pour and scrape into your prepared dish or cake tin and bake for 30–35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

  6. Meanwhile, to make the sauce, melt the butter, muscovado sugar and treacle over a very low heat in a heavy-based saucepan. Once the butter’s melted, stir gently until everything else is melted too. Now stir in the cream, then turn up the heat and when it’s bubbling and hot, take it off the heat.

  7. As soon as it’s out of the oven, prick the cooked sponge pudding all over with a cocktail stick and pour about a quarter of the warm sauce over, easing it to the edges with a spatula so that the sponge is entirely topped with a thick sticky glaze. Put a lid on the remaining sauce in the pan to keep it warm.

  8. Leave the pudding to stand for 20–30 minutes, then take to the table, with the rest of the sauce in a jug, and cream to serve.

COURGETTE AND OLIVE QUICHE

Courgettes form a mild base for a quiche that is transformed with tangy feta and an equally punchy ­olive tapenade – perfect picnic ­fodder.

Prep time: 20 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling time and 30 minutes resting time | Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes

SERVES

Four to six

INGREDIENTS

For the pastry:

  • 170g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 30g toasted ground hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 120g cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp cold water

For the filling:

  • 150g courgette, grated
  • ½ tsp flaky sea salt
  • 200g feta, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp picked fresh thyme leaves
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 300ml double cream
  • 4 tbsp shop-bought black olive tapenade

METHOD

  1. Place the flour, hazelnuts and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Add the cold diced butter and pulse briefly until the mixture resembles the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and briefly blend again before adding the cold water, a little at a time, and mixing until you achieve a smooth dough.
  2. Remove the dough from the mixer, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for at least an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/Gas 5.
  4. Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about the thickness of a pound coin so it’s large enough to line a 23cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Line the tin with the pastry, pressing it against the edge of the tin gently and allowing the excess to fall over the sides. If the pastry becomes too brittle after rolling out, place it back in the fridge before lining the tin.
  5. Line the inside with baking parchment and fill with ceramic baking beans or uncooked rice/pulses. Place the case on a baking sheet and bake for around 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven, take out the parchment and cooking weights and return to the oven to continue cooking for a further 10 to 15 minutes, until the pastry case is golden brown and cooked through.
  7. Remove from the oven and turn the temperature down to 140C/120C Fan/Gas 1.
  8. Meanwhile, for the filling, tip the grated courgette into a colander with a bowl underneath.
  9. Sprinkle with half a teaspoon of flaky salt and toss it through, then leave for 30 minutes for the moisture to seep out. Tip the courgette on to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out any excess liquid, then tip the dry courgette into a bowl and add the feta, thyme, eggs, and cream. Season well then beat together.
  10. Spread the tapenade all over the pastry base. Pour in the courgette and feta custard and bake for 45 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

CURRY CHICKEN SANDWICH

This robust and flavorful curry chicken salad sandwich is made with a mixture of Greek yogurt and mayonnaise so it has a much lighter taste with more health benefits than your typical calorie packed chicken salad. Greek yogurt not only provides a nice tangy bite, but it’s also full of probiotics and live cultures that help aid digestion and speed up metabolism. 

We recommend using this curry chicken salad as a sandwich recipe between two toasted slices of a pumpkin bagel (for a hint of sweetness), a drizzle of sriracha (for heat), a few cucumbers (for crunch, and lastly, a handful of kale leaves (for extra health benefits) but feel free to use it on whatever vessel you care for!

Ingredients

  • For The Curried Chicken Salad:
  • 1.5 cups poached chicken, shredded
  • 2 tbsp. plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. curry
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 ginger powder
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • the juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp. sriracha
  • 3 tbsp. cashews (coconut glazed ones are best!)
  • 2 tbsp. dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp. chopped mint
  • 1 tsp. chopped green onion
  • 1 tsp. chopped cilantro
  • 1 small carrot, grated
  • 1 tsp. red onion, grated
  • For Each Of The Sandwiches:
  • 1 pumpkin (or plain) bagel, toasted
  • 1/4 cup curried chicken salad
  • about 6 cucumber slices
  • a small handful of baby kale
  • more sriracha to taste
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the greek yogurt, mayo, curry, turmeric, ginger, honey, Sriracha and lime juice together.

  2. Add in the chicken, cashews, cranberries, mint, green onion, cilantro, carrot, and onion. Stir and let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. 

The Chicken Sandwich

  1. Toast your bagel and add cucumber to the bottom half of the sandwich. Next, add half of the chicken salad and a handful of the baby kale. Squirt on more Sriracha if you’re into that and serve! 

HOW TO COOK STEAK

One thing to make clear right away: there isn’t one perfect way to cook a steak. Different cuts and sizes of steak with varying degrees of marbling and fatty edges make a one-size-fits-all solution to this meatiest of questions pretty much impossible.

How to cook the perfect steak

You’ll find heaps of complex and contradictory advice out there about how to cook the steak to beat all steaks. Jamie Oliver recommends creating a herb brush from woody herbs tied to a wooden spoon to dust enthusiastically over your sizzling steak, Harold McGee swears by wrapping the meat in clingfilm and submerging in hot water to get the meat warm before cooking…

Chef Flo has brought it back to basics with a foolproof approach to steak which will have you cooking perfectly sealed steak that’s deliciously tender. She’s used sirloin for it’s lovely marbled meat, but the method is broad enough that you can adjust and apply it to other cuts as well. Check out the video below, or scroll down to see the steps for the easy way to cook an incredible steak.

Make all your cooking easy! Have a look at our recipe boxes.


Cooking Sirloin Steak

  1. how to cook the perfect sirloin steak - step 1
    First, it’s important to allow your steak to reach room temperature before cooking. Take it out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes before you’re planning to cook. As an added bonus, the longer you leave it out the more it will start to dry out, which helps it to create a good seal in the pan, trapping in all the meaty moisture.
  2. how to cook the perfect sirloin steak - step 2
    Rub your steak on both sides with oil, making sure each side is fully covered. Try to use oil with a high smoke point instead of olive oil; we’d suggest vegetable oil, groundnut oil or rice bran oil, all of which have a nice high smoke point.Once you’ve oiled your steak, sprinkle some good chunky salt on both sides. It’s worth adding a big pinch on each side – more than you’d usually use in cooking – so that you can see the crystals on the surface of the steak. We don’t worry about pepper, as we’ll be cooking at a high temperature and pepper can burn in this sort of heat.
  3. how to cook the perfect sirloin steak - step 3
    Bring a dry (unoiled) pan to a super high heat – the higher the heat, the better the seal and the more tender you’re cooked steak will be. Add your steak to the pan allow it to seal on one side for 1-2 minutes before turning. Judge the time from sight – you can always lift up and edge with tongs to see how it’s cooking underneath if you need to!
  4. how to cook the perfect sirloin steak - step 4
    Flip the steak and cook on the other side. If it needs to cook for a little bit longer, give it a bit of extra time on both sides, but try to keep the total time on each side more or less even.
  5. how to cook the perfect sirloin steak - step 5
    Once your steak is cooked, remove it from the pan and place it on a plate (rather than a flat surface like a chopping board) and cover it with a clean tea towel. Leave your steak to rest like this for as long as you were cooking it in the pan – so this will vary according to how thick your steak is.
  6. how to cook the perfect sirloin steak - step 6
    Resting your steak will allow the juices to gather – these can make an delicious dressing, or can be mixed with a bit of butter and herbs and poured back over the steak for a rich, decadent finish.
  7. how to cook the perfect sirloin steak - step 7

Finally, dig in! I like my steak medium-rare, but you can always vary cooking (and resting!) times for different results.

Another lovely, healthy and lean steak cut is ‘minute steak‘ – it’s thin and flat and only takes a minute to cook – as the name suggests!

CHICKEN PAILLARDS

  • 2 ripe medium tomatoes (1 red and 1 yellow), cored and roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 spring onion (white and green parts), thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus additional for seasoning
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup torn fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh tarragon
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 chicken paillards, about 6 ounces each

Prepare an outdoor grill with a hot fire.

Toss the tomatoes, garlic, spring onion, the 3 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, the 2 teaspoons salt, and black pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Add all the herbs to the bowl but don’t toss.

Brush the chicken paillards lightly with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Grill the chicken, turning once, until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Stir the herbs into the tomatoes. Put a paillard on each of 4 plates, spoon some herb-tomato salad on top (watch out for the smashed garlic-you might want to remove it), and serve.

Serves: 4

Calories: 300

Total Fat: 13 grams

>Saturated Fat: 2 grams

Protein: 40 grams

Total carbohydrates: 4 grams

Sugar: 2 grams

Fiber: 1 gram

Cholesterol: 99 milligrams

Sodium: 1082 milligrams

POACHED EGGS

POACHED EGGS

Before we begin to talk about how to poach eggs, I think it is appropriate to clear up a few myths and mysteries that surround the whole subject.

I met someone recently who said they had been to six leading kitchen shops and not one of them sold an egg poacher. My reaction was, ‘What a great leap for mankind.’ Egg poachers not only came out of the ark, but they never did the job anyway.  What they did was to steam and toughen the eggs, not poach them – and did you ever try to clean one afterwards?  The dried-on toughened egg white was always hell to remove.

Then came professional chefs, who passed their exams only if they created a strong whirlpool of simmering water using a whisk and then performed a sort of culinary cabaret act by swirling the poached egg back to its original shell shape.  At home we can now relax, throw out our egg poachers and poach eggs simply and easily for four or even six people.  The method below is not at all frightening or hazardous, but bear in mind that for successful poaching the eggs have to be really fresh.

To make life even easier, you can now watch How to Poach Eggs in our Cookery School video lesson below.


  • METHOD
  • INGREDIENTS

METHOD

The key to success here is freshness.

So remember the horizontal position in a glass and the plump yolk with its inner gelatinous circle of white. Fill the pan with no less than 2.5cm of water from a boiling kettle – nothing else is needed, no salt, no vinegar, just water – and have the heat underneath quite gentle. What you need to see is the merest trace of tiny bubbles beginning to form over the base of the pan, no more than that.

Now break in the eggs, one at a time, or I think it helps to break the eggs into little bowls before slip them onto the hot water then set the timer for 2 minutes, and let the water barely simmer. When the time is up, simply remove the pan from the heat and set the timer to 10 minutes. During this time you can baste the top of the eggs with the hot water.

When the time is up, gently and carefully lift each egg out of the water on the draining spoon, letting it drain for a few seconds.

Then place the spoon on the kitchen paper to absorb any water still left.