In his new BBC Two series for 2019, Michellin-starred chef Tom Kerridge turns his attention to food for families with the belief that bringing them together through home-cooked recipes will make them healthier, fitter and happier…
Since changing his own eating habits Kerridge has lost 12 stone and become a father. He says, “I used to eat convenience food myself, then I made the decision to change the way I eat for the sake of my health. Ready meals and takeaways are simple and quick, but living off processed food comes at a cost.” With one in eight of us avoiding cooking from scratch, families are more likely to watch TV together than eat together and ultra-processed products are now half of all UK family food purchases which health experts warn will lead to negative outcomes such as obesity and poor health. Tom adds, “Finding time to eat proper, homemade food together as a family is one of life’s biggest pleasures. I want to help people discover this for themselves and reap the rewards. The aim of my new book, Fresh Start, is to build confidence around cooking in everyone who has forgotten how to cook, never tried – or has just fallen into the busy life trap. I now make it a real priority to set aside time each week to eat proper home-cooked meals as a family. It may not be every night, but it’s as often as we can and I know that’s helping my son Acey develop a good relationship with food too.”
Chicken and Pearl Barley Soup
When it’s chilly outside, make a big batch of this warming soup for a comforting supper, or take it to work in a flask for an easy lunch. Dried mushrooms lend lots of flavour
here. They are a great store-cupboard ingredient to have on hand for pepping up soups, pasta sauces, stews and casseroles.
670 calories per serving
690 calories with Parmesan
4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
4 celery sticks, diced
2 courgettes, diced
2 leeks, trimmed, well washed and diced
2 litres fresh chicken stock
1 litre water
A bunch of thyme sprigs, tied with string
2 bay leaves
250g pearl barley
40g dried porcini mushrooms
1.5kg free-range whole chicken, spatchcocked or quartered, skin removed
200g cavolo nero, tough stalks removed, chopped roughly
250g frozen peas
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle
30g Parmesan, freshly grated, to serve (optional)
1 Heat the olive oil in a large flameproof casserole dish over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, celery, courgettes and leeks and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until softened.
2 Pour in the chicken stock and water and add the thyme, bay leaves, pearl barley and dried porcini. Stir and bring to a gentle simmer.
3 Lay the chicken in the casserole, season generously with pepper and simmer gently for 1 hour, turning the chicken over halfway through cooking.
4 Lift the chicken out of the broth onto a plate and allow to cool a little. Remove and discard the thyme and bay leaves from the broth. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bone and shred into bite-sized pieces.
5 Bring the broth back to a simmer and stir in the cavolo nero and peas. Cook for 2 minutes, then return the chicken to the soup and stir well. Taste to check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
6 Ladle into warmed bowls and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Best served with grated Parmesan.
To freeze: Allow to cool, then freeze in two-portion containers. Defrost fully in the fridge overnight, then reheat in a saucepan over a medium heat, until hot all the way through.
Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta Bake
Rich and creamy, this could easily become a new favourite at home. It’s also a great way of getting a big portion of veg into your family without them even noticing! It’s all about the toppings: crunchy seeds and breadcrumbs, sweet chunks of butternut squash and nuggets of acidity from the sun-blushed tomatoes.
575 calories per serving
1kg butternut squash, cut into chunks (about 2cm)
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the cheese sauce
60g plain flour
1 litre whole milk
1 tbsp liquid aminos
60g Parmesan, finely grated
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
For the topping
A handful of sage leaves
40g sun-blushed tomatoes, roughly chopped
50g fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbsp pumpkin oil (or use olive oil)
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 Preheat the oven to 220°C/Fan 200°C/Gas 7. Line a large roasting tray with baking parchment.
2 Place the squash in the roasting tray. Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Cook on the top shelf of the oven for 25 minutes or until the squash is tender and browned at the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly for a couple of minutes. (Keep the oven on.)
3 Tip three-quarters of the roasted squash into a blender and blitz to a purée; set the rest aside.
4 Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the macaroni and cook until almost al dente (2–3 minutes less than the time suggested on the packet).
5 Meanwhile, for the sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk and cook, whisking, until the sauce thickens slightly. Lower the heat and add the liquid aminos, Parmesan and nutmeg. Stir until the cheese has melted, then stir through the squash purée to make a rich, smooth sauce. Take off the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
6 Drain the macaroni, add to the sauce and stir well. Tip into a large, deep baking dish, about 25 x 30cm. Scatter over the rest of the roasted squash, the sage, sun-blushed tomatoes and breadcrumbs. Drizzle with the oil. Place on the middle shelf of the oven, turning on the oven grill at the same time. Bake for 10 minutes.
7 Take out the dish, scatter the pumpkin seeds evenly over the surface and return to the oven for 5 minutes or until the topping is golden. Serve at once, with a green salad.
To freeze: Cool and pack in a lidded foil tray (or several trays). Defrost fully in the fridge, then remove the lid and reheat in an oven preheated to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6 for 30 minutes, until hot all the way through. If the surface appears to be browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil.
Fresh Start by Tom Kerridge (Bloomsbury Absolute, £26) is out now. Photography by Cristian Barnett.