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Be Inspired: Food at Heart Interview

Food at Heart’s classes blend the joy of cooking with the calm you would experience in yoga. You are able to take some time out to really slow down and experience flavour in a way you might not be used to. You create new and exciting dishes while learning to listen to your body to know what food it is you are wanting. These classes are great if you are feeling a little off balance with your eating and are wanting to hit reset on your relationship with food.

Have a closer look at them:

Joy of Chocolate Workshop

Breakfast Club

Awesome right?

We caught up with the mastermind behind these classes, Meredith, to talk about the inspiration behind the classes and how they can benefit you.

Hi, Meredith! Great to talk to you. Let’s start with a little about Food at Heart. How did you come up with the name?

It really came from my passion for food as it’s been such an important part of my life for a very long time. But it’s also because the heart is what pumps blood around our body so is essential for keeping us alive. That’s how I feel about good food too; it’s essential to a happy and healthy life.

Have you always been a foodie? What was the flavour that made you fall in love with the culinary career?

Yes, I’ve always been a foodie (though the word didn’t really exist when I was growing up). Some of my earliest memories are of being in the kitchen baking with my mum and it filled most of my spare time in what I’d call my ‘normal’ working life before I started Food At Heart.

I don’t think it was one specific flavour that made me want to pursue working in food as a career; I think it was really the excitement that there were so many flavours to explore. That said, one of the foods that have taught me the most about taste and flavour is really good quality dark chocolate.

What is the most exciting thing you’ve done with Food At Heart?

I think one of the things I’m most excited about is having launched my online program, The Joy Of Eating, this year. It takes some of the elements of my workshops but goes much deeper and I’m now planning to work with people one-to-one to take them through this process. I’m really looking forward to having this as a complement to my workshops.

However, one other exciting moment was having the opportunity to go to India last year as part of an entrepreneur’s retreat for people leading purpose-led businesses. It was really inspiring to meet people running some fascinating projects – and the food was incredible too so I came back with lots of ideas.

That sounds incredible! You talk a lot of ‘joyful eating’ on your website, what do you mean by this term?

Sometimes we get so caught up in talking about healthy eating and ‘nutritionism’ that we forget that eating well is actually also pretty delicious – when you know how to put ingredients in the right way. Joyful eating is really about eating in a way that celebrates amazing seasonal and whole ingredients and preparing them in interesting and tasty combinations.

However joyful eating is also about how we eat, not just what we eat. It means considering how the senses are involved in taste and how being aware of them adds a lot of pleasure to eating. Understanding some of these basics helps you prepare much better-tasting food.

Is joyful eating the same as comfort eating?

For me it is, but this means re-defining comfort eating. I think we have a lot of associations with comfort eating as stodgy or ‘naughty’ food. Actually, genuine comfort food is something that’s soothing and makes you feel good. I love hearty bean stews in winter and beautiful mozzarella salad drizzled with olive oil in summer; both of these are dishes that I find very comforting.

I really like the Danish hygge approach to this. One of my favourite definitions of this is “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being”. That’s how real comfort eating should make us feel. And yes, that does sometimes mean a beautiful slice of homemade cake too! It’s all about a sense of balance.

We love the idea, but sometimes it’s difficult to find the time to cook and prepare, do you have any advice for someone who has a busy life and how they could fit in the time to appreciate food?

A bit of pre-planning goes a long way when it comes to cooking if you’re busy. I always keep a few things in my cupboard and fridge which means I can whip together something quickly. Anything with eggs, like frittata or omelette, which you can top with different vegetables and serve with green leaves on the side, is a great option if you’re short of time. This only takes about 15 to 20 minutes to prepare.

I have an organic vegetable box delivered each week which means I have a fridge and cupboard stocked with some tasty ingredients with very little effort. That way I don’t need to be worried about going out and shopping for meals each day. If you have good things in your kitchen, which you know you can make a quick meal from, you might find you’re a bit less likely to reach for the takeaway menu.

Any advice for people who survive off ready meals still and couldn’t bare the thought of cooking the weeks food on a Sunday?

I don’t personally tend to batch cook each week as I never quite know what I’ll fancy from day to day, but I do make enough at dinner to cover me for lunch the following day. Or I will make extra soup and put it in the freezer. And of course, it’s also okay if you supplement home cooking with a few good quality ready-made meals (ideally not ones full of processed stuff!). I personally cook from scratch as I love cooking, but you might want to ease your way into getting more confident with doing this (but this confidence will come).

What can we stock up on in our store cupboards to make sure we can pick up fewer ingredients to make better meals?

I keep a good selection of herbs and spices in my cupboard as that’s what can make a really big difference when it comes to making food taste great. My most used ones are dried oregano, chilli flakes, turmeric, black pepper, and coriander. I also keep a few salts for just a little hint of flavouring – and I love seaweed flakes for something a little different.

I’m never without extra virgin olive oil, organic butter, porridge oats and eggs. And I like to have tinned tomatoes and pulses to hand. Oh, and tahini which I use for dressings, as a spread or just to dip vegetables into. On top of that, my fridge is well stocked with a selection of seasonal vegetables so that I can mix and match dishes.

Sounds amazing. Can we move in? Do you have to be a good cook to experience good food at home?

Absolutely not! Of course, the more experience you have, the more confident you’ll be and it means you can expand your repertoire. However, you can, for example, create really delicious salads with minimal food preparation (and sometimes even no cooking at all).

Simple food is some of my favourite and getting a few basic skills under your belt will take you a long way. If you know how to create a lovely tomato sauce, this becomes a dressing for pasta, a topping for pizza, a version of tomato soup, and the base for shakshuka or a stew. And most people can cook up a tray of roasted vegetables, which can be used in lots of dishes too.

A lot of it is down to the quality of your ingredients, so I always suggest buying the best you can afford. And for fruit and vegetables, they will taste a lot better when you eat them in season (and they’re cheaper too!).

What is your favourite thing to eat?

Oh, it’s hard to choose just one thing! I guess that’s kind of the point of what I do; encouraging people to eat a wide variety of food as it can be so delicious. However, it also depends on the time of the year or the mood I’m in.

That said, I get really excited about eating foods that have a short season, like asparagus and blood oranges. I’m also a huge fan of rhubarb, which I pick fresh from my garden; rhubarb crumble on chilly autumn or winter days is one of my favourite things to eat! And of course, I do have to mention chocolate and cacao. Good quality chocolate is the most amazing ingredient and it’s so much fun to combine with different foods and flavours. I’m endlessly inspired by how you can use it and cook with it.

Okay, so whats your favourite recipe to make?

Oh wow, again that’s a difficult one to answer. However, I really enjoy making curries with a lovely blend of spices (I make a mean paneer saag curry). I quite often throw in a square or two of really dark chocolate (90 to 100 percent cocoa) to add a bit of richness. I also still get a lot of pleasure from making bread every now and then. I find the process of kneading very therapeutic. It’s also really good for patience as you need to let nature takes it course as the dough rises.

Is there any food you believe we should stay clear of?

I’m always a bit hesitant to classify food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as this starts playing into ideas of treat foods and guilt. However, I personally steer clear of anything that’s full of ingredients you can’t pronounce (including sneaky names for very refined sugar). I think it’s always helpful to think of the 80/20 rule of eating well; this means eating whole, unprocessed food at least 80 percent of the time, but not getting so hung up that you totally ‘ban’ foods, or entire food groups, unless there’s a genuine medical need to.

The truth is because I eat mostly unprocessed foods, fake foods just don’t taste so good to me and my body reacts really nastily if I do have them. I think that’s always one of the best indicators of what I personally need to steer clear of!

So, we don’t know about you guys, but we are totally convinced. If this doesn’t tickle your fancy, why not have a look at all the cooking classes we offer?

Meredith’s class is on this weekend, The Joy of Chocolate Making. Limited spaces are left so book now to avoid disappointment and empty stomachs