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Eat your way to rude health with Abel & Cole’s Rachel de Thample

In the kitchen with Rachel de Thample, Abel & Cole food editor, urban gardener, author of Less Meat, More Veg and exhibitor at Eat Well, Olympia 

Everyone says that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. What do you have for breakfast and why?

A thick, rich smoothie packed with coconut milk or yogurt, seeds and fruit is my favourite on-the-go breakfast. I just whiz everything up, decant it into a jam jar and guzzle it on the train. When I have more time, eggs are my hero breakfast. One of my favourite new recipes is griddled aubergines with fried eggs, chilli yogurt, walnuts and fresh mint. A phenomenal combo. I never thought I’d eat aubergines for breakfast but it’s one of my favourite things ever. It totally sets you up for the day. If I don’t have breakfast I’m immediately thrown off course, craving cake and coffee, which always set you up for a fall.

 What is the one food you couldn’t live without?

Chocolate! I’m a complete chocoholic. I have recently given up sugar but happily there are loads of amazing 100 per cent cacao bars which contain no sugar at all. I’m also mad about cacao nibs, and even whole roasted cacao beans, which are becoming easier to access. I bought some in Borough Market the other day.

 What are your top three tips for someone who is trying to eat more healthily?

Do try to have one piece of fruit in the morning and two portions each with lunch and dinner. It’s the easiest way to ensure you get your five-a-day.

Middle Eastern-style dips like houmous or similar are a brilliant way to pack in the veg, especially when paired with some cucumber, celery, carrots, tomatoes… you can easily pack in a day’s worth of veg in just one sitting. It’s a filling and satisfying thing to eat, too.

Don’t give up the things you love. If you try to deprive yourself you’ll set yourself up for a fall. Make sure you have a small treat every day. A little of what you love, little and often, will stave off dangerous binges that can throw you off course.

Do you have trouble finding time to cook nutritious meals with your busy schedule and, if so, how do you think it’s best to manage your time?

Absolutely. But I find it easier and easier to eat healthily on the run. If I’m dashing about I’ll grab a punnet of cherry tomatoes to snack on or toss an avocado into my bag. If I come home tired from work, a dip and some raw veg is my saviour. While I’m sometimes tempted to indulge in comfort food I know that a good kick of veg will keep me powering through the things I want to get done.

Some healthy recipes include ingredients that are hard to find and sometimes more expensive. What’s your best tip for keeping costs down?

I try to keep my recipes really simple and accessible. The healthiest of ingredients are raw organic fruit and veg and they’re actually relatively cheap. A bag of organic carrots is typically £1 (you can get 500g – that’s 6 portions of veg – for just 95p from Abel & Cole). To make veg exciting I use a lot of spices, but simple ones that again, are easy to get and affordable like fennel seeds (which you can actually get free if you know where to forage for them… a walk along the Whitstable coastline will give you enough to fill a pot).

What is the most exciting recipe you’ve created recently?

There are some brilliant recipes featuring squash in my new book. One of my favourites is Sengalese Peanut Rice with Sticky Ginger Pumpkin. It’s packed full of umami flavours, brilliant textures and colour. It’s the ultimate comfort food and it’s a dish that totally makes me happy.

Who is your inspiration for healthy eating?

My mother. When I was little she told me how important it was to eat lots of fruit and veg and I listened. I’ve always been a healthy eater, and my siblings are, too. My mum just has the magic touch.

What’s your motivation for healthy eating?

Eating well can instantly make you feel well and alive. I recently created a raw turmeric and carrot soup for Abel & Cole. It’s the most incredibly energising thing I’ve ever eaten. When you get a dose of something like that you realise how powerful good food can be.

If you were to treat yourself to one ‘naughty’ meal what would it be?

I had one the other night: steak & chips. Who doesn’t love chips?

 What’s your ‘ultimate’ healthy ingredient?

At the moment, I’m in love with fresh turmeric. It’s phenomenal. Try it in a mango and coconut smoothie – my Keralan Sunrise.

BBC Good Food’s new Eat Well Show launches at Olympia, from 27 February – 1 March; Corner readers should quote MV17 to get 20 per cent off tickets to the show via bbcgoodfoodeatwellshow.com.

Rachel de Thample will be speaking on 27 February

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