Star Q&A: Raymond Blanc

Round & About

Health

Liz Nicholls asks star chef Raymond Blanc about feeding the soul in isolation, finding your calling & his surprising favourite foodstuff…

Q. Many of us parents have been home schooling, or stressing about home schooling over the last few months… Being self-taught, do you have any encouraging words about how youngsters can find their calling, school or no school? “The key is to find your passion and follow it. I am self-taught in the sense that I didn’t ‘study’ my craft but I did ‘learn’ my craft from the best. This includes my maman who taught me so much as a child about taking the best local, seasonal ingredients and turning them into wonderful, hearty, family dishes. I learnt from great chefs who I worked under – I paid attention, I practised, I pushed forward and made my own way into a world that inspired me so much.”

Q. Your childhood sounds idyllic. What’s one thing parents can do to nurture their children’s love of food? “There is nothing that will inspire children more or make them want to try new tastes and textures than to have been part of the creative process of preparing and cooking the dishes. To this day certain dishes like a simple and delicious apple tart evoke such strong and joyous childhood memories of being in the French country kitchen, cooking with my mother.”

Q. Is there anything you don’t eat or drink? “I do all I can to avoid processed food. I once bought a processed loaf and could not believe that after two weeks there was no mould on it! In France, every little village has a boulangerie and the French buy fresh bread sometimes three times a day. Today there are a wealth of wonderful artisan food producers in the UK and they must be supported.”

Q. What’s the one food or drink that you just couldn’t do without? “Not a food I can’t do without but one I have only recently discovered – brown sauce! Yes, who would imagine a Frenchman loving the humble brown sauce. I had been Living in England for almost 40 years when one day a friend offered me a bacon butty with brown sauce. I can tell you now, it was a revelation. I cannot believe I waited so long!

Q. What’s the most useful kitchen gadget or kit no kitchen should be without? “I think most chefs would agree when I say a great set of kitchen knives. Having the correct sharp knife for each and every task in the kitchen will make everything so much easier and so much more enjoyable. Good knives are easy to handle, they are well balanced and, looked after properly, can last you a lifetime.. Another piece of kit I love is my Kenwood Chef kitchen mixer. I’ve used these machines for over 30 years, in my kitchens and cookery school, and the precision and durability is fantastic.”

Q. We’re supporting our hospitality heroes – how important it is this industry? And do you have any words of solidarity for your fellow hospitality heroes? “The UK hospitality industry employs over 3 million people, many of them just starting out on the career ladder – young, eager and full of high hopes and expectation. For them, and for the whole of the hospitality sector I say try and stay strong. It has been such a hard year but we are all in this together and we know that once this if over our restaurants, pubs, hotels will be the first places people will want to visit to reclaim some normality and joy. We live to deliver those special moments of magic and will be back to doing what we do best very soon.”

Q. What one piece of advice would you give to anyone wanting to start out as a chef? “One route is via apprenticeships. There are very many excellent apprenticeships that will give you a superb introduction to commercial kitchens. We run them at both Le Manoir and at Brasserie Blanc and can take someone with basic skills, give them the best training they could hope for and set them up for a successful career with no limits. Some of the best known chefs in the UK started this way, including Michael Caines and Ollie Dabbous who were both apprentices at my Le Manor!”

Q. How have you coped throughout the last year & what have been your go-to sanity savers? “I was at home, and isolated from most of my family – as well as my team of chefs at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Brasserie Blanc. My way of keeping sane was to cook and cook! I chose simple dishes that evoked happy memories and provided the connection to those who I missed so much. I used ingredients that were easily-available and needed only basic kitchen equipment and out of this came the inspiration for my new television series and book Simply Raymond.”

Q. Who would be your five dream dinner party guests, living or dead, real or fictional? “Other than friends or family, of course, what could be better, I think it would be amazing to have one big table with all the great chefs I have been lucky enough to train over the years. What great things they could teach me now.”

Q. Like me, you eat regularly at Brasserie Blanc… What are your favourite dishes on the menu? “Yes, I live very close to our Brasserie Blanc in Oxford so I am in there at least once a week. I help to create the seasonally changing menu with our Executive Chef Clive Fretwell who learned his craft under me at Le Manoir – we have worked together for over 30 years now – amazing! I know all of the dishes very well, every season I have a new favourite but some dishes are classics and stay on the menu throughout, including our very special cheese soufflé. I enjoy this as a starter but also on its own for a light lunch – it is so incredibly light in texture that you can almost imagine it is calorie-free!”

Q. What other exciting plans do you have on the horizon? “I currently have the new television series Simply Raymond Blanc running on ITV on Saturdays mornings. This will be repeated over the summer on weekday evenings so if you have missed any of them don’t worry! My new recipe book is also coming out any day now – Simply Raymond. Like the television series the book is a collection of my favourite, simple home-cooked recipes – nothing fussy or over-complicated. These dishes are the ones that mean the most to me; the ones that connect me to my dearest family and friends.”

Star Q&A: Andy Triggs Hodge

Round & About

Health

Three times Olympic rowing gold medallist Andy Triggs Hodge started rowing because he thought it would be fun, now he is sharing that sense of fun through Race The Thames 2021, we chatted to him about his career, the importance of sport and the event taking place in March

How did you get involved in rowing in the first place and why, what was it that attracted you to it?

I started rowing at Staffordshire Uni – not a typical rowing uni – because a friend suggested it would be fun. I had no idea what that innocent moment would lead to. From there I found something that sparked my imagination, passion and vitality in life as a whole, and I found myself getting better grades, improving my outlook in life, everything seemed to get better when I took up the oar. It really does conform to the saying, ‘the more you put in the more you’ll get out’.

Were you sporty generally?

I was always last to be picked for school sports, football, running, etc. I used to play a bit of rugby in the second row, but I never scored a try or flourished. I challenge everyone who thinks themselves as unathletic, I believe they just haven’t found ‘their’ sport. It’s why giving young people a chance to try all forms of sport through school is key to their development as well-rounded individuals. Sport plays such a big part in life, everyone will be good at one sport, they just have to find it. This also applies to adults.

Lewis Hamilton said winning the seventh F1 world title was beyond his wildest dreams, but that he had ‘secretly dreamt as high as this’, when you got into rowing was that your ‘secret dream’ to get to the top, winning Olympic and World titles?

I started rowing because I enjoyed it, and I’m lucky enough to say that I finished rowing enjoying it. Winning was always and only a by product of the elements I held dearest – self-improvement; enjoyment and being with friends in a common goal, the sacrifice; achieving one’s potential in anything is directly proportional to the sacrifices made.

Do you miss that competitiveness now you’ve retired or are you someone who has to win at everything you do?

Winning has never been a driver for me, since I retired, I replaced my passion to achieve something (which only started when I found rowing) with two things: First, trying to be a good husband, to make up for the time my wife had to put me first despite the hardships in her life, and to my sons who saw a dad who was reduced to the knackered shell of a man each day as I returned from a training programme designed to keep the human body on the red line seven days a week. Secondly, to find a way to create something for the sport I love. Rowing needs new avenues and opportunities as the sport risks becoming obsolete. Now my focus is on Race the Thames – an event for London Youth Rowing. I’m very excited and can’t wait to see how it lands in March!

Tell us about Race the Thames 2021, how can people get involved?

The event is trying to be as open and inclusive as possible, primarily an indoor rowing event, but you can also contribute to the challenge on any indoor machine. There are two challenges for the teams of eight (male, female or mixed) to choose from; the Race the Tidal Thames, 72km completed in a week or a day, and the Race the River Thames, 342km completed in a week. The ‘field of play’ is an amazing online map that we’re going to bring to life in an exciting way. We’re looking for teams of rowers and non rowers alike: friends, families and colleagues, schools and places of work, across gyms, home machines, anywhere people can access a machine, and any time in the week of 19th to 26th March.

And it’s in aid of London Youth Rowing, what’s that all about and who does it help?

Teams choose their own charity to support, as well as LYR with proceeds split 50:50 – I’m really proud to be able to support many charities through this event. LYR supports young people from backgrounds and communities that would make it very difficult for them to find rowing. I had a comfortable up bringing and I discovered rowing through luck and my ‘privilege’, and it still had such an impact on me it’s hard to comprehend. So many young people who are trapped in the hardest walks of life won’t have that chance without LYR, and knowing the benefits it could have on those individuals, not necessarily to achieve Olympic success, but simply to improvements to life by just participating like I had at uni, is motivation enough for me to live through LYR.

The LYR website says one of the aims is to ‘help young people recover their physical and mental health in 2021’ – with the events of 2020 just how important is this for everyone and how can exercise play its part in this?

Sport is so important at many levels, lockdown has decreased sport across the board. Rebuilding that is essential to getting back on track to increase activity in young people and adults alike, but also to recover our sense of wellness and vitality in our communities. I hope Race the Thames is the motivation to our participants to keep our spirits up and the inspiration to those who LYR help to keep striving and pushing forward.

To find out more and get involved visit www.londonyouthrowing.com/event/racethethames2021

Unique moment of time

Round & About

Health

Professor Stephen Hawking had a fascinating relationship with time and this year Bremont are marking that and honouring the eminent scientist with the launch of its Bremont Hawking watch collection.

The brand has worked with the Hawking family to create something unique and special dedicated to the British scientist whose stud of time enhanced our understanding of the universe and beyond.

The classically styled Bremont Hawking Limited Edition watch features a retrograde seconds hand and grand date and contains four wooden discs inlaid into the back of the watch taken from the desk at which Hawking contemplated the mysteries of the universe.

Only a limited number of watches will be made and all with unique features setting them apart as a truly stunning timepiece.

To complement the men’s watch, Bremont is also releasing a limited edition number of women’s watches, the first it has produced and around the face lies a bezel of diamonds – another first for Bremont.

Bremont co-founder Nick English said of the collection: “Professor Stephen Hawking was arguably one of the most pre-eminent scientists of the last hundred years. We wanted to celebrate this incredible man’s life and his fascinating relationship with time.”

Bremont is an award-winning British company producing beautifully engineered chronometers at their headquarters in Henley.

Mental health day

Round & About

Health

Look after your emotional well-being and you’ll be looking after your mental health.

That’s the message from the Samaritans today (Thursday, 10th October), World Mental Health Day.

This year the World Health Organisation (WHO) has chosen the theme suicide prevention. Every 40 seconds, someone in the world takes their own life. The organisation is encouraging people to prepare to take “40 seconds of action” to help: improve awareness of the significance of suicide as a global public health problem; improve knowledge of what can be done to prevent suicide; reduce the stigma associated with suicide; and let people who are struggling know that they are not alone.

“Put simply, this is an opportunity to show you care,” said Chris Lindsay, director of Samaritans of Bracknell, Wokingham, Ascot & Districts. “Talking, rather than bottling things up, helps but sometimes, when we are worried about someone, we are not sure how to start the conversation,”

The website Samaritans.org offers “SHUSH” tips on how to be a good listener.

“We would like to get the message across that Samaritans can help people acquire the skills to look after their emotional health and look out for others, before they reach crisis point,” said Chris.

Samaritans offers free resources for schools and colleges to incorporate into their emotional health programmes.

The charity also offers Wellbeing in the Workplace. This is an online learning programme which brings Samaritans’ listening and wellbeing expertise into the workplace.

“It’s okay if you’re not an expert – just listening can help someone work through what’s on their mind. When people feel listened to, it can save a life,” said Chris.

Samaritans is available round the clock, every day of the year. The charity provides a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them. Call 116 123 (free to call) (UK), email , or visit www.samaritans.org for further details.

YoungMinds, the UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people’s mental health, is encouraging people to say #HelloYellow today and help raise funds for YoungMinds.

Whether you choose to go for a subtle splash of colour or really turn up the sunshine with head to toe yellow, join in to show young people they’re not alone with their mental health.

Find out more

Saving Sumatran orangutans

Liz Nicholls

Health

Lucy Radford of Abingdon charity Sumatran Orangutan Society explains more about the plight of and how to help this majestic endangered creature.

On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, lush rainforests are home to orangutans, elephants, tigers and rhinos. Hornbills fly over the treetops and troops of monkeys leap from branch to branch. The air is alive with the buzzing, shrieking and singing of thousands of animals, from minuscule insects to jungle giants. The rainforest is an amazing place to be, and it is vital for species such as the Sumatran orangutan, which is critically endangered in the wild. Tragically, Indonesia has the fastest deforestation rate in the world, and the threats facing species like the orangutan are intensifying.

Thousands of miles away in Abingdon, the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) works to reverse the fortunes of the orangutans, their forest homes, and the other animals living there. In collaboration with Indonesian NGOs, SOS takes a holistic approach to orangutan conservation. This means tackling the causes of deforestation, as well as trying to cure the symptoms.

Orangutan habitat is sometimes chipped away a few acres at a time by rural communities who grow crops where the forest used to be. In other cases, forests are cleared on an industrial scale. Of the crops grown on Sumatra, the most familiar to us in the UK is palm oil. Palm oil is found in a wide range of products, from cosmetics to chocolate bars, so the global demand is huge. Wildlife cannot survive in oil palm plantations – Sumatra has four times as much land cultivated with oil palms as there is habitat for orangutans.

Orangutans spend their lives in the trees, so protecting and restoring their forest habitat is crucial. SOS works with Indonesian non-Governmental organisations to protect Sumatra’s last forests and restore damaged ecosystems. The health and prosperity of the people of Sumatra are also linked to the fate of the forests, so SOS works closely with local communities to develop conservation projects including forest restoration, and sustainable livelihoods like organic farming that offer a real alternative to the destruction of forests. SOS also supports the only active orangutan rescue team in Sumatra. As well as evacuating orangutans from dangerous situations and releasing them into safe forests, they tackle the causes of human-orangutan conflict, providing training so rural communities can protect their crops without harming wildlife.

One of the simplest ways you can help is to become a voice for orangutans: follow SOS online and share their news. The choices you make when you shop can have a real impact – look out for sustainable palm oil on ingredients lists and check for the FSC symbol on anything derived from wood. You can also donate to support the work SOS is doing on the ground or set yourself a fundraising challenge to raise money and awareness.

 For more information visit www.orangutans-sos.org

Dancing: Witness the fitness

Round & About

Health

Strictly star Ian Waite’s life was changed by the joy of dance and you can channel the same benefits thanks to FitSteps…

Best-known now for his previous appearances on Strictly Come Dancing, and more recently on It Takes Two with Zoe Ball, Ian grew up on the Whitley estate in south Reading.

Following his parents’ divorce when he was ten, friends suggested his dad try ballroom dancing as there were many single ladies there. He enjoyed himself, and soon enrolled Ian and his younger brother. Ian always had a competitive streak in what he did in sports such as badminton, and this he brought to competitive dancing and a new world opened up for him leading to him winning the European Championship aged 17. Now aged 47, Ian says he feels as fit as he has felt all his life. He says: “Dance is not only good for improving your physical self but remembering all the steps and moves keeps the brain active as well.”

Ian can testify to the physical side after touring with Oti Mobuse last year, and touring with Vincent Simone as The Ballroom Boys later this year. A few years ago, he teamed up with his former Strictly dance partner, Natalie Loew and swimmer Mark Foster to create FitSteps.

This is a dance workout combining the graceful steps of ballroom with the up-tempo steps of Latin to create fun-filled classes for all ages and abilities. “It’s so much fun that you don’t realise you’re getting fit!” adds Ian. He has many tales of people who have lost huge amounts of weight, including one who has lost almost four stone.

There are FitSteps classes across the UK including classes in Oxfordshire run by the friendly Debs. For more about her classes, please email or contact her on 07968 948007.

The “Joy of Dance” is something that completely changed Ian Waite’s life. Best-known now for his previous appearances on Strictly Come Dancing, and more recently on It Takes Two with Zoe Ball, Ian grew up on the Whitley estate in South Reading. Following his parents divorcing when he was ten, friends suggested his Dad try ballroom dancing as there were many single ladies there. He enjoyed himself, and soon enrolled Ian and his younger brother.

Ian always had a competitive streak in what he did in sports such as badminton, and this he brought to competitive dancing and a new world opened-up for him leading to him winning the European Championship aged seventeen. Now aged forty-seven Ian says he feels as fit as he has felt all his life, as he says; “Dance is not only good for improving your physical self but remembering all the steps and moves keeps the brain active as well”. Ian can testify to the physical side after touring with Oti Mobuse last year, and touring with Vincent Simone as “The Ballroom Boys” later this year.

A few years ago, he teamed up with his former Strictly dance partner, Natalie Loew and swimmer Mark Foster to create FitSteps. This is a dance workout combining the graceful steps of Ballroom with the up-tempo steps of Latin to create fun-filled classes where you don’t realise you are getting fit, Ian tells of one person who lost between around four stone.

For more information please go to www.fitsteps.co.uk.

Winter aches & pains?

Round & About

Health

Pharmacist Kevin Leivers from The Naked Pharmacy explains how to find effective natural relief for joint and muscle inflammation this winter

As the temperature drops both athletes and elderly people alike notice their muscles and joints ache more and are slower to recover from injury.

There are a number of great natural remedies for these problems at The Naked Pharmacy. Two stand-out herbal products that can be applied regularly to aching muscles and joints are Arnica Massage Balm and Copper Ointment. Both are effective for reducing rheumatic pain in addition to improving circulation.

We also recommend supplementing your diet with high-strength tumeric capsules. This is a proven, natural and low-risk solution for a number of conditions including arthritis and sporting injuries. The therapeutic benefits of turmeric are produced by a class of compounds in turmeric called curcuminoids.

For the turmeric to be effective it must contain the correct strength; a minimum of 360mg curcuminoids in each capsule. Secondly, it needs to be formulated to enable the curcuminoid active compounds to be absorbed well in the gut.

On its own, only a small amount of the curcuminoids in turmeric are absorbed into the blood. Adding piperine (black pepper) resolves this issue. When piperine is mixed with turmeric, the total curcuminoid absorption increases significantly.

A turmeric extract that contains the highest strength of curcuminoids will be the most effective compared with extracts containing only curcumin.

For more advice visit The Naked Pharmacy or to speak to a pharmacist  call 01483 685630.