You can’t cook
It’s easily done: you spend your early 20s living on takeaways and beans on toast, then one day you realise you don’t know how to make soup. “You have to learn to cook,” says Malhotra. “It’s not just a useful skill – it’s ultimately going to make you healthier and happier. Poor diet in the form of processed and fast food now contributes globally to more disease and death than physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol combined.”
Fortunately, it’s fixable. Switch off the fancy cooking shows, ignore anything with more than five ingredients and focus on the basics: mastering heat, cooking meat, making veg taste better and getting the hang of a few simple taste combinations. After that you can graduate to experimenting with herbs and spices for more flavour – and health benefits.
START WITH EGGS
They’re loaded with 7g of protein – plus, if they’re free range, a healthy omega 3:6 ratio – and perfect any time of day. It’s worth mastering every format, but start with scrambled. “One simple tasty recipe is scrambled eggs with onion, tomatoes and fresh chillies,” says Malhotra. “Beat three free range organic eggs with half a chopped onion and a tomato, one green chilli, salt and pepper, and fry in 2tbsp of extra virgin coconut oil. Scramble with a spatula and cook until they start to set, then take them off the heat and stir until they’re done.”
GET BETTER AT STEAK
It’s very straightforward, and it lays the foundation for cooking other cuts of meat. “Rub it in oil, lightly salt both sides and get your pan very hot – give it at least three minutes on the heat before your meat goes in,” says chef Simon Rimmer. There are two schools of thought about cooking – either give it an equal amount of time on each side, or, for a crustier finish, flip it every 15 seconds – but either way, a 2cm-thick cut should take five or six minutes total.
STIR UP YOUR SALADS
“I’m pretty bad at cooking, which is why I started with salads,” says Bez, who turned his challenge into the book Salad Love. “They’re the easiest thing to make. Forget just leaves and use grains, veggies and proteins like beans, peas, eggs or cheese. I like to roast my veg in the oven – just chop them, add a drizzle of oil and salt and chuck them in the oven for half an hour. One favourite of mine is buckwheat, roasted squash, peas, thyme, red onion and a hard-boiled egg. For the dressing, mix 1tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1tsp lemon juice, 1tsp mustard, 1tsp honey and a pinch of salt.”
Steaming cooks your vegetables very lightly so you don’t turn them to mush or leech out their nutrients – and micro-steaming is the easiest way to make it fast. Just place a single layer of vegetables on a microwavesafe plate, cover them with a couple of damp paper towels and microwave them on full power until they’re tender enough to pierce with a fork. It should take between two and five minutes, depending on the power of your microwave.
MOVE UP TO MARINADES
The single simplest way to make food taste better. The basics are easy: leave your meat in a bowl or a sealed bag inside the fridge with a few carefully selected spices and some sort of liquid element, give it 30 minutes, then shake off the excess and fry, roast or grill as usual. With chicken, use harissa paste – which contains capsaicin for a mild fat-burning effect – and coconut oil. For Moroccan-style lamb, lime juice with turmeric and cinnamon stabilises your insulin levels and has anti-inflammatory benefits.