Like most people I aim to eat healthily – I even have a slightly sticky Spiralizer lurking in the back of my cupboard – but soaking my own chia seeds on a Saturday night is just never going to happen. Thankfully it seems that the queens of eating clean have cottoned on to the fact not everyone has their macrobiotic quinoa lifestyle, and their new books promise easy, simple recipes, made with supermarket ingredients, in less than 30 minutes flat. Will a week of cooking like Gwyneth and co. turn me into a glossy-haired, glowy-skinned goddess? Or will I be left ravenous and ready to commit murder to get my hands on a Nandos? There’s only one way to find out…
Recipe 1: Madeleine Shaw’s Chicken Fajitas fromReady, Steady, Glow
Blogger, nutritionist and yoga teacher Madeleine Shaw has 200,000 followers on Instagram, counts Millie Mackintosh as a fan and has the kind of perfect wavy bronde hair that seems to be a prerequisite to be a healthy eating expert. Her first book, <Get the Glow> was a bestseller, and her new offering claims to make “healthy eating a breeze” and that cooking these recipes is “quicker than ordering a pizza”. Has she not heard of Deliveroo?
After fears of dining on courgetti for a week, “fajita night” seems too good to be true. And it is. Madeleine’s recipes contain no refined sugars or wheat, which means making the tortillas from scratch. Gulp.
The ingredients I need for the spicy chicken filling are pretty straight forward (I even opt for organic chicken, because that’s probably what Millie Mackintosh does), but DIY wraps require ground flaxseed and chickpea flour – not exactly storecupboard staples. I don’t even have a storecupboard. I manage to pick up some flaxseed from a health food shop but I end up going to three supermarkets looking for chickpea flour aka “gram flour”. I finally find it in my local corner shop, where the guy proudly heaves a 1kg bag off the dusty shelves for me. Er, thanks.
After <a lot> of chopping and mashing of the avocado – no wonder Shaw has such toned arms – the fajita filling is easy enough. Making the tortillas turns out to be just like cooking pancakes, but without any of the fun Nutella bit. The first tortilla is a disaster, and breaks when I flip it, the second is perfection. And then, that’s it. No more mixture. This recipe is for two so that’s one fajita each. As someone who normally has four or five fajitas, this is a blow. But I have to admit they are tastier and more textured than shop-bought wraps. Am I feeling the glow? Maybe a bit. But I did sneak in some extra chilli.
Total cost: £17.85 (for two, with ingredients left over)
Time taken: 30 minutes
Recipe 2: The Hemsley Sisters Curry Night Fish Curry from <Good + Simple>
Oh to be a Hemsley sister – with their bestselling cookbooks, smiley, spiralised life and perfectly co-ordinated stripey outfits. For <Good + Simple>, Jasmine and Melissa have “stripped back their principles to make eating well even simpler”. I pass over recipes like Green Goddess Noodle Salad (too, er, green) and anything involving courgetti, and attempt their fish curry instead. This looks good <and> simple, I think to myself. Famous last words.
In fairness to H+H, they do offer options, for example “250ml of bone broth or water”. Slaving over a steaming chicken carcass for six hours or turning on the tap? Ooh that’s a hard one. I find most of the ingredients in my local supermarket, although I can only get dried lemongrass stalks instead of fresh. First world problems.
Things don’t start well when my Nutribullet gets stuck blending the curry paste (I’m blaming the lemongrass husks) and I want to give up, but my boyfriend Sam saves the day by adding some olive oil to the mix. Hunger brings out the best in him. Things get messy when I attempt to crush the cherry tomatoes (I’m still finding seeds on my kitchen walls), and by now I can’t be bothered to make the “cauliflower rice” that the Hemsleys suggest as a side dish, and opt for bog standard basmati instead. Mess and time aside, this fish curry is a winner. It’s not exactly tastier than a takeaway (come on!) but it does feel a lot healthier and is surprisingly filling.
Total cost: £16.60 (for four)
Total time: 50 minutes
Recipe 3: Gwyneth Paltrow’s Seared Scallops with Watercress and Asparagus from <It’s All Easy: Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super-Busy Home Cook>
I feel a kinship with Gwyneth Paltrow. I don’t give my vagina a facial or have any children named after fruit, but I do like an expensive scented candle so I feel sorry for her when people make fun of Goop. This is Gwynnie’s fourth (fourth?!) cookbook, and features the Oscar-winning actress wearing olive green cashmere and carting a wooden crate of vegetables on the cover. It’s a great look. Apparently these recipes are “surprisingly tasty even though they have little or no sugar, are low in fat and most have no gluten”. This sounds like an oxymoron, but I’m up for the challenge.
I’m having friends over for dinner, and I am indeed a “super-busy home cook”, so I pick a recipe from Gwyneth’s section on cooking for unexpected guests. I’ve never tried to cook scallops before (and I still don’t know how to pronounce them), but according to Paltrow, they are “one of the easiest and quickest types of seafood to prepare”.
What’s not so easy is tracking down the ingredients. I can picture the face of the woman who works in Tesco Express when I ask her if they have any champagne vinegar, so I don’t even bother. Instead I substitute it for white wine vinegar because we can’t all be Hollywood Oscar-winners.
Things get worse when I go to my local fishmongers (yep, first time) to buy the scallops. After proudly asking for 16 diver scallops (I go with “scull-ops” but who knows) and watching him put the white marshmallowy pillows in a bag, he charges me £16. Wow. Oh Gwyneth. I’m beginning to see why so many people hate you.
The recipe instructs me to use a peeler to shave the asparagus spears. Have you ever used a potato peeler on a stringy piece of asparagus? “It’s ALL simple is it Gwynnie?” I think to myself, as I nearly slice my fingers to ribbons. You also add four tablespoons of butter to the pan, which seems a bit excessive (and un-Gwyneth-like).
The scallops are as delicious as you’d hope 16 quid’s worth of fish to be. The bed of watercress and asparagus is a bit vinegary. And I feel… totally starving. My guests love it. Until I have to tell them that this wasn’t just a starter.
I end up serving them some toast instead. Now that really is easy.
Total cost: £24 (for four) Toast not included
Total time: 30 minutes