Lean For Life: How Louise Parker has changed healthy eating
Personal trainer Louise Parker has helped footballers, movie stars and CEOs get in shape. Actress Emma Thompson even admitted that she dropped two dress sizes by following her programme. While Louise, 41, has been in the fitness industry for over two decades, her profile went somewhat stratospheric last year when her debut book, The Louise Parker Method: Lean for Life (£20, Mitchell Beazley) hit shelves.
Her training programme has four main points: eating well, living well, working out wisely and positive thinking. Now her new book The Louise Parker Method: Lean for Life Cookbook (£20, Mitchell Beazley) takes eating healthily to a whole new level. It contains dozens of simple and delicious recipes – from pancakes and roast lamb to citrus salads.
NO BAD DIETS
‘The point of this book is to inspire healthy cooking,’ she says when Balance catches her on an early-morning phone call. ‘I don’t believe in bad food, just bad diets. Nothing is off limits. Few people have time to whip up a complicated meal. I get home between 6-9pm most nights, so I want a dinner I can make in minutes. But I’ve also included recipes for when you’ve got guests or you have a bit more time, like the ones on these pages.’
Now a London resident, Louise has lived in Hong Kong and Thailand and was brought up on a farm in Africa, and these experiences have influenced her cooking.
OFF THE LAND
‘I’m no chef,’ she admits. ‘But because I grew up in the middle of nowhere – my father was a local doctor and my mother a farmer – our food was fresh off the land and I’d hang out with Mum cooking in the kitchen. I loved it.’
Cooking is now as much a staple in Louise’s own family home, where she splits food-shopping chores with husband Paul and makes sure their children (Sophie, nine, Millie, seven, and CoCo, three) cook something at least once a week… ‘Even if it’s just learning to do an omelette.’
Louise’s whole approach is summed up as 70-30. ‘I think 70% of your diet should be bang-on,’ she says, ‘and the rest… whatever. We have chocs in my cupboard and I eat desserts in restaurants – but I balance it out. I go for eggs, meat, fish and seasonal veg. It’s not rocket science.’
SALMON & ARTICHOKE BAKE
Fresh artichokes are one of my favourite foods and, as a child, I loved eating my dad’s home-grown ones… I’d sit on his lap, peeling away the leaves and carving out the heart like a surgeon. As lovely as they are when fresh, they’re a faff, so these days I use
• A little olive oil
• 400g jarred artichoke hearts in oil
• 400g asparagus spears
• 4 x 150g salmon fillets
• 100ml dry white wine
• 2tbsp flaked almonds, chopped
• 1tsp pesto
• ½tsp finely grated unwaxed lemon zest
• Sea salt and black pepper
• 1 lemon or orange, plus wedges to serve
• Handful of dill, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7. Lightly oil a baking tray and make a layer of the artichoke hearts and asparagus. Place the salmon, skin side down, on top and pour in the white wine.
2. Mix the almonds with the pesto and lemon zest. Spread a layer of this mixture on top of each salmon fillet and bake for 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Season with sea salt and pepper.
3. To finish, squeeze the juice from the lemon or orange over the tray, sprinkle with dill, and serve with the fruit wedges.
CHICKEN WITH GARLIC
There are many versions of this French classic, and I’ve leaned it out as much as I can while ensuring it retains its rich, comforting deliciousness. And don’t be put off by the large amount of garlic.
• 2tbsp olive oil
• 8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
• 1 large onion, finely chopped
• 1 celery stick, finely chopped
• 1 carrot, finely chopped
• 40–50 garlic cloves, skin on
• 100ml dry white wine
• 100ml Cognac or brandy
• 3 thyme sprigs
• Sea salt and black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas 3.
Heat 1tbsp of the oil in a casserole dish over a medium heat and brown the chicken thighs on all sides, giving them a good wiggle around in order to prevent them sticking to the dish.
2. Remove the chicken from the dish and sweat the onion, celery and carrot in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil until the onion is nicely softened.
3. Return the chicken to the dish with all the garlic cloves – don’t panic! – and add the wine, Cognac and thyme sprigs. Season. Give it a gentle stir, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the dish. Pop in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the chicken just falls off the bone. Check the seasoning; adjust if necessary.
4. Serve in large bowls on a bed of steamed spinach or creamed cauliflower.
HERBED RACK OF LAMB WITH HEIRLOOM SALAD
There are endless toppings for a rack of lamb, but this one with a herb-seasoned crust is my favourite.
• Crust of 1 slice of wholemeal bread
• Small bunch flat-leaf parsley
• Leaves from a small bunch of mint
• Leaves from 1 rosemary sprig
• Leaves from 1 thyme sprig
• 1tbsp olive oil
• 50g finely grated Parmesan cheese
• 1 × 8-rib rack of lamb
For the salad
• 400g green or yellow and red or orange heirloom tomatoes, chopped
• Bunch of mint, finely chopped
• Bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
• Cucumber, deseeded and sliced
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 100g crumbled feta cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 240°C/Gas 9. Throw main ingredients apart from the lamb in a blender and whizz for 1 minute. Season to taste.
2. Put the lamb in a roasting dish, cover with this herb crust. Place in the oven, reducing the temperature to 190°C/Gas 5 and cook for 20 minutes (pink) or 30 minutes (medium).
3. Meanwhile, prepare the salad by combining tomatoes, herbs and cucumber and dress with lemon juice and crumbled feta cheese.
4. Remove the lamb from the oven; rest for 10 minutes. Carve between the ribs. Serve with the salad.
SIMPLE AND HEALTHY
The Louise Parker Method: Lean For Life The Cookbook (£20, Mitchell Beazley) is out now
Read more: Joe Wicks on the small changes that will make a big difference