PEOPLE: Healthy kickstart with Justine Drake

Justine Drake has the solution to healthier eating after the festive excesses. Simply Good Food is her fifth cookbook.

This appeared in Indwe inflight magazine in January 2011. justine-011.jpg

How does your love of food translate into earning a living? I’ve been cooking since I was old enough to wield a wooden spoon. I currently edit the Fresh Living consumer food magazine. I’ve hosted Just in Africa, a culinary travelogue TV series, and I coordinate the restaurant line-up as director of the Taste of Cape Town and Taste of Joburg food shows annually.

Describe yourself. Outspoken, loyal, honest, fun-loving, food-mad.

Healthy eater or prone to gourmet binges? Hmm, I suppose for the most part I’m a pretty healthy eater – low fat, low salt, no preservatives. But I do love Sauvignon Blanc and my job is prone to gourmet binging. Enough said.

Suggestions for over-indulgence sufferers? Lots of water and milk thistle. Mind you, a good spicy Bloody Mary and a bacon sandwich go a long way too!

Always in your grocery bag? Lemons, garlic, tomatoes, olive oil, assorted fresh herbs, free-range chicken, Sauvignon Blanc. And a recent discovery, Primitiv Vodka produced locally from spelt grown in the Cederberg.

A “good” eating day at home? I presume you mean healthy and well behaved. On a regular weekday it’s homemade Bircher muesli, an office lunch of Ryvita, chunky cottage cheese, tomato and Danish herring. Dinner of chicken breasts stuffed with anchovy, lemon and herbs, with baby potatoes and salad. Or spaghetti Bolognaise, or maybe grilled fish with a curry rub, raita and basmati rice.

Favourite Cape Town restaurants? We mostly eat in our neighbourhood – so Il Leone for great, modern Italian, Manos for heavenly Prego rolls, Posticino for good, affordable pizza. I love Bizerca Bistro for friendly “posh” food, and Carne for meat in another league.

Is Simply Good Food for dieters? Yes and no – it’s for healthy eaters and anyone who wants or needs to eat better. It caters for weight loss, diabetics or those with high cholesterol, and provides salt-free recipes for high blood pressure. Sometimes people need to change their cooking and aren’t sure how to go about it. Eating bland, unexciting food often means they binge because it didn’t satisfy. Simply Good Food aims to change that.

What sorts of cooking suggestions are provided? Desserts using xylitol or Sugar-lite – I dare you not to find the low-fat crème caramel utterly delicious! Stabilising yoghurt so it doesn’t curdle, then using it instead of cream. And the age-old trick: adding lots of herbs and spices to make up for the lack of salt and fat.

Which ingredients were vetoed by dieticians in the book? Salt – almost entirely - and sugar. They are bigger killers than fat and far more frequently used. You know when you’re eating saturated fat – and feel appropriately guilty – but you don’t feel the same when tossing loads of soy sauce on a platter of sushi. I used to use a lot of stock powder, but I took to making my own salt-free chicken stock. It was the only way to get around the fierce dieticians – bless them!

Simply Good Food is produced by Lannice Snyman Publishers and retails at R162.50. ISBN Number: 9780620474016.