Meet Frances Summers, who has been steadily ticking off our HerCanberra foodie bucket list, or,…
At the beginning of 2015, I set myself a goal: to cook my way through my favourite healthy cookbooks. That’s right – Every. Single. Recipe.
The purpose of this goal was twofold: firstly to improve my cooking skills, and also to get a handle on organised and healthy eating.
The first book on my list was The Healthy Cook, by Dan Churchill. I really admire Dan, for a whole host of reasons. The very first sentence of his book reads “…my passion and philosophy for what food brings to an individual… happiness.” This idea is just perfection for me. It highlights that food can be healthy without making life feel restrictive or boring.
It also helps that the book is littered with photos of the gorgeous Dan himself. Dan made the top 30 in last year’s Cleo Most Eligible Bachelors, and one look at that cheeky grin tells you exactly why.
On a serious note, I love that this book has a really educative approach including information about macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbs) and when they should be eaten in relation to exercise. With a Masters in Exercise Science and with his own healthy coach and fitness business, Dan is more than qualified to share his knowledge and experience.
The recipes in the book are flavourful, nutritious, and fun to both make and eat. Each recipe comes with its own mini-nutrition table and a sliding scale that includes how much time the recipe takes to make, how healthy it is and the level of skill required. If you’re not too confident in the kitchen, you can start on the easy recipes and work your way up.
My favourite recipes were the Homemade Granola, Pull Apart Lamb with Roasted Butter Beans, Beef Tortillas with Kale Slaw, and the yummy, glam looking Crispy Skin Salmon and Three Grain Salad – make sure you check out the recipe below, it’s a bit of an investment in time but the result is well and truly worth it.
I had the pleasure of catching up with the charming Mr Churchill himself to find out all about his cookbook The Healthy Chef, what makes him tick and how he keeps that body in tip-top shape.
What made you decide to write The Healthy Cook?
I wanted to create a recipe book that was in no way intimidating, super colourful, wickedly delicious, looked super tasty and was targeted as Healthy home cooking. I wanted anyone to be able to pick up the book flick through and say, ‘Hey I can do that!’ I want to inspire people to cook more and I feel that in creating this book people were able to see how epicly tasty Healthy food really is.
What’s your favourite thing to cook?
It definitely depends on what I am feeling at the time, but generally I love getting my hands involved. Whether it be sweet potato gnocchi, meat, or hand making tortillas they all keep me very happy. Right now I am definitely feeling like I want to cook my Pull Apart Lamb with Butter Beans from the book… and I can’t go passed my Sweet Coconut and Strawberry Muffins.
What would you say to people who say that healthy eating is too difficult or time consuming?
I think one of the best things about life is that everyone is different – cooking isn’t always going to be for everyone. For me, I love getting my hands around my knives and pots and pans – and yes I would definitely love seeing more people cooking for their friends and family. Cooking can be sometimes deemed difficult as people feel they have to overcomplicate things. What I like to say is as long as you have plenty of colour on your plate with your favourite protein you are killing it. There is nothing better than looking down at that sexy dish knowing you made it and it is wickedly tasty. One of the best things I like to recommend to those who believe it is too difficult is give yourself 5 ingredients to work with – you will be surprised what you come up with and how easy it is once you take away so many variables. I also recommend not always following the recipes – I always endorse using my books as guides – that way you learn to cook the way you want to. It becomes much more free – maybe you don’t want to add in mushrooms, maybe you want add them -whatever it is just have a go.
What kind of training do you do to keep up your fitness?
I definitely treat my body like a roller coaster varying my exercise from resistance training, to crossfit, beach sprints, boxing and body work, etc. I also love stand up paddle boarding. One of the biggest tips I have is you have to enjoy the exercise you are doing otherwise you won’t be as motivated to continue doing it. Make sure you vary your training too.
What keeps you happy and healthy?
Well to me happiness is the key to health. I love what I do, to the point it is super hard to call it a job. I get up excited to cook or travel whatever it may be and this is why I am so motivated for people to experience my message. Do what you love as it will make you stay happy and what to continue doing it. Admittedly, keeping active and hitting the water as well as the gym definitely keeps my energetic and smiling, but when I am putting on a spread for my friends and family that is when I am most happy, cooking is that enjoyable to me.
What advice would you give to people who are just starting out cooking?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but also make sure to work out your style. Start with some cook books and use them as a guide and then work out what you like and don’t like. There are plenty of amazing resources out there like YouTube (make sure you check out my channel) websites (www.danielchurchill.com.au) and books for you to sink your stomachs into… yewwww!!
Crispy Skin Salmon and Three Grain Salad
4 salmon fillets
¾ cup barley
¾ cup buckwheat
¾ cup quinoa
seeds of ½ a pomegranate
½ cup slithered almonds
1 lemongrass stalk, finely sliced
¼ cup cranberries
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp pomegranate juice
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp of lemon juice
125ml grapeseed or pure olive oil
- Preheat oven to 180°C
- Remove the skin of the salmon by placing the fillet skin side down, carefully cutting into the line where the flesh meets the skin. Grab the skin and move the fillet back and forward against the blade keeping the knife steady until it goes all the way through.
- Line a baking tray with baking paper. Sprinkle both sides of the skin with salt and drizzle a little oil before putting another sheet of baking paper on top and sandwiching with another baking tray. Place a weight on top (I use a mortar) and put in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove top layer and allow to dry out before serving.
- In three separate saucepans add the barley, quinoa and buckwheat. To each of them add a third of the lemongrass and 1 ½ cups of water. Bring to the boil before turning to low and simmering for 12 minutes. The barley may take an extra 5 – 10 minutes. Once cooked discard lemongrass stalk.
- In a small processor, or using a whisk, combine the mustard, yolk, pomegranate juice and salt. With the motor still running, or whilst still whisking, gradually add a tiny amount of oil. Repeat this step four times, gradually adding more of the oil until there is nothing left and the mix hangs from the whisk or a spoon. Fold through lemon juice to finish.
- In a big bowl combine the 3 grains, slithered almonds, pomegranate seeds and cranberries. Set aside before serving.
- Heat an oven proof frypan on medium to high heat. Add the oil followed by the fish. You should hear a gentle sizzle. Cook for 2 minutes or until fish turns opaque up the sides, before turning and putting in the over for 90 seconds, or until the blade comes out warm once inserted into the thickest part of the fish.
- To serve, place a few spoonfuls of the grain salad on the bottom. Using your hands, pull apart the warm fish and spread evenly on top. Crack or use a knife to separate salmon skin into crisp size pieces before evenly spreading around salmon. Then, using a spoon, dollop the pomegranate sauce around the side and top of the salmon.