In a year where restaurants and cafes closed for months, we’re all cooking more. Here Anna Jones, author of The Modern Cook’s Year, and Nutritionist, Merilyn Muradzi, discuss how to eat happily, and healthily
Feel the joy!
“I want to shout from the rooftops about the joy of food, before the healthiness of any food, and get people excited about cooking”, says Jones. “It’s a brilliant way of bringing joy into our lives three times a day, so search out new recipes, try different things, and do cookalongs on Instagram.”
Food is medicine
“Growing up in Africa, my grandmother always told me food was medicine,” says Nutritionist Merilyn Muradzi. “It didn’t make sense to me until I studied nutrition at university. Being healthy is a balance of everything, including balanced nutrition, adequate rest and regular exercise.”
Lose ‘good’ and ‘bad’ labels
“Sometimes it’s the labels we put on food that make it challenging for people to navigate eating healthily,” says Jones. “If we can cook for ourselves, we are 70% of the way there. If you can buy some ingredients, chop them up, put them in a pan and feed them to your family, that healthy mindset is really important.”
“If you haven’t cooked before, start with a dish that you love,” says Jones. “If you love a pasta dish that your mum makes, or you always order in a restaurant, look up a recipe for that. If you love pizza, try making some dough, a quick tomato sauce and cooking it in the oven. Doing something super-easy and familiar that you will enjoy the taste of will mean you carry on.”
Stock up on essentials
“Coming from an African background, we believe in using spices to make food tasty,” says Muradzi. “So I have dry spices, be it chilli, cinnamon or black pepper, things like beans and pulses, dried fruit, and dried foods that help make nutritious healthy meals.”
“My top spices would be cumin, smoked paprika, which adds the rounded smokiness that people can miss with vegetarian food, coriander seeds, and versatile blends like garam masala or curry powder,” says Jones. “I also always have chickpeas, butter beans and black beans, tinned tomatoes and coconut milk, plus lemons, garlic and onions, which are fresh, but last for ages.”
“Cook seasonal foods. In winter that would be things like squashes, greens and beetroot, as they’re going to be the cheapest,” says Jones. “If you’re not vegetarian, try to eat one or two vegetarian meals a week. Also, batch cook. If you cook a big curry, dahl, or pot of soup, have that for a couple of meals in the week, and then freeze a couple, so you’re saving on ingredients.”
Make veggies last
“Every few days I look in my fridge and make note of what needs using,” says Jones. “I keep herbs in glass jars in the fridge door and bring vegetables back to life in a big bowl of cold water with a few ice cubes. It gives limp vegetables a new lease of life.”
Add more punch, easily
“I love using pastes that you can keep in your fridge for months,” says Jones. “For me that’s miso paste, tamarind, which has a lovely sweet sourness, harissa, which adds spice and depth and a paste called zhoug, which goes brilliantly tossed into roasted vegetables. They’re all a really quick way to add flavour.”
Want to learn more? Listen to The Wellness Edit podcast for the full interview, and loads of extra tips and tricks
Author: Anna Jones
Anna Jones is a cook, writer and stylist, the voice of modern vegetarian cooking and the author of the bestselling A Modern Way to Eat, A Modern Way to Cook and The Modern Cook’s Year.
Her books are sold in ten countries and have been translated into five languages. In 2018, The Modern Cook’s Year won the coveted Observer Food Monthly Best Cookbook Award and The Guild of Food Writers Cookbook of the Year. Her previous books have been nominated for the James Beard, Fortnum & Mason and Andre Simon awards.
Anna believes that vegetables should be put at the centre of every table, and is led by the joy of food – the spritz of freshness when you peel an orange or the crackle and waft of deep savoury spice when you add curry leaves to a pan of hot oil.
Author: Merylin Muradzi, Nutritionist
Merylin is an accredited Nutritionist with a degree in Human Nutrition from Northumbria University and is currently working towards an MSc in Public Health Nutrition from University of Chester. Her work focuses on Health & Wellbeing, Dietary and Nutritional advice. Passionate about in-depth Nutritional analysis on improvement of health through behaviour change and lifestyle and food product development. Merilyn enjoys giving Dietary and Nutritional evidence-based guidance and work with you towards living a healthier lifestyle.