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The first recipe on cookery courses – pasta n peppers

As promised, today we experiment with a first for – recipes! It seems strange that we write so much about the food industry, yet offer nothing in the way of healthy option eating. Or any type of cuisine you could just log on to our website and cook, for that matter.

Today, we’re going to start with a simple fusilli dish, which appeals to not only lovers of Italian food or those who like a quick snack with a bit of a bite, but also to vegetarians. In the same vein that Jermaine Jackson sang we don’t have to take our clothes off to have a good time, you don’t necessarily need to eat meat to have a good meal. My experience is that you are much more satisfied when you do indulge in both, but hey-ho, each to their own.

For basic ingredients you need two large peppers, red, yellow or green; you’ll find most supermarkets sell them in a traffic-light pack, one of each; if you’ve got a death-wish or cast iron stomach, you could even use all three. For oil, virgin olive oil is best (obviously taking Jermaine at his word), of which you’ll need one tbsp.

If you want to go posh, opt for a couple of shallots or one large onion if you’re you’re going the diner route – whichever way, they need to be finely chopped. A clove of garlic is best nutritionally, but a level teaspoon of garlic powder will do for the recipe just as well; likewise, a teaspoon dried chillies, crushed is preferred, but a good teaspoon of chilli powder will suffice.

I’m sure half of these online food stores print recipes that incorporate exotic ingredients just so that people will buy more of their range (and part with more of their cash); often, a common alternative is just as effective and has little or no effect on the outcome of the flavour of the dish.  Dare I say, even improves it, as our taste buds are more used to the common-or-garden ingredients.

100ml of vegetable stock is next, followed by 125gm of sun-dried tomatoes (for economy, these tend to be sold in 100gm containers, so a splodge (technical term) of tomato puree added will work out more cost effective. A couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar completes the mix, and then add the pasta of your choice – if we’re sticking to a fusilli dish, it had better be fusilli, but conchiglie is just as cool.

From thereon in, the method’s plain sailing. If you want the softish texture for the peppers, you can whack them in the oven on Gas Mark 8 for a half an hour and then peel the skin off when cooled or if you’re not that fussed, slice and dice into them into half-inch chunks and soften them in a frying pan with the oil, along with the shallots/onions as your first operation.

Pop a pan of water on for the pasta – at what point you put the fusilli/conchiglie in will depend upon what the instructions on the packet, but familiarise yourself with the rest of this recipe, liaise with the pasta instructions and coincide the two to finish simultaneously.

Once you’re happy with the texture of your vegetables, add the garlic and chilli with approximately a third of the stock and simmer for another five minutes. If you’ve roasted and peeled the peppers, now’s the time to put them in, as is it time for the sun-dried tomatoes and the balance of stock.

After they’ve been cooked for ten minutes, add the vinegar for about a minute, by which time it should all have reduced to a fine sauce mix.

If you’ve got it right, you can now drain the pasta and stir it in with the sauce mix and, hey-presto, you’re done in next to no time.

Based on sharing this meal between four, it will deliver approximately 500 calories, 12gm of sugars, less than 1gm of saturated from the 12gm of fat in all, which means there is plenty of good fats (mono- and poly-unsaturated) in there to help lower cholesterol and, despite popular misconception, increase your healthy fat intake, which is good for you!  And finally, a serving contains  only a quarter of a gram of salt, so is excellent for those conscious of healthy eating.

So there you go – our first recipe. Please, enjoy, share and give us some feedback. Happy days!

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Parents chose junk food in search of an easy life

According to a recent survey, eighty per cent of children are given unhealthy food such as chocolate and crisps in their lunchboxes.

The study, by children’s food expert Annabel Karmel, also found that around seventy per cent of children prefer fruit to unhealthy snacks such as sweets, biscuits and fizzy drinks. The three most popular snacks amongst children were crisps, cheese and fruit.

Twenty per cent of parents admitted to giving their children sugary breakfast cereals rather than more healthy alternatives such as wholegrain cereal or porridge.

Ms Karmel explained that whilst most parents begin the day with good intentions, during busy periods they may choose the easy option and give their children food which is unhealthy.

Almost fifty per cent of the one thousand parents questioned demonstrated that they are health conscious by using tactics such as hiding vegetables in their children’s pasta dishes.

Other tactics employed by parents include; offering vegetables in the form of finger food, offering vegetables in a puree form and bribery with a sweet snack as a reward.

According to the study, children’s least popular vegetables are mushrooms, spinach and broccoli.

Around fifty percent of children claimed that spaghetti bolognese is their favourite dish although this differed between regions. Only thirty two per cent in the North-East claimed it was their favourite compared to fifty two per cent of children in the South East.

Twenty five per cent of children in the United Kingdom are classed as either overweight or obese. This represents the highest rate in Europe and Government figures suggest that the problem will get worse. It is expected that by 2025, forty per cent of people in Britain will be obese.

Cooking Courses News

West Yorkshire School Hosts Cookery Courses

Students at Todmorden High School in West Yorkshire learnt about sustainable growing, food production and also attended cookery courses at a recent ‘Food for Life’ day.

The event was designed to teach students about a number of different issues relating to food in support of the schools aim to achieve a Food for Life Partnership gold award.

Those pupils that attended the cooking courses learnt how to press apples, how to make delicious homemade bread and how to prepare fantastic summer smoothies.

The high school’s catering manager, who demonstrated to the students how to prepare fresh pasta, explained that this was the second such event that the school has hosted. He also explained that the aim was to help students make the right food choices by explaining where it comes from, how it’s grown and how we cook it.

The event was also supported by local producer Staups Lea Farm. Staff from the farm attended with a number of animals.

The day included activities in a variety of different subjects.

Geography students studied the food sustainability in various different countries whilst mathematics students spent time looking into nutritional analysis.

History classes studied the way in which food production has evolved over a number of years while art students were given a food based design task.

Organisers acknowledged that the day had been a great success and were quick to thank the students and staff who were involved.

The school continues to work hard to achieve its aim of a gold award. It is currently investigating organic produce and plans to add organic options to its lunchtime menu.

For more information of the Food for Life scheme please visit

Cookery Course News

A cookery course in pasta of our own

As David Lebowitz has made his home in Paris it is unlikely that many of us in the current economic climate will be nipping over to France from T2 at Birmingham for a quick cookery lesson in pasta any time soon.

Lucky for us, he’s gone to great lengths on his own site revelling in the delights of home made pasta, compared to shop-bought. So, for a cooking course of our own, we’re taking the best bits and offering a condensed version of the Michelin-rated chef’s lesson in how to make pasta, from scratch, rekindling his fondness of the fresh, home-made version .

Why make pasta at home when it’s so cheap to buy?

By David’s own admission, it is easy to get into the habit of picking up a packet of pasta, whether it’s fusilli, lasagna sheets or the chef’s own favourite, pasta spirals.

As fortune had it, whilst he was around a friends house for a meal and they were taking an aperitif, his friend whipped out the dough, rolled it in thrice and voila, he had the base of his lasagna – that simple.

Pasta dough less fussy than bread and pastry

Whereas doughs for other bases, namely your breads and pastries, take time, effort and precision, making the base for pasta is effortless, in comparison. What’s more, according to David, the variety of attachments for the base pasta maker are inexpensive and easy to pick up, to help you make simple pasta which will impress your friends and make them believe you have been on numerous cooking courses to acquire the skill. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Tips for pasta preparation from the man himself

According to his article, David always recommends making fresh pasta on the day you’re going to cook it; it can be refrigerated, but loses its fresh colour and takes on a grey pallour if made the day before.

Simple though it is in essence, it may take a few attempts to get the pasta to your very own liking. It is a versatile staple and learning to prepare it is as much about you and the you-specific ingredients used in prep as in the way it’s made. David’s preference is half semolina/half all-purpose flour, then a whole range of eggs, whatever is available close by.

To complete this quick and easy online cooking course, our next post will be David’s shopping list and how he puts it all together to create pasta-perfect dough, good enough to eat.