Pod: Healthy Fresh Food To Go

I was given lunch money for a working week to help me eat more healthily at Pod – and it wasn’t from my Mum.  The fast food company make their healthy offerings from scratch each day.  Not least, contents are balanced to provide fuel for your body.   Their ‘poductivity’ report takes a close look at how food affects productivity in the workplace.  As a journalist, I’m mostly office based, work long shifts and need to think on my feet. Would a week of prescribed healthy food help me survive my working week better?  I never eat breakfast, rarely eat fruit, eat late and at odd hours and sleep badly.  Something needed to change.

The nearest Pod to my office is Tottenham Street in W1.


Day 1

Still not keen to break my fast with anything involving too much work, I opt for a ‘blitz’. Blueberries, banana and strawberries , strawberry puree and agave syrup are whizzed up with yoghurt (£3.75).  I should mention that Pod make a bunch of hot breakfast items from toasted sandwiches to porridge.


For lunch I opted for the Gym Box (£4.99).  This is packed full of slow release carbohydrates to help recover from a lunchtime workout.  Perfect post-spin.  This small box was jammed with tasty hummus, falafel, broccoli, pearl barley, lentils, leek, kale, carrot, peas, edamame beans, tomatoes, chia seeds.  The dressing was spicy turmeric, chilli and mango chutney.
For the afternoon dip, I grabbed a super fruit energy bar (99p).  Stuffed with pumpkin seeks and mixed fruit, this gave me the extra afternoon boost I needed.
For supper, it was a grilled piece of chicken and a green salad no dressing.

Pod Nutritional values: 

Blitz: 220kcal/4.1g saturated fat/carbs 37.1 – GF/WF/V
Gym Box: 429kcal/2.1g saturated fat/carbs 45 – DF/V/Seeds

Exercise: 40 minutes Psycle
Sleep: 7 hours 45 minutes.

Day 2

I loved the Smooth Berry Blitz on day 1 so much.  I had another.  I grabbed another box with chicken, mango & roasted cauliflower salad.  Packed with anti inflammatories, cholesterol lowering almonds and vitamin C packed mango, this box is low in fat and high in taste.

Supper consisted of a pitta bread stuffed with salad and chicken.

Pod Nutritional values: 

Blitz: 220kcal/4.1g saturated fat/carbs 37.1 – GF/WF/V
Chicken, mango & roasted cauliflower salad: 401 kcal/0.6g saturated fat/carbs 63.6 – NUTS

Sleep: 8 hours 30 minutes.

Day 3

Again, no time for porridge but another Smooth Berry Blitz which I’ve come to love and look forward to each morning.   Today I had a superseed baguette stuffed with mozzarella, avocado, fat sun-blushed tomatoes, pesto and basil (£3.65).  This 6-seeded baguette is high in fibre and again slow to release energy.  I had a banana (the first in a very long time), sparkling mineral water and a bag of popcorn for my afternoon snack.

For supper I had a mixed salad with chicken.

Pod Nutritional values: 

Blitz: 220kcal/4.1g saturated fat/carbs 37.1 – GF/WF/V
Baguette: 551kcal/8.6g saturated fat/carbs 57.9 0 V/SEEDS

Sleep: 9 hours

Day 4

The benefits of Turmeric – the bright yellow spice – has long been used in Chinese and Indian medicine as an anti-inflammatory. The Pod turmeric and mango blitz sounds wrong but is SO right. Orange juice, yoghurt, apple, mango, lemon curd, chia seeds, mint and turmeric are all whizzed up with ice to deliver a thick tasty shake full of goodness.


This kept me going until 4pm when I remember to eat the Mediterranean tomato, pesto and mozzarella salad with chicken. Quinoa is dressed in pesto and mixed with salad leaves, mozzarella pearls, sweet potato and roasted pepper, along with a few seeds and Greek Basil. Large chicken chunks are thrown in for good measure and at £5.99 this meant I didn’t want supper.

Pod Nutritional values: 
Blitz: 353kcal/9.3g saturated fat – GF/WF/V
Salad: 495kcal/7.5g saturated fat/27g carbs – GF/WF/V/SEEDS

Sleep: 6 hours and 57 minutes – up at 5.30am for work.

Day 5

After yesterday’s blitz I had to have another. One thing’s for sure, it’s got me more than hooked.

Another box of delicious salad came in the form of the Vegetable Power Box which is a bit of everything I love (except for the chilli decoration). Sweet potato, seed-dipped avocado, hummus, soya beans, sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella. A bargain at £5.99 and full of flavour and filling, meant I didn’t want supper when I finished work.

Pod Nutritional values: 
Blitz: 353kcal/9.3g saturated fat – GF/WF/V
Salad: 548kcal/7.7g saturated fat/27g carbs – GF/WF/SEEDS

Exercise: 40 minutes Psycle

Sleep: 8 hours 45 minutes.

There are plenty of hot dishes and it’s worth checking out the menu as there are heaps of choice, with new dishes being added all the time.

Don’t get me wrong I eat well, I write about food for a hobby but I’m not sure my diet is consistently great.

After a week of  thinking about the food I was putting into my body, my energy levels buoyed and I started to sleep better.  I also felt fuller after lunch, snacked less, ate less later on in the day.  And, shock, horror I lost 2lbs in weight.  Bonus.

It’s not just me that loves what Pod are doing, World Champion and double Olympic Gold medallist in cycling, Laura Trott has become their brand ambassador for the next three years.

Fancy eating healthily for a week?  I’m offering anyone who can get to Pod’s London shops the chance to have lunch on them.  Follow me @BexWills and RT on Twitter and I’ll pick someone at random to receive vouchers to have lunch on Pod.

 

Taste of London, Regent’s Park 2016

Lucky me … I got a VIP ticket to the Evening Standard London Restaurant Awards and got to preview Taste of London. 

Taste, London

Bubbles were courtesy of Laurent Perrier and it was being poured by the gallon, so too was Tio Pepe sherry.  

Taste Awards, London

Tapas was courtesy of Jose Pizarro and included wonderful bellota ham from Cinco Jotas, alongside triangles of manchego cheese topped off with quince paste.

Bellota Ham, Jose Pizarro

Stanley Tucci was handing out the gongs and the judging panel consisted of BBC London’s Nigel Barden, Clerkenwell Boy, Grace Dent, Bob Granleese, Tracey MacLeod, Lisa Markwell, Fay Maschler, Dan Saladino, The Skinny Bib and Richard Vines.

Awards, Taste Festival

Stanley Tucci, Evening Standard Food Awards

So who got what in the Awards?

Taste AwardsAwards Taste

Best Breakfast: Parlour, Kensal Rise.

Restaurateur of the Year: Robin and Sarah Gill, who run The Dairy and The Manor in Clapham and Paradise Garage in Bethnal Green.

Worth the Queue: Padella, Borough Market

Good Drinking: Andrew Edmunds

Stanley Tucci, Evening Standard

Best New Restaurant: Hoppers

Restaurant of the Year – voted for by Evening Standard readers (from a shortlist): The Woodford

If you’ve been to Taste before you’ll know that London restaurants take a stand, make a series of dishes and have one icon that can cost anything from £8.00 to £15.00.  This year you can pay using crowns which are paper tickets (£1 each) purchased on the day, or your debit or credit card.  Make sure you grab a menu card to see who’s here and what food is on offer.

He’s a Taste Stalwart and wins a lot so it was no surprise that Club Gascon’s chef, Pascal Aussignac picked up Best Dressed Stand.  He always has an interesting Icon dish but the queues were so long I didn’t get to try it.

The Action Against Hunger stand is always popular.  Five different burgers by five different chefs meant it was a huge attraction.  At one point there was a twenty-minute wait on burgers and I have to say I gave up.

Vegetarian or otherwise, Vanilla Black’s stand is well worth a visit.  You may not be familiar with their name or food but they hold their own in the food stakes.  Their icon dish is raw and chargrilled asparagus, truffled asparagus juice.  High cross and pickled Jersey Royals (£8).  

Vanilla Black, Taste

The Goats’ milk and tomato shortbread, broccoli, gem lettuce and egg yolk fudge was simply amazing (£6).

Vanilla Black, Taste

Over to Aqua Nueva where the lines were a little shorter and their Icon Dish Pork Belly with King Prawn and Chimichurri was small but stunning (£8).

Aqua Nueva, Taste

Roux at Parliament Square served us well for dessert.  The elderflower, gin, cucumber and mint sorbet was a delightful palate cleanser (£5).

Roux at Parliament

I really fancied the Shotgun BBQ custard filled doughnuts but by the look of the line, so did everyone else.  I walked on (£3).

For an alcoholic pitstop, you can’t beat Sipsmith, they’ve even got these lovely deckchairs to chill out on.

Sipsmith Taste

Sipsmith Deckhairs

Ember Yard’s dessert of vanilla and goat’s cheese cheesecake was a super combination. Macerated strawberries and Greek Basil (£4).

Ember Yard

Ember Yard, Taste

There are lots of stands handing out their products, including a new product made with chick peas ‘Hippeas’,

Hippeas

which were very good indeed, and the berries.  Oh, the berries.

Strawberries, Taste

There’s also a new alcoholic drink being handed out too, Twisted Halo, coconut water, ginger and vodka.

Twisted Halo, Taste

We bought a loaf of bread from The Bread Shop, strange what you buy when there’s one of the high street, but nonetheless I was lured to spend 4 crowns (£4) on a protein loaf.  

The Taste of Turkey tent had a selection of chefs from Gaziantep, recently added to the gastronomy category of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network.  They’d cooked up all number of Turkish dishes, doing their bit to promote the country.

There are plenty of masterclasses put on by the sponsors and by-invitation classes organised on Twitter at the event, follow @TasteofLondon and specifically the hashtag #SecretService to get a chance to cook with some of the celebrity chefs on site.  The Balvenie whisky has a special tasting masterclass and a Lounge you can access for an extra £15.

Balvennie Lounge, Taste

You can catch live music in the Taste of London Bandstand and for a list of those providing the coffee house sessions, grab a Menu Card.  It’s also in this booklet you’ll find information about special demonstrations and events taking place throughout the week.

To get a head start, take a look at the Taste of London website.  If you don’t like to plan your day out with military precision then just take it in your stride.  You’ll never know what you’ll catch, Pierre Koffman talking about how running a kitchen is like managing a rugby team.  Guess who’s the captain?

Pierre Koffman, Taste

Taste is on until Sunday 19th June.

Foraging Fox Beetroot Ketchup

When I buy beetroot, I have an automatic instinct to pick up a good goats cheese but there are so many pairings for this wonderful root vegetable.  The clever people at Foraging Fox (FF) have taken this earthy red globe and developed three types of Beetroot Ketchup. A small kitchen enterprise has grown into a full-blown business and currently this wonderful condiment is on sale via their website, in small farm shops and retailers and Ocado.  People like it. People like it a lot, and if I was a buyer I’d be straight on it.  Sure the ambient market is full of quirky flavours in the condiment aisle from bacon jam to naga chilli sauce (I know, I’ve tasted a fair few in my role as a Great Taste Judge) but this ketchup is versatile and cliché or not, does go with everything.

I was sent two bottles, of their 100% Beetroot Ketchup, there are now three.


Beetroot is a vegetable with many health benefits, producing iron, folic acid and anti-oxidants, all assumed by doctors to lower blood pressure and help stave off cancer.

Sure you can put it on burgers and sausages, meat or otherwise but this is a clever cupboard staple.  I mixed up a dressing with FF, wholegrain mustard, some sherry vinegar and good olive oil and seasoning and this made a fine leaf salad .   Drizzled over oranges, with a little fresh mint, this is a wicked summer citrus salad.  Again, over some grated carrot and fennel.  FF is a perfect addition to quality mayonnaise, a flavoursome base for red cabbage and carrot.

I also added a couple of tablespoons to a can of drained chickpeas, whizzed up with garlic cloves and a little red wine vinegar.  Toast pitta bread and slice into fingers or serve with crispbread for a quick snack.


Love a bloody Mary?  Add a little of the Smoked Beetroot Ketchup and you have a brand new drink you can’t get enough of.

Another quick recipe, enhanced by this Ketchup involves a tin of fish – sardines, pilchards, in a plain oil, drained. Add mayonnaise, a dollop of FF, smoked might be nice too, whizz up in a processor, season and serve.

Making biscuits for cheese?  Add a couple of tablespoons of FF to your mix to give a natural and bright colour to complement your platter.

Liven up nursery mashed potato with a tablespoon of hot FF.

The list is endless ….. So good is this ketchup, you may want to take a small vial with you wherever you travel to add a little zing to the bland.

Wendell Park Market, Shepherd’s Bush

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Small, but perfectly formed the Wendell Park Market is a new addition to Sundays in W12. Hosted by City & Country Farmers’ Markets a variety of stalls selling produce, hot food and drinks as well as a couple with handmade crafts descend on Wendell Park Primary School in Cobbold Road from 10am to 3pm every Sunday.

I wandered along see what was on offer and there’s quite a variety of stalls.

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Sipsmith Punch House

Those Sipsmith boys always come up with jolly good ideas. The Summer Cup that was, is now rebranded London Cup, and includes Borage instead of cucumber – perfect served long, with lemonade.   It’s pretty powerful at 29.5% so go easy on the pour. The base is their marvellous gin, infused with Earl Grey tea, lemon verbena and a mass of other botanicals.

Summer these days seems to come and go in a single weekend, but that aside, this cup can be served hot so the word ‘Summer’ probably pigeon-holed it.  Back in the day, ‘cups’ were multipurpose and whilst there would be always be a base alcohol (gin or sherry) the quality wasn’t great and so spice and fruit would be added to deal with the harshness and these would be served either cold or hot.

‘Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks’ is the earliest British publication to document cocktail recipes; it was written by William Terrington in 1869.  In it, there are recipes for punch, wine and sherry-based, mixed with herbs and fruit and spices. A large bottle of London Cup if you like, for a large group of friends, all served in a punchbowl with a suitable mixer (or not).  London’s Inns of Court and the City of Guilds are mentioned quite a lot and tended to be all-male gatherings, thankfully these days London Cup doesn’t discriminate.

So, I’ve given you the spiel, where can you try it?  Funny you should ask.  To mark its launch,  London-dwellers will have the chance to try this and a variety of wonderful drinks at The Sipsmith Punch House at the House of Barnabas in Greek Street .  Here you can try a gin-punch cocktail, one of six, in fact, all inspired by historical recipes.   I can definitely vouch for the French 75 Punch.

Each Sunday, the House will close to members and ticket holders, will have ninety minutes to experience this historic house and all it has to offer.  Worship to the God of Gin in the Church and take in all the quirky art scattered throughout this former home built in 1679.



Look out for the plane trees that feature in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (you can see them here in the second photo, wedged between two buildings). It’s also where he penned this famous work.

Jared Brown, the Master Distiller, will talk you through the history of punch as well as give you a potted history of Sipsmith and all it has to offer.

Tickets cost £15 per session which includes your first tipple.  Know that all your hard earned cash will go straight to the House of Barnabas, a charity which helps someone get back into long lasting, paid work.

Sessions run from Sunday 6th June.

My Ultimate Roast Potatoes

There are thousands of potato recipes out there, from the roast potato to a shepherd’s pie topped with creamy nursery mash and the body responsible for the promotion of potatoes are always developing new ones.  In fact, it’s not just recipes you’ll find on the Love Potatoes site, it’s a resource that tells you all you need to know about the humble potato.

I’m a bit of a roast potato addict, but I’m very particular about they way they’re cooked. The roasties have to be crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside.  They should be a main crop potato, preferably Maris Piper or King Edward, par-boiled for ten minutes, drained then cooled and then roughed up in a colander.  The more they’re fluffed, the crispier the resulting roast. Celebrity chefs championing the use of Goose fat include Nigella Lawson and Mary Berry but for me, the ultimate roast is cooked in beef dripping.

I’m a massive fan of Great Taste and last year’s Golden Fork winner just happened to be a butcher who makes the best Beef Dripping ever. This is what I use to cook my ultimate roast potatoes.

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Ingredients

1kg Maris Piper potatoes
100g Beef Dripping
2tsp flour
Sea salt, to serve

Method

Choose a roasting tin that’s large enough to take the potatoes in a single layer and heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.  Peel and cut the potatoes into four uniform size pieces and drop them into a large pan.

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Fill with enough water to cover them.   Add salt, wait for the water to boil, lower the heat and simmer your potatoes for around 2 minutes.

Put your Beef Dripping into your roasting pan and put into the oven to get it hot. Drain the potatoes in a colander and give them a little roughing up – you’re aiming to fluff out the potato exterior.

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Hot oil has a tendency to spit so be careful when you drop the potatoes into the hot fat. Make sure that each potato is well coated in the dripping. Put a timer on for 15 minutes and then turn them.

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Put them back in for another 20 minutes or until they start to look gold and crisp.

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Scatter with salt and serve straight away.

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Potato Rosti Cake Recipe

This potato cake recipe is really handy and good to keep in the fridge for a couple of days after cooking, that’s of course if it lasts that long.

Potato Cakes are simple to make and a great side dish which can be eaten hot, or taken on a picnic and eaten cold.  Usually quite fiddly frying individual cakes on the stovetop, this version lets you cook the whole cake in the oven, along with the rest of your meal.

Grated potato, lardons and onion are the basic ingredients for this, all cooked in a springform sandwich tin.

Ingredients

1kg Maris Piper potatoes
Pack of pancetta lardons
1 onion
Seasoning
Butter

Pre-heat your oven to 190C/170C fan or Gas Mark 5.

Peel the potatoes and parboil them in a saucepan of boiling water over a high heat for around 5 minutes.

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Dry-fry the bacon until crisp and set aside.

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Remove the potatoes from the heat and put them in a bowl of cold water.

When cold enough to handle, coarsely grate each potato into a bowl.

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Place a baking sheet in the oven for 5 mins to heat.
Grease a 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin with butter and scatter the potato over the tin, but don’t pack it tightly, then dot the top with butter. Place on the hot baking sheet and bake in the oven for 1 hr 20 mins until the potatoes are cooked through and crisp on top.

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