As a food lover and professional freelance chef, I probably have a strange, and fairly intimate relationship with food. To be honest I have always had a strange relationship with food, it’s probably why I became a chef.
I am not like everyone else that I sit down to three meals a day, I have to taste food all day long to make sure it’s tasty with the right amount of seasoning etc. It’s sometimes difficult to gauge how much, or what I have eaten in the course of the day.
It’s a stressful job, which comes with a certain amount of pressure. I have to get a delicious meal on the table, on time, often to total strangers, who have very particular and varying tastes and like their meals a certain way. Like a lot of jobs, things can go wrong. As a freelancer, I show up to strange kitchens, I have to deal with old not very good ovens, crooked pans, or tiny hobs with not enough space to put four different pans. Sometimes the ingredients aren’t up to the mark which look fine on the outside but taste of nothing when cut open. Meat can be tough through no fault of the chef.
As a naturally anxious person this can make me stress and cause me to loose my perspective.
My own taste and when time allows, I like simple well sourced organic food, with lots of fresh vegetables of different colours and varieties, simply cooked, letting the vegetables speak for themselves, I feel happiest when eating this kind of food and feel as though I am caring for myself and attempting to keep myself healthy. But like everyone, with a busy working life, it isn’t always possible to eat this way and if I’m cooking for people on holiday who want to indulge, its difficult to find time to start steaming my own vegetables or preparing something healthy for myself.
I get so tired too that I reach for the sugary treats to keep me going through the long days. It’s a bad habit really and one that can easily re rectified with a little thought and effort.
Stress for me personally can have two effects, one to over eat sweet fatty foods, or not eat at all. The latter was a bigger problem in my youth and probably came from some deep seated feeling of not being good enough, pretty enough and thin meant beautiful, or just being so stressed about everything, not physically being able to stomach anything.
Combating stress and keeping myself well and healthy for me means I have to tackle it head on by doing several things on a daily basis. The following are some tactics I use to do this. When it stresss on I have to stop myself physically and mentally and take stock and breathe, just take a few minutes to myself, get perspective, how important is this situation, and is it worth blowing a fuse over it (the answer is, it never is) it’s a just a meal and its not life threatening to anyone.
Taking care of myself and my health and well being. That means eating three well balanced nutritious meals a day. Avoiding drinking too much tea or coffee.
Taking regular exercise. This can be transformative for me personally, and lift me out of the doldrums, especially a brisk country walk taking in the scenery around and appreciating the beauty of the countryside.
Taking time out everyday for myself, walk the dog, lie under a tree in the sunshine and look at the sky, sit and read a book, any thing that makes me feel calm and peaceful.
On the food front when I’m on a good roll, I like to start the day with a good breakfast. I really look forward to this, and take my time to eat it slowly sitting down and taking my time.
One of my absolute favorites is homemade Bircher muesli. It’s a thing of beauty and making the effort to make it yourself is head and shoulders superior to the store bought sugar filled granolas and mueslis, and the plus is, you know exactly what you are eating.
Here’s the simple easy to prepare recipe.
250 grams Jumbo oats (you can also use, quinoa flakes, buckwheat flakes, millet, rye etc., (but my preference is oats.)
½ Tablespoon each of sunflower and pumpkin seed
½ Tbs each of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds roughly chopped (or any nuts of your preference.)
Juice of 2 pears or apples (or use a good quality un sweetened apple juice)
and almond milk, enough to just cover the oat mix
Mix all the dry ingredients together and soak with the almond milk and pear or apple juice, add more juice if too dry until the mixture is soaked but not with excess liquid.
Leave to soak over night, just before serving add a grated apple (skin on) or some blueberries to serve.
Keeps in the fridge for approx. 3/4 days
You can buy nut milks galore in the supermarket, but again, the following recipe is far superior to anything you can buy, and there’s no plastic packaging to throw away afterwards.
Here’s another simple recipe for your own almond milk.
4 tbs of almonds or hazelnuts
Place in a bowl; cover with water and soak overnight or for a minimum of 12 hours.
Drain the nuts, and place into a liquidizer or blender, add double the quantity of fresh water to nuts in blender.
Whizz until the nuts break down to a fine pulp and the milk begins to form.
Using a sieve or cotton nut bag, strain the pulp from the liquid and save your milk in a jug or a kilner jar in the fridge.
Keeps for approx. 4 days.
Use the nut pulp to make a home made nut butter
A staple recipe of mine, which I vary, depending on what’s fresh, in season and available is a vegetable stirfry. It enables me to get a variety of different coloured veggies into my diet and is really delicious and very simple to make. It can be away to use up vegetables too and you can add chicken or fish or turkey or just keep it vegetarian.
1 free-range organic chicken breast
1 Courgette (cut into thin strips)
1 pepper de seeded
Handful of mushrooms thinly sliced
1/3 cauliflower (cut into small pieces)
1 small head broccoli
Finely chopped coriander
2 cloves garlic finely diced
1 inch approx. fresh ginger peeled and finely
1 tbs coconut oil
2 tbs cashew nuts roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons tamari gluten free soya sauce
1 tsp. honey
Begin by marinating the turkey scallop with 1lime, zest and juice, finely chop a garlic clove and add an inch of peeled ginger, Leave over night. Or for a minimum of a few hours.
Heat a large frying pan or wok, add the coconut oil. Seal the turkey scallop on each side in the pan. Remove to a small baking tray.
Add a little more coconut oil then throw in the chopped vegetables, and quickly stir-fry, till they begin to wilt, add the chopped garlic and ginger and briefly stir-fry then add the sauce allowing it to absorb.
All these things and recipes help me to look after myself physically and mentally, after all if I don’t take care of myself who will.. I need to be my own best friend first.
Originally from Ireland, Miranda has been a freelance chef for the last 20 years. Following extensive travels in Europe, the West Indies and north Africa, she has gained a wealth of experience along the way. Self-taught, with a strong emphasis on using the best ingredients cooked simply and a deep-rooted interest in healthy-living, based in the Oxfordshire countryside. Miranda continues to cater for dinner parties, house parties and families in the uk and abroad.