Monika’s Favourite Cookbooks
Monika – Chiropractor Bristol and Cheltenham, talks through her favourite cookbooks.
As a chiropractor, health and food and exercise are very important to me and my partner. When I’m not at work as a chiropractor, I have many other hobbies that take up a lot of my free time. Since moving to Bristol, I seem to take up new hobbies each year, however, one thing that has always been a passion of mine is cooking. Having grown up in a Polish household, food and cooking for others is a huge part of our culture and tradition. When trying to explain this to any of my non-Polish friends, I tell the story of when I took my fiancé to Poland for the first time and we turned up unexpectedly at my grandmother's home. I’ll mention at this point that she lived alone. She kept apologising that she hadn’t prepared any food and if she had known, she would have prepared us some food. She then made us (there were 6 of us including cousins) all sit down and we had a 2 course meal and dessert. My partner turned to me, confused, and said, “Did I misunderstand? Did you not say that she apologised for not having any food, yet she’s feeding all 6 of us?”. I laughed, as a 2 course meal by “Polish standards” is not being prepared, but I hadn’t ever considered this was strange. My partner now knows that when we visit family in Poland to pack his stretchy trousers because we always come back a couple of kilos heavier.
I grew up eating predominantly Polish food. It’s normal for Polish children to be involved in learning how to cook from a young age, but as a Polish immigrant trying to integrate into the UK, I started to take an interest in other cuisines. I was really lucky to grow up in a multicultural area of North London where most of my school friends were from the Caribbean. I was very interested in trying foods that I had never seen or had before and started watching my friend’s parents cook things like plantain and use marinades on meats. Our neighbour was from Bangladesh, and she would always cook amazing fish curries and she taught me which spices and herbs to use to give a greater depth of flavour.
By the time I reached my 20s, I would cook all sorts of different types of food based on what I had picked up and learnt along the way. Whilst studying to be a chiropractor, I become more educated about nutrition and health. This led to me getting a health check and being shocked to learn that I had high cholesterol. I had always thought that I had a healthy diet but my Polish ways of eating meat with every meal as well as a pretty decent sugar addiction to chocolate and cakes had caught up with me by my mid 20s. It just shows that even though I had always been slim, this is not necessarily an indicator of health.
I decided enough was enough and I did even more research about nutrition, cholesterol and healthy eating. The great thing about all of this was that thankfully I love cooking, so much so, I saw this as a great opportunity to buy some more cookbooks and start a new way of eating. I don’t believe in diets as you can’t maintain it long term. So instead I wanted to learn recipes that were healthy, tasty and you could actually enjoy (I’m really not a kale smoothie type of person). I also count macros as a way of keeping on top of my calorie intake so I need to know exactly how much, and what I’m eating. After a lot of research, I decided that I would eat predominantly vegetarian meals, vegan when possible, and have meat once or twice a week at most. I still do have treats but try and only have them once a week or on special occasions.
So here are my favourite go-to cookbooks in my kitchen right now, that I currently use:
1. Grains Are Good, by Ghillie James
This is my number 1 “go to” book. Everyone knows that grains are incredibly healthy, but feel overwhelmed with knowing how to cook them. Trust me when I say this book gives you easy recipes that are so tasty! The book is split into firstly an introduction about types of grains and nutritional values before giving you recipes for breakfast, soups, lunches, dinners, salads and even desserts. You can easily swap out meat for some of them if you are vegetarian or vegan.
2. True Roots, by Kristin Cavallari
I love this book as its gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free. All the recipes are very simple to follow and they don’t compromise flavour. You will be surprised at what a “crowd pleaser” a lot of these recipes are. Bonus – it has a drinks section so now you can have some (slightly less) “guilt-free” cocktails.
3. Fit Gurl Mel, The Total- Body Turnaround Program, by Melissa Alcantara
Ok, so not technically a cookbook, however, I had to include this book. Melissa Alcantara is a personal trainer and Instagram influencer who turned her life around from somebody whose daily diet was a coffee with cream and a cigarette to a total health guru. Although marketed mainly towards women, this is a great book for anyone who wants to completely change their poor diet and exercise habits with a 6 month exercise programme and nutritional guidance. The great thing about this book which separates it from all these other turnaround books, is she teaches you about nutrition, meal prep, and how to make changes that mean you will eat healthily for the rest of your life, not just a 6 month crash diet. She doesn’t actually give you a 6 month diet programme to follow (she knows diets don’t work), instead, she educates you so that you can make long-lasting lifestyle changes. It’s 80% an exercise book, but she has some great recipes in there too to help you along the way. They’re fresh, tasty and the total opposite to boring meal prep. You can also check out on her Instagram to get more of an idea about what her book and training is about – @ FitGurlMel
4. The Quick Roasting Tin, by Rukmini Iyer
The best book for quick, easy, no fuss meals. Vegetarians and meat options available. I love this one because you chop everything up, chuck it in a roasting and tin et voilà! Your food is ready 30 minutes later. What’s not to love about that? She’s also got a range of other Roasting Tin books including The Green Roasting Tin for a completely vegetarian approach.
5. VEG, by Jamie Oliver
Another great book by Jamie Oliver. Like his other cookbooks, I love the design of the book which makes it easy to follow and it’s filled with great photographs of the food. It’s by far the thickest vegetarian cookbook I’ve got so you’re spoilt for choice with recipes. Jamie Oliver has also put the nutritional value of each meal at the bottom of the page which makes it great for macro tracking. However, it does make you realise that a high percentage of his recipes are incredibly high in fat. So whilst very tasty, and the sort of meals that would convince any carnivore to switch to a veggie way of eating, please don’t be fooled into thinking that because it’s vegetarian, it’s healthy. These recipes are my treat day and “cooking to impress” go-tos!
6. Salads, Over 60 Satisfying Salads for Lunch and Dinner, by Sue Quinn
I love salad. I have it every day and for me, there’s nothing better than combining different fresh vegetables together. Sometimes though you can get in a bit of a rut and make the same ones. This book is great as it has so many different ideas for salads.