Back to basics with James Duigan
Supermodel Elle Macpherson and actor Emilia Clarke are among those he trains; he has written eight bestselling books on nutrition and exercise and founded the renowned Bodyism gyms, dotted around the world from Notting Hill to the Maldives. So how is James Duigan’s latest book, Blueprint for Health (£14.99, Pavilion Books), any different from the last?
‘Every book I’ve written gets better,’ James, 42, says over the phone from Adelaide, where he is visiting family and launching a food store. Then he has a stopover in the US to do a talk on fitness before heading back to the UK for the birth of his third child with wife Christiane, 33. Just a typical week, then.
‘In this book we’ve identified the four pillars of health that are mindset, movement, nutrition and sleep,’ James says. ‘If you get these right you give yourself a chance of living a long healthy and happy life. It’s pretty simple.’
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
James both embraces and is sceptical of social media. He and Christiane, with 81,000 followers on Instagram, know the power of self-promotion, but he worries about false information. ‘People see stick thin models all over the internet and think if they just eat gluten-free they’ll get those bodies when it’s just not the case.’ Equally, James says we should be wary about the high-protein diets.
‘The book isn’t high protein, it’s sufficient protein,’ he explains. ‘Many diets are protein-deficient. So lots of people I talk to have cornflakes for breakfast, a Marmite sandwich for lunch and then vegetable soup for dinner and think they’re being healthy.
‘But now more people understand what it takes to nourish themselves which, of course, is a decent amount of protein.’
But what, specifically, should we be eating? ‘Lots of fresh vegetables!’ says James. ‘Get stuff that’s not processed. Buy a chicken to roast, go to the fish counter to see what fish is looking good. If you can afford organic, great, if not, it doesn’t matter. Do what you can with what you’ve got. You don’t need to eat protein every meal but have some form of it every day.’
KEEP IT SIMPLE
James’ book contains dozens of recipes he and Christiane like to cook up every week and meals he’s discovered during his travels. Between curries and smoothies, though, his favourite meal of all is as simple as they come.
‘Simple is always best,’ he says. ‘Baked chicken thighs: You put them in the oven with some Italian herbs, they’re ready in 25 minutes. In the meantime, steam some veggies and throw them on a plate with pesto on top. It’s delicious, cheaper than most fast food, protein-rich and I don’t feel for one second I’m missing out on anything.’
BRUNCHY BAKED EGGS (see above)
‘This is the perfect dish for a weekend brunch – it tastes delicious and looks great. Bear in mind it’s near impossible to get all the eggs baked to the same level – the ones in the middle will be runny and the ones at the edge crispy.’
You will need
• 280g fresh spinach
• 1tbsp olive oil or butter
• 1 small white onion, finely diced
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed
• 140g mushrooms, chopped
• 3tbsp single/light cream
• A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (a little goes a long way)
• ¼tsp salt; ¼tsp ground black pepper
• 4 large, free-range eggs
• 1tbsp grated Parmesan or a sprinkling of feta (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Cook the spinach in a small pot of boiling water until just wilted. This should only take 2 minutes.
2. Drain and, once cool, squeeze the liquid out of it and roughly chop.
3. Heat the butter or oil over a medium heat in an ovenproof frying pan/skillet and sauté onion for 3 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
4. Add the mushrooms and stir, allowing the mix to cook for a further 3 minutes.
5. Add in the drained, chopped spinach, the cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir everything together and let the flavours distribute evenly while bringing to a simmer for 1-2 minutes.
6. Take the pan off the heat and make four indentations in the mixture with the back of a big spoon.
7. Crack an egg into each dent, sprinkle with salt and pepper and put the pan in your oven. Leave it to cook for about 6 minutes but check regularly. You want the whites to set but the yolks to be runny. If the egg whites still look raw, give them another 2 minutes.
8. Take the dish out and sprinkle on the cheese, if desired. Serve up immediately with buttered slices of toast, or enjoy on its own!
LEFTOVER ROAST CHICKEN PHO
‘I always make this after we’ve had a roast, because it’s a delicious way of using up leftovers. The tangy flavours of the tamari and brown-rice miso are so tasty.’
You will need
• 1 whole organic (optional) corn-fed, free-range chicken carcass
• 500ml organic (optional) chicken stock
• 1 whole red chilli
• Thumb of fresh root ginger, grated
• 1 lemongrass stalk, bashed
• 1tbsp tamari
• 1tbsp organic (optional) apple cider vinegar
• 1tbsp brown-rice miso paste
• 1tbsp fish sauce
• 225g buckwheat soba noodles
• 150g sugar snap peas
• 200g mushrooms, sliced
• 4tbsp spring onions/scallions, thinly sliced
• 4tbsp fresh coriander/cilantro, roughly chopped, to garnish
1. In a large stockpot, combine the chicken carcass with the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat for at least an hour. Remove from the heat. The remaining chicken meat should have fallen off the bone. Strain and discard the bones, returning the meat to the reserved liquid. Put back over a low heat and add the chilli, ginger, lemongrass, tamari, vinegar, brown-rice miso and fish sauce. Simmer while you prepare the soba noodles.
2. Cook the soba noodles according to the packet instructions, keeping them on the al dente side. When they are cooked, rinse them immediately with cold water. This will prevent them getting soggy.
3. Add the sugar snap peas and mushrooms to the stockpot and simmer for 15 minutes.
4. To serve, distribute the soba noodles into four soup bowls and top with ladles of the stock.
5. Garnish with spring onions/scallions and fresh coriander/cilantro.
THE PERFECT BURGER
‘There are three secrets to the perfect burger. The first is to ensure the garlic and onion are really finely chopped, so they mix well with the meat and cook through properly. The second is to ensure your mixture isn’t too wet, or the burgers won’t hold together. When adding the egg, pour in half and mix with your hands; if the mixture feels like it will come together and form nice patties, leave the other half of the whisked egg out. The third is to ensure you have properly seasoned the raw mince for fantastic flavour. Now, go on, steal my secrets and make a damn tasty burger!’
You will need
• 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
• Handful of red onion, finely chopped
• Handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
• 500g minced/ground lamb
• ½tsp salt; ½tsp ground black pepper
• ½tbsp Dijon or wholegrain mustard
• 1 free-range egg, beaten
• ½tbsp olive oil
1. Add the minced garlic, onion and parsley to a bowl with the meat. Season meat with the salt and black pepper.
2. Add the mustard and pour in half the beaten egg. Mix it all together with your hands and judge whether the mix could do with more egg or if it will form firm burger patties without it.
3. Form the mixture into four large burger patties or six smaller ones (these will cook more quickly).
4. Heat up a large frying pan/skillet over a high heat and, once hot, add the oil. Let it get hot (this will take 1-2 minutes).
5. Add the burgers to the pan. You should hear a sizzle when you do this. If not, the pan isn’t hot enough and the burgers will taste bland. Sear the burgers for about 4 minutes on each side. Test the meat with your finger; it should feel firm and a little springy to the touch for medium ‘doneness’. You could finish them in a hot oven if you like your meat well done, but I think this dries them out and ruins the texture.
6. Take off the heat and leave to rest for 1-2 minutes before serving; this allows all the juices to run back into the middle of the burger, keeping it juicy.
POWERING UP WITH PROTEIN
If taking a leaf out of James Duigan’s book and trying to up your protein intake, these restaurants will make it easy when you’re out and about. Start your day with nutrient-dense baked eggs and finish with a well sourced piece of steak – tofu, tuna or beef, says Stacey Smith
Dayrooms Cafe, Notting Hill & Holborn
Boutique womenswear brand The Dayrooms has turned its Aussie ideas to food, looking to Melbourne for inspiration.
You’ll find bountiful bowls of salads, plant and meat-based proteins plus sunshine filled brunch options. The Baja prawn corn tacos provide a serious flavour injection with slaw, avocado, pineapple salsa, lime crème fraiche and jalapeño sauce.
Café manager Caroline Viera describes the menu as ‘…healthy, but with also quite a few naughty treats as we all know life is about balance!’ Here, here.
Andi’s, Stoke Newington
Great British Menu judge Andi Oliver is also the proud owner of this charming neighbourhood restaurant. Get your day off to a flying start with a protein hit from her mix and match baked eggs.
Start by choosing a base – green herb, chipotle and roast tomato or roast garlic and onion cream – before adding your choice of toppings to the Burford Browns. There are choices to suit every palette.
With a wisteria strewn garden, this welcoming all-day spot is one you’ll want to keep to yourself.
Timmy Green, Victoria
Located in the new Nova foodie hub in Victoria, Timmy Green is an all-day Australian restaurant focusing on grass-fed, slow-reared steaks.
Supplied by renowned butcher (and fellow Aussie) Nathan Mills of The Butchery, the beef is sourced from small farms in the south of England. Aside from the beef you’ll also find tuna steak, and fire roasted aubergine.
Featuring beautiful marble and bronze touches across two floors, there’s also a large outdoor area for catching the last of the summer rays.
Organic Hemp Protein+ (Linwoods, £9.99)
Plant-based protein with flaxseed for a naturally great smoothie.
Traditional Organic Beef Broth (Ossa, £5.25)
Made using beef bones from animals grass fed to organic standards.
Organic Extra Firm Tofu (Tofoo Co, £2)
Handmade to a traditional Japanese recipe to be so much tastier.
Nibble Protein Bites (Nibble, £2.39)
To eat on the run. Toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds with crunchy protein crisps.
Read more: The protein products you need in your life