It’s fair to say then when I told colleagues that I would be eating like Gwyneth for a week, the response was less than supportive.
The phrase “open derision” springs to mind.
Gwyneth has a reputation for being a bit kooky when it comes to food. But what the heck? I found her latest book on sale in Waterstone’s, and I was sorely in need of motivation to cook more.
“It’s All Easy” promises delicious weekday recipes for the super-busy home cook. It had to be worth a try, right?
Step one in Eating Like Gwyneth is a terrifying level of shopping. I planned out a week’s meals, looking for recipes with common ingredients. With a small household like ours, I didn’t want to end up with lots of waste.
Some of the ingredients were very familiar – chicken, eggs, cheese, vegetables, spices, noodles. Others were a bit more specialist. I wasn’t sure what Tamari and Kimchi even were. This would also be my first taste of jackfruit. I had to invest in various vinegars, oils, sauces and mixes that weren’t already in my store cupboard.
The only store that sold everything I needed was Waitrose (and even that didn’t stock Kimchi, which I bought from a Korean food store online). The cost for a week’s food was £80, but it would have been £40 without all the store cupboard buys.
Eating like Gwyneth is all very well if you’re a grown-up 20-something like me (go with it) – but what about Flea?
I decided to break her into our new routine with this fried egg sandwich.
The recipe involves topping a slice of toasted bread with aioli (garlic mayo, to all intents and purposes), then adding rocket leaves, a rasher of bacon, then a fried egg. In what is surely a MASTER STROKE of cooking genius, Gwyneth recommends frying your egg in a hot pan, directly on top of a small pile of grated gruyere cheese, which melts and turns delicious and crispy.
The recipe was a triumph, and kid-approved to boot. Bravo, Gwyneth. Bravo.
A lot of the breakfast recipes in It’s All Easy involve acai or overnight oats, neither of which I consider to be fit for human consumption.
I usually eat porridge or toast with Marmite for breakfast, but decided to try the Blueberry Granola Parfait – in a glass, layer yoghurt (I used 0% Greek) with low-sugar organic (naturally) granola, fresh berries and honey. I cheated a bit here using frozen berries that I zapped in the microwave for 20 seconds, and it seemed to work perfectly well.
I loved this breakfast so much that it’s my go-to option when I can’t be bothered to make porridge (so, about three times a week). It honestly is delicious enough that you could easily serve it as dessert, or a snack.
During my week of Gwyneth-ness, I alternated between the Moroccan chicken wraps and Gwyneth’s chicken salad for lunch, with leftovers from dinner on the other days.
Eating like Gwyneth is a lot easier if you pop a couple of chicken breasts into the oven while you’re preparing dinner. Lunch prep is a lot quicker if your meat is already cooked and prepped. And using frozen packets of ready-chopped herbs from Waitrose really cuts down on prep time (as well as saving waste).
To make the wraps, I mixed chopped chicken with celery, spring onions, coriander, cumin, cinnamon and yoghurt. Gwyneth uses Vegenaise and something called agave nectar rather than yoghurt, but Ocado doesn’t stock either of those things, so I had to improvise.
The chicken mix is spooned into a lettuce leaf and rolled into a wrap. I know Gwyneth is smart because I never tried this before, but it TOTALLY stops a soggy wrap lunchtime tragedy. Thanks, G.
The salad is simple compared to my usual go-to salad – scatter chopped lettuce on the bottom of your take-away container, then add strips of peppers, chick peas, chicken, tomatoes (scattered with basil and salt), green beans and red onion. I skipped the anchovies (ugh) but used the recipe for a red wine and mustard dressing, which you drizzle over at the last moment. It’s really fresh, and looks pretty to boot. Flea loved this one, and you can switch the chicken for tuna or feta cheese, if you prefer.
Gwyneth’s book has a chapter on comfort food and we couldn’t decide which to try.
The chicken enchilada recipe looks AMAZING, but we tried the Cauliflower Mac and Cheese to start with. Actually this recipe will be familiar if you regularly make mac and cheese or cauliflower and cheese, it’s just a combo of them both. It’s not Insta-pretty, but it’s pretty good.
On evenings where Flea had eaten early, I cooked Gwyneth’s piccata chicken served with one of the cauliflower recipes as a side (the kimchi cauliflower fried rice is awesome if you like spicy). It’s fairly simple, just cooking chicken breast with parsley, lemon and capers – and can be done and dusted in 20 minutes.
When I hit my weekly limit of cauliflower, I added some oven chips. I know. I suspect Eating Like Gwyneth does not involve McCain Crinkle Cut Home Fries.
For me, though, the best recipe – worth the price of the book by itself – is Gwyneth’s chicken and zucchini noodle pho. It’s a pho that uses spiralised courgette in place of rice noodles. Buy your courgette ready noodled from the supermarket, and this dish takes 25 minutes to make, with very little prep.
The pho broth is chicken stock cooked with a chicken breast, garlic, ginger and coriander. Once cooked through, remove the chicken, and shred it. Add maple syrup, tamari (it’s a variety of soy sauce, so use whatever you have to hand) and sliced onion to the broth, then pour over the chicken and ‘noodles’ with a sprinkle of sliced jalapeños to serve.
It’s fresh and healthy but still really comforting – and if you cook a big pan, the broth can be used up for lunch the next day without the chicken.
Whatever you think about Gwyneth, It’s All Easy is a fantastic cook book.
It’s always good to try a bunch of new recipes. I found the idea of having a week of cooking from one book was a good way of getting myself to try things I wouldn’t normally eat.
Not all the recipes were winners. Gwyneth’s version of pasta Cacio e Pepe using courgette noodles with parmesan is tasty but looked enough like cat sick for Flea to turn her nose up. And I’m not sure the 30 minutes it took to make whipped cream out of coconut milk were quite justified by the results.
Some of the ingredients are quite specific but if you’re flexible and happy to make substitutions where needed, I don’t think that’s a big problem.
The key to success in eating like Gwyneth Paltrow, I think, is judicious cheating. I used frozen herbs and ready-made mayo, noodles and the like. But there was enough fresh food and everything felt really nutritious that I still got that glow of smugness that comes from knowing you’re not eating trash food.
After a week of Eating Like Gwyneth, I’m not sure I had quite achieved the Gwyneth glow (although I did lose 4lb). But I DID discover some new recipes that I now eat regularly. I liked that having an ‘experiment’ encouraged Flea to try foods that were completely new to her – no easy feat, usually.
Would you ever be tempted to eat like Gwyneth? Or do you have a top tip for getting out of a cooking rut?