Absolutely quizzes Joe Wicks about his new book, and we take three recipes to try
Absolutely quizzes Joe Wicks about his new book, and we take three recipes to try
Words Eve Herbert
Your new book Feel Good Food takes you in a new direction, what made you pivot to writing about food to feel good?
There’s been a massive shift in my narrative over the last couple of years, especially through the pandemic and the links that have surfaced between mental health, the food we eat and the exercise we do. There’s always such a big emphasis on food for fat loss and getting lean by cutting things out, but actually I think the most important thing that draws people back to healthy food and home cooking is the feeling the get when they spend time in the kitchen, creating wonderful recipes with their family and enjoying the food and the energy it gives you.
There’s a big conversation that needs to be had around just how much food impacts our mood – I think people often think adequate exercise and sleep is enough to feel fine, but if your diet consists of mainly heavily processed foods, then this isn’t going to give you energy and will instead bring you down. Feel Good Food is about getting in the kitchen and enjoying the process of prepping food, understanding what you’re putting in your body and how this can benefit our energy levels, focus, attention and mood.
For me personally, when I eat junk food I notice I can be more snappy and irritable. Allowing myself treats every now and then is totally fine, but I’ll always come back to nourishing my body with food that makes me feel good. It’s something I’m really passionate about – food, sleep and exercise are all very important to me, because without one of them, it’s very easy to feel off balance.
Why is it now more important than ever to start eating food that makes you feel good?
We’re in a time where it’s so easy to get fast food delivered to your door, or to grab a ready meal from a supermarket, but these meals have such highly processed ingredients that they aren’t going to give you energy, and an excess can hold you back from really feeling your best self. When you have great ingredients in your cupboard and access to recipes that you can bang out in 15/20 minutes, it’s going to set you up for a day of energy, leaving you feeling more focused, calm and tolerant.
I think this book contains a really important message for everyone going through a difficult time at the minute – there’s still a lot of anxiety and people feeling low, especially with COVID still lingering, so putting good food in your body means you’re giving yourself the best chance to take on the day feeling energised.
Have any significant life experiences inspired the book?
100%. Becoming a parent and trying to balance work (e.g. filming my workout videos) and life (e.g. trying to get the kids to bed and have enough sleep myself) has inspired me to think more about batch cooking and family style food – hence the pies, the curries and chillis – they last 2 or 3 days in the fridge too. For me, batch cooking means leftovers, which in turn means less hassle in the kitchen as well as less dishes, which is great if you’re a fan of speed and simplicity like me.
What is your top tip for how to boost your mood with food?
The most important things for me are consistency and getting organised. Having ingredients you need in the house and prepping parts of your meal where possible in advance can really set you up for success. If you’re exercising and putting great food into your body, you will feel better, you’ll have more energy to exercise, which in turn means you’ll sleep better and you’ll start to see and feel the links between everything.
SWEET POTATO NACHOS
This is actually a really healthy recipe with loads of good stuff. It’s one of the best things to make as a family and then all just steam into when it comes out of the oven. Cheese all dripping down your chin… Mess everywhere… Fighting over the last crispy bits!
4 medium sweet potatoes (around 600g), peeled and sliced into 5-mm thick coins
1 tbsp light olive oil 1 tsp salt
60g Cheddar cheese, grated
4 tbsp low-fat natural yoghurt, to serve
1 tbsp oil
1 red onion, diced
100g veggie mince (or minced beef)
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp smoked paprika pinch of chilli powder
130g frozen sliced bell pepper (or the same amount of fresh, sliced)
400-g tin of black beans, drained but liquid reserved
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cumin
200g cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped big handful of fresh coriander,
finely chopped juice of 1 lime pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan.
- Toss the sliced sweet potatoes with the oil and salt on a large baking tray, then spread them out into a single layer (you may need a second baking tray). Roast for 30–40 minutes, flipping them over halfway through, until starting to turn golden.
- For the spiced mince, heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the mince, breaking it up with your spoon, and cook for a few minutes according to the packet instructions, or until the mince is no longer pink if using beef. Stir in the cumin, coriander, paprika, chilli powder and frozen (or fresh) sliced peppers. Stir until the peppers have defrosted and warmed through (about 5 minutes if using fresh, until softened). Tip into a bowl and set aside.
- For the refried beans, return the same pan to the heat and add the drained beans along with 100ml of the liquid reserved from the tin, the salt and cumin. Mash with a potato masher in the pan, loosening with more bean liquid as needed, to make a creamy, slightly chunky paste. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Mix together all of the salsa ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- Once the potato nachos are roasted, top with spoonfuls of the refried beans, followed by a layer of the mince mixture and finally sprinkle over the grated cheese.
- Return to the oven for 10–15 minutes until the cheese has melted and crisped up in places.
- Remove from the oven, top with the salsa and some dollops of yoghurt, then serve.
CHICKEN CAPRESE BURGERS
Just look at this burger. Oh my days… It’s heavenly, isn’t it? I love everything about it. The chicken, mozzarella and pesto are a match made in heaven. Don’t skip this recipe because I think its one of the best burgers I ever created. SERVES 4 4 skinless chicken breasts 50g plain flour 1 tsp dried oregano 1 egg 75g panko breadcrumbs 2 tbsp olive oil salt and freshly ground black pepper To serve 1 x 125-g ball of mozzarella cheese, drained 4 heaped tsp basil pesto 4 medium tomatoes, sliced a handful of fresh rocket 4 ciabatta rolls, halved
- Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
- Take a large piece of baking paper, place a chicken breast on the left half of the paper and fold the right half of the paper over the top. Whack the chicken with the end of a rolling pin until it’s an even thickness all over. Set this chicken breast aside and repeat with the remaining chicken. Cut each breast in half so you have 8 smaller pieces in total.
- Take 3 wide, shallow dishes. In one, mix the flour, dried oregano, a pinch of salt and a pinch of ground black pepper. In the second dish, mix the egg with a pinch of salt. In the third dish, place the panko breadcrumbs. Dip each chicken piece in the flour, the egg and finally the breadcrumbs, shaking off the excess. Place onto the lined baking tray spacing them a few centimetres apart. Drizzle with half of the oil, then flip them all over and drizzle with the remaining oil.
- Bake for 25–30 minutes, flipping them over halfway through the cooking time, until golden and crisp.
- Cut the mozzarella into 8 slices and place one slice onto each piece of chicken. Return to the oven for 5 minutes so that the cheese can melt.
- Remove from the oven and top each piece of chicken with a little pesto. Serve in the ciabatta rolls with the rocket and tomatoes.
BAKED RICOTTA & STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE
Cheesecake? Oh, yes please! This is a real showstopper, so if you have friends coming over or a party coming up, pull this recipe out. It’s tangy, refreshing and creamy and I’ll bet everyone loves it.
35g unsalted butter, melted 75g ground almonds
25g plain white flour pinch of salt
1½ tsp caster sugar
250g ricotta cheese 340g light cream cheese 100g caster sugar
- 2.tbsp cornflour
- 3.large eggs
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon 1 tsp vanilla extract
400g strawberries, hulled 2 tsp runny honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan. Use some of the melted butter to grease the sides of an 18-cm springform cake tin.
- Mix all of the base ingredients together in a medium bowl. Tip into the cake tin and press down into an even layer. Bake for 6–8 minutes until golden, then remove from the oven and set aside.
- Turn the oven down to 160°C/140°C fan.
- Sandwich the ricotta cheese between 4 layers of kitchen paper, patting it down to form a flat circle (this removes excess moisture from the cheese). Uncover and tip into a large bowl, then add the cream cheese and use a whisk to stir until smooth. Mix in the sugar and cornflour followed by the eggs, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla.
- Pour the cheesecake filling over the baked crust and place the tin onto a baking tray. Bake for 50–60 minutes until the edges are set and the middle has a slight wobble. Carefully slide a knife around the outer edge of the baked cheesecake, then set aside to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, make the strawberry topping. Tip 100g of the strawberries into a food processor with the honey and blitz until you have a smooth purée. Cut the remaining strawberries into quarters and place in a medium bowl. Add the strawberry purée and stir to coat.
- Cut the cooled cheesecake into wedges and serve with the strawberry topping spooned over.
Recipes are taken from Feel Good Food by Joe Wicks, HQ, £20