Lifestyle

Amelia Freer’s Simply Good For You: no-fuss healthy recipes perfect for mid-week



Simply Good For You is the latest offering from best selling author Amelia Freer and does exactly what is says on the tin. 

These are a collection of unashamedly simple dishes to inspire you in the kitchen and get you cooking. From classic seasonal tray bakes to gooey courgette brownies, these are quick, delicious recipes that are achievable for every level of cook.

This is not a diet book but rather a collection of dishes that offer a lifestyle approach to cooking that will have you excited about foolproof food that nourishes and creates the kind of balanced diet we all aim to achieve.


Here, we chat to Amelia…

Amelia Freer’s new cookbook is full of achievable and nourishing recipes (Susan Bell)

Was there a lighbulb moment when you knew you wanted to work with food?

I was suffering from a wide range of health complaints and symptoms and tried many avenues to get better. I felt frustrated with how little my doctor was able to help and then my flatmate at the time suggested that it might be worth thinking about my diet. I eventually took myself off to see a nutritionist and very rapidly began to feel and see the results of some pretty simple changes. It sparked a passion in me for understanding how the food we choose interacts with our physiology and psychology. Soon after I quit my job and went off to train in Nutritional Therapy for four years. I have been practising and learning ever since (which is now almost 15 years).

What inspired you to write Simply Good For You and who should buy it?

There were two reasons I wanted to write this book. The first was that I became a mother and simply didn’t have the time or energy to cook in the way I had enjoyed doing previously. The second was that I was getting a bit weary of all the noise and confusion spread in the wellness world and wanted something incredibly realistic, economical and simple instead. But crucially, I didn’t want speed and ease to compromise on taste or nutritional balance. Simply Good For You was eventually written as a way to record the key recipes that we particularly enjoyed eating as a family, which also met all those other criteria for speed, nutrition and ease. I thought I probably wouldn’t be alone in finding these hero meals helpful.

So I’d say the book is really for anyone who wants feel vibrantly healthy from good, wholesome and nourishing nutrition, but doesn’t have much time, confidence or a huge budget to spend in the kitchen. It’s unashamedly simple food, because I think that’s how we actually eat most of the time – it’s a book of speedy breakfasts, desk lunches and weeknight suppers when you’ve not got much in the fridge. I’d suggest for many of us, this type of eating often makes up the majority of our meals, so why not try make at least some of those meals as nourishing and delicious as they can be?!

Simple tray bakes are a favourite of Amelia’s (Susan Bell)

What ingredient could you not live without?

Olive oil

What’s your ultimate cooking hack?

Quick healthy cooking is about quick vegetable prep – as that’s usually what takes the most time. So get skilled up on speedy peeling and knife techniques (and invest in a sharp knife and a peeler that works!). YouTube is a great resource.

What’s your favourite quick midweek/no fuss meal?

The fastest is probably my Instant Cannellini & Tomato soup. You just blend a few tins or jars together and warm it through. It honestly is a lifesaver recipe – nourishing, tasty, incredible speedy and ideal when you’ve got nothing in the fridge.

Name your top three restaurants…

I really don’t eat out a lot at the moment due to lack of time and not having a babysitter! My absolute favourite special occasion restaurant is the iconic River Café – it’s where we went the night before I gave birth. And in Wiltshire we love our local pub The Beckford Arms, in Tisbury or Roth Bar and Grill in Somerset. I’d like to get more adventurous and explore restaurants when I have more time – I have an ongoing list of places I plan to visit.

What’s your ultimate dinner party dish?

Something simple like a roast chicken with one of the roasted salads from my new cookbook. Then perhaps some seasonal fresh fruit for pudding. Most people are just grateful for the meal – I don’t worry about it being too impressive! 

Who is exciting you in the world of food right now?

It’s not new, but rather a classic. I’m currently ploughing through Elizabeth David’s writing. The most extraordinary thing is that she writes with a freedom and passion that is incredibly rare to come across in food writing today – I think we are all rather worried about inadvertently causing offence. I do understand this anxiety, food is an emotional topic and there is still great need for compassion around the food conversation. But it is so liberating to read!

Who has influenced you and your approach to food the most?

Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray and Alice Waters really highlighted to me that absolute simplicity can lead to the most exquisite of meals – it all depends on the quality of your ingredients and how sensitively you handle them. Simplicity really does not have to mean boring.

What’s next for you

This is a really exciting year. I’ll be hosting my first residential retreats at Lime Wood Hotel as well as lots of lovely workshops, talks and cooking demonstrations. My team and I are also working on a couple of great projects that will help bring the experience of working one-to-one with me a lot more accessible. But ultimately, my goal for this year is to make healthy living as simple, sustainable and joyful as possible, for as many people as I can reach. Any way to chase that goal and I will be going for it!

Simply Good For You by Amelia Freer is out now (Michael Joseph, £22). Buy here

Below Amelia shares a recipe from her new book. 

Za’tar chicken, aubergine and squash traybake (Susan Bell)

za’atar chicken, aubergine & squash traybake

{Serves 6}

Traybakes are among the simplest dishes to make. Bung everything into one tray – vegetables, meat or fish and flavours – and roast it all together in the oven. No fuss, great flavours and minimal washing-up.

This particular combination is a personal favourite of mine. Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend. You can find it in most big supermarkets now, but if it’s difficult to get hold of, just substitute dried oregano and ground cumin instead.

Ingredients

12 chicken thigh fillets (skin removed)

1 butternut squash, peeled

and diced into rough cubes

2 medium aubergines,

diced into rough cubes

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons za’atar​ (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano + 2 teaspoons ground cumin)

2 onions, peeled and cut into quarters

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

sea salt and freshly

ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan.

In a large mixing bowl, drizzle the chicken thigh fillets, butternut squash and aubergines with the olive oil, then scatter over the za’atar. Mix well to coat each piece with the flavour and oil. Tip on to a large roasting tray (you may need to use two) and add the onion quarters and the garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast for around 30 to 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and the chicken is cooked all the way through – with no hint of pink in the middle.

Serve simply with a rocket salad or some steamed seasonal greens on the side. Or if you would like to make it a little bit more special, serve topped with a pile of chopped coriander and some pomegranate seeds, perhaps with some steamed new potatoes and a feta-dotted herby salad too.



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