Dieting is a divisive subject, not least with the current debate surrounding clean eating, but chef Tom Kerridge is open-minded.
The cheerful TV foodie has lost 11st over the course of three years on his self-devised regime, bidding bye-bye to big boozy sessions with his ‘naughty boy chef mates’, exercising daily and skipping certain types of carbohydrates like potatoes and rice, in favour of high-protein food like meat and eggs, as well as plenty of leafy greens.
Now, he’s sharing his recipes with the world in his latest cookbook, Tom Kerridge’s Dopamine Diet: My Low-Carb, Stay-Happy Way To Lose Weight.
“There are so many different diets and so many things that appeal to so many different people,” he says, in his distinctive Gloucestershire burr. “This diet is high-protein led, and might not suit somebody else.
“The key to it is finding the one that suits you,” adds the 43-year-old. “That’s really important. Fitness bloggers, people into eating raw food – it’s great because it takes all sorts. The idea of eating loads of raw food; I couldn’t stay on that for three years but there are other people who could, and there are people who couldn’t stay on what I do for three years.”
The fact he was able to stick to his diet – the first he’s ever tried – for so long was partly because it embraces an unlikely snack.
“Pork scratchings contain no carbohydrate – they’re all protein,” he explains with a chuckle. “I’ve lost the best part of 11-stone while eating pork scratchings. That’s got to be the perfect diet, surely!”
At over 6ft, Kerridge, who made his name after winning The Great British Menu in 2011, made a pact with himself to become healthier before reaching his 40th birthday.
But is it harder for men to admit they want to lose weight?
“It’s not hard… There are more blokes like me – 40 years old, fat and bald – there’s plenty of us around, more than there are 40-year-old, six-pack, chiselled-jaw geezers,” he reasons.
“You think it’s hard to say to your peer group, ‘I’m going on a diet’, but it’s just that first step because, actually, all your best mates become your biggest support system.
“There are more of them that will embrace and understand it, and probably join you on the journey than you think. If I can do it, anyone can do it. I’m no different to anybody else. I just decided I needed to do something, and that’s the difference.”
Losing weight has changed his life in all sorts of ways, not least because he says he has energy to burn.
And while he’s soon to be seen in a new food BBC food series, the chef, who contributed to Bake Off’s spin-off show, The Great British Bake Off: Creme de la Creme, rules out joining Paul Hollywood on the new series for Channel 4.
“For me, I love working with the BBC,” says Kerridge, who owns the Hand & Flowers pub in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, with his sculptor wife Beth. “I’m very happy working with them. I love what the BBC stand for and I love working for them, so at this point, I wouldn’t.”
Closer to home, he says his new lifestyle has made adjusting to being a father to 14-month-old son Acey easier, and he and Beth have made a pact not to work on Sundays.
“Being a dad helps you keep focused on staying healthy. You’re consciously aware of what you’re eating and what you’re doing, because although I don’t mind coming last in the sports day race, I want to be just last – I don’t want to be miles left behind!” says Kerridge.
“In fact, actually that’s not true – I want to win it!”
Inspired? Here are three tasty meals from Kerridge’s new book to try at home…
Lamb shank hot pot
Vegetable oil, for cooking
4 lamb shanks (about 200g each), French trimmed (get your butcher to do this for you)
6 small onions, halved
1 garlic bulb (about 8-12 cloves), peeled and sliced
1 large swede, peeled and diced
150g crumbled goat’s cheese
1tbsp cracked black pepper
2tsp thyme leaves
500ml lamb stock
4 large turnips (about 200g each), peeled and thinly sliced
50g butter, diced
Heat a good splash of oil in a large flameproof casserole over a medium-high heat. Season the lamb shanks with a little salt then fry them two at a time until deeply and evenly coloured. Don’t hurry the process – searing the meat properly helps to create that deep, delicious flavour. Drain off the rendered fat. Set the lamb shanks aside.
Turn the heat down a bit and add a splash more oil to the casserole, followed by the onions, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook gently for about 10-12 minutes until golden and softened. Remove from the heat and return the lamb shanks to the pan, placing them on top of the onions with the bones pointing upwards.
Preheat the oven to 150C/Fan 130C/Gas 2. In a bowl, combine the swede, goat’s cheese, pepper and thyme, then pack it around the lamb shanks. Pour in the stock. Fan the turnip slices in a circle over the swede and around the lamb shanks then dot with the butter.
Put the lid on or, if that’s not possible because the shank bones are poking up too high, cover with foil and seal tightly. Cook in the oven for one-and-a-half hours, then remove the lid or foil and return to the oven for a further one-and-a-half hours until the lamb is soft, covering with foil if it browns too quickly. The turnips will be crispy on the top.
Pepperoni Pizza Omelette
2tbsp tomato puree
3 garlic cloves, grated
6 large free-range eggs
2tsp dried oregano
A drizzle of olive oil
150g sliced pepperoni
2 balls of mozzarella (about 125g each), drained
2tbsp fresh oregano leaves
30g Parmesan cheese
A small handful of basil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the tomato sauce, heat the passata, tomato puree and garlic in a saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer to reduce until the sauce is nice and thick. This will take eight to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste and leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan 180C/Gas 6. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and dried oregano and season with salt and pepper.
Heat a little olive oil in a 24cm non-stick ovenproof frying pan over a medium-high heat. Pour in the egg and stir until it is almost fully cooked, removing the pan from the heat when the omelette is still a little runny and wobbly in the middle.
Gently spread the tomato sauce all over the omelette. Cover with the pepperoni, then tear the mozzarella into pieces and scatter it over.
Sprinkle with the oregano and then place the pan in the oven for eight to 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the ‘pizza’ is set.
Remove from the oven and immediately grate the Parmesan over the top. Scatter over the basil and serve at once, directly from the pan.
Shepherd’s Pie with Creamy Cauliflower Topping
800g good-quality minced lamb
8 merguez sausages (available from Ocado, or ask your butcher)
Vegetable oil, for cooking
2 onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, grated
1tbsp fennel seeds
2tsp curry powder
2tsp cracked black pepper
1tsp ground cinnamon
4 celery sticks, tough strings removed, diced
500ml strong beef stock
A good dash of Worcestershire sauce
For the topping:
2 cauliflowers (about 700g each), cut into large florets
50g butter, softened
70ml double cream
200g strong blue cheese, such as Stilton, crumbled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan 180C/Gas 6. Place the lamb mince in a large roasting tin and roast, stirring three of four times to break up the mince, for 35-40 minutes until dark brown. It should look like instant coffee granules. Bake the merguez sausages in another roasting tin, alongside the lamb, for 10-15 minutes until cooked through.
Tip the mince into a colander to drain. Let the sausages cool, then cut into chunks.
Pour a splash of oil into a large saucepan and warm over a medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and sweat gently, stirring from time to time, for 10-15 minutes until soft. Stir in the fennel seeds, curry powder, cracked pepper and cinnamon and cook, stirring, for two to three minutes.
Stir in the celery and browned mince. Pour in the stock and add the Worcestershire sauce and some salt. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for one to one-and-a-half hours, until beautifully thick and rich. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan 170C/Gas 5. Stir the chopped sausages into the cooled lamb, then spoon into a shallow ovenproof dish, about 30 x 22cm and 8cm deep. Level the surface with the back of the spoon.
For the topping, bring a pan of lightly salted water to the boil, add the cauliflower florets and simmer until tender, about five minutes. Drain the cauliflower and place in a food processor with the butter, cream and some salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Add the blue cheese and blitz to combine.
Spoon the cauliflower topping evenly over the lamb and sausage mixture. Stand the dish on an oven tray and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the meat mixture is bubbling and the topping is starting to brown. Serve immediately.
Tom Kerridge’s Dopamine Diet: My Low-Carb, Stay-Happy Way To Lose Weight by Tom Kerridge is available now.