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The medicinal chef on a mission

Dale Pinnock BSc (hons), PgDip (Nutr Med), also known as the medicinal chef, combines the science of nutrition with the culinary arts. His new book is called How to Cook Healthily.

What foods do you like to eat?

“When I am cooking for myself and busy working at home I cook certain staples such as lightly cooked greens or salad, sweet potato wedges and loads of humous. Perfect comfort food! When time allows I will get more creative in the kitchen. I go through phases – for example, I might be into Japanese- or Greek-influenced food. I always go for simple, wholesome foods.”

Do you shop in health stores?

“I live in the middle of nowhere so my shopping opportunities are limited, but I like to go to health stores when I can and will buy multivitamins, omega 3s, B vitamins and probiotics. Independent health stores are the only place to buy quality supplements. I also buy brown rice and dried pulses in bulk. I like to support independent businesses, so will go to an independent greengrocer, farm shop or local market.”

How do you feel about free-from foods?

“I don’t have any food intolerances and feel that a lot of the fetishism of certain free-from foods is claptrap. If you have an allergy or intolerance, of course avoid that food, but in general I don’t agree with saying that if everyone avoids a certain ingredient they will be healthier. Often if you choose something without a certain ingredient because you think it will be healthier, and read the label – you will find a list that reads like a school chemistry set! So it is not necessarily a healthy food. I think it is better to go for quality foods with no rubbish in them.”

Tell us about your new book

“How to Cook Healthily is basically a ‘how to’ book. These kinds of books have been written for conventional cookery by big name chefs, but never for healthy food. So I try to help people with questions they might have like: ‘how do I start to eat better’, ‘what ingredients or techniques should I use’, ‘what do I do with ingredients I haven’t used before’. It’s all about getting back to the basics of real food and good ingredients. I say real food doesn’t contain ingredients – it is real ingredients. For example, I advise people going to a supermarket to shop around the edge where the fruit and veg and deli tend to be, because the rubbish in brightly coloured boxes tends to be in the middle.”

Do you do much exercise?

“When the weather is bad I tend to do home-based exercises such as Focus T25 by Sean T. I don’t like going to the gym when it is too busy, but might go at 7am when there are less people there. I live on the edge of a nature reserve and will often walk 3-4km there. I feel better when I exercise.”

You come to Ireland quite often, don’t you?

“Yes, I do cookery demos for Ireland AM and do radio interviews. I have found that the enthusiasm for health and nutrition in Ireland is staggering. I would relocate to Ireland tomorrow if I could – it is breathtaking.”

So, any exciting projects coming up?

“I am filming a new ITV series on nutrition starting in March and opening a restaurant in London in April.”

How to Cook Healthily is published by Quadrille

Interview by Lucy Taylor. Photograph: Issy Croker

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