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A masterclass in healthy eating from Britain's most respected chef

April 3, 2012
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In the heart of the Oxfordshire country lies a haven of culinary delight helmed by Raymond Blanc. Entitled Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, the sprawling estate encompasses a 32-room hotel, two-Michelin starred restaurant – both contained inside a honey-hued 15th century manor house - and a wonderful cookery school. HELLO! Online had the pleasure of taking a nutrition course at the school, headed up by chef Mark Peregrine – who was personally tutored by Raymond on all aspects of his haute cuisine for five years.

The course endeavours to demonstrate how simple cooking skills can enhance both the enjoyment and the nutritional content of the food. We were delighted to discover that it is entirely possible to eat healthily without having to munch your way through heaps of rice cakes and mounds of lettuce leaves. Hooray!Nutritionist Natalia Traxel, who is also Raymond’s fiancée, was on hand to further enhance our knowledge of the links between eating healthily and the effect it has on your body, as well as to dispel several food myths. Whilst cooking Poached egg with asparagus and spinach (see gallery for photos and full detailed recipes), we deconstructed the myth that ‘eating too many eggs will raise your cholesterol’. Natalia explained that although egg yolks do indeed contain cholesterol, it is dietary cholesterol and only has a small influence on your blood cholesterol levels compared with the saturated and trans fats in your diet. Eggs are a really good source of protein, vitamin B12 and monounsaturated fat. Eating four or five eggs a week is highly unlikely to harm your health.

We also discovered that asparagus is an antioxidant and can actually help cholesterol levels. Need we say any more?! Next we moved on to the highly underrated Mackerel. It is one of the tastiest fishes available and is packed full of protein and Omega 3. Natalia suggests keeping our diets rich in Omega 3 – a fatty acid that boasts a multitude of health benefits including the increase in immune function and prevention of cardiovascular disease, it’s no wonder she swears by it. Poached chicken was up next. A great source of protein, chicken is really beneficial for your hair and nails.

This was made simply with a small amount of butter, water and the flavour of the vegetables – no stock added. Mark explained that if the vegetables are fresh and in season, the natural flavours should speak for themselves. And they did. Lastly, we had a treat to round off the day. Albeit a fairly healthy treat – Crème caramel made with milk instead of cream. The amount of calories is significantly decreased when cream is swapped for milk but the flavour is not detracted whatsoever – we promise! Full to the brim, we left Le Manoir – laden down with a self-made loaf of granary bread and several dark chocolate mousses - vowing to eat as healthily as possible, use natural ingredients, and stay away from anything processed. We hope we have convinced you to do the same - the delicious recipes provided may help!

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