WALK into The Hand And Flowers, Tom Kerridge’s two Michelin-starred pub in Marlow, and one of the first things you’ll see hanging on the wall is a pair of bronze cast trainers that used to belong to the man himself.
‘I’ve got a bit of a trainer fetish,’ he tells me, and this particular pair were ‘stolen’ by his staff and cast as a present for his 40th birthday. The significance of these shoes is considerable because it was hitting 40 that marked a turning point in his life, one that has seen him lose an amazing 12 stone, give up drinking and begin a healthier and happier decade. Now 44, he meets me to chat about his new weight-loss book, Lose Weight For Good.
A regular on our television screens, Tom is married to Beth, has a young son, Acey, and is, let’s face it, a bit of a national treasure. But, he says, things weren’t all rosy. ‘There was no health scare for me. We had two Michelin stars, the books were doing well, TV programmes were great and home life was fantastic — but there was a realisation.’ And turning 40 was a big one. He says: ‘I just knew I needed to change. And I do think that comes with an age. You get a realisation as you’re approaching 40 and you start thinking, “Where am I going to go now?” My mate describes 40 as half way to death!’
By giving up carbohydrates and alcohol — this worked for him and didn’t overly complicate his work life, he tells me — Tom shed a serious amount of weight. Lose Weight For Good features a fabulous array of recipes designed to reduce the calories in our diet without sacrificing flavour.
Tom recognises that diet food can be ‘bland and pretty boring’, and says this means people eating it are ‘much more likely to fall off the wagon and not lose the weight’, so the book aims to provide readers with delicious food that happens to be low in calories.
He recognises there are ‘loads of diets out there and they have worked for someone, otherwise they wouldn’t exist’ but low-calorie diets work for a broad scope of people, and he followed NHS guidelines on weight loss himself — something he recommends for anyone starting out on a similar programme.
‘I went with the NHS guidelines, using their online calculator to work out my BMI [body mass index],’ he tells me, ‘It then calculates the calories you can have each day.
‘The challenge when I started was that recipes for low-calorie food were pretty poor. People apologise for being on a diet, but that comes from low-cal food that has nothing exciting about it. It becomes mind-numbing and you look at it and just think, “How can I stay on this for 12 weeks?”’ And that’s where Tom’s book comes in — the recipes look enticing whether you’re on a diet or not.
Tom says: ‘The nice thing is they can work for a family of four, so you’re not cooking different things for everyone. It’s not a them-and-us situation, which also makes people less likely to succeed.’
And from the muffins and pancakes in the breakfast section to the prawn curry and chicken biriyani, few recipes sound resoundingly low calorie. There is even a Sweet Things chapter, that includes rice pudding and raspberries, coffee and chocolate custard pots and a delectable recipe for a courgette and cardamom cake.
What Tom has done is use his knowledge as a chef to create recipes that can appeal to everyone while combatting hunger. He says he particularly likes the recipe for buttermilk southern-style chicken, which is baked, rather than fried, ‘so you get those high-street flavours but it’s simple, clean and tasty. It feels like a treat.
‘Focus on the foods you can eat. Forget the foods you can’t’
‘And there is a one-layer lasagne where, instead of using a rich white sauce, you use a ricotta cheese. And you roast the mince first, so the texture goes nutty and crunchy but then it rehydrates in the liquid and becomes really delicious.’
Tom points out that staying organised also helps with dieting and outlines a list of items at the start of the book that could make it easier to stick to the diet. For example, to avoid getting caught on the motorway with nothing but fast-food options, buy a good flask and use his soup chapter.
Tom says: ‘The soups can be made beforehand and they freeze well. You have to make a bit of an effort, but none of the dishes are technically challenging or super-difficult.’ He explains his thought process, adding: ‘If you’re writing a recipe book for people to lose weight, some of them may not have ever cooked before,’ so he has aimed to keep things simple. ‘There’s a fine line between encouraging the chef techniques that can be used by people at home and making it possible for people to cook the recipes. This has to make sense. It should be everyday cooking for everyone.’
Sitting chatting to Tom, his instantly recognisable smile beaming across his face, it’s easy to see that losing so much weight has not only left him healthier, but also very happy.
He tells me he hasn’t lost any more weight in the past year but, instead, is focused on getting fitter and has been swimming or going to the gym every day.
‘It’s something I feel I’ve got a grip on now and, actually, I’m in a much better space,’ he says.
His advice if you’re still not sure about dieting? ‘Do your research, get yourself organised and get on it. So much is the mentality of it. Focus on the food you can eat and forget the foods you can’t, because if you think about the food you can’t eat, you’re upsetting yourself.
‘If you’re looking forward to your lunch or tea or breakfast, because it all tastes great, it’ll be a lot easier to lose weight.’
Recipes (below) taken from Lose Weight For Good by Tom Kerridge (Bloomsbury, £22, out now). You can see Tom at the Edinburgh Wellbeing festival on January 27, edinburghwellbeingfestival.com
Sticky pork chops
This recipe taps into everyone’s love of those all-American smoky flavours. It has a great barbecue-style glaze, but with much less added sugar. A fresh and crunchy slaw is the perfect foil for the sticky chops.
Calories: 420 per serving
■ 2 trimmed bone-in pork chops, i.e. all fat removed (250g each)
■ Olive oil spray
■ Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the barbecue sauce
■ 4 tbsp tomato ketchup
■ 1 tbsp maple syrup
■ 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
■ 1 tbsp English mustard
■ ½ tsp cayenne pepper
For the slaw
■ 100g red cabbage, finely shredded
■ 100g white cabbage, finely shredded
■ 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
■ 2 tbsp Greek yoghurt (0 per cent fat)
1. Preheat the oven to fan 240°C/gas 9. Line an oven tray with baking parchment.
2. Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat. Spray both sides of the chops with a few sprays of oil. When the griddle is smoking hot, add the chops and cook for 2 minutes each side or until well charred. Set aside on the lined oven tray.
3. For the barbecue sauce, mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl.
4. Coat the pork chops in the sauce, on both sides. Cook on the top shelf of the oven for 10 minutes or until cooked through.
5. Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the slaw and season with salt and pepper.
6. Remove the pork chops from the oven and run a cook’s blowtorch over them to blacken slightly. Serve with the crunchy slaw.
Apricot and cranberry muffins
Dried cranberries are one of my favourite ingredients because they have a fantastic level of acidity that helps cut through any sweetness. Using mashed bananas is a good butter replacement, keeping things creamy, while the orange adds a fresh, zesty flavour. The crunchy coconut topping provides a great contrasting finish.
Calories: 170 per muffin
■ 1 large, very ripe banana, peeled
■ 200ml skimmed milk
■ 3 tbsp sunflower oil
■ 2 large free-range eggs, beaten
■ Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
■ 250g self-raising flour
■ 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
■ 2 tbsp granulated sweetener
■ 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
■ ½ tsp ground ginger
■ 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped
■ 50g dried apricots, chopped
■ 30g dried cranberries
For the topping
■ 1 tbsp desiccated coconut
■ 1 tbsp rolled oats
1. Preheat the oven to fan 180°C/gas 4. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with large muffin cases.
2. In a bowl, mash the banana well with a fork. Add the milk, oil, eggs and orange zest. Measure out 4 tbsp of the orange juice and add to the bowl. Mix well.
3. In a separate large bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, sweetener, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, vanilla seeds and dried fruit. Add the banana mixture and mix until just combined.
4. Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and sprinkle the desiccated coconut and rolled oats on top. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the muffins are golden on top and firm to the touch.
5. Allow the muffins to cool a little on a wire rack, then eat while still warm. They will keep for up to 3 days in a tin and you can reheat them in an oven preheated to fan 160°C/gas 3 for 5 minutes.