MODULE 1. Real Food Ingredients



Module 1. Video

Module 1. Audio

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NOTE: The video and audio files cover the written content on the next tab.

Why Real Food?

icons more2NOTE: The written content below is the same as that contained in the audio and video versions. This training will be included in the class ebook at the end of the program so you’ll be able to download everything in the one file.

The story goes something like this…

Once upon a time people ate food. We grew our own. We lived on farms or small rural communities. We made most things from ‘scratch’. Hardly anything came in a packet.

Life was good.

Then over time. Things got complicated. We moved to the cities. We had to rely on other people to grow our food. Supermarkets became more and more popular. Hardly anyone made things from scratch. Pretty much everything came in a packet. Many of these packets had fancy ‘health claims’ like 5 vitamins, 99% fat-free.

Food didn’t taste or satisfy like it used to.

We got fat. We got sick.

While there is still so much that modern nutrition science doesn’t understand. There are a few things that everyone agrees with. Even if the reasons underlying the principles aren’t completely understood.

1. More vegetables you eat = healthier you.

2. Less processed food you eat (the more ‘real food’) = healthier you.

3. The more closely your food resembles what grows in nature (the more ‘whole food’) = healthier you.

Because our modern food chain has been inundated with highly processed ‘food-like substances’, the term ‘real food’ has become popular to differentiate what our ancestors just called ‘food’.

What Makes an Ingredient ‘Real Food’

While I am going to give you a definition here, it’s important not to get too bogged down in the details…

The other key to remember is you don’t need to go 100% real food all the time to get the benefits. Every time you make a choice that leads to less processed food, the better. But you don’t need to stress about it.

So for me, ‘real food’ ingredients are things that I could have raised, caught, made or grown myself. So a lamb chop, a piece of fish, a loaf of bread or a bunch of broccoli.

They generally can be bought without packaging. Although sometimes they are.

As Michael Pollan says,

It’s ingredients that your grandparents would recognize as food.

How to Spot the Fakes

Again, eating some processed ingredients here and there isn’t going to be the end of the world.

Things tend to get a bit ‘murky’ when we start to look at packaged foods. So remember the golden rule to ‘ignore the claims’ and ‘focus on the ingredients list’.

Here are some guidelines to help you spot the fakes to keep them to a minimum…

‘Fake’ food = anything:

* You wouldn’t ever be able to make at home. Hello extruded snacks and cereals.

* With an ingredients list of more than 5 items. This is arbitrary, of course but we know I have a thing for 5 ingredients! Be especially wary of ingredients represented by numbers or anything that sounds like it belongs in a chemistry lab.

* Containing processed sugar. Includes brown sugar, raw sugar, evaporated cane juice, agave, fructose, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate or any of the other food industry synonyms for sugar.

* Making a ‘health’ claim on the packet. Of course there are exceptions to this. Like prunes or almonds. But in general it’s a good idea to be skeptical of packaged food that claims to be healthy. Hello ‘fortified’ with vitamins.

* With the words ‘low fat’ on the label.

My Top 10 Essential ‘Cheat’ Ingredients for Maximum Flavour.

Just because I love real food, doesn’t mean I feel the need to make every meal completely from scratch. I love using ‘cheats’ where I can to add a load of flavour without having to up my ingredient numbers.

Here are my top 10 top 12…

1. Pesto.

Is there anything pesto doesn’t go with? Well, apart from ice cream. I prefer to make my own during the summer when basil is at its best and keep in the freezer in ziplock bags ready for use. When I do buy pesto I tend to find the ones from the chiller section a bit fresher tasting than something in a jar. But both have their place.

To make your own, I love this Traditional Pesto, or for a dairy-free super delicious alternative try my Sicilian Nut Pesto.

Of for some more ‘out there’ options try my Beet Pesto, Mint & Almond Pesto, Carrot Top Pesto, Addictive Broad Bean Pesto or Chunky Cashew Pesto.

2. Hummus

Hummus is so versatile. If you’re not familiar it’s a puree of chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic and tahini (ground sesame seeds). It tastes way better than it sounds!

I used it mostly as a cross between a sauce and a side like this Spiced Chicken & Hummus. But it’s also brilliant as a dip or a snack.

There are some pretty good commercial hummus options out there. Just avoid anything labelled ‘low fat’.

It’s also super easy to make your own. I just whizz a drained can of chickpeas in the food processor with a clove of garlic and 3 tablespoons each lemon juice and tahini. Or for a proper recipe see my Home Made Hummus. Or for some different hummii try this Lentil Hummus, Roast Butternut Hummus or Sweet Potato Hummus.

3. Parmesan Cheese

I always have a big hunk of parmsean in the fridge. Usually it’s proper parmigiano reggiano but if I’m feeling a bit broke I do opt for grana padano. It’s packed with ‘umami’ flavours that add complexity and savoury goodness to way more than just your spaghetti bolognese.

If I were going to choose a second cheese, creamy ricotta which doubles as a sauce and side would be my second choice. Or a good goats cheese.

4. Soy Sauce

Could I make soy sauce at home? Probably but it’s starting to stretch the friendship on the ‘real food’ front. But there’s nothing better for adding salty complexity to a dish.

It’s my go to sauce for a stir fry or anything asian inspired. My second choice would be fish sauce and then oyster sauce buy soy really is the king here.

These days I buy tamari or gluten-free soy. If you’re not keen on eating soy the best ‘paleo’ friendly alternative is coconut aminos

5. Spices + Spice Blends

The world of spices has a lot to offer! If you focus on a few key spice blends they need not take up loads of space in your pantry.

My favourites are a good Curry Powder for spice with some heat, Garam Masala for milder Indian flavours, Ras el Hanout for Moroccan dishes, Baharat for a Lebanese vibe, Cajun spice for you guessed it and a good chilli powder or dried chilli flakes for instant heat.

6. Curry Pastes

There are some brilliant commercial curry pastes out there. I rarely make my own from scratch these days.

I always have a Thai Green Curry Paste and Thai Red Curry Paste in the house. I then rotate others such as Laksa Paste, Penang Curry.

A word of caution. Some brands like to load up on sugar (especially for Thai curries) so check the ingredients list and even compare sugar levels in the nutrition info when choosing which curry paste to bring home.

For Indian curries I usually rely on dried spices instead of curry pastes but there are some good ones out there if you want to explore. (and maybe I should!). A good place to start would be Chicken Tikka or Tandoori paste for milder flavours. Then you can work your way up to a super hot Vindaloo.

7. Chilli Oil OR Hot Sauce

Speaking of heat, now I’m cooking for a sensitive toddler and a chilli-loving Irishman I always have a hot sauce or some home made chilli oil on the go. This way I can serve the sauce at the table and let my Irishman load up so everyone is happy.

8. Lemons or Limes

My Irishman and I have a running joke that we’ll always be fine as long as there are lemons (for me) and loo paper (for him) in the house. I can’t remember the last time we even came close to running out of either and we’ve been living together for over 6 years!

But in terms of adding instant freshness and also moistness to food, it’s hard to go past a good squeeze of lemon or lime.

These days when I’m cooking food in the oven or on the BBQ I often include a halved lemon because the cooking process really releases the juices and makes a rediciously simple AND tasty sauce.

9. Sausages

Sausages might seem a bit of an unusual inclusion but if you’re a meat eater, a well made sausages with fennel and red wine can really make the most amazing meal. The trick is to find a good butcher who makes their bangers in house and then explore all the flavour combos they offer.

10. Grilled Veg from the Deli

A good deli will stock loads of veg in their antipasto section that are brillant for adding extra veg without any effort. Look for grilled zucchini, peppers, eggplant, sun or semi dried tomatoes, mushrooms and artichoke hearts. My super market also stocks grilled eggplant and peppers in jars which will keep in the pantry indefinitely.

11. Sauerkraut / Fermented Veg

I said top 10 but couldn’t resist throwing in one more!

In the last few years I’ve really gotten into fermenting my own veg. Apart from the probiotic health benefits I love being able to pull a jar of something out of the fridge to plonk on the table as an extra veg. We have them for breakfast lunch and dinner, but not every day.

If you’re keen to try your own, it’s really easy but does take a bit of prep. Check out my simple sauerkraut and fermented carrots for starters. I love that I can control how ‘funky’ I let them get. But a warning… it’s addictive!

Of course these days there are also some great commercial krauts, kimchi and fermented veg. Just look for ones in the chiller section that still contain some active culture.

12. Mayonnaise!

I LOVE my mayo and pretty much eat it at least 5 times a week. I love it with my eggs for breakkie, as a quick dressing for a tuna or salmon salad at lunch AND often use it as a quick sauce for BBQ or pan fried fish or meat at dinner.

Because I eat so much mayo, I make my own so I know the quality of the oil being used. And the eggs. And recently I’ve figured out how to pasteurise my egg yolks so I can enjoy home made mayo while I’m pregnant!

Check out my go-to mayo recipe.

Want to go deeper into the world of real food?


‘Food Rules’ by Michael Pollan (and his other books)

‘Nourishing Traditions’ by Sally Fallon


100 Days of Real Food

Summer Tomato

What Next?

It’s ‘homework’ time!

But don’t worry this homework project is going to result in deliciousness… I’d be surprised if you dog didn’t at least try to eat it.

Your homework?

1. Check out the module 1. recipes.

2. Choose only 1 recipe and commit to making it in the next week. Check out the video (or read the instructions fully), add the ingredients you need to your shopping list.

3. Then make sure you buy the ingredients and one night (or day) cook up a storm.

For bonus points… leave a comments on the SVCS website sharing how you got on.

I read and respond to ALL the comments. I really want to hear from you. The good AND more importantly any cooking ‘fails’, or as I prefer to think of them, important personal cooking ‘lessons’.

Module 1. Recipes




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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Charters October 27, 2015

Hi James,
Your cast iron skillet sounds like a great place to start. I think you are in a good position, starting from scratch because you will only buy what you really need. Most people are overwhelmed with all they have and don’t know where to start. The other piece of kitchen equipment that I find invaluable is the Scanpan Impact Chef’s Pan that has a glass lid. I can cook any dish in this, from fried eggs, scrambled egg, bolognese, curry etc..

I do remember the thought that ‘men shouldn’t be in the kitchen’ (I know many in my family that grew up with this view also.)
Once you start shopping in one place and get to know it, I think things will become a lot less intimidating.


James Jones October 25, 2015

Hey Jules,
I have to buy everything from scratch because I have no Pantry. Your top ten list is a somewhat intimidating at the moment. Well, I can buy the lemons and mayonnaise (not sure about the brands). Sausages and Grill Veggies from a deli … aahh I am not sure where to find those. Humus and Pesto .. I will wait on those. Sauerkraut/fermeted Veggies is something I have to look into as well (sauerkraut goes hotdogs right?). Well, and way I made a shopping list, and but not sure what I will be able to afford. As of right now, I will attempt the Egg Salad, Fish Salad, and Pepper Steak meals. I will skip the Ricotta due to my staying away from dairy products.
I liked the video module content. I need more psychology thinking since I a now going more organic/real food. I look at the resources as well. I found online pdf copies of the books you mentioned due to pdf restraints. I will buy then at a later date as funds come in.
Oh, I did have a question about your cooking. Is that cast iron pan you are using to fry in ? Do you recommend we cook in cast iron pottery? Also, are you using two types of oils in these videos ? I was told to you are to use extra virgin coconut and olive oil for cooking. Any specific brands you recommend ?
Well, going shopping now. It will rain soon here …


Sarah Charters October 26, 2015

Hi James,

I have the same Le Creuset pot that Jules uses (birthday gift this year!) and I can honestly say, I love it. I use it for EVERYTHING. If I only had one pot in my kitchen, this would be it. It took me a very long time to save up enough to get one, but I know this pot will outlast me. Not only is it a pot [that I can make pasta in], or a fry pan [that I can fry onions in].. but it’s a slow cooker too. This enables you to buy cheaper cuts of meat and slow cook them.

I don’t think Jules would recommend buying all new things for the kitchen, but rather using what you have. I’m sure the regular fry pan you have would be fine?

In the kitchen, keep it simple – just get a good quality olive oil (I currently use ‘Squeaky Gate’ but have also used Cobram Estate or Red Island brands from Coles). Oils are a good thing to build up over time (don’t buy everything at once!) and they never go off

Where do you shop?


James Jones October 26, 2015

Hey Sarah,
As of right now I only have a an 8 inch cast iron skillet that was given to me. I also have a huge pot that I had used to boil eggs in prior to being a part of this school. I am having to learn from scratch about cooking, spices, utensils, etc.
My upbringing was one where Itold to keep out of the kitchen growing up. Only girls belong in the kitchen. Well, anyway, I have health issues now, and so I have to learn this cooking thing if I have any chance of fixing my health issue.
Where do I shop ? Well, I have learned where whole foods grocery store is. I have also learned recently about Sprouts Farmers Market, and Earth Fare. I don’t usually have a store I shop at, till now.


jules October 29, 2015

This is great getting you started James!

If you really have no pantry, I think you’re better of choosing some recipes and buying the ingredients for those and just letting your pantry build organically based on the actual meals you cook.

I do have cast iron pans and I like them but the type of pan you use really isn’t that important. I’d get started with what you have and just take it from there. Your cast iron skillet and big pot sound perfect.

If you are going to spend any money on equipment upfront the only thing I’d recommend is getting one really good cooks knife… the best you can afford.

And I’m so glad we’ve got you in the kitchen James! It’s so weird that people get told boys don’t belong in the kitchen when so many of the great chefs in the world are men!

Keep the questions coming


jules October 29, 2015

Thanks for the reply Sarah!

And I agree you don’t need to buy new things at all. Using what you have is definitely the best place to start.

ONe thing, oils do go rancid over time so best not to buy too much at once…

And glad you’re loving your Le Creuset!


jules October 29, 2015

And I don’t like to recommend specific brands of ingredients because we have students from all over the world so it’s not really relevant or helpful.


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