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Cookery Courses London News Uncategorized

Cookery courses to the fore in team-building events

We’ve mentioned it a fair bit this year, but the traditional team-building events, whilst still very much available, are now more health and safety conscious than ever. I can’t imagine that the scree-running, abseiling and pot-holing we did in Bryntysilio would feature very highly on the HSE-friendly to-do list, these days.

A much safer way of bonding the workforce is to get them into the kitchen, where even the majority of appliances, these days, are practical and safe. Well, I wouldn’t call some of the ingredients my wife cobbles together safe, but you know what I mean? Mm, I wonder if Lloyds TSB are thinking of running any team-building cookery courses?

And that leads me nicely into today’s topic…
…I was talking to James Coakes whilst portending another hat I wear and he mentioned that he’d organised a troupe off on a jolly as a works’ team building event to a restaurant. Standard fare, I thought. But then he happened to mention that it was also a cooking class in…wait for it…
chocolate!

Now, you all know that I’m a healthy eating lad, but my one Achilles Heel – and I think it’s to replace the beer since hip surgery last year – is chocolate. And we used to end up orienteering through fields of cows in a musty-smelling Welsh forest? I’m sorry, Wales, but you know that ‘fine Welsh mud’ that happy couple (obviously on Prozak) were washing off their bike wheels in your promo ad – you can keep it!

Anyway, I digress. This is how far this type of networking, company-socialising pastime has come. No longer is it down entirely to the individual cookery schools to try to snare the attention of people looking for cookery courses online, there are team-building companies incorporating them into their menu.

James’ company’s called the teambuilding company (funnily enough) and as well as the chocolate team-building cookery course he offers, there’s a Chinese affair, entitled Team Wok – and that’s the name of the company, not a slogan James or his associates have dreamed up – as well as Sumptuous Sushi, Cocktail-making (boy, did I used to think I was Tom Cruise in my bar-tender days…definitely more of a Bryan Brown character, these days?) and a Cuisine-Team event.  All but one of the Rocket Restaurants venues, host for the  lessons in how to make chocolate, is in London so if you can’t make the Nottingham restaurant, it’s a trip down to The Smoke, so your staff will at least feel like they’ve had a night out and a chance to glug some of the petty cash in London, as only the best staff does.

So, if you’re a company boss and not sure about how a weekend trekking in the Welsh Hills is going to go down with your staff, why not try cookery courses next time your planning to get your employees to bond?

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Food and Ingredients News

Coffee good for the brain? I ought to be the next Einstein!

Good day, guys and girls. Thanks for rejoining us for this second exploratory post into the top ten brain foods as advised by The Cooking Academy. If you missed the first three choice ingredients in the list, you can find them on yesterday’s post, Foods that are naturally healthy for body, mind and soul, where we marvelled at how ingredients classed as healthy options for the body are also believed to have potent mind-boosting powers, too.

So, in total contrast, let’s start today with number four in the Cooking Academy’s list, and an inclusion that should make me the brightest spark against the night sky if its power is increment by volume, coffee! In fact, I know a few myth-shattering facts about their number four item so I’ll not wax lyrical about coffee here; we’ll save the detail for a future article. Suffice to know that its inclusion in the list, in its purest, served form, is based on its antioxidant qualities and ability to stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia. Ah, “in moderation”, it says. Boooooo!

5. Nuts! Another ingredient utilised positively by both body and mind. Ever feel relaxed when you sniff almonds? That’s because the neurotransmitters therein elevate your mood. Walnuts are a great food if you’re peckish before bedtime as they help with insomnia and many nuts, including the bog-standard peanut, include nutrients that boost mental clarity; the vast majority also contain healthy, natural fats in their oils, prolifically Omega 3.
6. Avocados – a fruit that has long been steered away from by dieters (in error) is good for the blood, believed to help reduce pressure and increase the flow to the brain, improving its function. The healthy fats in avocados are an ideal substitute for saturates in a calorie controlled diet, too.
7. Eggs – another much-maligned product and, whether your looking to lose weight through diet and training or want a sharper mind, eggs fit the bill. The choline therein is associate with the building blocks of memory function whilst the protein and healthy fats are the basis of building and protecting healthy muscle tissue. Boiled or poached eggs will not, as urban myth has it, rocket your cholesterol; even at two a day, the effect of their nutritious content can help balance your body’s relative levels.
8. Whole grain – mm, the jury’s out on this one as far as dieting goes, but I’m totally in favour of it, for reasons other than content. In the context of the brain, they contribute massively to a healthy circulation. Some nutritionists may warn against wholegrain bread as part of a heavy resistance training diet but, for me at least, the benefits the grain give as an intestinal hoover due to their high-fibre content far outweigh the reasons some trainers give for not incorporating it. The grains are also a source of healthy, natural fats you can include in your diet without necessarily having to think to hard about it.
9. Chocolate – okay, here’s the second and final item on the list that you wouldn’t find on a dieter’s main menu, the darker the better, up to the point where it gets too bitter. Above 70% for me and it’s pushing it, but the Cooking Academy’s author prefers 85% cocoa – ugh, that makes me shudder. But, dark/plain chocolate (again in moderation) contains high concentrations of antioxidants and has been proven to target focus – perfect for the freelance writer who may get distracted by World Golf Tour or his e-mail, for instance…time to visit Hotel Chocolat again, methinks. Milk chocolate, surprisingly, has benefits too, cutting down reaction time as well as improving memory function.
10. And finally, Broccoli. One of the great Superfoods and, in my humble opinion, second in the all-time list behind only blueberries. It helps improve memory, is saturated with vitamins, helps reduce the ageing process and also helps improve memory. Mm, quite.

So, thanks to Kumud Ghandi who originally complied this list for The Cooking Academy and I hope you’ve enjoyed my expansion on the original theme, incorporating snippets on the bodily benefits as well as the brain power you’ll now exhibit by incorporating these ingredients into your diet – even if it’s not a healthy one, by inclusion of these natural food stuffs, you may well turn a corner there, too.

Some of the ingredients may not be the easiest to incorporate into the weekly cook/shop – why not check out our hand-picked cookery courses to see if those courses we are rating as offering the best value at your time of reading this (we do acid-test them, so the individual cookery schools we feature often rotate) offer a nutrition/healthy cookery class you can draw upon for inspiration?

Got a comment? We’d love to hear from you.

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Food and Ingredients News

Foods that are naturally healthy for body, mind and soul

Readers and followers of cookerycourses.co.uk over the last year will have picked up little hints and tips that, as much as we cover food in general on this website, my heart beats with a passion for healthy eating.

I’m not talking processed ready meals to fit nicely into a points program to reduce/maintain weight – if that’s your idea of how to cook healthy and nutritious food, then me and you need to have a little chat. I’m talking about taking nature’s own goodness and deriving nutrition out body can actually do something proactive with. Not just satisfy a hunger, but develop your body the way nature intended us to be.

One of the key factors to being able to lose weight and keep it off is having a mind capable of dealing with the fact that, in order to be your best you have (probably) got to go through a life-changing process. Where many people fail is that there is not focused enough to determine the truth in that or retain the will power to help realise any targets, dreams and goals you set yourself to become a healthier, slimmer more active and attractive person.

Whilst there is a profusion of differing ways purported to help your body online, there’s a lot less about how we can fuel our mind to make it perform at it’s sharpest. So, today and tomorrow, we’re going to look at just that based upon an article in The Cooking Academy this weekend entitled Top 10 Brain Foods.

1. Blueberries – this little star deserves a medal! Not only is it one of many a fitness trainers’ recommended Superfoods, now it’s being recognised as a key ingredient to help with cognitive performance. It’s widespread mind-issue tackling functions and ability to burn more calories than are included in its indigo, squishy body are not the only powers the blueberry has, either. According to it, it can help reduce the impact of free radicals through its high antioxidant content and can help reduce the signs of ageing. No wonder they’re about a pound for a vacuum pack of ten in the supermarket!
2. Salmon – it’s amazing how many of the foods commonly accepted to help the body reach its optimum are also accredited with helping your brain do the same. Whilst tuna is high in essential Omega-3 too, the helpful oil found in salmon is a much purer derivative. Both contain high levels of protein, too and, according this new research salmon promotes the growth of healthy brain tissue as well as staving off many of the symptoms and causes of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Linseed – these little seed pellets are dense with ALA and, when released, the healthy fat boosts performance of the cerebral cortex. This particular segment of our cerebrum is responsible for sensitivity and touch and without its function, sight, smell, sound and nervous reaction would be severely dampened. Linseed is also extremely helpful in weightloss, helping to keep the intestinal tract clean, allowing you to derive the maximum amount of nutrition from the food you eat, staving off starvation that little bit longer.

Okay, those are three good starters, beneficial to both body and mind. And, of course, for your ever-loving soul, if you share this knowledge with friends, family and anyone who you think could benefit from a change in their diet.  Join me tomorrow when we’ll look at the final seven selections and how they can bring us to the peak of physical and mental conditioning.

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Cookery Courses News

Low GL diet will leave you feeling Grrreat about yourself

It’s no use denying it, we all like to get our money’s worth. When cookery courses deliver both inspiration in the kitchen and also give you a metaphorical package that you can take away to deliver a healthier lifestyle, then they’ve ticked all of the ‘value’ boxes in one hit.

Whether you agree with a vegetarian lifestyle or not (thought I’d better redress the balance after the Meat Advisory Panel last week), there are evidential benefits that you can take from the plethora of plant-like ingredients that other menus don’t offer.

Whole Food Matters is running a four week cookery course at the end of the end of September that will not only show you how to get the greatest gratification from your greens, but will also garner a growth in your gift for grasping a gregarious side of your nature to spread the word beyond the granite work surface of your kitchen so others can grasp the gravitas of the grandiose goal of the course. G-g-g-grrr, I’m gobsmackingly great today!

From High Volume G’s and Gr’s to Low GL, the premise behind this series of cookery classes.

Many people turn to vegetarianism as a way to lose weight, cutting out all of the natural fats that can be found in meats believing that they’re all harmful. There’s a tome I could right on how wrong that is, but that’s the media for you (and, before you start writing in, I do mean ‘right’, not ‘write’ – bless).

The issue a lot of people have with being overweight is admitting it, first to themselves then acting upon it in socially – it’s sort of like a public admission, saying ‘hey, look, I know I’m fat, right?’ But that is the first milestone if you’re going to do anything to actively reduce the excess poundage. That’s what this course is about.

Without giving too much away, WFM is supplementing the vegetarian cookery course itself with diaries and recipes as well as offering a weigh-in every week.

Taking into account your BMI and the readout your existing body-make up gives you, you can then implement the Low GL diet in a way to shed the pounds over the four-week period and beyond.  And this really is where WMF has gone a step further, identified the key issues associated with other cookery courses to help lose weight and where they may have failed and done something about it.

Firstly, the price of the whole four-week course is at a cost – no, I’d say an investment in yourself – that I’ve seen single classes go for, especially in The Smoke. But after the first four weeks, for a nominal fee, you can extend the session in weekly, biweekly or monthly drop-ins to get an update and check your progress either at Health & Herbs and/or Moycullen, where there will be encouragement and a tad more advice to keep you on track for your weightloss goals.

So, if you’re up and around Galway, intrigued with herb-ilicious cookery, Low GL diets and perhaps looking to shed a few pounds, Liz and the gang can sure accommodate you this September.

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Food and Ingredients News

So why is iron essential to one’s diet?

The advantage of taking in iron from red meats – your pork (yes, it looks white, but it’s from a pig, so it’s red), lamb, beef and boiled sardine – sorry, not that last one; just put that in as a red herring – is that haem iron, the derivative from such cuts, needs no other ingredient to create the synergistic reaction of your body breaking down and absorbing the iron as it needs from non-haem from plants. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten already…here’s the link to part one, if you’ve got to recap: Iron deficiency rife amongst women of child bearing age?

Up to this point, you’ve not got a clue what haem is, have you, if you’re honest? Even the spellchecker in OneNote is putting a wiggly red line beneath it. But if I was to extend that to haemoglobin…aah, the light dawns!

According to MAP, the Meat Advisory Panel, we are falling short in our haem iron intake, which is key in the formation of haemoglobin, without which our body would be starved of necessary levels of oxygen as that’s what it does – transport oxygen around the body to where it’s needed through the blood stream.

The repercussions of low-iron are not only the obvious condition, anaemia, but can also be mistaken for period pains, too. If you’re an insufferable insomniac, become short of breath, exhibit exhaustion get migraines and feel fatigue in the muscles, then just think back over the last few days and work out how much iron you’ve actually taken in. Indeed, the latest study showed that women of childbearing age and girls in their teens registered highest in the levels of reduced iron. It doesn’t take a genius to work out what’s going on, does it?

Okay – so that’s the science bit over. Red meat in your diet – if you’ve been ignoring it, don’t; not unless you can derive a suitable level of iron from the other sources as indicated earlier in the article. Okay, you may say that MAP has a vested interest in getting us to eat more meat, but there’s no getting away from the fact that iron is critical for our health and well-being.

Some people shy away from red meat as they don’t know how to cook it or handle it safely in the kitchen, with cross contamination, warm and cold meats, how to store it once cooked – get yourself on one of our many cookery courses to find out the best way to derive nutrients from red meat, how to handle it and, most importantly, how to cook red meat to ensure you deliver nutritious, tasty food, without giving your family high blood pressure or depriving them of their haem!

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Food and Ingredients News

Iron deficiency rife amongst women of child bearing age

You know when someone cuts themselves, or worse luck, when you cut yourself and you pick up the odour of that metallic tincture? There’s a reason for it. Blood contains iron. Specifically, haem iron, different to the iron in plants, pulses, greens and wholemeal bread, which is non-haem iron.

I know – you’re thinking “What on earth is this bloke on? We’re doing cookery courses!” Bear with me – there is a point to this. Bit more science, then we’re into the cookery bit, promise.

Non-haem iron – the planty, grainy stuff (you should have seen how technical the original research piece on this got – you’ll be glad I failed chemistry, honest) – relies pretty much on the intake of other substances to control how the body deals with it. For instance, if you have cereal with OJ, then the vitamin C from the juice helps the body’s digestion of the non-haem iron found in the grain. If, on the other hand, you enjoyed your cereals but were worried about iron intake found in them because of high blood pressure, for example, you’d derive your enjoyment from bran as the high fibre content acts as a natural sweeper to get rid of the non-haem iron before it has chance to absorb. Drink a cup of tea with it and the tannins therein will have a similar ushering effect out of the system before the non-haem has a chance to react – all in moderation, of course – if you were to eat a box of bran, one cup of Liptons wouldn’t shift all of the iron, you understand.

But what’s concerning the medical councils is that we’re not getting enough iron in our diets, full stop. Or perhaps that should be, as the yanks say, period.  Ah, see! Getting around to the foodie stuff, now.

Whilst there have been reservations in the past about our intake of red meats leading to high blood pressure and inflaming the symptoms of conditions such as gout (nothing at all to do with the ale, red wine, sherry and port, yer honour), there is now the consideration we’ve not got enough metal to steel our mettle. See what I did, there?

Keeping up so far? Good-ho!  Right – take a break and a cup of char to wash away all of that iron from your breakfast cereal and join me in five for part two, Why is iron so essential to one’s diet?

 

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Cook Books News

Why we should all take a Leith out of Prue’s book

Wow, Prue Leith is 72. I’m shocked.

For the last few years I’ve been a huge fan of The Great British Menu and, whilst not always agreeing with the judges (not that they often agree with each other), one thing I certainly would have argued the toss of a pancake over was that the rose between the two thorns was of pensionable age. Must be something about the South African sun in her native homeland, although she’s seen precious little of that whilst forging a career in cookery at all levels here in Europe for the last five decades.

Earlier this year, we honoured Oliver Peyton‘s achievements in the UK catering industry, although like Prue, he’s not a native of these shores; rather, he came here from Ireland before whipping up a storm making him qualificant for both his honour in the Queen’s birthday list and to leave his judgement beyond question on The Great British Menu panel.

If the gaunt Irishman’s assessment is felt to be not entirely accurate, there are few more qualified than Prue to call it into judgement – what a career in our industry she has had, seriously mismatched against many far less qualified who seem to have shot to fame on the small screen in recent times.

Okay, she may have started at the lower end of the corporate ladder, picking up her inaugural freelance catering gig whilst still a student at cookery school in the sixties. But the fact that she needed that one tiny opportunity to springboard her to success upon success thereafter is no surprise, in hindsight.

Relish: My Life On A Plate
Relish: My Life On A Plate
(Kindle Edition, Amazon)

She’s no one’s fool, as both Matthew and Oliver have found out on the show; but you only have to look beyond the cameras to appreciate the extent. Her association with food at educational level, as the head of School Fund Trust and the charitable campaigns she helps maintain on many fronts hosting children’s cookery classes around our septic isle and a non-profit eatery to name just two, are perhaps as accurate a reflection of her character as you’re likely to need. In her own words, the financial beneficiaries are unimportant in her activities – if she believes in a given project, she’s in, both feet first up to her waist and giving it her all.

The business woman materialises in her board memberships on both Slow Food UK and Orient Express hotels, not to mention past posts pioneering a catering business, cookery school (Leith’s School of Food & Wine), Michelin rated restaurant and having time to scribe the derived recipes into cookbooks. Oh, and those collections of haute cuisine are not her only dalliances into the world of publishing. Her autobiography has just been released in her native South Africa after being released here earlier this year, entitled Relish: My Life On A Plate, a publication sandwiched between five novels already on the bookshelves and prior to a trilogy she’s working on at present.

I suppose, when you look at a snapshot of her achievements like this, it’s neither a surprise that she’s in her seventies to have fitted it all in nor that she looks so good on it, with all of that juggling to keep her active for the last fifty years since arriving in France in her early twenties. And, yeah, perhaps picking up just a little knowhow about food along the way may have something to do with it, too…

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Food and Ingredients News

Celebrate National Cupcake week – 17th-23rd September

If you’re into your cookery, baking especially, you may already be aware that we are almost upon National Cupcake Week. Yes, yes, I know. But don’t be fooled by the femininity that the name ‘cupcake’ imbues – in the land of online baking, they are big business.  Let’s put it this way – if they were a football player for Team Cooking, Manchester City or Chelsea would be vying to pay them £250k week for the potential ROI this delicate little buttercup of baking has.

To ensure that they’re not missing out on the impending baking frenzy, the baking mad kitchen’s latest news letter leads with the story, citing famous chefs’ recipes and even suggests we throw a ‘cupcakes and cocktails’ party. I may not be so well blessed in the cake field, but I know enough about cocktails to suggest that even this frangipane of an idea is stretching the imagination, somewhat. Would you really spoil a measure of Cointreau by mixing it with egg and flour? Okay, maybe it’s just me, then.

Could you imagine beetroot cupcakes? Or, indeed, any type of vegetable ingredient going into this favourite mother-and-child baking lesson favourite from down the ages? No, me neither, but that’s what’s being suggested. I think I may get a little more sympathy for that than the cocktail comment. But I don’t know – if you’ve got your own experiences – even if it’s just blowing something by adding too much rum and applying an aggressive flame – share them with us in the comments, below.

To be fair, it’s not all whacky cupcake ideas. Eric Lanlard has christened a traditional recipe with his own twist the ‘red velvet’, which incorporates natural vanilla and dark chocolate – now that’s doable. Like, very.

But Lanlard’s not the only one getting in on the act. As you’d expect, there are a host of associated products being featured that, rather handily (somewhat contrivedly so, the cynic may proffer) there is a range of extracts just perfect for cupcakes and that just happen feature in Lanlard’s recipes. You can, however, win 20 sets of said extracts and see if you can marry them with the Cupcakes and Cocktails section, which lists everything from daiquiri recipes to Bailey’s cupcakes.

The red velvet is both the featured recipe of the month and is available in his Home Bake book, available at Amazon.co.uk with free shipping to the UK in paperback format – see, we can do promos, too!

And I know I’ve perhaps jibed about the ‘coincidental’ nature of some of the ingredients that go together – as if by magic – hand in hand, here, but there is the opportunity to win 10 copies of the MacMillan Little Book of Treats  launched to raise awareness of the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning and, of course, to raise funds for the irreplaceable cancer charity – worth signing up to Lanlard’s site (a condition of competition entry) just to support the group.

Okay – the recipes are not exactly cookery courses per se, but the community feel of the site and the openness of the forum is perhaps as close as you’ll get to sharing a cooking experience with other fledgling chefs without actually turning up to a cookery class yourself. And from the comfort of your own chair, you can become the creator of cupcakes, cocktails and catastrophes along with me in the member’s only community area. See you on the inside.

 

 

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Cook Books News

I’m not joshin’ – Rogan gets top marks from Good Food Guide

Okay – as the name suggests, for anyone who’s not been here before, we do cookery courses. But every now and then, you just have to sit back, pull up a chair and let the professionals get on with it.

One chef who’s been steadily emerging over the last few years, under the radar for anyone who’s not an avid follower of the UK cookery industry, is Simon Rogan. Name ring a bell?
Well, if you watched this year’s Great British Menu, he was the guy who could have seriously won three out of the four courses for the grand meal for the stars of athletics, past and present, ahead of this year’s Olympics.

In the end, it was his dessert course that not only won him plaudits from the glittering cast of British athletic hopefuls and legends alike, but left Oliver, Matthew and Pru speechless during the qualifying rounds and the final. So if that didn’t shout his intention to the cookery world enough, his latest accolade screams it at the world of cuisine at a decibel-bustin’ pitch.

Top marks for Rogan in the year’s Good Food Guide.

It’s not very often that a restaurant scores ten out of ten from The Good Food Guide. In fact, it is so rare an award that in the fifteen years of the tome’s publication, only seven chefs have ever managed to achieve it.

Rogan’s restaurant, L’Enclume, features second in this year’s guide to the only other restaurant in the last six years to win the award, Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in Berkshire. Many, many experts are predicting that next year, duck will be on the second course with L’Enclume taking the prime podium spot, dethroning Blumenthal for the first time in six years in the process.

The secret of Rogan’s success is his deep faith in locally-sourced, Cumbrian produce. The extent he went to in order to source the rosehips that would end up as a delicate syrup for his Great British Menu winning dessert was unlike any venture undertaken on the show to date. He even hired a local trekker to keep his eye out for the likely spot where the plumpest rosehips would grow that would be cultivated for the final offering. They even sat down and boiled them up on the hillside where they grew to get the essence of what they’d taste like if the local scenery could be emulated on a plate.

And that was not just a publicity-hype for the show, either. Simon has leased a local farm and intensified production upon it to deliver the amazing locally foraged and cultivated ingredients at the heart of his dishes to guarantee continuity – now that’s taking cooking seriously!

And that determination and faith in the ingredients (almost) on his doorstep has been justly repaid, with interest.

And there’s more. All of Simon’s recipes are put through the mill at his experimental kitchen before they even make it to L’Enclume. Do you remember the ingenious technique of making the ‘snow’ for his dessert in the Great British Menu? Well Simon invests in new technology, new thinking and mixing up tradition to deliver the freshest – in every sense of the word – meals you could find in the UK today.

Simon Rogan – remember the name. Along with Blumaenthal, Ramsay and Pierre-White, whom he trained under, Rogan has joined an elite class of chefs to be awarded ten out of ten by the Good Food Guide. At the tender age of forty-four, there’s a lot more Rogan can bring to the table, and no doubt he surely will.