Top chef Michael Bremner Reveals The New Rules Of Making Fast, Healthy Meals

Whatever your particular dietary angle, making your own meals is a fast-track to healthy eating – RISING asks the winner of the BBC’s Great British Menu, and owner of the acclaimed 64 Degrees restaurant for his inside tips…

Michael Bremner is well known for creating healthy recipes without compromising on taste. He is the antidote to those who say food is the enemy, and exercise is the answer. ‘What should be seen is the two working in unison. We all know this, but it can get lost in the mix. Food and exercise both need to fuel each other, and they both will, if you let them.’

Now he’s on a mission to bring tasty food as fuel for your healthy lifestyle to more people. ‘My new restaurant, Murmur, was set up with the idea of providing health-conscious family meals, but really the lessons of that extend to anyone interested in looking after themselves. I’ve done award-winning vegetarianism, I’ve done small plates, now I’m looking at healthy food as fuel for lifestyle – all lifestyles, from high pressure to high octane,’ he tells RISING.

‘Food and exercise both need to fuel each other and they will – if you let them’

He realises that not everyone is into quinoa salads, so he’s created these universal rules for all of us to follow when making our own tasty meals. And don’t forget to check out his exclusive ‘on the go’ recipe at the end of this piece…

Michael Bremner’s Five Easy Rules For Healthy Cooking

RULE ONE: Don’t Overcomplicate Things ‘I know people like to have fun with food, but the more you add in the more you compromise the basic meal. A sprig of parsley here, a bit of jus there, over-seasoning, over-cooking. Just keep it simple. I think the Germans have it right – the way that they eat is just to lay out food. You just put it out on the table and it’s almost like a buffet; you just help yourself.’

‘If you’re eating as a pair or more, I think that can definitely be a great way or getting loads of exciting, healthy components in one meal, yet you’re bringing it all together in a way that doesn’t compromise everything on the same plate.’

RULE TWO: It’s How It Tastes, Not How It Looks ‘We’re all guilty of worrying about presentation, and TV shows haven’t helped this, particularly when you see dishes being marked down on appearance. But food is always flavour over appearance, substance over style.’

RULE THREE: Broaden Your Horizons ‘We cook in a very local way, even right down to the way we prepare so-called ‘overseas dishes’, such as curries. Sometimes to make recipes simpler and tastier is to explore techniques from other countries and cultures. For instance, I’m quite into the Korean thing at the moment. I like the idea of curing meats with Miso to add that touch of oriental style to your food. If I let the meat ‘do the talking’ with the flavour, then I don’t need to put as much into sauces to accompany noodles, or as much oil in the stir fry – and sauces are usually the calorific elements; and the more time-consuming.’

‘There are lots of examples of continental styles of cooking that stretch our taste buds whilst simplifying the cooking experience, even if nine times out of 10 I am still focusing on the local ingredient. At the end of the day, don’t overstretch yourself. Keep it as simple as possible rather than drenching your food in flavour. They’re the kinds of the rules I stick to when it comes to trying new ingredients without trying too hard to mess things up in terms of the flavour, and the ingredients that we buy.’

‘The problem with frying is that it’s a fantastic way of making up for a lack of flavour’

RULE FOUR: Don’t Deny Yourself ‘That will sound like a strange thing to say, but it’s a reaction to what seems to be a New Age adoption of healthy eating as being based around cutting things out of your diet. It’s all very well to think like that, but being an athlete, being in shape, is ultimately about having a balanced diet.’

‘Unless you have allergies – problems with dairy, gluten that sort of thing – then I think everyone should explore the furthest reaches of a balanced diet. That’s my own personal belief and I stand by that. Balance is about treating yourself as well as doing the sensible stuff. If you’re cooking at home don’t obsess over all the good stuff; treat yourself every now again. It’s important to protect against falling off the wagon.’

RULE FIVE: Stop Frying ‘One of my key aims when opening Murmur was to ensure we never served up ‘dirty food’ – you know what I mean, when you’re eating these burgers and they’re dripping onto your chin. You basically have to go home and have a shower before you can come out again – it’s all over you! The problem we have with frying, is that it’s a fantastic way of masking flavour or making up for a lack of flavour. If ever we’re in a fix we fry something because it gives you that guaranteed succulence.’

‘I think the health market was right at the front of the grilling revolution and we need to get back to that. But get better ingredients and really let the flavours come out. Everyone knows what constitutes better ingredients – those that are fresh, organic, preservative-free, the good parts of the vegetables and meat, not the scraps… even cooking from frozen.’

‘You can lightly fry things of course but steaming or poaching are other ways of cooking that maybe have fallen by the wayside. Get yourself a nice bit of sustainably caught fish and chuck that on the grill – let the food and the flavours stand by themselves without the need for oil.’

WHAT NEXT? Try Bremner’s exclusive energising soup recipe for an easy-to-digest, workout-fuelling meal that you can stick into the microwave at work...

‘This recipe is perfect for healthy people on the go who have a lot of fresh veg stashed in the fridge. You can even throw in a bit of stale bread to give it added substance, but it’s packed with vitamins, fuel, goodness and wholesome flavours.’

‘There’s no need for elaborate sauces or overpowering ingredients – instead you’ll find these relatively simple vegetables fusing together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. What’s more, this soup will give you a perfect energy boost, particularly if you’re heading straight back out the door for a workout.’

1 red cabbage
2 red onions
1 red pepper
2 sticks of celery
1/2 cucumber
1 medium red chilli
150ml red wine vinegar
2 slices stale bread, broken into breadcrumbs
Salt, pepper & olive oil to dress

Chop and seed all the vegetables finely – ideally, you’ll want to leave them to macerate in the red wine vinegar in the fridge for two hours, so perhaps do this step in the morning
Add the breadcrumbs and blend in a mixer until you have something that’s smooth and rich – you’ll notice the red colours really coming through
Pass through a sieve
Now season to taste and serve, perhaps adding a drizzle of olive oil
Add a few hunks of fresh bread and enjoy.

Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.